Wednesday 30 August 2017

Noises off

Yesterday evening, we were just about to head out for dinner (at Flames Indian restaurant - lovely place) when there was an explosive breaking noise from the galley. My first thought was that something had fallen; but even without looking, I couldn't think what was in a position to do so. David's first thought was that someone had smashed a bottle on the roof (there was a hapless, yet innocent couple passing the boat at the time). But when we looked - nothing on the floor and no mess outside.
So I opened a cupboard door: Our biggest Pyrex mixing bowl had spontaneously exploded/shattered into big chunks and little chunks, like a broken windscreen!
Very weird, man! I've heard of spontaneous combustion, but exploding bowls are something else!

It could have been disastrous if it had occurred while I was using it, or while the yeast mixture was bubbling away on the bench for the bread, rather than in the cupboard where at least  the dispersal effect was contained.

I had read recently that the making of pyrex has been moved to China (I think) and that the spontaneous explosive shatterings have been occurring regularly since then. So I was not surprised but am now planning to get rid of our pyrex and replacing it with stainless steel.

A great deal of sweeping up, cleaning up and the jandals were put beside the bed so that there could be no inadvertent wandering into the galley to make tea in a barefoot state.

Speaking of barefoot, on Monday we (well, I - David didn't notice ...) saw a woman sunbathing completely naked in the cratch of her boat. That is my first experience of outdoor public nakedness in the UK - not terribly English, methinks!

Today we have moved on from Penkridge to just past Acton Trussell, but not before a walk down to:
  • the Wednesday market (excellent and very popular/busy), 
  • the hardware shop to buy a large plastic bowl, 
  • the butchers for shin of beef for braised steak and onions for tomorrow probably, and
  • Jaspers (£9 for 2 filled cob rolls, 2 apple turnovers, a peppered steak square, a sausage roll and a batch loaf)
    • At this point, only the batch loaf remains ... 
If you look carefully, you can see me at the counter paying.

Outside Jasper's is clearly a haven for the paparazzi trying to establish who can be blackmailed about eating too much yummy stuff ... Not us - we are proud of supporting such a great place - it's enough to have us come back on the Staff and Worcs canal!

Renewing old acquaintances and friendships

Yesterday was lovely (sorry, that word again, but it does aptly describe how I feel).

I was feeling a bit blah the afternoon before because the noise level from the pub (have blanked its name - ah yes, Cross Keys) increased dramatically over the course of the afternoon and evening with live bands playing. As I was getting in to bed that night, earplugs firmly inserted, I said to David that I could not believe myself having stayed put, instead of moving! I thought it was probably that we had put up the pram cover, fixed the clothesline to the tiller, and moving (on a Bank Holiday Monday) was all too much.

However the earplugs did their job and I slept well, and no problems were encountered from the drinking/music loving public.

I got up quite early to walk down to check out the next set of 48 hour moorings here in Penkridge, and on the way encountered Pauline on nb Bradwell. She reminded me that we had met a couple of years ago at Napton and on the way to Fenny Compton - I had seen her over the last couple of days and thought she looked familiar. So it was lovely to reconnect. She is an amazing woman who boats solo, and who travels the world in the northern winter. Patagonia and Antarctic earlier this year and Japan this coming February. I hope we catch up with her in the next few days so we can have a sitting down over a glass of wine conversation. She obviously has a lot of knowledge to impart, and I'd like to hear it!

The moorings were free so I rang David and asked him to get the boat ready and back I came. Off we went, he walked, I steered - and while waiting for someone to exit the lock and Pauline to go into it (there had been a queue even that early, and there has been a steady stream of boats all day) - I managed to get grounded on the far right hand side of the cut. B*gger! Reversing did nothing, so it was out with the pole. Couldn't reach the bank, so put the pole into the rocks on the bottom. No movement. Tried rocking - no lifting. I was getting a bit anxious as David clearly hadn't picked up that I was stuck as he was signalling me to stop. 😡😖💣 My anxiety was not that he hadn't seen I was grounded (see emojis for my state of mind ...) but that he would let water out of the pound I was in and reduce the amount under the hull...

