Saturday, 26 January 2013


Saturday 26th January 2013

We share the date with India as a day of national celebration and most Australians will be sharing the day with friends and family; a day to contemplate the future; to recall the past; to understand what it is to be Australian.

If you talk to almost any Pom they will try to convince you that we are all convicts; they will explain that the only people who went to Australia were convicts or the people to guard them.

Fortunately we have never listened to them – and most likely never will.

The vast majority of white settlers who came to Australia did so without any manacles; did so without being transported; did so by their choice.

These days Australia is made up less than 40% of people who descended from those who came from England – we have taken into our land people from every country in the rest of the world.

For over 50 years we have actively sought the citizens of the world to come to Australia – we haven’t always been as welcoming as we should but we have learnt; today we do welcome those who wish to come and meet the criteria that we have set for our country; we welcome genuine refugees; we are prepared to set our minds to the things the matter to us – not the rest of the world – but we are mindful of our place in a global community.

What exactly is it to be an Australian?

We are a nation of people with a great deal of confidence in our ability to achieve almost anything in life;

we look forward not backward;

we believe that the circumstances in which we are born do not define us for life;

we are not strangled by our history;

we know how to overcome obstacles in our path

we have been the underdog against nature but never against the world;

we believe in ourselves and in our friends;

we support our mates;

we believe in fair play and each other;

we never give up – ever.

Our history has been punctuated by natural adversity; by cooperation and teamwork; by peace and war; by isolation; by discrimination, acceptance and multiculturalism.

We are happy with who we are; with where we are going; with how we decide our future.

Have a great day !!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

You only have to ask.

Thursday 24th January 2013

This has been the mantra that we have heard so many times whilst we have been moored at Aston Marina – the problem is that many of us have had to ask a multitude of times before we seem to be heard.

Before we left to go cruising last year we had asked about the possibility of being able to have a location within the marina boundaries where we could set up a BBQ – the answer was that they didn’t want the marina to become a public area for people to bring their BBQ for a family day out – presumably they wanted people to be buying their food from the Bistro/CafĂ©.

We asked if it could be considered in due course.

After finishing our time out we came back in early October and focussed on the celebration of Australia Day (January 26th) – over 3 months away – our simple request was to ask for an area where we could have a group of people and a BBQ.

After a few such askings the reply came back (over 6 weeks later) that they would be happier if we could make it on a Monday,  the marina shop and bistro are closed and there would not be any other people around.

OK, fair enough, we could make such an arrangement and we Australians amongst the group here prepared to change the day – after all the Monday would be the official public holiday in Australia anyway.

There have been a number of us – up to 20 people at a time -  turning up on a Monday afternoon for an afternoon coffee and a chat and chew – we had asked them about Australia Day for next week and a number sought to see if we could have the heaters and light made available (at the charge) for one of the cedar huts where we had been meeting.

We asked if this would be possible – if fact we asked three times before getting a flat refusal – apparently they were concerned about the hut burning down if we had the BBQ inside – we had stated it would be outside away from the hut.

Then they were concerned that no-one was around – they had requested us to hold it on a Monday when there was no-one around.

They found it too hard to arrange the power to be turned on to the hut – even though we were prepared to pay as any other general public user would have done.

It seems quite a shame that it seems we are being treated as citizens of a lower standing than the general public who come to the marina; it seems that the boats that are moored are being used as some type of spectacle for the general public who visit here – nice to have a coffee outside on the deck (warmer days) and watch out over the water and look at the boats; it seems that the management are very happy to provide a mooring point for you (for which we have to pay naturally) and then upgrade the facilities for the rest of the general public – work has already started on increasing the food storage area for the shop and butcher and to also increase the bistro size; the driveway into the marina has been resurfaced to remove the potholes for those who drive in – not usually boaters.

