Sunday, 27 December 2015

Just slow moving and a bit winter cruising...

Tuesday 15th December to Thursday 24th December

We had spent enough time moored here in Croxley and thought it appropriate to move northwards for a bit – but not too far – just up to Cassiobury Park – Phil joined us for the first part of it before needing to return home – something about going to work.

Anyway we moored up just for Lock 76 where we had adequate TV reception and it was quiet and well away from other boats – we fancied a bit of peace and quiet.

The weather has continued to be very unseasonable – almost like an English summer – there being rain and the occasional glimpse of sun.

Our intention was to continue north heading towards Hemel with the objective to spend a few days there before winding and coming back south again.

Stoppages are starting to limit where we can head to – if we were really going to head a lot further north it would not help our plans for later in the month and for January.

So the slow and stopping a few days here and there approach is how we have been progressing.

Stopping at Kings Langley was a first for us, as usually it has been getting from Hemel through to Watford that was the priority, but for once we did stop and explored up the hill where there is a lovely range of shop – we found the country market and parted with some hard-earned; then a little further on was a nice little charity shop where we found some real bargains – a couple of Spode Blue Italianate pieces for a fiver (total) and a lovely set of old scales for a tenner.

Moorings at Hemel were fairly full in the popular places but we managed to find a spot between locks 65 and 66 – a short pound subject to random leakage overnight as we found out a couple of times but with no worries.
A lengthy journey up the hill to the cinemas was rewarded with Maccas (just for the ice-cream) and seeing the new Star Wars movie – enjoyed both very much.

The beauty of going uphill first is that the trip back is downhill – much easier on the body.

We both like Hemel and uncharacteristically, we found that over the days that we were around the area, there were not the huge crowds that would be expected at this time of the year – that is except for the supermarkets, where you would think that the apocalypse was approaching.
People were loading trolleys with anything that didn’t move – Diane was smart enough to make sure that she held tightly to my hand as we picked out the few items that we actually needed.

The highlight of our stay was the trip to the pub to watch Watford beat Liverpool 3-0 – a very nice pub, and whilst they didn’t serve food, they had no objections to you bringing in anything from the adjoinging takeaways.
One downside was some crazy character who wanted to chat whilst we were watching the match. Eventually we had to ask him to move somewhere else – he thought that I was telling him to f--- -ff, but I was quite polite and only thinking it, not saying it!

Eventually we winded and headed back south again and made it as far as Abbots Langley to more up for a few days – weather considerations played an important part in how much we would cruise; TV considerations made up the other part of the process – what with Doctor Who and Strictly airing on Xmas Day, the reception was important.

Lastly, and I know that this is after the fact, my very favourite Mother-In-Law (Millie aka Dot) celebrated her birthday on the 23rd – not getting it out of me how many years around the sun she has been – else she would be over here on her broomstick and after turning me into a newt or other such creature, she would be using my organs straight into her cauldron.
I do love her dearly and we were able to wish her a happy birthday over the phone (on viber) – she loves all of that stuff.

....and finally from our crazy kids who got together in LA - some of this years Santa photos - the ring-in is Joey Turner - practically a family member anyway

That little white sign in the background between Sam and M itch is
the HOLLYWOOD sign

12 Miles, 23 Locks
YTD: 887 Miles (1427 km) , 561 Locks, 14 Tunnels, 11 Lift Bridges, 16 Swing Bridges

Total: 3781 Miles (6085 km) , 2682 Locks, 112 Tunnels, 45 Lift Bridges, 167 Swing Bridges

Friday, 25 December 2015

As you get older….

Friday 11th December to Monday 14th December 2015

This weekend had long been set aside for a great chance to catch up with everyone in Stone; a chance to have a Xmas drink ( or maybe 15 Xmas drinks) as well as lunch with so many people that we have spent the last few winter’s with and whose company we have enjoyed and always will continue to enjoy.

There must be special thanks to the organisational skills which Sue is so well endowed well qualified – once a thought is suggested it literally comes together in a matter of hours.

Diane arranged the accommodation and I arranged the car hire; Phil looked after the boat for us – much appreciated.

We headed off at 7am on Friday morning (having picked the car the previous day) and headed northwards – all of the traffic heading the other way – in towards London.

