Thursday, 21 September 2017

Nostalgia in the Cotswolds

The following was written yesterday with photos added today - it's raining so we are not moving. I've had texts from Adam and Adrian while finishing this off and they are on the move. They have seen Mick and Julia who are not. Julia tells me they have adopted the NZ pace of boating. Well done, them!

On Saturday we left the boat moored in Sawley Marina - we'd got there the day before and had a hell of a job finding the correct mooring spot. The numbering system is visible from standing on the jetty but not from the water, and any numbering on the electricity/water stands does not coincide with the number of the jetty/mooring position. Dumb or what!?

I should have known it was going to be a struggle as the young guy in the office had shown me on the site map that 'it is around about here' with a hovering pencil ... At least I got to keep the pencil!

I'd collected the rental car on Friday arvo and then we had a slightly raucous drinks and dinner session on board. One of Pauline's colleagues/friends had passed her exams that day, so we had to have a drink, and then we had to take photos of us celebrating and then, and then, and then ... (See previous post titled ' Boys on the booze, ...' for the evidence.)

We were dropping Pauline and Barry off at Hatton Cross on Saturday so they could make their way back to Hammersmith via Teddington where their grandchildren live - their son and daughter in law live there too, but the key residents are the grandkids. Naturally - any grandparent feels the same, eh?

Our trip south was to get the motorhome (Vangelic is its name) to Southampton to be loaded on to a ship bound for NZ. So dropping B&P off on the way seemed sensible as Vangelic had taken up residence at my cousin Gordon's place in Abinger Hammer near Dorking. Lovely place, Gordon's house. He is such a clever clogs as a designer and builder., and not just the house but the whole setting. I can give him this praise without him getting bigheaded as he doesn't read the blog ...

We stayed overnight at their house, having dropped the car off in Dorking and getting a cab out to Abinger; and while Vince (Gordon's brother who lives on site too) offered to take us to any restaurant/pub/takeaway in the vicinity, we were both too knackered to bother. So we had toasted home made bread and marmalade for dinner - that was all the food I had taken. Doh!! Breakfast was the same ...

We had the house to ourselves apart from Gordon and Sharon's lovely dogs - they were NOT lovely at 10pm and 10.10pm and 10.20pm when they saw rabbits or foxes or leaves moving outside the lounge and barked madly! David took them into the laundry where their official beds are, closed that door and the 8 foot long 8 foot high glass door between the kitchen and the hall … They may have continued barking but I didn’t hear them, and it’s not likely they did as they had limited vision through just one door.

I had cleaned out Vangelic and wiped the floor throughout on Saturday arvo, and then David decided to tromp on through after the rain and with wet dirty shoes. GGGRRR!!! So on Sunday I decided to not bother doing another clean inside until we were parked up in Southampton on Sunday night, ready for delivery to the dock on Monday.

We drove down to Southampton on Sunday and even using the GPS managed to get lost! We were staying in a hotel at the motorway services area - I should have known something was wrong when the GPS directed us off the motorway … but who am I to argue with technology? Anyway, we finally found it and checked in. David then found the only muddy patch in the entire carpark, splodged around in it, got both shoes covered and then climbed in Vangelic. A bit of a mutual tantrum ensued, but I'm sure mine was justified.

Anything that had to travel in Vangelic was boxed and the contents inventoried in case of theft in transit or on the wharf at Auckland. Ray and Leonie Eddington shipped their motorhome back to NZ and the radio/GPS was removed before they picked it up. And we had been advised by the shipping agent not to send any personal items home in it. So the only stuff inside is movable bits that came with it - powercord, spare cassette, squabs for the spare bed ...

David put the wheel clamp on a rear wheel - Gordon, Barry, Mick and John had freaked us out about theft of motorhomes and caravans by travellers (gypsies, to NZ readers). And then at midnight David woke me to ask me what was happening in the carpark - he’d heard noises so got up to investigate. There was a tow truck out there between us and the motorhome, and the driver and his companion were loading a car on to it - flashing lights and all. I looked around and David was nowhere to be seen - he’d raced off, in his pyjamas, to reception to ask if they knew what was happening! Madness. So that was the end of sleep for me for the next 4 hours, dammit! Toss, turn, read, toss turn, sudoku, toss turn, read, finally drop off.

