Sunday, 26 February 2017

You’re a wimp Wilson!!

Saturday 18th February to Thursday 23rd February 2017

Our intentions for the Saturday were to cruise down to Leamington Spa, doing the 10 locks that separated us and then mooring up around near the new(ish) Lidl store; after which we were heading into the town to have lunch.

Firstly, the previous day (Friday) we had been wondering where Tom and Jan (nb Waiouru) might have been – we knew that they were heading out of Leamington Spa but we hadn’t seen them – a message to them had not been answered (seems we have the wrong number for them) – lo and behold, we had gone no more than a couple of hundred metres and there they were – moored on the other side of Bridge 25 – they weren’t there when we looked the previous afternoon – well we’ll see them again somewhere (too early to wake them – and Tom needs his beauty sleep).

We carried on and came to the staircase locks – the pound below them was well down, but I thought we might have a chance to get through with the lockfull of water that came down with us – just not quite enough, so Diane let some water through and we were floating again in less than 5 minutes, and the water level had come right up in 10 minutes.

It was about Lock 17, and we had been alternating working the locks and steering the boat, when Diane encountered the heavy locks mechanisms – they are all hydraulic but some are harder than others – she managed to get this one done, but at Lock 19 it was too much and she pleaded … well it was something that sounded remarkably like “It’s your turn for the next 5 locks, I’m gonna steer” – “No problems my lovely, my heart’s joy”.

A few years ago in Australia, there was an ad on TV which basically went along the lines of a guy watching a rugby game and giving one of the players a hard time for not being strong enough in the play, using the phrase “You’re a whimp Wilson”; before experiencing the strength of a well known brand of extra strong cough lozenges and so the phrase has stuck in the psyche.
Remarkably it also came to mind at that point of giving up for my darling wife whom I simply adore, but “You’re a ……..!!”

We made it through the remaining locks, along the way emptying the cassette at Fosse Wharf and onto the moorings at Lidl – bloody full, except for one length where we couldn’t get the boat in due to some underwater obstruction.

We had never stayed in Leamington Spa before and wanted to see the town, having heard how lovely it was and to investigate a recommended eating place.

Anyway, after a bit of frustration on my part – I was probably exhausted from those heavy locks – we eventually found the moorings outside Tesco – 24 hour moorings (but it is winter).
No problems getting in and we were done.

Well almost, just the small matter of the 2.4km walk into the centre of town. Since most of our work that morning was with our arms, the legs were still fresh and supple (yeah right!), but we found it a nice walk anyway.
Why the need to go? Diane had read on a blog from Jo and Keith (nb Hadar) about the buffet lunch at Oriental Star and they had good ratings on TripAdvisor plus we fancied a nice Chinese buffet.
I have to say it was worth the effort and we would certainly go back there again.
our stamp of approval

lovely decor - you could have seen more but Diane was in the way

After lunch we did manage to have a bit of a look around the central part of the town; we found the Tourist Information office and also a nice Heritage Trail walk to do (that would have to wait for tomorrow).

The usual effect after having a chinese meal is that 20 minutes after you finish you are hungry again – not with this one.

The following morning we were up and out fairly early; again with the walk into the centre of Leamington Spa and armed with the map.

This is something that we like to do to get an idea about a new place we visit and gives Diane a chance to direct me around and tell me about all of the interesting sights and things that have gone on to create this town/city wherever we are and I enjoy listening to her voice, when it is not directed at me for something that I have done wrong.
Heritage Trail time - I know that Linda (and Richard) would have enjoyed this

some lovely wide streets around here...

...and lovely houses...

...and more lovely hosues

This was the older part of Leamington Spa - where it all began

The weir - just down from here (on the right), visiting circus' used to walk
their elephants and other animals to bath and wash them

What's a town without a large church - this one? All Saints C of E.

Tasting the waters - don't - it tastes foul and you need coffee
to wash the taste away.