A Dutch guy in a hireboat moored across from me asked if there was anything he could do. 'Yes' I said, 'Take a deep breath in and suck my boat off the bottom.' Laughter and then renewed efforts with the pole. (If I hadn't been able to get clear, I would have asked him to come over with his boat and tow me off sideways - Plan B)

I had another go with the pole, and decided to check to work out where the hull was caught. Jabbing down with the pole I realised that there was a concrete paver (I could feel the straight sides ...) under the rudder, so I used the stern button as a lever with the pole and edged the boat away. I had to do it gently though as I could hear the pole creaking (ie cracking). A new pole is required and it's a good thing we are going past a chandlers on Thursday morning, is all I can say ...

To make sure I stayed clear I had to go fairly fast, but there wasn't much canal left between the bow and the lock, so hard in forward to get clear of the obstruction, then hard in reverse to slow down, then more throttle to get into the towpath side and avoid the overflow ledge ... No crashes and the TV stayed in place.

And that was all before 8am!

Once we had moored up, I made brekkie - no kitchen rage this time as the eggs that we got from nb Suzy Q the previous night were beautifully fresh and therefore had whites that sat roundly in the poaching pan instead of spreading out like a map of Australia.

The day stretched out, so what to do? Aha! The oil needed changing, so that was my top choice. For some reason polishing the mushroom vents, sanding and painting did not make the cut.

A change of clothes, all equipment gathered and at hand, and down into the engine bay I went. David disappeared off to see if he could find a home handyman who was advertised locally.

So there I was, down in the engine bay, and I hear the loud revving of an engine and much shouting from the canal. I think to myself that I am going to need to hold on as someone is about to hit me. Then I hear intelligible shouting 'David, David' then 'Marilyn, Marilyn, where are you?' So I cease pumping oil (unlike any Texan) and claw my way up out of the hole to find - YAY! It's Ian and Irene on Free Spirit. They stayed with us in February in Waikanae and we had been keeping tabs on each other, but clearly I hadn't been keeping a close enough watch. I certainly didn't know they were so close!

So cake from their boat, a batch of cheese scones in the oven (all ingredients included this time), coffee, and two haircuts. Lots of chat and laughter. It was so lovely to see them again. (It's that word again!)

I was in my working clothes so why not do a haircut ...

or two?

Off they went into the sunset. Well, the afternoon, really. Into the queue for Filance Lock. Glad we did it this morning, grounding or not... I gather from Irene who sensibly went to check, as no boats had come down but heaps were lining up, that a single-hander was struggling. Why no assistance given or taken, I ask? With at least 5 boats waiting, surely someone would go and offer help and be accepted. I've never done a lock on my own, but I know if I was, I would be more than happy to accept help. I rather like the idea of life being made easier for me ...

As Ian and Irene left I got back down into the engine bay to finish the oil change - easily accomplished, but I did get a bit mucky.
Working, boss! The engine was still a bit warm when the two Is left, so I could continue pumping. Good thing, as we couldn't start it up with two litres already taken out ...

I am not forgiving Irene for this one - I wasn't grumpy, honest!

I stole the photos from Irene's blog - David has shown me this nifty way to take snapshots of screens or parts thereof and I have used it here. And I didn't ask Irene's permission, so there!

Monday 28 August 2017

Forgot to say ...

... we came across an older couple (a wee bit older than us) coming towards us in a kayak this morning. They were on the left hand side, i.e. in my 'lane'. They were perfectly in concert with each other as they dipped and stroked and paddled along.

As they came abreast of us (I moved to the left too - well, it seemed churlish not to), I commented on their great style and synchronised paddling. And I added that they were meant to be on the right hand side.

'Oh yes, we know' said the man, 'but we are staying under the trees.'

Well, that's alright then. 😛😜

What is this? A dry Bank Holiday Monday!? My mum would be astounded and disbelieving!

