Monday 31 August 2015

What is the weather like today?

Well, it's Bank Holiday Monday so of course it's raining.

Now before anyone gives me beans about this generalisation, I need you to know that this prejudice is inherited - I got it from my mum. She had a saying that she used when we were bored or stuck inside (generally these two were mutually inclusive) 'You look like a wet weekend on an Bank Holiday' she'd say. Like many sayings our parents use (e.g. 'If you don't behave I'll read you the Riot Act' - what??) we understand them by context rather than by actual meaning. But here we are and it's raining.

I am not complaining though. I am back in bed after having had a cup of tea made for me earlier. Then when David said he was going to have banana and muesli and yoghurt for breakfast I declared that boring and got up to make us pikelets, bacon, bananas and maple syrup with a side of yoghurt - now doesn't that sound more interesting and yummy?

Then back to bed for me while David peeled squash (not real pumpkin), a sweet potato (not real kumara) and some crinkly parsnips so I can make soup later.

He says he is going to repair the bilge pump shortly, but I fear he will get wet as that part of the bilge is not protected by the pram cover. I do think this manly stuff is going to his head, or somewhere more testosterone-driven. I am sure there must be some IT task requiring his attention.

My only mission for the day, should I decide to accept it, is to don my coat, get the granny trolley out from under the bed, and head for the Coop to stock up on salad veg. I used to love walking in the rain as a teenager so I think I should renew that passion.

We went for a walk along the towpath late yesterday afternoon before dinner and saw that there are no other visitor moorings at all - some places where, if you cut the nettle back, you'd be able to bang in some pins, but no real moorings. We walked back through the northern part of Barrow on Soar to the bridge by the Navigation pub which is close to the mooring. I think I'll need to cross that bridge again and head south towards the high street and the Coop. One task prior to arising from my bed is to look it all up on google maps. Liking walking in the rain is one thing, but not being able to find the shop while it's tipping it down is something else quite silly, I think. Perhaps finding out its opening hours on a bank holiday might also be useful ...

Sunday 30 August 2015

Will the surprises never end?

Maybe it’s just that we were moored up for a fairly long time, but David got inspired to clean out the engine bay and bilge yesterday. This rash of manly-type tasks is just too much for my sensitive soul to cope with! David is my IT hero, my technical whizz, the go-to guy for sorting out the TV, the DVD player, the iPhones and pretty much anything that has an LCD display.

But grease? Oil? Drills? Tools that can be found in a workshop rather than just in a plastic box? None of these really fit with my perception of the man I’ve been married to for 40 years.

Don’t get me wrong – we did an enormous amount of DIY when we bought Cherswud, we had lots of help and tuition from a number of people: my dad, as well as a variety of builders who did work that was clearly beyond us. We are both good at asking questions, watching carefully, thinking things through. And over the years (it took 20-ish of them) as we renovated Cherswud from a concrete hulk to a lovely home, we learned to do all sorts of things. Towards the end of that process though, as we were both working full time, we more often than not paid people to do the work rather than spending weekends doing it ourselves. And accordingly with unused skills, some competence was lost.

However we never touched plumbing, electrics, plastering (apart from small holes or repairs). We have also never done anything to our cars apart from changing wheels, topping up the oil and water through their respective apertures, and occasionally with previous cars, retrieving the keys which have been locked inside … You will have noticed that the list of car tasks did NOT include washing or polishing.

So to see David down and dirty (very!) in the engine bay was a bit of a shock for me.
Evidence - the work shirt. We are not sure why but we seem to have oily/greasy stuff around the edge of the framing for the engine bay cover.

No, that is not a tattoo ...

I do wonder though if it was just that he was keen to be the first to use my new vacuum pump thingie for extracting the engine oil. It can be used for sucking up all liquids so it had its first outing yesterday as he utilised it for getting the water out of the bilge section near the stern gland grease tube. The level was too low for the bilge pump and just right for the suckie thingie obviously.

However I may be doing him a disservice – because he continued down in the engine bilge until he had extracted and replaced all the puppy training pads from under the gear box and engine, tidied and put back all the bits sitting on the swim.

