Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The final words

Tuesday 26th September 2017

This will be our final blog entry.

The reason why we started the blog was to be able to let our family and friends in Australia see what we were doing and to confirm their thoughts that we were completely mad – I think that the blog really did substantuate what they already knew – but it was set up for that purpose.
In our mind it was about our adventures on the waterways and the time between when we started and when we were to finish (which is now).

Tomorrow I will be boarding the flight to go home to Melbourne (this time it will be with Royal Brunei Airlines) and be land based again, our life on the boat will be such lovely memories and behind us; not so the people we have met; the experiences we have shared together and with others; the places and events that we have seen; the fun and the sadness.

There are a number of people whom we have met on the canals who are no longer with us and we are very saddened because of that, but we can recall their faces and the good times that we have shared with them; we can hear their voices and the experiences that they have shared; the knowledge that they have passed along to us – we miss them all; our lives have been enriched because of them and their friendship.

But the nature of life is that we must keep changing; keep evolving; moving on; we have more goals on the horizon that we will pursue, but as I have said previously, our immediate concern is the on-going welfare of Diane’s mother.

What will we do in the longer term?
We have seen a fair amount of Australia already – from Cairns in the north, all the way around the coast as far as Adelaide; we have taken the train across from Sydney to Perth and been south of there through Fremantle and Bunbury and to Margaret River; we have see Rottnest Island and the quokkas; visited Tasmania few times, but we have not seen the middle through Alice Springs and to Darwin; not yet been to the north-west; so there are a couple of places left for us to visit.

We also want to see a lot more of the USA and Canada and spend more time with Mitch and Sara in LA and of course with Sam in Melbourne and Rebecca in Auckland.

We want to again enjoy the sights and sounds and tastes of Melbourne which we think are worthy of a visit from everyone – Melbourne has a soul and a heartbeat and a life and a personality which runs deep and not simply sitting on the surface.

I am pretty sure we won’t be lost for things to do.

What will we miss about life on a boat?

The people – it is always the people that are the soul of the canal system – some we have just fleetingly said hello to and others we have been in almost constant contact with – in between there have been random discussions, a chat whilst we walked the dog, over a beer in the pub – there are people with real character about them; others who can get quite opinionated; and still others who simply just want to be on their boat.
And please no mention of batteries and toilets!

The canals themselves – there are some real brutes out there and others that just seem to glide by under the boat. Is there a favourite? – a bit like asking a parent about a favourite child – the canals are like children in a way, in that they all have their own character, their own persona – and on each we all have our favourite mooring spots for whatever reason that may be.

Just simply life on the water in general – there is so much freedom to do as you want and still keep to the rules which are in place for the benefit of everyone.

The best places we have visited? We have loved being moored in the docks in Liverpool and being so close to the city, but also Castlefields in Manchester and Paddington Basin in London or Gas Street Basin in Birmingham – being able to visit these wonderful cities and moor in the centre has certainly been something to remember.
Equally though, we love the rural areas as well – some of the views across the Pennines on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal; or the undulating hills of Northhamptonshire; the upper reaches of the Thames (away from the large cities and towns); the River Trent which is all rural below Newark; the Shroppie is a real treat as well; or simply the authority of the Grand Union.

Things that we will not miss.
The increasing trend of some boaters – and I cannot classify that into new/old, young/old, hirers/owners/shared boats – to ignore the traditions of the canals (or at least the ones that we learnt about) – helping others at locks; close gates and paddles; slowing down past moored boats; following the etiquette of canal users.
People who want to disregard the rules in place for everyone to benefit, simply because the rules do not suit them and they want to try and always get around them. If you are a continuous cruiser (as we are) then obey the requirements – if not then go into a marina; if you have a boat then pay your licence, if not then get off the water; don’t stop somewhere and think you have a right to stay there for years simply because you work in the area, or have kids going to school, or any other reason; abide by the requirements to be allowed on the waterways.
We will not miss those cyclists along the towpath who think that they own it and speed along with complete disregard for others and churn up the path – for heavens sake slow down and use your bell.
I don’t have too many problems with anglers – sure there are some who don’t want to make eye contact and think that a boat going by is disrupting their fishing time, but on the whole they are usually quite friendly and enjoy a bit of a chat like anyone else.
I will especially not miss the classification of everyone that seems to happen in this country – talk to many people of British heritage and they will invariably fall into the habit of saying something about any group of people who may be from any country you wish to name and tar everyone from there with the same brush or people from a certain town or city. Not all people come to this country to get benefits, or abuse the NHS system, or cause mayhem – in fact the vast majority, of those we have met,  are looking for a better way of life and enter the UK in a perfectly legal way and live their lives according to the laws of the land.

We have met so many people from so may different countries who, like us, simply want to work hard and support their families and enjoy their lives in peace; on the other hand we have seen a number of people who described themselves as British (or usually as English) and want to blame everyone else for their own problems and in a less than peaceful manner.

We are all here together to be part of a larger picture – there are no reasons why we cannot all live together in peace.

We will still be reading the blogs of boaters (can’t say other boaters any more) to see what they are doing and where they are going; we will remember with happiness the places that they visit and where we have also been; we will try to catch up with who we can we we come back to this country in the future; and we will stay in contact with as many as we can.

The contact line on the blog will stay, so if you want to let me know of your email address then send me the information as a comment to the blog and we will be back in touch to you.

If there is one thing that sums up our life aboard Ferndale for the past seven years it is that we have learnt to slow right down and become more relaxed about the things that go on around us and to become much more tolerant of other people.

Au revoir !

Monday, 25 September 2017

A time to take it easy

Thursday 21st September to Monday 25th September 2017

A few weeks ago when everything had not been finalised, I was talking to Diane, as I do everyday, even though we are a just few miles apart, and I felt that I just needed some time to myself before I flew back – not time that I would not see anyone, but simply time when I could be by myself – essentially not having to stay with others whilst counting down to my departure date.

