Wednesday 29 May 2019

And now the score is 6 - 0

Last night, we played cards to cheer David up. He was hoping to break the drought. He lost, again. So the cheering up plan didn't work but the gin helped. He did say that when the score got to 12 - 0 he'd have to do something. He was unspecific about what ...

Given yesterday's news about David's right eye Anterior Capsular Phimosis, we are now finding it hard to stop ourselves from planning what to do for every and any eventuality, depending on what we find out by the end of next week; but more importantly we are working hard on holding ourselves STATIONARY until we have more information.

The temptation is to move (when under stress any action seems better than no action - dumb, but true). But which way would we go?
  • In part we think we should move north, either to be closer to Debdale if we have to go home, or to be on our way to Birmingham. And Mick and Julia have offered to come and get us to Birmingham in a much quicker fashion than we would be able to do it. I'd probably lie down for much of it, and for the remainder I have been assigned catering duties, strangely enough 😏
  • On the other hand, if we move south, travel to Birmingham by car is no harder and only slightly longer, but we would be further away from Debdale if we have to go home.
    • And of course we have options for getting the boat back to Debdale if necessary - there's Tim, there's Mick and Julia ...
So the plan (at this moment anyway) is to stay put at Gayton Marina. Let's see how long that lasts, shall we?

An update on David's right eye

In the last few weeks since we arrived back in the UK from France, David has been complaining of reduced sight in his right (good) eye. He has complained about his sight having what looked like a net curtain across whatever he saw. It has affected him quite severely in that he is no longer confident crossing unknown roads on his own, and has determined he can no longer do supermarket shopping by himself, esp in supermarkets he is not familiar with, i.e. every supermarket we come across on the boat!

The onset of this prompted him to get in touch with the ophthalmologist in Birmingham that Keith Small (the Wellington ophthalmologist who has been his specialist for some time, as well as being the one who removed the cataract in the right eye and treated the left eye for the acute malignant glaucoma on the same day).

Today we saw Professor Peter Shah at the BMI Priory Hospital in Edgbaston, Birmingham.

The news was both bad and good.

The bad news is his diagnosis: since the cataract operation, David’s eye has developed a rare condition called Anterior Capsular Phimosis:
  • the capsule that the new lens sits in has developed fibrosis plus a lot of scar tissue, and
  • the opening, which is meant to be about 5mm in diameter, is closing over and is now down to 0.75mm. This explains why David is looking through a fog all the time.
  • If left untreated, his sight is at risk.

The good news is that Peter Shah:
  • is a world-renowned ophthalmologist and mostly treats people with only one functioning eye
  • has seen and treated this condition before
  • said there is a 99.5% chance that all will be well, after assessment and treatment, and
  • said that it is entirely possible he will see better than he ever has before.

The other good news is that, for the second time in a row, David has been in the right place with the right people when bad stuff has happened with his eyes - first one was when we were at the Southern Cross Hospital and Keith Small saw his left eye with the Acute Malignant Glaucoma and was able to start treatment right away; and today, here we were with a world-renowned expert when this ACP shows up.

So instead of today being a one off appointment, David is now in line for:
  • an appointment with Peter Shah early on Friday morning, and again on Saturday morning (arranged) in Birmingham
  • an appointment for a series of ultrasounds late on Friday morning (arranged) in Birmingham
  • an appointment for a retinal scan (TBA)
  • an appointment for a visual field test (TBA)
  • a follow-up appointment with Peter Shah for discussion of the test results and treatment options (TBA for late next week).

At this point, we are unsure whether we should return to NZ for the treatment or have it done here by Peter Shah. He was at pains to point out that treatment in NZ may be more advisable because:
  • one operation may not sort the problem and multiple surgeries may be required, and as they will have to be done privately here in the UK, they will cost - we don’t yet have any idea how much that is likely to be.
  • there is a chance that catastrophe could occur (i.e. the eye fails and David goes blind in that eye) - being in NZ would mean we are closer to support systems. However, as we have a floating home here and at least one of our children plus grandkids, here is as good as NZ in that respect.

We discussed it on the way back to the boat and there are pros and cons for either option:
  • Peter is one of the most experienced ophthalmic surgeons in the world and has a vast body of experience with a far larger number of patients than has been available to Keith in NZ
  • being home in NZ, if the treatment is longer term, would simplify the pension situation (of not being able to be out of the country more than 6 months - although we have no doubt that MSD would not enforce that rule in the case of medical requirements)
  • if it had to be done privately in NZ, the cost would be lower than in the UK
  • it probably wouldn’t have to be done privately because Keith would assess it as acute, so it would be done urgently in the public system for free.

