Wednesday 28 August 2019

Braunston sojourn for socialites

On texting and then consulting the Memory Map some time after we left Blisworth, I discovered that the lovely Dale was moored up near Bugbrooke, so decided to stop and see him. Of course, I didn't inform Neill and Neil that I wanted to make scones until we were about one bridge away. So I thought it would be a scone-less gathering. Wrong! Dale had told his friend Jenny that I make the best cheese scones and that they would be a treat.

So after we had been given this guilt-inducing news, Little Neill and I set to and made some pronto. I did try to inveigle Liz and Barry to stop and join us but they decided to plough on - and guess what: no scones were left on our boat when we said goodbye to Dale. There were two left on Dale's boat though ...

It was great to see Dale again - since he had to close down his business, David and I had been worrying about him. However, he was looking 10 years younger, having sloughed off all the worry. He told me he had had 6 job offers as soon as people knew he was finishing up - such is the skill and work ethic of the man. He is now working at the marine engineers at Gayton - right next door to the CRT services block. So if you need anything done, then you will find him there with Steve.

So then, replete with scones, we made our way to the Buckby flight. Big Neil was on steering as we approached, and somewhere along the way, we passed Lizzie and Barry. I think they had stopped for lunch - we didn't need lunch as we'd had scones ...

A shout out for Big Neil - his steering is impeccable - great skills in coming alongside the towpath in parallel to it, as well as negotiating tricky situations with other boats in bridgeholes and passing moored boats with almost no space. Not to take anything away from him, but I do think that being 6'4" helps ...
You can see by the trees how tall Big Neill is!

David got the bike out for the Buckby flight, and Lizzie and I breasted up all the way. We tied up together before we got to the first lock, I think. Then some guy watching said something insulting about women drivers - do men not read the stats about motor vehicle accidents, fatalities, insurance claims?

David and Barry, along with N&N were super efficient and we scooted up quick as a snail's wink. At the top, we untied and Lizzie went on (while we stopped for water and I had a shower - leaving Little Neill to get us out of the lock and on to the water point ...). Lizzie's task was to find suitable mooring for both boats. But as we were late, very late by our practice and still boating at about 6pm, IIRC, all the moorings near Bridge 9 were taken, and she (and then David) walked on to check other suitable places.

Lizzie took their boat hook (long) and had a long walk, while David had a shorter walk with our short boat hook. From after Bridge 9 the concrete filled sacks and the sloping rocks below them meant it was too shallow to moor, and because Barry's phone was down at the bow of their boat, and Lizzie wasn't getting any response from him, the phone communication was between her and me. In the end, I told her that Memory Map shows there is good mooring down at Bridge 6, before the tunnel. And YAY, two lovely spaces for us. David was getting stressed as he walked, following in Lizzie's footsteps, so once she and I had decided on pre-Bridge 6 as the mooring spot to be aimed for, I yelled to him "Get on the boat, David!!" He did, but reluctantly, and then he stayed down in the boat till he had recovered his equilibrium ...

G&Ts were required after such a busy and long day, and they were much more than doubles - probably at least triples ... I somehow think that I was the discrepant event and drank chardonnay.
Little Neill, Big Neill, me drinking chardonnay, Barry and David. Enzo, the wuss, being cuddled, Kai on a lead that meant she couldn't get too close to the food ...

I think Lizzie and David must have been playing musical chairs while the rest of us stayed put.

And now Kai's turn for a cuddle
When we were all fairly sozzled, I suggested to Lizzie that she and Barry bring their intended dinner over to ours and add it to the food on offer here - so over they came with their vege curry, and I added the leftover nasi goreng to our dinner: braised pork strips in a bbq sauce mix (home made of course), mashed potatoes, carrots, peas, and probably the broccoli that I cannot find in the fridge now ...

Lizzie complained of a hangover the next day ...

In the morning, Neil steered expertly through the tunnel - and it's one of the few times I have sat inside. So cool! I need more visitors who will do the tunnels for me! Little Neill and I looked after the dogs - Kai was chilled and Enzo 'needed' a cuddle ...