She is an understanding woman and during this time I have been staying in hotels in different places and having a nice time of just being in my own.

Of course I have been seeing people durng that time, but able to come back to somewhere which is my own space.

The last thing that I wanted was to impose on others; to not have the freedom to do as I needed to do when I needed.

As eager as I was/am to get back to Australia, this short time has helped and I have enjoyed it all.

A last night in Market Harborough after all was completed with the sale of Ferndale; couple of days in Birmingham and helping Dot and Gordon (nb Ewn Ha Cul) up the Farmers Bridge flight; catching up with Debbie and James; a day/night with Maggie and Paddy (without whom we would have faced huge problems with our mail – they have been truly great); and a couple of nights in Chiswick, where we could see the Thames and had a lovely week with Mitch and Sara earlier this year.
There will be one last night before I fly back – a night at Heathrow.

I have also managed to sort out 40kgs of luggage into the 37kgs allowance.

The peace and solitude was what I needed; to be able to write the final parts to this blog; to contact the people that I haven’t been able to see in person; to be able to reflect upon the time that we have spent in the UK; to think about the future.

What we have done during the past 7 years cannot be duplicated; it will never happen again; people have asked would we come back later and buy another boat – no it will never be the same – we will come back again to see people but by then we will have moved on and so will everyone else.
It has been a unique experience.

We have seen more of the UK than most Brits do; we have learnt to understand what a Geordie or a Scouser it actually saying (it wasn’t easy to begin with); we have started to understand more of the fabric of the British way of life; we know where town and cities actually are – so if you say that you are from Yeovil or Scunthorpe or South End or Carlisle or Cromer, we know where they mean.

Living in Britain is not easy even for Brits; it is easier for us than some others because at least we know the language, but it can be awkward at times; we have experienced times when we felt a bit alienated and made to feel like intruders (not many but a few) – and we are from Australia (part of the Commonwealth), so we have an empathy for people who have less familiarity than we do.

We have seen the increase in nationalist pride in this country – but it is not pride for the UK (except when you are talking about the EU), but pride in being Scottish or Welsh or Irish and English – quite often, people describe themselves in those terms rather than saying that they are British – nothing wrong with a bit of parochialism so long as it is controlled.

We have often been amused with the depiction of Andy Murray in the press – when he wins he is British, but when he loses he is Scottish – any wonder he joked that he supported any team playing against England.

We think that people here take themselves too seriously and hold intransigent opinions about all things or in many cases just a few things.

As small as our travels in the US are, we see a number of Americans that have revealed a clear knowledge that they think the world is confined to the area occupied by the USA and beyond that is some vast unknown – a very introspective way of life; in many ways and many times, we have also seen that in Britain.

It leads to a lack of understanding of other opinions, beliefs, thoughts and attitudes – we see it in Australia as well (at times) – it is the extent that it permeates through a society that is the concern.

I seemed to have drifted, but time alone allows you to think on the past, the present and the future.

In looking at the future, we will be focussed on just a few things, primary amongst these is Diane’s mother – as I have said before; but equally important will be the manner and way in which Diane and I share the rest of our lives together.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Surveyed and all OK – she’s gone

Monday 18th September to Wednesday 20th September 2017

From Foxton I had just about a couple of miles to move – would these be the last miles on Ferndale?

The Survey had been booked in for Tuesday 19th September and I was there bright and early – before 8 am – as Diane will tell you I am always arriving early for things, but better to be safe than sorry.

I had done as much as I could think of in readiness for the survey to be done – it is a lot like an MOT – you are sure it will be OK but you just never know what might be found.

About 9am Greg Owens turned up – he had placed the offer and was the buyer – we sat down to chat about a lot of things really – both of us were a bit nervous – me for obvious reasons and he for, well, obvious reasons – both of us hoping that it would all be OK.

The surveyor, Craig, was there just before 10 o’clock with his off-sider, Johnno. Questions asked and answered – what type of engine; heating system; electrics; toilet; this and that and everything in between – where is this, where is that?

And this was only the in-water stuff.

They worked their way methodically through their list.

It is surprising that the things that you were worried about present no problems and those that you were confident about had so many questions to answer.

As it was proceeding, they seemed pretty happy with both the answers and what they were finding – engine ran very well and all OK – no oil leaks, no smoking, a little bit of play in the shaft but no problems; electrics were all fine – alternators charging OK; central heating working correctly; the diesel heater (Reflecs) – didn’t need to check it (not part of the survey but a solid fuel stove would be part of it); gas system OK – bit of a fluctuation but within limits – more importantly it didn’t leak at that part of the test.

Now the big one – time to take her out of the water – so Ferndale was manoeuvred into position – the cradle straps raised her up and onto the supports.

Each panel was checked – both sides and also the base plate – the end result – a little bit of metal loss but given her age it was smaller than usual – as Craig said - it shows that it has been cruising a lot and not just sitting in a marina.
The landline charging system was the last to be tested – worked perfectly.

End result: Ferndale passed with flying colours and she would now change owners. It was a good result for the new owners as the survey included a new BSC for them as well.

This was the end of our time on the canals and the following day, the balance of the agreed price was deposited into our account, so now when you see Ferndale cruising past it will be a wave and hello to Greg and Frankie (Francis) Owens.
We wish them all the very best in their cruising and know that Ferndale will treat them as well as she has done for us.

All that was left to do was to clear out the final things that had not already been taken care of; remove the bags that I would be taking with me; and, I had agreed early on to refill the stern greaser ( a quick 5 minute job anyway).

A pat on the back to a great boat and a long list of memories – bye Ferny, you have done us proud!