It has been a lovely few days since I last posted - warm, dry with mooring spots that have been quiet yet sociable, some in villages/towns, and others in the country. We are in between Birmingham and points north and east-ish, so it is a very busy part of the country and canal system. That also means proximity to the region's motorways. It is always with a sense of smugness that we cruise under/alongside them ...

Yesterday we were travelling close to and under a couple of them - the M54 and the M6. And we are now moored up in Penkridge after 5 locks and about 8 miles from Hatherton and we can hear the M6 but it is background noise only.

It's five days since I last posted, I see, and we have moved all of 28 miles from Old Lea Wharf !! Bloody hell, that's a fair distance in 5 days! (Settle down, Mick, I know it's only a day or so for you and Julia!)

We had two nights at Wheaton Aston and would have liked to have overstayed but we are rules-abiding people so we didn't. And David didn't think there was enough to do there, for some reason.

We did have a towpath adventure in Wheaton Aston though - courtesy of 83 year old Ron from the boat moored behind us. He was sitting out on the towpath and when he went to stand, he managed to overbalance his chair and ended up splat on the grass. He could not get up; his wife, Jean, couldn't help him up; and actually, neither could David and I without him wincing in pain from ribs he'd bruised a couple of days before when he tripped on the towpath. (There is a pattern, methinks.)

So David persuaded Jean to call an ambulance. She did say he had said she shouldn't, but I asked her how he was going to stop her from where he was ... We put pillows and cushions under his head and shoulders and made sure he was comfortable, and his dogs stayed close by. Gill and Steve from the boat in front were first aiders and they agreed the ambulance was the best idea.

The paramedics took a fair while to arrive as the originally-dispatched crew had been diverted to an accident on the M6. But when they did come, they were brilliant - they had a fabulous manner with Ron - jovial and chatty while very efficient in checking him over, they very speedily lifted him up into a chair (one of ours not the capsizy one) ignoring that it hurt as they knew (we didn't) that he hadn't got a rib likely to puncture a lung. And then they checked his blood pressure (rather high), oxygen in the blood, as well as checking his heart with a portable ECG thingummy. They checked his blood pressure about 4 times as he sat, and checked his heart a couple of times. They phoned his doctor's surgery in Redditch to get him a script for more of the pain killers he was on for arthritis (which they called Arthur - said he gets everywhere), and then went to the pharmacy in Wheaton Aston to collect the filled script - what champions they are: so kind and helpful as well as efficient and caring.

Ron looking and feeling a lot better now he's sitting back on the boat and any hint of hospital has disappeared, John, Jean and Kurt. John and Kurt are STARS!!!
Pretty early on Saturday (it was light but not warm) we left Wheaton Aston and were moored up by about 10.30am between Bridges 8 and 7. In the meantime we had managed to p*ss off a guy who was mooring up just through the bridge-hole at Brewood. I was in tickover - as I almost always am going through narrow bridge-holes - but he said that I could be going a bit slower. Well, not really, mate. His problem was that he was tying up just out of a bridge-hole and the water was eddying quite dramatically where the canal width increased. Nothing I could do about it even if I'd slowed down - the eddying was already underway from my bow and the bridge-hole.

Moving along (at tickover past the moored boats, of course) through the depths of the gloom along that stretch - bloody hell, some of it is dark along the embankments (great pieces of engineering construction - Stretton Spoil Banks, as well as past Brewood - said Brood) which have wonderful trees growing on both sides. But we are clear we wouldn't want to boat through there in high winds as many of the trees look like they are very precariously holding on to the banks and are sloping out searching for sunlight - they require it for photosynthesis, don't you know? For some of them, their search will end in tears as they'll fall and be chopped up with a chainsaw and end up in boaters' fireplaces!

We had been aiming to get down to Bridge 4 to meet Ed, Lisa and Esme, but decided that the mooring between Bridges 8 and 7 was too lovely to pass by.
It is lovely - we spoke to some other boaters (Mandy and Paul on Earls of Rohan) who decided not to pass by but to stop. They told us they often moor up here with other members of the Wolverhampton Boat Club.

