Sunday, 13 August 2017

Well, that was fun!

Way back in the dim dark past, about 5 or 6 months ago, David came down to the West Coast to join me and we spent a wet weekend in Reefton. In spite of the rain and a persistent migraine that started as we left Hokitika and continued most of the weekend, we had a lovely time and managed to meet some locals, find Gary’s childhood home and speak to the current tenants who remembered Gary’s dad, and explore the museum at Black’s Point.

One evening (Saturday, I think) we were looking for somewhere to have dinner, and met a woman walking in to a pub for her evening meal. We had a quick chat about the place she was going in to, and then kept looking around. About half an hour later, after a great deal of indecision (shall we have fish and chips, shall we eat in a restaurant, shall we go back to the pub  (???), we headed back to the pub.

In the interim, the place had filled up, so we joined the woman we had met outside – she offered us the seats but would not share her food, for some reason.

Anyway, in the inimitable way that NZers have of making connections fast, we all clicked, and when we had spoken about the narrowboat and she had expressed an interest in it, David suggested that she and her husband come and join us on it for a few days this season.

Understand, she was on her own in the pub, her husband was nowhere in sight (back at home in Westport allegedly), she didn’t know us from Adam and Eve – I’m aware it’s an easy mistake to make, not knowing the difference except for the facts that:
  • Adam and Eve are fictional characters
  • They purportedly were young and nubile
  • They were purportedly naked, or at the most, wore fig leaves.

The rebuttal of it being easy to make that mistake lies in the following:
  • David and I are real people, allegedly, and some disagree with that I am sure
  • We are 68 and 66 respectively – neither young nor nubile
  • In Reefton on a wet chilly evening, naked is not a sensible dress code, and we are sensible, in the main.

So why Leonie would make that simple-to-spot mistake is anyone’s guess. She is an artist, after all, and they are not usually renowned for their common sense … I mean to say, one of them cut off his own ear, and many of them have lived in garrets and refused to work as waiters or engineers or doctors because they are prostrating themselves for their art. Now none of that sounds very sensible, does it?

Anyway, David suggested, and I concurred, that she and her unknown and absent husband (Paul) should come and join us on the narrowboat. We, as we do, followed up that suggestion a few days later with an email, confirming that we had said what we meant, and meant what we said, because we are faithful, 100% (apologies to Dr Seuss for plagiarising from Horton Hatches the Egg).

So cut to Monday on the cut: Leonie and Paul turn up at the pre-arranged meeting place (Swanley Bridge Marina), and join us for a couple of days.

It all goes to show that going with the instinctive response to connecting with someone, in Reefton on a wet Saturday night is a good thing to do.

The four of us had a blast. The things we found out include:
  • Neither of them have a degree, so they have been invited to join the Zero Degrees Club;
  • Paul trained as a diesel mechanic
  • Paul taught David lots about the engine including how to check if the oil needs changing (probably not every 100 hours as per the Lister Petter manual, but more likely closer to 150 – 200 hours). The technique is to do with the dipstick, visibility of finger print through the oil, presence of black spots in it. If you need further information, send me your questions and I will forward them to Paul;
  • Paul steered the boat for the two days and did a sterling job;
    Paul steering into the lock - I don't think he touched the sides at all, or if he did, it was a mere nudge.

  • Leonie was lock-wheeler in chief, and did a sterling job;
    Lift bridges on the Llangollen Canal - and she was a star at these and the locks.

  • I was cook in chief, and I overfed everyone
  • Paul was insulting about one batch of bread that I didn’t put in the oven as soon as it had risen – it tasted great as always, but looked a bit wrong – he declared it was the ugliest bread he’d ever seen
  • The second batch of bread was given the thumbs up for looks and taste …
  • Paul doesn’t much like chilli so the Thai Chicken Noodle Salad wasn’t a big hit -  he didn’t starve though …
  • Dinner on the second night was more successful – braised steak and onions, mashed potatoes, carrots and peas, followed by apple pie and cream
  • David loved having someone on-board who took part of his share of sh*t, and he taught Paul about strategic positioning of cushions when anatomies were under threat
  • Paul explained why the dairy farm fields here smell so bloody awful at times – it’s the ammonia in the slurry (i.e. cow poos and wees) that gets stored and then sprayed on to them as fertiliser. Problem with it, I gather from Paul, is the grass can be toxic as the ammonia is so prevalent …
  • Leonie and Paul just got in and helped – no hanging back waiting to be asked, they just start off with ‘What can I do to help? What do you want me to do now?’ It is a wonderful characteristic.