I think that covers it - you are now as up to date with info as we are.

It has been an emotionally draining day, and the gin and chardonnay are coming out, now we are back on the boat overnight. We head back to Birmingham tomorrow (Thursday) to be close by for the Friday and Saturday appointments. Depending on if we decide on treatment here in the UK, we would move the boat up to Birmingham and live in a marina there to make treatment easier to access.

In the meantime, we have moved the boat into a marina at Gayton which is between Northampton and Milton Keynes, and we can come and go from here by rental car quite easily.


Monday 27 May 2019

Score is now 5-0

and David is learning what it is like to constantly lose at cards, and he doesn't like it ...

He is an excellent card player (it was his major at university**), and from the time we met, I have always lost when we have played cards, whether it's casino, gin rummy, euchre, 500, hearts, switch, crib. About the only game I can win against him consistently is snap, and that's because I can see the cards faster as they fall.

In the main, I think it's because he counts cards as they are played and can always work out what cards are left and who has them. However in 5 Crowns, there are two packs of 58 cards with 5 suits, no 2s or aces, several jokers. So the techniques don't (yet) work.

Therefore I am pressing home my advantage hard while I still can!

** This is why he qualifies as a founder member of the Zero Degrees Club.

This was the view from the dinette last night as the sun went down behind the trees on the edge of Gayton Marina.

We decided to stay put today - it is Bank Holiday Monday and we were unsure of how busy it would be where we wanted to moor up further down the cut. And it is a bit windy, and boating in the wind is not fun, especially when there are lots of moored boats.

The biggest issue for staying put is that our water tank is low; but we decided that we could cope. We have a 5 litre bottle and 4x1 litre bottles, plus some in the tank and some in a couple of saucepans. We are a 5 minute walk from the services at the junction, and if we run out and are desperate, we can go and refill the bottles.

All it takes is not showering and not doing laundry, only doing dishes once a day, and being frugal with what we do have - a bit like being in the motorhome actually. Our tank on the boat is about 400+ litres and in the motorhome it's 95. So we are well practised!

We didn't fill up before we left the marina in Northampton yesterday because we were aware that the lock pounds were most likely going to be low - yes, they were - and 400 extra kilograms of weight would have made the boat lower in the water. And we thought our tank was pretty near empty when we left, and we decided we would fill at Gayton Junction and then head to Blisworth. But by the time we got here yesterday, David was b*ggered, so we decided not to bother getting water or moving on.

So far we are doing fine and I don't think we smell ...

We headed out for a walk to Blisworth along the towpath at about noon today. We walked to the tunnel entrance and then up the path that leads across the top of the tunnel. We headed back along a road into Blisworth which is a lovely village. It looks even better from within the village than it does from the cut.

This was one of the first houses we came to and there were a number of other thatched cottages along the way.

I am not sure, but I think thi is a peony - beautiful. Love the colour!
We saw the Royal Oak pub which I remember our going in to for dinner one night when we were on our first ever hire boat with my Aunt Daphne back in 1990. My main memory is that she asked for a salad, as everything else had onions** and she asked for no cucumber, so they took off the cucumber that it was already made with - and being Daphne, she should could still taste it ...

** Daphne was not an easy person to cater for. At one point when she was in NZ on holiday, Derek and Derral invited us all to dinner, and Derek asked me what she didn't eat. She happily declared it was easier to tell him what she did eat. So she was served with a yummy roast beef dinner and several large G&Ts, so large that she needed to lean on the doorframe when entering the kitchen to plate up her meal ...

We are now back on board and David is fixing the bike that came adrift from its chain yesterday as we were coming up the locks. His first task was to untangle the locking cords I fitted late yesterday ...

It's a fasting day and now it is only 2.5 hours till dinner time - aaarrrggghhh!!! I am looking forward very much to salad with salmon steaks marinated in sweet chilli sauce, grated ginger, soy sauce, lemon juice and coriander.

Sunday 26 May 2019

Earplugs at the ready

I took this photo before we left our mooring just up from Gayton Junction. Most of what is covering the surface of the water is a mix of petals off the hawthorne and some fluffy seedheads. I say some, but it's enormous amounts of it! I would think some light birds could have walked across that surface!

The trip down the Northampton Arm on Friday was pretty good - I had expected it to be noisy as there are roads very close. So I had my earplugs and earbuds with me up on the stern, in case I felt assailed by noise - as I had coming down the Buckby Flight a few days earlier.

This time however, even though the road was close, it didn't seem to intrude very much.
David is about to head off to start the next lock.