We feel a fair bit upset with the attitude that we have experienced from the marina management over the last few months and have gone from one of being very happy with the general feel of the place to one where a number of us feel that we really are being treated as 2nd class citizens – may be I will need to ASK them about it.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

A lovely day for an extra walk

Sunday 20th January to Wednesday 23rd January 2013

We had a lovely lunch at The Three Crowns on Sunday and took the opportunity to book dinner for Valentine’s Day – the menu looked much too inviting and the price was inviting as well – so we are looking forward to that.

As the seven vertically-challenged underground workers would say “I owe, I owe, so it’s off to work I go” – and three more days now under the belt.

Diane needed to head off to the dentist in the morning – her temporary filling was causing her some grief and she was able to get an appointment. The end result was a little better but still painful. But special thanks to Roly for giving her a lift into Stone and back again - but I want that 20 quid back, it was on the basis that it was a one-way trip.

The Monday coffee afternoon get together came around again and another very enjoyable time was had by all – we did however end it with a bit of an impromptu snowball fight – I blame Diane for starting it, she was surreptitiously making one almost out of my sight – I knew it would be heading my way unless I was able to strike first – with skill and a bit of luck one hit so that there was enough snow trickling down her back – not very comfortable. 

Not much has happened in the last few days except that we headed off to pick up a few staples from the supermarket; a birthday card that I had written and had ready (almost to post) was being readied for posting – the conversation went a bit like this - with me standing outside the boat,

Diane said “ this is the last stamp that we have” as she put it on the envelope.

“We will need to buy some more” I replied

“Will we post it on the way?” she said

“Certainly” I answered

I waited as she readied herself to come out of the boat; coat was put on; she got the boots on; gloves, hat on – check!

Lock the back door and close the outer doors – at last she had exited from the boat – by this time both Banjo and I were getting colder – but off we go – 10 minutes after starting to go.

We had gone about 300 metres along the way when Diane says “Did you bring the card?”

“No, you were the last one with it inside whilst I was waiting”

“oops – it’s still there. 

I am all for a bit of extra exercise so I was off back to the boat to fetch it – the memory is going – I should have asked about it sooner.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Photo gallery

Sunday 20th January 2013

We will soon be off to the The Three Crowns for Sunday lunch, but I have added a number of photographs taken in this last week which gives an idea of how severe some of the weather has been and then how wonderful it looks after everything settles down

Horizontal snow and lots of it
Essentials to be taken care of - he would prefer his own inside toilet
It's almost like something you would see in an antarctic documentary
Much more and we might disappear
Putting up with it
Much better after the wind has gone

Banjo really has enjoyed being able to frolic around in the snow

There is an up side to all of this - at least the beer is cold

Not quite the winter wonderland

Picture postcard perfect

With the local wildlife
Interacting with the locals
Mother and child reunion
Life on the canals

Holed up for winter

Time to reflect upon it all

For those of us from warmer climes, the sight and experience of snow is such a child-like adventure that it takes a little time to remember that as beautiful and scenic as all of this is, there are many thousands of people who find it far from that and the conditions make it difficult for a great many in the community.

We will experience this for some winters to come before we must return to our home, but we will remember these experiences - the sights, the sounds, the feel of it all

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Ice is nice but a cool dog is better

Monday 14th January to Saturday 19th January 2013

What a busy week we seem to have had – busy without any planning; busy without any fuss; and busy without seemingly anyone seeing it coming.

We have been off to see movies – 2 in fact – Les Miserables and The Quartet – both of which we enjoyed and of course both very different. The former was all sung without any speaking parts but brilliantly done – Hugh Jackman in the lead and Russell Crowe in a role which would not have been something most would imagine – but well done as a film. Most interesting were the parts played by Helena Bonham-Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen.

We were accompanied by Carol and Barry (nb Winton’s Folly) and had a delightful time.

The Quartet included Billy Connolly which had him playing a more sedate role of himself really – a Billy Connolly without four letter words – same comedic outlook; and Maggie Smith whilst good was outshone by Tom Courtney to some extent.

Andy and Jean (nb Josephine) asked us at virtually the last minute if we wanted to go and as we had already said to ourselves that we would like to see it, the answer was pretty easy.

