Tuesday 28 August 2018

There and back twice to see how far it is.

Early last week we were all going to go down to Nottingham to watch the cricket from the comfort of the Wetherspoons, but plans changed and we didn't.

David and I decided to go up to Mercia Marina to have Mike Coates over to ours for dinner, Julia went home to do laundry and Mick went back and met her at Loughborough.

Dinner with Mike was fun - he is a very chuckly guy and it was great to see him looking so well. a heart attack late last year knocked him for 6, but a pacemaker and defibrillator fitted about 6 weeks ago seem to have improved things for him. Whatever else, his sense of humour hasn't diminished, although his waistline has ...

I think his memory or concentration may be faulty though - in the morning he took me to Aldi at Hilton. I had no idea where Hilton was - or even that it existed. But after turning right out of Findern Lane and travelling for a few minutes, he suddenly said 'Bugger, I've come the wrong way!' A quick turn around and back we went. Then I discovered that to get to Hilton, we had to go through Willington village - about 100m from the Coop that David was walking to. Now Mike knew David was going to the Coop, but never said ... See, he's losing it!

So after much grocery shopping by David and me in Willington and Hilton, and by Mick and Julia in Loughborough (pies and wine) we all set off back towards Sawley to join up again. David and I didn't think we would get there in one day but thought we'd get further than we did - the hold up was a brand new widebeam on its maiden voyage with a totally novice crew. I have seen snails move quicker. David helped them at Swarkstone Lock - their first on their own, and even though they then had a head start of at least 25 minutes, we caught them up before Weston Lock. David disembarked and walked/dawdled along to ask them where they were intending to stop (Sawley), and when they would get started in the morning if they didn't get to Sawley (9am). So we moored up in a lovely spot across from Weston House/Manor I think, and I did a bit of lunch making (gammon, coleslaw, avocado) then David did a bit of painting and I did a bit of blobbing and bread making. Then it was time for a chardonnay and cider and fresh bread, then bedtime. SOOOO busy!

This morning, although Mick had told us last night that the widebeam had arrived in Sawley, we still got up and left early, i.e. at 6.17am to be precise. I did think we may not be going quite so early as the rain was persisting down until about 5.45. It cleared and I made the call.

Not sure why, but the pound between Weston and Aston locks was way down - by about 16" (that's 400mm to the good guys), and I crept along staying right in the middle in case of grounding - not such a cool thing when on your own with no one around to call on for help.

We had heard last night from a passing boater that the widebeam had grounded below Weston Lock and I was not surprised.
Lots of the bank showing all along this pound. And the weir was dry above Aston Lock - I put the nose into the lock mooring to let David off but was careful not to come alongside in case we got grounded.

All was well from Aston Lock though, so normal service was resumed and we hoofed it along, arriving at Sawley ahead of Mick's projected ETA of 9.30. And as we headed off to Sawley Cafe for a yummy breakfast and discussion of plans for the weekend, David called out hello to the people on a widebeam coming through the bridgehole - yes, it was yesterday's widebeam - I had seen it at Shardlow this morning but had not known it was the Slow Boat to China (OK, you have to have had a mum who constantly sang songs from the 30s, 40s and 50s ...)
Doorstep slices of toast

My big breakfast minus the black pudding that was donated to Mick, who had the small (not much smaller) breakfast that came without black pudding - but not for long ...

David had eggs benedict (he asked for eggs benny, but the waitress didn't understand what he meant - clearly not a regular at Jan's Cafe in Paraparaumu then ...). He said these were nice but not as good as Murray cooks at Jan's.

Breakfast planning session brought on a change: We had intended to go down to Gunthorpe, but with the Bank Holiday coming up, the kybosh was put on that as moorings there are very few in number and very low in capacity. And it's a long way between places to settle. David was all for resting at anchor, but Mick didn't seem keen for some reason ...

So the decision was made to come to Shardlow for a variety of reasons:
  • it has a bus service (J&M)
  • it has space and sunshine for painting (D)
  • it's not far away (M)
  • it's a nice place and I haven't yet seen the museum thing (M)
So there we were, David painted the roof in the sunshine, I inexpertly filled/sealed the screws that Mick put through the duck hatch lid to hold the wooden lining on, Mick fitted their new blinds. I went over for a viewing and he has been over make ours look the same re cup hooks to hold the bottom in to the wall (as the narrowboat sides slope outwards). Then a couple of bevvies on board, a retreat to our own quarters, a sleep for David, commencing blogging for me. Then soup in bed for David, and I went out to two pubs with Mick and Julia. One only had a US chardonnay, and given I am boycotting anything from the US, I had a shandy instead. The second pub (The Malt Shovel) had an Oz chardonnay so I had two glasses (both small, before you groan). The Malt Shovel was heaving - apparently Thursday is their Thai food night - we were thinking of faffing about around this area for 7 days so we could partake next week ...

