Wednesday 30 August 2023

Once more alone

After we had said goodbye to Neill and Neil,  and after I had been to the marina shop to buy slices of cake and magnums, we headed away from Norbury. We moored up for the day at Wheaton Aston - just before Dirty Lane Bridge: such strange names!

I was a bit anxious about our mooring because the huge tree nearest us had the remains of a large branch that had broken off. And the weather was a bit windy, so I didn't want to be having another branch dropping on us! No worries though. We had carefully moved up so we were away from the shonky tree and close to the boat ahead of us. All in vain, because when I got up from my nana nap later, the boat in front had moved off and another boat had moored in its place and left a git gap ... I couldn't be bothered remedying that for some reason!

We have a couple of memories of Wheaton Aston - we moored there with Mick and Julia some years ago, and we also looked after a guy who collapsed on the towpath near his boat - called the ambulance and sat with him, getting him cushions etc while we waited. IIRC, we also had a discussion with a woman from another boat who was suffering from plantar fasciitis which David had just recovered from. So we handed over a golf ball and recommended curcumin capsules, both of which cleared in plantar fasciitis for David in a matter of days rather than no improvement for several weeks with 800mg of ibuprofen! The golf ball was a suggestion of a tennis coach friend of Barry and Pauline's at Teddington, the curcumin was Jaq Biggs' suggestion. We have passed on both tips several times since!

We headed away early in the morning (about 6.30am I think), first for water and then for the lock. A couple on a boat came up behind us while we were just finishing up taking on water, but very kindly waited for us instead of heading into the lock first.

Not surprisingly given how close we are to Birmingham, motorways feature. I think this is the M54. I am always fascinated by the difference in pace - and the fact that most motorway drivers probably have no awareness that the canal with its 3mph traffic is below them.
I am not sure where this is or why I took the photo. It is a boat club or marina with inline moorings. Maybe one of the boats was familiar?

I think this was as we approached another large road. Can't have been too late in the day because David is eating breakfast.
Some wonderful graffiti under this bridge!




And somewhere nearby there was this!

Back in 2015, I think it was, we met the people who owned this boat on the Thames. Their son knows Hamish Dean - I think they play(ed) together in the same services band here in the UK. Two degrees of separation!

We were pleased to reach Autherley Junction and turn on to the Trent and Mersey Canal. For some reason, probably an increasing inability to read maps accurately and to perform addition equations competently, we had thought we would get to Penkridge that day - HAH! It was much further than we thought. And we checked that out on Nicholson's, Memory Map and the RCR waterways map. We don't trust just one source, and when I say we, I mean ACP ...

So we moored up near Bridge 74 out in the countryside. It was lovely.

Interestingly, when we were a few years younger, we would have pushed on the Penkridge. But now we don't do such foolhardy things. I am now known for 'hitting the wall' and becoming unreasoningly aggranoyed and mean-mouthed when I am boating past my competency hh:mm:ss timescale. And that is now measured in very small increments once 4 hours have passed...

The following morning, we trundled on and went past Calf Heath - now doesn't that sound lovely, bucolic and rural? Yes, it does; but is it? Nope, not at all. It is the site of a chemical works which has much signage forbidding mooring, even if you hear an alarm. Spooky. It does smell very chemically robust around there so not stopping is not a struggle. Stopping would be tough though - the towpath side has lots of stones and shale and blocks and silt, so mooring up or even pausing would be really difficult!

Another large road - not sure which one.
And David as we made our way through a shady glen.

I bet the kids who live here love their Thomas the Tank Engine!

There were six locks that morning - all spaced well apart (I hesitate to say spaced out because I am not privy to their hallucinogenic habits and I don't think they would be partaking so early in the day, surely?)  They were far enough apart that David didn't walk between all of them, but he did walk about 13,000 steps that day. I on the other hand hardly walk at all but I do get sore feet and sore legs from pretty much standing still for ages on the stern.

I think this is a lock near Penkridge
And in we go.

