Friday, 23 June 2017

Photo post #1

The chronology of these photos is fairly wonky, I am afraid and I apologise.

The starters were in Bidford on Avon in the first photo and the misleading chicken and asparagus risotto in the last one was in Stratford. See, this is what happens when I don't keep up with the blogging! Be warned and advised, procrastination is never a good idea!

These were the starters we had at the Bridge restaurant in Bidford on Avon. David's was essentially range egg - a pan of salsa, chorizo and tomato with an egg cooked in it. Mine was beetroot, roasted peach and feta. Yummy! That was the first of the three meals we had there ...

Having a rest in the cemetery at Bidford - not the final resting place though.

This one is for Wayne, in case it's a familial connection.

The seedlings have germinated and are peeking through - they are now much bigger! And more have been planted.
I haven't got the hang of selfies yet, but I think that is John following us. See the new Goose tiller pin? He is very efficient at holding the rope on the tiller.

Too much rough water that way

But much calmer view this way.
Lovely house and garden

I'll have this one, plus cleaning staff...
Or this one, complete with gardener - Rob, are you coming too?
Lovely moorings just out of Stratford, at Stan Clover Lock, I think.
I think this is grossly misleading advertising/depiction of the product! If the picture looked like the actual product I wouldn't have bought it. It has put me off readi-meals! Let's face it, its purchase was a momentary aberration anyway.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Evesham - too warm to move, mate!

As I start to type this it is 5.37am and I am looking out over the weir at Evesham, and listening to the canada geese getting ready for their day of swimming, duckdiving for weed, preening and generally looking pretty cool in the heat.

We've had two nights here near the lock (above) and while the moorings are not attractive, they have had the bonus of a wall and trees to create shade we have sat in for most of the last two afternoons.

Evesham is a very lovely town where we have done a small amount of exploring. If it had been slightly cooler we would have done more, but there is always next time!

The weather over the last few days has been stunning - if anyone tells me again that England doesn't do summers, I will have to remind them about this - Lisa on WAL, your David is right: summer starts late in June!

On Thursday and Friday nights we were moored across the river from Offenham at a lovely spot with heaps of mooring and ideal for a barbecue. So of course we obliged, being careful not to make a mess and cleaning up after ourselves. The area we designated for the BBQ was on private land and the elderly lady who owns it turned up on her petrol-powered mobility golfcart (bigger than a mobility scooter) to let us know the fishermen would be arriving from midnight as the season opened. Didn't hear any of them at all overnight though.

Mick and Julia had to head away early on Friday to get to Evesham, to get to Stratford to hire a car to drive home to Desborough to pick up the waterpump that had been delivered and was all of a sudden required due to total pump failure on board Unkown No 3. The rest of us blobbed that day...

It felt very strange not being able to get across to Offenham but there is no bridge across the river between Bidford and Evesham. Well, we could have forded it up to my neck, I suppose (John's knees probably) but it was easier to walk 1.25 miles (they are still working in imperial measurements here in the UK ...) on Friday to Haverton for a yummy dinner at the Coach and Horses - good pub food at a good pub which has won several awards for its beer and its atmosphere.

Dinner out was a well-deserved treat this time, instead of an indulgence, as John and I had worked hard most of the day. John had offered to lend us his angle grinder but when he heard it was to be me wielding it he offered to show me how and then decided he would do the angle grinding, and I was to follow along brushing and wiping and daubing the exposed metal with rust preventer. Back in October 2015 Barry and I had scraped and sanded the runnels, but without the benefit of an angle grinder there were some bits we hadn't seen the extent of. Thursday was an eye opener about how easily rust can take hold and how well it grows below the paint - bastard rust! It clearly never sleeps.

It was a pretty warm day when were doing this work so my shower was delightfully cool - we hadn't run the engine at all as the sun was filling the batteries through the solars. And actually, once the metal sides and roof warm up on the boat, proximity to it seems to double the heat output! I have to wear jeans or I burn my legs on the dark blue sides.

On Saturday I got up early to wash down the roof to get paint and metal dust off it, so I could prime/undercoat it. In the time it took me to make and eat brekkie, the roof had dried out so I could get a coat of paint on. That drying speed indicated it was going to be a scorcher! As it happened, I had just enough time before 8.30am to get the paint on before the roof was too hot for painting.

