Thursday 29 October 2015

You know you are getting old ...

when your oldest child turns 40.

That happened yesterday - Tim is now in his 5th decade.

David and I clearly remember the day of Tim's birth, back in Wanganui on 29 October, 1975 at 3.22pm. There are many things and events we have forgotten since that day, but that day is etched in our memories as the start of being parents and all the love, laughter and care that goes into the role.

Tim lives in Scotland, so it is still his birthday there - happy birthday, dear son. You are such a special person to us.

Friday 23 October 2015

Cafe Rata

We are home in our lovely house again, the weather has been pants most of the week, but who cares?

The garden is looking great, thank you, Rob - it's now being helped by the warm rain; and the house is cosy and warm.

But best of all, Cafe Rata has reopened. The first gathering of friends around here for dinner was Thursday, instead of Friday as Bruce and Gary are in Taumaranui for the long weekend. Seven of us were at the table - B&G, Peter and Warren, and Peter M.

So the kitchen is in full swing again. Steak and ale pie (next time I will make my own pastry instead of buying the ready rolled stuff), silverbeet (swiss chard to the English) in a cheese sauce courtesy of Peter, with mashed potatoes and peas, followed by chocolate pots with poached tamarillos and cream. Peter M brought along a lovely chocolate slice which went beautifully with coffee and, in my case, more dessert wine.

It is lovely to be back!

Now why wasn't I aware of this when we bought the boat?

Thursday 22 October 2015

The end of season report - not ...

Well, here is what I was going to write about in the end of season report:
  • people we met, 
  • people we reconnected with
  • guests who visited/stayed on board
  • canals and rivers we cruised
  • performance of the boat, inc solar panels, stop solenoid, engine
  • our improved competence
  • state of the marital relationship after 5 months of being together 24/7 (I know: TMI)
  • pleasure in boating
  • how the summer weather ranked against last year's
  • how the autumn ranked
  • the countryside we travelled through
 But I decided not to write a report and just to tell you that we loved the five months, on the boat and together, and we were chuffed to meet lots of new people and to have old friends and family onboard. We enjoyed every waterway we cruised, some more than others, and didn't rule out revisiting any of them, although some are higher on that list than others.

I had planned way back at the beginning of this year's boating to record every expense so we could track our costs. Ah no - the first couple of weeks' collection of receipts looked too scary to tot up, so that plan was abandoned as being stress inducing. So I cannot even give a financial report.  How sad, too bad, never mind.

Today we have been home a week, jetlag is still a feature and neither of us are sleeping through the night yet; however it is lovely being back in our home and we keep thinking how lucky we are to be able to live this life.

Tickets to travel to the UK next May have already been purchased.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

On the way home

Well, we are all checked in at LHR Terminal 2, through Security and now just waiting - it's about 1.5 hours till boarding.

Once I have posted this I will go walking - it's about 26 hours of flying between now and 2.30pm on Friday (NZ time, ie 2.30am Friday UK time) and I need to keep the blood flowing as much as possible!

We had a lovely time with the grandsons in Scotland from Friday evening to Tuesday morning, and then drove back down to the boat to drop off the clean washing - it's a reversal of the usual thing of kids bringing their washing home to Mum in that we take it to our son and daughter in law's.

As I walked precariously down the jetty to the boat I noticed there was a boat moored beside Waka Huia, and to my delight it was What a Lark - I have been reading Lisa's blog for a fair while and had always hoped we would meet up - even if we haven't met David and Lisa, our boats are getting acquainted ...

We also had to call in at the boat to fit greenhouse heaters - we did one each. David took the MANUAL route and used a brad and a screwdriver. I used the POWER tool in its drill and its posi-drive modes. The advice we had from Steve at Debdale was that greenhouse heaters are economical and will provide enough heat to stop the boat freezing inside. Last year we had a fan heater on frost setting but it was 1500w and cost a bomb to run. We are hoping that 2 x 400w heaters will be much more economical.

Once washing had been vacuum packed, heaters installed, stern doors locked and tonneau cover reinstated, we got back on the road and headed to Titchmarsh to stay overnight with our friends Dave and Jan. We first met them back in 2002, I think it was, when we were hiring a boat on the K&A, and have been firm friends ever since. As we hadn't seen them at all this season (they were on the K&A again) we decided our last night needed to be spent with them. So a few bottles of wine, a lovely dinner and much laughter and swapping of boatie experiences ensued - it did take till breakfast this morning before we talked toilets tho!