By the time we got to Penkridge, I was really ready to call a halt. So instead of going through the second lock, I insisted we moor up after the first one. Lovely mooring, next to houses, peaceful. The guys on the boat behind us were smoking a LOT of dope, so I am sure some of the peacefulness was an association high! πŸ‘ΌπŸ˜

It wasn't quite lunchtime and I was on a mission to get to Jaspers Bakery for some of their yummy treats. That place is definitely the go-to lunch place. Such lovely fresh rolls and cakes and pastries... Both times I have been there I have bought more than we needed - EBBs my parents called it: Eyes Bigger than Belly. Accurate, if not kind πŸ˜‹

We were there on Market Day but seriously I couldn't think of anything we actually needed as opposed to likely impulse buys. So MD was skipped. However late that afternoon, early evening, we went to Flames, a wonderful Indian restaurant there - we had been there last time we were in Penkridge and the food is still remarkable. Last time we were not vegetarian. However they were still very happy to accommodate us. I had a veg dupiaza and David had a veg korma (spelled kurma there). Of course I couldn't finish mine - the poppadoms and chutneys and the garlic naan didn't help ... So the leftovers came back to the boat.

If we had to move to the UK, Penkridge is a place we would be happy to live in, as is Nantwich. They are both lovely towns.

We had planned to stay in Penkridge for a rest day. BUT we had discovered late in the piece (at the last lock of the day) that the connection to the alternator had come off and the leisure batteries had not been charging - doh!! DOUBLE DOH!!! So to make sure they got up to 100% while travelling, we decided to move on the next morning. My aims of buying food at Jaspers and having dinner at Flames had both been achieved - moving wasn't a hardship.

So in the morning, we trundled on. We fetched up at Tixall Wide. David had been anxious that I would hit the wall sooner, but I was fine to keep going. And we had promised each other we would have a rest day the following day...

Tixall Wide is lovely, CRT has been laying a new towpath which is commendable - except that they are planting the one foot gap between the path and the armco - and they are planting it with plants that grow tall and wide, and they are including reeds in that mix. DUMB DUMB DUMB. 

If those reeds are not weeded out, in the next 2 or 3 years they will have propagated into the canal and will be taking over the channel. Already the offside is filling up with reeds. In 3 years' time, there will be a renaming ceremony - Tixall Wide will be Tixall Narrow.

In the morning, we walked to the farmshop at Great Haywood. Lovely brekkie, although we had to move inside as the wasps were a bit persistent. I managed to kill one, but couldn't be arsed wielding my hefty purse between mouthfuls!

Sitting outside, before we declared the wasps had won.

The fruit and veg in the shop were very good quality. Last time we were there I bought some yummy cheese called Black Bomber or something. However now it is a horrendous price so the woman serving recommended a cheese that was also really tangy but half the price. We have a lump of it but I am yet to try it.

Once again, having planned a rest day, we decided to move along:

  • we needed diesel and Saturday would be a difficult day for AngloWelsh to be serving  given it is turnaround day for hirers
  • there was a thunderstorm forecast and we thought it would be good to move on before it hit.

Well, the storm didn't eventuate, but we had got diesel (and Magnums) at AngloWelsh and then found a mooring in the same spot we had stopped for cake with Irene and Ian (2IJ) a few weeks ago.  

I headed to the pharmacy (which shuts between 1.30 and 2.30pm - I know because that is when I went the first time ...) to ask advice about my ears - I have had eczema in my ears for years. It makes them very itchy and I have to confess that I have a very gross habit of scratching them with the arm of my glasses or my finger. My nails are never particularly clean when we are boating...TMI, TMI AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

So I had managed to infect the outer ear bits on both sides and they were hurting.

Once again, I was thwarted by the pharmacist's inability to undertake any triage, let alone any effective assessment, and then his inability/reluctance/refusal to offer any advice about what products they sell that could be helpful. Chocolate teapot, tits on a bull... AAARRRGGGHHH!!! So I came back the boat and I've been swabbing the ears with diluted dettol on cotton buds. It's worked but who knows whether it's a remedy that has long term ill-effects.

While the storm didn't eventuate, afternoon nana naps did and I woke feeling refreshed and less grumpy with every UK pharmacist ...

And before we headed off the next morning, we had a lovely conversation with Kirsty. She is such a hoot and an interesting mix of her parents ...

Her profile picture on WhatsApp - I did have to ask what was on her mouth, but now I have enlarged the photo I can see that it's ice-cream - not a piercing, as I was a bit worried about ...

She sent me a WhatsApp message that read: You'll appreciate this. I'm 'supposed' to be tidying and cleaning my flat. Instead I've emptied this basket and cleaned out my medicine bag and tool box. Remind you of anyone?

