Monday 31 July 2017

Horrible herbivores

Just look at these caterpillars on my lettuces - the whole bucketful and one long trayful of lettuces have been tipped down the bank. Julia tells me her dad used to get her to drown them. Perhaps I should have put the bucket and tray contents in the cut and let them learn to swim, the little buggers!

However, given we haven't had much in the way of salad from the RTA lately and given it's rained a lot and I haven't been out watering, I didn't notice their hatching and their hungry rampage.

So on yesterday's trip to Morrison's I bought some living lettuces to plant out; but prior to doing so I am going to sterilise the bucket and tray, in case any eggs are still lurking ...

Another blobby day today, following on from the last two restful days where we:
  • walked into Nantwich to Morrison's and Holland and Barrett (both days)
  • had a visit from Tim and Dana on their way back from a birthday party in Leicestershire - I got up to make cheese scones on getting their text to say they were calling in - lovely to see them!
  • got thoroughly soaked yesterday when I made the trip to Morrisons alone ...
Today I am going to an osteopath here to get my neck, back and hips seen to again. Tomorrow we will move on and faff about between here and Middlewich (all of four hours' boating away) until it is time in a week to collect Leonie and Paul at Swanley Marina, a short distance up the Llangollen Canal.

Such a torrid pace we are now setting ...

Saturday 29 July 2017

Mike and Helen were here

Well, what a fabulous two days we have just had with Mike and Helen on board!

As we waited for them on the Thursday morning, David swept floors and made beds, I cleaned the bathroom, baked bread, rhubarb cake (tasted good but did start to fall apart as I tipped it out of the cake tin on to my hand instead of flipping it on to a plate ...) and cheese tart and prepped the dinner. Then as a last flourish, I washed the floor - useless to do it before then as I always drop stuff on the floor as I am cooking ... Chardonnay, prosecco, beer and alcoholic ginger beer in fridge and we are ready!

They arrived on schedule at Bagley Lane Bridge, in spite of the taxi driver getting a bit lost even though he had the pin we'd sent to Mike the previous day.

As the taxi pulled up, and disgorged two lovely NZers, along came a huge tractor (bigger than the one we used on the Alexander job to transport the team and gear up to site each day) towing a huge tank of effluent for muck spreading. Still, he had to wait until bags were extracted from the boot so he could get past.

Then it was hugs all round, and down to the boat. In NZ time it was about midnight, but still I sent a photo on What's App to Dean (Mike's boss) to show him Mike was on board.

Lunch of cheese tart and homemade bread first, then off we went down the locks. I know there is a photo somewhere of us at the table ready to eat cheese tart but I cannot find it, dammit!
update on Sunday morning: Found it on Mike's facebook page - yay!

Cheese tart ready for serving in the saloon where the table was set up. Mike and Helen's bed was the converted dinette, and it is so much easier leaving the bed made up during the day and using the camp table in the saloon for meals.

There were 13 of the Audlem locks to do that day, and I managed not to hit 10 of them, I think, but 3 of them did get a nudge, and some nudges harder than others. I am blaming the by-wash, but actually it must have been something I was doing a bit wrong.
Helen and I safely in the lock (photo borrowed from Mike's fb page, thanks Mike)

Mike and Helen had a ball doing the locks, and outside the Shroppie Fly we stopped to fill with water, and Mike, in his inimitable fashion sat down and chatted with some locals having a drink at a table outside. It is SO wonderful having NZers on board with us - they chat to anyone and it is beaut!
The team in action

David instructing - he only wears his lifejacket as it has a convenient place in the strap to hold the windlass

Mike is watching the by-wash while he waits

There is a working boat festival on in Audlem this weekend, so it was lovely for Mike and Helen to stop and look at the ones that had arrived.
This little steamboat (I think) was moored just before the last lock.

We moored just out of town overlooking a lovely field, and even though it was a bit breezy, we sat out on the towpath for drinks and nibbles, then inside for dinner of Thai Green Chicken Curry. Yummy, even though it didn't look like the pictures - the paste is meant to be whizzed in a food processor but there isn't one on board the boat, so everything gets chopped up as finely as I can do it (or can be arsed doing it). It tastes the same, just looks different.
View from the mooring - it was this that prompted us to stop here.

Nibbles and drinks

You can see by Helen's and my hair it was a bit breezy. David had found the spot opposite a tree on the other side - it acted as a bit of a wind break. Can't have been too bad, as Mike's hat stayed on. We only went inside when the rain came down in a persistent way ...

Mike was keen to get going in the morning, so he made the morning cups of tea and coffee, and roused us out of bed.
He's ready for the off!

We had bought tyre fenders at Midland Chandlers (back on the day of the let's find the elusive water taps drama), and this red one failed. So Mike and David fashioned this arrangement to keep us away from the ledge - good, eh?