And today he was planning on going back down to sort out the bilge pump. Somehow he managed to disconnect it yesterday. But we are now moored at Barrow on Soar (we got the last mooring just before the rain started and he is on to IT/TV tasks for me as I want to watch Foyle’s War on the ITV iPlayer on my phone – apparently it uses less data than on the laptop, my IT guru tells me. At least, I think that’s what he said. Something to do with data file sizes.
Yesterday after David was all cleaned up, we walked back along the riverbank to the Thurmaston Lock where Tracey and Ray are moored with their two boats, one of which is Tea Junction. We had a good chat with Tracey, bought and consumed an icecream and played with their cat - a beautiful moggy who looks just like a cat we had called Indy and has the same friendly nature. Kirsty brought Indy back from Taranaki one year when she'd been told that the kittens were going to be put down. A friend of hers drove to Taranaki to get her and the kitten, and Indy spent the whole journey roaming around the car and whining loudly. She got under the driver's feet at times, and she was lucky to survive, I gather. However she was a beautiful cat and the best pet we'd ever had. We had to give her away when we moved to the UK in 2003 and she had two sets of owners after that, all of whom loved her.

Kirsty darling, this one is for you! And for you too, JoB. And for Ann and Bill. Doesn't that pose look familiar?
 Our cruise from next to Watermead Park to Barrow on Soar was very relaxed. We hardly saw any boats until we approached BoS, although there were three in a row coming towards us as we went through the narrowest piece of the river that we saw all day!

Our first stop was at the waterpoint at The Hope and Anchor pub - Tracey had told us about it. (Thank you, Tracey, as it isn't marked in the Nicholson's or on MemoryMap.) It's a bit slow but we weren't in a hurry and I managed to eat my brekkie, have a shower and get some washing started while we were filling. No one else was approaching in a thirsty sort of way so we felt fine doing our ablutionary tasks at the same time. A boater moored on the pub mooring came to ask about our solar set up and the MPPT controller and a cyclist borrowed our Allen keys to sort out something on his bike. So a bit of a social time first thing on a Sunday morning - that can't be bad, can it?

These young chaps looked interested as we passed by - they were keen on the cup of tea David was delivering to me, I think. They lost interest when they saw there were no biccies - it's a fasting day today.

This weir is after the Mountsorrel Lock and is rather attractive, we thought

It was a bit scary coming across the first group of people on pedalloes (bikes on two kayaks is what some of them looked like, and others are the flatter, sitting down low style) as they are reasonably maneouverable I guess, but as they are a craft hired out for an hour or so at a time, people are unlikely to have developed any real skill. And neither they nor the craft would look pretty after a close encounter with a 16 ton boat ...

Barrow on Soar looks to be a nice place but along with lots of pedallo boats of various descriptions being used by a range of people including some young kids, and there are a number of day hire boats plying the river under the control or not of a few slightly pished young men, plus a fair few narrowboats – all of these seem to be converging near the corner we are moored close to – I am keeping my eyes shut a fair bit. 

PS Does anyone know what this plant/shrub/tree is? It's quite tall (well, taller than me) and was growing on the public path on the way in to Thurmaston. I have seen several of them recently and I really like the seed heads/flowers. Kath (nb Herbie) I DO hope it's not noxious too!

Thursday 27 August 2015

Birstall and beyond

We stayed two nights at Birstall, intending to spend some time in Leicester, exploring the town and visiting the Richard III exhibition near the Cathedral. We also wanted to have a good Indian meal out. But only the last of the three was achieved.

I went into Leicester yesterday and was disappointed that the road works, building works and crush of people was such that I felt quite overwhelmed by the noise and bustle. So exploring the city centre wasn’t proving to be a pleasure and there just seemed to be shops, shops and more shops. I was impressed tho with the clock tower in the centre.

I made my way, eventually, to the cathedral and found the building where the Richard III exhibition was on show. To me the best bit was the sand sculpture being built outside the foyer. But I am getting ahead of myself. 
This sculpture was being constructed out of damp sand. The young woman doing it was amazingly talented.