Instead we all came back to Sawley on Saturday and have been here since, overstaying on the 48 hour moorings, while we wait for the lovely Ed to come and sort out a new alternator and an additional solar panel. More of the Sawley adventures in a soon to be prepared blog post - this one is already days late in being posted!

Two things of interest to those of a salacious nature for a disaster/near miss story and those of a scatalogical bent:
  1. As we left Swarkstone Lock on Wednesday we encountered two kayaks full of women out on a 50th birthday party jolly. It nearly ended in disaster for one kayakful, when they cut across our bows purely by accident - they had no control, no knowledge of the physics of water movement or how paddling works, and no innate skill. It's a good thing for us all that I could see from way back that they were clueless - it may have been the sign above their heads or possibly it was that they heard us coming and let go of the bank and started paddling, all on one side ... It's also a good thing that reverse is quite a powerful force in Waka Huia. And best of all, I didn't have to clean up blood and bones and matchstick bits of kayak.
  2. In the early morning cruise towards Sawley I watched a heron leave the towpath and fly across a field (more sensible than their usual trick of flying a bit further ahead, and repeat ad infinitum). As it flew across the field it let rip with a massive poo/pee - orange it was, and came out and dropped in a liquid sheet. Note to self: never be below a flying heron.

Monday 20 August 2018

Still waters run shallow at the junction

We wondered the other day why we were suffering from singing prop again, thinking surely it's not shallow here on the Trent. But actually it is - as we discovered this morning when the water was like a mirror. Mick had said he noticed it when he was down in the weedhatch and the bottom was a very short way away!
Between the reflections of the clouds you can see the plants on the bottom

A clearer view - the white is cloud ...
I thought this was a novel use of jandals - the left one was at the other end of the boat ...

The boys have gone away.

Tim came and collected the boys yesterday from Sawley Marina, and in a phone call this morning told me that they went back to Machester across the moors on little country roads, navigated by the map book (rather than electronically) by Olek. I always knew that boy was clever! And navigating by map book is always more satisfying because you can see the whole route instead of just the bit you are on, and you know where you are in the country - being oriented, I call it.

Olek's steering has come on leaps and bounds in both skill and confidence - he steered pretty much all the way from Loughborough to Zouch the day before yesterday, including into and out of the locks, and then most of the way to Kegworth Deep Lock (with a short break for me to chug very slowly at East Midland Boat Services to see if we could get a pump out - answer in the negative ... so on to Sawley).

Watch thie video - with sound. Expertly edited by David ...

Next year he'll be on his own and I will stay in bed all day or read or both ...

Heading into the wind towards the locks at Sawley. I think Mick was looking for a race ...

Checking to see how much he was gaining on us!

You can tell it was windy because Julia had her jacket on
Pumpout accomplished (self service) at Sawley, and we managed to get diesel. However the process isn't that simple - first of all you have to have a BWML card, which you can apply for on-line. However their standard process is to post it out. Given our UK postal address is the boys' place in Scotland that would not have been too terribly helpful, now would it. Fortunately, the lovely Kate in the chandlery issued me with a card over the counter.

Last night we stayed across the cut from Sawley Marina breasted up against Unknown No 3. Far too much chardonnay and cider were consumed along with totally unhealthy snacks and garlic pizza bread, but we were all fine this morning. We are now moored down at the junction of the Trent, Soar and Erewash - directly across from that building (the yacht club) in the photo above. Mick and Julia have gone on a mission to Long Eaton to buy cider, chardonnay and the other non-essentials, I've made bread, and a chocolate brownie. I can rely on the bread being fine but the brownie will probably taste good but it looks a bit suspect. May need early sampling, just for quality control purposes.

Thursday 16 August 2018

A load of trash ...

In Loughborough now but moving on this arvo.

It was a good thing we had a day to do nothing, as my back gave out and I could hardly move yesterday morning, and any movement was very painful. I managed to find an osteopath here in town and got an appointment for 4pm. As it was, until about 3pm I stayed in bed dosed up on neurofen with a hot water bottle surgically attached to my lower back.

David took the kids on the steam train which was apparently a good experience, although not one that had them bursting in to tell me about it, so clearly not THAT great … 
I reckon Tim will have to pay for Business Class flights for them - they look right at home in First Class ...

A full English breakfast.

That locomotive looks impressive to me.
After the train they found a park

Not sure what this piece of equipment is

Walking backwards to Christmas perhaps?

