Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Locked out; new home; last orders

Monday 10th February to Sunday 23rd February 2014

In what has now turned out to be our last Monday afternoon tea in the cedar huts, everyone did themselves proud – it was deemed to be Indian Monday and the curries, naan bread and onion bajis were all there to be devoured.

I say that this is was our last at the marina, and that is entirely due to the usual and now increasing pettiness of the people who run Aston Marina.

The area around the huts has been locked with no access possible – you need to book a meal through the bistro and book a hut and also pay a £10 cover charge to be able to sit in there. So on a Monday afternoon in February/March when the marina is not open we will be forced to go somewhere else.

The feeling is that they only want the boats present as entertainment for the customers of the bistro/cafĂ© – the management continues to not give a st_ff about any of the boaters who pay mooring fees and in effect are paying the running costs of the marina.

On a much brighter note for the day it was Joan’s birthday – I think the gig is up on claiming 21again – so hope you had a good one too.

Roly with his "man-sized" bib - he was ready
for eating

Gordon and Roly - ready and eager to enjoy

Sammie was in on the action as well

Roly, Bev, Paul and Carol in deep conversation
A night out on Wednesday as we joined Andy, Sue, Dot and Gordon for dinner at The Hollybush – with a 2 for 1 offer, how could you say no.

The food was good and so was the beer (so I was told) and we were all back at a reasonable hour.

Not a lot happened for the remainder of last week – Roly and I reached agreement on purchasing new batteries for the boats – 4 each – and managed to save a bit of money by ordering together – so we were closer to being able to cruise again.

We opted for the same type as we already had – Trojan L16H (425Ah) x 4 – and Roly has decided on Trojan’s as well.

Friday early doors was the happy end to a week of grumbling about the cedar huts and with the week’s layoff for the 6 nations, Ireland remained on top of the table for another week.

Our emphasis for the forthcoming week was on the delivery of the batteries and their installation, and also to complete wallpapering the top half of the walls.

We also resolved our dilemma about Mondays – we simply went to The Royal Exchange – Michelle there was happy to accommodate us and allowed us to bring food – they weren’t serving food until the evening – so we have another home – well really just making it home for 2 afternoons a week.

The three belles

All of us (Andy behind the lens) - Phil (front) kept under control
by Lynn - nobody saw the hit

The three rogues

another three rogues
The wallpapering started and we got into a routine – I cut the paper to suit and Diane pasted and hung it – the new paste with size helped – and we now have 2/3rds completed.

The batteries were delivered and have now been installed – they are bl__dy heavy indeed (56kg each) and on removing the first old one I unfortunately pulled a muscle in the side of my back – Diane helped the old bloke get through it all – she’s a gem - and Paul, wrong place/wrong time – helped get the last 2 new batteries into place – thanks Paul.

Out with the old batteries...

...the space cleared and cleaned...

...new ones ready to go in
Clive Penny then connected them all and suddenly we had full battery power back again – Diane was happy and I sensed it had a lot to do with having hot water again for more regular baths – I fear that this means more tea/coffee making whilst she is luxuriating.

Thursday afternoon came along as we were just enjoying the feeling of being able to cruise again, that boozy Manx pair (sorry, I mean Andy and Sue) were keen on trying steak night at The Dog and Doublet – unfortunately for all of us the restaurant was booked out so it was The Hollybush again – oh well, if we have to!

Once again the food was excellent.

Friday was a bit of a sad day really as we came to the realisation that this would be the last day we were all together – Sue and Andy were off home in the morning and wouldn’t be back until after Dot and Gordon had left – so we made a good time of it – after The Royal Exchange we dropped in at The Three Crowns – Dot and Diane opting for going back to the boats; Sue returned after dropping them off.

Diane carefully counting the cellar-load of wine just purchased

"See that just there"

What a boring lot - tablets and pubs do not mix - even if the
Olympics are in full swing

Drinking and talking rubbish were more important
We were able to change the channel over to see the Wales v France game and so enjoyed a few more drinks, watch the game and lose track of time after it – we did however avoid the carriage transforming back to a pumpkin, but only just.

