Sunday 31 August 2014

We are being sent to Coventry - it's a self drive trip though

We came down from Great Haywood to the moorings above Shadehouse Lock yesterday, with a stop south of Rugeley for water and another at Kings Bromley Marina for a pumpout and diesel – successfully in and reversed on to the pontoon, which was cheering, although I was helped by the wind being in my favour! David set off, with directions on where the rubbish bins were but went about 500m further than required. He phoned and then he walked back – on the return journey the bins were clearly visible, about 50m from where we were moored. Note to self: it is disrespectful to take advantage of or be insensitive to his disability.
Prior to that, at Bridge 58 we encountered a chap who had clearly been to one of the pubs nearby for a (mainly) liquid lunch and was just setting off across my bows as I came through the bridge on a corner. I had to take avoidance action, in one of those situations where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. As he was spread out more than halfway across the cut and not holding his boat back, and there was no room for me to stop, I decided to go to the right of him. So then he reversed … I think it is the first time I have sworn at a boater so that they could hear me.
When we got to Shadehouse Lock moorings, they were full apart from the inevitable gaps between boats. However, as three boaters were sitting out on the towpath, I asked if they’d be able to budge up so we could fit in. They happily did so and helped us get the boat in and tied up with about 2mm to spare front and back – I would not have thought the boat would fit, but they judged it to a nicety. Well done, them, I thought – most impressive. And very kind of them as well.
We decided to go to the Swan for dinner as it is described in Nicholson’s as ‘justly famous’. The pub is about 200 years old I gather, the building is impressive and the beer might be good – we don’t know as we aren’t beer drinkers. However I didn’t try their wine either as it was on tap, and that wasn’t a good sign.
The major thing was though, and no fault of the Swan, I broke a large chunk off a tooth when eating my rather yummy pizza. It is a tooth I had seen the dentist in Johnsonville about before we came away but xrays showed no fissures. For some time it had been hurting and feeling wobbly when I bit hard, and last night was its downfall. So I need to find a dentist locally, but the tooth only hurts now when I eat/drink something cold, something hot or breathe in cold air. So it’s all fine obviously!
Today, by the time we were ready to leave it was after 10am, so it was down two locks and round the corner on to the Coventry Canal. But, stop the presses – an exclusive!! This morning David steered the boat into, down and out of Shadehouse Lock to the next lock mooring!!! And very successfully too, I must say. He did everything slowly and carefully, and I was so pleased it worked well – trauma on the first lock would not be encouraging, eh? I am not sure who was most nervous though – I got so hot with nerves, I had to take my fleecy off and it wasn’t that warm! My nervousness may explain why there are no photos of the event, but I will get some next time.
We’d talked about it last night (and a little bit on previous days) and I reminded him that he had promised that he would learn to steer this year so I didn’t have to do it all the time. Last week, I had suggested that he steer through the Harecastle Tunnel as you can only go straight ahead there, and being partially sighted probably wasn’t a disadvantage in the tunnel. I mean – what can you see when you’re in there? Not a hell of a lot - and I am almost always keeping an eye on the walls right beside me (looking for the distance markers if the truth be told …) and an ear on the sound of the water – does it sound like I am close to the wall or not? He didn’t buy that argument for some reason, and frankly I’m glad. I wouldn’t like him to steer through a tunnel with such variations in its height.
Anyway, he has decided he’ll steer through one lock each day – it’s a good start! Maybe I’ll be able to get him up to a few more each day before we finish for this year in a month …
I did the swing bridge on my own at the turn on to the Coventry, but it hardly counts as an achievement as I stopped the boat in the long narrow channel up to the bridge, moved it one handed, and David arrived to close it, just after a guy came along and said he’d shut it for me.
We are now moored in the sunshine not terribly far from Whittington. The Coventry is another shallow and reed-filled canal. On our Nicholson’s (2003 edition, so we probably bought and used it in 2004) I had recorded last time we were on it that we moored north of Bridge 90A. Well, there is no mooring possible anywhere near there now – there is about a metre and a half of reeds out from the bank.
We had a ‘mare at Bridge 89 where rather than one boat coming through (at the speed of a snail that was so slow you could go and mine, refine, package, shop and have Mr Tesco deliver the salt before putting it on the snail’s tail …), the woman was closely followed by another. I ended up stuck on the off-side and for the first time this trip, David had to pole the boat off. Being stuck also meant I was splayed across the cut and blocking the 2nd boat’s egress from the bridgehole. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! When he could get out, he tried to come out without turning, so started pushing me back on to the off-side. I am not sure how much room he needed but it was more than I was prepared to provide. He then informed me there was another boat about to come through, but I’d had enough by that stage and tooted for the other boat to hold back. They did so and with a bit of manoeuvring we got through. It was not my finest hour and I did apologise to the people on the 3rd boat. They apologised too, so all was fine.
We stopped on a tiny piece of Armco to feed me with pumpkin soup (made this morning before we headed off from Fradley), top me up with magnesium and to decide where to aim for today. A mooring away from the noisy A38 was the edict. There was plenty of Armco within earshot of that dual carriageway, but no one was on it. So here we are near the Huddlesford Junction, enjoying the sunshine at last – there’s been little sitting outside throughout August which has been quite cool and damp at times.
For dinner tonight we are going to have chicken with lime and tarragon which is a recipe our daughter Kirsty taught me a few years ago. I modified it ages ago and we use yoghurt instead of cream. And today a further modification is being tried – instead of adding the garlic, the lime juice and the tarragon after browning the chicken, I made them into a marinade – it’ll make it quicker to cook when we are ready.
It seems to me it is now chardonnay o’clock – hope it doesn’t hurt my tooth though. I’ll be brave …