Leonie in the galley checking what she can do to assist. I see the julienned veges for the Thai Chicken Noodle Salad on the bench, so that must have been Monday.

We had a great two days going to Wrenbury and back to Swanley Marina. And then we followed it up with meeting up in Woodstock on Wednesday night and going out to dinner together.

They know, and are living in fear of it, that we are coming to Westport in the motorhome and going to steal their power and water. Apparently we cannot block their driveway as they have a huge driveway with lots of trucks and machinery – we had better be well behaved, I think …

A parallel story is that the grandsons are on a cruise with their lovely mum. Slightly different than narrowboating - their ship has three swimming pools and can get to and from Canada.

Here they are dressed for dinner. Don't they look spiffing? I am going to try and find NZ flag bow ties for their next adventure ...

Friday, 11 August 2017

Leaving Nantwich

This is becoming a theme, I fear ...

We had the weekend in Nantwich as I had an osteopath appointment on the Friday and we were due at Swanley Bridge Marina on the Sunday night waiting for friends to join us.

If I remember correctly (never a certainty ...) it was pretty quiet, punctuated by seeing nb 3 No Trumps go past, and having an extremely short conversation with Mick T on the stern and a wave from Alison in the fordeck. They were heading to Audlem for the weekend.

David and I debated going there on the bikes to see them but they had friends on board, so we opted not to intrude and took a bus trip into Chester.  You have read about that previously ...

We decided to leave Nantwich on Sunday at mid-morning as the Shropshire Branch of the IWA was having their annual fundraiser, the Hurleston Lock Wind, that weekend and we thought it may be rather busy there.

So down we went under the bridge to turn around. We did so, with great difficulty as the reeds seemed to hold the nose quite firmly in place and any reversing just resulted in the wind undoing any progress I had made. It all got better when I used a few more revs in forward to break the hold of the dastardly reeds ...

As we were turning, a guy on the towpath asked where the name was from, and on hearing it was Maori, he said he'd lived in NZ. Where? sez we; Waikanae Beach, sez he; WTH?! sez we, we live in Waikanae! Where in Waikanae Beach? sez we; Williams St, sez he (inner jubilation cos that's where our friend Derek had a bach for the longest time, so we know it well) Rata St, sez we, in response to his query about our address. Yes he knew it. Where did you kids go to school, sez we; Kapanui, sez they. Yes, we know it, we walk past it quite often.

Then (and I am not sure who fetched it from the house) he and his kids showed us their painting/photo of Kapiti Island - ahhh, it is lovely!
This is Karl with his two lovely kids. And their also lovely Kapiti Island picture.

So, what are the chances, do you reckon, of meeting people on the other side of the world who used to live about 5kms from us? When we come back through Nantwich next Friday, we will moor up and call in on Karl and his family. Don't worry, English readers, they did say we should do so, and as they have lived in NZ, I am sure they mean it!

I was really pleased that the winding had been a hassle - if it had been easy we wouldn't have seen or chatted with them, and that would have been a loss - one we wouldn't have known about, but a loss all the same.

And then it was back through Nantwich and on to Hurleston.

We had seen this boat as we went north to the environs of Venetian Marina to meet up with Ed and when we came back. I know someone lives onboard, as this time it was facing the opposite way and may have moved along a smidge. However, I am not sure it is driveable given the amount of crap on the counter. The cut was wide enough there for it to be turned using a rope and the breeze.

I think it is the abode of a serious hoarder, and that is a sad and difficult thing to be. I'll say one thing for the woman (yes it is, we saw her on our way north last time), she has not spilled out on to or beside the towpath.
The forward well deck is similarly full. Much of the stuff is unusable but obviously unable to be disposed of.

Hurleston Locks weren't very busy (we were third in line and the first was about to head in as we arrived) but the fundraisers did tell us that when they arrived to start at 8am each day, the place was heaving - obviously people wanted to avoid the queues and created their own ... David and I had considered going up really early too, so I am glad we resisted the temptation to be out of bed by 5am!

David gave them £10 and I gave the operators on the first lock some helpful advice: i.e. Talk to the people you are hoping to raise money from. Obvious, I would have thought, but they were deep in conversation above my head as I came in (without touching the sides, mark you). I did say it more jocularly than that - I think my words were 'Come on, guys, interact with the people who are going to donate to your cause'. It got a laugh and then one of the guys and I chatted for quite a while (I had to wait for the boat coming down to exit his lock) - he and his wife had been campervanning around the North Island so there was quite a lot to chat about.