What a lovely day Saturday turned out to be – sunshine in the morning – we sat outside to eat breakfast – after which we were joined by John (nb Earl of Shannon) for a bit of a chat – well a long chat really – just enjoying the sun.

People are more friendly on boats and in marinas and more easy going than in land-based situations – more willing to engage in a chat, rather than just a quick “hello” and a wave before going without even stopping – well most are that way, but you do get exceptions.

We wandered into Stone for just a couple of things and ended up in The Star for a late lunch – and combined that with watching the first half of the England v Ireland game; after that it was back to the boat and a night in.

Sunday was a bit of a relaxing do not much sort of day and we sort of faffed around finished a few things.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Tour or not; free beer; donating our time

Saturday 8th February to Sunday 9th February 2014

Young Dorothea had been at her organisational best – 8 of us were off to the Titanic Brewery in Burslem for a factory tour with product sampling – later there would be a chance to have a further pint and something to eat at The Bull’s Head (Burslem) – all inclusive in the price – seemed like excellent value.

All we had to do was get ourselves there.

Perhaps understandably Andy and Sue decided to drive there – Andy was a little bit indisposed but determined not to miss the outing; so that left just the remaining 6 to make our to the bus stop and with a change at Newcastle we would be almost there.

Sally kinded offered to drive us to the bus stop – Dot, Diane, Roly and Rob being able to squash into the vehicle – Gordon and I deciding to walk anyway as it would take as long just to wait – in the process we missed Sue who had come over to provide additional taxi services.

Eventually we caught the 101 bus to Newcastle – Rob with a wide grin, being the only bus pass holder, was a free rider.

Luckily Dot and Diane, between them, managed to ascertain the time and stand number of the next bus to Burslem – just a 5 minute wait – sorry guys, no chance of a quick one before we had to go.

It was just like military precision – Dot knew where we had to get off and following the satnav directions on the phone we made it through the thicket and the marshland to arrive 30 minutes early.

Only one thing to do –head back to Ye Olde Smithy for a drink first – an excellent way to spend the time. We managed to view a bit of the Yeovil v Leeds match (a high stakes encounter with a ‘huge’ TV audience to be expected) followed by the first few minutes of the Liverpool v Arsenal clash – enough to see that the first goal was scored by an offside Skirtl – but they won 5-1 so probably no influence on the outcome anyway.

After that it was back to the brewery – this time with many more people and doors open and ready for us.

Sue and Andy had arrived by car and were waiting for the rest of us.

We have done a few different tours of factories over the years and you tend to think of seeing the processes involved in producing the end product. There seemed a bit much emphasis on sampling the end product and it was obvious that this was a much more preferred way to go by the 40 odd people who had arrived. There were a few who did not crave for so much tasting of the product as others, but we wouldn’t want to spoil the enjoyment of others.

Both Sue and Roly were out front in their support for the
6 nations rugby

Poor Gordon - in a quandary about which
one to drink - special thanks to Roly

No not too much for Andy yet - just
overwhelmed by it all - taking it easy
on the "chair" of choice
Eventually as the barrels (4 in all) were reduced to echoing vessels, the tour began – Wayne, the guide (and one of the drivers), still bearing L plates (guide skills) showed us around the plant and explained some of the changes that would be taking place.

Somewhere, somehow this will find it's way into your glass
Diane, of course, visited the gift shop –in need of a T-shirt to show that she had been there – and she had.

After this were adjourned to The Bull’s Head – Dot showing us the way again, and managed to lead a trio of young men astray as well – well at least to the pub.

Whilst I was not so much interested in the free ale, I did spy that they had on offer 3 bottles of any of the Gales variety for a lazy £25 – including the much favoured (and sought after) Black Beer and Raisins variety – couldn’t go past that – and by the end I hadn’t.

The food was quite well done as well – so glad that there was a vegetarian option –Diane and Roly were in their element – Diane with the sausages and onions in a roll times three and Roly with the double cheese double burger option times two – later he was to enjoy it over and over again –certainly got his money’s worth.

