Saturday, 31 January 2015

Lie in again - what's that all about then?

Saturday 31st January 2015

Tennis day again this morning, but first there was a bit of a lie in - again.

Anyone who knows me will simply attest to my reluctance to stay in bed after waking up - I do not mean that they know first hand seeing me get up early all of the time - only Diane knows that, but she is quite happy to tell all.

Today, however, for the second day in a row I was more than happy to have a cuppa in bed - Diane having the honour of turning provider again.

The reason for such extravagance was quite simple - the Australian Open Women's Final would be telecast and with Diane watching it intently, I could set about taking care of anything I needed to do during that.

I did get a bit of work done, but most will wait until tomorrow - I think that I may have become a bit of slacker.

One other reason for the tardy start to the day was that we had enjoyed a lovely evening last night with Elaine and Paul - first a fine meal at The Church House Inn here in Bollington - very good quality and a fair price - followed by a visit to The Spinners Arms and a cuppa back at their house before heading back to the boat at an unusually late hour for us.

Following the tennis we caught the bus into Macclesfield to wander around and get a few things - certainly managed to spend some more money but picked up some interesting items.

Arriving back to the boat we found that Brian and Anne-Marie (nb Alton - Renaissance Carrying Co.) had been through - we had texted to them that we might be out but could they top up the diesel tank and cans and swap a gas bottle - it was all taken care of, so just had to tidy these few things away and back inside to relax - day over and done and really nothing else to say.

Wish all days were this easy - I fear that there will be a need for a bit more work tomorrow.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Snowed In

Thursday 29th January to Friday 30th January 2015

The forecasted heavy snow eventuated and it started very early - before 8am and it was coming down and settling.
The temperature overnight had plummeted but inside the boat it was it's usual warm and cosy self.
The result of yesterday's cruising was that we didn't have to go anywhere today as if there was any chance that that was going to happen.
Diane was awake early; wanting coffee - appease the woman, I say - and coffee was delivered.
There was some noise about 8am as she arose from the bed - heading towards the lounge and the TV - her means of getting the tennis fix that she craves at this time of the year.
And so it was - focussed interest on the Murray v Berdych match but every 45minutes it seemed that the signal went a bit haywire - connections all checked; then "could you go and check on the aerial please dear?"
So out I went - but getting out of the back door was a bit more difficult - the wind had been piling the snow up against it, but with just a modicum of effort it soon moved - cleaned the white stuff off the top of the aerial and the picture magically reappeared.

Even when the snow was coming down quite heavily there seemed to be plenty of people out walking - most with dogs - without the wind it was quite nice - even better being on the inside looking out.
through the window - snowflakes included

There was only the one boat moving today, that we saw and the couple on the back looked quite cold with their snow-topped hats and coats.
Come to think of it the ducks looked exactly the same.

As for us, Diane watch the end of the tennis whilst I continued to work and clear the aerial; we then just decided that it was much more pleasant inside the boat and didn't poke our heads outside until later in the day when some burly bloke started rocking the boat - his gangster moll was there as well with back-up and canine protection.
Of course that was Paul, Elaine and Trevor along with Bombo and Sammie - they were all out for a walk - Paul enjoying the rest after his day of playing in the snow with the cars on the road - look here the manly ferry

Friday morning came and we noticed that the snow had come overnight as the towpath had a fresh blanket covering it only disturbed by a single set of footprints.
It was also a day off from work, thanks to being able to reassign last Monday's Australia Day holiday to today.
So it was a bit of a lie in with a cuppa in bed and the iPlayer catching up on some missed shows; just simply reading by the fire - managed to finish Dickie Bird's autobiography - a nice read with some amusing anecdotes; then lunch out; and more relaxation - seems a bit like the thing to do in a few years time - on a more regular basis.
As with yesterday there was a little bit of a problem getting out of the back door with snow piled up against it, but nothing insurmountable.

The canal has a thin layer of ice over - not much at all, but it is significant with very cold nights here for a few more days yet.

Tonight we are off out for dinner with Paul and Elaine to try one of the local eateries and very much looking forward to a quiet time with just the four of us - and maybe a walk back to the boat in the snow - who know's - we maybe snowed out!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

A Mad Dash!