We would usually take the M6 Toll road but instead veered past that and as expected there was little to no traffic – the roadworks that have plagued the M1 and M6 for so long appear to almost be at an end.

Stafford came into view and we popped into a cafĂ© for a coffee before we met Andy and Sue and also their daughter Nikita (whom we hadn’t met before) for lunch at a favourite Chinese restaurant.

Afterwards we checked into the hotel and by then it was time for early doors at The Royal Exchange in Stone – it was lovely to see Michelle and Laurence behind the bar again – and nice to be remembered.
Just like old times again 

Jim and the very angelic Joan

Richard and Sharon

Andy telling Dot dirty jokes - again

wouldn't trust this bunch together

Obviously something very important being discussed here - for the life of
me I have no idea what it was

Butter wouldn't melt in their mouths - would it?
What is most surprising is that none have a drink in front of them!!

We didn’t stay too late, but later than we would have in the past, but it was such a great afternoon/night.
Diane made sure that she grabbed a chips and gravy on the way back – part of the reminiscing of past exploits.

Saturday was the big day; Sue had organised lunch for everybody and we only had to turn up – payment had been made; meals already ordered; so simply find a seat and a drink.
Table 1 - all the girls apart from two invaders - Malcolm and Gordon - must
have been told where they had to sit

All guys but Sharon snuck in there at the back - obviously the naughty boys table

....and then there were these two whacky ones - Diane and Bev

It was not a matter of being about the food, but that was very good of course, it was always primarily about the company and despite not seeing most of them for most of the year, it was, as it always should be, just like we saw them only the day before.

It did resemble a bit like an Australian BBQ – almost all of the women were on one table and the blokes on the other.

We had a couple of new ones to the whole group and so please to meet Malcolm and Marguerite from nb Old Codger – didn’t get a chance to chat a lot but glad to meet you both.

All too soon it was over and we were saying our goodbyes – it really is a great group of friends to have and to be a such a part of.

Naturally, we knew it would not / could not just with the lunch and six of us headed back to The Royal Exchange for a drink or two.

We reminded ourselves that we were without an integral couple to our group as Paul and Elaine are away in Spain at the moment – and in likelihood will be enjoying the sun for quite a bit longer – they are never ever far from our hearts.
We wanted Paul and Elaine to be part of it all - so a picture
on the iPad was the best that we could set up quickly

Hardy souls - continuing the tradition at the Titanic

It wasn’t too long a stay on out part at the pub – it gets harder to keep up as you get older (maybe I should work on phrasing that differently), so we headed back.

It is a group that is hard to keep away from each other and when someone mentioned breakfast for the Sunday morning, we managed to attract 10 starters for that.

Breakfast the next morning - we must be getting old - not a hangover amongst the
lot of us

Andy took advantage of Diane's kind sharing nature -
luckily for him she didn't have a fork in her hand - else
it would have been in back of his hand

One thing is for certain there is a deep affection for each other that distance does not decrease and we always look forward to next we get together, but for now it was time for us, at least, to head back south and back to our boat whilst others were snug inside theirs.

The trip back was the usual M6 traffic - not moving -
and we had the rain as well

Something else I have to say, is that we noticed the difference in temperature between London and Stone – from overnight temperatures of 10-11C down to 2-3C and similarly during the day.

On Monday the car was returned, the boat was all OK – well done Phil – everything was fine – but we did spend a bit longer in bed not wanting to wake up.

As I mentioned above, it does get a bit harder to keep up as you get older (nah, I couldn't see the value in changing it).

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Where have you been?

Monday 30th November to Thursday 10th December 2015

I have received a complaint about the blog in this last couple of days – apparently I haven’t been writing them frequently enough and my beloved father-in-law has duly noted it and passed the comment along – via the enforcer – his daughter – oops that should read as my wife.

So I have decided to sit down and start the process of bringing it all up to date – but to tell you the truth we have merely marked time in the progress along the canal heading northwards.
We were out with Xmas hats on - not caring what those elves
got up to with the baby reindeer. The weather has been so warm
that the ice rink (background) was starting to melt.