We had never heard of these two tennis players from the late 19th century,
but the Renshaw twins were born in Leamington Spa and both achieved
No. 1  status in their chosen sport.

So we had a lovely stroll around and found places that you do not normally see; had a great time exploring and finished off with breakfast at ‘Spoons.

We didn’t make it back to the boat until after 1pm but in time to see the FA Cup match between Spurs and Fulham; also a chance to rest after two days of walking and exercising -  getting too old for all of this.

One of the consequences of the mooring spot where we where, was the fact that it was just a short 1.8km walk in the other direction and into Warwick which we undertook on Monday – after I had finished most of the work that I needed to get done; we also found Warwick Station (just 20 minutes away) – Diane is off into Birmingham on Tuesday.

We have been to Warwick a few times previously; seen the Castle and most other things, but never seen St.Mary’s church, so that took up a large chunk of our time in the town.

Down into the crypt, around the general church area, but one of us (and I am sure it wasn’t me) thought that we should also see the view from the top of the tower – and there is a charge to knacker yourself by climbing all of those stairs (160 up and the same coming down) – a very tight circular staircase.
But, I do have to say that the views were worth it; the wind however was pretty strong; after about 20 minutes we made our way down and then we both needed a caffeine fix.

After climbing all those steps, it would have been easy to have been
blown away - luckily the bars prevented us going anywhere

but the views were fantastic - that is Warwick Castle..

...and the Keep

stretching out to the horizon (as all photos do)

As ever - we almost never pass an open church without
lighting a candle(s) for Lauren - all our love for you

This shop name took Diane's fancy - not sure why

It pays to read the signs - for this mail box we read that
it was a different design to others - that which is typical
of many Greek columns

Finally and thankfully, it was a shorter downhill walk back to the boat from here than on Saturday and after a quick shop at Tesco we relaxed again inside.

We finally moved along a bit and moored up in Warwick – well at the bottom of the hill – a bit along from the Cape and close to the Hatton flight, which will be our next nemesis.

The weather seems to be much improved on how it has been over the previous 3 weeks with overnight temperatures holding up, even above 5 most nights now; there is a definite spring feel in the air; snowdrops are starting to appear and the birds are chirping away quite excitedly now.

Spring may indeed be coming but we still had time for Storm Doris to make an appearance on Thursday – we stayed put where we were and fortunately nothing more than some wild wind and a bit of rocking of the boat ensued.
We did venture up into the town during the day – just to stretch our legs a bit and for a coffee.
Bit of a pity that where we were moored – just around from the bottom of the locks meant that we have no TV signals, but the internet was fine, so we could stream what we needed to watch.

10 Miles, 12 Locks
YTD:  70 miles (112 km), 33 Locks, 2 Tunnels, 2 Swing Bridges

Total: 4702 Miles (7554 km), 3184 Locks, 126 Tunnels, 66 Lift Bridges, 174 Swing Bridges

Monday, 20 February 2017

She who must be obeyed returns!

Friday 10th February to Friday 17th February 2017

I had a very important engagement on for Friday morning and certainly could not afford to be late – simply to make it to Birmingham Airport to pick up my lovely wife – nothing could be easier – could it?

In my defence, just let me say that when I arrived she had only just come through from Border Control and Customs – the plane arriving 30 minutes earlier than scheduled – but all appeared forgiven (and the bruising has now subsided to a dull yellow).