A cold shower this time, and gosh, it was lovely!

Then away we went heading for Evesham. Both David and John wanted to go to the marina shop in Evesham, so David travelled with John. They went on ahead and John travelled at such a SLOW pace I could have swum faster, I am sure! However I am sure the multitude of fishermen sitting on the whitebaiting stands appreciated that the water wasn't churned up. I did have to ask those already scantily clad if they had their sunscreen on ...

On arrival in Evesham, before John turned into the marina entrance, I phoned Mick and Julia to see if they were back and where to moor - instructions were that I was to hoot the mack truck horn to alert them I was close so they would come and get my ropes. Successful hooting and mooring alongside accomplished and then along came John and David - they had wended their careful way into the marina, all the way along between boats to the shop, only to find it was closed - on a Saturday!!!

Ah well, that is their loss as John was on for buying a life jacket and a couple of deck chairs. And it's our gain as we swapped a life jacket (brand new, worn for 5 minutes by me and discarded as I kept getting the straps caught on the tiller handle - not such a safety device ...) for a brand new cassette toilet. We have abandoned bucket and chuck it for the pee, as we cannot find a bucket that doesn't absorb urine and either end up smelling or rusting. There, that's a thing you know now, as Jaq's daughter Shiery says ...

We are about to join the Lautrec range of boats - you know the kind: they have two loos ... (thanks to Black Prince for that one, by the way)

OK, it is nearing time for the off - we are heading to Pershore and want to be there before it gets too warm. Trust me, I am NOT moaning about this weather - it is glorious. And it is best used in a relaxed/prone/seated in shade fashion!

Pictures will be posted in Pershore!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

On the river

It's beautiful down here on the Avon - we have now reached George Billington Lock and have had a very successful barbecue for a late lunch/early dinner. The 'island' we are on is private land and the lady who owns it is happy for boaters to use it as long as it is treated with respect - she came down on her mobility/golf cart to chat and tell us so.

The trip down from Stratford has been great apart from exiting the basin where David had great difficulty keeping the bottom gates closed to start filling the lock. Fortunately Julia arrived to give a hand. My part in the drama was to have got close to the lock gates to give David a hand and then being unable to get into position to enter the lock - I had to go back a fairly long way and get John to pull me around so I wouldn't damage any other boats. I called out to Mick that I thought I'd reverse to Wilmcote instead of going down the river ...

Fortunately, he started to strip off his top - I asked him to do a full Monty to take the early tourists' attention away from my shenanigans.

I just want you all to know that I am tired of being a novice again and I want to regain my competence; so there!

Not sure where this is but I thought it was lovely - there's that word again ...

Some great houses and gardens on the way down the river - a fair bit of money around here

See what I mean?

Glad I don't have to mow those lawns!

Or those ...
I am delighted to see whitebaiting stands on the river! Well, that's what they look like, but I understand they are for fishermen, and the season starts at midnight tonight.
See the whitebait stand? Looks just like in Taranaki and on the West Coast.
We had two nights at Bidford-on-Avon where David and I managed to go to the same restaurant 3 times; yes, you read that correctly: three (3) times. The first evening we went to The Bridge for starters and mains (fabulous), and decided we need to come back the next lunchtime for dessert. That was fully our intention, but the tomato, pesto and mozerella panini sounded lovely, so we had that. Then of course we were too full for dessert. So back we came in the evening, for cheese cake and chocolate fudge cake. Shared both and they were both delicious.

The village is very attractive with lovely houses and has the archetypal style of English villages in that some shops are slotted in between houses. And the Budgens supermarket at the end of the village is superb!

Wootton Wawen to Wilmcote to Stratford

I am clearly losing my memory - we haven't moved far over the last week or so, but as I didn't make any notes, I have lost details of our stop at Wootton Wawen - I do remember it is a very beautiful village with a great shop and a church of some historic significance.
A lovely waterfall/weir on the walk into Wootton Wawen

Now commercial premises, I think, still beautiful.

The historically significant church with several different ages in the building
The shop makes best use of space and has a great range of products - excellent pesto and wine...

John waiting for us and reading his paper

Julia has just reminded me that we were in Wootton Wawen (said whoa-wen) on election night and we had a dinner party: lasagne, salad from the boat roof allotment and garlic bread made with part of my second loaf of ciabatta. All very yummy.

