When you leave the Tardebigge flight, it is a lock-free pound all the way into Birmingham - it's quite a distance. On the way, we had an overnight stop at Alvechurch - Mick and Julia stopped for 2 nights as Mick was poorly.
|A shared chain - David was honoured that Mick trusted him enough to do so.|
|The convoy that is around the bend ...|
In the morning, John was very brave (or foolhardy) as he suggested that I lead the way into Birmingham - he did give me instructions though, so I couldn't go too far wrong. When we arrived at the Mailbox to get water, he cycled around the corner/s to find a space for us both to moor, where Mick and Julia could join us the next day. The chosen spot was at the beginning of Oozell's Loop by the cycle boat, Seaworld and Bannatyne's gym. Pretty quiet for Birmingham, I gather, and we mostly had it to ourselves.
That night, as Mick and Julia were in-absentia, we took advantage and went out for dinner to a place that served food they aren't keen on but the rest of us are: Thai!! Yummy food at Siamais, a five minute walk from the mooring. I could easily have repeated our practice at Bideford of going to the same place 3 times in a row, but only just managed to resist!
|Cocktails - two for one, so two each ... Plus NZ sauv blanc. Oh dear!|
|Starters. I'm not sure what John had, but David and I had Tom Kah Gai - my absolute favourite soup.|
|Mussamam beef curry for David, chicken with cashews for me and John had crispy duck salad. See why I would have gone back every day?|
Mick and Julia arrived the following day and we went round to meet them at the water point at the Mailbox, hugged them hello, told them we had missed them (true), told Mick I wouldn't have recognised him apart from his nose given he was unshaven and imitating David (not true - I would have known him anywhere) and then we headed off to the market and for an explore while they finished off and proceeded to the mooring.
Birmingham market is just great - I could visit there everyday for the fruit and veges as well as for the meat - although that wasn't quite so attractive with all the skinned and unskinned goats' and sheep's heads on display - YUKsville!
|Different and interesting veges. The kumara (sweet potato here, don't they know anything?) were one of the few things that were familiar to me on this stall.|
|Just a few chillies - almost enough to flavour one curry, I would estimate ... They sell each bowlful for £1. Easy way to regulate amounts and serve quickly, I thought.|
There is an indoor section too, where I managed to buy fresh tumeric, daikan and lemongrass (none of any of them available outside) plus a nice piece of sirloin steak (for Thai beef salad - yet to be made) and a half leg of Welsh lamb - yummy. the latter was cooked (with garlic inserted) on arrival at Curdworth Bottom Lock and consumed with great gusto, accompanied by roast potatoes, peas and carrots and Alison Holst's fabulous onion and lemon gravy (meant to have mushrooms but there were none on board).
|Not sure where this is or what the building is, but interesting shape. Jennie from Tentatrice tells me it's Selfridges - thanks, Jennie!|
|I'm not sure where this is either, but it wasn't far from the previous photo's location, just facing the other way.|
|This MAY have been in the Bull Ring but possibly not ... This was the set up for people to buy Pimms or wine and watch Wimbledon. At the time the news was on and no-one was watching Theresa May for some reason.|
John led us around up and down streets (New St, and others I couldn't name) and told me that 'now you can find your way back to the boat, and out and about' - wrong!! I was totally befuddled and didn't find the city centre easy to navigate at all!
I could find my way to the wine bar the following day though, but no one else wanted to go there, dammit; so we ended up drinking and nibbling beside the boats - well, it was more casual and certainly cheaper! And the nibbles were quite nice, but not as plentiful as I usually provide - I must have been flagging a bit after days of travelling and walking about the city! Well, that's my excuse for the poor standard of hospitality!
David and I had arranged our BSSC (Boat Services Safety Certificate) inspection for Sunday (we weren't sure how we'd do, so left plenty of time before it was due in case there was remedial action required) so we left the convoy and set off the following morning to make our way to where Dave Freeman hangs out between Rugeley and Great Haywood. That's a good 21 hours' boating away, so we had some water to get through over the next three days!