David getting stuck in while I was getting my proper chair and taking his photo
Update: Dinner has been postponed till tomorrow night – drinks and extensive nibbles outside on the sunny towpath replaced it. 

The woman on the boat next to us has a large Welsh flag

so here is our little NZ flag valiantly flying. Well, we are better than them at rugby ...

And now we have been for a walk towards Whittington, we have found the Plough Inn which looks as tho it may be a starter for a meal at some stage. 

Boats in the evening sun with The Plough in the background - we can find our way back here I think ...
The Lichfield Cruising Club is on the old arm a few hundred metres away, Their rates for annual mooring are very reasonable even adding in the one off membership fee. But not good for people who are away 6 months, as there is no power. to the moorings. I liked the look of this wooden boat - clinker built perhaps, although that usually refers to the hull, I think.

This place is looking very attractive in the evening sun, so we are considering staying on for a few days and exploring the area (Lichfield cathedral is about 1000 years old so must be checked out) as well as doing some boat maintenance (inc changing the oil – my job, gulp … I sense a multiple reading of the manual coming up). Also we can post Kirsty’s birthday card, David’s dvd for the Weaving Memories client, and my application for the UK OAP if I get it done sharpish. Not very motivated though as, even though I would have qualified at 60 if we lived here, it now goes to the NZ government to top up David’s NZ Super until I qualify for that at the end of next year. Not quite sure how that works, but hey ho. Every little bit helps, I guess.

Lovely Stone, passing a blogger and stardom (Wednesday to Friday last week)

There was very poor wifi over the last few days in Great Haywood and above Shadehouse Lock, hence no posting since the middle of last week.