I got up feeling better but not fabulous and walked to the osteopath – good thing David came with me as I would have gone the wrong way, even though I was looking at google maps … The osteo was pretty good, but had an annoying speech habit of using ‘we’ when he meant ‘you’, as in ‘Are we feeling any pain down our legs?’ ‘Does it hurt when we bend forward?’ After the 4th time, I couldn’t stop myself from saying ‘Well, I am not sure about you, but it hurts when I do it.’ And let’s face it, when I am working I always say ‘We need to do such and such, and when I say we I mean you.’ But this guy had that very disenfranchising way of using we – like the nurse who comes bursting in to the ward and says to you ‘And how are we today?’ AAARRRGGGHHH!!! Notwithstanding annoying speech patterns, his treatment was very effective, and if we come back this way to Debdale, I will call in again for another treatment to make sure my back stays in good shape.

Tim came to visit the boys last night, and they and David went to the local pub for dinner. Not good apparently. Limited menu, cheap but not worth more than it cost. I went down with them but didn’t feel up to eating there so came back and had avocado on toast.

It poured down with rain overnight, but it's brilliantly sunny now. I walked down to the Basin to take the rubbish and noticed there were heaps of cans and bottles and rubbish lying around on the ground, so I have sent them out to collect a bag of it each. Karol has been back, excitedly, for a second bag. I guess that means I’m going to be paying out more than £1 each …
Karol's first bag of rubbish.

The complete haul - and there is much much more where that came from. Why are people such litter bugs?

Tuesday 14 August 2018

And it's the grandsons

We've now arrived in Loughborough; Olek is reading, I am blogging and David and Karol are involved in a blood match of Connect4 - the score when they started today was 7-7, and it is now 9-7 to Karol, as the condition they set the other day was that there needed to be a gap of at least 2 in the final score. However, they are still playing and are now working on the first to 15...

Marta brought the boys down to the bottom of Foxton Locks on Wednesday evening last week, and the three of them stayed wi (A break in creative writing - score is now 10-7) th us until Friday when Tim collected them all, dropped Marta at her car and then he took the boys back to Manchester for the weekend. We had moved on to Kilby Bridge with Marta and the boys, with Marta doing almost all of the steering except when we were locking, when she and the boys were expertly on lock duty.
First morning's breakfast - pikelets, of course!

Marta steering very competently from Foxton all the way through Saddington Tunnel.

Boy, does she look cold in the tunnel!
Still looking cold ...

On our way towards there the previous day, we decided to visit to the Toast Office at Fleckney however that meant we had to move the boat Yavas Yavas and add a pin and another rope to make them secure, so that we could squidge in to the only-just-big-enough space.
And there we all are!

Hot chocolates with multiple marshmallows on top!

Full to overflowing

David's drink - some kind of milkshake smoothie thing. Healthy of course, up to and including the whipped cream from a can on top!

On our return to the boat (after yummy food at Toast Office) we waited for Mick and Julia to come along - they'd had a problem with their gas line that morning on their way from Market Harborough and had to replace the pigtails at Debdale Marina (I tooted loudly as we went past so they would know it was us, as our horn is rather distinctive .... Apparently they did remark in the Debdale office that that would be Team NZ.) As we waited for them we heard them coming from out of the Saddington Tunnel, so it was all hands on deck to get untied and ready to move.
Karol shares the load these days.

I think that is Olek walking across the lock after closing it. He is chief windlass hand this trip - David just helps with closing the gate afterwards if need be - some of them are very, very heavy.

Chris and Willie brought this wine with them and I want to find more - it is yummy. Very oaky, just the way I like it!

We didn't travel far - we moored up later that afternoon quite close to the railway line by Newton Harcourt. (Connect4 score: 10-8; oops, while I was editing it became 10-9.) Nibbles and drinks on the wide towpath with lots of dog visits. (Score 10-10 - Grandad is fighting back and Karol isn't happy. 8 years olds are VERY competitive!)

And then on to Kilby Bridge for the family pick up ...