The weather this week has been making a transformation from the snow of last weekend through a spell without any snow, but still quite cold with some chill-inducing wind and then back to the harshest of snow and wind that we have so far had during our time over here.

A couple of trips into Stone were also included in the week that was – one by the two of us and the other just Diane and Banjo; not really surprisingly the towpath was easy to negotiate – being quite well frozen and hence no mud – we did observe a couple of boats willing to attempt to break through the ice – one going up the Aston Lock and the other upsetting other moorers as it left Stone heading south. There are usually good reasons for wanting to travel in these conditions, none of which get any sympathy from those moored up and hearing ice crunching against their boats.

The other main activity of the week was filling water tanks – as this weather doesn’t give much opening to do so, and the times when taps aren’t frozen is even less we found the many were of like minds and opportunities presented themselves on both Wednesday and Saturday mornings – hoses were joined together from the one tap that was not frozen completely and on each day we managed to fill/top-up 6-7 boats on the pontoon – it took that problem away for all of us.

Not that I should lower the satisfaction of the movies and topping up the water tanks (and the general camaraderie of such an effort), but I was very pleased with filling the diesel tank on Saturday – the wind has dropped right down to virtually nothing, no snow or rain, but I filled the tank using the jerry cans and a cordless pump courtesy of Roland – the outcome being 80 litres used in 32 days at an average of 10 hours a day which meant the Mykuni is performing to specification – 250mls per hour; it allayed some fears that I had that the tank might have been further down than I thought.

We have been snug and warm inside with the diesel heater and using a small electric heater for a little over ₤3 per day including all of the electric appliances that we use – can’t beat that.

We do need to be careful about placement of the heater – on Thursday night I went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea but in doing so I noticed a strange smell – a semi-burning odour; it took a few seconds to realise that Banjo (with his jumper on) was laying right in front of the heater without  any space between it and him – the feeling is that much longer and we could have got the rolls, cheese and tomato sauce out and had our own hot dog.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Cold, Colder, Snow

Friday 11th January to Sunday 13th January 2013

For the past few days the weather has been getting progressively colder; a trip into Stafford was not so bad but follow that with a walk along the towpath into Stone on Saturday, with a cold wind which cut through you and we just knew that this was going to get worse – that and the weather reports were telling us as well.

Even with the heater not on in the boat when we returned from Stone, it was still very warm inside – being out of the wind and the residual heat from earlier in the morning – it was just nice sort of cosy as you entered.

Sunday came and confounded us all – whilst the air was still very cold,the sun was shining through and there was a degree of warmth in it – so much so that there were there were a large number of visitors to the marina as well as quite a number of moorers out and about and enjoying the brief reprieve from the icy conditions.

We had Sunday lunch with Lynn and Phil – they are such very good people – and just before the dessert came out the snow finally arrived – just a little at first but enough to leave a covering on the cars outside (none on the ground) – as we were being driven back to the boat it started to come down a bit heavier.

When we were back at the  boat it was a covering on the ground and the boats – enough to get a few snowballs off in Diane’s direction.

During the night we managed to get a few pictures of the heavy covering that had been left.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A list – my kingdom for a list

Tuesday 8th January to Thursday 10th January 2013

With all of the big stuff done and out of the way there always seems to be a multitude of little items that hang around and take ages to complete and so it is with the end desire to complete these items and in the spirit of divine management that “she who must be obeyed” has taken the time out of her very busy schedule to construct a list of all of these – a list, I say, which is properly constructed, prioritised and written out in ink (my blood was being used for other purposes at the time).

The fog that didn't lift - barely able to see the church spire -
less than half a mile away

In the distance fog; but closer not enough to blanket some

As with any list there is the planning, some thinking, a bit more planning, a beer, more thinking, another few beers, then the kick up the a__e to get me moving.

I think I had procrastinated long enough – I knew this because Diane seized the initiative and started taking up the tiles from the bathroom floor – until she met a problem and then she cunningly called me to have a look at see what she could do – but she really meant what I could do.

