Sunday, 3 August 2014

Families altogether again!

Tuesday 29th July to Sunday 3rd August 2014

We started off slowly on Tuesday, the main thing was to finalise the preparation of the boat for the impending arrival, which meant a last tidying up (although there wasn't much on that front); washing to be done - and with the lovely weather continuing it was dry very quickly.
After that it was just a bit of relaxation and a quick pack of things that we would need whilst we were away.
Everything accomplished OK.

The plan that had been worked out for Wednesday morning simply involved walking up the High Street to the Enterprise place to pick up the car and we would be away.

Lovely to hear from Roly and Bev as we were on our way - we wanted to catch up with them on the way down and since they were at Crick, it was well and truly on the way - cannot get any easier than that.
We met up with them opposite the marina, sat and had a cuppa as well, whilst we caught up with what they had been up to - and in all that time we forgot to take a picture.
But they had certainly been working hard on their tans - it must have been all of the cruising that they have been doing up and back between Norton Junction and Leicester.

Next on the list of things to do was to drop in at Kings Langley and pick up a couple of filters for Gordon and Dot - again it was literally on the way - just a slight detour and all done. We did however manage to get a snap of that and send them a photo to confirm that we had the correct items for them.

Eventually we made it to Watford - to Maggie and Paddy's - to see how they both were - they are doing very well indeed; Paddy is fully recovered from his operation last year for cancer and a follow up one earlier this year - he has high praise for the staff and surgeons at Watford General.
There was, of course, a mountain of mail for us as it was a while since we had last been there - longer than we initially thought.

Finally we said goodbye - we will be back in December for certain - it was time for Diane's medical appointment.
We really do make sure that we get value with having the car.
Very pleased to say that everything is heading in the right direction for her - needing less and less tablets - I will be even more pleased when it is down even further.

Not quite finally, but we did make it to our lodgings for the night - the Premier Inn at Welwyn Garden City - but only a rapid stop as we had a most important rendezvous at Harlow - there were a couple of filters to drop off and the two girls to catch upon their chitchat directly and face-to-face; and of course, Gordon and I had important and secret man-stuff to discuss.
The Beefeater at Harlow was the nominated point; pretty busy it was too, with none of the tables inside available and a limited menu for outside.
Diane thought that she would see if she could flutter the eyelashes a bit - she returned to announce that they had found a table for us.
Always smiling is that Gordon!

The meal was very good; the service was in agreement with the food and we were all happily satisfied by the end of it all.
By the way, the filters were correct as well.
As there was a 35-40 minute trip back, we left as late as we dared, knowing that it was way past our usual bedtime and the car was likely to turn back into a pumpkin; besides that we needed to be away on the earlier side in the morning.

Everyday at St.Albans hospital, they take samples for about 350 blood tests, and from where I was - in the waiting chairs, and not actually required to give anything - they do a great job - Diane was 27th in-line and we were out within 25 minutes.

Our priority now was a 13:40 flight landing at Heathrow; we didn't want to faff around in the interim. What to do?
Check the National Trust app - Osterly House, a lovely house and gardens to look at in Hounslow - just a 20 minute trip away from the airport - so off we went.
As it wasn't open until 11am (the house) we stopped off for a bit of late breakfast/early lunch - timed perfectly to fit in with the 30 minute free parking and then the 100m drive to the main gate of the NT property.

Such attention to timing this morning - some would almost say military precision.

Parking pass shown (so no parking fee); NT cards available (so free entry); we did opt for the audio tour player and headphones.
The property is very well presented and we do love looking around these properties to see the lifestyle that was enjoyed by the well-to-do and also some of the conditions of the below-stairs staff - as well as the layout and decor of the house.
Osterly House

the stables - supposedly visited by Queen Elizabeth I

The eating room

The Long Room (not the one at Lord's)

The Drawing Room

Main guest bedroom

The Yellow Room - I wonder how they come up with these names

The main gentleman's bedroom

the lady's room
It appears that whilst the usual level of class inequalities existed, the owners / residents of Osterly were slightly better than a lot of others.
Main Kitchen

The Pastry Room

Manager's office

We did see all of the house; had time for an early afternoon tea, before heading back to Heathrow to meet my aunt - Brenda - who was coming all the way from Australia to see and stay with us. It was good to see her arrive safely and well.
Those planes come in awfully low

So good was the timing that we were only waiting a bare 20 minutes when she appeared with travelling companions, Anne and Julie, who were due to lecture at  Oxford, but would be staying in central London.
There she is...