Nice countryside around here. I think that is a heat haze in the distance. Most of the locks in the flight have a little timber-bordered garden plot.

We instigated the practice on this flight, that once in the lock, I would close the gate behind me and then go forward and open a paddle, then get back on the boat. That works fine. What DOES NOT work is my opening both paddles - the result was that the boat had sunk too far down for me to jump on to the stern, so I had to climb down the ladder. And then I had to edge along the gunnel until I reached the stern. This mess is what I collected on my bum as I brushed against the lock wall ... End of two paddle experiment!

That is a big road we went under - might have been the M1, I think, from looking at the map.

An intelligent bird, the crow.
Getting out of the lock on to the River Nene proved to be a bit problematic as there was a log which got jammed between the boat and the open gate. Boat hook called in to play and after a bit of reverse thrust on the engine and pushing on the log with the boat hook, we were off again.

On the river now, and this is Cotton End bridge I think.

We had a couple of nights in Northampton Marina, and had Dave and Jan over from Titchmarsh for dinner
  • BBC Good Food ginger chicken with veg, 
  • a dhal recipe made with the lentils David bought a while back in Daventry, thinking they were split peas, 
  • meatball madras with the left over contents of the pottle from the Braunston butcher and mince from there too
  • rice
  • naan bread also from David's Waitrose trip in Daventry
All was yummy, there was no dessert, and plenty of leftovers - in fact David has just finished having some of all the dishes for the third night in a row.

As we haven't been near a supermarket since David's Daventry trip over a week ago, the curries were all made with what was available on board, and a supermarket visit was called for on the Saturday. Because we were both tired after the trip down and an excellent catch-up with Dave and Jan, we slept in. So there was no time for Northampton sightseeing, but we did walk to B&Q and then back to Morrison's.  Quite a good supermarket, but they appeared to have almost run out of most salad veg, and I found the very last cucumber in the shop! And I noticed no staff were re-stocking the fruit and veg section.

We managed to fill 2 granny trolleys to the max, and David's backpack, and he still had to carry the 12 pack of toilet rolls under one arm ... The man has style, I tell you!

An early night, prior to which I refused to play 5 Crowns - David asked if I would when I said I was tired ... At that point, the game score was 2 games to me, 0 to David.

Today we came back up the Arm - it felt like it was slow going, up the locks as the water levels in the pounds were quite low, but we came out of the 17th lock 3.5 hours after we started off from the marina. 
I didn't notice these figures on the way down. I was onboard so am not sure if they are made of wicker or wire. Very cool though.

David was pretty tired after cycling/walking at least twice the distance of the lock flight, as he had gone ahead and set the next lock and then had to return to close up. I was opening the top gates and letting paddles down, but as the pounds were low, moving to the side to go back and close the gates would have risked getting grounded.

We had been going to go to Gayton Junction for water, but decided to call a halt just outside Gayton Marina.

We had been reluctant to moor here because the road is just through a long copse of trees. However I gather we are either below the road or it's below us, and down in the boat, the traffic is a hiss rather than a roar. And we cannot hear the trains from here.

We have had two games of 5 Crowns this afternoon, while David drank 3 G&Ts. Score now is 4 games to me, 0 to David. Just so you know I am fair, I did drink a couple of chardonnays to ensure the mind-altering effects were shared!

Bedtime - it's 9.10pm, and I am late!!!

Saturday 25 May 2019

A go nowhere day

We had a no moving day on Thursday moored just through the bridge before Gayton Junction - reasonably quiet considering - and did a few chores:
  • changing an inner tube on the bike
    • David had had to get advice from Tim on how to detach the rear wheel without having a plethora of chains, gears, brakes scattered about the boat (you could put money on it that if we had managed a plethora of bits, we would have some left over when we put it back together)
    • getting the wheel out of its axle mount was simple, removing the tube, once we'd employed a dessertspoon to lift the tyre away from the wheel, was pretty easy. Inserting the new slimed tube wasn't too hard, getting the tyre back over the rim was easy peasy. BUT
    • getting the bloody brake cable reconnected with its oh so simple catch proved to be impossible, and caused sore fingers (one person), much swearing about how hard could it be given Tim just flicked it off earlier, frayed tempers (2 people). None of it was helped by one person not being able to see the mechanism he was aiming for through the tangle of frame, spokes, unicorns and multiple fingers ...
    • in the end, I had to loosen the cable and of course, the little crimp on the end came off and the cable slipped its mooring. I reconnected it and then thought it didn't look robust enough, so looked at the front wheel brake assembly. Aaahh, the cable goes through a wee hole! Situation rectified, and then the tightening process began to make sure the brake pads hit the wheel but weren't obstructing it.
    • QUESTION: HTF does Mick manage to fix a puncture in about 7 minutes?
    • I was going to suggest to David that he went out for a test ride on the towpath, but when I went and sat on the bridge sides I noticed (with my toes first of all) that there were lots of hawthorn clippings on the path ...