It was a beautiful spot, and the midges thought so too...

BLTs for brekkie - made and eaten after 3 hours of boating

Followed by Gu lemon cheesecakes - it was nearly lunchtime, after all - and we didn't have any lunch. I think David is laughing guiltily somehow!
After brekkie I made cheese scones (and for the second time in a row managed to miss out an ingredient - the first time it was the cayenne pepper which is easy enough to sort - sprinkle some on the cut scone before buttering). This time, as I wondered why they were taking so long to cook (I had rather ODed on the cheese and thought they may be frying in cheese fat), I realised as I took them out of the oven that I had forgotten the baking powder - well they couldn't be served to Ed and Lisa then! They tasted fine, but were stodgy scones** not light and fluffy ones. Fortunately the bread was successful ... and the ham wasn't too bad either. And the potato salad was yum. Thanks to Olek who likes his mum's potato salad, I now make it the same way and it is great! If you are interested the only ingredients are chopped mint [mint jelly spooned through works too], hard boiled eggs and mayo - plus potatoes, natch.

We had a lovely time with the Shiers - drinks and nibbles on the towpath followed by dinner inside. Ed fitted 4 more LED lights for us, so now we can have lights on whenever we want.

After they left I smothered my bites in Anthisan which was helpful, but a phenergan tablet was required to take the edge off the itching that night so I could sleep!

There are a lot of these trees with bright orange berries now - don't know what they are, but they are lovely and very striking, and as Rob will tell you, I don't like orange flowers, so go figure.
** Suitable for lunch en route toasted, buttered and served with sliced tomato on top.

Yesterday we made it as far as Hatherton Marina, having come down the rest of the Shroppie and turned on to the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal at Autherley Junction - that is really close to Wolverhampton, but you wouldn't know that a bustling urban centre was there. The canals are good like that!
The sky was so clear and the water so still yesterday morning that I could see perfect reflections - had to be quick taking the photo though before the ripples from the bow wave could mar the surface.

See, another sunny day!

I cannot remember where this was but I thought it was a wonderful way to shield a window - there was a very good crop of beans on it too.

We liked this floral display but would struggle to tell you where it is!

And I liked this wharf - certainly attractive and very effective at stopping anyone mooring there!

Yesterday arvo, we sat inside mostly, watching TV - I know I sound like I am not satisfied with the weather whether it's sunny or wet, but it was the bugs that kept me inside... And David found the Irish chocolates that Leonie and Paul had brought on board. Well, that was the end of them! But to make matters worse before that, we had Gu puddings at lunchtime ... So, today is a fasting day.

Today we left at just before 8 and it is the first time I have actually been grumpy with a hirer. I generally find hirers are polite, courteous, keen not to jump queues, and in fact as we came through the very narrow cutting just up from Autherley Junction yesterday, I had to suggest to a couple of them that they shouldn't hang back at the entrance being so polite but make their way to the passing bays or otherwise they'd be spending their week there!

Anyway, this morning's offending hirers were moored up behind us, with no one in sight until we started our engine. Then out they dived, started up, untied, and pushed off past us at the speed of light. They did say good morning and I responded, but also said that I wasn't happy they'd only come out when they'd heard us start up. We sat back and waited a few minutes to let them get ahead, and then found they dawdled a fair bit ... GGGRRR. And then, bugger me days, they were returning the boat at Gailey. Thinking/realising they had probably been on a timetable for a 9am return, I went up and said to them that I hadn't wanted to spoil their holiday but if they had let me know they were on a schedule, I wouldn't have minded their taking off ahead of us. The woman told me that they were back half an hour early ... Ah well, such is life in the slow lane!

We have chatted with the people moored up in front of us - they paid £20k for their boat without a survey and have had to re-plate the bottom, get a reconditioned engine fitted, replace the central heating, replace the washing machine ... Today, the woman was scraping and putting fertan (rust treatment) on the base plate under the engine (what? has the new steel rusted already?) The guy tells me they are still within budget as they had put aside £50k for a boat and they have spent £20k on fixing/replacing stuff. Interesting logic. However I would be stunned if they got anything like £40k when they try to sell it - closer to the original amount they bought it for, I would think. By the way, they do now recommend that people get a survey before purchasing ...