2 Miles, 1 Swing Bridge
YTD:  792 miles (1275 km), 382 Locks, 20 Tunnels, 13 Lift Bridges, 34 Swing Bridges

Total: 5424 Miles (8729 km), 3533 Locks, 145 Tunnels, 79 Lift Bridges, 206 Swing Bridges

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

A goodbye to many….

Friday 8th September to Sunday 17th September 2017

For both weekends encompassed within this period I have spent quite a few hours on the road and quite a few miles disappeared under the cars that I hired, but it was very important to go and see as many of the special people that we have met and shared our lives with during these past 7 years – and, I must say, with whom we will be wanting to stay in contact with as much as possible in the future.

First weekend, it was back to Stone to see both Lynn and Phil and also Roly and Bev – we all caught up at The Exchange along with Emma (Lynn and Phil’s daughter, who we know very well also) and special thanks to Lynn and Phil for putting me up that night and feeding me in the morning;

Freddie, Lynn and Bev - I think Phil and Roly
are certainly punching above their weight

speaking of whom - here they are in their natural habitat - Phil and Roly
after that it was a decent trek up to Garstang to say a Hello/Goodbye to Janet and Howard – it would never do to not see this lovely couple with whom we have shared some very funny moments – Howard moored along side us in Aston Marina and we had barely been there when he knocked on the boat to borrow some milk, and Janet is just lovely – long-suffering better half.

hey you two - the camera is over here - Janet and Howard in deep conversation
- probably about a new app

It was a long trip back that night after sharing a lovely dinner at the Tithe Barn in Garstang (listening to a jazz band) but it was necessary as on Sunday I was off to Stoke Bruerne to see Dot and Gordon – it also coincided with the “Village at War” weekend which we had to get through just to get to the pub – we avoided the £7.50 per person charge – I did get to enjoy one of Dot’s world-famous pasties – ostensibly this was to pass on some items that we could not leave on the boat and was an additional visit to the one originally planned for the next Sunday.

It was a busy weekend but there was another equally busy one coming up again in just 4 days time.

Monday was a much quieter day, but simply lovely – a lunch date with a very charming lady – Vanessa (ex nb Balmaha) – a quiet meal at The Waterfront and just a wonderful time with a special person – we met Vanessa and Mo so many years ago before we had even bought our boat and after that a few more times over the years – until the next time that we can catch up.

The few days until the next round was taken up with the tasks of sorting out the remainder of the items left on board and would return with me and what would ultimately be left behind – the limits of the luggage had set the upper limit.

Thursday came and I was off again – another rental from Enterprise and an upgrade from “B” to “D” – must be my good looks and smile that did it all – all the girls are seriously affected by that – afterall they are only human.
So off down to Watford for a day with Maggie and Paddy and to drop off a full suitcase that I will pick up next week; see how all of the renovations are progressing – I have to say that within the last 6 weeks they have gone a long long way and looking very good –about another 8-9 weeks and it will all be done  and things will settle down to something resembling normalcy again.

After an overnight pitstop, I was away for a ‘relaxing’ drive down Brighton way to Shoreham-by-Sea – well it would have been except for the M25 parking station – travelling at between 0 and 10 mph is not what is expected of a motorway.

Eventually I made it to see Tone and Julie – again very dear friends from our very early days of boat hire (4th day in fact). It was simply like old times again and we both love them very dearly – of the people we have met through boating, we have known them the longest.

I suspected that we would be partaking in a little bit of drinking but we were a bit more subdued than normal and I simply had a great time with them – we value their friendship very much.

Tone, as member of the local RNLI, pulled a few strings and I was allowed into the RNLI station there and even aboard the vessel used for outer harbour work – you know them – the big 31 tonne boats that cruise along at 26 knots – it was an experience that I very much appreciated and would not have had the chance otherwise to get.

Just glad that the holding pin was firmly in place -
or else 31 tonne down on both of us

the power house - imagine one of these in the back of a narrowboat - bit fast
and burning 376 litres per hour it may mean bigger fuel tanks would be needed

The seat on the left in the picture is for the coxswain
Where else would we be on a Friday night

After dinner and just a couple of drinks, it was a good nights sleep and I was off again to Abingdon, but via the dreaded M25 again – surely the SatNav knows other ways than via this motorway – once again it was 0-10 mph for a long long way.
Eventually I got there and very pleased to see Sue and Andy – we have both enjoyed the cruising time we have had along the Thames with this intrepid couple and the pub time and owl spotting and did I say the pub time.
Yet another pub picture - I am blaming Andy and Sue for leading me astray

Lunch was nice but no where as nice as the time to talk with Sue and Andy – it will be a while before we can do all of this again – at least not until the end of next year.
It was all too soon before I had to say farewell and head back to the boat – the rain had started to set in so the trip back was a little longer than earlier expected and there was a need to be just that bit more careful – it still didn’t stop cars whizzing past as though the roads were safer than they really were – just do not understand the thinking of these drivers.
Being moored at Foxton I could use the car park overnight with no problems at all and after a chance to have a good nights sleep back in my own bed (at least for now) I cleared up a few more chores that needed doing and then it was time to be off again.
This time I had another visit to Dot and Gordon – the long standing arrangement to meet up for a Sunday roast at The Greyhound at Hawkesbury Junction.
The chance of a passing thunderstorm was always likely and suddenly appeared before we had had a chance to enjoy our first drink fully, but fortunately we made it inside in time.
Lunch, as usual, was great and Dot stuck to her revised eating plan, except for the chocolate pot with the coffee – the look on the face of the waitress who came along to enquire if everything was OK – I said it was all fine except that Dot had spat in my chocolate pot – she made the face and then realised I was only joking (or was I?).
Gordon in a typical Gordon pose

Dot decided to sit next to me to pinch my dessert

Not the one that she "spat" on

Another weekend finished, car returned to Corby (closest Enterprise to Foxton) and I was preparing for a eventful few days ahead of me.