A trip into Northampton this morning for Jan and me as I was on a mission to get some stuff for my lovely sister. Northampton is a lovely city and I am keen that we boat there early next season.

After lunch at the pub in Titchmarsh David and I headed for LHR. The trip was uneventful even though the traffic was pretty heavy. No delays for us on the M1 or the M25 - and that was a boon.

Dinner at The Flying Chariot (a Wetherspoons pub) in Terminal 2 with Barry and Pauline who came out to say goodbye. The food was pretty pants but seeing friends again was lovely. My opinion of Wetherspoons** was not improved by tonight's efforts. Although to be fair, a cup of boiling water was free and a water and lime was 40p. The beer was expensive though, so clearly it is swings and roundabouts.

** The Wetherspoons in Warwick that we went to with Mick and Julia bucks the trend - the food there was good.

OK, enough already - I am babbling and it's my nerves. Flying is not my favourite pastime ...

The end of season report is being prepared and will be posted when we are back in NZ. Just to let you know though that we have had a wonderful time over the last 5 months - the canals and rivers and countryside and boaters are lovely.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Last weekend before packing up

The last weekend on the boat was spent in the company of Barry and Pauline who joined us at Norton Junction on Friday evening.

We spent the weekend getting to the moorings at Foxton Top Lock - fabulous weather, lots of fun and laughter. And a good rest for me from steering, and I got to do some locks. In the main, Barry steered and I also got to sit inside through two tunnels - yay!!

The following photos are courtesy of Barry - which accounts for their high quality!

Preparing Saturday lunch - coleslaw with prawns in seafood sauce (tuna for David)

Ready for the England Australia game. Making sure we could not be mistaken for THOSE antipodeans
The view from the mooring

Sunday brekkie

An arty shot with steam ...

The weather on Sunday morning was so warm that Barry and I were out sanding (B) and painting (M) in the sunshine

Wiping off residual dust before applying paint
Barry set up the camera on the stool after we'd done the painting so we could have some group shots

And the flag

Here we all are - both Barry and I changed from our painting clothes to look more respectable ...
And just the two of us

And again!

Pauline steering - no trees or banks were struck during this time ...

Pauline successfully negotiated the moored boat, the bridge and oncoming boat

Moored at the top lock on Sunday afternoon - Barry went for a walk while Pauline and I finished off making lunch - chicken curry with naan bread and raita and rice

Friday 2 October 2015

Partying and working and revelling in being boaters

We are moored up a boat’s length from the waterpoint at the bottom of the Leicester Arm. We are in beautiful sunshine and we feel very lucky indeed. It is a week till we leave the boat and some maintenance tasks have been continued this afternoon in lovely warmth.

I did have to have a nana nap before commencing work though, as we had a late night last night and an early and chilly start this morning.

I am blaming Doug from nb Chance for the late night – I’m not saying it was his fault, just that I am blaming him, OK?

In yesterday’s post I said we were going to Doug and James’s boat for drinks and nibbles and that we did. Loaded up with two bottles of wine (Muscato for him and chardonnay for guess who) and various nibbles from our fridge, we set off about 5.45pm for the walk back down the towpath to opposite the Boathouse pub. I had forgotten how far it is from the Admiral Nelson pub down to the Boathouse – yesterday because I drove Tim’s Hilux to the bottom lock my memory hadn’t had its re-fresh …

There was a veritable party onboard – eight altogether including D&J. We met Liz and Roger, Alison and Dave, all fellow boaters. There was much hilarity and a fair amount of wine and G&T consumed before we headed to the Boathouse for a meal. 
Doug and Liz on board Chance. I think Liz was trying to find a video of her 3 year old NZ grandson doing the haka.

David and James enjoyed meeting and getting to know each other.
Alison from nb Free Spirit

And then we repaired to the pub. Doug and Alison were discussing Dave (nb Free Spirit) and his chest for some inexplicable reason ...

James was contemplative and Dave was amused at being the focus of attention from across the table

A selfie of Liz and me. Not sure why we look so depressed ...

David and Roger deep in discussion

I know David and I didn’t need a meal after our nibbles consumption, but it was too nice an evening with lovely company to cut it short, and anyway the fish and chips were very good.

I am unsure what time we all departed and we headed back up the towpath to Waka Huia, but it was very dark, the torch was useful, and my steps were not steady or in a straight line. I fell into bed pretty much straightaway, but David stayed up composing an email.