We are now about to walk into Penkridge to the Coop. I do hope Jaspers isn't open today or there will be no fasting for me, even if David continues!

Update: A successful visit into Penkridge as
  • the only shop we went to was the Coop and we didn't buy anything nortee. We checked out other 48 hour moorings and worked out where we'd like to move to tomorrow so we are closer to the town and the restaurant and Jaspers (for Tuesday) and the market for Wednesday ...
  • we also saw the people on Felicitas again and hopefully will see them again - they are trundling up and down this patch and we first saw them at Market Drayton I think - well, that was when we first spoke to them;
  • the people on nb Whisper spoke to me at the lock on our way back from the Coop - she recognised the accent (what accent? I don't have one!) and asked if we were on Waka Huia - they had met us a few years ago on the Hatton flight. 

So all in all a good day so far, even if there is loud music emanating from the Cross Keys pub (DJ and records) at least it's music I am familiar with and quite tuneful. Mind you, currently I can't hear it as I've put my earplugs in. All in preparation for a nana nap of course ...

Thursday 24 August 2017

Warm dry weather!

Written on Wednesday but posted on Thursday:

Since I have complained vociferously about the rain over a few (OK, the last several) posts, I thought I had best report the change in climatic conditions. It hasn't been brilliantly sunny and hot (fortunately) but it has, over the last several days -  since Saturday when we left Nantwich - been mainly fine (a mix of cloud and tentative sunshine, some heavy rain Saturday afternoon but after we had moored up, so it didn't count) and quite warm.

Because it has been warm and dry, we have been happy to move along at a good pace. Now, you need to know I struggled over how to describe the pace, as for some people (Mick and Julia for instance) our pace would be counted as 'you might as well have stayed in bed', and for others it would have counted as part time boating. Suffice it to say, that since we left Nantwich on Saturday (and we are now at Old Lea Wharf and it's Wednesday), we have travelled about 18 miles and done 26 locks. That is 44 lock miles which equates to about 14 or 15 hours of boating. OK, OK, it's not warp speed, we know!

When we left yesterday morning (Tuesday), we had been moored up overnight at the place we met Mike and Helen, so it was up the last two locks in the Audlem Flight (14th and 15th, but numbered 2 and 1, respectively). Then on to and up the Adderley Flight.
This is the bridge I sheltered under at the top of the Audlem Flight while David walked ahead to check out moorings above the locks a month ago - that time it had rained the whole trip and I looked very bedraggled in spite of David's hat.
This time, wearing a T-shirt and a smile. There were more clothes so don't worry ...
The bits of blue sky are proof that it was fine. I liked that the cows and sheep happily shared a field - don't see that much back in NZ.
We moored up at Market Drayton on Tuesday afternoon, a bit close to the noisy road, but earplugs helped. In the evening, we walked down a dark path and suburban streets to Morrison's to do a bit of a shop. And look what we found:
Jammie Dodgers in memory of Bill Darby. Of Carole too, but Bill was the JD king.

Today Wednesday) was a marathon-ish effort for us though - we started out by about 7am from Market Drayton, eschewed the FAST tap there and trundled up the Tyrley Locks. They are mostly in a deep glade, and have vicious by-washes. So doing them before many people were up and about was a good thing.
The approach to Tyrley Locks is made through a stone cutting - a mammoth work effort, even if it was being done today with machinery and explosives available.

Nearly at the bottom lock - these ones have quite vicious by-washes so I hung back to give myself a good speedy run up.
I made quite a reasonable job of getting in to all but one of them without too much crashing. However I did try to get into one of them on the diagonal ... and it wasn't until we got to the top that I saw I had knocked the books and the TV off the shelves. I quickly scooped the TV up and put it back, but did confess to David later. ** See below for reaction and action.