Beautifully empty and clean and tidy basket.

Contents of medicine bag and some random other stuff - a top hat!? She does like to dress up... And the cat who seems supremely uninterested.
By the time, Kirsty had got to this stage, she was over it. I suggested she just move it all on to the floor on the side of the bed next to the window. She could deal with it another day...

 Here is a photo from one of my posts in May this year, as an illustration of inherited characteristics πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—


 I sent her a text later explaining Neil and Neill's 'squirrelling' concept. There is a very clear positive about this characteristic in David though - it means that he does a whole heap of tasks that weren't on his to do list. The downsides though are:

  • he starts on the tasks when he says he's coming to bed and I am falling asleep - some squirrel tasks are not silent and require much opening and closing of cupboards and walking up and down the boat.
  • he wants to involve me ...

The going off task or undertaking distraction activities is a strong likeness between Kirsty and her dad. But to be fair, my mum had it in spades too. I remember once when she was staying with us shortly after Kirsty was born. She went outside in her dressing gown for an early cigarette, and two hours later she had finished weeding around the water tank. πŸ’•πŸ˜πŸ˜‚


It was a day for fabulous young women in our lives - Marta sent us these photos:

One of the roses that we brought over from Waikanae - now at Marta and Trevor's house and flowering beautifully. It is Caitlin's rose, given to us by friends when Caitlin, our wee granddaughter died aged 6 months. The original rose has been transplanted from Cherswud in Johnsonville, to Luke and Diane's place and back to us in Rata Street. It is being transplanted again to Wren St. In the meantime though we took cuttings, Shona our gardener potted and looked after them for a couple of months, Clint at Parkwood helped me to pack them for international travel, and then they travelled from Debdale to Scotland in 2IJ's motorhome - in the shower stall.

The second one, in bud. They have a most beautiful perfume.

Words we need to live by, especially in these times.

This is especially pertinent when a political party doesn't tell you how it's going to pay for its promises - the National party in NZ has promised tax cuts but its only way to pay for them is to cut services. And who are the people who need the services? All of us: Health, Education, pensions and benefits. It has promised to call a halt to some of the climate change initiatives, esp for the farming sector. And who is going to be affected? All of us!

Sunday 27 August 2023

The 2 Neil(l)s

The two lovely Neil(l)s were coming up to stay onboard with us for a weekend, but travelling out of Cornwall in August is apparently traumatic ...


I did suggest they may like to abandon the weekend's adventures with us...

 Traffic was diabolical!

They are intrepid guests! And we were delighted they had decided to keep on keeping on.

Big Neil texted a couple of times with updates and discussions re dinner and a refusal of an invitation to his mum for chickpea and veg curry - apparently it's not on her list of dietary delights ...

As we moved from Nantwich down to Coole Lane Bridge the bread was proving and then baked after we moored up. The sourdough takes a time but I can do so much other stuff while the bread is getting itself sorted ...

We had chosen Coole Lane as it had road access, and a good parking space, and the mooring was quite pleasant and open. Not too much chopping and cutting to be done to the weeds.

Yay!! Nearly with us!

In an excess of panic that the curry would not be good enough, I did a couple of condiment dishes as well - shaved coconut with sliced banana in lemon juice, and cucumber raita. And mango chutney, sweet chilli sauce and chilli flakes. 2N had brought an apple pie for dessert plus clotted cream ... And good chaps that they are, they brought their own wine - not enough for the weekend, but plenty for that night.

So that I didn't send them away from the table immediately after eating so I could get to the bed on the dinette**, we played cards. Having had a nap that afternoon, I was able to stay awake. But Little Neill was still in bed several hours earlier than usual ...

** Big Neil cannot fit on the dinette. At 6'4" he hangs over the end of our bed, but at least he can stick his feet off the end... The only places in the boat that he can stand upright are the open duck-hatch and the stern hatch - only if the stairs have been lifted up out of the way. So we do have to make sure he has a bed he can stretch out and over its boundaries.

Time to get out of bed, chaps! Bedding from the dinette always resides on the bed during the day and the day starts when I get up from the dinette, OK?

Although to be fair, I was the only person dressed at this stage - David still has his PJ trousers on but has managed to get his shirt on. The maroon seat squab has bulldog clips on it because during the tenant's tenure the zip got broken. Big Neil is a fabulous upholsterer and said he would sew up the squab while he was with us.