The trip home was a bit slower than the trip there, mainly due to just missing the connecting bus to Stone by 1 minute – so off for a coffee to wait (also a tea and 1 lager). Then came the decision – do we stop off at The Exchange for a drink and wish Michelle (the licensee) a Happy Birthday or simply head home – it was a split decision and three of us – Gordon, Roly and I – decided on the celebratory route.

We even managed to grab our usual table in the front window – just a single drink each but as happens we discussed the problems of the world and put all of those right – without the need total talk about batteries or toilets.

Rejecting the need get full value from the All-Day bus tickets and seeing that exercise was all important we set off on foot for the marina – part of the thought process being that the bus didn’t go anywhere near The Three Crowns and the footpath did.

Settling ourselves down into comfortable chairs in a quiet corner, it didn’t stay quiet for too long as the earlier conversations resumed – we will all deny any knowledge of exactly what was said – if only someone had been there to act as minute taker, Mr. Cameron would have had a blue print to resolve all of the problems in the kingdom.

Surprisingly, or really not so surprisingly (as we all have lovely better halves) there was no disbelief at the time that each of us made it back aboard our respective boats.

Without a trace of any ill-effects from the activities of the previous day and night we all seemed to have had a good day out.

Diane needed to see Elaine about medicating her; we both needed to see Bev to wish her a Happy Birthday; I needed to see Roly about batteries; and finally Paul and I were off to Old Trafford for the Man United v Fulham game.

We got to nb Klara (Bev and Roly) first – the birthday song was sung with a repeat rendition in the background from Paul – who was not quite ready for us – so aboard with B&R for a cuppa and chat about batteries (more to confirm pricing); sample the chocy’s from Elaine and Paul.

Then as we were about finished, a tap on the boat from Paul signified that we needed to be off to the M6 and beyond.

It only took a little over the hour before we were pulling into the car park at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground and a short stroll down Sir Matt Busby Drive and we were at the Foundation Centre – the lovely girls in charge sorted us out and in the blink of an eye we were kitted out and with T-shirts on and buckets in hand we were calling loudly for any and all donations for The Christie Hospital.

It was a different way to spend just on 3 hours and certainly a beneficial manner to pass the time – between us we managed to raise £245 – with Paul’s much prettier face attracting more than mine.

The rain, hail and snow managed to hold off; the people were lovely – except for those miserable well-heeled lot who had forgotten where their pockets were; the kids were the best along with the pretty young girls (I didn’t really say that dear - it was Paul saying it).

After failing to manage to get tickets to get into the ground, it was time to head back home. We thought we might be able to catch the second half somewhere, probably in Stone – after hearing the score at halftime it was a 50/50 decision as to whether it was a goer.

If we had known that we would be next to a PITA (pain in the a__e) in the pub and that Darren Bent would score a last minute equaliser we might have bypassed it.

But still, the end of a satisfying day out, a drink at the pub and the thought of a warm boat at the end of it was enough.

I stowed some of my stuff aboard the boat and headed a few pontoons along – Dot and Gordon had invited us for dinner at 4pm – but they knew where I was going and that I would be late –so they all ate first and I did so when I got there – Dot, it was all lovely –Banjo will testify to the Yorkshire, although he would have liked to eat the entire portion.

We finished off with a game of UNO – we needed to keep playing until Dot had won a game – the two girls are so very alike – a duplication of traits that appeal to Gordon and I alike.

Thus ended a pretty full-on weekend – certainly glad to get into bed on Sunday night – sleep came pretty quickly – goodnight!!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Cherries, Bananas and Fruit Wine

Thursday 6th February to Friday 7th February 2014

Thursday was tank day – filling the empty diesel containers and emptying the toilet cassette. As long as we kept it that way around then we wouldn’t have any problems – thankfully Banjo’s yapping didn’t cause us any loss of concentration.

Friday IS early doors day and a little while after Diane carefully, calmly and calculatingly managed to “stab” Elaine gently in the privacy of her own vehicle, we set off along the towpath with Dot and eventually Gordon for another expectedly entertainingly pleasant Friday afternoon/evening.