  • filling the stern gland with grease
    • David took this on with the aid of a teaspoon from the cutlery drawer and a dessertspoon that I have previously commandeered for paint stirring
    • we did ask the advice of a boater walking his dog that David had chatted to at length the previous afternoon while consuming G&T in the sunshine
    • job done after a time chatting with the advisor and a fair amount of parallel processing brought on by reminders from the person in the galley preparing dinner,
  • information gathering from Carol on Still Rocking about mooring places on the Thames 
    • The lovely woman spent a good couple of hours on the phone with me giving me chapter and verse about mooring spots, durations allowed, cost, wild moorings and lovely pubs. 
    • I was only able to offer her the information that there was a lovely Thai restaurant just across the Maidenhead Bridge where David, Barry and I went one night. 
  • going for a walk to the Rothersthorpe Flight and deciding to have that adventure, so phoning Jan and Dave Carrington and inviting them to dinner once we are in Northampton 
  • fasting
    • that was reasonably easy - when we are busy, time moves quite fast, so to speak, and the things that helped were
    • Tim being with us and sorting out some wiring issues that had him looking askance at the safety implications and not leaving till about 11am
    • sorting out the bike (it was a mixed blessing obviously that it took so long ...)
    • my being on the phone for a couple of hours with Carol 
    • going for a walk
    • David filling the stern gland
  • making a fasting dinner
    • supplies of salad veges were getting low on board, so I did wonder what to make to go with chicken, 
    • aha! a stir fry with non salad veg, so
      • chicken sliced and back into its bag with some soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and garlic, 
      • carrots and onion sliced, broccoli, orange capsicum, celery and cabbage. grated ginger, salt
Dinner was followed by dishes washing and then bed.

We had mooted leaving early the next day, but I didn't wake till after 7am - doing not much had obviously been tiring!

Thursday 23 May 2019

David got hungry -

so we went for a walk before dinner on our fasting night. He found a path on the OS maps over to the village of Flore (silent e) and off we went.

As we started across the field I saw that the poo had come from the bovine species, and then I spied them - they were teenaged boy bovines. They are not my favourite to walk among as they are curious and frisky and bigger than me; so we re-traced our steps back to the towpath and walked a bit further until we came to Flore Lane. Off to the village that way we went.

This was on a house called Three Corners, which had a curved wall around the bend in the road. I think the bolt is to hold the wall to another wall or wooden beam inside.
This one's thatch was looking a bit worse for wear. However at least one thatcher has been busy in Flore recently given all the new thatch about.

As we passed what looked to be about 3 or 4 houses on the main road through the village, we looked through the gate and I called out to the woman that her garden looked beautiful. She invited us in to have a look. It turns out they have lived there for 43 years and the garden is her passion. And what was 4 houses is now one enormous place!

This shows less than half of the house frontage on to the garden
The two spaniels, Ben and Leo, found me to be a willing ball thrower. This shows about half of the garden. Way over in the distance is a very faint line of trees that border the canal.

In the left hand corner is the vegetable garden.
An old-fashioned climbing rose by one of the many doors into the house from the back. There were about 4 front doors on the street-front ...

And Ben returns from the righthand side of the garden. Just lovely!!
And this house was on our way out of the village - and it had another whole wing to the rear at the right ...

Tuesday 21 May 2019

We know our limits!

And yesterday we had a stark reminder of them.

While we waited for Tim to arrive on Sunday evening, we played our second bout of this game which we learned from Joy and Grahame back in Waikanae.
Can you see the scorecards clearly? I have won both games - am not sure, given I already have best of three, whether I should ever play again ...
David's birthday presents from Tim, Dana and the boys went up on the bulkheads in the dinette on Saturday, courtesy of Mick who modified a few of the stick on hooks we had.
Photos from their recent holiday in Snowdonia
Tim was on his way down to Devizes for work - we were a stopover - not sure how far off the direct route but it did save him from having to be up and on his way by 4.30am. It was lovely to see him and he managed to consume Vogel toast and peanut butter on arrival, have a good sleep and then consume poached eggs on Vogel toast before he left at about 7am.