5 Miles, 1 Swing Bridge
YTD:  780 miles (1271 km), 382 Locks, 20 Tunnels, 13 Lift Bridges, 33 Swing Bridges

Total: 5422 Miles (8726 km), 3533 Locks, 145 Tunnels, 79 Lift Bridges, 205 Swing Bridges

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Going, Going, Going ……..

Friday 1st September to Thursday 7th September 2017

I guess the news this week is that we have acceped an offer on the boat and subject to a survey, which will be on 19th/20th September, Ferndale will pass onto a lovely couple – more to come.

All of that took place whilst I was moored in Leicester – see what I said in the last blog – Leicester is a lovely place.

It has been a thoroughly exhausting week – I left Leicester on Saturday morning earlyish for some but not by my standards – but early enough to catch the rowers on the river.

By the first lock I was joined by another boat, whose name I forget, but by the time I was approaching the third lock I had to say goodbye to – the reason was quite simple.
Something was wrapped around the prop so badly or large enough to almost stall the engine – in fact it easily would have if I had pushed it at all; so a bit short of the lock mooring and no power, but I did have a pole to get me close enough that I could jump off to the bank.
That would have been fine if not for the tumble on landing into the nettles – my arms and hands itched and tingled for the rest of the day.

Anyway, I managed to get the boat to the lock mooring and set about freeing the prop – as soon as I lifted the weedhatch I could see what it was and armed myself suitably for the task.
After about 45 minutes the said item was freed – traffic cones are useless in canals and this didn’t wash down with the last downpour.
No need to traffic control on the canal 
Free now to move on, it would be single handing through the heavy double locks and by the time I have made it through Lock 32 I had had enough and moored just past the lock moorings for the night.
It was at least a very quiet mooring and the TV signal was good – good enough to see the Spain v Italy game on ITV.
I did sleep reasonably well – I can tell you that.

Sunday and it was only just the additional two locks down up into Kilby Bridge where the services would be handy; it would also allow me to start the much needed repainting of the inside bottom of the gas locker – a good coat of Fertan was applied and the rust conversion would be completed by the following morning.
After all my exertions I thought that a Sunday lunch was in order and so it was over to The Navigation, where the food was quite good, the Guinness was excellent and the rugby was on the screen.
Another lovely quiet place to moor – definitely a favourite with us on the times we have been through here.
The following morning, I simply pushed across to the services block – only water to do – I had emptied the cassette the previous day – trollied it around – and after that I was off.
The first lock was a portent of things to come – I arrived and another boat that had left some time before was still in the lock – when I went up to see them the reason was self evident – the pound above the lock was practically empty – John the male half of the crew had gone ahead to let water down; I rang CaRT; Mark the CaRT guy turned up not too long after and I held firm where I was (in the lock by this time – enough water had come down to allow boat out and then boat in) – no problem for me- it became breakfast time.
After 30 minutes later the level had risen and other pounds were OK.

Mark suspected that someone had let water down to the Kilby Bridge pound because that had dropped a bit, but it was not CaRT sanctioned and this is what happens when people don’t think about it.

Anyway, Tanya and John aboard Tardius Tarde (Slow Slow) aka Stumpy along with dog Elijah shared the locks until we reached Lock 23 and I had reached my destination for the day.
There has been a great delight in meeting lovely people along the way; sharing locks with them; and for a small portion of your life you are with people whom you have an affinity with – today was one such event in my boating life and it was simply very nice.

Mooring was at Newton Harcourt; TV reception was good; internet was good; train proximity – very; but it didn’t seem to matter that I was moored right along side the trainline, I slept soundly until my normal time, which these days appears to be closer to 4am than the desired 6am.

Today would be possibly the last day when I would be locking the boat through – these 5 locks would most likely be the last – was I sentimental about it – NO – doing these locks on your own knackers you, so not to have to see another lock was a bit of a relief.

It does raise the question which people have asked – Will I/we miss the boating life?

Without doubt, we will miss being on the boat – but in some ways it’s the same as other choices that you make through your life – there are always T-intersections that we come to and have to choose a path to follow – we have decided that looking after Diane’s mother is more important to us than staying on the boat – we had also decided that it was important to spend more time with our daughter and see more of Australia (although we have already seen more than most Australians anyway).

We will however miss the friends that we have made and they have been very important to us.
Last lock......

....and she behaved as well

Enough of that sentimentality – Paul will kick me out of the Aussie blokes club with talk like that.

I finally moored above Smeeton Westerby for the night – again very quiet and lovely – it is such that the tranquillity of the countryside, free from the noise of urban life has a dramatic effect on you disposition.

The following morning, I had a target and a couple of obstacles to overcome along the way, but first a stop at Debdale Wharf to top up with diesel – I could not believe that everything was finished and done in just 15 minutes – the young lad who was blacking the boat out of the water made the simple enquiry did I want diesel (as I had moored up) – he set off and got the key as I tied up completely; was back; set the pump; filled the tank; and had a chat as well; up to the office and paid the bill – just went smoothly and I was away.
My two obstacles for the day were two swing bridges on the way into Market Harborough – being a single hander I have been concerned about a day like today and how would I cope.
Well the first was dead easy – I followed another boat through; for the second I managed to tie up on the off side and open the bridge and would have been through except three (yes, three) other boats turned up and we got them through first, though one of them obviously forgot about slowly past moored boat and practically pulled Ferndale across to the other side of the canal; in the end I got through and it will be easy on the way back knowing that it can be done.
Moored up in Market Harborough for a few days, it was time for a bit of shopping, emptying the cassette and a bit of work and a rest, all of which have been achieved.