Wilmcote was lovely - lovely village shop, really pretty houses and friendly people.

We really liked these roses as a 'fence' - Rob, I'd even sacrifice the agapanthas to have these outside the front fence ...

These roses were in white, mid pink, and
deep pink - beautiful!

And the station is an archetypal English country station. We know what the station looks like as we went up to meet Dana off her train - she was an hour and a quarter later arriving than planned due to a couple of incidents:
  • the uber driver she had booked to get her to the station in Manchester with plenty of time to spare could not find her place and so abandoned the job, and in spite of his best efforts, the next driver could not get her there on time
  • when she was about to board the train from Birmingham to Wilmcote, a man got down on to the tracks and stood there waiting for a train to come and run him down. People called to him to get off the tracks, others apparently signalled and shouted to the approaching train driver to stop, and a couple of people manhandled him off the tracks on to the platform. 
However, all was not lost - when she finally arrived on the boat it was decently wine o'clock and I poured her an NZ pinot noir to make up for all the hassles. And there was home made ciabatta bread, olive oil and balsamic (the latter purchased from the Wilmcote shop)...

We had an early night and were all in bed when we heard someone clomping on the counter at the back, David thought it was Dana gone up for a ciggie (bad girl), but no, it was son Tim on his way back from an agricultural show in Cornwall. Aha!! Another body to be put to work in the morning - excellent.

We were up early and on our way by 7.30am - not bad for a Sunday. I had a welcome break from steering and did locks with David and Dana. Some of them were pretty heavy - Julia described them as 'bastard'. At one point, when Dana had got back on the boat, Tim had to drop her off to help me close the bottom gate ... And a few of them had been left with bottom gates open and paddles up which was a bug*er for David who was working ahead.

It was lovely** to be doing locks and getting the walking in. However my big toe joint on my right foot was playing up and was very sore. I did think back to how my mum had SLE (lupus) and suffered with extreme arthritic pain in all her joints. I was feeling sorry for myself with one sore toe and decided to pull myself together ...

Not sure if Tim is grimacing because of sun in his eyes - however I know he was very happy to be on the boat.

Passing by a newly re-done towpath

Seven to go, Tim

I'm back on the boat, and Dana is working. Tim is not ...

Father son bonding - neat to see...

** I am overusing that word! OK, no more loveliness in this post, promise.

The countryside was very pretty and green with some beautiful gardens and homes along the way and the approach to Stratford was rather pleasant.

David phoned ahead to talk with Mick in Stratford to check out the mooring situation, and I was given my instructions - on the finger moorings next to Mick and Julia or next to John.

Under the very low bridge and into the basin we went - there were pedestrians walking through with us and David decided to sound the horn in case any boat was on a collision course with us - our horn sounds like a Mack truck airhorn. I think a few people wet themselves with the sound in such a confined space ...

We moored next to Mick and Julia - easy choice as Mick was there to take our front rope and John wasn't.
The convoy together in Stratford's Bancroft Basin - great moorings!

Dana demonstrating her jacket - scary hood
First job was to make brekkie - I'd made a bit of fruit salad, yoghurt and cereal before we left Wilmcote, but we were all HUNGRY! So a full English, minus sausages and black pudding, but plus breakfast potatoes (tiny roasties with garlic) was produced.

Then just as it was about to be plated up, back came Tim and Dana with a pair of Skechers she had bought for me - such a kind young woman! And the Skechers are great: soft, comfortable and supportive. I am going to have to buy more, I can tell!

Stratford is a beautiful town, very attractive to tourists and boaters alike. I would have liked to have gone to a play, but not to be. Clearly, we will have to come back - and by boat of course, as it is such a lovely trip, bast*rd locks included!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Feeling like a novice even after 27 years of boating!

On Wednesday it was a much drier day and we set off towards the Hatton Flight. Mick/Julia and John were going up the locks breasted up, and David and I were solo. 

Well, it is a very long time since I felt so incompetent in charge of the boat. I could not get the hang of the method John was teaching us for making sure Waka Huia stayed on the side of the lock I was entering and exiting from. It took several locks to get it right, and then we got to the lock where the volunteer lock keepers were and the wind came up and it all turned to custard and the method changed - AAARRRGGGHHH!!! It is ages since I have consistently banged into lock gates, but the wind, my stress levels and the gates all conspired and for at least 3 of the locks I hit the offside gate going in. That really p*sses me off as I hate the damage that gets done to rammed gates. And I hate it when I'm the one possibly inflicting it!