After Tim had collected Marta and the kids, the four oldies went into Wigston on the bus. While the direct route is 2kms, I am sure the bus did about 10kms. David and I did a shop at Aldi and then walked back - probably as fast as the bus trip would have been. That evening after dinner and a bit of marital discord, I repaired to Mick and Julia's boat complete with a full bottle of chardonnay. Then I talked loudly about divorce and 5 minutes later sent Julia over to fetch the husband. A very raucous and funny night followed. You can tell by the out of focus nature of this photo that I was the worse for wear, and you can tell by the posture of the subjects that they weren't crash hot either. Mick was stunned that I thought Level 1 was too loud for the music he had on when I arrived, but that I rapidly moved it up to level 23 when I found something I liked - Cat Stevens, Dire Straits, ...
We had planned an early start from Kilby Bridge and David and I were ready to move over to get water at 6.30am; however by the time Mick and Julia had watered up too it was about 8am. The guy in Koha Aroha (not an NZer but he bought it off one) 'let' Mick move to get water first so we were at least first into the locks. (Score 11-10).
Vapour trails and power lines in the early(ish) sky

We stopped at Spinney Lock (I think) to collect Steve and Zoe - Steve took over Mick's slating/roofing business when he retired - for a day's outing. We moved on through some quite low water between about 3 locks (same ones that had the problems last year on our return to Debdale) and we both got grounded at least once. Strategically placing the human ballast got us off unscathed and without embarrassment - not sure why I feel embarrassed about getting grounded - if it can happen to a person of Mick's experience, then I cannot possibly be immune!
The level is a good 8 - 12 inches down
In Leicester, we managed to moor up in Castle Gardens with a combination of Mick's thinking and my cheek/project management - there was enough room (almost) for one of us, but not quite. Mick asked me if there'd be enough room if the guy on the end in nb Yarra moved forward. Yes, I said and trotted off down the towpath side to call out to ask him if he'd mind moving forward. No worries he said, and did. We came in, with me on the inside and Mick and Julia breasted up beside us. Our bows were well over the end of the pontoon, but we were securely tied on - to the pontoon, the ring on the wall, each other ...

David and I had an afternoon nap while Mick, Julia, Steve and Zoe went out for a pint or so, then they came back to get us for going out to dinner. We went to Jamal Indian Restaurant across the bridge (Score 14-10) which was very lovely - we'd go again anytime. And best of all, Mick and Julia paid. And second best - it was a BYOA, which certainly keeps the cost down.

As it turned out, it was a very good thing that David (originally from Lancashire) and Georgina (from South Melbourne) on nb Yarra moved forward for us - later that evening they could not make their CRT key work on the gate lock and Mick and Julia rescued them by letting them in...

Final score 15-10 to Karol - he's the champion!

The next day we moved on to Birstal for Julia's birthday dinner on board Waka Huia. The main was asparagus in butter and lemon, with salmon marinated in sweet chilli sauce, soy and lemon juice; plus coriander, kumara, orange and walnut salad; potato salad. Dessert was orange syrup cakes with freshly picked blackberries and whipped cream.
Alison and Simon Holst Orange Syrup Cakes - look it up - yummy and simple. There are freshly picked blackberries (from by the river at Birstal), and it was all served with whipped cream.
 Tim dropped the boys off early on Monday morning. So early that they went straight to bed and slept till 9.30 ...

Olek, steering from Birstal, like a champion!

Concentrating and doing a really good job. He only got me to take over when we came to kayakers hiding in the bushes or crossing in front of us!

I think this was as we left Birstal, but cannot be sure. Karol likes his pole position. I am impressed that he just appears in the morning with his life jacket on - no argument, no discussion, just suited up ready to go. Lovely kid!

A short trip yesterday to Wanlip, next to the water park. David took the kids out to run and play and then for a lemonade at the pub (so they could play on the playground equipment). Burgers for dinner (cooked by Grammy but purchased from the Braunston Butchers) and off again early this morning to get water at the Hope and Anchor pub and then we moved on to Loughborough.
Karol and I walked over to Aldi this afternoon - he towed that trolley all the way back (about 500m at least) and it weighed about 30kg. Kept saying 'I can't give up now, not far to go...' while I carried two bags - not quite so heavy but awkward. Of course, the trolley did have chocolate in it ...

And we are staying here for a couple of days, with a trip on a steam train tomorrow from Loughborough Railway Museum ...

Saturday 11 August 2018

A fabulous couple of days with NZ friends

We first met Chris and Willie  about 35 years ago, shortly after we met Janneke and Nico on Martijn and Kimberley's first day at Paparangi School - it was a rainy day and Janneke was walking the kids to school past our place. I asked if she wanted a ride as I was just leaving home to take Tim and Kirsty to school. That was the start of a long friendship, but shortly after that we met Chris and Willie at J&N's place - Chris and Nico are brothers. C&W were still childless then, but great with kids.

So now, all this time later, C&W are on their retirement Europe trip and have come to stay on the boat with us.

They joined us on Sunday arvo, just after Richard, Emma and their three lovely kids left (lovely kids are Edward, Victoria and William). Richard and I worked together at the Home Office back in 2005, and now he is the Director of Patient Experience at the Royal Free Hospital. Richard was in the RAMC and knew what the APC was ... (but as you can see in the comments on the previous post, Tom doesn't agree with Richard's view.)