On Wednesday we walked into Stone with one granny trolley as we’d made a conscious decision not to empty their stores into our boat. We knew we didn’t need much, but as Joe can attest, put a shopping trolley in front of me and it is amazing what I find that we absolutely must have. (That is why, when Joe and I shop together in Johnsonville, he is in charge of the trolley and he keeps moving, dammit!)
It was a mission in Morrison’s trying and not succeeding in finding such basics as salt, and squeegee mops – a refill sponge for a squeegee but no actual squeegee mops … And trying to find wine (well, chardonnay) was difficult. The wine section is divided into wines above £8 and wines below £5, and a small section of wines between £5 and £8. I prefer the placement where the expensive stuff is up on the top shelf (out of my reach, both physically and financially), and the cheap crap is on the bottom – that way I can focus at eye level and just below and know that I will find what I am looking for.
I am finding as we travel around that my strategy in a familiar supermarket of aiming only for the aisles I need (or have the items that will throw themselves into the trolley almost unaided) does not work in an unfamiliar store. And some product placement is frankly weird and the aisle identification systems are occasionally minimalist, to say the least (as you would for something minimalist, I guess). So I end up traversing the place several times. And they have these double aisles, i.e. the shop is two sets of aisles deep, if you get my drift. Makes for some interesting intersections and trolley jams … What should have been a quick scoot through became a bit of a mission.
So after Morrison’s, with David wheeling the granny trolley, we decided to walk the high street. It is still a lovely street, but clearly business is not hugely booming in Stone. There were at least 6 charity shops. There were also a number of long standing businesses though, one of which was the kind of shops we love – the kind that sells everything! We found squeegee mops, got extra refills, and bought a sturdy bucket (we have two collapsible buckets but they do tend to collapse at the most awkward times if not on a stable base). If we were in the market for saloon furniture, I would have bought one of their armchairs too – it was perfectly suited to me, as I could reach the floor and it supported my back and had sides at the head height so I could fall asleep in it … But the much cheaper option was that I found a present for David: a pack of little envelope things called poachies, for (obviously) poaching eggs in. We tried them when back in the boat and they do work (egg into the envelope, envelope into the simmering water, leave for 6 minutes, take out with tongs, tip egg on to toast, biff poachie in the bin), but I think salt in the water is more economic.
The next morning, David headed back into Stone to sort out some admin, and I decided that I would reverse back to the waterpoint to fill the tank. David arrived back as I was starting off and I had hoped to be at the waterpoint by the time he got back. I am NOT saying it was his fault I got flustered. Anyway, I gave up after 2 attempts as I could not get the bow to come round (in forward, mind) so I could go backwards in the centre of the cut. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! I felt like an idiot. David tells me it was breezy and the water was shallow, but I am sure it was my fault really.
So on we came and passed by nb Tentatrice. I called out to them that they have a blog, and instead of saying the obvious ‘Yes we know, cos we write it’, they were much more polite! So hello, Jennie and Chris on Tentatrice from David and Marilyn on Waka Huia.
These women had a novel way of taking the dogs for a walk. The prince and princess (note the tiara) in rear carriage seemed reasonably content. They turned back at Aston Lock as the towpath then gets a bit rough and narrow.

I had wanted to fill with water so we could confidently do a load of washing (guest laundry from the weekend). We decided to put it on anyway and hoped/trusted there would be enough in the tank to cope. It was a close run thing …, and we eventually filled the tank at one of the slowest taps on the cut at Great Haywood. Had a lovely chat there with a couple who’ve been boating for 25 years. Their boat is Anne Louise I think. Then down the lock we came after being momentarily confused by two boats almost on the lock mooring (but not quite) – one moored and the other about to. I moored within view of Shugborough Hall very close to where we moored up on our way up back in June. I say that I moored, because as David cleared the lock, he got captured by a guy who told him about the training ground for the Anzacs in WWI about a mile away. He’d been going to go ahead of me and scout out a suitable place, but that plan evaporated and I pulled in and when David arrived I had the middle rope tied and holding while I was getting the back rope done.
Yesterday David did some film editing as part of his Weaving Memories business – a film off a reel he’d copied on to the Mac Book Pro (MY laptop) before leaving NZ. Using Final Cut Pro he got started on the job. It did mean that I had to remove all barriers and then time how long it took him to get started on it, as he is the world’s best procrastinator and will look for all the small or big tasks that absolutely must be done before the main event can be undertaken – putting away socks, washing dishes, reading emails, charging the phone – you get the picture. So I set him a challenge of being ready to start in 20 minutes and, with a reminder of the countdown, and his brekkie made for him, he made it with about 10 seconds to spare.
Once he was underway, I went back to bed (I’m not stupid …) and watched a movie on the iPad (David’s iPad) – A Dry White Season, released in 1989, with Donald Sutherland, Susan Saradon, Marlon Brando. Harrowing movie (based on the book by Andre Brink – haven’t read it, but will check if it’s on kindle) about deaths in police/Special Branch custody in South Africa before apartheid was abolished and how one white man’s attitude changed when it happened to people he knew.
After a quick lunch we headed for Shugborough Hall – it was open this time. This was when we took advantage of the opportunity for stardom! The woman at the gate told us that the Beeb was there preparing to film a segment for a gardening programme, we think, of a number of people holding hands and encircling the largest yew tree in Europe. Once everyone was in place, a camerawoman moved around the tree filming, but everyone was really waiting to see the drone camera take off and do its thing. By the way, holding hands with arms outstretched hurts after a few minutes – not the hands, but the shoulders! 
Waiting to play with the drone

It was too far away for David to run off with it, but I know he (and almost every other guy there) wanted to ...