As Mitch would say - "Those crazy kids are at it again"

Monday comes and there is that Slug and Lettuce
half price deal - the one that Diane can never

We did stay in Uxbridge for a few more days before moving on the Friday morning and got as far as Lynster’s Lake – a quiet mooring and very enjoyable, the only problem being that the television reception was less than adequate and as everyone knows that simply wouldn’t do for her indoors and her “Strictly”, so there was no option but for a bit of boat movement to happen.
December arrives and the decorations are up
Luckily I knew of a spot just a few miles up which would have good reception and be quite open – so off we trundled cruised and voila it came to pass that there was excellent TV and SHE was pleased.
A measure in the sand or rather a soggy towpath -
one by which Diane measures where we are

This little fellow found a ledge inside the lock

We stayed for the night and the following day we had made plans to cruise on a bit further – this time it would be with Nikki, Phil, Mia and Jess – they wandered down from where they live, close to the canal and were right on time.

It was a lovely day to cruise, which really made it so much better.
The Sheehan gang - enjoying a sunny cruise - you can tell
by how they are rugged up
We have been extremely lucky during this time; the weather has been unseasonably mild with temperatures up to the mid-teens and overnight it has been barely below double figures – so much so that the Reflecs has hardly been required for more than a few hours each day; the boat is so well insulated that it remains at 12-13C overnight and we get away with a summer doona and still a bit warm for us.

I guess it will just be a matter of time before we all start to feel the very cold weather and some of that white stuff will appear.

One of the main problems with such warm weather is that with the rain that we have had the towpaths are a bit muddy and sodden so that it becomes a bit difficult walking through it all.

Anyway we had a lovely cruise and were able to find a good mooring at Croxley Green, where we have moored up.

8 Miles, 10 Lock
YTD: 875 Miles (1408 km) , 538 Locks, 14 Tunnels, 11 Lift Bridges, 16 Swing Bridges

Total: 3769 Miles (6066 km) , 2659 Locks, 112 Tunnels, 45 Lift Bridges, 167 Swing Bridges

Monday, 30 November 2015

It's not really Xmas (yet)!!

Saturday 21st November to Sunday 29th November 2015

We hung around in Alperton for another couple of days, mainly on account of the weather conditions before we finally headed off; we had wanted to spend a couple of days at Willow Tree Open Area but decided against it, opting to have a quite long cruising day by our recent standards and made it to Cowley Peachey where we found a lovely mooring just up from Tesco.
It is to be expected that at this time of the year the conditions will be a bit unpredictable and not the best for daily cruising, so we have got into the habit of mooring up for a number of days before finally moving.

With mooring restrictions relaxed, essentially they are all 14-day moorings (unless otherwise stated) it becomes a bit easier on the need to move-on quite so soon.

The Costa located in the Tesco store as well as the one a bit further down the High Street seemed to be a bit well frequented whilst we were around, and strangely on Thursday morning we found ourselves outside the freshly- reopened Aldi wating for it to open so that Diane could inspect and purchase her favourite Star Wars toys – really is a big kid (again!).
Crazy people - queuing up outside Aldi - and we were crazy
as well

Her spoils

It was just as well that it was open early because we had decided to move on up to Uxbridge after the shopping expedition and, of course, in the process, had to go through that locking process business for the first time in quite a while – that being with both of us there.

Luckily we managed to grab a perfectly sized mooring spot in a line of moored boats – it being virtually the last one available.
There were more through the bridge but didn’t fancy being moored outside a pub over the weekend, although we doubted that there would be much trouble.

It was quick work mooring up and a little later we walked up to the station – Diane was off to Watford for her annual diabetes MOT, but because of the early appointment time she spent the night with Maggie and Paddy – the Friday being Paddy’s birthday – cannot tell you how old he was but he was a war-time baby.
Looking fighting fit and ready to celebrate
Diane passed the testing and is now OK for another year – oil change and tyres all checked and in good working order.
We did a bit of follow-up work on some planning for a trip-away in the new year and that is now taken care of; we also went off to the movies here in Uxbridge to see “The Lady in the Van” with Maggie Smith, whom we admire as a wonderful actor – I didn’t think much of the story which, although true, showed up the gullibility of the author and also Social Service attitudes which I find condescending and in many ways blinkered.

Saturday was a milder yet quite windy day but I was coerced  suckered  persuaded to go shopping – oh how I love shopping especially when it involves Diane looking at clothes (NOT!!!) – but I survived got through it came out of my coma woke up from the nightmare.