She had won and I had left the paying workplace and was finishing what she had started.

“Where are the new tiles to go down on the floor?”

“Where did you put them?”

How many places do you think that there are on a boat to store things, obviously one too many as we couldn’t find them at all – looked everywhere – even took the bed apart and searched under it – no luck; finally had a better look under the dinette seats and there they were, under one of the duvets.
after removing the old tiles

Right, tiles found, how do we apply – what!! – condition them to warm them up before laying them – job delayed 24 hours whilst we make sure they are warm enough, cosy and comfortable, knit little jumpers for them and tuck them into bed at night.
New tiles down - we are pleased with the job

Following day after actually getting some work done it was into the relaying of the bathroom floor – problem with sticking self-adhesive tiles onto a sticky floor was a matter of being able to reposition them – almost impossible and I managed to destroy 3 of them in the process, but I am pleased to say that with the job finally done, the floor does look immeasurably better, brighter and more appealing.

Elly came over after we had finished - she and Mick had been out for the day at Trentham Gardens and they had kindly bought Diane a present - interestingly, those to whom she showed it knew instantly who it was for without any need for explanation by Elly.
She remains ever so!!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Coming Home

Saturday 5th January to Monday 7th January 2013

Each time it really does feel like coming home. All week we had less than spectacular weather, but probably better than average for this time of the year, but as is more often the case the sun broke through on our return journey – just teasing us as we drove.

It then decided that by Birmingham it would disappear on us as if to say “you are close enough to home, so I will go away now”

Back aboard and heater on to just warm it a little – it was a bit cold but that soon went away.

We had had a great week – just getting away and of course with Sam before she was a off to America – would have been nice if Bec was there as well – the two girls do get along very well and do enjoy to tease their favourite dad and beat him at as many games as possible.

We welcomed back Parisien Star on Sunday, and it seems that we were just a bit too occupied with whatever we were doing at the time but we will believe both Mick and Elly that the reversing into the mooring spot was done perfectly – Well done to you both.

Monday came and it seems that the afternoon tradition of coffee (at 2pm for now) has become entrenched with everyone – the subject mentioned related to being there at 2pm.

And so it was that we numbered about 12 by the time that Manly Ferry came through the entrance – some of us were outside to wave on their return and in not such a long time after that Paul and Elaine had joined us.

Everyone has become very good friends and the conversations flowed with ease.

Some needed to leave earlier than perhaps they really wanted to; others stayed with nothing of any real need that had to be done – finally about 4:30 we called it an afternoon – still with some daylight around.

It really is good to be home!!

Touring and Touristing

Sunday 30th December 2012 to Friday 4th January 2013

When is a holiday not a holiday – when you keep on working after going away.

At the moment I am finely balancing working, touring and being the tourist – fortunately rising early in the morning and having customers on holiday in Australia means that I can adjust the timing of the hours that I work to suit what Diane and Sam would like to do this week.

We have been able to get around a bit this week despite the weather – plenty of rain and plenty of windy wintry conditions, but it does make going inside for a coffee or meal just that little bit more comforting – from the cold into the warmth is one of those feelings of which there should be more.

We have managed to fit in Boscatle, which Diane assures me we have visited before (back in 2000) but which I cannot remember – must be the continuing onset of older age causing her to make me forget.

We had every intention of going to Tintagel but given how open it is and the driving rain we quite correctly called a miss on this one – instead we drove further on to Padstowe, by which time the fickle weather had once again changed to give some sprinkling of sunshine.

Lunch by the harbour was excellent and then had a bit of a stroll around – we hadn’t been here before and the girls couldn’t find anything to spend their money on – a bit of a win from my point of view.

We had been doing a bit of travelling around and also lazing a bit, just relaxing – well at least two of them were relaxing – I still needed to get some work done – what started off as being a week on leave has sort of developed into a week of checking emails and getting the urgent stuff done and then to just a normal working week of doing things during the middle part of the day and work at ether end; but it has been a good week for all of us – Sam has finally cleared out the jet lag.