By the time it was all done it took about an hour, and David reckons it’ll be cut down to about 6 or 7 minutes actually makes it into the programme. So watch out for us – the series (not sure what it’s called) is going to be starting on 6 Oct at 3.15pm on BBC1. As it’s the day before we leave for NZ, we will watch that episode and then I think we’ll be putting the iPlayer into service to see if we can watch ourselves if it’s not in the first one. The grey-haired woman who was trotting around in trackpants, boots with secaturs at her waist, was clearly well known, as afterwards people kept having their photograph taken with her. Any clues who she is?

The walk around the servants quarters and working area of the Hall (coach house, stables, kitchen, laundry, dunnies  etc) was excellent. We had a chat with one of the guides in the servants' hall and he was most disparaging about the honesty of the servants, whom, he said, knew they were on to a good thing. He did mention that, back in the 19th century, their life expectancy was many years higher than other people who lived in slum conditions, earned very little and therefore ate little and poorly. 
My mum was a parlourmaid when she first went to work at age 14 back in 1937/38 - when we came over to the UK in 1988 she wasn't at all keen to show me the manor house where she'd worked. So I guess there's two sides to every story, in terms of how well off servants thought they were and how well they were treated.
The toilets were a hole in a wooden bench with a large bucket underneath, and outside - no wonder they used 'gerzunders' at night! The sign on the door says 'Do not disturb' and when I lifted the latch there was a voice complaining that there was no blooming peace even on the toilet, then a loud farting noise, followed by a complaint that no one had left any paper ...

In the coach-house, which was filled with carriages from a collection from Shrewsbury, I think, I was delighted to see a phaeton for the first time - I have read about them lots in Georgette Heyer’s novels. I read her when I need a break from the more serious fiction and non-fiction I seem to get engrossed in. I do enjoy finding myself in places here in England that she wrote about, and seeing the differences now from how she described them. She mostly wrote about the era before the canals and railways, but some of the towns and cities are familiar from wending our way along the cut. Also she raises my consciousness about how greater London was previously a series of villages – with farms and countryside between them that have now disappeared, but that explain a lot of the names of places. History and geographical information come in all guises …

Tuesday 26 Aug - what a long blogging gap!

On Tuesday we moved on to Stone. En route, we stopped in Barlaston briefly and I went over to what had been the Londis shop. It used to be really well stocked but is being changed to a One Stop shop, and the stock lines appear to be being run down at the moment. I managed to get yoghurt**, milk and some totally unnecessary choccy treats, but almost nothing else on my list was available. We had thought we might head to moor up just above the lock at Aston, but by the time we got to Stone I was ready to stop. The thought of Thai takeaways for dinner was too tempting! The mains were pretty ordinary but the starters were fine.
** We have onboard an Easi Yo yoghurt maker and we make our own Greek style yoghurt from the sachets that are available here from Holland and Barrett and the occasional supermarket. David had assiduously shopped for the sachets of Greek Easi Yo when he was back in NZ to save us having to find H&B stores close to the cut. When I say assiduously, I mean he looked for the word Greek on the sachet, found and purchased 8 of them, and carried them back to the boat. When I made raita on Saturday to go with the chicken curry, I added some turmeric and thought that I didn’t think turmeric was sweet, but the raita tasted pretty good anyway. At breakfast in the morning, I wondered what Pauline had added to the fruit salad to make it so sweet – didn’t taste like the manuka honey I use. Then David confessed – the yoghurt was the Greek and Coconut flavour. As were ALL of the sachets he brought back. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! Hence my shopping for plain unsweetened yoghurt.
We decided we would stay in Stone an extra day, explore the town which is where the Trent and Mersey Canal was initiated according the signage, to do some shopping at Morrison’s – we need more meat and chardonnay, and two squeegee mops (one for the floors and one to mop out the water the bilge pump won’t remove). I was keen to take the granny trolleys for an outing ...