On Monday we went to a hand carwash place and the guys did a stunning job - we told them we couldn’t have any insects, spiders, seeds, UK dirt on or in it, for it to be allowed in by NZ Customs. The guys were Albanian and all of them took turns coming inside to look it over - then the head guy told me it was beautiful and better than the house they lived in.

Then it was follow the GPS directions down to the docks, where we safely delivered Vangelic after a bit of a struggle to find the right place - there was a cruise liner (HUGE) at the dock we should have gone into so we couldn’t get to Berth 40 at the sign. When we left Vangelic, David was concerned that it was precious and worried about whether it would get to NZ safely and intact. I’m not worried - it’s fully insured and replaceable. It’s only a thing, not a person, or Mel.
Vangelic in august company.

I don't think David was aiming to get on board that ship - luggage wasn't posh enough!


On the way back by rental car, we stayed overnight in a lovely Cotswold village Coln St Aldwyn. We have been there before but David didn’t remember it until we looked at the walks pamphlet - we had done a long walk here one weekend and stayed at the hotel - in fact in the same room - when we lived in Church Enstone.  It is the only time I have felt nostalgic for living over here. The village was beautiful. We know because we did the pamphletted walk around it - just the short one, mind, as we hadn't brought walking boots.
The river on the way out of the village - an old bridge

Up a long drive that is a public footpath ...

to the turning for the path past Mill Cottage and the Mill Stream
The Alms cottages in the village - quite generously sized by the looks


The gate to the churchyard. The sign over it means Death, the door to life. The sign I would put there under it is What a load of tosh!
However the church is rather beautiful, and obviously a hub for the community. I am not sure of its provenance but it does look to me like a mix of styles. Any architectural info would be gratefully published, please and thanks in advance.

The first 4 of the 10 commandments. Christopher Hitchens described these ones as throat clearing, and making sure that whatever else they did the most important thing was that people should only attend to god.

Then these ones are about expectations of acceptable behaviour.  Mmmm, four to tell people to admire and worship only one god - isn't that a bit excessive? If you want a further exigesis, get Christopher Hitchen's book 'god is not great - how religion poisons everything'. It is very enlightening. ** Correction based on happily received feedback from Kath and Neil of Herbie fame. I clearly need to meet them to have a good rant!
I thought these organ pipes were lovely. No idea what it sounds like though.

This is Woody's car (see below). The front passenger seat is obviously Woody's as it has a large duvet on it plus a cover for the seat back ... A well loved dog.
At the rear are the former stables and carriage house for

this house. I think it was the manor house.

And this is much much bigger. Didn't see any signage about what it is
The gates to the place above

A bit hard to see, but this sign says NO! - I am going to see if I can find a couple of them to place on the towpath at each end of the boat when we moor up - I wonder if it would work?


And on our walk around it this time, we met three interesting people:
  • the first was a lady whose place we mistakenly went into as we followed the pamphlet directions but didn't allow enough distance between them - she set us on the right path, and then we saw her again when we went into look at the church
  • the second was a woman called Claire who was walking a couple of dogs, one of whom I declared was lovely. 'No' she said, 'he's not. He's rolled around in something very smelly and is disgusting.' When she found out we were staying at the New Inn, she flourished the menu and said 'That's me - I'm the Claire in the name of the apple crumble.' She'd delivered apples to the pub and was immortalised in print
  • the third was a man mowing lawns at the church - his beautiful elderly boxer named Woody was very friendly. We had quite a chat with the man and David gave Woody an extensive amount of tummy scratching, as you do. The guy said he didn't know what he would do when Woody died as they spend all day every day together.

The hotel was lovely.

As soon as I saw this I knew we had been there before. The front was covered in virginia creeper and looked lovely.

The bedroom with David on the computer - what else?

The view from the window


And the BUT is that the fire alarm went off at midnight. It was not connected to the nearest fire brigade. And no staff live on site. If David hadn't gone downstairs to the bar area looking for lights etc and unknowingly triggered the intruder alert, no one from the staff would have turned up to turn both alarms off.  And the guy didn't check that there was no actual fire, just turned the alarms off, offered a very perfunctory apology and then buggered off again, leaving us all to climb up the rickety unlit fire exit back to our rooms. So another night to toss turn, read, toss turn, read ...