Carol and George formerly of widebeam Still Rocking were joining us that morning to assist with the Audlem Locks. Big Neil had to deliver the 2N car to his mum's place in Nantwich and his mum, Elsa, was bringing him back. The meeting point was the Shroppie Fly, after 3 of the locks.

Little Neill was immediately set to work steering - I think I was making scones at this point. He was most disparaging of my instructions for where to go to get into the lock. I am sure he should have been wearing glasses so he could see past the end of the boat!

Visitors, especially ones doing locks, need feeding up with cheese scones. And especially people who read the blog and who know about the cheese scones, and even more especially, people like Carol and George who are delightful friends.

It was so very lovely to see Carol and George again, and they got straight to work! I didn't get to have a hug until the boat came up in the lock!
Clearly after the third lock because BN is back!

So I made a double batch of scones - that meant BN had to bring more milk back too. Elsa stayed on the boat for a couple of locks and took a cheese scone back with her. BN mentioned later that the scone may have been a shock as it had cayenne pepper. (I asked her on the Sunday and she declared it was delicious - I didn't mention the cayenne ...)

The volunteer lockie informed Carol, a lockwheeler of many years standing, that she was using the wrong hole on her windlass. Carol may look as though butter wouldn't melt in her mouth, but he had chosen the wrong person to mansplain/scold...

Scones were consumed here - this is where we met Mike and Helen for a weekend boating down to Hack Green and Nantwich a few years ago. See, the sun was out at this point, but we did move back inside when the rain started yet again.
Still outside with George but the clouds were encroaching...


That rose between two men is the lovely Carol.

The by-washes had claimed their prize of stuff falling out of the bookcase ...
While the rest of us chatted, BN got on with his designated task of stitching up the seat squab cover. Such an amazing job he did of it that the stitching is invisible and you cannot see that there is a zip there! He used a curved needle and some pretty strong thread.
BN looking supremely confident and calm.

LN waiting on BN to leave the lock.

After we'd all scoffed scones, LN and I accompanied Carol and George back a few locks to pick damsons. LN and I share a passion for making fruit jellies... So we gathered damsons and hawthorn berries. We debated about what to add to the hawthorn berries because Neill said they were a bit bland. The consensus was that we would add mint and grated ginger. But the fruits stayed in bags on the bench overnight. Too much locking to do!

We did the Adderley flight with Little Neill on the tiller - the bywashes on these lock flights are pretty vicious and it pays not to be precious about the rubbing strakes which are there for a purpose. There were a few crunches and also some flawless entries. πŸ’—πŸ’™πŸ’šπŸ’œ

See? Confident, relaxed, flawlessly coiffed for his public.


We then looked for suitable moorings. There is a 5d mooring stretch after the Adderley flight - it was empty of boats and we soon found out why: the Shroppie Shelf was along the whole length of the moorings and we don't have the wide tyre buffers/fenders that are required to hold the boat away from it.

So on we went with 2N on the stern. They were under instruction to yell when they came across armco. They did and the mooring was lovely - we had been on the go for a fair while and the batteries were on 100% so the fact that the mooring just past Betton Coppice turnover bridge was shady didn't matter - it was a sunny afternoon and warm, strange as that may seem this summer.

So we were moored up in double quick time, table and chairs were out, wine, sherry, port and nibbles on the nice wide towpath.

Quiche, cheese, chutneys and crackers, hummus, sherry, port and wine - and the best of company!
Through the trees on the offside in the early morning - lovely!

 I needed no dinner after copious nibbles, but the guys decided that they could eat. So I warmed up rice (leftover from the night before) and mushroom and capsicum sauce for them. Then bed after more cards.

David and BN were keen to watch the final of the Women's Football World Cup, so in the morning we had to find somewhere with decent internet service. We reckoned Market Drayton would be the go, even though they have a weird mooring restriction of no mooring between 10am and 4pm. We moved as close to the 48 hour moorings as we could get and settled in - we thought that it was likely any affected residents would also be watching the game so we would not be asked to move on ... And so it proved.

Because LN and I weren't interested in the football, we made a sumptuous breakfast for our menfolk and served it to them in front of the game. We did forget to serve the mushroom sauce we had heated up though ... BN explained that to me later - he thought it was likely that LN had not wanted to add another food to the already full plates as he doesn't like food to touch ...