Down through the first four locks we went, Lizzie and I breasted up again. Because we had Wendi coming for dinner, and wanted a nice place to be, we all moored below the Admiral Nelson. Of course, Big Neil had been complaining that I never stopped near a pub, so we trundled off to the Admiral Nelson for chips and a pint for lunch - paid for by N&N - what lovely chaps! Chips weren't bad either!

Throughout that day, Neill and I had made crabapple and elderberry jelly - first thing in the morning, I chopped the apples and put them and the elderberries on to boil; we found a thin teatowel that could be volunteered into service as the muslin bag once all the fruit was suitably mushy. Then it was tied up and hung from the plate rack over the bowl to strain. I had to borrow a cup of sugar from Barry and Lizzie as we didn't have enough, so that qualified them for one of the three jars that resulted after Neill boiled the sugar and juice together with a few sprigs of mint. The pectin in the apples meant it set very easily.
Now isn't that beautifully clear and colourful? And it tastes great too.
I think I need to find more of both fruits and make some more - there are plenty of jars in the cupboard as I find myself unable to throw them out!

Sunday 25 August 2019

Still on the catch up!

We left the mooring below Grove Lock in the morning, but not too early, and it wasn't raining at that point. We all headed for Leighton Buzzard for a brief stop - shopping for Barry and Liz, and finding a haircut (me). And then it was onwards, onwards and onwards!
Our next mooring was at Campbell Park. We got on the visitor moorings this time, which were empty, and just as we moored up, the rain came hurtling down again.

We had steamed through Linslade, Slapton and Soulbury (long water stop) as well as Stoke Hammond and Fenny Stratford - it was a fair distance for the day.

The next day we all set off together, but David and I stopped at Wolverton to go to the large Tescos there - I had decided no to Tescos in LB because of my focus on a haircut, and David took on the task of removing the diesel cap which had become stuck, stuck, stuck in place (we'd been using the secret inlet down on the tank since discovering at North Kilworth that we could not open the cap in spite of brute strength turning and yanking by their engineer. However Barry had suggested putting some oil down the keyhole to see if that helped. I am not sure if David did exactly that, but whatever he did, it worked).

It is much further from Campbell Park to Wolverton than I remembered! Milton Keynes covers a very large area and its canal is bounded on one side for much of its length by public parklands.

Note to self: next time we decide to stop at Wolverton, moor up before the pedestrian bridge - NOT after! The wind whistles along that straight and pushes the boat away from the towpath, so it is very hard to pull in tidily and in a timely way. This time it was NOT helped by a family of swans who decided that we may have food for them if they got between the boat and the path ... The mother got out of the way with two or three of the cygnets, but three others decided to try their luck by staying put. A close run thing - I have never cooked swan, but there were very nearly three corpses - may have been escalopes of swan, given how close they came to being squashed ...

I trundled off on my own to the supermarket complete with granny trolley and long list. The first item in the trolley was a new can opener. David and I could NOT work the one that Olek and I bought at the same store a few weeks beforehand. David had asked Barry and Liz, and Barry had shown us how the handle split (doh!), but we were no forrader in getting it to click on to the lid of the can... So I selected a simple, foolproof one, i.e. one similar to every other can opener we have had in our combined 138 years - no changes for us...

David had texted Olek asking him to find a suitable youtube video for the instruction of technically challenged grandparents - he obliged and David phoned me as I was decanting all of the stuff I'd paid for into the granny trolley. David requested I not purchase the simple one. Too late! So now we have two. The tricky one takes off the whole top of the can below the lid's lip. Who knew? Well, I had thought that is what it ought to do, but could not sort out how to attach it to said can top. I did see the offending can opener when I was in Tescos and photographed the instructions - but still I went ahead with the simple one's purchase - I did not trust our ability to interpret and action the instructions. Oh me of little faith! When I got back David had opened a couple of cans - just in a boffining sort of way, you understand! It's a good thing that Kai has two cans of food a day, innit then?

Liz and Barry had cruised past us while I was shopping, so they waited for us at Cosgrove, having been through the lock and then moored up. However once that was done, Lizzie ran back to their boat and set off in front of us - the cheek! She knows we are faster ... But bless her, she had Barry pull over to let us pass. And on we went at the speed of extremely slow light - snail's light I think it may be.