We had thought about staying on another night or at least coming back to do another walk between Bibury and Coln St Aldwyn, but the fire alarm incident put us off. The seal on not coming back was the brekkie - not up to our former B&B standard, and certainly not up to Jan's Cafe in Paraparaumu standard, by a long shot.
Nowhere near the best eggs benedict we've had. We chose this option as the full english that was delivered to the table next to us looked awful ...
So back to the boat we came, after taking the rental back to Ilkeston and being driven back. I did have to ask the young driver to slow down when she was doing 40mph in a 30mph area. There were unlikely to be kids crossing the road at that time, but what about us oldies when we are out shopping!?

Today we have left the marina and come down to Kegworth. I have done some sanding and painting, so am feeling just a little bit virtuous - not too virtuous as there is still more to do. I am probably about a third of the way through it. And on leaving the jetty today, I managed to scrape against the mooring stand and took a fair amount of paint off, bugger it. So more to be sanded and touched up. It's meant to rain tomorrow, so it could be a rest day - but the painting task will keep, I am sure.  Painting update: the rain overnight did not harm my new paint - I am very pleased about that, as I had visions of having to do a Tom formerly of nb Waiouru and re-do it ... 

OK, time to cook the marinated salmon for dinner. It's been a fasting day today after a week and a half of over-indulging. I blame Barry and Pauline! However, out of fairness, I also blame Mike and Julia and Mick and Julia - they are all extremely bad influences and make me provide lots of nibbles and yummy food!
Update re blaming: Mick of Mick and Julia fame, tells me by phone that I am the common denominator (oops! I typed demoninator ... Freudian slip or what?) I say that guests are the common demoninator and this is not a Freudian slip ... They make me provide lots of food - well, if they don't make me, I do it cos I love them and loving means feeding ...

Boys on the booze - well, I think that's the excuse ...

The night before we drove Barry and Pauline back to the outskirts of London, we took photos. Well, we tried to take selfies but David, as the partially sighted person, isn't the best person to let loose with a camera pointing to the subjects when he is one of them ...
See what I mean?
And then Pauline and I had to suffer laugh at the indignity of both guys unable to stand ...

David crawling away ...

and Barry on his knees.
To be fair (but why, I hear you ask?), I think they were intent on preserving the wine in their glasses. And it may have been an inability to stand straight up from sitting on the jetty. But hey, why be fair? I reckon they were just toast!

Invisible Me is next to Barry and also taking the photo - magic, eh?

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

All aboard


 It has been a rather social time of late with
  • meeting Mike Coates and lovely partner Julia at Mercia Marina for pre-loading on Waka Huia then dinner at the bistro
  • Mick and Julia at Willington for roast lamb on board Waka Huia as our scheduled but short encounter, along with
  • Barry and Pauline who came for a week's holiday with us, with Willington as the starting point and Sawley Marina on the Trent as the end point.
Between Willington and Sawley Marina we have moored at:
    • Shardlow, although we had not necessarily intended to get there, as I'd thought that Swarkestone would be a good place to stop. However a pound closure planned for the Monday meant we had to scoot on through, and stopping any sooner after Weston Lock would have entailed putting up with listening to a roaring A50.
    • Sawley across from the marina - a huge boating day that took all of an hour ...
    • Nottingham for lunch and on the way we saw Gary and Carolyn from nb Inca (photo below of them escaping from us). 
      • It was only a brief stop in Nottingham although we had planned to stay a couple of nights and explore the city. This plan was thwarted by the news that CRT was going to close the floodgates on the Trent because of the violent winds expected that evening. We could not afford to be trapped, so back to Sawley we went - much slower on the way back than the way down: 2.5mph with the flow and wind against us as opposed to 6mph with the flow and the wind increasing our speed. I was very grateful to have Barry steering that whole day as it was more than 6 hours of boating. (I am now officially a weakling and a wuss.) On the way back, we did have a brief chat in passing with Trish and John Woods as we passed their place on the river at Barton in Fabis. We bought Waka Huia (when it was still called Mistress) from them back in 2013. We see that John is now restoring a WWII boat - I didn't get to see fully the signage, so am unclear exactly what the craft is. What I do know is that it will be done beautifully and thoroughly.
    • So we moored up back at Sawley, tied up tightly and waited for the storm to arrive, which it did right on schedule at 2am. By 3am we were awake - well, I'd been asleep until David got up to go out and check 'things'. So a bit of lying in bed chatter - a bit like a kids' sleepover - and Barry was deputed to make extremely early morning drinks. Photos were taken out of the windows and we all went back to sleep even though the wind was howling. To be clear though, the strongest gusts were about 65mph. A couple of days later, Wellington had winds of 140kph, i.e. about 85mph. So as NZers we weren't worried about 65mph ...
      • the following day was still too windy to boat in comfort as the boat has no keel and acts as a giant sail. So we walked into Long Eaton and back along the river path and towpath up the Erewash Canal. About 8.4 miles in all and lovely to be striding out.
    • Shardlow the next day when the wind had died down and we moored in the same place behind the boat that had been there on the 48 hour moorings when we arrived a few days earlier ... We were just facing the other way.
    • Sawley Marina ready for the journey by car to the outskirts of London, Surrey and Southampton
So all in all not much distance covered but some of it multiple times! Having Barry and Pauline on board with us is always fun, with lots of laughs and political discussions as we are at different ends of the continuum. They did witness our voting papers even though they would not have given two ticks (or any) to Labour. Go, Jacinda!!