See, sumptuous breakfast which included breakfast potatoes, scrambled egg, baked beans, chopped tomatoes and sourdough toast - but no mushroom sauce ...
Imagine LN as green with yellow spiny bits and a long tail ...

LN and I did the jelly. Well, when I say LN and I, I actually mean LN did. I did find the jars and wash them, I did find the honey and I did direct LN to the mint (fridge) and ginger (freezer). But he did the rest. Note that the hawthorn jelly not only had mint and ginger but also a good squeeze of lemon juice to give it more zing. It is yummy. The damson is more of a pouring syrup - I think I will use it on apple crumble when our next guests are here ...

Hawthorn, mint, ginger and lemon jelly. Not a lot, but enough to try.

Two jars each! Damson jelly in the big jars.


Game over, England lost, Spain won. We moved forward to water up and empty rubbish. BN needed a walk so headed off to find a shop and then received about 3 messages of additional things to buy...

When we set off from the water point, BN was on steering. I do like it when we have guests who will happily steer!

I don't know where this is but it made me smile.

So BN was on the stern for the Tyrley Lock flight which has by-washes more fierce than the ones on the Audlem and Adderley flights.

They are signposted but no dire warnings!

And as I'd got off to help with the locking, he was on his own when the most vicious by-wash of all got him - jammed up against the offside rock wall. So he had to throw the rope to us and a passing dog walker, so we could haul the boat away enough that he could get some forward momentum.

Those locks are physically and emotionally exhausting - the cutting they go through is amazing and the engineering is always impressive, but as a boater the lock entrances are challenging!

This may have been after the last lock...


So we were on the look out for a decent mooring but the damn shelf thwarted us again. I walked ahead of the boat that had the 3 guys on it, and I was poking into the water with a shortened pole. I was a few hundred yards ahead of the boat talking with some offside moorers about where there was a good accessible mooring spot, when I looked back to see the boat was stopped, ropes were being held and the boat was at a strange angle to the towpath.

There were all sorts of hand/arm signals going on, none of which I recognised. But back I went anyway.

It transpired the engine had overheated, sounded an alarm and the engine had switched itself off. One of the men had had to do a giant leap to shore with a rope. David has just told me it was him - why, I wonder? - he's the oldest and shortest...

Anyway, we had to moor in a most awkward position, the bow was about 2 feet from the bank and the stern was about 6 feet out. I was distressed about the engine and the mooring position - how ignominious.

Magnesium, a couple of hugs, a call to Ed, a sherry on shore away from the boat - what boat? whose boat? not mine ...

You can see all of us apart from LN who is shaded by the powerpole... The boat is away in the distance as befits one that is poorly!
Ah, there's LN and the boat in the background, way in the background...

The water in the header tank had depleted far more than it should so the skin tank wasn't able to operate efficiently. We couldn't top it up until the engine had cooled, so that was the chore for first thing in the morning. 

Dinner was thai green roast veg curry - not my own paste, Irene, but out of a jar. Lovely but not as good as Donna Hay's recipe that I usually make. Roasted parsnips are beaut in this!


And surprisingly I slept well...

And I didn't get up at 5.30am like I was tempted - I waited until at least 7.30 ... We kept a very close eye on the engine temp gauge that morning and realised that when in tickover the engine gets warmer than when operating at cruising speed - less cold canal water going past the skin tank, we think.

There is a very long cutting before Norbury - narrow, tree-covered, damp, and some very high bridges. Lisa Carr had told me that this canal is gloomy and I think she is right!
See what I mean?

This one has the additional crossbeam - what is it actually called?

Our job was to deliver 2N to Norbury Junction to be collected by BN's mum, Elsa. His dad came too. Easy to see where he got his height and dark brown hair from ...

Off they went with many hugs and some stuff from the fridge and cupboards plus some sourdough starter (I gave some to Carol too - note to self: ask Carol how the bread-making has gone.)

I was tempted to stay at Norbury overnight, but, even though where we moor is purportedly (I am told) my decision and mine alone, ACP wanted to move on. So move on we did. How does that work?

I'd prefer this had no spelling mistakes, but the sentiment is good. Obviously given I wanted to stay in Norbury and we didn't even though it's my decision, I clearly have more work to do on both defiance and incorrigibility!