That was Friday, and we had all agreed to get to the bottom of the Stoke Bruerne locks as we had Colleen*** and Mark coming to stay overnight - the dastardly plan was to make them work us all up the locks in the morning.

(*** If you are a regular reader you may remember that we met Colleen and Mark at the top of the Foxton Flight way back when we first started out this year - on our first day, in fact. Colleen and David both used to work at Learning Media - a fact they discovered in conversation that day. We had invited them to come and stay on the boat, and what with the dramas of David's eye and their social engagements, this weekend was the first opportunity. We also invited their daughters but they had sleepovers with friends instead. Probably a good thing, as where would Kai have slept if one of the girls was on the saloon floor?)

Rain, rain, rain intermittently through that boating day; and by the time Colleen and Mark arrived with us, it was hosing down hard.

Fortunately Saturday was clear and sunny, so we could set them to work without feeling too mean - it wouldn't have stopped us working them hard, but there was less moaning than there may have been.

Mark was very lucky to be able to stay on board - he was nearly sent home on Friday night when he dissed Jacinda... 

With Liz and I breasted up with 3 ropes securing our boats together, we were super efficient, especially as, once Mark and Colleen got the hang of it all, David could go ahead and set the locks or assist the people coming down towards us. There were a couple of scary moments though - in particular was the event with two hire boats travelling together with nary a notion at all how to do locks, or how to keep their kids safe around locks and pounds. Aaarrrggghhh! I am afraid that my school teacher voice and pointy finger came out as I demanded that they stop jumping into and off the boat as it was moving towards the lock ... Just imagine how pissed off we would have been if we'd had to stop and scrape munched up children off the locksides or the prop 😓😡😑

Barry leaves Colleen and Mark to do the hard work while he looks after Kai - David was ahead getting the next lock sorted and its inhabitants briefed about veering to one side or the other as Lizzie and I were umbillically** joined, so to speak.
** I did try various spelling of this word, but all of them got the dotted red line, so I went with this one which was my first go, and that looked right in my mind ...
I think it would be safe to say that Colleen was very happy to be onboard.
At the top - an efficient ascent, as always with Lizzie and Barry

After lunch at the top. Kathryn is a gem. I am trying to persuade her to move back to NZ - I think she and Sarah would get on well at Olive Tree Estate, and she'd give Jack a run for his money ...

We were expecting a crew change-over at the top of the locks with 9 of us for lunch - mostly leftovers and salads and fresh bread. The diners were the four on our boat, Lizzie and Barry, Kathryn Dodington from Stoke Bruerne, and Neil and Neill - the latter two being our crew change. However, in spite of saying they would leave Bude at 7 or 7.30am, they actually left at 8.50am. Strangely I was not surprised ...

So after deciding that we would not wait for them for lunch, we also decided that we would head through the tunnel and meet them at Blisworth. Kathryn's advice was that parking their car would be a cinch in Blisworth and free, whereas in SB it would cost and parking was limited.

So it was goodbye to Colleen and Mark and off we went. The timing for meeting N&N was impeccable - as we were mooring up in Blisworth, they appeared on the towpath. Well done, all of us, I say!

N&N belatedly had lunch - left over leftovers, and later we had something for dinner, but I cannot remember what! I do remember that gu puddings featured though. Dessert is so important, I believe.

Aha! Just remembered what we had for dinner after looking at the photos below - I made nasi goreng and coleslaw - as we have no sambal olek or kecap manis or shrimp paste on board I do have to improvise by making a mix of the sambal olek ingredients (isn't google wonderfully helpful?) and adding brown sugar to some soy sauce for the kecap manis and substituting fish sauce for the shrimp paste. Still, with all the adjustments, it tastes fine.
Little Neill and me - he isn't little really, not compared to my height.
David and Big Neil - somehow it was always those two at the table and Little Neill and I in the kitchen. To be fair though, Little Neill did do a significant amount of the cooking over the three days. David did try being toast monitor and kettle monitor at brekkie but I find it too stressful smelling toast on the verge of burning and hearing the kettle whistle unattended - easier at such times to be the one jumping up and down. My bad...