Mike was on steering for the day and needed minimal coaching - really minimal. The look on his face as he stood at the tiller was one of the cat that got the cream. He was in his element. So much so, that he and Helen have already decided they are going to come back and hire a boat.
Does he look happy or what?

She's a star on the locks!

Oooh, Mike, a slight nudge ...

Evidence - walking poles on the floor, But not as bad as my one several days ago when all the books came off the bookcase - don't tell Mike that ...

We were going to visit the secret bunker (no longer secret of course) at Hack Green, but realised we needed a pump out** so it was down the Hack Green Locks (where we met Bruce and Sheila from nb Sanity Again - we have been leapfrogging for some days), turn around and then back up the locks, have brekkie and then steer in the increasingly vicious wind back to Overwater Marina.

Mike turning the boat like a champion in the winding hole below Hack Green Locks - no vicious wind at this point, thankfully as that plays havoc with turning the boat! (Also from Mike's fb page)

The entrance to the marina as we passed it heading towards the Hack Green Locks - before we realised that a pumpout was necessary, and BEFORE the wind came up! You can see by the clouds there was some tempestuous stuff due ...
Getting in there was a bloody mission! The wind was fierce, the marina was a wide open and unsheltered expanse and the entrance was narrow; the major issue though was the wind: a 62 foot boat with high sides is just a giant sail and, if the side presenting to the wind could billow, it would have been fully curved! Fortunately we got caught by the wind in the entrance which allowed Mike, David and Helen to get off and use the ropes to progressively haul the boat to the jetty while I used the engine to assist. I did feel very incompetent, esp as the boat that had been following us down the cut had to wait outside the entrance for us to manoeuvre ourselves in, and then came in without any hassles - to be fair, the skipper did use the bow-thrusters all the way in to the marina until they were stern on to the wind, then again as they turned to moor alongside the jetty.

Pumpout accomplished, I decided that the only safe way out (safe for boats moored in the marina about 50 metres away and for my stress levels) was for Mike and David to use the ropes to haul the boat backwards out through the entrance and around so I could move off heading back the way we came (assisted by the engine of course). We were all agreed, although there was a suggestion that I could let the stern go out inside the marina and then turn to head out the entrance. That seemed like a bridge too far for me in the wind, so hauling it was. And all done very successfully - of course one fly in the ointment was that we hadn't put the pumpout caps back on, so that had to be done while Mike held the boat to the side before we moved off...

** As it transpired, we didn't need a pumpout after all - I was in charge of the hose during the pumpout operation and realised that a wodge of paper had got caught in the drop through pipe just below the dunny ... AAARRRGGGHHH!!! But not to worry - it extended Mike's steering time, gave him the opportunity to go through Hack Green locks 3 times so increased his successful (well, only a couple of small bumps) lock entrances to 6, and gave him the chance to wind (turn) the boat below the locks - very successfully done.

We moored up in Nantwich - Helen and I had walked from Hack Green to check out the best place to moor and the guys turned up a wee while afterwards - they had stopped to have a tea/coffee just as we phoned to tell them where we were. They had threatened they were going to have dessert (rhubarb cake) but our call managed the thwart that bad behaviour!

The timing was perfect as it started to hose down just as we tied up. However Mike declared he would happily continue steering in the pouring rain. But to be honest, he was just as happy to look up about hiring a boat, reading Towpath Talk, looking at ads for boats for sale...

He did succumb to a nana nap in the afternoon though, as did David and I, while Helen (the fit and energetic one) went out for an explore around Nantwich.
Evidence ...
We had thought about going out for a meal in Nantwich, but it rained consistently. So it was dinner on board. But considering we had:
  • a cooked breakfast after 10am, 
  • ham and salad sandwiches (bread baked that morning - it's amazing what I can do while the boat is moving when I don't have to steer - although I did mix and bake bread as we went down the Tyrley Locks a couple of days previously ...) for lunch at about 2 and 
  • dessert (rhubarb cake and cream) later in the afternoon, 
dinner was not high on the list. I made a cassoulet, but couldn't eat any myself or I would have felt most unwell and ready to burst. So left overs for dinner today, I think!

Helen and Mike left this morning for the final part of their holiday before they head back to NZ - a few days in Ireland. I know they would have liked to stay on but were also looking forward to the drive down the coast at Galway.
After some public hugging (Mike tried a handshake with David but that wasn't going to be all ...) they are off, dammit!

What we are looking forward to in our cruise next year, is meeting up with them and becoming a convoy for a couple of days or meeting as ships passing in the night (but doing it during the day) and having a boaters' meeting over a meal and a drink or three.

