Monday 23rd August to Sunday 5th September
73 Miles, 97 Locks, 3 Tunnels – for this fortnight
Totals: 186 Miles 237 Locks, 5 Tunnels, 6 Swing Bridges
This has been quite a week – well actually two weeks and really the second part of it I could have very much done without.
This became a bit of a week for decisions – the time was coming near when I needed to make some sort of finality to where I was going to moor the boat in November.
When I had the pump out at MK Marina I asked Richard there if he could do any better on a quote for a winter mooring but based on a more specific time frame rather than just saying 6 months; then on Monday I did the same with Great Haywood – both came back with much better prices but not to say that their originals were out of whack – I just defined my actual time criteria better.
I need also to go to Birmingham to see Debbie, James, Katherine and Rachel and this needs to be sooner than later.
But first another day of work on Monday – did I ever pick the right day not to move – it absolutely bucketed down for most of the day – intermittent rain-free periods but the rest was not fit to be outdoors.
Moored opposite Campbell Park, it is a remarkable area – we will be back here to explore this delightful town more – no-one should ever say that they just want to get through Milton Keynes – stop and look around and you will stay some more.
Having made my decision to go to Birmingham and be there on or about 3rd Sept, I needed to move and put some miles (and locks behind me – so I headed for Stoke Bruerne. It was such windy day and a colder rather than cool wind. Nevertheless with most of the journey being lock free it was only a matter of keeping the tiller pointed the right way – until I got to the locks just before mooring up – I made my way to the lock to prepare it and I spotted another boat in the pound above going the same way and I know that he saw me, but did he wait to share the locks, save some water and make life a little easier – not on your Nellie – he doesn’t want to cross my path in the very near future.
Still moored up relatively safe and sound – just very annoyed.
Setting off the following morning again in the company of Pauline and Les we made good time heading up through the remaining two locks and then through the tunnel; at the other end L&P had had problems again with their filter and needed to stop at the boatyard whilst I moored up to replenish supplies; they were still busy with it when I returned and said they would catch me which they eventually did as I was taking on fuel at Fred Tarry’s.
Next day and we travelled together to go through the Buckby flight of locks and then another tunnel; trouble was at the other end there was an hour wait for the first lock; the time seemed to go relatively quickly and we worked our way through the Braunston locks.
After this it was time to say our goodbyes – as they say parting is such sweet sorrow. L&P decided that they would moor up in order to see friends at Braunston, and I would continue on – along the Grand Union, but just before the turn some yahoo was shouting away at me abusing me for chastising him two weeks earlier for going too fast – he must be able to hold a grudge, but if he was going too fast then he deserved it – his boat name summed him up “Cream Cracker” – ah good luck to him in his quest to be obnoxious.
I eventually settled down above the Calcutt locks after a reasonably lengthy day – I was into the swing of doing some work that night when aghast, the computer froze up and wouldn’t do anything – no amount of persuasion would get it to budge; so I eventually forced it to close down and then tried to restart – absolutely no luck whatsoever. No computer means no work – mmm.
I spent Saturday travelling down Calcutt and then down the Stockton flight trying to figure what to do about my new predicament. Luckily for me I have such a clever daughter Samantha (Sam) (well our daughter) who suggested getting to Birmingham and PC World; so Sunday was a day out of the ordinary – up early and a “quick” 3 and ½ hour journey into Warwick to moor up, get to the station; train into Birmingham; taxi to Highgate – yes they can fix it – but can’t take it off my hands until Tuesday; luckily Diane’s cousin Debbie lived about 5 minutes away and yes, she would take it in for me; not only that but she gave me dinner as well - it was a very good day in the end with James (Debbie's husband) their two girls Katherine and Rachel and James sister Jenny and partner Viv.
After all of that it was a matter of deciding what to do – well a week off work was going to happen, so I have been on holidays this week. I got myself into Birmingham on the boat by Wednesday evening – through all of the locks – 25 in all – single handed – the last half dozen with the lady from the boat behind closing the top gates – some respite.
A note of a pleasant 30 minutes - whilst descending Camp Hill locks, I went up to a guy sitting on one of the seats and asked if he would mind closing one of the bottom gates for me (double bottom gates for a single lock) - we had a pleasant chat about a lot of things (no other boats around for the whole day) - yes he had been to Australia, but not to Melbourne; he had been on sponsored tours as a guest speaker and entertainer; he was a poet of some reknown - turns out that he was none other than Jim MacCool (a name that seemed familiar to me - more after I had got around to googling it) - ah I hear it now - "I would like to thank an Aussie boater for my latest poem - Ode to a Lock" --- royalties will be gratefully accepted.
A lovely man and just shows who you can meet along the way
I knew from the last visit what a lovely place Birmingham is – and have completely confirmed it all over – moored just opposite the NIA, there has been no problem at all; the area is lovely and clean and tidy – a real pleasure to be here – if there is ever such a nicer place for an enforced holiday when you would rather be working - Birmingham has embraced the canals and rejuvenated the city in conjunction with the waterways.
Anyway the end of the week arrives; the computer makes a late entry on Saturday afternoon and finally all up and running again by Sunday midnight - the grey hairs have grown in numbers this week.
Sometimes decisions are forced upon us that lead to reflect on where we start from – what started as a week about where I would moor the boat over winter, became so much more and something more to think about for the future.
The winter mooring is all sorted; the computer is back to almost normal; the sun did come up every morning; and the worry of what could be done has passed.
PS: photos to be placed shortly.