Tuesday 27th January to Wednesday 28th January 2015

I have mentioned in recent times our need to keep a firm eye on the weather reports and just to have an idea of what may be coming our way.
This was the state of affairs this week as we could see a week long period of overnight temperatures falling below freezing and the higher probability of the canal freezing.
We knew we would need water sometime in that period.

We also wanted to pop into Lime View Marina regarding putting the boat in for 10 days in February whilst we are away; and then there were the cassettes that would need emptying.

All three at once meant that we would need a little bit of a cruise.

Tuesday was due to be relatively fine and so we thought that we should go after Paul and Elaine were back and our doggie sitting was over.
Fortunately the timing allowed us to head off at a reasonable time which meant that we got to Four Lane Ends and the marina early - booked ourselves into there - and then to Higher Poynton to fill the water tank, which after a load of washing was slightly above the 1/4 mark, so it took a bit of time to fill.
Saying goodbye to Bollington

As usual the moorings above the water point were full to the bridge and we cruised to Middlewood where we managed to moor up despite it being a bit shallow.

Surprisingly, the Myfi reception was very poor - one of the few areas where we have failed to pick up a signal, but I had Diane's phone to act as a portable hotspot and life resumed as normal.

Another check on the weather showed the strong possibility of snow on Thursday so it became the topic of our discussion about what do we do on Wednesday - head for Marple, empty the cassettes and then wind and head back for where we were and finish the cruise to Bollington early Thursday or do it all on Wednesday.

It all became a moot point when Diane found out that the BBC were showing the Australian Open semi-final (with Andy Murray) live at 8am on Thursday morning - no question now - it would be a mad dash on Wednesday.

The alarm was set for real early and for us that is early.

Up, dressed, breakfasted and boat was ready and then away by 7:50am - the wind had picked up and as expected we were barely underway when the rain hit - it was quite an early morning storm which only lasted 15 minutes but left it's mark.
You realise something is amiss when there is more water pouring off the roof of the boat than there is under it in the canal.

It settled down a bit after that and it was only about 3 miles to Marple - one of the crew decided that she would head below for a lovely hot shower as we could refill the tank again when we were emptying the cassettes.

There I was alone on the stern - deserted in my hour of need - just as the wind really came up - the bow was rising and falling as waves were moving along; the sleet then arrived and not a lot that could be done.
Fortunately the canal depth had increased so we were no longer crawling along.

We had encountered some problems at bridge holes and seemed to be picking up muck every time; our weed hatch check the previous day had revealed that there was nothing around the prop - reversing seemed to clear it, but eventually we simply slipped the engine into neutral and drifted for 30 seconds before engaging and resuming the cruise.
Our conclusion from all of this that most probably some of the vegetation trimming remains were getting caught around the rudder and when we slowed they simply dropped off - this remained our strategy which seemed to work quite well.

Once at Marple and the services jobs completed, there remained the little effort of winding at the junction - the wind was still up and then to top things off a boat was moored on the lock moorings at the top of the flight.
Thankfully we were not descending today - we simply would not have been able to get into the lock - the boat was blocking the lock entrance.

Remarkably and without much fuss we winded and were now on our way back - still trying to beat the weather.
After getting past moored boats on both sides, the crew took over duties whilst I headed down for tea/coffee making duties and also to get on with some more work.
With this being lock-free, Diane is very happy to assume full control - it is the balance that we need to be able to cruise and get my work done.
She was feeling a bit smug when the sun made an appearance as she remembered the atrocious conditions that I had endured alone earlier in the morning.
That smugness took a bit of a battering when the rain and sleet reappeared and she took on the look of a drowned rat.
Finally we hit Bollington and moored up in the same spot that we had vacated just the previous day; tied up; and were inside as more rain came down.

She texted Paul to see how everything was going with Elaine's appointment for Wednesday and that we were back - the reply that came through meant that we needed to head down and look after Bombo and Sam for a for hours until their delayed return.

Sammie waiting for Mum and Dad to return
The day ended rather a bit better for all of as we sat down to enjoy a Chinese take-away together.