I was really looking forward to the exhibition as I was sure that the view of him would have been amended - the Shakespeare play that is how many of us were introduced to him, while an excellent drama, suffers a severe deficit of truth from being based on the fictitious account of Richard’s perfidy put about by Henry VII who wrested the throne from Richard’s rightful heir.

But on entry, after paying £7, one of the first things I saw, stated as fact, was that the princes went missing during Richard’s reign. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

So I left, feeling very disappointed. The young woman at the desk told me, when I grumped a bit, that they had presented both sides of the story and were leaving people to make up their own minds. That would be fine, if one view wasn’t already proven to be untrue.

I freely admit that I didn’t give it a fair suck of the saveloy, as the gross saying goes in NZ. So if any reader has viewed it all and came away with the impression that Richard was wrongly accused and poorly treated by Henry VII and the history as promulgated from that point, I would be interested to hear from you. Honest, I would!

I think my sensitivity about Richard isn’t about him so much, but about how history is always written by the victor, and is in many cases recorded to justify inhumanity, dishonesty, oppression, rape and pillage – find a word to describe poor behaviour and add it.


So there was only one of the three wishes remaining. And last night we went to a wonderful Indian restaurant in Birstall. It’s called The Dining Room and the food was wonderful – and beautifully presented. They are a BYO restaurant, so you can take your own alcohol, as they don’t sell any. That is a good saving, given the mark up on it in restaurants. It’s a very popular concept in NZ, but we don’t see it much over here. By the way, there is an off licence right next door so you don't even have to carry your booze far ...
David's samosas - don't they look delish? The third one is atop the other two and is supporting the salad. I have never seen such lovely presentation in an Indian restaurant.

My onion bhajis - also delicious. They are sitting on some yoghurt and the brown heart-shaped garnish was a mix of something with wasabi, I think. Just yummy! I don't usually want to eat the salad garnish but that was begging to be eaten, so I obliged.
This morning we decided to move on from Birstall. Our original intention had been to stay there over the Bank Holiday. But yesterday John and Vanessa told us that they had been informed by a CRT guy that the mooring is only 48 hours. There is no signage stating any time limit so we had assumed 14 days. However we weren’t surprised at the 48 hour limit, as it is a lovely place and would be very popular with boaters wanting to avoid mooring in Leicester.

So I went off to the Coop while David tidied inside and readied the boat (aerial down, pram cover down, fenders up, third rope untied). A full granny trolley and 40 minutes later I returned, and did the engine checks – I am in charge of keeping the solenoid screw thingie tightened so while I am down there I might as well check the oil, the gearbox, the stern-gland greaser. One thing I cannot reach to do without severe contortions is empty the container David has under the stern-gland, and I am excused weed hatch duty as well, in the main. If the water is really cold then I am the weed hatch queen, as David seems to suffer more than I do from its painful effects. He’s obviously a more sensitive soul than I am.

Our plan was to get water and moor up just after the Thurmaston lock but while filling with water (a palaver in itself as the water point was invisible – turned out to be behind a boat moored and taking on water) the woman told us that the guy moored on the visitor moorings had two large, unrestrained dogs that poop all along the mooring. Ah, no thanks. So on we came to alongside the Watermead Park. We have armco, man-made lakes (former gravel pits) over the hedge, walkers and their nice dogs coming past, a wide open mooring that allows the batteries to be topped up for free by the sun. And to make it even better there are blackberries also available for free!
Our mooring. David is relaxing while I am on photo duty. Shortly after this photo was taken a woman came along with her lovely red setter called Kia. Although not spelled the same, they named her after the kea in NZ - they got her after a trip there and decided she was just as cheeky as the NZ kea. She seemed very demure to us as she sat and waited patiently for her owner while we all chatted.

We went for a walk around one of the lakes and the park is beautiful. There are a few representations of dinosaurs at various points which I've just discovered on Wikipedia is because a fossilised ice age mammoth was discovered there when the site was a quarry!

I reckon there's a lots more walks to be explored as long as the weather holds over the weekend.
One of the little 'beaches' - lots of goose poo so I wouldn't be letting kids swim in it, but maybe I am just too careful. At each wee beach and in between, there are seats for people to sit and enjoy the views. It is called King Lear Lake as it is believed that Lear was buried under the River Soar which is very close by.

This bridge goes over the river and links a couple of the lakes. We met a couple, the woman of whom has the same bike as David. He got some info from her husband, and we have decided to buy a basket for the bike too - he'll be able to carry the windlass, the cord and anything else required. Her front mudguard is held on with the brackets being positioned close to the bottom of the mudguard. That is going to be actioned on board Waka Huia tomorrow, I think.
This statue is of King Lear kneeling over the body of his murdered youngest daughter Cordelia. I cannot remember who the two men are. Will update this when I go there again tomorrow.

So all going well, we are here for a few days. The towpath is wide enough for the table and chairs, and the canal/river is wide enough for boats to by-pass us easily. We seem to have got the only decently deep part, as another boat tried to moor up as we were returning from a walk, and they kept getting grounded.

David has been busy this afternoon – it is amazing what fasting will do to a man anxious to keep his mind active and engaged and not thinking about food … It was a bit disconcerting for me tho, as he has been using the tools - including my battery drill!
The tools are out. Take no notice of the bike being upside down - it's easier to store inside that way ...

The result is that he has fitted the second telescopic aerial pole to the front of the cratch, removed the clumsy looking block of wood that was keeping the original pole off the foredeck, and we now have a pole for the TV aerial and a pole for the internet booster thingie. 
He is rather pleased with himself, and justifiably so! (Those of you who know him will see that his belly has reduced significantly.)

Who is that man? Maybe he's channelling my dad, as that is my dad's shirt he's wearing!
David behind bars ...

Next thing is to get him on to participating on sanding and painting the rust spots … He has said we should start at separate ends of the boat for that task and meet in the middle, but I reckon with the weather situation, we are better to have one of us sanding and the other getting the bare metal covered immediately.

We do need to get on to it, as there’s not much time left.

Tuesday 25 August 2015

A tiring day

We are now moored up in Birstall. We have decided that 7 hour days do not suit us, at all. I get tired by about 5 hours and the last couple of hours are stressful, such that anything that can go wrong, does, and my steering skills degenerate markedly. And my patience - well, enough said, cos it has gone down the toilet.

Yesterday was a blobby day though because it rained and rained and rained. We moved over to get water at about 8.30am and were back on the mooring about 40 minutes later, in time for the precipitation to begin. We did lots of laundry - sheets and towels from the weekend mainly - and the boat was draped as tho it was a fancy house shut up with holland covers over everything!

This morning we were up early to re-fill with water and then move on. I think we'd gone over for water at about 7.30 and were approaching the locks about 8. The first test (failed) of my patience was as David put the bike back together. I am not sure why he had removed the front mudguard, but getting it back on was proving time consuming. It is not a quick task if I can mix and cook an omelette, make tea, slice tomatoes and run water for dishes in the same time span, now is it?

We were joined at the locks by John and Vanessa on nb Swift and Low. We were all quite efficient, esp when David was biking between locks and starting or getting them set for us. The time saved is in the dropping him off and picking him up at lock landings, and in his being there before we arrive. Even if it's only 5 minutes saved at each lock, it soon adds up.
This tree looked sort of spooky with its dead branches mixed with living ones - would have looked even spookier on a grey day ...

There were loads and loads of these flowers growing along the canal/river. I don't know what they are but they look very pretty. The flowers look like legume flowers.

David and I were going to moor for a couple of nights in Leicester at Castle Gardens but there were already 5 or 6 boats there and it didn't look very welcoming. So on we came. That was probably our mistake, as the following two hours to Birstall seemed very long and I started being clumsy, losing concentration, being unable to moor up effectively - part of that was because I tried a technique I read about on the Canalworld forum yesterday. The technique which I clearly cannot do was to bring the stern of the boat in to the side, tie it loosely and then rev the engine in forward gear a bit and the bow is meant to come around. Ah, no. So I am missing something, methinks. And one thing I didn't take into account is that trying new things when I am tiring is not wise. But that's another feature of my tiring - silly decisions as well, dammit!!

This is a weir - one of two the same on the way through Leicester. Certainly a trap for the unwary or tired. As I was approaching the first one I thought it was a bridge and I was trying to work out which span I should go under. Doh!  Both of the weirs are on corners, and their lower levels aren't far below so it's visually confusing, but it's far enough to be a real problem. There is NO signage and no barriers to prevent boats cannoning off the top level. A narrowboat wouldn't fit under the span, as can be seen when you get closer, but until then it's deceptive.

So now we are moored up, it has rained, stopped raining and we have both had a nana nap. We were going to go out for dinner, but have decided to postpone that until tomorrow night. Instead we have had a Gu pudding each - no main course, just dessert. Sounds like my best decision today!

Monday 24 August 2015

The kindness of family, friends and strangers

I have always thought that people want to be helpful whenever they can or are given the opportunity. Our experiences both here on the boat and at home are testament to that, we think.

In the recent months/weeks/days, on the boat we have had some lovely experiences with people's kindness.

Starting first with a couple of strangers:

On the day Emma and the children were to meet up with us, she and they walked from Crick over the top of the tunnel aiming to meet us just before the entrance. The path is not distinct, I gather, or at least not well signposted. Emma had to consult me (no local knowledge but I had the relevant Nicholson's book, and MemoryMap app on the phone) and Richard who has both local knowledge and access to good maps while sitting at home (in spite of being poorly, he still was very helpful). The saving instructions though came from a man walking his dog along the towpath. As he had passed us half an hour before going the opposite way, I was fairly sure he was a local. So, with Emma on the phone to me, I asked him how a walker would get from the road over the top of the tunnel down to the towpath. He gave me instructions and I relayed them to Emma. He stayed with me while she found his white van, the gate and the path, then he waited for her at the bridge on the towpath to make sure she arrived. Such a lovely kind person he was.

On Saturday this week, we called in at Debdale Marina to buy a new gas bottle, and while there asked some advice of the man serving us. Our questions related to changing over to the orange gas bottles and the possible effect on our gas cooker and hobs, dealing with the bolt that secures the stop/start mechanism (see, I don't even know what it's called) the thread of which has been stripped so it keeps loosening, air filters, oil filters, gear box oil, oil changing equipment (I gather I can buy a pump that fits down the dipstick hole and saves me leaning over a hot engine ...) winter mooring, ... He was so helpful that we are seriously considering putting Waka Huia there for the winter. The threads I have read on Canalworld Forum about Debdale increase our sense of it being a good place to be. But it was that man's kindness and patience that generated that thought.

David and I have some lovely friends over here, and two couples stand out for us in the boating world. Barry and Pauline have stayed with us on board several times and they are always very helpful. David and I are not the world's most able DIYers, as you will have guessed. And over the times they have come to stay, Pauline seems to do all the dishes, assists with any food prep, and sweeps up; and Barry always sorts out little jobs for us - jobs we look at and think 'too hard' or 'not now' or 'how on earth ...?' Among many other things, he's fitted hooks to latch shut our pigeon box, re-fitted the bolt holding one window of the cratch so it actually shuts, weatherproofed the duck hatch - these are all things that David and I could do with application of thinking and effort, but they do seem to stump us.

At the end of our last season's boating, Barry spent a few days with us as we prepared the boat for its winter sojourn. He cleaned, he scrubbed, he polished, he touched up paint, he sanded and polyurethaned doors. He and David problem-solved the issue of the non-functioning support pole for the tonneau cover. Barry is methodical and competent - a good combination. David and I have the methodical bit, but the competency evades us at times ...

Mick and Julia are friends from a way back (first met in 1994 at Norton Junction where we were recorded in Julia's log as Australians - bless her, she knows better now ...) We lost touch with them for a number of years and saw them passing us last year on our last day of boating. David ran for about a kilometre to catch them up and we are now friends reunited. We spent a number of days boating together recently, and one day while Julia and I went walking, Mick did some DIY jobs on our boat. He sorted out the dining table so G-clamps are no longer required to hold it up, he hung the multibox properly so it doesn't just dangle untidily from a random screw in the bulkhead, he put in the hooks to hold up the cable for the internet/mobile phone booster, so they don't languish over the heaters which were the only things holding them off the floor (a bit like when I wear eye makeup and it's only my eyelashes that stop my swollen eyelids drooping down over my eyes ...), he fitted two bigger hooks to hold the box that makes the thing work, and he drilled three 30mm holes in the bulkhead behind the fridge to allow it to cool more effectively. They assisted us down the Hatton Flight recently - taught us lots of about efficient locking, as well as making sure David's poorly foot wasn't stressed.

They came to visit the other day and Mick sorted out a cord for holding the lock gate shut - he took us to the shop, found the right cord, found the hook, and asked Sam from Foxton trip boat to splice it for us - a stranger's helpfulness again. Mick also tightened the tap fittings under the bathroom sink - the taps were floating freely and starting to leak below. As they were leaving, he handed me the tool and said 'you have this. All our taps are tight and I can get a new one if I need it' - and wouldn't take no for an answer. How kind is that?

Our son Tim sorted out our new hose for us - the lovely crinkly ones we brought over from NZ do not cope with being trodden on or cycled over, so a new 50 metre good quality hose had been purchased before we returned the rental car at Daventry and then it sat waiting ... So as we cruised from Kilworth to Foxton, David and Tim sat in the cratch and Tim did the magic. The reel has been totally modified to minimise crimping and crushing, the fittings have been adapted and attached to assist with filling and storage.

Tim is a whizz with anything mechanical - it's a gene that skipped a generation from my dad to him, and certainly, as David's dad said to me once, Tim didn't get it from his side of the family! He gave us some sage advice re the engine, the gear box and the propshaft, and explained the electrics in a way we both understood (he is a sparky by trade).

Then he put David's new bike together, took him to the bike shop in Market Harborough, bought a fitting so the front wheel can be clipped on and off, adjusted all the bits and pieces, tested it.

Over the last few days both Mick and Barry have helped David with the bike - all things David could have worked out but the time taken would have been frustrating and not enjoyable.

It is wonderful how kind and helpful these people have been and continue to be to us. We are lucky.

Sunday 23 August 2015

Late in blogging - family and friends are lovely distractions

I am way overdue with blogging as it has been a very busy time recently.

We’ve had family and friends to stay and it has been lovely.

After Ginny and Graham left, we had a couple of days on our own as we made our way from Wigram’s Turn (just outside the marina were Jaq and Les who had to be roused out of their nightwear to come onboard Waka Huia for their early morning [9.30am] lemon and hot water).
A summer's morning at Wigrams Turn ...

and on the way to Braunston the same morning.

We went on to Braunston that morning and stopped early as it was raining steadily; then we went on through the tunnel the next morning and up the Leicester Arm through Watford Locks (slow) and on to Crick. 
Once we got into the staircase it was quick, but we waited for well over an hour in the bottom pound for the backlog of boats coming down.

The view from deep in the lock - I was about to hoik out the reeds that were floating in each lock of the staircase.
Watering up at the top of Watford

Just before Crick Emma and her three children came on board for the journey through the tunnel and a couple of hundred yards on to where we moored.

We waited there for Tim and Olek to arrive in the middle of Saturday night and in the morning moved on to between the Kilworth bridges where we moored up for Mick and Julia to join us for nibbles and a few bevvies.
Three generations - Tim, Olek and David

Poppies in the field - Tim and I went for a walk before brekkie
Flowers growing on the bank

The next day it was on to and down the Foxton Locks, where Olek did all the paddles bar one with David keeping a close eye on him given the distraction of heaps of gongoozlers. We spent the downwards trip (Tim steering, me on the gate opening and closing) with Ann and Keith (nb Oakfield) who were moored up at the bottom. 
The best lock wheeler in our world

And he hasn't lost the knack learned back in 1990 when he was nearly 15 either ...
A panoramic shot of the field next to where we moored below Foxton Locks

We didn't drink in this pub, but I did like their signage ...