As exciting as life on the canals can be, it isn’t half as exciting as what has been happening to Diane back home. The mother-in-law has a cat which roams during the day (no bell, which annoys me) and the other day he decided to bring home a friend as you can see in the picture below.
Not your usual invitee to the backyard for a BBQ

A six-foot brown snake – which is amongst the three most venomous snakes in Australia – fortunately it was only a baby but it could still kill you with its bite.
Diane stayed relatively calm underneath the panic, and called a neighbour and between the two of them dealt with the visitor – there were no friendly gestures on their part and the snake was gone.

24 Miles, 24 Locks, 1 Tunnel and 2 Swing Bridges
YTD:  785 miles (1263 km), 382 Locks, 20 Tunnels, 13 Lift Bridges, 32 Swing Bridges
Total: 5417 Miles (8718 km), 3533 Locks, 145 Tunnels, 79 Lift Bridges, 204 Swing Bridges

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Just wanna see a game mate!

Monday 14th August to Thursday 31st  August 2017

What have I been doing all this time?

For some of it I have actually been on holiday from work – it is such a lovely experience I may do it full time, but not just yet.
It was lovely to not have to get up to walk that incredibly long journey to the dinette and see what emails I have from customers.

But I have not been idle – all of the packed boxes have been despatched and soon will be on their way back home; our daughter Sam has sorted out my return flight – I will be air testing Royal Brunei Airlines this time - she assures me that she is not getting any payback from RBA but when have you heard of a daughter not using their dad as a guinea pig.
Apparently it is much easy for receiving the boxes if I am actually the one to pick them up or at least sign for them, so that is all sorted.

There have been a vast number of things – some of them small, others not so small – that have needed attention.

Most of the boat is cleared and ready for a full de-camping, with simply enough to carry on here until I go.

One thing I do know is that I have thoroughly enjoyed mooring here on the river – it is simply glorious.

I have spent a fair amount of time with Gary and Carolyn (nb Inca) and have enjoyed their company but careful to be able to have space as well.

After telling them about the T20 match last Friday there was a deal of enthusiasm on their part to go to the next match which just so happened to be on Friday just gone (last night). There were no problems in being able to get tickets – plenty available and it was sit where you like (except for in the members area).

There was a suggestion about going to see the Championship match on Staurday between Nottingham Forest and Middlesborough, but when we rocked up at the ticket office it was like we were asking for some unbelievably difficult task to be performed.
“Do you have a customer number?”
“No, we simply would like to see a match”
“Have you purchased tickets from us before?”
“No, we simply would like to see a match”
“Do you know someone who has purchased tickets from us before?”
“No, we simply would like to see a match”
“We can’t sell you tickets, you may be away supporters trying to (infiltrate) get amongst the Forest supporters”
“We understand your position, but we are all on narrowboats moored down on the river and we happen to be in Nottingham and thought that it might be nice to see a game”
“I will go and see my supervisor”
…a minute or so later…
“Yes, we can sell you some tickets”
Whatever went on in the back room, we have no idea, but we got the 3 tickets that we wanted.

So, Friday night at Trent Bridge – Nottingham Outlaws v Leicestershire Foxes in the T20 contest – I have said before that T20 is not my preferred version of the game, but it was an exciting finish and with few overs left we thought that it was all over and an easy foxes win would occur – but some solid hitting by the outlaws meant that just 9 runs were needed off the last over – the result? A two-run victory to the foxes and 10,000 outlaws fans trudged out of the ground; I was pleased with the tight result.
A perfect night for a game 
By golly we had a bit of a coolish Friday night and Saturday morning was quite cold.

I had been told earlier in the week that there was a pretty popular market on Saturday morning, to which Carolyn was keen to go; I had a double look when I saw that Gary was also ready to go.
We headed off using the directions that I had been given and as we walked it began to look like I might have been wrong/hoodwinked/tricked, but we found the place.
It was a typical trash’n’treasure market with lots of the former and little of the latter – we wandered around it all and left with our money intact heading towards ‘spoons for Gary and Carolyn to have breakfast and I simply had a latte.

Back to the boat to catch up on things that needed to be done (at least for me) – just to make sure that I would not have any problems with my suitcases heading back, I did a practice pack and with nearly everything packed the weight was just 18kg (out of a total of 30kg in the hold and 7kg carry-on) – so no problems there – always good to know before hand.

Before long it was time to head off to Forest where the seats were to be in The Brian Clough Stand.

Like all clubs, the Forest supporters were incredibly passionate about their team, but like all supporters they also, as a group, could not get along with the other teams lot – such a great pity and a blight on this game that supporters find it impossible to sit together and enjoy the game – every other sport that I know has the fans all mixed in together without any problems.
By golly, they let just about anyone in these days - who's that scruff on the right

There was also a game of football going on which was entertaining
- and sunshine as well

Still it was an enjoyable game – Forest did end up winning 2-0 over Middlesborough.

Sunday morning arrived and it was time for me to head off – early as a I am used to – it was very nice to have the help of Carolyn and Gary for the first lock, which was shared with a hire boat – they were experienced boaters, just without their own boat.

After hugs and goodbyes, I was back on my own again – I will miss the company of two lovely people – hope that they enjoy the tidal Trent as I have done.