At the top, we stopped for water, emptying toilet, recycling and rubbish. The mooring notice at the services says half an hour max. That would be OK if they had a tap that had a flow on it of any reasonable pressure. It merely dribbled out, and I am not exaggerating. Our tank was probably close to empty but it only takes about 425 litres. It took over an hour to fill. So I am sorry, CRT, we overstayed on the services mooring.

However it did give me time to assist and give some coaching to some hirers who had collected their boat at Norbury and had no tuition on how to do locks. And to make things really stressful, they had come through Grub St Cutting (moderate width) and Woodseaves Cutting (very narrow) to get to the locks. That would be enough to scare anyone off!

Bob and Sarah were on the boat and had two fifteen year old boys on board who were still in bed. Well, that had to be remedied immediately. A loud banging on the boat side and a shout soon got them up ... But in the meantime, Sarah and I had done the first lock.

Max 1 and Max A - two friends and lovely young men.

Max 1 helped with the second lock and Max A was there to do Lock 3.

I am not sure why, but I had seen someone at the third lock down, but when we got there they had disappeared but the bottom paddles had been opened, lock was empty and no boat was in sight. So I set them to turning the lock and I then left them to it.

By the time I got back, the tank still wasn't full so I started breakfast. Poached eggs on toast - easy you would think. But no! The eggs which were not the freshest ones on board, were fragile in the pan - and one broke as I slipped the fishslice under it to get it out it oozed everywhere in the pan. Kitchen rage ensued and to teach those eggs who was boss, I tipped them all down the sink. There, that told them! So out came the fishpaste and the tomato to have on the (successfully) cooked toast instead. Yummy!
This teeny tiny narrowboat was moored above Tyrley. I think it is probably long enough and wide enough for one person to lie down in.
We came through Woodseaves Cutting and, because it was sunny, it was far less spooky than on our trip in the other direction a month ago. ( I just wrote 'a couple of months ago' and then did a calculation - it is only a month since we met Helen and Mike at the top of Audlem - a helluva lot has happened since then!)
A bit hard to see but the roots of this fallen tree in Woodseaves Cutting also have rocks attached. It's no wonder there are warnings to stick to the towpath. I wouldn't want to come through here in windy conditions, as many of the trees lean out over the cut to get to the light, and obviously the rock sides are impacted by expanding roots.

I am standing tall so I don't look podgy. Unsurprisingly the bridge behind me is called High Bridge. It shows the height of the cutting which was carved out of the rock. Quite an amazing engineering and labouring feat.

In fact the whole trip was much nicer than when we came up (it's northwards - but the locks took us downhill on the way north, so it's difficult to know which term to use - up for north or up for uphill).

We are now moored up where we moored on the way up (north) - lovely sunshine, the washing dried on the whirlygig/rotary line on the tiller, and we had some time (I had more) sitting out in the sun.
I took my boots off when we moored up but couldn't be bothered removing my socks and couldn't walk on the towpath in them. So on went my sandals. I am showing my English-ness, as no NZer would be seen dead in sandals and socks. I won't be doing it again either!

A large lime and water first in the sunshine - not enough cups of tea on the journey, so I was pretty thirsty! Cabin boy fell down on the job - the fact he was doing locks for part of it was no excuse. He had about 4 hours of no locks to ply me with copious cups of tea.
Can you see that damned fly in my glass? I know it doesn't drink much but the least it could do is ask before diving in!

We have chatted with Dee and Wilbur who have nb Olive moored at Norbury and had driven their car to Old Lea Wharf to check out moorings. (We were to look out for them this morning, but I was in the shower at Norbury waterpoint and David was focused on the hose so we didn't get to see them to wave to, dammit.)

** After my confession re the TV, David decided that it needed protection from me and determined a bungee cord would work to constrain it. Out came the rarely-used macho tendencies and the drill.
I think it would be safe to say the bungee cord is too short ... Oh how we laughed!