A trip to Launceston (pronounced Lonston) was announced, so that the driver could be prepared. It did not resemble the memories of the place that we had visited back in 2000 – somehow it seemed much much bigger – this time we managed to see the castle and a great deal more.

The weather had been and continued to be of the low cloud variety without any precipitation, but it was always threatening.

Thursday arrived and Sam was to leave for London so we were up early to make sure that we would be ready to leave on time and get her to Exeter for the train – reports of the line to London being washed away in recent flooding were slightly exaggerated – the trains were all OK and so very soon she was off and away – next time we see her will be in Orlando sometime further on in the year.

We managed to do a bit of wandering around Exeter – we haven’t been here since 2000 – so about 12 years – this time we thought we might do the underground passages – they were built over 600 years ago to allow water supply into the city from a spring outside the city walls.

Made the booking; arrived on time; went through the reception area; saw the video; health and safety check – we hadn’t anticipated the effect of the crouched walking position on Diane and her cold (which has come along quite nicely) – she needed to extricate herself and I needed to make sure that she was OK.

Maybe another time we will get to do it all – from the little we saw it is worth the effort.

Once out and OK to rest a bit she was OK and back to normal.

Friday was deemed to be a rest day – Diane needed it for her cold and I took the chance to continue with work as well as waiting on her needs.

photos to come

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Trust is believing the SatNav

Friday 28th to Saturday 29th  December 2012

Some little time ago Diane had decided that with the two girls coming for Xmas and a bit of time afterwards, it might just be a bit too cramped on the boat and therefore to have a bit of time away and with more room she organised a week away at Bude – this was to be the week encompassing New Year’s Eve.

This being the case we  included a trip to Watford to catch up with everyone there. Bec had been with us a week and I think was naturally looking forward to see a few more friends before her journey back to New Zealand, so she decided to train it up to Manchester (and see about the phone again) and them over to Leeds – dropped her off at Stafford on Friday morning.

Banjo was off to the kennels again – which he actually does like.

And after filling the boot and half the backseat we were off as well.

It is always so good to see Maggie, Paddy, Jessica and David and this time Phil was home to be able to enjoy his company as well.

Sam and Paddy


Dinner, as always was very very good – no complaints there – only that we do like things a bit on the simpler side and not so much fuss being made.
With the silly daughter

my very lovely wife


As has been the case previously we booked in at the Premier Inn – to avoid an overcrowding of the house (as we had already had with the boat).

Our intention had been to set off on the earlier side the following  morning, but without any real time pressures and being a bit late in the previous night, the intentions did not meet the actualities.

But we were away by 10am and following the guidance of the inbuilt SatNav it was an M25 to M4 to M5 schedule.

Along the way we saw first hand the final effects of the extended periods of rain that the southern areas of England have gone through – at times we were literally driving the road between lakes of water on each side; the south coast seemed to have receded to the M4.

There is a lovely lady behind the SatNav in the car who guided us through all of the roadworks along the way; gave plenty of notice about which lane to be in and where to turn – only problem is that when she said we had reached our destination, we had in fact not reached it - or at least we hoped it wasn’t – it was a retirement village.

Diane pulled out the backup SatNav – her phone – it quickly identified where we should have been and calculated how to get there.

We followed the instructions given – left here, right there – go along the rough track – what appeared to be a short narrow rough lane – as we progressed the vegetation was closing in on both sides; we couldn’t turn around and reversing was an option as a last resort-  a kind lady (not the SatNav one) was able to tell us a bit about the road ahead – it would get worse – she helped move some of the brambles away from the car and Sam even got out to do the same.

We made it through without scratching the car; found the road – a proper made road – and then the place we had been looking for – I am sure the David Attenborough travelled in more comfortable surrounds that what we had been through; but trust in our gadgets did we place and results did arrive from that faith - after a relaxing drink the nerves finally settled down.