So we were up bright and early yesterday, and after seeing Tim away, we decided to head away ourselves. Considering our first requirement was to turn around and head back through Braunston from our mooring next to Dale, we thought it best to do so early before the three-way intersection hotted up for the day!

So I steered over to the towpath side and dropped David so he could be my look-out from the Rugby direction, then I steered through the first bridge. Then stopped and reversed back through the second bridge, so I was facing the right way. A boat called Imagine was moored with its stern right by the sign that said No Mooring, i.e. right next to the bridge approach. If only the owners could use their boat name's instruction, and imagine how awkward their inconsiderate mooring makes things for others ...

Anyway, we made the turn successfully, and no boats or humans or ducks or ducklings were harmed. As we came back past Dale's workshop, we saw his steel delivery was just taking place, and we tooted as discreetly as you can with a Mack truck horn, and gave him a wave of thanks and goodbye.

He is a sterling chap, a great metal basher  (as he describes himself) and someone worth finding when you need metal work done on your boat - for big jobs or small jobs he is a star. He is thoughtful, kind, and a good worker. And if you need jobs done that require the boat to be accessible, he seems happy to have you tie up alongside him for the duration.

His details, in case you need him are:

Dale Willoughby
Direct Marine Components

He is next door but one to Midland Chandlers, and next door to the Boat pub.

It's probably best to text him, as if he's bashing metal he won't hear the phone.

So off we went hoping that we would pick up a locking up buddy on the way through Braunston, but it was surprisingly empty for a Monday morning, and the only person on the move was turning at the marina entrance.

Just after we left the bottom Braunston lock
Looking back - that pesky right hand gate won't stay closed!

So David was on his own doing four sets of paddles and two gates each time until we got to the last lock. So that I don't career all over the lock coming up, I now give David a rope as I come in and have it looped over the nearest bollard. I wish I didn't need to - as I feel so dim not being able to stay in one place, but it makes the ascent (I prefer ascension given I am such an angel ...) so much easier.

Then it was back through the tunnel and a discussion when we stopped for a cuppa about whether we should stay again near Norton Junction, or whether we should carry on down the Buckby flight.

I think we saw this family as we approached Norton Junction. There was no food forthcoming from Waka Huia, I'm afraid.

We determined we would keep going, even though we had been moving for about 3 hours. In part that was because we thought we'd like to be on fresh territory, given we've done the Braunston - Debdale a few times over the last couple of years, and it felt like we hadn't really started on our cruise. Not true, we know, but that was the thinking ...

So on we went. At the first lock on the Buckby flight there were 3 volunteer lockies, one of whom told me of his favourite place of his trip to NZ. The Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo. (I blogged about it when we were in the South Island, I think.)

His reasoning for it being his favourite place was that when you go in the church (it's very tiny) the window behind the altar is clear and 'you can see god's creation - Lake Tekapo'. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! I said 'Glacial activity actually.'

Don't get me wrong, the lake is beautiful, but give me strength!

That sort of set me on edge, and much as I may (or may not) respect his faith, I do wish he wouldn't assume that it is shared. Although, to be fair, I am not backward about declaring my atheism in such situations - didn't get the chance as I was heading out the lock by the time he delivered that statement.

 There were no more volunteer lockies (although one had gone down the flight a bit further but was coming back for his lunch); and there were several boats we crossed over with, which was pleasant, although most of them were coming around bends as we were already out - I called to David and he re-opened the gates he'd just closed. He is such a kind hero.

However, for that whole flight, the canal is bounded by the M1, the A5 (dual carriageway) and the railway - it is NOISY. So  NOISY that it severely impacts my sense of well-being and equilibrium. To the extent that I get really grumpy*. Not what you'd expect of me, I know.

We hauled to a stop after Whilton Marina where there was a mis-communication (2 people) and grumpiness (1 person*), so David could go back to the chandlery and purchase a second middle rope. Good sense prevailed while he was away and I heated some soup and buttered some bread and restored my obviously severely depleted blood sugar. On his return, David very sensibly did not speak, just came and one-armed hugged me as I sat at the dinette. He's not stupid. 😏😙

He served himself some soup and buttered his own bread (see? not stupid) and we set off again, looking for somewhere to moor that was away from the BLOODY NOISE.

We found a sunny, pretty quiet spot just past Bridge 22, where we were opposite a little wharf with three permanent moorers. And that was us for the day. 
View from the stern. Very peaceful, after the cacophony of the previous 3 miles (5kms).