Naturally Diane was a bit tired after coming all the way through from Brisbane in the 23 hours – but with some sleep on the first leg of 14 hours – she had managed about 5 hours, being able to stretch out in her unoccupied row.
She was remarkably awake and lucid – more so than usual – but we had a busy weekend planned, with a trip to Manchester; a two-night stopover; a visit to Old Trafford and catching up with "Mad-Eye" Paul Macey.
A frosty and cold sight to wake up to - it had snowed during
the night, but we were snug and warm inside the hotel
There certainly was snow on them thar hills

Macclesfield behind us and the snow had melted away to leave a bit of slush around

Even the local constabulary got into the swing of things -
there's Paul between two nags

just part of the action on the field

and some after match celebration - at least Paul was happy

It was just so great to see Paul again - it didn't matter about anything else
It really was a super weekend and we had a great day on Saturday – well at least Paul and I did – with Man United beating Watford 2-0 (we didn’t say too much in the car on the trip back for fear that we would have each got a good clip around the ears from the lone Watford supporter in the back seat – Diane – but she was a good sport about it all).
Follow that match up with a lovely meal out at Paul’s favourite Thai restaurant in Macclesfield and it was a great day.

Paul’s main visit back to the UK started out as a desire to see a game at Old Trafford, but it was tinged with sadness to begin with – his mother was in hospital and would not have too many more days left (as it transpired she passed away on the following Thursday morning).
We had met Margaret on a number of occasions whilst we were moored in Bollington a couple of years ago and got to know her reasonably well and understand how determined and strong willed she was – a trait that Paul had with the women in his life – and now she is no longer with us.
It has not been a good start to the year.

Sunday came and this meant the trip back down to Rugby where we had left the boat – we didn’t meet up with Paul – he was already on the road to see his mum – but we took the opportunity with having a car to pop in to meet up with Dot and Gordon at Aston Marina where they were moored up for a couple of months.
An obligatory trip to The Echange in Stone and a couple of drinks (sitting at the old table in the window – our favourite) before back to their boat for a wonderful meal and just simply enjoying the company of two very good and lovely friends.
Back in their favourite seats The Exchange
There never seems to be enough time and so it was again – we needed to get back in time to run the engine and charge the batteries on the boat before the 8pm curfew – which we made.

Monday and Tuesday were occupied with mundane things like Diane unpacking and putting stuff away; shopping to more fully replenish the pantry and fridge; sorting out a few things in town before the inevitable cruising would begin.
We said our goodbyes to Carolyn and Gary (nb Inca) who had kept an eye on the boat and again compared our cruising schedules for the year to see where we could catch up again (and there are times and places in there).

Finally we untied on Wednesday morning and started heading south, making it as far as Braunston for the day, where we moored up – took a walk up into the village for Diane to visit the butcher; Thursday we continued on our travels, turning right at the junction, filling with diesel along the way and negotiating the Calcutt Locks and moored up outside Ventnor Marina – we had never moored here before – such a lovely, nice and quiet place – would like to do it again; finally Friday and we were off again, this time down the Stockton locks before settling for a mooring below the end of the flight.

Back cruising again - it was still quite chilly out

She hasn't lost it - still able to control the boat as usual

Just a lovely shot of the sun over Braunston, the church
on the right and the tree reflected in the canal
Some years ago we were in the village for their annual beer festival, which I think no longer happens, and wandered around taking in the sights – it has been a while and took us a little time to sort out where everything was but it was a lovely day anyway with the sun shining just to wander and enjoy.
It sadly is just another village to us without the hustle and bustle of a festival and something for the locals but we enjoyed the walk and the drink at the pub before retiring back to the boat.

Our intentions are to head into Birmingham, so we will be heading that way – how long it will take us we cannot be sure; how long we will stay there we cannot be sure; where we will head to afterwards is something we do know.
Our cruising schedule for this year will be the tidal Trent taking in the canals and waterways that run off from it; we will be heading further northwards to York and then west over the Pennines (somewhere) to do the Ribble Link (and the Lancaster Canal) before a last trip into Liverpool docks – after all of that we are not exactly sure, but we do intend to be somewhere around Stone for Xmas.

