Sunday, 30 March 2014

In search of Tring Brewery and a bit of 'Timothy West' style boat handling

With the carrot of not just a pub but a whole brewery, G accompanied the dogs and I up over the hill into Tring. This, however, is where it used to be (the Herbies had advised us to get the 500 bus from Cow Roast) and it's now another 1/2 mile or so out t'other side of Tring town centre
 Honey I shrunk the dogs
 You don't see many Tibetans and even fewer in these, almost identical to ours, colour ways - Baxter doesn't look very impressed
 G was, also, unimpressed with the idea of adding an additional mile on to his walk
 so we had a look round and picked up the bits we needed for Sunday lunch- getting ripped off (I felt) by the butcher
 before retiring into the Black Horse for a pint of the Tring Brewery Ale before our return journey to the end of the Wendover Arm
 On Saturday we set off in misty sunshine and rejoined the mainline

 Muttley started limping again so I put both dogs back on MR and we joined a single handler (Mke) in Cowroast Lock to start our descent from the Tring summit
 Mike was delightful and, although slightly older than me, incredibly agile. His approach to boat handling seemed to favour the 'advanced' Timothy West style. G left Cowroast first and Mike threw his rope onto his roof before jumping on; except his boat then left without him so he had to climb down the bottom lock gate to re-unite with it. Having shut both gates I emerged to find he was waiting to pick me up (I'd forgotten to say that I always walk) and he ferried me down to the next lock where a pair were now going down in front of us. I expected he would pull in behind, or alongside, MR on the lock landing but he just abandoned it on the top gates leaving me with a considerable leap for the bank - no problem for him! I politely declined any further lifts. Quite a bit of gate bashing occurred as we completed the 9 locks down into Berkhamsted, but he was good company, no damage was done and the mist had cleared into a glorious day with loads of banter with the plentiful gongoozlers; "where are you heading?" they asked, "Belgium" I replied as I trotted swiftly down to the next lock.
 A lot of people around with the well forecasted good week-end weather and more boats than I've seen in a long while
 We weren't the only ones enjoying the sunshine!

Then my camera battery ran out so no more pics.

 We tied up opposite the park by Waitrose and walked down with Mike to The Rising Sun for a well earned (well we thought it was well earned) pint and found - to our horror - that it was holding a beer festival (discounts for Camra members). We left Mike there and had an early dinner in Cafe Rouge courtesy of Tesco (you can print the rewards vouchers off locally now - no more chasing them around the countryside).

 It's a tough life.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Herbie aims for bridge 118

Having exchanged numerous texts with Kath on NB Herbie I was tasked with walking across the fields to check out the Carpenters Arms at Slapton for a potential dinner out together on Tuesday evening. It was a tough job but someone had to do it and  G couldn't as he was on a fast day it being Monday.

I reported back that all looked fine and the walk back in the dark should all be OK with torches. However, it rained heavily overnight and the following morning, so G and I walked over to check out the going; it wasn't good. So when Neil and Kath turned up in time for coffee and cake we discussed our options. I was more than happy to knock up some supper and G some pudding (rather than have a grim slippery walk home in the dark), but we had no beer on board only a couple of bottles of wine. Herbie had stocked up at the Tring Brewery and bought the cook round their flagon whilst they  went home for showers. We started the engine and tried to make a break with the beer but they heard us and came a running!
We had a brilliant evening - they are such good company - and, in our defence, the beer was 'only' a session beer and the bottle of Jim Beam wasn't full when we started (hick!).
 The evening lasted long enough to see in my 60th birthday - boating bloggers are just incorrigible; give them food, beer and musical instruments and they think they are twenty years old again
I think Neil had been fishing recently
After goodbyes and a very late start we heard the approach of a boat and dropped everything to pair up with NB Peggoty up the 9 locks to Marsworth whilst they waited for us - G didn't even have time to put socks on and my hair was dripping - somewhere around the 7th lock the sky went black and it snowed and then hailed with the temperature dropping horrendously.
 A pint and a bite at the Anglers Retreat restored our frozen sense of humour and, after an early night, we headed off towards Bulbourne on Thursday morning after a quick trip into the village to the post box.
 Marsworth Church
 Billy no mates all the way up to the summit - not even the boys with me for the latter part of the cruise.
 Baxter had done his daily quota and Muttley was limping badly - far worse after playing bundles with a Collie puppy, so he had to be put back on board too
 and, again it rained and hailed on us - but at least we were dressed this time!

 a last minute decision at the top to take up the welcome and hang a right down the Wendover Arm for a bit of peace and quiet for a couple of nights

 One industrial unit
 a couple of bungalows, then nothing but fields and sheep
Nice little mooring at the terminus
 Nothing but sheep on the horizon

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Hooray - the computer it says yes!

After the investment of a substantial number of hours and a patience level that I can only dream of, my IT Dept. has restored the file links on the computer with only a couple of months loss of pics (a lot of which will be on the blog anyway).