I had a couple of locks to do by myself; I passed by nb Pendle Warter, knocked on the side but alas Richard was not in, and then moored up above Cranfleet Lock for a pleasant evening which was both very quiet and extremely peaceful.
I did however make contact with Richard and we agreed to meet up the following day – he was coming this way anyway.
So lunch and a drink it was to be at the pub by the lock.
We have known Richard from our early days in Aston Marina and I know that it is true of most people we have met who have boats, but he is such a lovely man and it is a pleasure to know him and to enjoy his company – not sure when we will meet again, just hope it is not too long.
The next 4 to 5 days I spent some of the time at Sawley, moored and enjoying the sunshine, the free power and the wide space that is afforded above the lock and then I made a beeline back to the TrentLock junction where it is just as lovely in a more rural sense, even if there is the occasional train.
Just at TrentLock
After discussion with Diane – usual phone call so that she can check that I am still alive and she doesn’t have to call the insurance company just yet to collect -  I decided that we (Ferndale and I) would head up the Soar and make our way south through Loughborough and down towards Crick.

Setting off up the Soar - early morning and the power station in the background

Just for Diane

Imagine my shock at this - I thought ours was unique
but this boat also had a kangaroo tiller pin

From our past experiences, we simply enjoy Loughborough – some would say to avoid it – but there has been no problems for us in the times we have moored there – so it was a couple of nights there and then further south to Syston, where I encountered about 6 or 7 Fire Brigade chaps – two in the water – so slowed right down in case they were looking for something, but it was just a training exercise, which meant that I could moor up there, which again is quiet and peaceful – a lake being just on the other side of the towpath – allowing people the chance to just walk around it or fish or put a boat on there for a fun day out.

The following day was the trip into Leicester and despite the forecast of bad weather I headed in there anyway.
Sunrise on a lovely morning as I head into Leicester

So many people will tell you not to moor in Leicester; or make sure you go early and get through there as quickly as possible; don’t look at anyone there or they will sink your boat – silly stories indeed and generally told to you by someone who has never been there themselves.
This is the third time that we have moored there – twice on the castle moorings and now on the Friars Mill moorings, which are very new – not once has there been a problem mooring here.
Getting there without getting rubbish around the prop is another thing – every time we pick up some rubbish – but it is getting better, this time I was only stopped the once and even then it looked like very old rubbish that was caught.
The only problem that I have is the poor TV reception but I can live with that, but anyone wanting/needing to watch their Corrie or Eastenders might be in for a problem or two.

I was quite taken with this board
- my superpower? Selective hearing

...and this one too - beware parents the owners are out to get you

We simply love Leicester with it’s huge pedestrianised area in the city centre, the quirky back streets and one-way traffic system to get the traffic through easily and quickly.

Do yourself a big favour and visit Leicester – just remember that you are not likely to run into Jamie Vardy along the way.

39 Miles, 23 Locks
YTD:  761 miles (1225 km), 358 Locks, 19 Tunnels, 13 Lift Bridges, 30 Swing Bridges

Total: 5393 Miles (8679 km), 3509 Locks, 143 Tunnels, 79 Lift Bridges, 202 Swing Bridges

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Happy Anniversary

Sunday 13th August 2017

No travel today – I will be staying in Nottingham for a few more days.

This is a special day, but sadly for the third time in the last 8 years Diane and I would be spending our wedding anniversary on opposite sides of the globe.

It is a necessary outcome of the decision that we have made and put into action.

I could not imagine a life without her and for 34 years I have been so very happy – I am sure that will continue.

We shall be back together soon enough and I look forward to that with delight.

We have to realise we are just so lucky to have each other and how very much you appreciate and love the person that you have committed your life to be with and to love.

I did console myself with finishing off the packing of the boxes – another item to cross off the list – every one that I cross off means a step closer to going home and being with Diane.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Visitors and crew arrive

Monday 7th August to Saturday 12th August 2017

Just enough time in the morning to get the boat in some semblance of order before it was time to hike it down to the train station and meet Paul and the boys as they alighted from the Sheffield non-express.
The old train spotter that he his, he was keen to tell me about the stations and the track and the trains themselves – at least that was the case until I managed to let out a stifled yawn !!

It was great to have Paul visit and to be able to catch up with him even for the few days that we would have together – it was far different to the original plans that we had envisaged earlier in the year when he would take control for a couple of weeks on the Lancaster Canal – solo – whilst Diane and I were due to tour around Scotland in the Jaguar – sadly it was just not to be.

Paul would have to content himself with a few days on the tidal Trent and put up with yours truly.

The first shock that he had was that the lockout onto the river would be at 6am the following morning; the second was that it was due to rain all day.
Like a trooper – a very asleep one at that – Paul was up not long after 5am – a time for which he was more akin to arriving back rather than getting up – and we were ready to go by 6am.
As it normally ends up, the weather was a bit windy but dry; the clouds approaching were bringing the promise of meeting the forecast and sure enough about 30 minutes into it the first drops appeared and the tempo increased until it was more than a drizzle and not quite a downpour – either way we were pretty much wet within the hour – no real point in doing anything about it, we would remain that way until we moored up at Torksey.
For Paul though, remembering that he had not been on this river before, it was definitely different to what he had experienced here – the flow was pushing us along and in 4½  hours we arrived at Torksey and moored up at the pontoons – it was also a chance to get inside for a hot shower which was heaven sent.

The rain continued and even the possibility of a visit to the White Swan after 4pm (when it opens on Mondays) could not tempt either of us to venture outside – the boat was warm (and dry) – the mykuni had done its job – so a drink and then dinner and a relatively early night at 10pm.

The day before, I had been to see the lock keeper about passage to Cromwell Lock – indication was about 9:15, so we prepared ourselves for that – this was a day to sleep in – obviously compared to the previous day, but more importantly it was a dry day – no rain, no drizzle, no anything.