David is now making dinner - salad, rice, a Morrison's chicken tikka marsala and a couple of naan breads. There was a crisis a short time ago as he couldn't find the chicken tikka marsala, and was grumbling that he must have put it in the freezer after all. I thought I would have another look in the fridge - often helps for someone else to check. Into the galley I go, and what is on the bench, above the fridge, still chilled so only just removed from it?

He has been interrogated about the two likenesses between him and Trump:
  • both have the initials DJ
  • both losing their minds ...
It may be sensible for me to quit this relationship - after all, I do not want to be finding more likenesses!

Monday 21 August 2017

Pictures will tell the story

Lots of photos were taken over the last couple of weeks. And as I have been busy with new stuff, old stuff, driving etc, I thought best to use the photos instead of a long wordy post. However don't think there won't be captions - and they won't be single words ...

The first few are from when Leonie and Paul were with us on the Llangollen Canal.

Not the first time we have had an artist on board (little Neill is our other) but the first from NZ ...

Paul is steering and Leonie is sketching him
Leonie and Mel are paying attention, I was sorting the TV. Note that I can put the chardonnay down ...

 And then there's photos of the motorhome experience.

This is Luke, the Caravan Manager at Michael Jordan's in Gomshall - be aware this is a selfie when we had asked him to take photos of us - narcissistic or what!? I think his surname may be Trump, and his hair is the right colour ...

An easy vehicle to drive and I love being up so high!

The Hindhead Tunnel on the A3

Only one lane open. A car had broken down on the left and the family were out of the car waiting to be rescued - little kids too, so a real stress for the parents.
Here we are 'moored up' at Riverside Holiday Park. You can see Gordon and Sharon's awning in the background, plus lots of yachts up on the hard in the marina next door.

The little shelf above the bed - fits a cup of tea and a couple of biccies!
On the way down to Hamble le Rice, the view down to the river. Lots of boats (mainly yachts and gin palaces) around here - and therefore plenty of money! Gordon tells me every river on the south coast is similarly endowed.

I think this was at Banana Wharf - Gordon is trying to do rabbit's ears behind my head - a big fail!

This is a move I learned way back in judo classes back when I was 16 - Note that I have a good memory for important things. It's a very simple and effective choke hold. I cannot think of anyone who deserved it more than Gordon - at that particular moment anyway!
David's dinner at Banana Wharf - chicken fajitas. A very classy way of serving it. Just not enough fajitas and they were a bit small to make easy to hold parcels...

The galley - you can see the only element that works ...

A decent sized fridge freezer. Two bottles of chardonnay and no alcoholic ginger beer in cold storage - this was just before we left so don't feel sorry for David as he had drunk all 6 of the bottles I brought with us - note that I brought them (I packed them, stored them safely for travel, kept them in the fridge ...) so yes, it was I, not he ...
While we were out on Gordon's boat we came past this - these boats are in storage. I cannot believe they are not strapped down in case of high wind! They would not still be in situ after a Wellington northerly or southerly!
There are so many boats here - it is hard to escape the knowledge that there are a huge number of people with lots and lots of money!
Walking down Pontoon E to Gordon and Sharon's boat. There were at least 60 boats on each of the pontoons and 5 pontoons, so at least 300 boats. Some quite modest, but many very posh and expensive.

Gordon was very trusting and let me steer for the whole trip - apart from back into the jetty at the end. Of course we were only going 6 knots as there were so many moored boats.

Sharon up front. She had swapped places with David by the time Gordon made sure to cause a giant splash over the bow. And of course she was at the back when Gordon thrust the throttle forward to warp speed when we were out in the bumpy bit of the river ... Bastard.

Gordon and Sharon went home for one night and I did some work - a fair chunk of reading project documents. The table and the captain's chair make a good office, I think. Galley is handy for cups of tea, the toilet is close - what more could I want?
We met these lovely people at Riverside Park: Steve, Phil (who had come to see if he could help with the gas fitting on our first evening), Kim and Ali. The sleeping bags are so de rigueur in posh caravan parks!
When we dropped the motorhome off at Gordon and Sharon's, where it'll stay till we take it down to Southampton next month, we went to stay with Gordon's mum, my Aunty Molly. Not far from her place is The Plough which has a really great Thai restaurant . Yummy food! Molly and I shared mixed starters and then shared a main course of shredded duck and pancakes. Yummy and there was enough left over for Molly to take home for the next day's dinner!
By the way, Molly is 89 - she certainly doesn't look it, eh?