It was an easy journey up to Swanley Bridge Marina, and an easy entry to the jetty, even in reverse, because there was no wind. A far better experience than our entry and exit at Overwater with Mike and Helen a week or so previously! Swanley Bridge is a lovely marina and the customer service was great too. I think their set up is excellent - they have pumpout and diesel on the offside of the canal so that passing boaters don't need to come in to the marina, and they have the services replicated just inside the entrance for their resident or stored boats. Speaking of which, look what we found:
The middle boat is an old friend, and we miss the original skipper and cabin boy! But we did see them in Gloucester so that was very very nice!
They stock very limited groceries (bread, milk, icecream and pies) we scored a steak and ale pies and an apple pie which transferred from their freezer to ours plus icecreams which transferred from their freezer to our tummies. And I swapped DVDs in their extensive library - if you are passing, and have books/DVDs/jigsaw puzzles that you no longer want, go in and shout yourself an icecream and get swapping!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Back in Nantwich

You'll be pleased to know we are feeling less down about the weather now. We have had some sunshine and it is amazing how differently it affects the mind.

I think that during the last week or so we confirmed that we would not be able to live aboard all year round - we do not cope well with confined spaces in bad weather. So we would be hopeless (literally) in winter here when the rain/cold/snow would probably have us feeling incarcerated.

However, enough of negativity.

David has taken up Sudoku; and in the manner of a boffin, he has worked out a strategy that will stand him in good stead whether he is doing easy ones or diabolical ones - so he says. Given his first attempts at the Easy ones took over an hour then reduced to 45 minutes and then 30 minutes, I think I am safe from his crowing for a while yet. He tells me he is now on to Medium ones ...

He tells me he doesn't yet qualify for the yellow jersey of Sudoku but he does qualify for the yellow gloves for champion dishwasher ... He is aiming to get faster than me at Sudoku - and he will catch up, I am sure - he is extremely competitive and now he has taken it up, he won't rest until he has got faster ...
We had an entertaining day after my last blog - we moved all of 500 metres, having intended to cruise for at least a couple of hours to get to Bridge 14 on the Middlewich Arm to meet up with Ed, our favourite engineer.

We had looked at the forecast and it was meant to be clear until about 8am, so thought we'd move off early to beat the rain. But, sod's law, as we moved off at about 6am, it started to persist down. Into the lock we went thinking 'yes, we can boat in the rain, after all it's only water', but when we got out the lock we decided that given the forecast for the next few days also had some of the wet stuff, we would have to do the two hours again. So discretion being the better part of valour, we winded at the Venetian marina and pulled over and moored up. Of course, I had already put on a load of washing, so the engine had to stay on till that was done and the batteries close enough to 100% again.

Not to worry - I was busy making bread (started before we moved off), baking cheese scones - Ed was coming and I always feed the tradies, eh Luke Nattrass? There was Tom Kha Gai in the fridge for lunch, so food was sorted.

At one point he had to go back to his van in the marina carpark and mentioned the dog was in the van. Of course Orla had to come back to visit. She is a six month old lurcher - I knew Mick and Julia would be jealous, so I sent a photo.
She is rather cute, isn't she? Mel wasn't safe though, so when Ed and Lisa use the boat next week while we go down to have a few days in the motorhome, we will take Mel with us. Even though he has horns, Mel is not very good at defending himself.

The sun came out in the afternoon but the wind came up very very briskly - a number of boats came through the lock and we got whacked several times throughout the afternoon - we were moored just back from the lock moorings, so it was inevitable really. And people were very apologetic. But let's face it, it is extremely hard to control what is essentially a 60 foot steel sail when going very slowly forwards.

Ed had told us that the first lock is one of the busiest on the whole system so I decreed that we'd leave really early in the morning. David thought I was joking, until I woke him at 6 - I did make him a cup of tea, but he was more than a trifle grumpy ...

And even though it was scheduled to be clear, it wasn't until we got to about Barbridge. So I force-fed him magnesium to lighten the mood (his) and make sure I didn't toss him overboard.

When we got to Nantwich waterpoint it was about 8.30am and it was empty, so no waiting. And because we hadn't used much water in the previous 36 hours (we are grubby), the tank topped up fast, rubbish got disposed of and the portable toilet emptied. David headed off to find the laundrette and came back very chirpy that the woman would do the washing and drying and call us when it was done - excellent service!! We usually do the washing on board, but given the rain and the inability for it to dry outside, we thought that living in among draped wet washing would only add to the depressive atmosphere and should therefore, for the sake of sanity and relationship, be avoided.