He had to get in touch again with one of the customer service managers at Vodafone. It appears that our account is still not being paid by direct debit and once again payment is overdue. When we collect our new credit cards from Emma, David will ring and provide the card details - we will pay by cc from now on. Clearly trying to set up a direct debit with this company is an exercise in futility. The sooner Telecom gets fibre optic into Waikanae the better, is all I can say!

This morning we were out of bed at about 7am and underway by 7.30 – no brekkie, just a cup of tea. We had four locks to do and were on our own in the peace of the morning. It was lovely and my only complaint was that I was a bit chilly.

We entered Blisworth Tunnel (2042 yards, approx. 1900 metres) at 8.34 and we left it at 8.54, so a 20 minute trip. A minute for 100 yards. If speed equals distance over time, then by my calculations, we were travelling at an average of 3.48mph. I had to slow down for an oncoming boat which was about 300m from the Braunston end. No doubt they were hoping for a passage with no other boats, as was I, but they were almost through by the time we passed. They were the only boat we saw, but there was one following us some distance back.

The boys were having a paddle this morning as we came past them.

We moored up after getting water just through the bridge at the junction – it is a fairly inconveniently placed tap actually, as if you don’t have a long enough hose, you can end up blocking the bridgehole for oncoming boats. A boat was ready to depart from the nearby moorings as we came through the bridge. They waited for us to pass but we signalled we were getting water and off they tootled. Lovely jubbly, as it meant we could have their space.

We were going to have brekkie when we were moored up – but it was delayed as I took some rubbish to the waste disposal point, found a set of bathroom scales** and some plastic bowls carefully set down for free-cycling, started walking back and got into conversation with some boaters filling with water above the lock. By the time I got back, David had made his own breakfast and was in the throes of consuming it. I made mine and was pleased it was so late – today is a fasting day and dinner will be late as we are waiting dinner for when Barry and Pauline arrive and they won’t be here till about 8pm. I sense there may be crudités eaten prior to that time …

It is so lovely waiting for them (crudités and B&P) here. We can vaguely hear the A5 traffic in the distance and there has been a large piece of farm machinery working over near the pub by the lock; even so this mooring has a very peaceful feel.
At 5.35 the sun was still on the boat

A lovely sunny spot, isn't it

It’ll be an early start tomorrow so we can hopefully whizz up the Watford flight – perhaps before the lock keepers arrive if the locks are not chained shut … So, it’s a good thing David and I aren’t consuming wine tonight – three nights in a row of over-indulgence would be too much for the systems.

** The scales work but I am not sure I like what they say … I will get Pauline to do a standardisation test tonight.

Thursday 1 October 2015

Darby and Joan - all alone ...

Yesterday we came up from Hillmorton and I was so stressed before we left. Not sure why. It may have had something to do with having to sort out getting a replacement credit card - it appears that about 4000 GlobalPlus customers have been affected by some kind of fraudulent activity (maybe the database has been hacked). What that means is that our current cards have been blocked and we have to get a replacement card - and we are 13,000 miles from home and we don't have an address over here. David did think he would get it sent to our son Tim's place in Scotland, but that wasn't going to be useful as we need the card when we go to pick up the hire car down in Leicestershire. Fortunately our friend Emma came to the rescue and we are having it couriered to her place in Market Harborough. Here's hoping all goes well on that front!

Still and all, that wasn't a good reason to be feeling so stressed, even though it meant two long phone calls by David to the BNZ and then the people here in the UK to arrange delivery.

Maybe it was an over-indulgence in gluten over the last few days. That is never good for my equilibrium. As Lesley said to me 'so why do you eat it?' Because I like it actually, but still it's a bit dumb!

So after a tantrum because the water flow was so slow and then an extension to said tantrum when the hose was difficult to wind on the reel, I finally set off towards the locks. Lesley had decided discretion was the better part of valour and walked along with David. At the second lock things were a bit strange in two ways. I waited on the curve for a boat to come down rather than getting David to empty the remains of the lock-load of water in the offside lock. But once the gates were opened, the guy wouldn't move. I was too close apparently to allow him to come out straight and turn after more than a full boat-length, and he wouldn't come out until I moved back. I could see that he had plenty of room, and because I had moved back and was still a bit grumpy, I dug my toes in and waved him assertively on. He came out with miles to spare and I couldn't for a wee while work out what his issue was. Then I realised - his boat was very bright and clean with lovely new paintwork. Waka Huia is none of those things. We must have looked like the riffraff of the canals and we would indubitably scratch his boat ...