We also ordered some tiles that we need for a new splashback in the kitchen and they are likely to arrive in another week, so we will need to come back – as we will have moved by then.

Without doubt the highlight of the week was a surprise phone call on Sunday morning from Sue (and Andy) – they had been at Twickenham for the double header the previous day and wondered if we were free for lunch.
It seems almost like years since we had last seen them both, but it was only the end of August – which in boating terms is about the same.
There is always somebody trying to photo-bomb - that big guy at
the back just wouldn't move
So we met them in the town centre and adjourned to The Three Tuns – the food was quite delicious and plenty of it; good value too; the Guinness was good and that was what counted for me; the football was on, but in the other bar area and rightly so as we wanted to talk to Sue and Andy and the football was not important (after all it was only Spurs v Chelsea).
Incredibly nice lunch but not as nice as the company - such
a lovely surprise
This was just such a good tonic for us – although we are in contact almost on an hourly basis with everyone via Viber, it was so good to catch up with them over a meal – we will of course be off to see the whole gang very soon anyway.

After we said our goodbyes it was back to the boat and out of the wind (which was still blowing quite strong) and also out of the cold – so we settled down and resisted a nanna nap.
It almost seemed dark outside at 3pm but we had only to wait another 90 minutes to really complete the process.

Just think, it is only another 23 days until the winter Solstice and then the days will be getting longer and we will be heading to summer – that season of the year with more daylight than not.

Diane is deeply “indebted” to the words of wisdom passed onto her by Gary (nb Inca) concerning the correct time to put up Xmas decorations.

In Gary’s “thesis” on the subject, he states quite clearly that any decorations put up before the beginning of December mean that an “elf is killing a baby reindeer”.
Diane is severely traumatised by all of this – walking around town with decorations clearly on display; seeing people wearing xmas clothing; avoiding even finding exactly where our decorations are currently stored.

She has however decided that we needed some battery powered timer lights to be put in place which are apparently our new security lights – on Tuesday they will be renamed decorations.
This one is by courtesy of Gary (nb Inca) and is from a couple
of weeks ago as we posed at one of these pop-up toilets.
No really we were only posing - it was too cold to expose anything

12 Miles, 1 Lock
YTD: 867 Miles (1395 km) , 528 Locks, 14 Tunnels, 11 Lift Bridges, 16 Swing Bridges

Total: 3761 Miles (6053 km) , 2649 Locks, 112 Tunnels, 45 Lift Bridges, 167 Swing Bridges

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Old Man on the boat!!

Monday 16th November to Friday 20th November 2015

Although we have officially finished our requirements we decided that we would stay a bit longer around the basin area – the primary reason being that the threatening winds up to 80 mph suggested that travelling would be the least sensible thing to do.

Once that decision was made we thought about things that we still wanted to do whilst we were here.

We had seen, during our regular walks, Kensington Palace and thought that it would be worth seeing, but only on a 2 for 1 offer which we duly instigated on Monday.
It contains four exhibitions in the one location and coupled with a lot of other things that we had already learned from other loctaions and visits, it helped to fill in a few more of the missing pieces in our knowledge of the royals.
On it’s own it is still well worth the visit.

my very own princess

The long Gallery

A most interesting piece - at first I thought it was a clock
but appears to be just a map

A representation of the working desk for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
- notice the two pictures on the left and in particular the one on the right of these two

The Lord Melbourne after whom Melbourne is named

Outside the gates which show the private apartments in the background where
some of the lesser royals now live

Tuesday was a pretty much a lost day – we had rain in the morning.
We did however wander down to Wetherspoons for breakfast and to use their wifi to download the new Windows 10 – rather than use up our Myfi allowance. It took a bit longer than usual, but the staff were very good – and obviously in a sign of things to come, looked kindly upon the old couple sitting there quietly for 3 hours.
in Wetherspoons waiting for our downloads to finish
Later we ventured out for the afternoon and evening in Watford.
My follow-up to some x-rays on my back and neck – it is a bit of a reality check when you go and see the doctor about these things and he sums it all up with the statement
“I can see some wear and tear in the vertebrae but that all seems quite normal for a man of your age”
That’s it then – I am officially old – I guess that the future holds that same statement over and over again whenever I visit the doctor.
You can just hear it all
“You have to expect that your joints will creak a bit for….”
“Your flexibility is just as I would expect for…”
“You are quite fit for….”