 Daisy begging to be let in so that she could eat her dinner in peace (Milton Keynes mouse I think)
 and three out of four (there was another white one) of our neighbours at the 3 locks. Once the owner spotted Daisy he picked up a shovel and drew a line across the towpath - I later found out that the dogs  knew not to cross the 'imaginary" line without permission. Cool. Perhaps Sue should try the technique on No Problem's Penny.

I caught the bus into MK and was pleased to find that my eye was inproving - only two more days of stumbling about in my glasses. A relief as I'd all ready tripped through a hedge and scratched my face nose and mouth - not a look I'd recommend! 
Before we pulled pins on Saturday I walked into the nearby village
 which has the most amazing shop - post office, dry cleaners, garden centre, ... plus a good supply of the usual groceries and wine packed into such a small space
Unfortunately the main road  splits it into two. This is not the main road
We moored nearby The Globe in the nick of time, just  before this lot happened.
(Many moons ago Lesley, Joe, G and I headed for The Globe to meet up with The Dreamers and Greygal - however, they were meeting us at The Grove which is several miles and locks away!)
 So onwards and upwards on Monday sharing this lock with two shorter narras from the Lion Cruising Club who were out for a jolly and good fun to be  with
 So polite that they left the space right outside Tesco at Leighton Buzzard for us and moored up further on themselves. 
Stocked up at Aldi and Tesco making sure we did the 'Brits Abroad' thing - stock piling English mustard, T-bags, Marmite, baked beans and deodarant etc. Yes, I did say deodarant - evidently both soap and deodarant are very expensive in Europe: if they're not, I've had my leg pulled!
Moored by Br 118 at Slapton in order to try and re-arrange our meeting with Neil and Kath on NB Herbie for Tuesday. More about that on the next blog!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Life is suddenly getting complicated

Not only has G's RAF buddy died this week at the tender age of 62, but his father's brother John also died this morning. We were hoping to meet up with Neil and Kath on NB Herbie at Marsworth tomorrow but we won't get beyond Slapton realistically, although we should still pass each other en route somewhere and I'm sure G can make a cake to compliment some coffee. We also have plans to meet up with Pip and Roger on NB Windsong this week and G's son and grandchildren and it just happens to be my 60th birthday on Wednesday.
It looks like they'll be two funerals the following week and then G's 60th birthday after that and then we'll be shipping out to Belgium. I think these last 3 weeks are going to vanish in a flash.

Having now completely saddened myself I think I need to segue back to the normality of everyday life and put up some pics of our everyday travels; we're at The Globe at the moment and I'd hoped to do the Ridge Walk but the low ground between the Ridge and the towing path is still under water.

Now I can't get into my photos tonight - one of those days

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Sqn Ldr Brian Jopling QGM 1951-2014

First and foremost Brian was a person who always would put others first, whether it was his Family; Rosie, Emma and Andrew  or any of his friends, and I count myself as one of those friends, we had not seen each other for 23 years and yet when we met it was as if we had never been apart. Below is the citation for which Brian won the Queens Gallantry Medal whilst en route to the Falklands; it sums up Brian, and how he lived his life.
Flight Sergeant Jopling is an air loadmaster employed since October 1981 as a crewman on No. 18 Squadron, Royal Air Force Odiham. On 25th May 1982 he was on board the Steam Ship Atlantic Conveyor in the South Atlantic as part of the 18 Squadron deployment in support of Operation CORPORATE. During the late afternoon, the ship was attacked and hit by an Exocet missile. Flight Sergeant Jopling was manning an air defence machine gun position on the bridge during the attack. The missile started a fire on the ship which rapidly spread out of control and the decision was taken to abandon the stricken vessel. Flight Sergeant Jopling was among the last to leave the bridge and, as he descended towards the main deck, he was enveloped by thick black smoke. He rapidly donned his respirator and led several people onwards in a human chain but, realising that it would be impossible for the others to survive without respirators, he had to retreat. He eventually found an alternative path within the ship and led his party of survivors to the main deck where they climbed over the side and entered the water prior to boarding a liferaft. The liferaft Flight Sergeant Jopling selected was one of the few remaining and was overcrowded; he, together with several others, was unable to board it. The sea was very cold and night had fallen, adding to the difficulties. The liferaft was still attached to the ship and was being buffeted against the ship's side as the ship rolled. Realising the danger this represented to the liferaft and its occupants, Flight Sergeant Jopling made his way around the liferaft and, despite being struck several times by the ship, eventually managed to sever the lines holding the liferaft to the blazing hulk. As the occupants of the liferaft became more organised, other survivors were gradually brought on board. Flight Sergeant Jopling appreciated that as he was wearing aircrew survival equipment, he was better placed than other survivors in the water. He therefore elected to remain in the sea, encouraging and helping men to hold onto the liferaft; only when he had ensured that there were no more survivors in the water, did he allow himself to be dragged, exhausted, aboard. He was in the water for between one and two hours in extremely hazardous conditions. Flight Sergeant Jopling acted in the finest traditions of the Royal Air Force and his selfless conduct undoubtedly saved many lives.