Getting to the rendezvous above Audlem

We left Market Drayton on Wednesday at 5am, yes 5am - intention was to beat the rain which was forecast to start on a canal near us at around 7am. We knew we could leave later if the forecast was correct and the weather cleared, but not for us the late leaving! Well, the honour of the convoy was at stake - Mick, Julia and John were leaving Braunston at 5.30am, and we could not let them down by being slug-abeds.

Anyway, the sunrise was an amazingly vibrant red - the photo doesn't do it justice. There is an explanation which David could give re reds and lenses etc, but I am not at this point privy to it, so you'll have to make it up for yourself.

Sunrise through the trees at Market Drayton. David scoffs at the Red sky in the morning, shepherds' warning saying, but the old folks are not wrong ...

So off we went, as silently as we could with a 4 cylinder diesel engine in tickover. Elsan and rubbish emptied at the services (important to have an almost empty pee dunny when guests arrive and no rubbish lurking - not to mention the empty wine bottles that were rapidly accumulated yesterday when we ditched the home-made elderflower cordial that was happily fermenting in the locker - we did consider leaving it to convert to wine of its own accord, but decided David's Crabbie's alcoholic ginger beer was more deserving of locker space - yes, that is David's new tipple, and as Asda had it on special, we had to get lots.) Don't anyone ever tell me I don't take care of that man!)

Anyway, much as David tells me it'll only be a 5 minute job to do the services things, it is always a good 20 minutes - by the time he's tied up (even one rope takes time), then got the pee portion of the portable dunny, taken it away, emptied and rinsed it and brought it back, then collected the rubbish off the seat at the stern and taken that away and come back, and pushed off again (I'd undone the rope), 20 minutes plus have been taken up of rain-free cruising time. I am leading to something here, so bear with me.

So on we trundled at a gentle pace - it was so peaceful being up and moving at that time. There are several stretches where tickover was required - lots of permanent moorings on the offside, and I'd have to say they looked to be attractive. One had a sign that moorings were available and I should have taken a photo to get the number. I wonder if they do temporary moorings - on the way back, I will call the number and ask.

Our arrival at the top Adderley Lock coincided with the arrival of the rain - at least 30 minutes before schedule! At first the precipitation was gentle, but it increased in stamina as we proceeded. It was never pounding down, but it was definitely a soaking rain and David's hat did a good job of keeping my glasses from needing windscreen wipers!

David biked between the locks and, yes Julia, he was careful! He even did the out and back setting one ahead and coming back to open the one I was in. He does love his folding bike, so thank you, Neill and Neil!

I hovered in the bridge hole before the top Audlem Lock and David went ahead to see if there was mooring there, so we could scout ahead to below the second lock.
I am lurking in the bridge hole, and it may look bright behind me, but trust me, it was persisting down. David's hat was drenched. And even though I look grumpy, I was pretty happy, just a bit chilly.

I've made this photo big so you can see the rain on the surface of the canal. The pram cover is drenched, the rooftop allotment was thoroughly watered, but unfortunately the boat didn't seem to get any cleaner and nor did the ropes!
 Strangely, there were no more photos taken that day - I think it was something to do with the phones and camera not being waterproof ...

We finally moored up after the second lock in the Audlem Flight at 8.30am. David was soaked to the skin but my Kathmandu jacket had kept me dry - my shorts and legs were soaked though. We soon warmed up with the Webasto making the boat toasty (thanks, Ed). And after a quick visit from Tim and the grandsons on their way to the water park at Stoke on Trent, we had brekkie that seemed quite late, but actually was not (10am).

After a blobby afternoon, we headed off for an early dinner at The Lord Combermere pub in Audlem - the reviews were excellent and I looked forward to some gastropub food. Their chardonnnay was listed as being from Italy,it was fine and the food was very very nice. Definitely on our 'let's go again, list.

Then back to the boat and wait for Helen and Mike the next day. Yay, at last!

Keeping ahead of the weather in the hamster wheel

We were on a mission to get to just after the top of the Audlem Flight of locks (we start at the top and head down) where we were going to meet up with Mike and Helen.

Mike was the Site Supervisor on the Waiuta and Alex Remediation projects that I project managed over the 18 months from January 2016. Mike and Helen are on an OE and spending time with their sons here in the UK and in Europe, and they accepted an offer to come and stay with us on the boat for a couple of days.

When we determined that doing the Audlem flight would be a good experience, we hadn't properly assessed the distance and number of locks we would have to traverse to get there! So over the week prior to their arrival we boated every day, which led us to discuss that we felt a bit like hamsters on a wheel! Four days before they were scheduled to arrive, David did a Canal Plan exercise to find out distances and times required if we boated each day until Wednesday to be in place for when Helen and Mike arrived on Thursday. So it was 4 hours a day - that is not a long boating day at all.

So the hamsters on the wheel is really about having to move each day. Of course, we could have boated for 8 hours over half the days, but I am past being able to do 8 hours at the tiller these days - it's age, don't you know?!