And Enzo, N&N's dog, was perfectly content on meeting Kai - she of course was so chilled that he would have been nuts to upset her. Enzo tried out her bed, drank her water, shared her treats. So no worries there.

Sharing Kai's couch but still tentative

OK, he can stay

You can have my bed and I'll have Marilyn and David's pillows.

As Big Neil is so tall (6'4") he cannot stand straight in the boat (apart from at the open duck hatch) and would definitely not fit in the dinette double, so we give the two of them our bed. Obviously Enzo mimics the behaviour they model - see above photo 😆😙

That meant they had to be banished from the dining table long before they would usually go to bed - about 4 hours earlier for Little Neill - he is notorious for staying up pretty much until others are getting out of bed! I was asleep within minutes I think and I hope I didn't snore too much ...

Thursday 22 August 2019

Catching up is hard to do!

We managed to do very little apart from blobbing for several days in Berkhamsted – ably assisted by the weather which cooperated fully with making sure staying onboard was a cinch.

While we were blobbing, Salvi had his 65th birthday party back in NZ ...

I think the room they were in was meant to look like they were in Italy, and considering that a large number of Italians immigrated to Nelson my hunch is this is a clubroom of some sort. No doubt Ann will tell me.
David went for a couple of walks – usually with the aim of searching for somewhere else to moor. Not, mind you, because there was anything amiss with the mooring we had – 14 days, within 2 minutes’ walk of Waitrose, across the canal from the playground that was frequented even in inclement weather by lots of kids and parents, plus ducks, coots, moorhens, Canada geese … Our mooring’s only downside was the muddy towpath – the first time for ages that I have requested a shoes off policy onboard. That of course meant we ended up with stacks of pairs of shoes and boots up on the back deck …

I was staunch in my resolve to stay moored where we were – why would I want to move to somewhere less convenient?

I frequented Waitrose several times, and even on the last morning I thought about heading there for a final visit. However, don’t tell Julia, but the fridge and freezer were both filled to the brim, and there was also some stuff out on the bench. So I forebore to shop yet again…

We did venture over to explore the remains of Berkhamsted Castle which is quite amazing. While not much of its original structures remains, it was clearly historically significant. I am afraid I get bamboozled by the kings/queens/dukes/earls of English history – I know I could keep them straight in my head if I put my mind to it, but somehow, as soon as I see a roman numeral after a king’s name, or Smith, Duke of Peckham, who thenceforth is referred to by either moniker, my mind just goes blank. A bit like when David and Tim or Ed talk about amps, volts, batteries and ohms – I know I could understand it, but really I can’t be arsed.

Anyway, back to Berkhamsted Castle – the construction was clearly a huge undertaking, and it was obviously built as a fortified castle – two moats, battlements, a tower built on a hill within the moated area.
Interp ...

More interp ...

David on one of the approach mounds

Looking across the inner moat
A model of the castle as it once was - complete with a no touching notice ...

Now the ground within it is a beautifully mown grassy area, and when we were there in the sunshine, numerous kids and parents were there playing soccer, while other more somber people (inc us) were wandering around looking at the remains of walls and reading the noticeboards (interp, as it’s known in DOC).
A panoramic shot from inside the walls

The walls were made of flint and some kind of mortar.
Across the outer moat wall and a new road are the castle's neighbours. Imagine looking out your windows to the remains of the castle - pretty amazing that these are cheek by jowl.
I did say to David as we were walking around the outer moat wall that at least the castle's inhabitants hadn't had far to go to get to the station ...

We walked back via the railway station and found the Berkhamsted Fish and Chip shop. We tend not to eat English fish and chips as it invariably has the skin left on and I find that ick. So we got a cone of chips. Some of the best chips I’ve had in ages!

The enjoyment of them was rather marred by hearing the news that Jeffrey Epstein had died, apparently suicide – we came back to the boat and watched news on US live feed. Skepticism and disbelief that he could have suicided pervaded the coverage. And anger that he had escaped justice and his victims had not been able to face him.