Wednesday 27 August 2014

A wet Bank Holiday Monday

Monday was wet for most of the day and we cruised and locked substantially in the rain, but it didn’t matter at all. 

It was very misty, wet and  atmospheric

And you'll notice we were not alone - there were more boats moving on the Monday than we had seen all weekend. We must be mad - as I said to one guy we went past 'we wouldn't be out in this at home!'
I kept warm and dry - David's hat to keep the rain off my head and neck, my silk scarf and fleecy, Kathmandu jacket, fleecy-lined leather gloves and my boots with gortex. And I can see as I am standing on my neat little stool!

Hard to see, but Barry and Pauline did the locks and I steered. Barry was a star - he had no jacket, but his Kathmandu fleecy seemed to keep him reasonably dry. Come to think of it, I am not sure what David did ...
We had one mishap before the Ivy House Lift Bridge which David had been told was under repair. We moored up temporarily in a dodgy place using pins, while David walked ahead to check out the state of play at the bridge. While we were there, a couple of boats came past and when I looked out the stern doors from the galley (taking advantage of the pause to start making lunch – leftovers of chicken curry and cassoulet) I saw that we were spread-eagled across the cut with the stern rope in the water and the pin gone – dammit!
The lift bridge was already fixed so we came on, abandoned lunch until after the bridge and then moored up to eat and for Barry to get some photos of the amazing bottle kilns that remain. One entranced me as it now has a house built around it, incorporating it into the roofline and I assume the body of the house.  I wonder what room it is?
David took this standing on the seat in the stern deck so he could get above the fence. It was still misty and raining.
Barry took this one of us approaching the bridge he was on. One of the two bottle kilns in the photo above is showing. Really lovely re-development of the canalside here in Hanley with new housing and great towpath and mooring - rings all the way.

We  had planned to moor up at Hanley Park and send B&P from there directly down to the station. However some locals walking by told us, when asked, that it was a bit dodgy at night. So on we went down to and through the staircase locks and on to the exit from the Caldon.
I think this is the top lock of the pair of staircase locks. A bit leaky! But now I know what David did for part of the day - he stayed on board to let Barry and Pauline have the fun of the locks

The bottom lock of the staircase pair - it is rather deep and we are nowhere near the bottom yet - time for a cuddle

There was a couple waiting across from the Caldon junction for a boat coming up to exit the lock – the woman was very concerned we were going to steal it from them and told Pauline and Barry first (they were already there waiting as they had walked on from doing the staircase locks) and then came back and told David, who was clearly dragging the rubbish bags from the gas locker while I was clearly hovering at the junction. I spent the waiting time trying to lift a 4 inch thick 6 foot long tree branch out of the water but was not successful. I tried to co-opt a young guy biking past to help me but he was wearing new clothes and didn’t want to get them dirty. I could understand that, but I was already messy and wet so it didn’t matter to me – lying down on the towpath reaching into the cut didn’t seem at all strange ….

Down the 5 Stoke locks we went and then moored up on a couple of rings under Bridge 113A which leads to the railway station. As a mooring, its only saving grace was that it was out of the rain! After cheese on toast for a light snack, B&P departed for their train. In 3.5 hours they’d be back in London. 

We moved on out of Stoke. It was interesting that neither of us wanted to moor on the long straight stretches where no one else was moored up. I posted on one of the forums recently about people’s need for proximity – that is how we felt that night. We ended up mooring outside Trentham, and enjoyed listening to 3 kids playing in the field opposite – they were doing that thing kids are so good at ‘I’m going to be x and I’m going to do this, you be y and you do this, …’ Creative play which is so neat to see. It was all the more neat because it was raining and still they were outside happily having fun.

We lit the bubble stove to warm up and decided after an hour that we do need to ditch it and get Ed to hook up the Webasto to the radiators (to hell with the expense) and maybe next year we will put in a solid fuel stove. One of the key problems with the bubble stove is that it requires its waterpump to be on all the time and that is so damned whiny that the sound goes through your head in a most annoying way. Until Ed comes and sorts it, we will resort to an extra jersey or two, blankies over our knees and snuggling in bed under the feather duvet - what else is required?