Now she will be able to watch the tennis tomorrow!

15 miles
YTD: 51 Miles, 25 Locks, 1 Tunnel, 1 Swing Bridge
Totals: 2945 Miles, 2146 Locks, 99 Tunnels, 34 Lift Bridges, 153 Swing Bridges

Monday, 26 January 2015

Australia Day

Monday 26th January 2015

We are both very proud to be Australians, but somewhat annoyed, irritated and downright pissed off that we have to put up with a complete idiot as our PM.

Surely we can pack him off to Noddy Land and he can drive around in a little red car all day long.

Abbott is one half of a comedy team and no-one can really tell if he is the straight man or the funny one - he certainly should be in a STRAIGHT-jacket.

If it wasn't enough that he has reinstituted the awarding of knighthoods - a sign of the institutionalising of the British class system, he then makes a mockery of himself but worse, of the country, by giving one to the Duke of Edinburgh.

It seems that he is prepared to go to any lengths to ingratiate himself to overseas dignitaries but is completely out-of-step with the needs of his own country.

On this our national day, is it now the responsibility of every Australian to give the "mad monk" a giant two-fingered salute and tell him to get stuffed.

Cometh the train, cometh the woman!

Saturday 24th January to Sunday 25th January 2015

She did return as planned on the mid-afternoon train.

But before all of that Diane had a chance to visit Camden markets in London but judging by the weight of the case that she brought back she didn't add much to it of the pockets of stallholders there.
Looking forward to seeing these when we make it there at the end of the year.

Camden Locks 

inside the markets

Diane says this photo is for Paul
We had arranged that I would take the bus to the station and then we would come home the same way.

I was also thinking that there was a large market on in Macclesfield on Saturday, so that being the case I would go in early, have a good look around before the train was due and then be able to meet Diane and if the stalls were still around we could then have a look together.

Unknown to me Diane and Paul had been texting to each other, with Paul offering to take me in and then drive us both back - Diane arranged it all and forgot to tell me until I was already there.

It wasn't a problem and I met up with Paul at the station after I had dropped into Tesco for a chance to remove some items from the shopping list.

Whilst we both waited for the train, we had the chance to think that it would be a great job to drive the trains on these long distance journeys - say Manchester to Bournemouth or longer - a bit of a lapse to childhood when we might have thought that when we grow up we could become train drivers; probably not firemen - neither of us have the physique for the calendars.

Anyway the train duly arrived; Diane alighted from said train - very glad to see both of us there and Paul drove us back to the boat - this was such a lovely thing to do.

Oh, the market was not on for Saturday - it was scheduled for Sunday.

Next morning (Sunday) we paid a visit to the new Bollington services block for a lovely hot shower - no facilities for emptying cassettes, but the toilet was lovely and clean.
After this we did catch the bus back into Macclesfield and wandered around the outdoor market stalls - rather more extensive than those we were used to in Stone and Stafford - probably more of the size that I have seen in Nuneaton.

There were a couple of things that we purchased from them; more so we took in the Aldi store and cleaned up the remainder of the shopping list.

A coffee each and Diane couldn't go past The Silktrail Fryer - chips and gravy - back on the bus to Bollington and onto the boat to watch the FA Cup match being televised.

The weather for the weekend has been pretty good - no snow; little rain; sun was out; air was coldish - hardly seems like winter - more like mid-late April.

One consequence of Diane returning is that the radio has been returned to Smooth FM after a brief renaissance on Classic FM.

The skipper has returned; the weather is good; sun onto the solar panels and all is right with the world again.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Diane not here!

Thursday 22nd January to Friday 23rd January 2015

Diane decided that she had enough of the boat and has left me on the boat on my own and headed south to be with family - well not really - she has had to go down to Watford for her medical assessment and the timing of the appointment and the train timetables meant that it was best to leave on Thursday and come back on Saturday.

Of course that therefore gives me plenty of time to complete all of the jobs on the list that she has left for me.

Paul was very kind and offered to drive Diane into Macclesfield for her train - and I went along to make sure that she went - and then returned so that I could get some work done.