One of the reasons for staying put in Berkhamsted was to be ready to receive the latest visitation of the boat dog – yep, she was escorted down to us from Bury by her human team on Sunday. She seemed happy to return – and why wouldn’t she be? Treats, cuddles, all day attendance – and when you have all day attendance, there are far more opportunities for receiving of treats. Well, it stands to reason, doesn’t it? If humans are with you 24/7 then their opportunities for using opposable thumbs to retrieve treats from tricky packs are significantly increased over those of humans who are out working all day to purchase said treats. So it behoves dogs to have non-working human grandparents. And Kai has discovered that she does.
While we were caring for the boat dog, Tim was checking out where his Aunty Ginny had a pee behind one of the columns back in 1964 ...
A stop off on the drive south from Rome, I think
The villa that Tim and Dana stayed in with friends down in the south of Italy.
Happy as a pig in muck when BBQing, that son of ours ...
And the boat dog was happy too:
Burrowed into the pillows

Sharing the space ...
Her first successful foray actually under the bedding. At David's instigation of course.

On the Monday, Liz and Barry appeared a couple of hours earlier than we had expected – they had an epic journey from central London and had thoroughly enjoyed catching up with friends and family in Paddington, St Pancras and at London Canal Museum.

We felt so slobby and blobby in relation to their hectic schedule!

As they had been SO busy and we had not, I asked them to come to us for dinner – pumpkin soup, followed by Thai Chicken Noodle Salad. Liz brought dessert – a yummy crumble made from apples they'd scrumped and blackberries they'd gathered, with custard and cream. There was wine (mostly consumed by me and David), and dinner was preceded by nibbles.

We agreed that we would set off by about 9.30 on Tuesday, while David beetled off to Birmingham by train to collect his new specs from Rushtom in Lozells.

That meant that Barry was on solo lock duty for the day and he managed magnificently. Liz leapt on and off their boat closing gates, scooting forward to open paddles. While I seemed to manage only getting in and out of the locks and keeping control of the boat dog …

To reduce Barry’s load, we suggested that he only open one gate on entry and exit from each lock. Entering, Liz went in first, scooted over to the other side and I followed her in; on exiting, I headed out first and Liz followed having scooched the boat over to the side I had left from. She is really very good at it! And it did reduce Barry’s workload a fair bit as it meant less opening and closing gates and walking around the lock to get to them.
I think this is the first or second lock when leaving Berkhamsted. Liz and I are in the wrong positions, as she prefers to be on the port side - from that one on, I think we did it right!
Barry on his own - jersey already off!

We worked from Berkhamsted to Marsworth Top Locks using that method and in the main Barry was on his own. However, he did have help from some very junior volunteer lockies coming down from Bulborne. And then the CRT variety appeared on the scene to assist us for a few of them.
Aged between 3 and 5, I think, these kids were very keen to assist in opening and closing gates.
The volunteer team - very efficient!

We had planned to get through Lock 36 and to meet David there – he was expected to get a cab from Cheddington Station and then walk along the towpath. However, he had got hooked/focused on Uber and of course, they do not operate out in English villages … So instead of searching for local alternatives, he decided to walk. Not a short walk as it transpired … However, a G&T was made for him on arrival.

But instead of meeting him at Lock 36, we moored up just after Lock 37, about a mile away from Lock 36. So a longer walk than expected… Liz and Barry had decided they needed a pumpout and expected to be able to get the business done at Pitstone Wharf Marina. Hence the earlier mooring spot.

In the morning, I checked out the website and found only a facebook page that contained the info that said marina is only open Fri – Sun; so very little use on a Wednesday, innit then?

The nearest pumpout appeared to be at Grove Lock Marina where David and I had our previous one done on the outward journey. So on we tootled on Wednesday morning, in the intermittent rain (light and heavy), wind and cloud – no sun. We were all dressed for the weather, to a greater or lesser extent.
·      Liz: natural fibre waterproof hat with wide brim and plenty of protection (fished out of the canal at some point in the past); bright yellow waterproof coat that extends well down the thighs
·      Barry: waterproofs – jacket and trousers, gloves that needed wringing out at regular intervals
·      David: Julia’s old red jacket that used to be waterproof but is no longer; jeans, goretex boots, no hat
·      Me: lime green waterproof jacket; hi-viz yellow waterproof pants, goretex boots, waterproof Oz shepherd’s hat

David cycled between locks and had them ready for us. 