Bank Holiday Sunday

On Sunday which was a lovely fine day, we set off a bit later than the day before, and I showered while Barry steered. After dire warnings to be careful and not tip me over while in my naked and vulnerable state, he immediately crashed into a metal rotunda in the middle of the cut (well signposted, mind) – it had been part of a swing bridge. His saving grace was that he got Pauline to come and yell to me to hold on as he was going to hit it. My question is tho: how come he had time to send her to do that but not time to avoid it?
We stopped for water at the services which had 3 water taps – the most I’ve seen in one place. Barry showered there, perhaps to make sure I couldn’t get my revenge.
The first lock of the day - Hazlehurst Locks. You'll notice I am wearing the same clothes as yesterday. I have changed from my sneakers to my boots while waiting for the lock to fill

The lock cottage garden.

David makes his way to the next lock. But it was Pauline and me who cleared as many reeds as possible from in the locks, and put them over into fields to fertilise the ground.

Reflections in beautifully still water

Hard to see but these guys were practising for the Tug of War World Champs - they are leaving on Thursday this week for the States

The aqueduct on the Caldon with the Leek Arm above, I think

Quiet and peaceful, although I think that tree on the right may have claimed a glass from the stern deck side

We moored here just through Bridge 38 to go walking

Waka Huia moored in the middle distance - snapped by Barry while waiting for Pauline and I to make lunch for the walk
By 3.30 we had got to the winding hole at Cheddleton. That may not seem very far, but at lunchtime we had set off from Bridge 39 for a six mile walk on the Staffordshire Way, across the Caldon and the Leek, on the edge of Hollinhay Wood where we found a stone wall to sit on and eat our sandwiches, through Longsdon and through the Ladderedge Country Park to the top end of the Leek branch, back along its towpath to cross at its Bridge 6 and over the Caldon’s Bridge 39 again and back to the boat. It was a lovely walk with some wonderful vistas - a mere stroll for Barry and Pauline, but more of a trek for David and (particularly) me.
Lunching on the wall on the edge of Hollinhay Wood

David being snapped taking photos by Barry - Pauline and Marilyn just keep on walking

A stop for oranges at half time in Ladderedge Country Park - too many horseflies around to stay seated for long!

On the Leek Arm

The narrow tunnel

Pauline and Marilyn on the Leek towpath - peaceful, calm and very warm

Barry then steered us to Cheddleton to turn the boat, however the winding hole is deceptive and we had to reverse out and try again, this time with me at the helm and Barry with the back rope in case I needed to be hauled around. I made it without such rough treatment, but did have to get as far into the right hand ‘corner’ of the winding hole as possible to be able to fit the length of the boat across the cut. I found it a strange winding hole as it’s on a bend in the cut.
Barry and Pauline scooted into the Cheddleton Flint Mill for a quick look before it shut and David and I stayed with the boat and debated whether to stay there overnight or move back to Stanley Moss.
Cheddleton Mill Museum

The wheel and chimney

I think there is housing in the midst of the museum complex

Isn't this a bit 'Bridges of Madison County'? I expected to see Meryl Streep coming along the towpath ...
Consultation with B&P resulted in our moving back to Stanley Moss to allow more time on Monday for faffing about taking photos of things we’d missed on the way up. No sitting on the towpath on Sunday evening – it had cooled down by the time we arrived, so we stayed inside and had cassoulet with rice for dinner and blackberry crumble for dessert – truly the fruits of our labours, as on Saturday B, P and I spent some time moored before the Ivy House Lift Bridge picking blackberries. We also saw later that, on the offside, there were masses of berries near Bridge 14. If you are on the Caldon and can get your boat over to the offside, hover there and pick them – they were big beauties and it was a shame to let them sit there unpicked but B&P were heading back to NZ for a fortnight  and David doesn’t really like them that much, so we didn’t stop for them on our way back.

Bank Holiday Saturday

The Bank Holiday weekend weather was like the parson’s egg – good in parts. But that didn’t stop us much at all.
Barry and Pauline (aka Wind Me Up B*^ch as that is what she has done to David from the first time she met him in Tuscany back in about 2006) are intrepid travellers who have travelled with a group on a truck/bus from the UK to Thailand, I think, across some pretty dodgy places politically and geographically; so a bit of rain on the cut wasn’t going to stop them.
On Saturday we set off quite early from a Black Prince mooring in Festival Park Marina as the hire boats were due back at 9.30 and we wanted to be well out of the way before then.