Julia, John and David did the Farmer's Bridge and Aston (?) locks (24 of them) first thing in the morning - it was peaceful as we headed downhill. The only issue really was that cyclists come up/down the towpath at speed and we all feared for David's survival if one of them didn't stop in time to take account of his lack of familiarity with the terrain (narrow in parts, underground, in tunnels, under bridges ...)
|John relaxing - a rare shot!|
|David working hard|
|Underground - John heading for the next lock.|
|There are apartments above this - don't like the look of the underwater garages though!|
|Nifty the way that the canals are still present and accommodated around and under new builds.|
I forgot to mention that I managed to miss the opening of a few of the locks at times. I am better at getting in without touching the sides when the approach is awkward - well, generally that is the case, but on one lock I had to score myself with minus 5.
When Julia and John headed back uphill they also helped people we had passed, and we continued on to Curdworth. We were both rather weary by the time we arrived there, but the lovely lamb dinner made up for that. I am fairly sure there was a bit of chardonnay as well as some cider consumed. But not much as we were both too tired!
|David at the last lock of the day - about Nunber 38, I think. Curdworth Bottom Lock|
|The result of crashing in to things ...|
|I recognise those two sitting on the barrels - that's the Admiral and the First Mate!|
Anyway, we were moored at Fradley, just back from the water point. We were too tired to go to the Sawn even though we understand it has changed hands, is more salubrious and even has wine in bottles now!
In the morning we woke quite late, and we headed off. As I was not standing on the stool to increase my field of vision, I managed to hit both sides of the open swing bridge. Talk about embarrassed! and embarrassing! AAARRRGGGHHH!!! I hope they thought I was Australian ...
The trip to Rugeley wasn't really that long, but I had physically and mentally hit the wall (not lock gates, not bridgeholes, although I think I managed one of them). Too many long days at the tiller for this old lady, too much walking in Birmingham, and probably too much high living (by that I mean too much wine and food ...)
When we arrived, I had to have a lie down, preceded by magnesium capsules to restore my equilibrium. So the supermarket shopping took place later in the afternoon when I'd had a nana nap and was restored to some sort of balance! It was lovely to shop - we filled two granny trolleys and still David had a bag to carry back!
I had been worried about whether it was wise to stop overnight in Rugeley - I remember staying with Bill and Carole one weekend back in early 2004 and they picked me up there. They neither of them slept that night as they were worried about yoof rampaging along the towpath and the parallel roadway. that night, I slept like a top and heard nothing. Same this time - David tells me all was quiet all night.
And as we left Rugeley yesterday morning (see how I slipped in the reference to let you know I am all caught up!) I was amazed at how lovely the moorings were all the way through and out to the north of the town. We'll certainly stop there again next time - I thought the Brindley Aqueduct was impressive and had good moorings either end too.
We met up with Dave Freeman at Bridge 69, and he speedily got through our BSSC inspection and gave us a pass - we are very pleased with that result.
It had started to mizzle while he was doing the inspection and we decided we would stay put for the day as it didn't look like lifting. Wrong again! Shortly thereafter the sun came out but we stuck with the decision - I spent most of the day blobbing - in a prone position, reading and sleeping. I did get up to make dinner - leftover roast lamb and the gravy (which I augmented with more onion, some sauteed mushrooms and peas), plus some baby new potatoes boiled with mint. Followed by Gu puddings - the cake ones with the liquid chocolate in the middle - so yummy that today is a fasting day ...
And another early night - I was in bed by 7ish. I do hope I am not sickening for something, she says in a hypochondriacal way... Nah!! Just a fair amount of slowing down to catch up on.
This morning we moved all of a couple of miles and did one lock. We are now moored before Great Haywood, in sight of the Shugburgh Hall folly. David has worked wonders to sort out the internet access - it is pretty crap here - and I have cut lettuces and herbs for dinner and sat in the cratch and read. It is a lovely life we lead, and we are very grateful to be able to do it.
Especially when we hear from John, Mick and Julia that they struggled with the trip to Walsall today - crap on the prop stalled M&J's boat, one pound was so empty they had to let water through for an hour! Much as we miss being part of the convoy and all the high jinx, we don't envy them that experience! We are wusses, we know!