She arrived safe and sound.

It was convenient timing as well, the engine oil needed changing so that could get done easily and I could leave the engine bay open for quite a while without any risk of someone falling in either getting off or on the boat.
Anyway it is all finished and being a Friday is was time for a beer or two, so off down to The Spinners Arms - a knock on the door across the road to see if Paul could come out  to play.

Just a couple, which still took us a while to get through - the pub was busier than I had seen before, but the music was quite loud which made it a bit difficult to hear.

Back across the road to see Elaine and the dogs before heading back to the boat - 

Yep - they were both fine when I left

Only one more sleep until Diane was back on Saturday - but enough time to make sure that I have tidied everything up; that the dishes are all done; and the bed is made.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

An evening with Jamie?

Wednesday 21st January 2015

It was an experience to savour; an amalgamation of tastes; a chance to be indulged by the famous man himself - Jamie who?

Diane nursed her injuries and stayed out of the
way - enjoying the red wine

No, no, no - not him - it could classically be described as Iron Chef meets Naked Chef - the salmon was the secret ingredient and fortunately for all of us Paul did keep his clothes on or we may have been tripping and stepping over things.

We were kindly invited to dinner with Paul and Elaine - arriving right on time as all guests should do, we were tempted and aroused by the flavours and aromas eminating from the kitchen.
It was nothing to do with the dogs at all.

The great man himself was overly concerned about the cooking - carefully controlling each part of the meal - well at least when he wasn't checking on boat prices on Apollo Duck.

Paul in his working gear

A great culinary discussion going on here
The potatoes were of concern, so a second opinion was sought and then a third - they were fine. Diane was not able to invoke the last resort of going over the road for a portion of chips.

All of the food was excellent and tasted superb.
Dinner - Salmon Wellington and accompanied vegetables

The dessert was a creation from Elaine - a strawberry shortcake with strawberry jus, strawberry and banana pieces and freshly whipped cream.

...and of course dessert

We had a great night and it really was a lovely meal - Paul did a great job with a little help.
Sammie was trying his best doing an impersonation
of baby Oleg the meerket

Not quite sure if a new book is on it's way - maybe a little later in the year in time for Xmas.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Ego - not the only thing bruised!

Monday 19th January to Tuesday 20th January 2015

Monday became our day for getting some of the household jobs completed. Paul had very kindly offered to drive to the services block at the top of Bosley Locks along with a couple of cassettes and the rubbish, so I was able to clear those items away - and indeed they needed cleaning away.
This had involved the hardest of tasks - Paul was up and out of bed before 9am - a massive job in itself.

Whilst we were gallivanting around the snow-covered countryside, Diane took care of the laundry with a visit to the laundromat - just opposite where Elaine and Paul are living, so when we returned after dropping off everything at the boat, the pair of them were sitting drinking hot drinks.

We weren't in a hurry to head back to the boat but we needed to get it all back - Diane wanted to get a few other things done before we headed back down again - this time it was to meet up with Roly and Bev, and there was a surprise for us as well, Joan decided to come with them.

Off to the pub was the solution - and it was after 2pm by now anyway.
I think we have become regulars there, because Claire behind the bar asked Paul and I if we wanted our usual - Bass for him and Guinness for me - she practically had them on the go as soon as we appeared - can't help but go along with that.

Everyone seemed to have a good time and after a couple of rounds of drinks we were back across the road and had something to eat.

It has become quite noticeable lately that the sky is light until much later and the sun, when you can see it, is setting well after 4pm and even after 5pm there is still some light around.

An evening of rest, as we were up a little earlier than usual on Tuesday - well at least Diane was up earlier, for me it was usual.

Elaine had a hospital appointment and we were doggy-sitting, but for Diane it was more like bath-sitting.
She was able to have a long hot bath whilst the resident staff supplied her with coffee and things to eat.
Finally she emerged with a pinkish-hue and very satisfied with herself.

The dogs - Bombo and Samie - were ready for a walk by then, so off we went to follow a section of the Middlewood Way from Bollington northwards.
The Midlewood Way was created along the line of the railwayline that existed prior to 1970 and really is a lovely walk which we will do a bit further at a later stage - for today it was only a mile or so as we sensed that the dogs were getting a bit tired.