We served together in the Royal Air Force and raised a boy and a girl each, of similar ages  sharing holidays and service life. One of those magical friends that are always there for you; even if life moves us in different directions for periods of time. I am devastated, so I cannot imagine how  Rosie, Emma and Andrew are feeling.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

We had a terrific wedding anniversary on Tuesday

We started our celebration with a shout on the Ken Bruce 'love songs' spot - unbeknownst to each other we had both sent in a request, but it was G's that was read out. Then we had croissants and bubbly for elevenses. A walk with the dogs and a pint in the Barge before a snooze and then set off for the Cross Keys. The chef had duly rung me to say that he had obtained some venison for G's main course and that he'd, 'do something interesting with it'.

We were greeted with warmth and a glass of free bubbly. That wasn't all that was free - we paid for two starters, two mains and one pud which all came to under £50 - outstanding value for this amazing food. In addition to those courses we were presented with a pre-starter starter of the lightest, fluffiest, chicken liver mousse and marmalade.
 Then our two starters of king prawns and duck (both were huge) were followed by this raspberry sorbet
 Then our mains of sea bass and venison (amazing sauces and flavours) were followed by mini chocolate mousse and raspberry coulis
 followed by G's sticky toffee pudding and caramel sauce - I was defeated and didn't make another pud. The walk home was good paved path and surprisingly well-lit by city light pollution
I wish we could go back there for my birthday next week! 
Only one thing marred the day - I had to get up at 7.30 to make the walk into the opticians for 9.00 the next morning (yesterday) and I wasn't feeling very clever - especially when they told me there was some damage to the surface of my eye, which means a return bus trip for further checks tomorrow.

Getting up early I caught two crows and the squirrel scoffing from my 'feeding station'
So back down the hill
 and G was ready to pull pins - we were getting a bit desperate for water
so farewell to the lovely city of Milton Keynes 
 and on through 2 locks to moor at the bottom of the Soulbury  locks just in time for a hair of the dog at the dog friendly 3 Locks. The wind had become quite strong and we struggled to get MR off the bank here - even with the Indian rope trick.
 We'll stay here until Saturday probably as there is a bus stop here for me to get back to the opticians

Monday, 17 March 2014

A first

Today I, for the first time, joined the serried ranks of men sitting (I'm not sure serried ranks can 'sit' with hindsight) outside the ladies fitting rooms at Marks & Spencer. Now you might well think this was a strange thing for me to be doing; well so did the men and I think the M & S lady on monitoring duty in the doorway was getting close to calling security - especially after I'd been sat there for more than half an hour.

I defy anyone to guess why I was there - especially as those of you that know me well know how much I loathe any kind of shopping that isn't to do with food. I tend to rely on good quality cast offs from Lesley (NB Yarwood) and Sally (my postal address). The former has lost so much weight on the old 5:2 diet that I've gained most of her trousers and the latter just has so many clothes that she has to hand a load over twice a year or she'd not get in her front door.

Well there I was browsing in the excellent M &; S food hall when I sort of fell out the end into their clothing sale area where I happened upon a rather nice pair of trousers in my size. When I tried them on  ('trying them on' has to be a first in many years) they were a bit long and I realised that they were the longer length and I needed medium if I wasn't going to have to go through the hassle of getting G to shorten them for me. As I left the fitting room in search of 'medium' I spied a lady heading into the fitting rooms carrying 2 pairs in my size/colour. None left on the shelf so I reckoned that if she took in 2 pairs of navy blue size 10s then they had to be of different leg lengths - why else?

So I sat outside and waited for her to come out in the hope that she might reject the medium leg length (she was quite short). So I waited...and waited...and waited. I saw many women go in and come out - some came out for different sizes; go back in and come out again. Still no sign of the lady with 'my' trousers. I had time to make observations regarding the rejection of 'tried on' garments with the door lady - in answer to her, 'are they all right madam?' enquiry most people didn't just want to say,'no'. They gave all sorts of reasons as to why they couldn't commit to a purchase. Very few people were able to hand the clothes back, say 'no thank you' and leave - it was quite entertaining.

Meanwhile there was still no sign of 'my' trousers. Could she have left by the tradesman's entrance? Could she have nodded off? Could she have collapsed or, heaven forbid, died? By now I was getting to the stage where I could have sat there and taken the long ones up twice over. Graham phoned to ask if I was lost.

I made the decision that I would watch 3 more ladies go in and come out and then give up. They did; so I got to my feet and there she was clutching not one, but two pairs of navy blue size 10 medium leg. "I thought they were size 12s" she said as she thrust them at the assistant. RESULT!!! But what was she doing in there all that time and why two identical pairs?

That's me shopped out for at least 2 years! I was more than ready to throw myself on the mercy of this fellow
G bought me a new, de-luxe, bird feeder
 The squirrels love it

 Muttley or a lamb?

 Muttley and I have been out on our own a lot as poor old Baxter hasn't been well again