So off he went with the pillowcase full of whites and the coin bag. Happy as a pig in mud.

We scored an excellent mooring, right next to the path down to Marsh Lane (convenient for the walk into town), and tied up - that was entertaining in hindsight. As we moored, a boat of NZers came past - we had seen them as we left the waterpoint, then saw them as I held the boat further along the moorings as David went up to find a better spot, and then again as we pulled in (they had gone to the nearby winding hole and turned). While chatting to them I tied up the stern only to find that David needed the boat moved back a few feet so we weren't encroaching on the long term mooring spots. Stern untied, boat moved back, and the man (no longer my husband at this point but some stranger who had taken over his mind and body) started giving me a lecture on how to moor up the boat. Given we have been boating for the same length of time (27 years) and given I have had two more weeks' experience than him (holidays without him) I quickly dismissed the body/mind snatcher and cut short his lecture and went inside to make breakfast, with my parting shot being 'My bad. I didn't check that you were standing where you needed to tie up to. Shall check next time. OK? Now give over.'

I did win forgiveness for not listening to a lecture by preparing BLTs with an egg on the side. So calm was restored.
Breakfast suitably smothered in cracked black pepper in case the man who came into the boat had turned back into my nice husband, not the grumpy old bugger mentioned above.
And that night we went to Simply Thai on Welsh Row for an early dinner (breakfast was actually brunch, so no lunch was consumed) and a bottle of NZ sauv blanc (OK with spicy food ... well, actually rather yummy).
Mains: I had a mussamam (?) chicken curry and David had something with beef. We did have starters but I forgot to photograph them, sorry. I am going to find a recipe for the soup David had - it was a hot and sour soup, rather than with coconut milk.

On Friday I went to the osteopath again - a second session to get my neck, back and right leg sorted. Grace is a lovely young woman - only a few weeks out of her (formal) training and already a good practitioner. She is also planning to do equine osteopathy - not that I am the horse's ass, mind you, in case you were thinking you could make that link.

Today we took a bus trip to Chester - it confirmed for me why I don't often travel by bus:
  1. the bus to Chester was about 20 minutes late arriving to pick us up
  2. the trip there took much longer than scheduled - lots of stops and lots of Saturday morning traffic - neither of those were a problem really
  3. the bus back was 30 minutes late leaving Chester
  4. the driver went like a bat out of hell, exceeding the speed limit for a large portion of the drive back - we know because we checked his speed on the Memory Map app we use on the boat. I am planning to dob him in as I did not enjoy being thrown around as he sped around corners. GGGRRR!!!
 In Chester we did a little bit of grocery shopping, and bought two bells for the bikes, some matt black paint, a cold storage bag and some freezer pads.

We then looked for somewhere to have lunch. We considered the Chester Grosvenor but looked at the prices, and went over to a popular-looking Italian place just across the road. Good value and the food was pretty good too.

And I don't think we met the dress standard ...

Mocktails at the Italian place - I am sure they were about 30% sugar, but rather scrummy.

Back on the bus, a calming cup of tea and now it is healthily chardonnay o'clock - David has already started on his alcoholic ginger beer so I am behind. Fear not, I shall catch up.

Dinner tonight is possibly going to be nibbles. They may be forfeited if we are full after the Gu puddings. As Garfield says 'Life is uncertain - Eat dessert first'. It is a very wise maxim, and we would be silly to ignore it!

And I realised that Friday was my 66.6th birthday - a devilish little number and two thirds of a century. Why do I not yet feel like I have grown up?

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The weather is pants!!!

We have moved from Nantwich this morning, had half an hour at least getting water (slowest tap on the whole system I think), then we've moved a wee way up on to the Middlewich Arm.

Rain stopped play - again!!

I am over this bad weather - I know it's been raining cats and dogs in NZ, but it is winter there. Here it is meant to be summer, FFS.

David and I have both talked about heading back to NZ early if this continues. It has been over 3 weeks now since we have had consistently sunny days. There has been an extended period though of rain most days - to the extent that the memory of rain is more prevalent than sun. Neither of us have put on any sunscreen for weeks. Now, for me that isn't significant, but for David it is, as he is a pale-skinned easily burned person.

See how bad it's got?

I blame Trump for pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord.