Tuesday 29 September 2015

The end of phase clean up begins and mutineers will walk the plank ...

(Am just reading this out to Lesley, and David is eavesdropping - he wants to know who Fay is ... Why do I have to put up with this crew?)

We did stay put today at Hillmorton and a fair amount has been achieved. As we make our way slowly to Debdale, the clean up is successfully getting underway - we are so lucky with the weather again this year as it facilitates painting and stuff.

I spent half an hour this morning cleaning the runnel (right word? Is it a word? Not sure but it sounds like [onomatoepaic] the word I want as it seems to me to describe a channel along which water will run, and more importantly, in which dust and grime will gather and rust will and has formed) along both sides of the roof. I had been along both sides with the scraper and the sanding block and Fertan over the last couple of days. But I decided that I needed to be very thorough, so the cleaning operation was undertaken. Having completed that, I will put on another couple of costs of topcoat to make sure that any paint degradation is obviated.   I then put another coat of undercoat on already undercoated acne, and a first coat on the primered spots.

Then Lesley and I jointly and severally washed down the cratch cover - it is still not 100% clean - not even 50% of the green stuff has come off in my view, but WE know it has been cleaned.

Lesley is now cleaning the roof section

We used diluted Fabsil, but I am not sure of its efficacy. I think white vinegar may have been better but I don't have enough of it in the kitchen cupboard to do the whole job ... Watch this space for the next cleaning episode where white vinegar is purchased in 5 litre lots (as we used to at Cherswud because we used lots of it there - cleaning windows, mirrors etc.) If we ever replace the cratch and pram covers, I think we will go for a non-permeable outer surface that wipes clean. However the people moored in front of us today who have such a pramcover, said that it gets a lot of condensation inside it. Any advice would be welcomed, team!

David, bless his heart, has been cleaning down in the engine bay.
It is a good thing being small enough to fit in the engine bay - eat your heart out, tall people!

He has completed one side in the cleaning and fertanning marathon. He still has under the engine, along the port side and in the weed hatch compartment to do, but he is now stopping for the day and looks decidedly grubby. He is now inside with requisite disagreement about the order of rose serving, and showering. Lesley, the soft hearted one, wants to let him sit down - but he can bite his bum. He is so totally messy and I am NOT going to have to clean furnishings as well. And Lesley, the b*tch, is serving him a SECOND g;ass of rose. She will be punished!!!

Lesley is keen to learn about making toad in the hole - she is the truly English one, you understand, but I am the cook with an English mum (well, I did have an English mum until 1997 and well before that she taught me all sorts of good basic cooking stuff). So earlier today, ODS has been on nb Waka Huia's cooking school and has prepared the batter for toad in the hole, skinned the sausages and divided each of them into three pieces. When completed her batter looked skilly to me, so I asked had she filled the half cup measure totally (I knew the milk had been measured accurately as I had done it, over the bowl so she would know for next time ...). No she said. It's a half cup measure, sez I, so you should fill the bloody thing. So, sez I, add two tablespoons more of flour. Aha, success - it now looks the right consistency - runny cream (thanks, Mum!) Once the batter was right she was on to skinning the sausages. Well, I ask you - how hard can that be? Obviously, she is a brilliant project manager, but skinning sausages, even under instruction, is not her core skill. She had sausage skins, bits of trapped sausage meat and a belly laugh along with a shrieked 'what?' when I asked what the hell she thought she was doing ...

She IS good on dishes though

BTW, as any NZer will know, I have made the ultimate sacrifice and given Lesley my Edmonds Cookbook - now how can she be rude to me after that - quite easily, it seems.  The ungrateful *****  add the most appropriate 5 letters!  However I must say she has been looking at all the cake recipes ...

The rest of dinner I prepared - brown onion and mushroom sauce, potatoes for mashing, sprouts (yuk!) and carrots.
Onion and mushroom sauce
From the bottom: potatoes, carrots and sprouts

Divided sausages and batter

Wine and cider are well underway in the consumption department ... Best I stop now or I may be embarrassing.

I merely note, without upset, that there are NO photos of me at work - is that because I am the photographer as well as the primary worker?

So will we be cheering for Aussie on Sunday/Saturday/whatever? David and Lesley cannot agree ...


Say no more ...

The Newbold Crown, Rugby and Hillmorton

On Sunday we were very much in need of a pumpout - we had tried at Rose Narrowboats on Saturday but of course, they were on hire boat turnaround day and we would have had to wait for at least a couple of hours. Instead we decided we could cope for another day and moored up in a fabulously sunny spot between Brinklow Arches and All Oak Wood. I tried to buy a new tiller pin but the hole in our tiller arm is imperial and the pins are metric, so the little owl had to stay in the display box. Not to worry.

A bigger worry was the gloom on board that night when the rugby was over. Lesley still needed consoling in the morning so I cooked a recovery breakfast and she had hugs from both of us.

So a walk to help the breakfast on its journey was deemed to be sensible. We decided to head into Brinklow, thinking we could attend to the pumpout at the marina later in the day. But as we came up on to the road by the arches, the phone rang and it was the marina manager responding to a voice message we had left. A call to the guy on duty provided the knowledge that the marina services are closed by 12.30pm on Sundays, so back to the boat I went by myself so David and Lesley could continue their walk. I successfully got all pins out, fenders up, boat pushed off and away I went. Dammit! I hadn't noticed the phone/internet aerial was still up. A reverse back to the bank and the kind man on the tiller pin boat came and held my middle rope while I took the aerial down. He was happy to help as long as we didn't discuss rugby ...

Eric was waiting when I got to Brinklow Marina and was very helpful and efficient. I had to turn the boat around to get the outlet on the jetty side, and of course, as is the case whenever a boat has to be reversed, the damn wind came up. Not a lot, just enough to stop the bow staying in the right place. Eventually, with Eric instructing me (more reverse throttle required - I am too girly about it I think) I got the boat to the jetty. It did require both of us to lean on the middle rope though. The pumpout was accomplished at speed and David and Lesley had arrived at the marina entrance as I was exiting it. I thought I botched that up but a passing walker was most impressed - mainly because I didn't hit the far bank or the entrance and managed to get the crew onboard at different times ... I am really liking the judicious use of reverse to keep the turn happening while not moving forward much. It's a technique new to me and it is very effective in those tight situations.

When I phoned Eric to sort out the pumpout, he had said that he would be in the pub by 12.30, so while he was doing the job we discussed local pubs. He frequents the Newbold Crown and said if we turned up he'd buy me a beer. So with all crew back on board, we had a discussion - well, I suggested lunch at the pub and leftovers for dinner and the other two said 'whatever you want'. Given I'm the cook, I do get to make these decisions - good, eh? Seems fair to me!

The chardonnay was pretty good, the roast lunches (pork for me and Lesley, lamb for David) were scrummy and very reasonably priced, and the desserts were yummy. So The Newbold Crown joins our fairly short list of pubs to return to. And if you need a pumpout, the Brinklow Marina is the place to go. Give Eric a hug from us. He also sings at the Crown on occasion - next time we will make sure to be there for that.

We came through Rugby yesterday with a short stop for a visit to Tescos. Two very full granny trolleys were trundled laboriously back to the boat by Lesley and me while David got washing underway. It was our last opportunity to do supermarketing before collecting Barry and Pauline at Norton Junction on Friday. So plenty of wine and lager were on-boarded, along with a fair amount of veges and fruit - a balanced diet is so important, I believe.
While I was steering, Lesley defrosted the freezer. She is a pretty good guest really.
Lesley steered from Rugby and did a good job, even past the very full Clifton Cruisers base. She nearly met her downfall when we arrived at Hillmorton. She pulled up to the side as requested and then I went to explore if there was a space further up. Yes, a boat was just leaving, so David pushed off and she came towards the space. Oh no!! A boat coming from the locks was aiming for the same space-ish and approached on the wrong side, forcing her to the left. I stood my ground and said to the other skipper 'We are mooring here. But I think there's space for two.' Lesley did wonder if she would get into the side, but using reverse, listening to instructions (delivered calmly of course ...) she got the boat in without hassles.

So we were moored up by early afternoon at the bottom of the locks at Hillmorton within cooee of the waterpoint - the hose can be deployed without moving the boat. While I got out the scraper, sanding block, rust-killing Fertan, primer and undercoat, Lesley and David parked themselves in deck chairs on the towpath and watched me work. The boat now has a mix of red and white acne, and darker spots where the Fertan is doing its job. As the weather is looking OK, we may stay put today so I can get another coat of paint on. I may also enlist Lesley's help in cleaning the cratch cover - it seems to be a bit green-ish with algae. I had to ply her with a sumptuous breakfast first at the Canal Chef cafe which I had read good things about on Sue and Vic's No Problem blog. We are back from brekkie (very good and excellent price) so I should be able to set her to work after the next cup of tea!

Sunday 27 September 2015

Almost forgot ...

...that yesterday we passed nb Armadillo and Jill and Graham, her happy crew - how I forgot to report it I am unsure, as it was a pretty spectacularly inept bridge approach made by me just after we left the water point at Ansty. For some reason (going too fast while close to the bank, I think) I ended up on the far side of the cut, aiming for hawthorn and the side of the bridge. Given Graham had signalled me to come through, they must both have wondered what on earth I was doing disappearing from sight like that! Through the bridgehole we eventually came, without touching the sides, but leaf-strewn from the hawthorn; and lo and behold: familiar faces and familiar boat!

It's just a bugger that I messed up so spectacularly in front of people I know!

Saturday 26 September 2015

OK, so I appreciate the architecture

After I posted yesterday morning, we breakfasted and embarked on a fasting day, with Lesley joining in. I was conscious all day of her likely hunger - why do I care? She is constantly totally beastly to me and she is lucky I feed her at all.  Now, having posted this, I will soon find out if she really reads the blog ... Keep your eyes peeled either for a vitriolic verbal attack or watch and listen for a loud splosh as she biffs me into the cut!

We took a walk into Coventry with Helen so we could all see the bombed cathedral - I was impressed with the efforts that had been made to keep the external structure as intact as possible - the workmanship in the original cathedral is amazing and the artistic talent of the builders as well as the people who designed it is wonderful to see. I did wonder if there had been a movement to demolish the whole thing after the war and am so very delighted that it has been preserved.

Look at the detail - we don't see that kind of workmanship anymore.

Four fabulously beautiful tourists - D&M flanked by the lovely Helen and Lesley

I did wish that the new cathedral wasn't there - I am sure Prince Charles, who has an eye for beauty in buildings, would agree with me, that it is an abomination of a building. Accordingly I have not posted a photo of it here - no point in rewarding badness, is there? OK, I have my armour on and shield up waiting for the brickbats and sharp missiles to arrive. Here endeth Rant 1.

We walked around with me wondering why (I know, I know, christians believe it ... Sorry, Dee) even though huge numbers of Coventry people were killed, and others lost their homes and livelihoods, the remaining population needed to be grateful to god, as noted on at least one huge plaque. Here endeth Rant 2.

I was impressed however with the sentiment (but not the symbol - end of mini-rant 3) of the Cross of Nails group who determined very shortly after the war that one should forgive enemies and build relationships as a path to reconciliation and peace.

When we returned to the boat we headed off back on our way to Hawkesbury, stopping for water as we left the basin. However, strangely, the water taps are after the basin, not in it. But no worries, water tank filled, we headed on our way. We agreed the basin is lovely, a good place to moor, and access to the city is simple. However we didn't really enjoy the canal. Adam and Adrian tell us (see comment on previous blog) that it is better/cleaner than when they did it back in 2009 or thereabouts. Actually, the canal itself is OK, although there's a bit much rubbish which indicates a poor sense of ownership of such a great resource. It's a significant portion of the towpath that disappoints - it's not cared for and parts of it are overgrown. It does seem to be used as a walkway, but has lots of rubbish discarded along it.
So someone explain this

and this (10 bags, I counted here) - it seems to be clear they are expected to be filled as they are attached by two handles -

and this, plus the rubbish on the ground ...
However the autumn leaves are starting to appear and they do look wonderful. This is a feature of the UK that is not so prevalent in NZ - I think all of our native trees are evergreen, so the only deciduous ones are those brought over by immigrants from the northern hemisphere in the 19th century. Autumn here is just wonderfully colourful.
Isn't this wonderful?

One thing I love is the contrast at this time of year. We are so lucky to be here.

Anyway, we got back to Hawkesbury and moored up on the North Oxford on, but not quite round, the bend. OK, OK, settle down!

Dinner for the fasting crew was a lovely (if I do say so myself) chicken, carrot and sugar snap pea stirfry with garlic, fresh ginger, soy and lemon juice, accompanied by a spinach salad with a honey and lemon dressing. After dinner, Lesley and I watched TV, but watching Mary Berry cooking garlic mushrooms on bruschetta was a bridge too far ...

This morning we had a reward brekkie - pikelets, fruit salad, bacon and yoghurt - and then a visit from Helen and Tony who had arrived at the junction last night when it was already dark - mad people! After a walk back to their boat for David to work out what in the chain of power wasn't working (starting at the powerpoint, moving to the cord to the transformer to the cord to the camera), we had tea and almond cookies, and then headed back to Waka Huia to head south. By the way, it was the camera.

A lovely cruise to our current location quite close to Brinklow. Lesley did some steering and managed well, in spite of quite a lot of detritus in the cut.

Lesley is steering. The tightness of both hands' grip and how she holds her mouth all increase skill level. She did say she had cramp and needed pain relief ... She used to be supremely confident when steering a hire boat, but says steering ours is a bit more nerve wracking - I cannot understand that!

We are moored up (using pins) in the sunshine, and even though a boat two in front of us took enough space on the armco for two boats - you know the ones I mean who moor in the middle of the available space - we are very pleased. The sun is shining beautifully, Lesley and David are watching the Samoa/Springboks match and barracking for Samoa - we are thinking of you, Joe! At the current moment, SA is winning, dammit - ODS is making horrible noises. However she tells me it's nothing to what she will be doing in the England/Wales game later ...

Friday 25 September 2015

New friends, old friends and Lesley

I took this photo in Atherstone for Lesley who is a huge Minions fan

Yippee! We woke to sunshine on Wednesday morning in Atherstone. It was chilly but very bright, with lovely reflections on the water. 
Looking back after the first bridge

Looking ahead. Chilly but very sunny.

Although we had travelled the section between Atherstone and Hawkesbury Junction last year, neither of us could remember it at all. I was poorly when we came through it (I was recovering from an infection for which I had gone to the George Eliot Hospital’s out of hours service in Nuneaton) and I don’t know why David didn’t remember it. Most likely he was doing boat bitch tasks.
Horses wrapped up warm

Alpacas looking after their own warmth needs
David is awake and he really was quite happy

Gary (Inca) said everyone needs to take a photo of this - I am always obedient.
Not sure the lizard needs the ladder - seems to be making his way up without much assistance

Apart from the manky bits of Nuneaton, the trip is lovely, and there are lots of lovely places to moor out in the countryside. As we passed them, I put little flag markers on Memory Map so we will know for next time. (I am always so impressed by other boaters who can say ‘OK, the best mooring between Napton and Braunston is at Bridge 102’ - Jaq and Les Biggs come to mind … My favourite in that stretch is after Bridge 103, by the way.) So now, even though I cannot remember the precise location of particular moorings, I do not have to dredge up the info from my memory, I can consult Memory Map instead.

After I posted our tale of woe about traversing the Atherstone flight in the rain, there were comments from Adam and Adrian on Briar Rose about having missed seeing each other. But not daunted, we decided to meet for lunch at the Greyhound Inn at Hawkesbury. As we had been communicating via blog comments, I got a phone number for them from Jaq who, being a careful source, rang to make sure the text really came from me. A voice message, a returned phone call and a couple of texts established that we could find them. Disappointingly Adam refused to lie out on the towpath to stake a claim to a mooring spot for us. Said he only did it for people he had already met …

It didn’t matter though, as the moorings were pretty empty, and we moored up in full sunshine (damn, we are fussy about sunshine now we have solar panels) behind Briar Rose a couple of hundred yards back from the junction, and met some new friends. Such lovely guys.

We headed to the Greyhound towards lunch and alcohol. We were meeting Lesley (ODS) at the pub as she was going to leave her car there for a few days while joining us on the boat. I declared that I wasn’t waiting for her to arrive to order lunch. Such a selfish but hungry friend I am …

Not to worry, she arrived in short order and chose a 16oz burger – WHAT?!?!?!?! She has had a stressful time lately and the first half of her first pint of cider barely touched the sides …

Lunch was yummy, it was fun and the surroundings were lovely. Back on board, Lesley had a nap – well, digesting the burger took all the energy her system had, so sleep was the only option. David watched rugby and I watched a movie – thanks, Mike C. Adam and Adrian headed into Coventry with a promise that we would see them yesterday morning as we passed by each other.
Lesley in Olek's bed ...

Leaving Hawkesbury

In the morning we headed off in sunshine again but Lesley told us it had rained heavily overnight. Neither of us heard it though. The trip down to Coventry was pretty good – it is built up pretty much all the way, and traffic on the M6 can be heard almost constantly. We saw Briar Rose moored by Bridge 8 - Adam was doing the laundry while Adrian went to Tescos - such a useful place to see them as we hadn't been aware there was a supermarket so close to the cut. It will be visited on our outward journey.

Some parts of the canal are lovely, others are messy, but only in one place, quite close to the city, is the towpath overgrown. There wasn’t as much rubbish in the cut as I expected, but by Bridge 3 there were three large black bags of rubbish that had only recently been chucked in.

One thing that did puzzle us was the proliferation of carrier bags hooked over fence palings along the way – most seemed to be partially full of rubbish. Does anyone know what that is about? I have never seen it before.

We arrived in the canal basin before lunchtime and moored close to nb Holderness, Tony and Helen’s boat. Tony wasn’t around but Helen came over for a cuppa. After a bite to eat she and I headed into the city centre for a wander around (and a bit of retail therapy for me…) 
There are some lovely old buildings in Coventry that fortunately escaped the WWII bombings

Dinner was on Waka Huia last night: salmon steaks marinated in sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce, lemon juice and coriander, accompanied by spinach salad with lemon, honey and ginger dressing, and potatoes. Helen had whipped up a chocolate brownie and we bought strawberries and cream as we shopped. Cider, chardonnay, rose were chilled. What more could be required? Ah yes, sloe vodka from nb Holderness.

This morning, as I write, David and Lesley are watching an episode of Doctor Foster that was recorded the other evening. I am under instruction to provide breakfast when it is finished - in 28 minutes' time to be precise ...

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Not far but lengthy

We had decided yesterday that we would go up the Atherstone flight of locks today regardless of the weather, which was forecast to be fine-ish. There are eleven of them over a 1.5 mile distance.

So we were underway early (pushed off before 7am which is just ridiculous and won't be happening again this season, I can tell you!), as we had hoped to get to Hawkesbury Junction today. But it damn well rained again! That makes it slow going, even if David has the bike out. It's less safe being a locky in wet weather: wet metal, wet wood, wet concrete block lock-sides. So no stepping across from one closed gate to the other open gate today. That then requires walking around three sides of the lock twice - once to open the offside gate and once to close it.

It rained all the way up the locks and in between them, lightly at first and then it came down a little harder. Not pelting down, not a Wellington southerly, but enough to make us cold and damp. My possum and Merino gloves were sodden** but still kept my fingers warm-ish. It's that hollow possum fur fibre, you know, combined with whatever qualities merino wool has that pulls water away from the skin. **I wrung them out when we got inside and managed to get about a quarter of a cup of grubby water from each one. So they then got rinsed under the tap and wrung out again and put over the radiator to dry ...

Note to self: Remember the old adage - rain before 7, dry by 11. And yes it was, not long after we filled with water and moored up at the top of the flight. But not to worry. We have walked to the Coop, walked back, had a cup of hot chocolate, David has put away the groceries, well most of them as there's a range of things waiting for the onboard logistics service to come and move them. Suddenly said service is off duty. I think a nana nap is about to commence ...

Monday 21 September 2015

Moored up at bottom of Atherstone Flight

We started off this morning before 8am and it was cool but slightly drizzly. As we approached Atherstone, it started to rain, not heavily, but steadily. The thought of doing 11 locks in inclement conditions didn't appeal so we have moored up. The rain has lessened but only temporarily we think.

Given about 5 boats have gone past since we moored, and given we cruised past them all in the last half hour of our boating, we think we stirred them from their breakfasts out on to the cut.

Now there will be a queue, and I am an NZer - I don't do queues, esp in the rain! I think we are here for the day, and as we are now ahead of schedule, that is fine.

Sunday 20 September 2015

A long day for us, and no, we will NOT be boating in the winter!

This morning we were up and away before 7am - alarm was set for 6.15 but I was up before 6 making tea. Somehow when the alarm is set, I am almost always awake before it goes off.

So off we went in the mist, the cold and the early light - through one lock and then left on to the Coventry Canal. In part we had left so early because we thought it would be busy through Huddlesford with boats leaving, if we came though closer to noon-ish. In part it was because we have a schedule - a relaxed one, but a schedule nevertheless; and we were running behind and a few extra hours' boating would get us back on track. (We need to be at Norton Junction to meet Barry and Pauline on Friday 2 October, and we also have to identify a place for a Wednesday pick up for ODS [aka Lesley], she of the new conservatory, new garden and water feature, and harsh boss behaviour in the Home Office et al.)
Sunrise, not far from Fradley Junction

We came across the first boat mad enough to be on the move as well near Kings Bromley marina, and we also saw a fisherman who said he had started at 5am.
Now I assume that this boat is owned by NZers, but that may not be the case. It's moored at Streethay.

We arrived at Huddlesford around 8am and there were squillions of boats moored both sides of the cut. I saw nb Are and Are, Barry and Sandra's Home Brew boat. Sandra saw us and waved and called out through the window. If there had been any possible space to moor up within a kilometre we would have done so and walked back to catch up. But no luck.

Did I mention the cold? I was bloody freezing and I was wearing 4 layers, plus gloves and a scarf!!! Even when the sun came out, I could not warm up. I saw walkers, runners, boaters in summer clothes and I wondered what was wrong with them. Just because it was sunny was no reason to be stripped down to tropical beachwear! Part of my problem was that my favourite fleecy had gone AWOL - I hunted all over the boat and couldn't find it. But when David went down to find a gilet of his for me to wear, lo and behold, the purple fleecy was lurking in his wardrobe. Now I am not going to blame him, because it could have been me who put it in there yesterday. I truly cannot be sure, so it's a 'no fault' incident.

Hence an easily confirmed decision that we will NOT be boating here in winter - if I cannot warm up in September when all bundled up in appropriate clothing how would I manage in really cold weather?

To be back on schedule, we needed to get to very close to Tamworth today.  But we decided to press on - it felt stupid to have finished boating before 11am ... So we pulled over and got water before the Fazeley Junction, and while the tank was being topped up I got in the shower to warm up. The water was so hot from 4 hours of boating that my central core was warmed. So it was on with the shorts and a reduction in layers on the top half, but with the purple fleecy close at hand. Scarf and gloves were not required though.

We are now moored up before Polesworth - it was important to check out TV reception as the ABs have their first game (against Argentina) in a couple of hours. So we didn't moor up until the aerial had been put up and reception tested. David is now watching the Wales/Uruguay game to get himself in the right frame of mind, but I am going to have a nana nap to prepare myself.

Saturday 19 September 2015

Other side is done

This morning I got up pretty early - well 8am, not THAT early, but it was still misty. I wiped and dried the section between the gunwale and the rubbing strake on the starboard side, and then set about painting it. David was 1IC of going to the Coop for the fruit that we hadn't bought yesterday while I painted.

I was finished and cleaned up by about 10.30, so I made my brekkie to eat on the way. As it's Saturday, and as it's Alrewas which is so popular (deservedly so) with boaters, there was a queue at the lock, and at each lock on the way to Fradley. I am not good at sitting waiting and only thumb twiddling, so I went into a cratch locker and got a sanding block, the primer, the white spirits, a rag or two, the Fertan and a couple of brushes. Thus armed, I was able to prepare previously Fertanned bits at and near the stern for priming. I also found the bits I had missed Fertanning - how does it happen that I miss them the first time round? - and I did them.

David lost the will to live (or at least to cruise) at the prospect of queues at locks and competing for moorings down near Whittington which had been our destination of choice today - the people moored behind us at Alrewas told us that there is a festival at Huddlesford and that the canal was heaving down that way with restricted moorings etc.

So we are now moored up at Fradley below the top lock before the junction. It is a lovely sunny day, we have had BLATs for lunch after I managed to pretty quickly do the spot priming  (oops - a split infinitive, bugger!) So now we have two tidy sides and a spotty stern ...

And we are on a promise to get up at 6.15am, eat brekkie and move off by 7am to see if we can get past Whittington before the festival goers are up and about. I am going to set the alarm, and I will pull him out of bed or tip cold water over him or both, if he slacks around getting up.

David is watching the RWC Ireland/Canada game while I write and post this. But ignoramus that I am, I still don't know when the ABs' first game is and who they are playing against. Call myself a Kiwi?

Friday 18 September 2015

National Arboretum

Well, today we walked to the National Arboretum, and it is a beautiful place - carefully set out, staffed by caring and passionate volunteers.

As we first entered I thought about buying a plaque/a tree to the memory of my mum and dad who were both in the RAF during WWII, mum was a balloon operator in the WAAFS (mostly in Oxon) and Dad was an armourer (marched back and forth across the top of the African continent and ran through Crete and Greece and into Italy). They met at Weston on the Green in 1945, got engaged within 12 days and married within 3 months.

But after a short time at the arboretum, I realised that my dad would have objected strongly to being memorialised there. While he joined up voluntarily early in September 1939, he soon decided it was a fool's game. He often talked about it being 6 years of his life wasted. He was 18 when he joined up and 24 when demobbed - and he was (along with thousands of others like him) such an old young man. When I think about what he saw and experienced during those years when he should have been young and carefree I feel so sad for him and all the others of his generation.

So David and I found it very disturbing - rightly or wrongly, our impression was that it glorified the 'ultimate sacrifice' and therefore it glorified how these innumerable people died. It was moving, yes, no doubt about that. After all, most of those who died in combat were young people. And we vividly remember being in France back in 1990 and visiting combined war graves there - at the time our son was in his early 20s and I cried a lot thinking about the grief of the parents of the young people of all nationalities whose graves were marked there.

I had a similar feeling at the arboretum. But to be truthful, the only area that moved me to tears today was the Shot at Dawn memorial - the memorial to the 300+ young British men who were shot for cowardice or desertion in WWI. I am aware that my dad suffered from shell shock at Monte Cassino in WWII, and that trauma never truly left him. So, while I am pleased we went to the arboretum today, I cannot see it as it was probably designed and envisaged. Maybe our view of it would have been different if we had walked around it on our own; instead we took the road train, and I think it was the commentary that we found disturbing. And the huge number of British service men and women who have died in war since the end of WWII made us feel hopeless - a peaceful future seems so out of reach.

And the thing that seemed the most incongruous to us, as the grandparents of a lovely baby girl who died at 6 months, is the inclusion of a memorial garden to Sands, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society charity. We just don't know how that fits in such a place.

But on a more cheerful note, England is currently beating Fiji in the opening game of the RWC.

Thursday 17 September 2015

Busy busy busy

Yesterday, after spending a fair amount of the pension at the chandlers, we moved on to just above Branston Lock - the moorings there are lovely and peaceful. You can hear the road in the distance but it doesn't really intrude. We had planned to move on early this morning, but I realised in the night, that if it was sunny this morning, we were in an ideal position to paint the port side between the gunwale and the rubbing strake. So up and at'em, Atom Ant quite early today. Well, that was me, David took the opportunity to stay in bed just a wee bit longer. He was called for photo duty, and to sort out the fenders.

The painting went well and was quite quick considering it has to be brushed on, not rolled. But my legs ached from being on my knees so long - unnatural position for a woman at the best of times ... And my feet got wet. I wasn't wearing my boots and the trainers let the considerable dew in.
I knew those tarpaulins would come in handy! I should have made sure my feet were on them too.

The end result. Not fancy but practical.

The hardest thing though was keeping the boat away from the armco as other boats went past. One of our go kart wheel-type fenders has a hole in it, so it no longer floats on its side, dammit!

Once the painting was finished, the part I had started on was pretty much dry. By the time I had had brekkie it was all dry and we headed off.

When we came up Barton Turn Lock last year this handsome house was for sale, and it still is. It looks like it would be an ideal B&B property given its location and style.
We decided we had better stop at Barton Turn Marina for diesel as we were on a quarter of a tank and it looked like the next available diesel is a fair way away. I have decided though, that nice though the people are, getting in and out of that marina is an arsy job. The entrance from the cut is tight. Then once in, it is always windy. That worked in my favour getting to and mooring up at the services area. Whole different story coming out though. I couldn't get the front of the boat around to head out as the wind kept the bow against the wharf. A change of approach and I decided to reverse out between the two rows of jetties of moored boats. Don't worry, John and Vanessa (nb Swift and Low) - we saw your boat but didn't hit it ... Surprisingly I had some success in reversing to be able to straighten up and steer out of the marina entrance. As I said it's narrow, so the turn on to the canal is difficult. Today David helped me by pulling the bow around, but his job was made difficult by two fishermen who were just setting up their tables and chairs right where he needed to be ... And then they gave him advice on when to jump onboard. ... He got on at the back and as we went past them, I said with a smile that they were lucky I hadn't scooped up their furniture. I am not sure if they got the message, as it wasn't very direct, but not to worry. Made me feel better.

The stressful part of the cruise today was the long portion of it that runs right next to the A38. I am sure it is the noisiest piece of road we have ever boated beside, and that includes the M1 near Milton Keynes! However once on the river section before Alrewas, it is calm and quiet and beautiful.

Another handsome building - the church on the river section before Alrewas. Nice setting.
So we are moored up now above the first lock at Alrewas.

As it is a fasting day today, I needed to keep busy. So I have now wirebrushed, sanded and Fertanned the starboard side between gunwales and strake. I won't paint it tomorrow as the Fertan needs a bit of time to do its job. But Saturday, weather permitting, it will be done.
I shouldn't really show you these as they are evidence that I ding the boat when coming in to moor. But the Fertan is amazing stuff - by tomorrow, those rusted patches will have gone black where the Fertan has reacted with it and it will be ready to paint shortly thereafter. It lasts without painting for 3 - 6 months, I understand. Magic stuff.

After preparing dinner (that seems to happen quite early on fasting days for some reason ...) we headed out for a walk along the towpath and around the village. It is such a lovely place.

New thatch looking stunning! Such skill involved, and an art that does not appear to be dying here in the UK.

Evening sunlight.
We have booked for dinner tomorrow night at The Crown** where we can see the start of the Rugby World Cup. **The people moored behind us who were in front of us last night near Branston Lock are there at the moment, and it was recommended to them by some other boaters who go there regularly. And a yound lad, Marcus, who was walking his lovely black lab called Jack, told us it is a good place. That's two good enough recommendations so we will have a go!

Firstly though, tomorrow's mission is to go and visit the National War Memorial Arboretum. We have found the way to walk there and will head off in the morning. A visit to the world famous butcher is scheduled for on the way back. Then a short rest before dinner perhaps ...

Swarkestone to Mercia Marina

After having spent Monday blobbing inside while it rained intermittently outside, and running the engine to top up the batteries (no effective solar energy that day) we decided we needed to move on on Tuesday, come what may weather-wise.After all, by 6 October we need to be ensconced in Debdale, getting ready to head away and leave Waka Huia to her own devices for 7 months.

So first thing in the morning, David turned on the engine to start the top-up of the batteries as we weren’t going to be cruising for long …

It was a lovely cruise – few boats, pleasant weather (misty at first but not raining and the blue sky bits got bigger and it got warmer), and we weren’t all that close to noisy roads once we got away from the A50. 
Misty behind us looking back to Swarkestone as we left.

And sunny beside us.
This photo is for Olek who is partial to Thor and the hammer!

And as I said, it was a short cruise too – about 4 miles and 1 lock: Stenson Lock is pretty daunting – it is rather deep at 12’4”, and is far too deep for me to throw a rope (sodden from one day and two nights of rain) up to David for him to pass over a bollard. I did try, but no joy, I’m afraid. So David carefully and slowly opened the ground paddle on the side I was closest to – that immediately pushed me to the offside and I decided to stay there as I was held tightly against the lock wall and not moving around. He then slowly opened the gate paddle once I was high enough not to get the forward well deck swamped. I did find it hard to stay still as the force of the water is quite fierce and it tends to push the boat back in a rush and then heave it forward. I did use the engine to try and move back from the front gate but reverse seemed to be rather ineffective against the torrent!  But no hits, no damage and pride and face intact!

We were on a mission to get close to Mercia Marina as we had invited the lovely Mike C to dinner onboard. So we pulled up just outside the marina on free towpath, on went the chains and ropes, up went the pram cover and aerials, and off the engine did NOT go. Bugger! So up with the engine cover and down I go to use the manual engine stop. Bugger – with two days of not checking the bolt that holds the mechanism between the stop solenoid and switch, it had shaken so loose that it was floating in mid-air. I took hold of it, and bugger again!  The magnet, the squashy cover and the arm all came off in my hand.

So, down came the aerials, down came the pram cover, off came the chains and mooring ropes, and into Mercia Marina we went. Talk about déjà vu! I had phoned Justin and left a message telling him we were coming in, but when we arrived we soon saw Lyndon and called out to him. He came and turned the engine off – he was easily able to locate the actual switch, rather than worrying about the pieces that had come off in my hand.

I had What’s apped Mike who appeared with Aldi whiskey cake (which I had requested in return for dinner) and tequila-flavoured beer – what is that about? 
David is down there rescuing a plastic bag from under the engine

Mike is looking like he knows what is going on

Then it was Ian to the rescue – he fitted a new longer bolt with a nut holding the bolthead firmly in place. He’s the man!

We decided not to bother moving back out of the marina to the mooring we had peremptorily vacated as it would have involved reversing from the marina exit and under a bridge. Too stressful – better to pay £10 and have a jetty, power and water. Also it would save Mike having a long walk across the bridge to us for dinner … He has arthritis in his knees and the steps down it hurt – I didn’t know any of that at the time, mind you, so it wasn’t for his convenience that we stayed in the marina, but it makes us sound kinder, eh?

Mike was impressed with my reversing on to the jetty – I did try to tell him it was a fluke but he reckoned I should claim it as a win.

David got out of helping with dinner prep as he hid down in the engine bay – can’t remember what he was doing but clearly it was important. Ah yes, he was cleaning the underside of the stern deck to remove the greasy stuff that gets all over the back of our shirts/fleecies, etc.
Don't be fooled by that forlorn look - he was allowed out even though I did all of dinner ...

Dinner was good, if I do say so myself – not a piece of diet food anywhere apart from the carrots, runner beans and peas. Individual pans of toad in the hole, with mash and home made brown onion gravy (and the veg to keep some semblance of healthy eating) followed by home made chocolate pots with salted caramel sauce, stewed nectarines (fruit!! healthy) and whipped cream.

I am not sure that the conversation set the world to rights but it was a fun night. As I had cooked 6 chocolate pots and as David and I are concerned for our health, we gave the spare three to Mike – one each for him, Ian and Ian’s wife Lisa. I dolloped the remaining salted caramel sauce on as well but kept the left over nectarines for our brekkie. In the morning we took the last tequila flavoured beer back to Mike along with the remaining cream – after all, chocolate pots need cream, don’t they?

We did a bit of a spend up at Midland Chandlers before leaving – blacking paint for the rubbing strake up to the gunwales, more Fertan, a few oil filters, an air filter, 3x5 litres of engine oil. And we looked at new stoves - only looked. We are going to find a serial number and call the chandlers to see if they can find replacement parts for the struts that have been bent out of shape by David standing on the open door last year. If not, we will consider whether/when to get a new stove. Freaky Friday sounds like a good time …

Monday 14 September 2015

Friends to lunch

Leaving Shardlow reasonably early on Saturday morning wasn’t a struggle – we had a short trip to get water and ate breakfast while waiting. We had pigged out the previous morning on pikelets, so I wasn’t feeling like having a lot to eat – a good thing as the tap was very fast!

The locks between Shardlow and Swarkestone are quite difficult – the gates are very heavy and the flow into them from the gate paddles is extremely strong. The latter means that, as we were going up, I had to keep well back in each lock so the front of the boat didn’t get swamped. But even with holding on to a rope looped over a bollard, I could not hold the boat into the side!

At Aston Lock, I think. The sky was looking quite threatening ahead and it wasn't warm.

This church looked lovely across the fields. Quite unusual architecture with those bits** on top of the walls. **Don't know what they are called.

Our third lock of the day was the one which brought back memories of our first day’s cruising on Waka Huia last year – it was where we lost the domestic electrics as the batteries had been wired up incorrectly in series rather than as a bank and with a switch that should have been 250amps but was in fact rated at 100amps. While I couldn’t have told you before we arrived at Weston Lock on Saturday without looking it up on the blog, I remembered it immediately we came into the lock …

And not far after that lock last year was where we had to stop as we got about an hour’s worth of black plastic rope (a dead and discarded bow button, we think) around the prop. The hour was how long it took David to remove it, head down, bum up. 

Fortunately this time through, no electrical mishaps and no prop fouling - see, lightning doesn't strike in the same place twice ... 
Saw this boat moored on the offside not far away from where we are now - this photo is for my sister Dee and her friend Sarah who has a daughter called Louise. I see that one owner's name is Denice - not spelt the same as my lovely sister's name, but close enough ...

Over the last few days we have thought that the good weather is packing up and leaving for the winter. Saturday was alternately warm and sunny, and cold and windy. So the fleecy was on/off/back on and the coat came into play a couple of times too. But the boating was lovely and, apart from a bit of swerving across the cut instead of steering a straight course, I can robe/disrobe on the move. But I don’t take off more than the top layer, as it is important not to frighten the natives.

But I complain about the weather prematurely – we expected it to be damp and a bit cold yesterday, and as we had friends coming for Sunday lunch, on Saturday when we moored up at Swarkestone, I had prepared pear and parsnip soup to be our first course, to scare away the prospective chill. However we woke yesterday morning to a sunny day, so the soup was set aside, and I made a cheese and onion tart, mushroom salad, green salad (with Adair’s dressing) for the first course, and baked chocolate custards (Alison and Simon Holst recipe that I had to remember as I couldn’t find it on line or in my recipe folder) accompanied by blackberry couli (well not quite - I didn’t get rid of the flesh or the pips, but mashed it all up – best not to waste them) and cream.

Promptly at noon, Paul and Chrisi arrived accompanied by Echo, the guide puppy-in-training. Paul is an NZer, and an organist. He does an annual European tour which is coming to an end in the next few weeks. Chrisi and he worked together in the travel industry over here when Paul was doing his extended OE some years ago.

Chrisi’s husband Colin was meant to come yesterday too but was poorly. We decided that it was fortuitous that he didn’t come (not fortuitous that he was poorly) - he would have been uncomfortable on the boat as he is 6’4” and the headroom on Waka Huia would not have allowed him to stand upright. We did send home a chocolate pudding for him so that he wasn’t totally neglected.

Lunch was fun, two bottles of sparkling wine were consumed (one prosecco and an Oyster Bay Rose), almost two bottles of sauvignon blanc, and a goodly portion of a bottle of chardonnay … Considering the two main imbibers were Paul and me (Chrisi was the driver) we did pretty well. Oh, and I forgot the two glasses of port after we got back from a walk…

The disused/filled in Derby Canal has a good sealed walking path beside it so we took some exercise (Echo needed a walk as did we), and went to, what I gather from a chap this morning, is the Bonnie Prince estate – so called I guess because Swarkestone (acc to the Nicholson’s Guide) is where Bonnie Prince Charlie (why is he called Bonnie?) gave up his attempt on the throne of England in 1745.

(Short composition break to cut David’s toenails – I know, I know … Why can’t he do them himself? Because he can’t see them well enough and because I am a kind wife. Stop laughing!)

Toenails cut, hands washed, and I am back!

If we had been keen, apparently we could walk all the way into Derby along that path.

No dinner needed last night, by me anyway, but definitely needed an early night. And the nights are drawing in – it’s dark before 8pm now. David was much later as he spent a couple of hours researching flights back to the UK for us in May next year. Given it is cheaper to buy flights in the UK, we purchased the NZ-UK leg this morning and will buy a UK-NZ-UK when we are back next May.

When I awoke at about 3.40am, I wondered about staying here at Swarkestone today to put the primer on the spots we rustproofed at Shardlow. But when I really woke up a few hours later, it was wet, and got wetter and colder! The painting is going to have to wait.

So I moved the boat along while David did the flight bookings, past one boat that was between us and the waterpoint, filled with water and tossed up whether to move on to Willington in the misty, chilly rain. The casting vote was David’s and it was a decisive NO. Given I am an obedient wife (as well as kind) we moved about another 100 yards up the cut, away from the 48 hour moorings that we would have exceeded if we’d stayed there past about lunchtime, and we are moored up, warmed up and having a blobby day. The weather seems to have lightened a bit, but too late! We are staying put even though several boats have gone past in the last hour.