So the last few mooring stops have been:
  • Slade Heath, near the village of Coven - subject of photos in the previous post where the paths were not that clear and entries/exits were overgrown with nettles and brambles
  • Stretton Aqueduct over the A5 - a bit noisy on Sunday afternoon, but very sunny and with views across the fields. On the Monday morning, it was cheering to see the traffic at a standstill on the A5. Not generous, I know, but it did make me feel a bit smug ...
    Commuter traffic on Monday morning ...
  • Old Lea Wharf near the village of High Offley.
    Getting to this point involved travelling on top of embankments that had been painstakingly constructed to carry the canal. One section took 5.5 years to complete as it had a number of breaches occur during the building. Other sections were cut through sheer rock.
    My memory of previous trips through Grub Street Cutting was that it was extremely narrow and it is noted as such in the Nicholson's Guide. However the Shelmore Embankment and the approach to Cowley Tunnel seemed much narrower. I am unsure now where we were when we had to go inching past two approaching boats. As they were on the towpath side, they kindly stopped for us and the boat behind in a slightly wider piece (about the width of a double lock, I kid you not, but overhung with trees on the right).
    Looking back towards Cowley Tunnel, carved out of the rock. No bricks in this one to shore up earth.

    Just outside Cowley Tunnel: The canal has been carved out of this rock - to save building locks, I guess, and to cut travelling time for the working boats. What with the high embankments built above the fields along this canal, the work done was huge, and all done without the earthmoving/digging equipment that would be used today. Pretty impressive, we think.
    We ate on the move - David made sandwiches but the bread (baked by my own fair hand and then frozen) had got crumbly from its sojourn at freezing point. So I made a bit of a mess trying to eat one-handed while steering - too busy to stop, of course. So David had to clean up with the dustpan and brush (also while I continued to steer). So fear not, he is not worshipping at my feet, although he probably should! And I am not on a pedestal, I am just trying to increase my height so I can see properly!

    This bridge in the Grub Street Cutting is famous in the boating world. There are no longer any cables running to the isolators, but it still looks impressive. The bridge building across the canals is another outstanding example of the work done in earlier times.

    Once moored up, we went for a walk using the OS maps and made our way back along the towpath to cross the bridge and up the road and on to the path. Clearly farmers here don't want the public footpaths used. The sign had been removed and the stile was covered in nettles and brambles. The footpath was not particularly visible but using the map on the phone showed us the direction, so could find our way. All stiles were overgrown. At first we decided we wouldn't be stymied; but after a while we couldn't be bothered. Once we found the exit to the road (after climbing a fence to avoid the path which was full of nettles about 6 foot high and covered in discarded farm equipment),   and the exit was also bramble-covered and nettle covered, we decided to go back by road. Even that was interesting though as it was a one-lane lane, where all signs were about horses ...
    In the early evening, Bob turned up on his newly purchased (from Venetia Marina) small narrowboat. He was on Day 3 of ownership and had done lots of locks that day. (Having done them too now, I am impressed that he got through them and managed to continue boating without calling the marina to get his money back - some of those lock by-washes are a bugger! See below ...)
  • By the aqueduct in Market Drayton - lovely, sunny and peaceful there in the afternoon.

    We decided Mel needed to come out and show himself as our esteemed Boat Goat. He was happy being in his proper place, and once through these confined areas, excited much comment from passersby. Our explanation is that he doesn't poo and doesn't need feeding. And he's very obedient and never disagrees with either one of us.
    That day's cruise was all pretty good until we got to the Tyrley Locks:
    In the first lock we were accosted by a woman who was waiting below the lock, saying that there was no point in our going through the lock as there was another boat in the pound below heading the same way we were. It wasn't until we came out of the lock, when I noticed she was pretty grumpy, that I asked what she had wanted, and found she would have preferred me to back out of the lock and let her empty it with no boat in it so they could come up. Que? What? Doh! Her thinking makes no sense as it is a no-no to waste water by turning a lock unnecessarily. By the time we got down into the pound, the boat ahead of us was already going into the next lock. My hunch, in hindsight, was that she and her husband were stressed by the locking and by hirers who had struggled. Well, if you want the flight all to yourselves, you need to leave very early in the morning - say 5am. Otherwise, sharing is the name of the game.
    All was well then until we got to the last lock. We ended up caught on the rock ledge while waiting outside the lock for the inexperienced boaters to come out of the lock. I had been warned by the volunteer lockie at the lock above to stay in the middle, (and I hadn't read the warning in the book either, so my bad). However when David suggested I come over to the left to let the hirers out, I did so - silly me. If anything I should have gone over to the right. It took a few minutes to get off - reversing off didn't work as I couldn't get far enough back and away to move forward without being caught again.
    In the end it was a boater waiting for the lock below who came and assisted - with a sensible solution - David was already pushing using the boat pole, the additional piece was, rather than accelerating to get away, I went into neutral and stood on the far side of the boat. Happily the boat floated off. If I had been thinking, instead of reacting, I would have realised that, but I wasn't using my brain - idiot woman!