Within a few minutes we were on the Caldon. 
This is not far from the entrance to the Caldon Canal
While we were at Festival Park on the Friday I asked a guy just back from the Leek and Caldon how they had enjoyed it: they hadn’t - too narrow and too many corners. It is 8 or 9 years since we were last on it and I had forgotten much of it so I was a bit concerned, esp given it was a Bank Holiday. I did wonder if it would be heaving with boats. But no, it was pretty empty. And it was just lovely. It didn’t seem as narrow as parts of the Maccie or Peak Forest and nowhere near as shallow. And there has been (and continues to be) a lot of work being done on establishing very well paved towpaths with heavily compacted grit of some sort and lots of armco to moor against.

Just moored up for lunch. I was drenched!
It persisted down with rain on Saturday morning for a time so we stopped for lunch while the worst of it precipitated, and then moved on in increasingly fine, sunny and warm weather. Barry and I shared the steering and I took the opportunity to have some time off the stern by doing locks. It is fun!!! And in the rain it certainly keeps you warmer than steering does. I am going to need to get David doing the steering somehow … 
It  got very warm and sunny in the afternoon, and I am happy Barry was steering!
The only trouble with doing the locks is that sometimes ...

... it's a long walk to where you can be picked up (esp if you forget to ask the steerer to hover in the lock exit for you). By the way, I cannot seem to find a photo of me that does not show either my big bum or my big tum!!!

In one of the lock cottage gardens
Barry happily leaving us behind, the b*stard

This pony previously belonged to gypsies. Her mane has been trimmed and is growing back very slowly.
We moored about 4pm next to a small field with horses and ponies in it across the cut from Stanley Moss in a lovely spot that had room for our table and chairs, wine/beer/cider and nibbles – the latter attracted the attention of a number of dogs walking their owners in the sun. It is lovely chatting with the owners and making a fuss of the dogs – and it isn’t hard to keep them away from our food!

A very peaceful spot, and I am in one of my favourite poses ...

Standards are slipping - biscuits in the packs rather than on a plate
David setting up the pram cover for the night while Pauline and I finish getting dinner ready

Isn't that a lovely photo?

Friday 22 August 2014

Why don't men die in their sleep?

They can’t do two things at once, of course. Keep reading below ...

Across the canal from our mooring at Westport Lake

He only started to move when David went up on deck to photograph him - you can see ripples in this photo but not in the one above
Now, I give you fair warning: much of today’s post is going to be wifely complaints about a husband – mine, in point of fact. So if you don’t think you can cope, please stop reading now. As they (sort of) say on TV, this article contains scenes that readers may find distressing. (By the way, the heron pics above were just to lull you ...)

Episode One: I may not have told you before, that the stern bay cover which allows access to the weedhatch has the screechiest hinges. Instead of fixing our horn, we could have just opened and closed the cover a few times and it would have been ten times louder than the strangled goose imitation that our horn used to do. I had tried WD40 without much success, so Ed suggested we use some engine oil if we didn’t have 3 in 1 onboard. We didn’t, so David helped me by opening the 5L container of oil and I carefully (there is a clue here) tilted it and got a wee dab on to a paper towel. Then I applied said paper towel to the hinges, top and bottom. The screech lessened but was still present.

So David, bless his heart, decided on Wednesday evening, to finish the job, and what’s more, to remedy the screechy hinges on the gas locker. I am not sure how he did it, because I was not nearby (truth to tell, I was drinking chardonnay down in the saloon), but he managed to spill oil over the engine bay cover, the stern bay cover and the gas locker cover. He swears he didn’t actually pour it on, but it sure looks like he stood up with the container, tilted it at 45 degrees and instead of applying the paper towel to the neck of the container, he must have let rip with a gap between them and turned around a couple of times as well ... (What was it Joan Rivers says about men and toilet seats?? It must be on youtube somewhere.) To be fair, he has cured the screeching hinges. He has also traipsed oil on to the carpet on the steps leading down into the galley and into the boat.