Who's stuffing this chicken? It's David, of course! Cream cheese, coriander, red pepper. Should also have had garlic, but he missed out on reading that ingredient ... Still yummy though.

Once we were moored it was off to Bridge 61 for a drink together before coming back to the boat to assist two separate hire crews who were steaming (at tickover) past us hoping there would be moorings closer to the locks – ahh no! So back we bowhauled one boatload of two lovely women from Dubai and their extremely rude (to them) sons; we helped them moor up while the sons were extremely critical of their mothers and did bugger all to help.  The second family had 3 kids – a baby screaming in the front cabin, a 4 year old who was clamouring to walk along the gunwale (Mum, can I yet? Dad said I could when the boat stopped, can I now, Mum? X 10), and a very helpful and polite teenager. So getting them moored up safely and peacefully was important.

In the morning we moved on to Market Harborough but Tim biked back to Crick on Olek’s BMX to collect the car. Later that day, after a lovely lunch at the Wharf Café Tim and Olek headed back to Scotland. It was sad saying goodbye to them, even though we will see them again in less than 6 weeks.

The following evening we had Richard and Emma to dinner on board – Richard and I worked together in the Home Office, with the lovely ODS (aka Lesley, if you have forgotten).   
Richard and David

As we were heading out to shop for some of the dinner ingredients earlier in the day, we met another David and Marilyn – an English couple who are back on holiday from NZ where they live in the Coromandel – a beautiful part of the country.

Back we came towards Foxton on the Thursday, and we moored out of the village and had a lovely walk around it. It is a very pretty village with, as Mick told us, no streetlights. On Friday arvo Mick and Julia came to visit, and while Julia read the 5:2 diet book on my kindle, the rest of us went down to the shop/pub and got the cord and hook for using to hold the lock gate closed when there’s only one boat (us) in the lock and we only open one gate. Sam who drives the trip boat was co-opted to splice the hook on for us – very professional job done extremely quickly.

Later that evening Barry and Pauline arrived, and we have had a great weekend. A short day’s boating yesterday, but a lovely afternoon. We moored by Bridge 70 in lovely sunshine to have lunch and decided to stay; David and Barry faffed with David’s new bike, and Pauline and I went for a walk to Smeeton Westerby. 
Smeeton Westerby has some lovely gardens

This was replicated on the other side of the path. The lady told us she did it because it was easier than taking care of an ordinary garden - she trims it once each year, in June.
There were allotments too, and this one was full of dahlias.

Dinner had been prepared beforehand (Jamie Oliver’s beef Kofta curry with veges added, plus a mistaken tsp of cumin seeds …) A few wines on the towpath which is rather wide at that point and ideal for table and chairs, and we were all very nicely thank you. Dinner on the towpath too as it was so warm and balmy. I had bought a Tesco’s gluten free chocolate cake and we had half of it for dessert – very yummy! (The other half was consumed the following day, so £3 for two days' desserts for 4 - a bargain!)

The bike had its first airing yesterday at Bridge 70

He cycled successfully past our chairs and table on the towpath and didn't hit the boat either

Today we have done 12 locks and navigated through very shallow pounds. David biked between them.
And off he goes. If you look carefully you may be able to see the windlass sticking down behind him under his shirt.
Barry and Pauline at one of the locks - David has gone off on the bike

The farmer was cutting and baling beside one of the locks so David went for an up close look - those bales are rather tall!

Barry biked back to Foxton to collect the rental car and got thoroughly soaked (so had a hot shower on return). We are moored up opposite the Navigation Inn at Kilby; it started to precipitate heavily as we arrived and moored up – perfect timing! Now it has stopped raining and is very calm. I sense we are going to have a quiet night – well, I am hopeful!

It has been a wonderful couple of weeks – exactly what we dreamed of when we decided to buy the boat – a lovely mix of family, friends and being on our own.