Back inside in the warmth, and having dried them both off, they resumed their normal positions - on the couch, on their backs and almost asleep, until there was a rattle on the door and their mum and dad (Elaine and Paul) were home. The dogs were very excited.

A chance for a cuppa and a chat is never lost and so was the case this time as well - there is never a lull in the conversation and even though we see each other every day something is always there to talk about.

On our way back to the boat we were beginning to feel a bit on the weary side - the walking and that long hot bath for Diane was having an effect on us both; venturing over the pedestrian bridge at Clarence Mill, I suddenly slipped on the icy steps, but whilst I remained upright I did however bump into Diane who fell down on her backside rather heavily - not so hard as to break anything - but she did get up gingerly, but was able to get back to the boat unassisted.

Diagnosis - just a bit of bruising around her bum - only hurts when she is sitting or moving.

She has found a comfortable position - lying on her back in bed and not moving- after all these years, if I had only known that this is all that it took!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

White Nancy - where?

Friday 16th January to Sunday 18th January 2015

We have spent a bit of time exploring around Bollington - we have been here a few times previously but not walked around too much, but now with some time on our hands we have an ideal chance to see more of the town.

There were two important events for Friday.

Firstly we had Linda and Richard (nb Mary H) coming to visit - it has been a while since last seeing them both and they are both feeling a lot better than a few weeks earlier when we were to have seen them.
We love their company and especially seeing Muffin as well.
Catching up with the exploits of others is such an enjoyable way to spend time and also finding out what their travel plans are for the coming year.
We enjoyed lunch together and suddenly it was time for them to leave.

Second event  was the Friday happy hour down at The Spinners Arms - Paul and Elaine's local - cannot get much more local than 20 metres from their front door.
It is a very friendly pub with a few little rooms but seemingly plenty of space.
Their friends Andy and Jane were also there; we had met Jane last year and Andy has just become a man of leisure.

As it was a pub with Sky sports, Paul and I spent a little time marking down the games that we absolutely needed to watch - seems that this week there are important games almost everyday - well nothing like supporting local business and getting together to have a chat as well.

Saturday came and we were expecting nb Alton through sometime for a diesel drop but they had been delayed by a damaged bridge up on the Peak Forest canal and would not be here until Saturday evening at the earliest; that meant a chance for Diane to direct me around one of the marked walks of Bollington - information obtained from the Bollington Discovery Centre in Clarence Mill.

One of the highlights was walking across the Bollington railway viaduct - which had it's last train cross in January 1970 and a structure which British Rail wanted to pull down much to the disgust of the locals - eventually it was sold to Bollington Council for ₤1 and has been preserved.

Afternoon tea in Brassington's cafe and return to the boat for a rest before heading off to the pub for the Newcastle v Southampton match with Paul - and a couple of beers each.

Diane was semi-delighted with my return and the portion of chips - I think that she may have wished that I didn't bring the chips, but I have to say that these are probably about the best I have had in England. Certainly not as good as the local fish shop back home, but never-the-less they were very moorish.
Whilst walking back, you could feel the temperature starting to head south and it came as no surprise on Sunday morning that the canal had iced up, but it was a surprise to see the complete blanket of snow all around - and quite deep in places.

The air was still and it felt quite nice outside - not cold as it may have been with a breeze but with proper clothing, coat and gloves, it was enjoyable.
Our first view out the back

nb Alton had advised via Facebook that they were on their way and before long we were top up with diesel - 144 litres managed to fill both tanks and the jerry cans as well - both Brian and Ann-Marie had enjoyed their trip to Australia - of course they would, they went to Melbourne.
Filling the diesel tank - Anne-Marie looking on

With the sun out and a blue sky, everything else completed for the present time, Diane suggested that we should head out and walk up to see the White Nancy. Paul's pictures of the surrounding area from Saturday persuaded us to walk up to there, and the sun and clear views remained until we were about halfway up and suddenly they all disappeared with the cloud and mist that had come out of nowhere.