There's our shredded duck and pancakes with cucumber and spring onion plus hoi sin sauce. David's beef salad was apparently very yummy too.

The next day we drove the rental car back to Swanley Marina to rejoin Waka Huia who had been on adventures of its own without us (see below).

The trip back was a bit slow
  • After High Wycombe we avoided motorways and went on all sorts of little back lanes and went through and past lots of villages I recognised from when my Aunt Daphne lived in Soulbury - Wing, Stewkley, Great Missenden, ... We had to call in on Mick and Julia at home in Desborough - there was a box of chardonnay to collect (Julia had shopped at Lidl's for me based on a tasting with the crew in the photo above), and we had to uplift our extra gas cylinder that they had stored for us. 
  • From Desborough the only real option was the A14 and on to the M6. However, as luck would have it, we got on the A14 and passed the Welford exit only to come pretty much to a halt for about half an hour - accident somewhere ahead on the M6. Once we were past that, we kept the radio on to hear traffic news - Mmmm, M6 closed between Junctions 19 and 20 due to accident. No worries for us as we were getting off at Junction 16. Then, fortunately because we were approaching Junction 14, we saw the overhead notices saying that there were long delays between Jcts 15 and 16 due to an accident . Off we went at Jct 14 and I headed for Stone while David re-programmed the GPS - avoiding motorways again. So through Stone, through Stoke on Trent, on towards Nantwich - all at slow speeds as it was approaching rush hour (Why is it called that? It is the last thing we do at that time!!) I was meant to be dropping the rental car off at Crewe but we decided that was a hiding to nothing in the congestion, so went back to Swanley Marina. Car was taken back at 6am the following day, no extra charge and a much more peaceful trip with a lovely taxi ride back to the marina.
Waka Huia's adventure:

We lent Waka Huia to Ed and his family while we were off motorhoming and they trundled at a much faster pace than we do, all the way up to Trevor, I think. They had a great time, and left the boat in beautifully clean shape - it is (was, it's not now) the cleanest I had ever seen it inside!
I think Ed got to drive a little bit ...

Esme had a good time and looks super-cool in Karol's life jacket and her sunhat

Lisa was the champion steerer and won our hearts because she said Waka Huia handles very well!

Right! Job done! I don't have to go across the aqueduct because Lisa has done it for me. OK, Mick? No need for singing Eye of the Tiger, and you won't be at risk of being pushed off the side.

 Back on our boat now:

This statue is outside Nantwich Marina - we like it!

OK, we have moved on from Nantwich, although I was beginning to think we were taking up residence there. After 3 days of strenuous boating (not) we are currently nearly at the top of the Audlem Flight, after about 2 lock-free miles and 13 locks today. On Saturday and Sunday we were moored out in the countryside, and Sunday was a work day for me but David spent most of it in bed watching movies, listening to the radio, snoozing - a strange kind of role reversal as that's generally my Sunday at home. Well, snoozing and reading, but not movies and radio...
Friday's sunset at Nantwich

OK, this tells you where we moored for two nights over the weekend.
Evidence - see daylight coming in the window towards the stern?
David has reviewed and discarded his policy of not stepping across the gates. I am fine with it as long as it's dry. Julia, you can see he has both hands out to catch on to the bar if he stumbles ... And the bike was beside the lock too!

Approaching Lock 12 of the Audlem Flight - 4th one of the day, after we had emptied the loo, cleared the rubbish (yes, I did recycle the bottles, Julia) and filled with water

Moored up and David wanted a hug, but he desperately** needed a shower ...
** in my view. Hug accomplished with olfactory equipment closed! And the shower has now been taken.