About 5 or 6 locks done and we meet the volockies before the main flight starts. I am still, at this point, using the rope around bollard trick to keep close to the side. That changed after this lock - in the main because I couldn't get close enough (ie hit the other gate) for David to take the rope off the roof below the lock. The method the volockies told David does work on the Hatton Flight - I wonder if it does so in other locks ... We shall see!

By the time we got to the top, things had settled down (ie my stress levels had reduced, I had started feeling competent again, and David stopped looking like a husband in hiding ...)
Looking back to Shrewley Tunnel - after the winding hole above the Hatton Flight is all new territory for us (D&M). This tunnel was the wettest I've been through in ages and most unusual in that it had limestone/calcium growths - like Waitomo Caves must have been centuries ago! If we come back in 10 years, I wouldn't be surprised to see stalactites hanging from the roof!

The wildflowers are lovely, and the irises on the side of the cut are beautiful.

For Rob - this is the hawthorn now the blossom has dropped.

The moorings at the top of the flight are dark and dismal and under trees, so we had decided to keep going to Rowington. Lovely sunny moorings and a trip to the Tom o' Woods pub. The consensus of the Poms present was that the drinks were too expensive, but it was my round, and I didn't mind. The chardonnay was pretty good and they had a zinfandel for David, so the NZ contingent was happy.
The drinks may have been expensive, but the insect life was free - Irene, what is it please? It looked to me like it was a Hurricanes supporter getting in early for the game against the Lions...

John is bleeding profusely from a self inflicted wound when he pulled off a quick, David is doing his Admiral Nelson impersonation with his new monocular.
Rowington is a lovely place but the motorway (M40) and the rail are too close - it was noisy all night - well, I assume all night, as I slept through most of it but whenever I woke the noise was ever present.

We left yesterday at sparrow’s f*rt to beat the rain which was scheduled to arrive at about 10am according to 2 weather apps – what did we ever do without apps on phones? I know, we listened to the forecast on the radio and we looked at the sky!

We are on the Stratford Canal now – if you were deaf or wearing noise cancelling headphones, it would be a totally lovely rural experience. However the first few miles and locks are marred by the rail and the M40 whining and/or roaring close by. 

However when I started typing this we were at Lock 29 and the noise had receded. We were approaching Lowsonford and the naval strategy meeting in one lock’s time to discuss the next steps.

David wanted to watch James Comey’s testimony yesterday arvo, so the most important aspects of the mooring spot were internet access and TV signal.

The rain arrived on schedule after we had decided we would carry on regardless. As David was the main one who had said that, I was merciless and would not pull over to wait it out until it stopped. After all, David was busy and active and stayed quite warm, I was the one standing still on the counter getting wetter and colder by the minute - and I had my Kathmandhu merino top on, plus a T-shirt, a camisole, and a fleecy, under my Kathmandhu rain jacket. But did I complain? Did I heck - every chance I got ... 

Nah, if I had done that, David would have insisted we stop, and I didn't want to warm up just to get cold again.

The rain cleared and, just in time, we moored up at Wootton Waven. I cooked for our election night party (see previous post), David watched James Comey's testimony - how come that idiot Trump now tweets he is totally vindicated? Where is his brain/sensibility/conscience/morality/intelligence/head? Oh, I forgot, I know the answer to all of those questions - they are all up his a*se ...

Anyway, forget him. Dinner (see previous post) was yummy. Mick, Julia and John were going to go to the Navigation Inn across the cut before dinner, but it was closed until 6pm, so our dinette became the bar. And it was BYO too - much cheaper!

Today we have made our way to Wilmcote - lovely sunny moorings, convenient for the village, a couple of pubs and the station.
  • Mick and Julia are leaving here earlier than sparrow's f*rt tomorrow (Big Neil would say it'll be the middle of the night) to get down to Stratford (17 locks away) and do laundry and check out the moorings, 
  • John's girlfriend is arriving tonight and they are going to Stratford tomorrow, 
  • our friend Dana arrives tomorrow by train and we will stay overnight and go to Stratford on Sunday - same 17 locks just a day later. Dana is young, so we need to put her to work, eh?