At the appointed time we set off and we had a better chance to enjoy the trip; taking it in turns for tea/coffee duties and steering, the time to Cromwell went fairly quickly.
It was obvious that the effects of the tide were substantially less this far upstream and after the flow reached a slack point, there was virtually no further movement at all – passing through Cromwell Lock with 4 other boats (all cruisers) was not so bad, but each of the remaining locks for the day, until we reached and moored in Newark, were all slow filling and we spent a long time simply passing through the locks.
The water point at Newark Nether Lock was only available in the lock -
so under the Lock Keepers instructions we moored in the lock and filled
the water tank

a panoramic view of the lock

There were perhaps a half dozen of these small hut just after the lock - maybe
for the fisherman

Once moored in Newark, Paul needed to take the dogs for a walk to do their thing and also to check out the drinking and dining options for later on – we had decided that it would be nice to have a drink and eat off the boat.

One important job that we had was to be ready for a delivery of packing boxes – after all I still have a job to get all of the things packed that would head back to Australia – the people at Pack and Send delivered the boxes to just about where the boat was moored; I managed to be able to store them under the mattress (which raised the bed up quite substantially - almost touching the roof) - after that we headed out.

First up was the bar for the micro brewery Just Beer – which was rather nice and then after that we avoided what Paul was saying was the gay bar (but really wasn’t), and headed around the corner to a lovely pub (whose name I cannot remember).
The ladies on the next table recommended the pizza, which was what we had fancied anyway (the pizzas) and a couple of pints and it was a lovely night.

Now that we were on the canalised part of the river, the situation was very different and heading off times were self-imposed and not tide-dependent.
After walking the dogs for a bit and enjoying a lovely morning coffee we finally moved off, through Newark Lock and beyond.

Paul using the zoom in facility - that is, walk up closer 

Market Square Newark

Heading off - approaching Newark Town Lock

Again today the locks were all slow filling and this coupled with a desire to hope for Nottingham we pushed ourselves a bit longer than perhaps we should.

It is a lovely trip through this part of the country, but after 9 hours on the go (and it had been a rather warm day as well), we finally moored up at County Steps very much exhausted and not at all interested in cooking – in fact not much interested in eating – but we could handle a drink or two – course of action – head over to The Brewhouse and Kitchen – just on Trent Bridge.
Another micro brewery – we sampled a couple which were to our taste – then, as often happens – a lovely plate of nachos will never go astray.
Back to the boat, both knackered, both reasonably quick to bed and we slept through.

We had decided the previous night, that rather than try to move on and for Paul to then retrieve his car, which had been left with Kevin Too, he would simply leave from Nottingham and come back for the dogs and all his gear before making the trip up to Macclesfield, where he would be for the weekend to catch up with Elaine’s family and others that he needed to see – that all went well and I was a bit sad to see Paul depart – it had been a great few days and I really enjoyed the company and just being able to chat away, but Paul needed to be where he needed to be – and I had things to do.

Not long after, just as I was about to start paintng, nb Inca turned up – Carolyn and Gary aboard with grand-daughter Abbey (Curley to some) – they had been just a bit further along on the canal and decided to come down. With the wind blowing quite hard, Gary did a very good job of getting the boat in without any fuss; tied up; and ready to relax.
Approaching and then a perfectly executed mooring up.

We talked a bit – well for quite a while – and with their thought of being here for at least a couple of nights, we would talk some more – and I could get to the painting.

Way back at Newark Lock, some days earlier, the lockie advised that it we were in Nottingham on Friday night there would be a T20 cricket match, if we fancied a bit of ball against willow – with Paul gone northwards in the Jag, I decided that it might be a nice way to spend a Friday night and so I went.
T20 is not usually my cup of tea, but as I had so far not been able to get to a county ground to see any cricket during these 7 years, it was a chance to scrub that off the list of things to do.

Up against the Birmingham Bears, the outlaws were quite good and it was a good competitive game, but the home side triumphed a bit convincingly for this form of the game – it was a bit on the coolish side but also with a bit of humidity in the air – all in all I was felling a bit tired by the time I was back on the boat – a combination of the tiring day the previous day and the cold air, it was not long before I was sound asleep.
Waking on Saturday to some glorious weather (again), it was a day with plenty to do – there were boxes to pack, and more boxes to pack, and did I mention about the boxes; and still some more painting to carry on with – not sure that I was doing myself any favours with all of this, but when the job is done it does bring some relief that it is finished – unfortunately that was not the case on Saturday night, but the end was in sight, and so I simply settled down with something that appeared on my plate – cannot remember cooking anything – and watched a bit of the IAAF championships and then Match of the Day; went outside about 11:45pm to see if I could see any of the promised meteor shower, which I couldn’t and then it was time for bed before I turned into a pumpkin.
Walking along the river on Saturday morning - absolutely glorious

Somewhere up there on the right we are moored up

Obviously the French have feelings about Brexit

69 Miles, 8 Locks
YTD:  722 miles (1162 km), 335 Locks, 19 Tunnels, 13 Lift Bridges, 30 Swing Bridges

Total: 5354 Miles (8616 km), 3486 Locks, 143 Tunnels, 79 Lift Bridges, 202 Swing Bridges

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Solo again

Thursday 19th July to Sunday 6th August 2017

I have been slowly making my way eastwards from Lemonroyd Marina; there has been a bit of time spent in Castleford and since then it has been a steady pace to Keadby where we (the boat and I) sit and contemplate more than our navels.

