Monday, 26 September 2011

Bankers are Fl****g *ankers !!!!

Monday 19th September to Sunday 25th September 2011

18 Miles, 28 Locks, 1 Swing Bridge – for this week

Totals: 796 Miles, 668 Locks, 24 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 15 Swing Bridges

We left Berkhamstead last Monday and arrived in Watford on Wednesday and started the process to get a bank account sorted out and doctors registration done for Diane.

You would have thought that we were there to raid the country. Diane is still a UK citizen – with valid passport – and with the explanation that she had arrived back in the country and did not have her own address.

Trying to open a bank account with a passport was easy peasy when I came here last year – and I am Australian. All she wanted to do was to put her own money into an account and withdraw her own money out of the account; she wasn’t looking for any bank interest (as if there would be any) – wasn’t even that concerned when she told it could only be cash withdrawals from an ATM.

But no, she was declined by the bank for an account and they would not even explain why – let’s just call them Bank B (for Barclays). Then they wanted a photocopy of her passport for their records because she had made a request to open an account – she told them where they could go.

The doctor local to the address that we have, was the next – we both presented ourselves – essentially for Diane to register – but because she had no proof of address (like a bank statement) she couldn’t register. The clincher was that I could – I had the bank statement and the passport. The irony of it all.

The long walk from the moorings at the bottom of Cassiobury Park into Watford town centre started to have an effect on us after the third or fourth trip in – the legs and feet were deteriorating and we were a wee bit knackered from it all.

We have taken a few steps forward but a few less steps backward this week and will need to spend a little bit more time in finalising everything.

Diane did manage to find a new android phone that she liked and after duly purchasing and going through it with the very helpful Ian at T-Mobile she was set – just like a kid with a new toy – well at least like any teenager walking down the street and pressing buttons on the phone – completely oblivious to anyone or anything around her – just as well she was on her lead and I could guide her along – even if she had to apologise to others along the way for obstructing them.

No amount of playing however prevented her from needing further help and we returned to T-Mobile the next day after discovering that there was a problem with the phone - it wouldn’t allow text messages to be sent or received – so another helpful person Fraser, resolved the situation – the SIM card needed to be replaced.

(Her picture is now up on the noticeboard at T-Mobile under the heading “Beware of this woman”).

Sunday, 18 September 2011

She has cometh

Monday 12th September to Sunday 18th September 2011

24 Miles, 24 Locks, 2 Swing Bridges – for this week

Totals: 778 Miles, 640 Locks, 24 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 14 Swing Bridges

The last part of my journey to reach the point from whence I would pick up Diane was reached on Tuesday. Thought that it was Fenny Stratford, but I miscalculated the roads after that so I needed to travel just a bit further down to Bridge 98 – on Tuesday – and precisely 15 seconds after I left the heavens opened up – all of this at the Fenny Stratford lock with its quirky swing bridge in the middle of the lock – usually a nice exercise to enjoy, but in a downpour it was not the first thing on my list of wants for that day.

Still, that behind and moored up – all was well with the world.

After that all went like clockwork and reached Birmingham airport at 12:20pm and at about 12:40 Diane appeared from the arrival hall – she had returned.

Of course she had returned, but I have to say that the fitness level indicated that just a wee bit too much of the “off-season” jaunt back to Australia had not left anything in the fitness tank.

I wasn’t going to let her wallow over her jet-lag – we moved from Thursday – and have made it as far as Berkhamstead for the Sunday roast at The Crown; then movement up to The George to see the end of Tottenham demolish Liverpool 4-0 and then Man United beat Chelsea 3-1.

Saturday had also been a day of watching the football and we caught the end of the 4-3 Blackburn win over Arsenal and the 3-0 QPR win over wolves – this time in Tring – just a short 1.5 mile stroll from the canal.

It will be a fairly well travelled couple this week as we head further south and with me being on annual leave from work, it will be even more enjoyable.

The weather certainly is starting to turn cooler/colder the days progress toward the end of September, but we are looking forward to enjoying this time and the time to come as we can finally embark on the journey that we have planned for so long.

Life is Good !

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The Agony, the Ecstasy and the Apprehension

Monday 5th September to Sunday 11th September 2011

33 Miles, 21 Locks, 2 Tunnels – for this week

Totals: 754 Miles, 616 Locks, 24 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 12 Swing Bridges

The heater was finally reinstalled last Monday and really works well, not that it didn’t before, but it sounds as though it does – more from relief that it is back and running than from any sound idea that it really is better. Nice to know that it will (in all likelihood) give us good service over winter.

These are for Elly and Mick - the restored
Dover - as seen on TV
Heading off from Braunston on Tuesday, after a lengthier stop than originally planned, I met a group of Australians that I had spoken to last week (amongst the many that I had talked to) and they had not been through a lock before so as I explained to them how it all worked, we quietly and gently worked through the 6 locks at Braunston and then I followed them through the tunnel.

Up on the hard stand at Braunston
We became separated at the top of the Buckby locks due to a boat already waiting, and I bid them farewell and teamed up with an older couple – Sheila and Colin on a converted tug - I say older and by way of example Sheila offered the information that they had been married for 51 years. So a single-hander and two older people worked down through the 7 Buckby / Whilton locks in pretty good time - I moored up for lunch and they continued.

I was heading for the moorings at the top of Weedon, which were duly achieved and I settled there for a couple of days before heading down to Stoke Bruerne where I hadn’t quite decided on how long I would moor up there.