It's a fasting day for David and me today; 
  • it is now 6.10pm, 
  • dinner is ready and 
  • David is off chatting to Julia working out how calorific my muesli is - 
    • he has taken a helping of the muesli, the scales and his sense of self righteousness. 
I do wish he'd come back so we can eat the salad (all off the rooftop allotment) the crudites (cucumber, capsicum, carrot) and hummus. I am HUNGRY!!!

The very BEST Indian restaurant and a rest day

A few days ago, the day started with a Naval Strategy Meeting** onboard Unknown No 3. David was not in attendance. I seem to remember he was involved in faffing onboard Waka Huia  but I couldn't tell you what it was. **Admiral Mick - as befits his senior boating status - also necessitates the meeting being named with due ceremony.

It was generally agreed that it wouldn't be a long boating day as we only had to come up from Radford Semel to the top of the Cape Locks. However there was a fair bit of shopping faffing and watering up faffing to be done on the way.

As is probably unusual in any armed forces strategy meeting, there was a fair amount of democracy involved, and we all decided to shop at different supermarkets along the cut in Leamington Spa.
  • David and I stopped at the Coop - used to be Somerfields. Not a big shop but then, for a change, I didn't need much. 
  • John stopped at Morrison's which involves mooring up next to, and then crossing, a busy road but the shop is MUCH MUCH bigger. But even so it didn't have some of what he was looking for (the right bread, I think) so he stopped again at the Tescos.
  • Julia had cycled to one supermarket (Aldi perhaps?) and then walked off to Lidl - she is so FIT!!
David and I arrived at the water point below the Cape Locks before the others, but then we had set out first. We were going to fill with water there, but while I walked up the locks to check out moorings above them, and reported to Mick on the phone, David determined we'd be there all day filling as the tap was so slow. So I was summonsed back to get the boat in the lock so we could ascend the dizzying heights and take as long as we liked to fill at the top tap. Once there, we had hoped that the hoses joined together would reach from the first mooring back to the tap, but no. We SHOULD have checked that first, before mooring up, but a certain someone thought it would probably reach.
  1. Note to self: buy a MUCH MUCH longer hose!
  2. Note to self: first tie only with middle rope to establish location is correct rather than trusting statements that contain 'probably'
As we finished watering up, while the washing was processing and I showered, Mick, Julia and John arrived and the convoy was safely moored up once again!

A group trip to the Cape of Good Hope pub quickly followed - I was allowed in as I was (at last, and once again) clean - a state that had not been achieved for a few days, while we were moored up without access to more water... It was lovely to be in the pub, still run by kiwis - but what! shock, horror! the chardonnay was from South Australia!!! And it was unoaked!!! Still it was a better choice for me than the sauv blanc even though that was NZ's Villa Maria.

The new bar staff have been there only 3 weeks - 2 NZers (Palmerston North and Hawera) and one South African from Durban. I think they may all be feeling a bit homesick for familiar accents, as there was much chat in between their duties.

The next group trip, after a nap, was to a restaurant that Julia had seen recommended on Derwent 6's blog. So off to the bus stop, and into Warwick, then a trundle around following the map on the phone to St John's - to the absolutely wonderful Castle Balti.  Seriously, it is the very best Indian restaurant I have ever been to. Mick and Julia lived in Leicestershire which is renowned for great Indian eateries. But I understand this came near to topping those, in their opinion too. So take that as a serious recommendation, folks, and make your way there.
One of the great things about this restaurant is that you can take your own wine or beer, so John took his chateau cardboard ...

Now THAT is a naan bread

We got a taxi back to the Cape Locks pub and at £2 each it was a bargain, esp for David and me, as we were the only ones who would have paid a bus fare (well, to be honest, Mick paid our bus fare, as we had taken a card only and the other three all have a bus pass - we are travelling with seriously OLD people).
  1. Note to self: next time see if flourishing the NZ Gold Card will get us free bus rides.
Because the taxi driver dropped us at the pub, it would have been rude to walk past without calling in for a nightcap. They still only had Sth Australian chardonnay! Some things take a while to change, I guess. Then back across the lock gate to the boats and to bed.

We had planned to do the Hatton Flight of locks on Tuesday - 21 locks I think. But we woke to quite heavy rain, a forecast for it to continue and for quite strong winds to develop. So a rest day was agreed upon.
It rained and rained. And at times, much like in Taranaki, the sun shone at the same time. I am sure it must have made Dylan (the new barman from Hawera) feel at home.