Look closely - he is drenched! There is a dry patch on his jeans behind his knee. Shortly after this, he asked for his protective glasses (the ones from Screwfix) as the foliage was a bit low and whippy!
And at the end of a particularly long pound (at Church Lock) he was not at all worried that we’d kept him waiting in the pouring rain. He’d got into an interesting conversation with an assistant director on the show Endeavour who was working on the filming an episode of that show there.

The last pound to Grove Lock Marina was particularly low (about 2 feet lower than the others) - an enigma? Well, it was until we got to the Marina where the guy told us someone had come through at about 10pm the previous evening and left 4 paddles open at one lock. Dammit! We worked out it was the guy we had helped at the first lock of the day (#36 …) who told me he had boated from Northampton the previous day – probably his brain had stopped functioning effectively in terms of following process by the time he got to Grove Lock!

It was persisting down as we completed pumpouts and we decided we would moor as soon as we could – that proved to be one boat forward of the lower lock moorings for us and then one boat further on from us for Liz and Barry.  Both David and I had stepped the gaps out while waiting in the lock - for each boat, it was a tight fit, but in both cases we were definitely going to make it happen!

None of us cared that the road and rail were not that far away, and the goretex boots were full of water ...

And, by the way, I am still not caught up - we are currently at Hillmorton and lots and lots has happened since Grove Lock!

Friday 9 August 2019

And here we are in Berkhamsted

This is the salad I made the other night when David got back from Manchester and Sarah had helped me move up from the Aylesbury Canal Society Marina. Looks SO healthy! Tasted good too. We had asparagus, chicken and bacon and avocado alongside it.

Not the best photo, but there were hundreds of these little waterboatmen leaping across the surface of the water at the top of the Aylesbury Arm. Amazing things!
Across the mown field - I think this is where I saw the red kites on the way down the Arm.
This is another shot of the very beautiful cottage garden at Lock 4

We did 16 locks yesterday - the top two of the Aylesbury Arm, the 7 from Marsworth Junction to Bulborne, and then the 7 from Cow Roast down to Berkhamsted.
Looking back out of the lock by the Tring Reservoir. The pound was quite low and the water was very shallow over by the towpath ...

David had the bike out which sped us up. However we had the help of the volunteer lockies on the Marsworth locks. I am not sure that they increased our efficiency though. In part that was because David had people to chat to (remember the old adage about 2 things at once ...), and in part it was because as a team the lockies were a bit disorganised.

However it didn't matter. We weren't really in a hurry, but I must say the Julia mode has rubbed off on me and I am not keen on seeing inefficiency.

As we were ascending the Marsworth locks, I had time to get the washing on and to make bread ...

It pays to be attentive while the locks are filling, so I brought the water/syrup/yeast mixture and the scales/flour out to be attended to on the stern deck. As we were on our own in the lock, I had a rope around a bollard and I tied it off around the stanchion on the stern - as the rope only gets looser as we ascend, it is a safe way to hold the boat into the lockside without hanging on to it for 10 minutes.
David and the VLK - see, I even had time to take photos ...
I do like this cottage - if I remember correctly, it is a B&B.
Bread rising - it did used to rise faster when we had a black roof ... One of the VLKs said that in 20 years of boating, he'd never seen anyone making bread on a boat.  Now that did surprise me, as I meet lots of people who make their own bread.

David was keen to go and explore the Wendover Arm but not by boat, so I suggested he bike down to the limit of the canal restoration and I'd go on and get water and have a shower while the tank was filling - see: efficiency again, parallel processing, two things at once, replacing the water as I showered...

I'd tied up, had the hose started, and was just about to get in the shower when David appeared - obviously he hadn't biked a mile down and a mile back up the Wendover Arm. Apparently there is too much towpath vegetation for pleasurable cycling, so he gave it a miss.

Once I was showered, he suggested we get our skates on and move off as there had been two boats starting the Marsworth flight as we were leaving the top lock. So I started putting my boots on, but they came past - clearly they had not been 6 locks behind us!