What transpired was one of the funniest days we have had yet anywhere anytime.

A bit of time was spent discussing Roly’s penchant for ‘glace cherries’ – it seems that he adores them and Bev confirmed that with a rapid change of facial colour from a healthy pink glow to a scarlet red accompanied by the laughter – this rapid change of facial colour happened a few more times throughout the session.

Dot quickly got herself entwined into a discussion about the relative merits of cut-off very short shorts and the much longer versions. It revolved around exactly how revealing the shorter version could actually be.

Along the way it seems that Dot and Diane had once again drunk the bar dry of the Black Beer and Raisins (very alcoholic) wine – and it was starting to show.

Andy was considering the “reverse alliterative” words that could be used as a tattoo.

Paul had already given us the “WOW” factor although that required specific placement – Andy managed to come up with “HH” – it again needed special consideration as Hammersmith is somewhat lengthy and may not suit everyone.

We seemed to return to the fruit theme and Diane proceeded to show everyone the special way that she seems to eat a banana – she did explain that she didn’t like them as soft as the specimen that she had before her – a picture of this can be viewed at http://nbthemanlyferry.blogspot.com.au/

During all of this Sue had remained unusually quiet, but did pop up now and then with a quip or two – her early morning start obviously contributed to it but she had kindly given Elli and Mick a lift to Stafford station for their holiday to mainland Europe. She had Bombo in her arms and it may have been his snoring that had an effect.

Thankfully we were able to get a lift back with Paul and Elaine – Diane was pointing out the meritorious driving abilities of others – it seems a lot of them worked in the banking industry.

Once back aboard it was a matter of hydration initially, then feeding her before finally sending her off to bed for some much needed sleep - everything would hopefully be OK in the morning.

Note to self – make sure that the Panadol is handy for her!!

PS - this has been approved and authorised by the management.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Elaine week

Tuesday 28th January to Wednesday 5th February 2014

Now let’s see what we have been up to this week – “not really that much” would be the first thing that springs to mind, but you sit down and think about it for a bit and you find that you have been fairly busy - nothing new there.

We did hire a car this past week and as is the case we do so because we have a few things to do about the same time and we then set about finding other things that we can do whilst we are more mobile.

Well anyway the first thing that we did – without a moment’s hesitation – we were off to Manchester to visit Elaine after her operation. Paul gave us the good oil on where to park and how to find her and that we did – I could be corrected at some time but I am pretty well certain that we are yet to see Elaine without that lovely smile – and we were not disappointed.

She was up and about (certainly a bit gingerly, but walking well); in good spirits and as wonderful as ever. The time flew by and she certainly needed a bit of a rest before the evening session, but we were really glad that we made the trip.

Friday was an early start -7am – off to Watford for a doctor’s appointment for Diane, which went as expected.

We had a chance to stay overnight with Maggie and Paddy whom we love to see and it should be more often.

Saturday was a journey back up the M1/M6 just in case Elaine was back – Diane was resuming her nursing days by performing the pin-cushion duties on Elaine when she was back. We were only out by a day –Sunday and she was home.

Arrangements had been made with Dot and Gordon for Sunday lunch out at The Stag’s Leap in Rugeley where they cook the chickens on a rotisserie – 3 enjoyed it – the vegetarian lasagne was also very nice.

Monday was return the car day, but not before some last minute shopping – it was less than usual as the new budget on spending came into effect on the1st.

After returning the car, Diane attended to Elaine and I checked in with Roly and Bev about their batteries and suddenly it was afternoon tea time.

Despite the drab and cold conditions there were still 16 people there – we must enjoy each others company.

Tuesday drifted by – we did get a couple of freeloaders wandering in – Elaine for her jab and Paul desperately searching for a couple of stray TimTams to have with a cup of tea – we will need to see the marina management to get that gate fixed so that we don’t get these drifters again.

And then we come to today – a long walk to get Diane’s Womens Weekly and then a bit of rain in the face coming back –quickly making it aboard to a cosy well-heated boat – definitely not moving for the rest of the day.

And lastly but by no means least