So goodbyes to Anne and Julie; we headed back to the car and then the homeward journey - via the M25 / M40 / M42 / M6.

As is not that unusual, we had been having a spell of very fine weather, and whilst I am not saying anything, the weather after 13:40 on that Thursday was less fine than before - the driving rain appeared about 90 minutes after we left and the traffic holdups were not far behind - eventually we arrived back in Northwich, a little more tired all around.
Here comes is the rain

Sleep for us all was relatively easy that night and it was an all night solid sleep.

Morning arrived and after breakfast it was time to return the car; a last supermarket shop; washing and fill the water tank before we untied and headed back down the Weaver, heading for a relaxing lunch at The Leigh Arms, after which it would hopefully be a trip up the Anderton Lift and back onto the dear old Trent and Mersey.
Saltersford Lock

She has to earn her dinner - making Brenda work at steering

and now being the tourist

Again all went to plan - although we did cut it fine to make sure that we had a trip up the boatlift - 17:00 being the time for us and also the last one for the day.
Anderton Boat Lift

Raining again - safety under the umbrellas

Looking down at The Weaver

A further 90 minutes cruising, by which time we were ready to moor up and settle down for the night - it had got coolish enough to warrant this as well.
Going through Barnton Tunnel we noticed that our tunnel light was not working - Diane in her ingenious style, went out front with a lantern that we had - this was enough to light the way with ease.
A quick check before the next tunnel didn't "enlighten" the situation, but as Diane was preparing for another lantern exercise for Saltersford Tunnel, the main light decided to work again - mmm, that looks like a loose connection somewhere.

Another good night's sleep, but rain had started coming down - that was not in our plan - we were in the need to get to Lymm for a lovely Sunday lunch with Elaine and Paul (as well as Bombo and Sammie).
In the rain we headed off; through the Dutton Stop Lock (this would be Brenda's only chance to do a lock manually and she did well) and then for the tunnel - 2 boats in front of us; we made the cutoff point; and the light wouldn't work again - Diane was out front again - this time for over 1100m.

A relatively brief stop at Midland Chandlers for a couple of things - including some more bilge paint, this time it will be for the gas locker.
After that it was a short trip down the Runcorn Arm for water and elsan duties, then we winded the boat - the canal was wide enough - back onto the Bridgewater proper and we made it to Lymm in time to find a space available - just one - courtesy of a wide beam which we had passed a little earlier as it was preparing to wind - and just before a boat arrived from the other direction - Perfect!
Would you trust her?

Sunday arrived and we had some sunshine and a rather strong and cool wind, but all-in-all a better day than we had on the previous two days - maybe it was just coincidental with Brenda's arrival.
Amazingly she has had virtually no jet lag - sleeping well overnight and not waking up too early.
Having tried her hand at steering on a couple of occasions already - and doing very well; thriving on the views from the back of the boat; and tentatively sampling a couple of the local ales - the colder lagers are more to her Australian taste anyway, but we believe that she is enjoying the experience so far.
As the weather was quite good, we thought a walk around the Lymm dam would help to stretch a few muscles for the three of us and build up a bit of an appetite for lunch.
Carvings in the area around the dam at Lymm

Lymm Church

It was ever so good to see Paul and Elaine and to catch up on their adventures in Europe with the motorhome - they are both looking very well indeed and good news is glad at anytime.
The dogs - Bombo and Sammie - were lively of course - as they are - Sammie was ever ready with the tongue that licks.
Lunch at the Spread Eagle was relaxing; the food was good; just a very nice relaxing time where the time seemed to just disappear.

our favourite - The Spread Eagle

Two familiar characters

the gang together

Poor Bombo - in the stocks 

watch where those hands are going, you two!

Before long we were saying goodbye again - and looking forward to the next time.

As for the rest of the day/evening - it was only a narrow thing but we didn't fall asleep in the chairs, but for sure it will be another solid one tonight.

26 Miles, 3 Locks, 3 Tunnels

Totals: 2727 Miles, 2046 Locks, 94 Tunnels, 32 Lift Bridges, 151 Swing Bridges

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