    It was a great relief to reach Market Drayton and moor up for the day. Having consulted Julia (the supermarket location queen) and google maps, we did a big shop at the small Asda (not my favourite place to shop but it was closest), trundled both trolleys and a couple of bags back to the boat, and got it all packed away.
    I spoke with the guy on Mabel when he moored behind us later in the afternoon and he told me he knew of someone who had been caught on the shelf above that last lock in the Tyrley Flight for half a day while waiting for the water level to be raised enough to float off ... So a lucky escape for us.

    Dinner was meant to be early, but I didn't realise the gas bottle had run out, dammit... Still, it was an early night for us both.

Sunday 23 July 2017

Pics of Penkridge and Coven and Great Haywood (out of sequence of course ...)

I haven't loaded photos in the last couple of posts - not sure why, but maybe I have been posting in a hurry or on my way to do something else. This post was started while waiting for the water tank to fill at Autherley Junction. See, parallel processing ... Habits die hard.

These teens were from London and were at at outdoor centre for a few days. We had seen them walking the towpath past us at Tixall the day before and they were out again on the day we aimed for water and I had a meltdown - not in front of them though as we hadn't discovered no water was avail;able anywhere by that stage.

A typical Penkridge home - not! But cute, eh? I think it's called 'the Old Cottage' or something extremely original.

It's the end of the school year and some of the leaving kids had tied their ties to the little footbridge over the horse tunnel at the lock.
Starters at Flames in Penkridge. Lovely restaurant. Go there. It is BYO wine and is very reasonably priced. I think we paid £23 for two courses each plus poppadoms

The mains - I had two more starters - samosas and onion bhajis. David had lamb biryani. (I must learn to make biryanis.) We wisely opted for no naan bread this time ... so are unable to report if they are as big as at Castle Balti in Warwick. Food was just as good though.
One of the young waiters is an engineering student - I gave him the benefit of my wisdom and told him to hold on to this experience of waitering - the ability to do several things in parallel is a skill he should look to make use of as an engineer, instead of only doing one thing at a time, serial thinking - even if it means they have to go back and re-do stuff later because they haven't taken all things into account as they go! (I am speaking from experience here of working with engineers - they can make the simplest job complicated and have it take three times as long as it needs to. But I am not bitter ... And they argue the toss, constantly! But I'm not bitter, truly.)
At the time we saw these old stocks (outside the Penkridge Gaol) David had drunk 3/4 of a bottle of wine and was being silly (Julia says he's much more fun drunk ...). I was fantasising about putting him in the stocks and leaving him there overnight.
I was quite keen to stay on in Penkridge and go to the market and back to Jaspers the Bakers. However we decided to fast again on Saturday so a trip to Jaspers was definitely a no no, unless it was a cream cake and crunchy bread roll fast. And I'm not sure that counts somehow. (Reason for additional fasting day is that we are probably having a visit from Tim and the boys one day this week - food required, and we have Mike and Helen coming to stay from Thursday to Saturday and that means food and alcohol for sure!)

So we moved on to Slade Heath, moored up and went for a walk into Coven (pronounced to rhyme with woven, rather than oven, unfortunately). It was a cross country walk, plus across an A road before getting into a very pleasant village. We found another pathway out of the village which was extremely cross country!
  • The farmer appeared to have obliterated the actual public walkway and left spaces of a sort around the fields' edges (two fields - don't worry, the apostrophe is in the right place). The crop had been rapeseed, I think, and the remaining stalks were sharp!
  • the exit from yet another field (uncultivated) was out through a high thicket of brambles (blackberry to NZers) and nettle. I was glad I was wearing jeans and a long sleeved top!
On the return leg of our cross country walk. The weeds were rather high in places! The exit on to the road is in the corner of the field (see, only one).
  This morning we moved on from Slade Heath and found the traveller encampment that John had warned about - it was at Coven Heath, a mile or so down the cut from Slade Heath. There were a couple of caravans left and much rubbish, plus a whimpering puppy. There was a big fence between the site and the towpath, so no opportunity to find out if it needed rescuing - shortly I will phone the RSPCA to let them know.

The weather was a bit pants this morning - light showers. The fishermen attending a competition all had their umbrellas up. They didn't look terribly happy but it was just after 8am on Sunday, so maybe they were missing a sleep in and brekkie in bed ... However they all spoke to me when I greeted them - and they were polite too!
This is about a third of the fishermen.