Adam from Briar Rose had texted the day before offering to come and help us lock up, and while I texted him as soon as the decision was made, he didn't get the text until he arrived - no bad thing as I had invited him to join us for cheese scones instead.

I was up and baking by about 7am (scones, bread) and then working on finishing/amending reports and emailing with the lovely Fiona back in Hokitika. All the while, I had not got dressed and was working in nightie and dressing gown. Adam arrived while I was still working and attired as noted, and David was still in bed ... However both situations were soon remedied.

Mick and Julia arrived shortly thereafter and characters were assassinated and championed, boats were praised and denigrated, amid a great deal of laughter and scone consumption. Adam was very helpful with a lot of knowledge about places to moor, sights to see, things to watch out for on the journey we are embarked upon.

As we sat there watching the rain falling outside we noticed much dripping from one of the light fittings above the dinette window - Yikes, I hate the confluence of water and electrics!

Some boffining and investigation followed and it was realised that the fact that the pigeon box would not properly close on one side (seized/rusted hinge) had allowed water to get in below the the roof and it had made its way to the lowest point, i.e.the light fitting.

Mick to the rescue with gaffer tape! Adam to the rescue decoupling the light fitting from the ceiling and emptying the water collected there. Then later in the day, David to the rescue constructing a hat for the pigeon box.

Meanwhile, I stayed inside and did some construction of my own - a loaf of ciabatta. never made it before and it came out OK. Laughing John, who loves ciabatta, told me it was an absolute pass. And I have to say it was consumed in short order by the rest of the convoy later in the day.

The ciabatta. This is going to become a regularly produced item, I can tell.

I made it again the yesterday and it wasn't quite so good - I think I varied the amount of water and the mix was a bit drier and therefore less airy when cooked. However no problems were encountered in the eating of it, either with olive oil and balsamic or when slathered with garlic butter and toasted under the grill as part of our election night fare of lasagne and salad from the allotment on the roof!

And what a result - no increased majority for Theresa then! But I was disappointed that SNP didn't do very well.
I promised a photo of David's new haircut. I prefer to look at this photo than the non-stop coverage of the election results ...

Sunday, 4 June 2017

It's a month since we arrived (subtitle: Out and backing from Wetherspoons)

And somehow it feels like we have been here for ages. I still don't understand the theory of relativity, if time is what it refers to ... (Or being in the UK, the home of the Queen's English, should I say 'is that to which it refers'? Probably, but no.)

It may seem forever since we got to the UK, but we haven't travelled far!

We are now at Radford Semele, quite close to Leamington Spa, and that is quite close to Warwick; in fact, all three towns form a rather large conurbation which stretches along the canal and outwards.

Radford Semele is slightly away from the canal where we are, as there is a big park beside us on the towpath side (not readily accessible from it though as there is a bit of a river in between) and a farm across the cut. The only disturbances are cyclists and runners ripping past on the towpath, and walkers who are more sedate and don't expect you to move aside based on some whacky notion that speed equals right of way. For heaven''s sake, they are right next to a waterway where the slower your craft, the higher your priority! But I guess, we are not that far from roads where the very nature of speed and the power it bestows on heavy moving objects assigns it right of way simply through the common sense of slower moving objects keeping out of their way ...

Still and all, I do rather enjoy the fantasy of being nuts enough to poke the handle of my windlass through the spokes of the more aggressively 'speed has the lead' brigade on the towpath.

But to be honest, we have spent most of our time for the last two days either in the boat (yesterday as it was decidedly a rest day with occasional showers of rain, bread to bake, an opus for David to complete and a report and memo for me to finish off) or doing out and back trips from Wetherspoons in Leamington Spa on Saturday.

We needed the rest day yesterday as we had a couple of days of harder work than we have done so far this season. Well, that is not surprising as we are now on a journey in a convoy with Mick and Julia on Unknown No 3 and Laughing John on a truly unknown/unnamed (as far as I can tell) boat. And Mick and Julia are FAST!! That Julia is the most efficient lock wheeler we've  ever met, and she still has time to chat and laugh and encourage hire boaters and help single handers. It's the bike and the strong right arm, I reckon ...