However there was no time to worry about that. When Lesley started to close the lock gate, thinking it would be as heavy and tough to shift as the one on the first lock, she leaned very hard with all her weight to make it move. And move it did, so easily and so fast that she fell - her feet couldn't keep up with her upper body, and she landed heavily on her right arm and shoulder. As they were both already very sore from her over-indulgence in sanding and painting at her place and then exacerbated by cleaning the cratch cover, she was not in a well state yesterday.

One effect of her fall was that I cheered up. I'm sorry- I know it wasn't kind to laugh, but I didn't see the fall, just her lying on the ground under the lock-arm, and to be fair, she was laughing at that point too.  She wouldn't lie still for me to get a photo though ...
Back on her feet and pushing.

The cruise between Hillmorton and Braunston was quite lovely - very few boats, apart from the one that, naturally, Lesley met in the bridgehole on a corner, dammit. All four of the people on that boat were drinking and it was only about 11am, and they stayed firmly in the centre of the cut, meaning Lesley had nowhere to go apart from very very close to the bank. She then declared she wasn't steering again as she was damaging the boat. DAMMIT, if they hadn't been drinking those people would probably have taken a bit more responsibility for where their boat was positioned. OK, rant over.

I enjoyed reminiscing as we came towards Braunston - it was there last year that we reconnected with Mick and Julia again, and it was also there that we had Neil and Neill on board with us. And out first day of this boating season was from Barby to Braunston. That was just over four months ago but it seems ages!

We got to Braunston in good time and found a mooring just in front of Inca. Gary came along to help us tie up and Carolyn arrived shortly after on her return from walking Hamish. Onboard Waka Huia for a cuppa and whiskey cake - well, a biscuit for Gary, as cake isn't allowed for him, poor man!

As always seems to be the case, when we need to connect with Tim to organise a rendezvous point, the phone service on the canal is appalling. (Crick was the last example - OK, so it's a sample of two, but you get my drift ...) David cracked it though with the cellular repeater and we then had excellent service. Tim has a funeral to attend this arvo near Leicester so came to stay with us overnight. It was just great to see him.

We had a full roast beef dinner, Lesley made the yorkshires (practice, practice, practice) followed by brioche and butter pudding with figs soaked in port plus lemon curd on the brioche. I got the recipe some years ago from our friend John, but couldn't find it yesterday, so had to make it up from the recesses of my memory. He usually uses raisins (but as we didn't have the requisite number of virgins - read Christopher Hitchens for the reference) figs were deputised as the onboard substitute.
Successful (and big) yorkshires

An early morning walk in the mist around Braunston village for Tim and me today.

Near the church is what I think is a former windmill.

Misty sky over the canal on the way down Nibbits Lane

And then brekkie - we bought some of the thin sausages (same recipe as Braunston Bangers - very yummy) at the butcher's as we passed this morning, so they were cooked along with bacon and eggs. Tim was keen to help with the locks, so I drove his truck from the pub carpark to the bottom lock and met them all as Tim steered the boat towards the lock.
Tim and Lesley in the lock

We came up two locks to the Admiral Nelson with Tim and Lesley on board and David and I doing lockwheeling. We decided to moor up which was not particularly straightforward, mind, as they were too close to the lock mooring to be comfortable - but a win: as Tim was trying to get off the boat to hold the rope, Lesley HAD to steer the boat - YAY!!!) and here we are. So that deadlock is over ...

Moving the boat back past another moored boat so we are in the sun! Doing it by middle- and stern-hauling as the breeze was up and reversing in breeze isn't fun.
David makes progress

Tim is in the lead
And he hauls on the rope to keep me in line - I had the easy job!

On his way (well, a slight deviation) to the funeral, Tim has driven Lesley back to her car at the Greyhound Inn at Hawkesbury Junction. Before she left she checked out on her sat nav how far it was from here to the car - 26 miles - a whole week it's taken us, although to be fair, we did spend two days going in and out of Coventry. So five days to travel 26 miles - that's not bad! My hunch is it took Tim about 30 minutes tops in the Hilux ...

So we are alone after a week with Lesley on board. We miss you, ODS!

But fear not - an invitation to drinks and nibbles has since occurred. I was sitting at the dinette and saw a boat I have never seen before, but that is very familiar to me - I have read their blog since before we came over last year - nb Chance with James at the helm floated sedately past, so out I leapt, introduced myself to him, and then to Doug. Upshot: we are going on board Chance this evening.

So this last 24 hours has been splendid - our son Tim has been with us, we met Gary and Carolyn from Inca, and now we have met James and Doug, and I understand we will meet another crew this evening as well.