 Catching up on last week's photos from Great Haywood
The following photos are from David's camera and phone - he downloaded them so I thought it behoved (is that a word?) me to include them. I am very slack and don't ask him to download them when I am blogging - as is usual, I don't have the patience to wait. My bad!

I think this was taken on the walk back to Tixall Wide a few days ago after the decidedly below average meal in Great Haywood. I am wearing one of my new T-shirts from the Edinburgh Wool shop. I bought several back in Tewkesbury ...

At the Tixall Wide mooring - it is so lovely and peaceful there. There is a road off in the distance but traffic can barely be heard.

When we were moored at Great Haywood, we heard the sound of a hot air balloon being pumped up - what is that process called? filling perhaps?

Anyway, we watched over the hedge. The third photo shows what to me is a bit spooky - there is a flap of the balloon which comes down almost to the basket and the flames shoot up past it into the belly of the balloon. I wouldn't go up in a balloon anyway, but if I did get that brave and then saw that flap, I'd be out of the basket like a shot. A balloon on fire does not fly well.

So here we are today - quite boring boating down from Slade Heath to Autherley Junction and then up to the aqueduct over the A5 - and that's me up to date.

The mooring is a bit noisy, but it is quintessential English countryside: fields and trees and livestock. Lots of nostalgia for books read as a child, movies seen, and other narrowboat holidays.

The weather is changeable (see, even that fits the nostalgia) - the washing is hanging up outside and enjoying a couple of extra rinses. However when the sun comes out it is very warm, so I think it'll dry. It's all David's stuff so no worries ...

Ooh, forgot - the rest of the convoy is now at Hawkesbury Junction. I did ask them to have a bowl of chips for us but they have refused - what kind of friends are they!?

OK, I will have to get out the nibbles to make up for that affront.

Friday 21 July 2017

Penkridge is lovely!

Yesterday I didn't want to moor in a town, but here we are in Penkridge now, and it is beaut.

We have been for a walk around, and found double sided tape in one of those neat English hardware shops - sort of like Arkwright's but for hardware not groceries. We need double sided tape for sticking window catches back on. For some reason a few of them have decided to let go of their windows. That is fine if one end is still hanging on, but when both ends have freefallen, the window cannot be closed - and there is more rain coming.

We also found Jaspers bakery as recommended by a boater. Well, what a find! Queue was out the door, but service was very quick. I got 2 ham and salad cobs (I assume these are the round rolls, not long ones?). The cobs were crusty and just fabulous! I also bought 2 apple turnovers and a loaf of crusty bread. Total cost £5.90. Bargain!!

We then asked for help to find the Indian restaurant and were directed to Flames on Bellbottom Row or somesuch street name. We have made a booking for tonight, and yes, you can take your own wine! I do like a BYO restaurant!

The call of comfort food.

Yesterday was determined as a fasting day - it's not a 'no eating' day, but it is a limited calorie (600) day with only two meals - we skip lunch and we don't have any nibbly things at any time. The purpose is to keep our weight down, our hearts healthy, blood pressure in the normal range, plus make sure the glucose levels are in the safe range. High blood pressure and type 2 diabetes we don't want!

So a yummy brekkie of fruit salad (strawberries, a few grapes and half an orange) with 2 rounded dessertspoons of greek yoghurt (home made using the EsiYo yoghurt maker) plus a third of a cup of my homemade meusli (toasted seeds, almonds, coconut, a few sultanas and a few cornflakes), a couple of cups of tea, and away we went in the showery rain. I was very rugged up as I find the cold gets in when I get wet and am standing still, so I was sporting camisole, long sleeved T-shirt, cardigan, rain jacket, silk scarf for the draughts down the back of the neck - I am truly my mother's daughter in that respect now.

Of course, as we cruised along the weather improved and our mission to fill up with water at Milford Bridge was nicely on track. Until, FUBAR, the water tap is no longer there. It was shown in the 2012 Nicholson's Guide, but not on Memory Map - and which one had I consulted, I ask? Three guesses and the first two don't count.

So after a mild groaning, on we went although I had wanted to moor up after getting water and have another blobby day - I am getting used to them and they seem like SUCH a good idea, as practice for being retired.

The next water point was marked on Nicholson's and Memory Map at the boatyard by the lock at Bridge 90, next to Midland Chandlers where we had things to buy and a new freezer to pay for (yes, we have one ordered ... I am not sure there was an effective business case presented, but I am weak! An aside: I notice that my desire to buy a new mattress is being rebuffed - how come things with electric and technology are OK but things with memory foam are not?)

However before that we had advice from a moored boater that there was water available at a Boat Club - it did have a service point, but we couldn't see a water tap. Anyway, I could not, in the wind, get the boat over to the bank - there was a boat was approaching me and I lost my confidence to just take it slowly and get myself over there. So on we went. But I told myself not to worry - there'd be water at the boatyard about an hour further on.