And that brings us nearly up to date. For the pictorial story, see below.
Mike and Julia
On the very windy night the moon was out. The twinkly bits aren't stars though, just raindrops on the window

This unkind photo is David having a nana nap one afternoon. I think Barry, Pauline and I had watched a movie with German subtitles that David cannot keep up with, so he retired to bed and the radio. The movie was Downfall - about Hitler's last days - very good.

Here we are on the river. Given how tall I am I must be standing on the stool, but why when Barry is steering?
That's Gary and Carolyn waving goodbye in a relieved fashion, being pleased to have escaped from the mad kiwis!

On our walk to Long Eaton we saw house boats on the Erewash. There were several of them looking rather lovely - reminded me of Amsterdam.

This one looked very posh!

On the way back alongside the Trent and beside the golf course, this double rainbow was extremely impressive. I couldn't get all of it on my screen but I could see both ends of the lower one. I haven't often seen a rainbow where I can clearly differentiate all the colours.
I turned around from the rainbow photos to take this one through the rail bridge - amazing how the weather was so different and changeable. That was on our way back to the boat from Long Eaton - rain and sun interchanged often over the three hours or so.

You can just see Barry in his red coat crossing the footbridge - the rainbow points to him. Pauline is ahead of him (look carefully - she is on the sloping part of the bridge and you can just see her legs below the railbridge)

We went for lunch at the New Inn in Shardlow - good food and acceptable chardonnay even though from the US (Jack Rabbit, I think). This sign was on the wall. I agree ...


Thursday, 7 September 2017

Not my two best tricks ...


The day before yesterday we had a lie in while waiting for Dave Freeman to come and change our gas regulator from butane to propane (I think). All done in a trice and over we moved to get diesel before heading away, in the sunshine.

See the piglets to the left of the blue bin? They have made bigger an opening in the netting of their compound and can escape. However when Dave Freeman's wife Rachel, came to serve our diesel and told them to get back into the pen, they scurried off to do as she instructed!

... which lasted about 15 minutes before turning into liquid again. So we moored up by the aqueduct at Rugeley, and blobbed for the afternoon - some rain, some sun, but more of the former was my impression. So not a busy day.

As we need to be at Mercia Marina by Friday, and as the weather is meant to be a bit pants until then, we decided to take advantage of good weather yesterday and set off early with a stop to do supermarketing at Rugeley.

All was well, as we pulled up at the moorings (not a bridge too far, but a bridge too soon, but hey ho). But we were close to the bridge and I needed to move backwards to ensure space for other boaters to get through the bridgehole. To assist the stopping action, I put the boat in reverse and stepped off with the middle rope, with the intention of getting David to put the boat in neutral. Quel horreur! he stepped off the front with a rope, and there was the boat steaming backwards with no-one aboard!!!

With the strength born of a desperate desire not to demolish any other moored boats or off-side properties, David hauled the bow close enough to the side to be able to leap onboard. He raced through the boat and up on to the deck, and slapped the boat into neutral. Of course it was still moving quite quickly backwards, so he then put it in forward to avoid ramming an offside fence...