Botheration, we thought, and other rude words. So we slowed down, completely filled the tank, made a cup of tea - to give them a head start and make sure they were into and out of Cowroast Lock when we got there.

An interesting and slow cruise through the Tring cutting while the bread was baking - places like that always make me think of the effect of winter storms and high winds. Even in the sunshine, there are a number of trees and tree branches that look dodgily precarious!

However there are places with CRT mooring signs. Not sure that I would though, unless it was an extremely hot day and I was trying to avoid the sun.

So we arrive at Cowroast; and as we come down the cut, we talked about how this was where we last saw Les when we visited by car one day and joined Carol and George from Still Rocking. It was a visit that was sad but joyful, and extremely honest in the discussions about terminal illness (Les's) and death (also Les's). I think both he and Jaq appreciated all of us coming; and for us, it was lovely to have the opportunity to say goodbye and assure him and Jaq of our ongoing support. Biggs hugs, old buddy, old pal.

So, as I say, we arrive at Cowroast - and what is this I see before me? Those two bloody boats moored on the lock landing, and then two men who scurry off to wind up the paddles as soon as we hove in to view. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

We think they moored up to use the services and have lunch - surely they cannot have taken so long to empty loos, ditch rubbish and fill with water!?

We pulled over into the services area ourselves and emptied the rubbish. I gave them a hand with the lock and checked where they were heading for. One woman told me they had a booking at Paddington on 11 August so they needed to keep moving for a fair while if they were going to make it. Remember that yesterday was the 8th and there's over 46 locks and about the same number of miles (Mick will tell me if my guess is close) between Cowroast and Paddington. They really will need to get a wriggle on if their performance yesterday was anything to go by!

An amusing interlude after they'd left as a widebeam was coming up to use the now empty lock. The women said 'no, it's not moving.' I suggested that perhaps he needed to wait well back for them to exit ... The widebeam eventually arrived and I gave that crew a hand too. They were going to turn around in the winding hole above the lock and pull in for water. Fortunately the boat wasn't a full 70 foot, as people were moored on both sides of the winding hole, damn their eyes!

He yelled for his son to come and grab the front rope and pull him in to the side. The kid, a young teenager, did as he was asked, and hauled valiantly on the rope - he got the nose in alright. But his dad had not told him not to pull so tight that the side of the boat could not come alongside the bank - it's that triangle thing with the three sides being
  • the towpath, 
  • the line of the bow and 
  • the length of the rope. 
If the rope is pulled tight and shortens that side of the triangle, the rear of the boat slews out across the cut. David knows it well ... as he told the teenager who was a bit distraught by the unfair bollocking he got from his dad.
In all of this fray, I had noted (being the tall person that I am) that there was a narrowboat approaching down the canal. Perhaps they were coming down the lock and didn't want water? Yes to both! Yay!!

So we locked down the next 7 locks with Annie and Dave on nb Capital. Efficient lockers, so it was a pleasure. David used the bike, Dave walked on to the next lock on occasion, Annie and I chatted and laughed.

There is a pound on that flight where the water was beautifully clear - there was lots of grassy-type weed wafting in the water and lots and lots of fish swimming - some very tiny and a few much larger and chubbier black ones. It was cool! Not much mooring though as there was loads of silt against the edge.

And as I came in to the lock at the end of that pound (Dudswell Top, I think), there was something impeding my progress - a wooden stepladder! I hoiked it out with the short boat hook (we have one, Mick, but you don't, sorry) and as it was in a poor state of repair, I hiffed it over into the flourishing nettles. As I had the short boat hook handy, I also hoiked out a few loads of the weed - nice to look at on the bottom of the cut, but not so pleasant in clumps in the lock.
Between locks on the long pound, with the railway close beside us.
Another lock followed by a long pound, and when I arrived at the lock, there was a woman closing the bottom gate; she then came up and opened one set of the top paddles. WHAT?!! I thought. And where is David and where is David's bike? As I got off the boat and tied the middle rope to go and open more paddles, David arrived back from further on. 'We have caught those boaters up' he said, 'so I went on and opened the next lock for them, so they'll get a bloody move on.'