View forward. Away from the bend, away from the bridge, not visible in this photo, but sunny.
We realised we had exceeded our boating limit, and agreed no more days of longer than 4 hours - I think we would be fine if the NOISE didn't assail us (mainly me, it drives me nuts).

While David was napping (see below), I had a very healthy dinner ...
David put up the washing line and hung out Tim's now clean sheet, and then slept for a couple of hours.

I read and blobbed and What's Apped with Lesley who was experiencing the joys of A&E where there were more people than chairs and the staff were severely over-worked. The waits were apparently so long that people had started talking to each other (in England, for heaven sake). She was too scared to leave her seat to forage for food, in case her seat was snapped up! I did suggest that she order a pizza delivery for the assembled multitudes but she reckoned a tenner wouldn't go far. A call for contributions, I thought ... But she was saved that kind of NZ-type display, by a good friend who brought in some dinner for her.

It was a good thing I had Lesley's trials to distract me as I was going through the locks - I was losing the will to live on the journey. What she was going through put my grumping to shame.

So a good night's sleep, a lie in and a late start today. And we only came as far as Weedon. We had a couple of goes at mooring up but abandoned them - one was a CRT mooring on the offside and looked nice but it had
  • sloped concrete, 
  •  concrete bollards that the rope doesn't slide on, and 
  • the wrong feeling being on the offside.
The other attempt was near Stowe Hill Bridge - right next to a sewage pond which I only saw and smelled when I was adjusting the fender my end. So that was a no, and on we came.

We are now moored between Stowe Hill Bridge and Flore Lane Bridge across from a lovely big house and in the sunshine.

Now, isn't that a nice view from the galley?

Washing is hung out, I've made the marinade for the thai beef salad (but no fish sauce on board, but no worries) and the beef is sliced and soaking. David has spent a couple of hours re-installing Memory Map on my phone (I ditched it when I needed more space last year, along with Bus Checker and a couple of other apps).

So now it's only a couple of hours to dinner, which on a fasting day is usually about 6pm. I am sure I can entertain myself without too much hassle until then. More What'sApping with Lesley and reading my kindle will meet that need. 

Saturday 18 May 2019

Working, boss, say three (sensible) men ...

We arrived in Braunston on Thursday.
There was shopping to do, so it was off across the little field to the shops.
This lovely tree is part of the way up the path
This is what it looks like in full. I DO love UK trees as so many of them are huge and magnificent.

On the High Street is this house which has made a feature of a former part of its structure. We must have walked past this several times before and never noticed it. It was a lesson in keeping our eyes open for the amazing things around us.

It's now Saturday night and we are in Braunston moored up next to Dale's boat outside his Direct Marine Components workshop. Dale was busy from Thursday morning to early Saturday making and fitting the new aluminium covers for the engine and the weedhatch. We got the idea from Jaq Biggs who had the same fitted on nb Val after Les died and she struggled with the heavy covers.

Our engine's original cover was not too heavy as it was made of wood, but it was looking decidedly tatty. However the weedhatch cover was very heavy and very hard to lift up (for me) as it used to have a canvas cloth ribbon liftie thing, but as that was too easy to leave below the cover, I used the only thing I could find at the time which was a key ring. And boy, did that hurt the finger when the weight of the cover was below it! As I am getting a bit of arthritis in my fingers, I hated having to lift it.

So last year, back in late July when Dale and his trusty sidekick Dave scraped and ground the black stuff off the roof, we mooted the idea of getting a better covering over the weedhatch and engine.
One down, one to go. You can see by Dale's pose that he is happy with what the first one looks like!

And this morning, the second one is done and fitted - matching deck lifts, easier to lift and move around.

So here we are with the lovely Dale, we are moored up beside his boat, so no requirement to move on in 48 hours.  We have power and water and peace. He has constructed and fitted both of the covers and they do look spiffing. I love the liftie circles - known in professional realms, I gather, as deck lifts. And what is more, to make sure that the aged owners of Waka Huia don't encounter a trip hazard, he has ground down the raised bits and counter sunk the deck lifts. Now, how good is that?!

Yesterday, our other lovely marine Mr Fixit, the fabulous Ed Shiers, came to sort out the large solar panel. For some reason it hadn't worked since it had been reinstalled on our arrival back in the UK. I am unsure who was responsible for it failing. Was it David who put it all back together and had a fuse left over, or was it Ed when he pulled apart a switch that collapsed at that juncture. My hunch is is that the responsibility could be assigned sequentially thus:
  • A: if David hadn't had a fuse left over, the system may have worked as designed
  • if not A, then Ed wouldn't have pulled apart the switch (B), 
  • so the question is was the cause A or B, or a combination of both?
Either way, there were blueberry and pear muffins to be consumed, and A and B had sweet FA to do with their production ...