19 miles, 16 Locks
YTD:  60 miles (97 km), 21 Locks, 2 Tunnels, 2 Swing Bridges
Total: 4692 Miles (7551 km), 3172 Locks, 126 Tunnels, 66 Lift Bridges, 174 Swing Bridges

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Too many goodbyes

Saturday 21st January to Thursday 9th February 2017

The flight back from Australia was relatively uneventful as it usually is – this time however I had to take the flight that stopped in Singapore on its way to Dubai rather than the 14hr straight through flight from Melbourne direct to Dubai – no great hardship.

Landing back in Birmingham to a rather chilly morning was a little bit of a shock to the system but infinitely better than it being hot and humid.

Train back to Rugby and then taxi to Barby Marina and I was back on board a little bit over 2 hours after landing.

The boat was naturally quite cold – having sat there for the last 7 weeks, but happily it was nice and dry.
After getting the diesel running again, the reflecs was lit and pretty soon the boat was starting to lose it’s chill – getting warm took a bit longer.

Before we left it, apart from the usual winterising that we do, we also had moved a great many things inside the boat; set the mattress on it’s side to air and there was a general upheaval of a great many things.
All-in-all it took a few hours to get it all back into shape and everything more or less in their correct places – by which time the boat was now warm.

That wasn’t half as bad as the fact that we had cleared the fridge out and anything else that was likely to go off, so there was very little in the way of food that could easily be made into something – but managed to scratch something together – also no milk or bread – that would be for tomorrow.

First morning back and the canal had frozen over, but the sun was out and very bright – the ice was starting to melt by late morning so I figured it was time to move along; with the knowledge of the marina staff, I untied Ferndale and gently eased her out through the ice – it is always difficult to manoeuvre around turns but after an hour we were out through the entrance and heading in a straight line northwards.

I didn’t want to go too far and so I moored just above the Hillmorton Locks and was able to do some much needed shopping up on the main road – just the basics really.

Next morning and the ice had cleared and I cleared off, heading down to Rugby to do a proper replenishment,

The time between then and now has been spent in Rugby and cruising up to Hawkesbury Junction, into Coventry and then back again, with non-cruising days in all locations – primarily to get everything going OK whilst I wait for Diane to return. By the time that this blog is published she will be on her way back.

She has been with her Mum and Dad in Queensland to see how they have been since she had last seen them before Xmas – she has noticed some changes even in that short time and her Dad has had some problems which will means loss of some past functions – most notably, not being able to drive anymore.

Diane had spent many hours on the cross-stitch and then having it framed
for their anniversary next year

A good day - able to be out and about

Still looking pretty good

Not sure about the selfies in the car - shouldn't you be driving

Swimming costume for the new season

Not so much the water-baby - just the water-babe
We are concerned about their general health and there are some specific problems that each has which are also of concern – we will just have to see how they progress over the next few months and the next year -  this will have big impact on our overall plans, but we were prepared for this type of thing coming along.

Trying out the new scooter to give more freedom..... least until it is nap time

Sneaking out for a coffee
It is worrying for them just as much as it is worrying for us – two very wonderful people in our lives who have done so very much for us when we were first starting out and we would like to be closer to them but equally we want to finish what we have started here – the time-frame will need to be shortened.

Having bad news such as this on the homefront has been of concern to us; the news of our dear friend Frank (as I had mentioned in the last blog); terrible news about Lauren (a second stroke for someone so young – just 30 years old); but the additional news that we have had of late with the passing of Les (nb Valerie) and now Fiona (nb Epihany) has been a blow to us.

We had the pleasure of meeting and enjoying Fiona’s company (with her husband John) a few years ago and given her medical history and recent health it was still a shock to hear of her passing.

We only spoke to Les (and Jacquie) in passing them outside Napton Marina last year, but we had followed their exploits with interest like so many others in the boating world and beyond.

We pass our deepest condolences to both John and Jacquie and wish the very best for  both for the future, whatever it may bring.

Sorry to end on such a sad note but most of what we have been doing for the past two months has been tinged with a great deal of sadness, but we also have to remain positive about things getting better for the rest of the time that we all have.