White Nancy - the inscription we know so well in Australia

The views would surely have been wonderful - if we could
only have seen them

Just how misty it was

Snow Angel !

We were not alone in our journey up the hill - people heading in both directions - the path and steps were getting quite icy, but we made it and were greeted with splendid views of the low clouds.

Not too worry - it was pleasant enough and we decided to head down the hill in the opposite direction; partly along public footpaths and partly along roads, but we arrived back at the boat safe and sound and just as it started snowing again - quite heavy in fact.

We warmed up inside whilst watching the snooker and then lo and behold it was time for another important match down at The Spinners Arms - Paul had already arrived and we saw an entertaining match with Arsenal defeating Man City 2-0.

Quite a bit of exercise for the weekend, but we appear to be getting our walking muscles back in shape - we will need to as when the weather clears we will have another trek back up to White Nancy.

No travel

Thursday, 15 January 2015

From Bosley to Bollington

Monday 12th January to Thursday 15th January 2015

Late start today - we were waiting for Paul and Elaine to join us for the trip up the Bosley Locks.
In the end only Paul arrived as Elaine was not feeling the best - and we sympathised for her.
But Paul was looking ready for it - a huge smile on his face - but looked under protected for the weather that we were sure would come.

Quickly we found a routine between the three of us, with each taking a turn on the boat and before we knew it we were at the top of the locks, moored up and taking on water; emptying the cassette; dumping the rubbish; drying off and enjoying morning tea.
A brief rain storm hit us halfway through and Paul got a bit wet; so he needed time to warm up and dry out a bit.

We know of Paul's love of TimTams so they remained well hidden - saving them for another day - it was just sausage rolls, brownies and chocolates - and a doggie bag for him to take home to share with Elaine.

No matter where it is, help through locks is always appreciated and this flight and this was most welcome.

We carried on for a few more miles with our aim being Gurnett Aqueduct, where we have moored before and quite enjoy, but primarily we wanted to visit Sutton Hall again - I suspect that Diane had long planned to eat out there that night.
She was very keen to head off after we had moored up and sitting by the open fire, warming up and enjoying a drink was a perfect pre-cursor for a meal.
We were pleased with the meals - the prices perhaps a bit dearer than some other places but it was lovely.

We explored a bit of Macclesfield on Tuesday - markets, visitor centre, farmshop - and spent another night there, returning again to Sutton Hall, this time only for drinks with Paul and Elaine, who was feeling much better.
Paul had dragged her only on a route march during the day - probably didn't start off to be so far but 6 miles later, even the dogs were exhausted.
Anyway it was very good to see her - in fact to see all of them - Bombo and Sammie included.

We woke to find a light covering of snow - it was quite cold and snow had settled hard so it stayed around all day.

One thing we have definitely noticed about cruising at this time of the year is the need to keep an eye on the weather reports and with strong winds and very low temperatures on the way we headed off towards Bollington.

From the top of the Bosley Locks we have had problems which seem to be best described as low water levels or the canal bottom being too close to the top of the water and therefore really struggled moving - this continued to Bollington but now we were picking up crap when going through every bridge hole.
The usual fix of reversing the prop worked most times but on one occasion I had to resort to lifting the weed hatch and sticking my hand down into freezing water - I cleared away some plastic and after a while I couldn't feel anything else around the prop - in fact it was so cold I just couldn't feel anything at all.
Finally made it in not such a bad time, moored up on the aqueduct and then went off to visit Elaine and Paul - Diane, of course, went via the chippy.
They have a lovely house and very comfortable and we spent a warm couple of hours with them.
The high winds are causing a few problems with the Refleks stove but nothing insurmountable - will be checking on whether an extra extension piece is best or a H-down draft cap is better.
Anyway it is lovely and warm inside the boat; the football is on the TV and all is right with this part of the world.

9 miles, 12 locks, 1 swing bridge
YTD: 36 Miles, 25 Locks, 1 Tunnel, 1 Swing Bridge
Totals: 2930 Miles, 2146 Locks, 99 Tunnels, 34 Lift Bridges, 152 Swing Bridges