Sunday, 23 October 2011

Is it cold outside Dear?

Monday 17th October to Sunday 23rd October 2011

13 Miles, 5 Locks, 1Tunnel, 1 Swing Bridges – for this week

Totals: 935 Miles, 773 Locks, 28 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 20 Swing Bridges

We spent an extra day at Fradley Junction and finally got the chance to take a good walk around the nature reserve there – they really do marvellous work on the old quarries and give back to nature an area for everything to flourish.

The weather has continued to be very much unseasonable (in a good way); allows so much more chance to take longer walks both along the towpath and also “off-track”.

I couldn’t understand it really – the cafĂ© at Fradley Junction, which is actually part of the caravan complex does not have a licence to stay open throughout the year – this is a business in its own right and services the visitors, moorers and walkers around the junction area – so naturally I signed their petition which they will use as evidence to the council should their initial application not be successful.

One day we will have to move – but not a case of waiting for a good day – but we did move on Tuesday – this time no further than Rugeley, but it did mean that we were past the last possible impediments for our passage to the marina – the two locks immediately up from Fradley are the two due for stoppage maintenance commencing 7th November.

I have moored at Rugeley once before for a few days and found no reason why I would not moor there again, plus it provided us with access to the railway station as we needed to go down to Watford and sort out Diane’s registration with the doctor.

We did walk around town to find the things that we needed – a shoe repairer for my Ugg Boots (one had been chewed by the dog – he did survive my wrath); supermarket – well serviced by Morrisons, Aldi and Iceland; but there are a number of lovely shops as well and even better there was a Costa (real coffee).

We found that Rose’s does a great breakfast and the coffee is excellent – “barista-on-site”.

One morning whilst I was busy earning a few dollars for Diane to spend sometime, she took Banjo out for a walk, before we were venturing up to the supermarket.

Upon her return and after I had finished what I was doing we were ready to head off – the customary question “Is it cold outside dear?” – to which the reply came “you will be OK without your coat, but I will take mine”.

I didn’t process that answer in the usual way that I would and we headed off – shopping bags and trolley in tow – the breeze had an unusual chill about it – we had gone too far to return for the coat and I had time to think about what I hadn’t earlier.

A nice day in the sun but rather cold in the shade – the air was pretty chilly.

At least one of us was cosy warm.

After our trip down to Watford; catching up with Maggie, Paddy and Phil; we returned with a doctors registration for Diane – job done.

How did we get it done? I will keep that secret for now.

Now for the bank account.

We moved again on Saturday and had decided to make for Tixall Wide where we now are moored. The Clifford Arms is very much a dog-friendly pub and Banjo enjoyed the experience – even with the barstaff treating the pooches to some munchies. We returned for Sunday lunch, which whilst it wasn’t a traditional roast, was more than satisfactory and very good value. A bit more of a wander around – over to see Shugborough Hall (from outside the area) – we will visit at a later date.

Back to the boat and Diane was ensconced in front of the TV for Strictly Come Dancing (the elimination).

The weather is expected to get a bit wetter on Tuesday so we need to consider when we will move – either before or after – which will it be?

The “Wide” is wonderful and so peaceful – we could stay here for another week (but we won’t be).

Monday, 17 October 2011

Do you want batteries with that?

Monday 10th October to Sunday 16th October 2011

47 Miles, 14 Locks, 1 Swing Bridges – for this week

Totals: 922 Miles, 768 Locks, 27 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 19 Swing Bridges

A quite pleasant way to spend half an hour on a Monday – we had no sooner pushed away than when we went around the corner at Hillmorton when who do we run across – Paul and Lynne on Piston Broke – so naturally one stops in the middle of the canal for a bit of a chat, catch up on things and said our goodbyes when not one but two boats came along and needed to pass by – a very pleasant start to the day.

We were on our way to Rugby to catch up with my eldest daughter Rebecca, who timed it to perfection and was just arriving in the carpark as we were mooring up. It was too windy for a cruise – well too windy for winding twice and end up back where we were, but we ate lunch at the Harvester and found out how everything was going – she was over here for 2 weeks to see friends before returning to Australia and continue her studies on the way to becoming a paediatric surgeon, which will involve a stint in New Zealand next year.

We lingered for an extra day in Rugby for some restocking and a much needed haircut for me – it was starting to look a bit wild and woolly, but I am assured that the result is much better.

Onward to Hawkesbury Junction and as I had indicated last week, working whilst Diane cruises along and watching changing scenery is very much better than the lifeless view from an office.

As we were going to be passing through Nuneaton on the next part of the journey we took the opportunity to visit Les and Pauline (nb Nibby) whom I had met last year and spent a bit of time with – they are still such wonderful people and is was great to be able to introduce them to Diane – even if Les was going to try and get me into some make-believe trouble – all backfired on him.

Whilst we were shopping in Nuneaton earlier Diane really embarrassed one of the check-out girls (well not really a girl but a woman).

Anyone who knows us will be aware of our usual response to the inevitable question when buying something – “Do you need a bag?” – to which one of us will reply “No, I married one” – this time it was Diane and the usual giggle and smile from the assistant ensued; but this time the shop was promoting packs of batteries and the woman asked Diane “Do you need batteries?” and very quickly the retort was “No, he doesn’t need batteries – he is fine without them” and the woman turned bright red as she obviously was thinking about something she could not say out loud.