As is the case, I again met an Australian family (we are everywhere) just being gongoozlers– wife and husband and there three boys over here to see her sister who had married a farmer and settled in the area – not her first trip her, but the first for the rest of the family.

I had decided that I would head off the next day, but thought I would just walk Banjo before going and I met up with Anne (and Chas) on NB Moore-2-Life and of course Molly – it was then that I heard that a boat had come to grief in the lock above us – caught on the cill, with the bow underwater and the front saloon with a fair degree of water.

I ventured up to take a look at the scene – something I can’t forget – the sheer agony of seeing a boat lying at such an awkward angle – fortunately the two owners as well as their 20 year old cat were safe (and fairly shaken). BW were on the scene trying to work out the best way to rectify the situation.

The obligatory dog photo for Sam and Vivienne
They certainly determined what needed to be done and came down to advise the people on the 5 or 6 boats in the long pound that they would need to take their boats down from this pound and maybe down through 2 locks as they drained this pound to remove water from the lock.

We were all held up no matter which way we were heading as they wanted to keep the water levels in all of these lower pounds up for the additional boats in each.

Met another lovely couple Marian and Richard on NB Eleni Mae and we shared a few hours together waiting for the time to go – 5 hours after the initial problem we were able to move down through the remaining tow locks and were off to Cosgrove.

The boat had been refloated and the water had been pumped out in a way to minimise any further damaged – a good job done by BW – well done guys.

Eventually I have made my way to Milton Keynes and moored up on the city side of the canal at one of the four 48-hour moorings – a rare find indeed – and as the elderly person on the boat following said “I’ve only ever managed to get in their once in my boating experience) – the sheer ecstasy of it all. Not saying that the other side is not good – this is just better.

Beautiful countryside viewed from the Cosgrove Aqueduct

Part of the mural in Milton Keynes - too big for one shot

So as of tonight there are just 3 more sleeps until Wednesday and my beloved will be returning, but I have a dilemma, how do I explain to her that as thrilled as I am that she has returned, ITV1 has the 1st game in the Champions League that night and Man United are playing Benfica – maybe she will be tired and won’t notice – I don’t think so – sounds like a bit of a scheduling problem.

Monday, 5 September 2011

No absolutes; no absolutions; no ablutions

Monday 29th August to Sunday 4th September 2011

10 Miles – for this week

Totals: 721 Miles, 595 Locks, 22 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 12 Swing Bridges

Earlier in the week it looked likely that the most exciting thing that had happened was going to a pumpout and fill up with diesel and turning the boat around to come back to Braunston, but as the week went on and I sat down and thought more about what had actually happened, I really saw that all of the things that we all espouse to about what is great about being on the water was what had happened and what I should be most pleased about.

For me (us) it is about being relaxed; doing what we want to do; meeting and talking to perfect strangers; having a freedom to explore new places and to truly enjoy all of this – and that is what has happened this week.

Yes, there are still needs to be satisfied, like getting the pumpout; like filling the diesel and water tanks; and the shopping for food and of course removing the rubbish.

But this week I have had so many different and varied conversations – not the standard ones about toilets and engines but more about nature and history and family and people.

I met a couple who had been on their boat for 28 years and it has only been in the last 8 years that they really have had a chance to spend extended periods of time on it and be able to travel further than what a week had allowed; how it is not just movement for movements sake, but enjoying the location where you are. The dog laid down in boredom until he got some tidbits from the lady of the boat.

A casual conversation introduced me to a couple who were with friends on holiday back to the UK from whence they had moved 30 years ago to Australia – Perth to be precise. How much they all enjoyed the canal lifestyle – the more relaxed that they were, after even a day on the water. The man was an ex-lockie from the Braunston area and I was listening to someone who was able to talk about the way of life from many years ago and how the canals were; what they were all about – the dog of course couldn’t have cared less – he just wanted to go for his walk, but as usual he showed great patience as I listened.

A meeting with a woman waiting for her daughter to arrive for a couple of days afloat and she told me about how much she loved thunderstorms and her desire to be one of the storm chasers in the American mid-west; her dog was more patient. Her husband intermittently wandering back from the road way to say no sign of them yet. Banjo started the whining act but I wasn’t listening.

Discussing an upcoming talk on canals with the man posting the details on the noticeboard – he was 76 years of age and didn’t look it, had had a stroke which didn’t show and had spent 30 years as a liveaboard prior to all of this before he bought a house right along side a lock and was involved with the Braunston History Society; the dog gave up and went to look at the water in the lock.

And in-between all of these there have been so many numerous short conversations along the tow path about things of inconsequence but all of which give a chance to meet and talk to total strangers.

Nowhere is there a system as large as this one where people cruise along, walk along and talk along and seemingly wander aimlessly through each day, but at the same time experience the unique qualities of another person; engage them in sometime deep conversations or just simply discuss where they have been or where they are going.
the building on the left is the Admiral Nelson pub at Lock 3
the building on the right a private cottage - no problems
with the drive home - and all flanked by a lovely lock setting

No, it may not have been an exciting week in terms of what most people would call exciting, certainly not from our kids point of view, but, yes, an exciting week in terms of the people that I have met.

part of a pathway we discovered leading from Lock 6
back to Lock 3 - flanked by plane trees

Now, off to clean up after the dog who has really been bored witless!