On we go and up through the lock, and all is well. Until David came to tell me there was no water - he had checked at Midland Chandlers and was told that the boatyard has closed up. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

There were still boats moored there (private moorings) and water and electric were at each mooring point, but there was no one around to ask and I had lost my confidence about asking for help without bursting into tears through stress.

By this stage I am beside myself with stress and worry and tantrums (mostly internal - I metaphorically lay down on the back of the boat and drummed my heels. Well I wanted to, but somehow it's unseemly in a 66 year old woman.)

 The next waterpoint (if it existed and I was doubting that) was deemed to be in Penkridge. And I did NOT want to moor in a town. So David fed me 6 almonds (allowable snack on a fasting day in times of stress) and we carried on. Shortly afterwards, he declared
  • he was certain we had enough water to last till this morning, 
  • I was tired, stressed, needed to stop
  • so we were going to moor up in the sun and just take the rest of the day off.
The fact that we moored pretty much right next to the M6 didn't matter - it is not a mooring I would ordinarily choose, but the wind was blowing from us to the M6 so it wasn't too terribly noisy (quieter than the M40 next to the Stratford Canal), and once inside the boat I couldn't hear it much.

The thing I realised this morning, hence the title of the post, was that at each point when I got stressed yesterday, I wanted to eat. Didn't need it really, just wanted food. I have always known I eat in times of stress or tiredness, but I think yesterday showed me just how much food has been my 'go to' comfort.

For dinner, by the way, I made a Thai Beef Salad - lots of leaves and herbs from the RTA (roof top allotment), with a thai dressing, (fish sauce, brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, grated ginger, chopped chilli) half of which was used to marinate the steak. It was very yummy and very low calorie! So today I am skinny ...

By the way, we had intended to cruise to Gailey today, but when we stopped to get water, I looked at a noticeboard which extolled the delights of Penkridge. So we have pulled across to moor at the defunct waterpoint (fear not, there was one at the service point) - we are getting some strange looks as people clearly think that it is now part of the lock mooring - but no - that is well behind us.

So here we are, waiting for the washing machine to finish, and then we are off out to explore and find an Indian restaurant and the local bakery which has been given double thumbs up by our friend Julia and a boater we crossed over with at the service point.

Wednesday 19 July 2017

A day of contrasts

Relaxed and restful for us (as the breakaway party) with a bit of useful activity:
  • blog post 
  • oil change
  • walk to and from Great Haywood.
We had lunch at the Clifford Arms - not a very good experience, but pleasant  patrons. The food was decidedly very average and the wine was decidedly below - no chardonnay, and wine by the glass from a barrel. GGGRRR!!! Probably a good place if you want beer though as it has won a CAMRA award this year - for something but I couldn't tell you what. I only know that because there was a large sign outside saying so, but was I interested? Nah.

We are now back on board, kettle is coming to the boil for a cup of tea, and the chardonnay is chilling in the fridge. David is changing his clothes and about to do his third useful thing of the day (first and second were pumping out the oil, and loosening the oil filter for me). He is going to clean the swim and the engine bay. I expect he will be finished about bed time. So once again, I will be serving my own wine ...

However the remainder of the convoy, made up of those stalwart individuals who did not peel off for the dodgy purposes of a BSSC** inspection, has had a sh*t of a day today. They have been attacked, prop and rudder, by blanket weed. It is dastardly stuff - gets on the prop so easily and comes off only with great hard work. We experienced it on the GU back in 2015 when Barry had to pull us for a fair distance while I heaved stuff off the prop. See

I reported earlier today that they were probably heading for Wiggin Hill, and that one team member was plumping for Perry Barr. We have just had a brief conversation with John who tells us they are giving up shortly before Perry Barr as the day has been diabolical.

** David has informed me that he misinformed me - BSSC actually stands for Boat Safety Scheme Certificate.

OK, tea is made, I am going to post this and then I am retiring to the cratch whence David's calls for assistance can be safely ignored!

A good decision

Way back in the mists of time (before the turn of the century, I think), David and I hired a Black Prince boat from Stoke on Trent with Mick and Julia, and we did the Four Counties Ring - in a week. It was a very busy week, but still had time for lunchtime pub stops. Although to hear Mick tell it, I thwarted those by dragging them out of pubs after one pint - the biggest sin being that the beer was cheap (£1 a pint, if I remember correctly what I've been told ... £1 was probably cheap, but it was some years ago, mind).

It was an excellent week for all that: speedy, full of activity and laughter. We have spoken of it on the convoy's trip this last month and a half, and noted how much more slowly we are moving these days (boat-wise, I mean, but probably body-wise as well, I guess).