Earlier in the day though, I had made cheese scones for morning tea with Dale - however I omitted the baking powder! Idiot!!! They tasted fine but were extremely heavy - the forklift and crane were required to get them to mouth level. We all struggled valiantly and did manage to consume them, but this morning I was suffering from over indulgence in gluten! Note to self: do not have gluten at three meals during the day!

One of the benefits of being in Braunston is being able to shop at the local butcher shop. So today was my second venture there. More fillet steaks, a pork fillet, chicken thighs (all in to the freezer), lamb steaks for today's lamb madras, and the madras sauce ... 

On my way back from the shops this morning, I was deep in a What'sApp conversation with our lovely grandson Olek. I sent him this photo, saying 'She says hello' His response was GET. IN. MA. BELLY. He can be excused as he lives in Scotland - however it did remind me of when he lived in Opunake (Taranaki, NZ) and had a pet lamb for lamb and calf day at school. He wasn't that interested in the lamb, so his mum fed it mostly. I asked him what would happen to the lamb after pet day. Aged 5, he said "Christmas Dinner." It did make me laugh, so this response today was not a surprise ...
I also sent Olek this photo telling him the sheep around here are in severe need of dagging. He had to ask what that was, so I explained about shearing the bum area so poos don't hang about for flies to lay eggs in and the resulting maggots to eat into the flesh of the sheep. Nasty boy said it sounded tasty - however, he is a teenager, so that lapse of tastefulness is probably understandable ...
We had Mick and Julia coming for lunch because Mick had a few bits of work to complete for us. 

So I made ginger chicken and vegetables (the BBC Good Food Saturday night curry to which I add lots of veg - and made from scratch), lamb madras using a pottle from the butcher (got good reviews from the onboard curry assessment team).

No photos of the curries, but here are the Alison Holst Ginger Cakes with the addition of crystallised ginger chunks. Honest opinion: the mix needs at least 3 tsp of ground ginger, not just two. And the crystallised ginger added in is lovely. It tasted pretty good with strawberries and yoghurt for dessert.
After dinner, Julia and I sat in the cratch and cleaned the front glass as well as the door glass. Just so you'd know we had done it, we took this photo towards the iconic Braunston bridges ...
We will stay here again tomorrow and then move off on Monday - we have decided we will turn around and go down the GU towards London. If we time it right, we will be within coo-ee of the city when the dumpster president from the US arrives and we can join in the protest marches to let him know what a plonker we think he is.

In the meantime, the sun has come out, the water is still, we have not had to compete for a mooring, and it has been a pretty good day.

Friday 17 May 2019

Making our way to Braunston

There was not a huge amount of slothing about on our way from the top of the Foxton Locks to Braunston. We did discover though, that by doing four hours or so a day, starting early in the day (7 or 7.30) leaves a whole afternoon for other pursuits - actually, things that are more like non-pursuits when it comes down to it ...

Although I did give David a haircut one day, and hung out washing on about 3 days (1 of which was at the top of the Foxton Locks, and already posted about). But apart from that it was reading that took up my time, as well as making lunches and dinners.

The trip from the top of Foxton to Crick is a bit boring as it is a very long pound and it wanders hither and yon following the contours rather than indulging in any locks. However, it is very beautiful countryside, and looks just wonderful in the sunshine.

On the first morning out of Foxton we only moved a couple of miles up the cut until we heard from our son Tim who was joining us for breakfast on his way down from Manchester to Devizes for work.

Before breakfast though, Tim had to retrieve the gas bottle spanner that David had dropped in the locker - the gas ran out as I was pre-cooking breakfast bits.

A 43 year old can contort himself upside down into a locker far more ably than a 70 year old can. And the 68 year old didn't even bother volunteering!
Breakfast was served in the cratch at our new table, with us sitting on our new side lockers (thanks, Mick 👌👍😙). We did determine that we need the little stool for a third person because sharing the seat with a certain person who spreads his wings when eating is not conducive to comfortable meals. That meant the same certain person has had to retrieve the stool from within the gas locker where it was put when deemed to be on the critical tasks list for long-term stowage just a few days ago.

We stopped for diesel, a new gas bottle (requiring emptying of the gas locker that had been stacked with other things prior to leaving Debdale ...)  and water. We always find the people at North Kilworth Wharf are very helpful and friendly, even though it is not a fancy shmancy place. John, the owner, was very excited to see that the mother duck still had four ducklings and that the nearby mink had not got them. He keeps a large jar of cornflakes on the wharf so he can feed them as soon as he sees them - that did make me smile!