And on we came through Bushes Lock - efficient, no mucking about. And as we approached the penultimate lock of the day, there are those boaters again - just exiting the lock, and not having prepared the next lock which was about 15 steps away ... Julia and Lisa, as Sergeant Majors, you would have had to give them some very clear coaching!!

And then we were in Berkhamsted. There was no mooring as far as the eye could see, so we pulled over and breasted up under the footbridge only half inside the 14 day mooring area - the arses of the boats were away from the lock mooring bollards by about a metre, so we decided that was good enough. Noisy as all get out because the railway line is just across the cut with no trees to block the sound.

Dave and Annie headed off to Waitrose to buy a paper and as I was putting up the pram cover I saw them walking back - too soon to have been to Waitrose. They were excited to tell us that there was a big space further down - with rings! So we all moved on, very pleased with ourselves, only to get there and discover it was the shopping mooring - a 4 hour limit. Buggeration.

Still and all, we both needed shopping, so we tied up and a certain person fretted about breaking the rules, about being the subject of badmouthing by other boaters, about looking bad.

I did go down past the next lock to see what might be available but decided that I wasn't keen to move. Then I went and did a big Waitrose shop - lovely shop, but not a good place to go when I am hungry - I bought stuff we didn't need but that looked yummy. For instance, a piece of slow-cooked pulled pork with a maple and something tangy glaze, Vogel bread (remember I had baked bread on the day's journey), a pack of mint KitKats.

David went for a separate walk much much further down the cut and tricked me into going to see what he had found by telling me that yes, it was above the lock. It wasn't. False pretenses when my feet were sore and my brain was tired. Not fair!

The upshot was that:
  • both Dave and Annie and David and I moved our boats back as far as we could - no git gaps - so another boater, desperate for shopping, would have a place to moor
  • it rained hard and we decided no one would be coming through to shop in such weather (and they didn't)
  • we stayed overnight and went for drinks and nibbles on nb Capital and met some people who we hope will come and stay with us in Waikanae in April
  • I took the Vogel bread and pulled pork to share - yummy
  • David once again decided sloe gin is a desirable beverage (having originally consumed it when we lived in Church Enstone) and managed to consume two or three glasses albeit small ones, I must admit
  • we secured rights to be able to moor on Annie and Dave's end of garden mooring on our way back up the GU.
This morning, pretty much David's first words were that we needed to move the boat. So he went back up towards the locks to where we'd perched briefly yesterday to see if there was any space.

I was going to head down to the lock ahead of us to see if a space had magically appeared and stopped to look in Annie and Dave's boat first. Didn't see them but did see and chat to a man coming along the path from the bridge. We chatted and I said we were struggling to find a mooring and had had to stay on the shoppers' moorings but did need to move.  'Well' he said "My crew are leaving in a few minutes.' Yay!! and Double yay!! So we reversed into their space just two boats back.
To celebrate the legitimate mooring, I made BLATs for brekkie
We can now relax as we are in the 14 day mooring area - and a certain person can stop stressing.

Tim is bringing back our temporary boat dog on Sunday, and Liz and Barry are planning to get here then too.

In the meantime, it is good to be inside the boat - the weather has been a bit iffy today.
At first it started to rain like this

And then it thundered and lightninged, and then this rain came down
And the towpath looked like this. And then the sun came out again. Now it is spitting with rain and the only creatures out are the heron and a few birds that look like small wekas but aren't.
I took pity on David and we played Battleships (2-0 to me, and most painful wins as a certain person hasn't quite worked out how to record the shots he takes or the ones that are hits, and he also tells me I haven't scored hits when it is later proven that I have ...).

Then we had a game of 5 Crowns. A certain person won. so I am not playing again. I must maintain my ascendancy and obviously the only way that can be achieved is for me to stick to my resolve to never play it just with David.

We had dessert (gu pudding, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, a small splodge of cream) late this afternoon, and now I don't want dinner. That is NOT a bad thing, and it does mean we can have fillet steak and beetroot and carrot salad with scalloped potatoes and fried onions tomorrow.

Lesley sent me this - it took me a while to get it...