I think lunch had been cleared away by this time, apart from the remaining piece of kahlua chocolate cake. You can see my half pierce (I'm not so green as I am cabbage looking - I knew not to eat a whole piece after taco salad, guacamole, fresh bread and spicy chicken wings ...)

We left Jaq Biggs after sharing lunch on the towpath in the reaches between Braunston and Napton on Thursday and got all the way to Long Itchington by 6pm. That was a long afternoon - 13 locks, I think. John and Mick shared the locks and David and I were ahead of them and there was no other boat for us to share with, so David did all 13 on his own apart from the help Julia gave him as she cycled backwards and forwards between and ahead of us and back to the guys behind us, sorting us all out.

Dinner was wine/beer and nibbles and lots of laughter on board Waka Huia - lunch was so huge that none of us could face another meal.

On Friday it was a shorter journey here to Radford Semele. Julia organised a hireboat who had somehow managed to get between Mick and John to come and share with us. That made the locking much easier - the guy was a good steerer although it was his first time, and the two 12 year old boys on board were good on the locks with David. I was impressed that the woman was still wearing make up and had manicured nails - them with the white tips and high polish. I did have to go and get my clippers to cut my ragged talons and clean the rope grubbiness and general grime out of them ...

John had to go back and help his son in law demolish a chimney over the weekend, so we fetched up here on Friday arvo, and here we have stayed! The weather was meant to be pants, but actually it's been OK most of the time, although a bit chilly first thing in the morning. Lots of snuggling together in bed as the summer comforter is not quite warm enough and the winter duvet is too hot. Goldilocks, where are you?

Saturday was our Leamington discovery day. I had read on Tony and Helen's blog (nb Holderness) and on Ray and Diane's blog (nb Ferndale) about Jephson Park and wanted to visit there.

We set base camp up in Wetherspoons on the Parade. The first visit was to have a coffee (I wasn't allowed to order a plate of sustaining chips) and plan the day. From not knowing what we wanted to do apart from the park visit, we quickly established a comprehensive list of shopping needed (Holland and Barrett, somewhere - turned out to be Trespass - to buy hiking sticks [plus a pair of purple sandals like Julia's - we are now twins like Danny de Vito and Arnie, and a lovely red T-shirt and a game for the grandsons], Poundland, and a camera shop for a monocular that will fit in David's pocket and hang around his neck and not get dropped on the side of the lock and break one lens... Julia and David did the google maps thing and found all of the emporiums (is that emporia?).

The first out and back was after the shopping that involved all of us, then Mick, Julia and I waited finishing a sustaining drink while David went to the camera shop, having first established by phone that a monocular was available.

Then it was off to the park - but first we went to the park on the other side of the road and I bought a pack of lettuce seeds - a great variety that will fill 5 trays - yay!! I am going to poke a few seeds in to the current trays where some of my current crop are going to seed already, dammit. Salad till October is my plan ...

Then Jephson Gardens - well, they are beautiful, and we didn't explore them as much as I'd have liked so we will have to come back at a later date.
We saw this guy resting his knees. I think he may have been the model for the guy Gary Philips always photographs somewhere on the side of the cut.

Lots of people out enjoying the sun

We couldn't find anything that explained this - esp not the boy on the elephant and why he was looking tired/distressed. Must look it up online.

An unencumbered elephant. Tim and Kirsty, we love you 40 million of these - did you know?
These roses smelt lovely

David did dinner - cheese and tomato on homemade bread toast

Julia looks tired - leading an expedition, even when out and back from Wetherspoons, is tiring! Making sure everyone stays safe, crosses roads on instruction, proceeds in an orderly fashion, is only able to be carried out by those with exemplary stamina. Mel is impressed with her and trying to wake her up. Mick is just hiding again ...

The whole of Leamington Spa centre needs a greater level of exploration, and now we know where to catch the bus from Radford Semele into town, we will be doing that trip again. Perhaps on our return journey, methinks.
Yesterday was haircut day for David - this is before. I will have to get one of after - looks good though!
Today we are heading to the Cape of Good Hope and David and I plan to go to the pub there for a meal - it is run by kiwis (well, it was last time we came through two years ago, and stopped to say hello to Rachel's grandson Liam who was working there).

Then tomorrow it's the Hatton Flight - I wonder if we will do it as fast this time as we did last time? We will need Julia's assistance to even approach that warp speed!