Saturday 15 August 2015

Boating and touristing

In the morning, Tony and Helen left before us and continued on their way to Birmingham. We moved off much later and headed up towards the Napton flight. We hadn’t realised that the Cropredy music festival thingie was on that weekend and that a large number of boats would be making their way there early in the week. There was a queue at every lock and it truly wasn’t much fun on a breezy and quite chill day – esp if you have lived in Brisbane for the last 35 years! Graham was fine, but Ginny got quite cold - the addition of a Wellingtonian's hoodie and merino scarf did assist in remedying that.

So up the locks, turning and halfway back down before mooring up. 
That's Waka Huia winding in the distance while David holds the lock open. No one was coming up or down so we could use the same water to head down again.

We moored in almost the same position that David, Olek, Lesley and I moored a few weeks ago. Dinner and the sunset were lovely.

Then the following morning (Tuesday) we came back to Wigrams (Graham steered all the way and was great - he's an absolute natural) and moored up so we could use the boat as a B&B while we did sightseeing stuff around the Cotswolds.

I packed a picnic and we headed up the Napton Hill (by car) and walked to find a place to sit with the fabulous views across the plains to Rugby spread out before us. Then off we went to Hook Norton Beer Museum having had a quick look at the site of the former (medieval) village at Wormleighton. The beer museum was a big hit strangely enough ... We visited the Rollright Stones near Chipping Norton - they are amazing and awe inspiring. To think they were moved into place by people without any technology or heavy lifting equipment blows the mind! 

Then it was back to the boat for dinner and an early bed.

More of the Cotswolds was on the menu for Wednesday so a slightly earlier start and off to the remains of the Roman villa at Chedworth we went. Another  case of worrying unnecessarily about G&G’s response. I cannot repeat Graham’s words to describe his reaction, but needless to say, he was impressed.
I am unsure if he is being knighted or beknighted ...

The conceptual view of what the Chedworth Roman villa would have looked like

Then a drive through the longest village in the world to get to the Seven Tuns pub for lunch – nice BLTs – and away. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! We made the mistake of going to Bourton on the Water – it is a tourist shopping destination now although actually a beautiful village. There were about 15 buses in the carpark (if I’d seen them we would have driven on) and the place was heaving – almost as full as Oxford Street!

After that Lower Slaughter was a peaceful haven to walk through and admire. It is such a lovely place.

The drive back to the boat was about an hour, so I was a bit tired. But dinner was prepared, ably assisted by David – chicken breasts filled with a mix of cream cheese, chilli flakes, garlic and fresh coriander, baked with a Jamie Oliver smidge of olive oil,  mushrooms and chopped onion on top. Salad, mashed potatoes. Yummy!

Sunset in Wigrams Turn Marina - beautiful
Ginny and Graham leave us at Leamington Spa Station

In the morning, we took G&G to Leamington Spa station for their train back to London, we did another grocery shop and also bought a bike; dropped all things back to the boat and then I took the car back to Enterprise. Their service is great and I can see why a lot of boaters use them. They delivered me back to Wigrams and given we were having the gas locker hinges replaced (broken pin), we decided to stay put.

This morning, it was misty, misty, misty, and mizzling, mizzling, mizzling. So off we set in fleecies and coats, got out the marina entrance, turned towards Braunston and there was nb Valerie. What a lucky escape they had – if we’d known they were there yesterday, they would have had no peace!

As it was we eventually moored up behind them, they both had to get dressed (I sense a pattern here, Tom from nb Waiouru …), and they came on board our boat for their first drink of the day – lemon juice in hot water. After an hour or so of catching up, we tossed them overboard, I did my best to knock off their stern button and away we went.

We are now moored up in Braunston, the rain hs finally stopped, I have blogged for Africa, and it’s only in wanting to send to Gordon and Sharon the previous blog about their new home that I discovered I couldn’t find my sunglasses. Strange, you may think, but I had carefully placed Gordon’s business card in the case last Saturday. So a search of the boat, a phone call to Enterprise, and phone call to a taxi firm (Danetre) in Daventry and my sunglasses have been returned to me for the cheap price of £10 – taxi drivers make very good personal couriers!