Down through Atherstone and we moored up at Alvecote outside the Samuel Barlow pub – after dinner we were over there for a drink and to catch up with Paul – who runs/owns the pub (not exactly sure – but has worked wonders with it) – it was busy as usual and caught up with Robbie and discussed a bit about boating but also the Wales v France game on the following morning.

It also transpired that Paul was putting on breakfast for some of the regulars and very pleasing to say we qualified so we rocked up at 8:45am into watch the match on the big screen and enjoy a very delicious breakfast.

All bar one were supporting the Welsh, and unfortunately Wales fell foul of the referee and the French as well – try again in 4 more years – the same as for the Australians against the All Blacks.

Robbie was the lone supporter of the French (due to parentage only I suspect).

In the space of just 12 hours we had enjoyed ourselves immensely and as usual we will be back there next time in the area.

It is not hard really to meet up with people who you just want to keep seeing again and this week has been just something to prove all of that.

A while ago we had made the decision to change the name of the boat from “Gypsy Rover” to “Ferndale” and I have almost completed the repainting of the back panel on each side – removing the old name. We have indicated this to a number of people along the way and are finding less people reacting to the old superstitions of changing the name. So when the time for the licence renewal comes in December the name will be changed with BW as well.

We are now nearing the point where we will be past the point of winter stoppages that would have prevented us reaching the marina and well ahead of schedule we are.

We will be able to take it a bit easier in the travelling which lays immediately ahead and continue to enjoy this unique lifestyle that we have – with or without extra batteries.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Summer has gone – and winter is around the corner

Monday 26th September to Sunday 9th October 2011

79 Miles, 86 Locks, 3 Tunnels, 3 Swing Bridges – for this fortnight

Totals: 875 Miles, 754 Locks, 27 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 18 Swing Bridges

The first week was very enjoyable at times – just plain too warm at others, but we were to find out how much it would change for the second week – from shorts and t-shirts to long trousers and jackets.

After a very enjoyable weekend down at Rickmansworth we journeyed back up to Watford to say our goodbyes to Maggie and Paddy – and we also caught up with Lisa and son, Jonathon (off to University next week).

That notorious Chelsea supporter Phil was also home, but we managed to have a very good night anyway.

Wednesday morning came and we were off after getting some work completed and we have made very good time and distance without being too crazy about it all.

Our first time-frame was to be past the Winkwell swing bridge by 3rd October when it was being taken out of action for a month – achieved that with 3 days to spare.

Further along we stopped overnight at Berkhamstead – we do enjoy it here and it is a most friendly location – next time we will be spending more time along the way – circumstances for this trip mean that there was limited time to stay more than overnight.

The moorings at Marsworth on the reservoir were very good and the early morning sights really were so very delightful – especially after enjoying the late afternoon/early evening light the night before with a beer or two.

Watching the flocks of birds landing and using the water gave one an added perspective and greater understanding of the need for these sanctuaries.

But onward we must and we did – reaching the Grove Lock later on Saturday before deciding this would be fine for the rest of the weekend – after all from our mental schedule we were a day ahead.

A morning walk into Leighton Buzzard whilst it was still coolish was a good way to start the day – the walk back once the heat had started was less welcoming.

Sunday lunch at The Grove was good without being something to yearn for in the future.

The weather this week has been the source of constant conversation – with the temperatures more reminiscent of a British summer than a British autumn.

We were still in need of getting more miles (and locks) behind us – although we were well on schedule, it cannot be taken for granted that we will want to travel each day – the weather being the main interruption to progress.

We travelled to Water Eaton, a now favourite spot as it provides a very good area to walk Banjo and also it is extremely quiet and peaceful.

Through the ubiquitous Fenny Stratford lock and swing bridge and we moved a long way after that.

With a lock-free pound for some 11 miles, Diane took control of the tiller and sent me below – not for domestic duties but to get on with my work. It added a new dimension to working afloat – watching the scenery constantly changing and meaning that by the time we reached our destination we had both travelled and I had finished a fair share of the quota of work for that day.

There was an occasional whistle from the tiller as she decided that the obstacles immediately ahead – mainly moving and moored boats in combination needed a steadier hand while she could just watch.

There was the later afternoon experience with canoeists starting to increase in numbers – sprinting past the boat and suddenly darting in font – very similar to a motorcyclist and a semi-trailer (HGV) – there was even an attempt by one to try and make it through a bridge hole in front – only at the last minute did they stop – sensing that I wasn’t making any allowances for their potential stupidity.

Speaking of things stupid we had two consecutive days travelling through the Stoke Bruerne Locks and then the Buckby Locks where we encountered groups of boaters who waited until the lock they were in was filled before thay sent someone forward to set the next lock and then waited in the lock until the next was ready – effectively holding up everyone behind them.

Diane could not help herself and went forward telling them to get someone to go ahead whilst they were working one lock and prepare the next – didn’t work – some people are just thick and don’t deserve any sympathy.

Still we arrived in Braunston on Saturday and after a reasonable Sunday lunch we were off to Hillmorton – Monday we need to be in Rugby to catch up with my eldest daughter Rebecca – over here on 2 weeks holiday.

We have started watching Strictly Come Dancing and I fear this may overtake our Saturday nights – now that the darker cooler/colder nights are rapidly approaching – still it could be worse (I will just need to think about how)