OK, back to C&W.

So we collected them from the Gumley Road just past the top of the Foxton Locks, and then sat out drinking and eating. Willie and I took a walk in the dusk to the top of the locks - a beautiful sight down across the fields. I'd like to put a photo of it here, but for some reason the photos show on my phone but not when I try to transfer them to the computer ...

The next morning it was down the locks with Chris and Willie doing the paddles and gates, me driving and David instructing. At the bottom we waited for Tim to show up for brekkie on his way from Manchester to Bristol. He arrived on cue, ate and then headed away, as did we after a sit and chat and general mucking about - just in opposite directions. By the time we left, we had time to get to Fleckney, walk in to the village and meet up with Julia and Mick at the pub. I have photos of the pub visit but for some reason they are not showing when I download photos from my phone, so I am sorry but I cannot show them to you!

We’d been to the Coop – one of the best we’ve seen,  and were ready for a cooling drink as it was very very very hot again. The Coop was delicious as it has air-conditioning …

Back to the boat and then blobbing in the shade. Chris was on drinks and for some reason left his beer bottle and glass on the cabin top at the stern. Then he knocked them off into the cut. Beer bottle smashed on the side of the boat and then fell in. However the glass went directly into the water without touching the side of the boat and then bobbed about, about half full of delicious canal water… I gave him the boat hook and he gently nudged the glass closer. I raced to get the sieve so he could swoop in and haul it out – SUCCESS!! I wish I’d got it on video, but I was too busy fetching rescue implements … And given the glass was a freebie (one of two Thatchers glasses found at a railway station on the Straftord and Avon Canal last year) it was especially rewarding to rescue it!

Drinks and nibbles were followed by a yummy dinner of salmon marinated in sweet chilli sauce, soy, lemon juice and coriander, accompanied by coleslaw and carrot salad (grated carrots, mint, coriander, lemon juice, fish sauce, chilli flakes – it’s meant to have salted peanuts but we didn’t have any, sorry, Jack!) Lots of chat and watching facebook/youtube video of anti-Trump stuff, much to the delight of us all…

We left the table and chairs out and ate brekkie there too – fresh fruit salad, Greek yoghurt and home made muesli. 
Lovely wide towpath, good healthy brekkie.

Then on to the locks where Chris proved to be a star at getting in with only one gate open. Another boat turned up though so we shared – always like to do that with the doubles, especially this summer with such low water levels.
First off I did a couple of locks and then it was Chris's turn.

Looks pretty relaxed, doesn't he? Note the white hanky in his hat to protect his neck from the very hot sun.
Sharing with Stuart and Val whose home mooring is in Lancashire - they can't get back there with the low water levels so are leaving the boat in Northwich and getting friends to drive them back home.

Through the locks, turn and then we came back up and moored at Bridge 73 so we could go to The Toast Office in Fleckney - we had had it recommended to us by a couple of women who were out walking the evening before. It was great - had the best food and great coffee and wonderful service! Do go there if you happen to be passing by Fleckney – on the cut, in a car or on a bus!
Waiting for food at Toast.
A clock made with tea cups - I want one and I know I have plenty ...
Fabulous food and lovely garnish - crudites and hummus.
The lady who owns and runs The Toast Office on the left, her fabulous chef/cook on the right.
And David's lunch - a toasted sandwich rather than ciabatta with a good view of the crudites and hummus. Complete with the hairy legs ...
What it looks like from the outside, across the street.

We had to get C&W back to Foxton for the following morning and then wait for the lovely grandsons to arrive with their lovely mum. We were going to head all the way in to Foxton, but decided that another night out in the countryside was called for. Just before Debdale Wharf Marina, we found a nice mooring – wide towpath, shady spot, plenty of room for table and chairs and passing dog walkers and runners, as it happened. Its only downside was that there was a kennels in the distance – we could hear barking dogs. But if we talked and laughed loudly enough, we couldn’t hear them …

Lots of dog walkers, a runner who happened to be an NZer born in Kaponga (Taranaki), grew up in New Plymouth, now lives in Stratford upon Avon, married to a woman from Leicestershire - it is a pretty small world when it comes down to it, especially if you are happy to connect with people.

And we recommended the Toast Office to them and a couple of others we met. (We went back with Marta and the kids - the owners told us that both sets of people had been in - in fact the NZ man was there with his kids for the second time ...)

Approaching the Saddington Tunnel - Chris steered through like a good un, as Julia would say.

Back at Foxton, and the lovely visitors are heading off.