We decided to find a place to moor in the sunshine just past the Welford Junction near Bridge 41 - so lovely and peaceful!

The next morning, wearing three layers, plus silk scarf, gloves (ineffective really)  and hat (me) and three layers with no hat and no scarf and no gloves (David), we set off in brilliant sunshine - at 7am-ish it was still parky! I don't think I got all the way down to the T-shirt that day even though it did warm up considerably.
I think it's a may tree. There are a few dusky pink ones around too.

Lovely mooring spots abound on this section.
We had thought we would aim for Crick which was 10 miles away (probably only about 6 as the crow flies) but found a lovely spot before Yelvertoft - sunny, bucolic, peaceful. It seemed to warm up in the afternoon, and I spent a few hours, after David's haircut and hanging out washing (I am sure we are not THAT grubby!), sitting in the sun reading and listening to podcasts while David was inside trying to work out the technology of a secure system for making an appointment with an ophthalmologist near Birmingham. That necessitated changing all settings on the laptop so the colours were reversed out, the text bigger, the brightness lifted or lowered, and several other critical changes, before the identification of which I lost the will to live and closed my ears ... And the emails that took weeks (I swear - well, that's what it felt like while I was waiting ...) to construct.

The next morning we started off quite early again in lovely sunshine but it was still chilly - raincoat was at hand this time as we were going to be going through Crick Tunnel which is notorious for being wet and drippy. David had made me a cup of tea, but I hadn't finished it before we got into the tunnel and I wasn't game to drink it in there, in case roof seepages had made their unerring way into the mug. I added the remaining tea to the canal water level ...

Even though we were at Watford Top Lock by about 9.30 (after a stop to fill with water at the fastest tap on the network in my view - Skew Bridge. The tap was fast, but we were slow esp as the tap was so fast that the tank overflowed and David had to dry out the lockers and the cratch...) we didn't start down the flight until 10.30. There was a boat in front of us waiting, and four boats coming up. By the time we were first in the queue there were 6 boats behind us. While we waited I started the previous blog post, made cups of tea, said hello to a variety of dogs and people that came past. David on the other hand, emptied the elsan, chatted with the lock-keepers, and kept coming back to give me updates on progress.

The locks of which there are 7, are an amazing engineering feat - four of them are in a staircase, so you go from one straight into another, using the same water all the way down the staircase. The flight is very close to Watford Gap Services on the M1. If you want to see how the other half travel, then park there, climb the fence by the railbridge (watching out for barbed wire in the nether regions) and walk along the the towpath to the top of the locks - or you can, more safely, get off at Watford Gap junction and head south on the A5 for a wee way, and find a side road.

One of the side pounds near the bottom of the flight - by one of the non-staircase locks.

David winding the paddles, and behind him you can see a van on the A5. The M1 is not far away at the top of the locks on the other side of the boat.

We had wanted to moor at Norton Junction, before the turn back on to the mainline of the Grand Union. However there was no suitably-sized space, so we turned on to the mainline where there have been repairs to the towpath and lovely new armco and sunny places to moor. Out with the washing line again, a late lunch and then the decision that we would walk to the top of the hill under which Braunston Tunnel resides. I have driven through the tunnel lots, but never seen it from above.

What a lovely walk - such a beautiful space up above! And Daventry is not far away at all, but you wouldn't know it from the canal.

We took this from our mooring spot - just after that bridge is Norton Junction and the Leicester line is in front of the line of trees.

Up on the top of the tunnel - a farm.

One of the tunnel's airshafts. Much bigger than I thought.
And from the top of the hill, there in the distance, is the spire of Braunston church - never seen it from there before!

On the way back though, we both got caught short, so I do hope the path stayed clear of people for a few minutes for drainage purposes after we moved on - David could safely descend deeper into the undergrowth, but although I moved off the path,  I wasn't exposing my bum to nettles ...

These flowers were all growing on the towpath.
I did have to massage my feet with the hard tennis ball when we got back - I'd done almost 13,000 steps and my feet felt them all ... David had done over 19,000 steps that day, but he'd done lots of walking up and down and across the locks whereas I was pretty stationary on the stern (and I don't have my phone in my jeans pocket when I am steering - too easy to knock it out and into the cut ...)

A lovely sunny evening - wine almost finished.

My view from the cratch, back down the cut.
 I rewarded myself for the long long long walk with a glass of wine and we ate dinner in the cratch - lovely stuff, and our thanks to Mick and John who have made it possible.