…a man of your age.

Anyway a man of my age still enjoyed a night out with Diane, Maggie and Paddy and  I managed to negotiate the train system on our way home with the wind ever-increasing and line disruptions due to trees fallen down.
When I say the “I managed” I did need some help from my much younger wife who in no way has had said to her “for a woman of her age” – perhaps she should apply for a carer’s allowance.
Maggie and Paddy - still looking good (for their age!!!)

On the way back we traveled past Wembley and managed to get this shot
from the train.

Wednesday was a little better with regards to the rain but still the wind was around but today we decided to do some walking a bit further afield.
On many of the British TV shows that we have seen over the years there are regular mentions of “whilst walking out on Hampstead Heath…” so I thought that it might actually be nice to go and see it in person.
After changing trains just the once we made it to Hampstead Heath station – right on the edge of the heath.
Luckily we had a map already printed on the iPad so it was easy to find our way around – because we found precious little of any signs to say where anything was.
The views across to London were just as we had seen on the TV; you can see how easy it would be to find a remote location to leave the evidence of a crime; it was in many ways quite different to how I had pictured it in my mind’s eye – but we did have a good walk around – not quite finding the conveniences which we knew were there (somewhere).
Looking over one of the lakes at Hampstead Heath

A brave soul using the swimming area - I felt cold just looking on

The shot we wanted - from Parliament Hill - looking out over London
The weather did deteriorate later on, so we were quite happy to be snuggled down in the warmth of the boat as the rain came down and the wind stayed blustery.

Thursday was to be our last day moored here in Paddington.
A few things were still to be done.
1. We wanted to send some more things home so off we went to the Doddle store at the station for a box
2. We visited the Charles Street Markets for fruit and vegetables – so that Diane could try out her new blender – we are going in for the pureed vegetable/fruit drink meal replacements.
3. We wanted to visit the lunchtime food market in Market Place
4. We had arranged to have a drink with Caroline and Gary from nb Inca

We did get a little wet with the shopping expedition but all was achieved satisfactorily.
The food market offered a few more varieties to those that we had already seen and we caught up with Caroline and Gary there as well whilst we all ate.
That made it pretty simple to then wander off to The Dickens in London Street where we enjoyed a few hours together discussing – well discussing what boaters always seem to talk about – our travels and people that we have each met and other that we have yet to meet.
Enjoying a lovely afternoon with Caroline and Gary

Oh and we also did mention toilets as well.

It was a very good afternoon and very glad to have met them both – we will be crossing paths with them over winter and into next year I am sure.

The knowledge was with us for Friday – well it was with the young woman sharing the boat with me – she knows how to read all those apps that we old men don’t know anything about, so I was informed that the rain would be disappearing and the wind would be dropping.
It was as it was told it would be.

Firstly though we had to drop off our package at Doddle to send back to Melbourne – really a fair bit easier than with the Post Office and substantially cheaper – for the same price as a package I had sent back just a week or so ago, we managed to send back 4 times the weight.

After that and a last coffee at our regular Costa, we untied the ropes and pushed away – heading around to the basin to wind; saying a last goodbye to Gary (Caroline was out walking Hamish) and we drifted slowing past the boats that we knew by memory (still moored in the same places from 3 weeks ago) and around to the services at Little Venice – the water tap is so slow that we were there over 90 minutes to fill the tank, but after that we were able to be on our way.
On the move again - Wembley seems to be everywhere

and quite like the look of this smallish dutch barge

Mooring up at Alperton outside Sainsbury’s in a spot exactly the right length for the boat – marvellous.
The feel of winter was certainly upon us and really the thermals will be getting a bit of wear when next we cruise – I was freezing most of the way and still cold for quite some time after.
The Reflecs was working well and the boat was very cosy for the rest of the day – I doubt that it will be turned off for a while yet – the forecast for the next few days is for low single digit temperatures over night and higher single digit maximums – yep, winter is fast approaching – this is just the start.

7 Miles
YTD: 855 Miles (1376 km) , 527 Locks, 14 Tunnels, 11 Lift Bridges, 16 Swing Bridges

Total: 3749 Miles (6033 km) , 2648 Locks, 112 Tunnels, 45 Lift Bridges, 167 Swing Bridges