Insult to injury, he left me to do a clean up job on the rear deck yesterday while he watched the news … Today we bought some 3 in 1 oil, so at least if he decides to remedy anything screeching (not me, by the way) he will be unable to spread oil far and wide.
A brief respite: Yesterday, before we moved off from Westport Lakes we walked to Argos and purchased a topper pad to make the dinette double squabs more comfortable. The topper pad we chose came with 4 microfibre pillows which we didn’t need and don’t have room for. So from Argos we went to a charity shop on the Tunstall High St and off-loaded the pillows. Result – less for David to carry and less to have to find room for on the boat. (This afternoon though David discovered we only have two spare pillows … AARRGGHH!!!)
We thought Tunstall was interesting (in an NZ way), as it shows the changes wrought with so-called progress - outsourcing of industry and big chain stores moving in are a recipe for dereliction of the centre of towns, I think.
Tunstall High Street obviously had a more affluent past - look at those rooflines and chimneys.

Now with more of the street level view - apart from charity shops, I notice there are a lot of nail salons in high streets that are heading downwards. Not surprising that formerly successful small businesses close though - one block off this street is a retail park: Asda, Matalan, Argos, Next, Harveys, etc. Shops that rip the heart out of small towns.

Buildings at the bottom of the High St

I liked these places though - walls between the footpath and the small front 'gardens'. At home we would not appreciate the samey samey nature of these homes, but here they seem to fit.

I decided not to walk around the lake when I smelled the water as we headed for Tunstall, and when I saw this rancid mess
Episode Two: Then last night, the true ‘not being able to do two things at once’ reared its ugly head. I had cooked tuna mousse for dinner and when it was ready, I opened the oven door, turned the oven off and left the mousse in to cool with the door open. I have to take some responsibility for what followed, as I am usually vigilant about where David is when the oven door is open – it’s his cataract, you know. So he came past me and I wasn’t watching. He went up the stairs to check something – maybe how clean I had got the rear deck (GGGRRR!!!), and then stepped back down without looking or thinking or remembering (ooh, that’s 4 things – so no wonder!) – right on to the open oven door. ###@*^@##%++@#^ or AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

So the hinges are a bit fubarred. The door closes but the hinges have to be pushed in to shut it. Fortunately for him, the oven still heats up well – I cooked braised steak and onions for tonight’s dinner and I have just cooked a curry for tomorrow night. I am not sure if it will be effective for things that require even heat, like Yorkshire puddings/toad in the hole or cakes, so it will have to be tested further. (By the way, Wednesday’s toad in the hole was lovely, as was the brown onion gravy that I made. I think toad in the hole is one of my favourite foods, esp with brown onion gravy, potatoes, peas and carrots – total yum! I will be very distressed if the oven no longer cooks toad in the hole properly - a 40 year marriage could be on the rocks ...)

I will get Barry, who is a DIYer of a high standard, unlike David and me, to have a look at it tomorrow, and see if anything can be done.
The Toby Carvery across the marina from us at Black Prince/Festival Marina
Today we have had a cleaning and shopping day. Firstly we went supermarketing and purchased matching granny shopping trolleys at Argos on our way. They worked a treat carrying back all the shopping which included wine, cider, beer, cans of beans, etc. 
Our two granny shopping trolleys - 'next stop: the home' we think we can hear our lovely but harsh daughter saying ... Must take after her dad. In fact it was her dad who said we should pose under the sign ...

Then we did the cleaning: the boat looks spic and span, vacuumed, swept, floors washed. I went off to the Wedgewood and Royal Doulton outlet shop and managed to buy 7 plates, and only paid full price for one of them. Cheapest one was £1.50. Others ranged between £3 and £6. Total spend £39. David went off to PC World (after I returned – I think he thought my spending gave him permission to go shopping for a 3rd radio for the boat, not counting the iphone and the ipad– does he not think he may have to put his pension towards a new stove at some point soon?) and spent £39.99 on a digital radio that he got cheap because its volume button was missing. Maybe we could scrape up the oil from the gas locker hatch and process it to make a plastic replacement … 

Forgot to say we met some more NZers today, in the Festival Park Marina. They are from Raumati South. It is truly clear that antipodeans are colonising the cut.