The flight back from Australia was not particularly enjoyable – I have made a few of these flight on my own but this was pretty miserable – not only leaving Diane behind which has always been hard when we have had to be separated but also the prospect of seeing friends and saying au revoir to them; the thought of having to sort out everything on and in the boat – there is/was a massive amount of stuff that we have collected and stored during our time afloat.
They say that with not a lot of space we do become inventive of how we manage to find places to poke things away and believe me we certainly have become inventive; but not everything will make the journey home and a great many bags of things (mainly clothes and books) were dropped off to charity shops in the Castleford town centre – hence the longer time spent there.
I never tire of seeing herons around and this fellow has been around the front
of the boat for over a week
I did manage a train trip over to Manchester to have a day out catching up with Diane’s cousin Marnie and her husband Leigh – they are over here from Australia for a year – a gap year – Marnie is of Welsh origin and Leigh is originally from around the greater Manchester area.
Leigh and Marnie - A bloody good day catching up and looking forward
to getting together back in Australia
We basically found a pub and had a great day talking about all sorts of things – things that they wanted to do; advice that I could pass on to them – but after about almost 7 hours of this I realised that I needed to get the train back to Leeds and then Castleford – a 2 hour trip – so said my goodbyes and made the train with a few minutes to spare; got to Leeds quite late and found out that the train to Wakefield was the last one for the night – so made that with just 3 minutes to spare – a bit of luck there or I would have been stuck in Leeds on a Saturday night – probably never going to be my idea of fun.

But just when you think that you are on top of it all, there are all of the craft things that Diane was involved with; all of the little bits and pieces that you kept (just in case); I am amazed at what I have found that we still had, and slightly amazed at where we stored things that we couldn’t find.

My intent is to travel back up the tidal Trent, through Nottingham and make it back onto the non-tidal Trent as a first step (that could also be a last step). To accomplish this our good friend Paul Macy has agreed to be crew for me as we battle the wild and untamed Trent – battling monsters, evil pirates and the storms – well that might be a bit much – at least we will mainly have the incoming tide pushing us along.
He will join me tomorrow along with the two boys – Bombo and Sammie – and the four of us will expand on Jerome K. Jeromes famous travelogue and we will be Four Men in a Boat (two men and two dogs in a boat might be more accurate).

The pantry is reasonably well stocked – that is another thing that has to be sorted out and apart from some staples, the meals will be aimed at reducing the stock in the cupboards and fridge/freezer.
There is also the matter of some quantity of illegal contraband in the form of bottles and cans of ales, lagers, Guinness and red wine that will also need careful reduction – I am blaming Diane for allowing this to become the problem that it now is – truly glad that Paul was on hand to sacrifice his time for the greater good; such a true friend – actually he said ‘YES’ first before other volunteers could do so.

Interestingly the journey from Castleford to Keadby has been largely uneventful – not even the lift bridges and swing bridges presenting a problem for a single hander – all have mooring bollards on the side of the navigation where the controls for the bridge operation are found.
The locks have been just as good – most were the large locks no longer used by the big commercial traffic that has disappeared, but I do like an electronic control box which does everything for you – that is, when they work.
At the junction at Knottingley - the visitor moorings are full but this time
there is no rubbish around

Just peaceful cruising

The Exol Pride on its way to Goole from Rotherham - perhaps not a bad
place to meet - at least it was going slow as it passed.
Coming into Thorne (on Friday) and the boater in front had phoned CaRT to advise that the lock was not working – sure enough, after an hour wait, the CaRT man was able to say that one of the sensors was not working at all, but he locked us through with the standby over-ride system. This had been the only problem encountered with the locks.

At the last swing bridge for Friday, I decided that just for fun, I might crash my leg into one of the foot pegs below the seats at the back of the boat – it took a bit of skin off the leg and a lump the size of half a tennis ball came up – at least when I told Diane about it later she knew that I had been taking my aspirin – the thinner blood meant that this would happen.
That is NOT my knee - the lump that appear after a bit of an innocuous

The first aid kit in the freezer (aka the bag of frozen peas) helped to ease it a bit, but putting my leg down to walk was a bit painful as the blood rushed downwards – it was decidedly better the next day, but still painful to press on.
Sunrise on Saturday morning - and it was a nice day to go along with it
As anyone who has come into or left via Keadby Lock can attest, there is a sliding rail bridge just west of Keadby Lock – you approach from either direction and wait for the signalman (or is it signalperson) to wave you to come through, at which point the rail bridge slides out of the way.

Saturday: after getting through Vazons swing bridge, I moored to wait for the call – a train came through about 2 minutes after I had moored; then waited; and waited; and waited; and waited; another local train after 18 minutes –mmm I thought “there had been plenty of time ther for me to get through; but I waited some more; then two freight trains came at the same time (different directions and tracks); then I waited – after 45 minutes I had had enough and walked over the swing bridge, down the dirt road to the signal box.
I had to call out to make the person inside that I was there –
This young fellow pokes his head out of the window, looking all of about 17 and asks “are you waiting to come through?” – classic, I thought – he looked like he might have been the work experience kid
“No, I am here for my good looks – 45 minutes I have been waiting, what are you doing?”
“I’ve been having my breakfast, I’ll go and check the computer to see when I can get you through”
No reply after that, just the siren to not use the crossing and suddenly the bridge starts to move back – I guess that means that I can go.
I wasn’t about to be rushing back to the boat, so at my normal pace (which today was slow due to the gammy leg) I set off – about 200 metres in all, but finally got through – bloody kid!!

So now I am moored up at Keadby; there are still plenty of things to do as there are with any boat and I have found more hiding places – at least the bins here are only half full.
Sunrise on Sunday morning - I may be developing a theme here

a panorama of the Trent - the white building on the right is the control tower for the lockkeeper

The weather has largely been not too bad; of course for anyone expecting an English summer to have sun and warmth and no rain then forget it; it has been a lot better here than further south from the reports that I hear.

40 Miles, 7 Locks, 4 Lift Bridges, 11 Swing Bridges
YTD:  653 miles (1051 km), 327 Locks, 19 Tunnels, 13 Lift Bridges, 30 Swing Bridges

Total: 5285 Miles (8505 km), 3478 Locks, 143 Tunnels, 79 Lift Bridges, 202 Swing Bridges