The poor ducks who were peaceably going about their own business, were tossed and flipped by the violent wake. They quacked loudly and said he was imprinted on their genetic memory - he was the man who at 3am 40 years ago drove through a flock of their ancestors peaceably sleeping (see a theme?) in the middle of Marahau Road outside Maxwell. His excuse? 40 years ago he was driving me and the pregnant belly (plus 22 month old Tim) to hospital so that Kirsty would be born.

[Given his next trick on that journey was to almost bowl a black poll angus steer that was on the road (did you get that we lived in the country then?), Kirsty decided not to enter the world quite yet so home we went in the morning. Kirsty waited another few days to make sure it was safe, and then I drove us all into town - David said he knew when I was having contractions as I drove in the middle of the road. Seemed sensible to me, as I needed to be prepared for any swerving that may come upon me involuntarily ...]

So back to yesterday morning - David brought the boat successfully to the towpath side, and we tied up. I was shaking a bit but David laughed.

My lesson - DO NOT GET OFF THE BOAT WHILE IT IS IN GEAR! Doing so qualifies as my silliest move yet in my boating history!

In one of the shops near Morrison's I saw this enormous panda. You can see by the height of the door just how large he is. Bruce and Gary, he makes your polar bear look rather diminutive. Dee, you need to show this to Murray and Big Bear - but please, before you do, remind them both that envy is one of the 7 deadly sins, OK?
This narrowboat is up on the hard in a school playground in Rugeley. It is called Discovery and looks as though it is a great piece of playground equipment. If schools weren't so forbidding (notices, intercom systems, locked gates) to enter here, I would have called in to ask to see it and ask how they got it. It looks to be in very good condition on the outside!


Going through the Armitage Tunnel - a very narrow stretch with a corner in it, so a crew member has to go ahead to check the way is clear. David took his new bright LED light and did three short flashes (behave!!) to let me know I could come on through. He does like his new light!

You can see how close the wall is. The rock was cut to create the channel - probably cheaper and quicker than building locks up and locks down, I expect, and quicker and cheaper than taking the canal around the hillside.

I do love the allotment system here in the UK. Almost all the ones we see on our travels are well kept and filled with veges growing.

But leaving the boat in gear with no one on it is not the only stupid thing I did yesterday, unfortunately.

Before we left the mooring, I hand washed David's new red shirt as I was clear it would leach colour - as it did, but only into the bowl. David put it on to spin and then hung it on a hanger in the cratch as we cruised along. He did the same with two new bright blue handtowels we had bought. But I, knowing better where to position the hanging-on-a-hanger laundry when it is in a moving cratch, changed the positions of both hangers ... And then, just after exiting a lock, I saw a bright red cloth thing in the water. It was close to the boat, but not close enough. So I put the boat gently in reverse to edge myself a little closer so I could kneel down and swoop it up. Well, that was the plan, and why the water and the red shirt conspired against me, I do not understand!

The red shirt (plus its hanger) swirled away under water and could not be seen. I pulled over on the lock landing and tried to find it with the boat hook, but no luck. I would have kept looking for at least 30 seconds more (not because of the shirt, but because I dread to think of someone getting it and the hanger around their prop). But when David asked why I had stopped (he was about to set off on his bike for the next lock) and I explained his red shirt was no more, he declared that he'd liked it but it was a bit too much like a Manchester United shirt when all was said and done. So search abandoned and hopefully it has already blended into the bottom of the cut, never to cause problems to any boater. If it does, or has, my sincere apologies, people.
 
It was long day's boating for us and we probably should have moored up at Fradley, as I was approaching my use-by date about then. However we continued on to Alrewas. I can always tell when we are both past it, as we struggle to get moored up somewhere we like - finding a good place is the first problem as we are tired and decisions are hard to make. We tried two unsuitable places, and then, on our third go, settled in a lovely spot and were both too tired to go out anywhere - which was one of the main reasons for coming here, dammit!

Today we moved on from Alrewas, leaving our mooring before 8am. The weather was quite sunny and warm this morning, and the trip down the river section was beautifully peaceful.
Just left the waterpoint at Alrewas

Heading for the lock down to the river section
David opening the lock for me

See how sensible I now am? I have a life jacket on - one that doesn't catch on the tiller thankfully.
And we are off down the river section. No, we don't have to get under that bridge. It's the towpath/footpath.

A sight rarely seen in NZ anymore as farmers are not allowed to have unfenced riverbanks. The effluent from cows, either by directly peeing or pooing into the water, or as run off, is a major contaminant and polluter.