We even, very naughtily, did the Audlem Flight in the dark. Well, we'd started it and decided in the evening that we shouldn't really moor up in lock pounds (did we see there were moorings in between Lock 2 and 3? Probably, but we ignored that), so onwards and downwards we went. I steered, David was setting the locks ahead, and Mick and Julia were working the lock I was in. It got darker and darker, I was steering using the headlight, and we were doing well. Then all of a sudden, Julia said in quite an anxious way 'I do hope the Boff** is OK. We haven't seen him and he could have fallen in and drowned and we wouldn't know!' That set us all worrying, but we reassured ourselves that we would find out if we got to a lock that wasn't ready for us. Heartless, weren't we? Anyway, we (all of four of us) got to The Shroppie Fly pub; in my memory of that escapade it was already shut for the night, but that's probably an inaccurate embellishment. Maybe it was just that it was a cool night and no one was drinking outside. We slid as quietly as possible into a mooring spot and snuck off to bed, hoping no one would report us to Black Prince or to BWB for boating after dusk ...

(** Julia calls David the Boffin, for reasons obvious to those of you you know him.)

This train of thought about our days as Speedy Gonzales has come into my head often over the last few days given I'd spent most of Sunday and Monday and most of yesterday afternoon generally doing blobby things.
Getting ready to leave Bridge 69 next to the Freeman's property on Monday. Can you tell we have passed our BSSC examination?

In the reeds there is the Freeman's lovely dog who came down to the canal for a drink. I did hope it was coming over to be our boat dog, but no such luck!

The only active thing on Monday was cruising a couple of miles from Bridge 69 to Great Haywood. However I also did assist a canoeist getting out of his canoe and on to the bank while waiting for the Colwich lock and I watered the roof allotment - multi-tasking and parallele processing - David take note! Oh, and we did watch a hot air balloon taking off in the fields near the canal over between Shugburgh Hall and the folly. The photos are on David's camera though so may remain unseen for some time ...

From our mooring at Great Haywood. Very peaceful. However in the distance you can barely see a boat going around the corner - it was emitting the blackest smoke and lots of it! Not sure the engine is in good shape somehow.

And yesterday, I steered to Anglowelsh's yard, reversed in for a pumpout, rubbish and elsan emptying, and water. Then I did have to make my way alone to Tixall Wide and moor up while David biked back to the mooring before Gt Haywood where he'd managed to leave a mooring chain still attached to the armco - doh! Found it - yay!

But the afternoon, apart from finishing off the painting that was started back at Ellingham Lock on the Avon (after John's and my mammoth days of angle grinding, rust prevention coating [day one] and undercoating [day two]) was taken up in having a nana nap and reading in the cratch.
I did stir myself to take this photo though - Tixall Wide is a very pleasant place to be!
Dinner in the cratch - nibbles only. You'll note the glass is almost empty. A call had been made to the first mate, but it took a while for the refilling exercise to be undertaken. Standards are slipping, indeed. I think the problem is that we live in a long tube, and the first mate has to pass everything we possess in the tube to get to the site of task completion. And given he's a boffin, and by definition, easily distracted, he undertakes other missions (unrequested, unnecessary, not on the critical path) on his way there and back. I despair of having him adhere to the critical path and have told him on numerous occasions (when thirsty for tea/water/chardonnay)  that I would never employ him on a project - he'd single-handedly cause delays through tangential tasks, as well as not being able to parallel process. As Julia would say 'Bless' and as I would say 'FFS'

During Sunday, Monday and Tuesday we have been in text communication with Mick, Julia and John, as they laboured their way from Hawne Basin to Netherton (?) and Walsall, then yesterday from Walsall to Brownhills. Today there is a debate as to whether they go to Wiggins Hill (24 locks, 13 miles) or Perry Barr (9 locks, 8 miles). They are already underway and we are still lounging in bed. And when we move it'll only be halfway to Penkridge.

We have read of their adventures and misadventures and said to each other that, while we much missed being part of that particular convoy, we did not miss the 'mis' part of the adventures.

That was borne out in a text from Mick last night which read: We've had an ordeal today travelling from Walsall to Brownhills. Stuck in bridgeholes (5 shopping trolleys in one alone), down weed hatch numerous times, and slow going all day! At one stage we managed 1/4 mile in one hour from Birchills top lock to Birchills Junction. Moored up at 1.30pm and we're having a barbie later, so happy days now - I'd say wish you were here but you wouldn't thank me for the cruising today. I think you have made a wise decision with your route. Enjoy your evening in glorious setting and we'll see you soon.

We had felt a bit naff deserting them, merely for a BSSC and the obtaining thereof, but the Admiral has forgiven us. That feels better!

And could we do the Four Counties Ring in a week now? - well, Mick and Julia could, but we certainly couldn't! After all, so far, in one day we've done 1.5 miles, and today is going to be about 4 miles. Our target is to get to Coxbank below Audlem to pick up NZ friends for Thursday next week. Is that a cracking pace or what?