We had planned to go to Burton upon Trent and moor up where we were on the day we met Tony and Helen Porter from nb Holderness back in 2014, but decided instead to stop outside Branston Water Park as it is quite a distance from the ubiquitous A38, and it is where I had wanted to moor a few years ago, but David was sure it would be better (less crowded) above Tatenhill Lock - that time, we ended up moored by the rubbish point and only a few yards away from the A38, but I was so exhausted I was past going any further. You can read about THAT day here: 29 June 2014

I have just re-read that post and it seems I laughed - I don't rmember that, but I do remember being very tired and I do remember being delighted to meet Tony and Helen.

Since mooring at lunchtime
  • we have spoken with Brian and Anne from nb February 22 who moor in Mercia Marina
  • given them our details for a relation in NZ who is interested in living on a narrowboat - please get in touch, Dave, if you are reading this
  • I have finished making the bread I started before we left this morning, and made lunch with some of it (tuna and mayo open sandwiches with tomato)
  • baked a chocolate brownie. It is entirely likely that tonight's dinner will be comprised of dessert ...

Monday, 4 September 2017

Jaq Biggs is a lush and I have her permission to say so!

In fact, she was rather pleased that I decided to use that title for this post - she said it would be good for her reputation which she (mistakenly) thinks is too shiny right now ...

I have evidence, by the way - I am not just saying it for effect. No, not at all.

We have spent the last 4 nights in Jaq's company, moored up right in front of her at Tixall Wide. And on three of those afternoons/evenings, she has led me astray with regards to alcohol! She was assisted in that mission by having a box of Hardy's Cabernet Shiraz - chateau cardboard that she can tote around under her arm. Bad, bad woman.

The first night we had roast leg of lamb for dinner on Waka Huia, and were joined by her friend Chris who is also moored on the Wide. Before Chris arrived, Jaq had already inveigled me into afternoon imbibing.
Evidence: wine glass in hand, sunshine showing in the cratch, beatific smile on face - Jaq's, I mean. Mel always smiles!


Happiness is a glass of wine and a cuddle with Mel.

She doesn't want Mel to see her glugging that wine down ...

Then on the second night we went to her boat for dinner. I left early (I cannot hack the pace ...) and she and David continued to chat for quite a while. No photos, I'm sorry, just one of the sunset and moon rising.
Lovely peaceful evenings here on Tixall Wide - it is a beautiful place to moor.

The moon coming up
On the third night we were joined by Adrian and Adam from Briar Rose who had journeyed long and arduously from Hopwas to get to us. Jaq was imbibing before they arrived and happily consumed bubbles on the towpath and then more cab shiraz over dinner.


Big big glass of cab shiraz plus a glass of bubbles ... Adrian seated, Adam standing, David MIA.

Mmm, two glasses for Jaq. David is back, but in his usual very considerate way, was not comfortable almost blocking the towpath.

So he took my chair. L-R: David, Jaq, Adrian, Adam. I tried to do a selfie with me in it too, but couldn't sort it ...

So David took one of us. Oops, this shot shows me with 3 glasses - water in the big glass, chardonnay (well, it's empty really) in the glass in the little table and bubbles in hand. Oh well - I still blame Jaq though!
 The next morning (Sunday, ie yesterday) David and I headed up to the junction to get water and meet up with our son Tim for brekkie (he was on his way from Manchester to Banbury for the day).
Sunrise yesterday morning

Slightly misty looking back from Waka Huia along the Wide

But pretty clear ahead as David unties for our early start - about 6.45am, I think. We had skyped with Kirsty for her birthday before heading off.

Adam and Adrian came past while we were moored up across from the Canal Farmshop (a brilliant place that I have been to every day since we got here ...) and said Jaq had come out to say goodbye and declared she had a hangover. Quelle surprise!

I on the other hand, didn't have a hangover, but was extremely tired, so when we had said goodbye to Tim, shopped in the farmshop, and cruised back to our mooring in front of Jaq, I promptly went back to bed for the day.

Jaq came over for a chat in the early evening, but neither of us imbibed. Livers needed a good rest. No more wine for me until Saturday in Willington when Barry and Pauline arrive and we meet up with Mick and Julia!

It has been very lovely being with Jaq for the last few days, but she is an extremely bad influence on me! But do you know, I have a feeling she is going to write a post which puts all the blame on me ...