Wednesday 29 October 2008

BSC complete... Yeahhhhh.

Yesterday, Matilda Rose passed her 1st BSC with flying colours, no adverse comments and done by a gentlemen who was very thorough and fair, if you need a good examiner who gives you absolute confidence then contact Nigel Smith from the Ashby Narrowboat company, Stoke Golding. We have also had our engine and Electrical check carried out by River Canal Rescue, James was also superb and commented on the well looked after Engine, thank you James. Lastly we had a problem with out Harworth boiler and that was sorted by another James, a one man band boat engineer who knew his cherries and we now have another source of heat and hot water, Thank you James.

We are now only a couple of days away from having to leave MR for a few days whilst we visit rels and friends in Norfolk, but then we will be closer to our return and a trip down the Grand Union to London, Jill wants to visit Little Venice but with the closures due in January it may be a little ambitious this time, we shall see!

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Back at Brinklow

Arrived back at Brinklow in strong wind, and therefore, our usual dramatic fashion! The wind lashes across as you turn in & the prevailing wind is away from our pontoon so our arrival is always a bit nerve racking - anyway, no damage done. Daisy has been doing her best to catch up with the removal of all rodents, which have had a fairly cushy time since we were last here at the beginning of June. I'm sitting doing this blog whilst waiting for the guy to come & do MR's 1st BSC - we've done everything we can think of and given her a good clean so all we can do now is wait and see. Although it's lovely to have unlimited water & know that every shower will be hot and that you can jump in the car & get a pint of milk etc.: but it does take the adventure out of life & I always feel that our "proper" life is on hold until we get moving again. Anyway, it has to be done and it's nice to catch up with the family whilst we have the car - by the time we've spent a few days in Norfolk - it'll be around the 6th before we leave, but want to catch up with Caxton & Lady Hester first (the latter left the day before we came back-somebody obviously warned them of our arrival).

Baxter's food tastes are becoming quite sophisticated - having taught Muttley how to pick his own blackberries, we then found him eating cooking apples under the tree at Bascote lock! Fortunately his stomach survived the experience and, this time, Muttley didn't copy him so we are starting to have a little more confidence about leaving Muttley's muzzle off; could he be growing out of his eating disorder at last? Sadly, he still has to wear it around the immediate confines of the boat because of all the corpses & part corpses bought home by Daisy-he still finds these utterly irresistable - leading to, yet another, trip to the vets! This may well be the last blog for a bit because no-one wants to look at photos of Tesco etc-still, pictures of the sea next week might make a change.

Thursday 23 October 2008

To share or not to share?

It's always nice to think, when approaching a big flight of double locks, that it would be nice to share the locks & your day with another boat (like we did with Brian & the gang through the Stocktons & the Hattons). However, if you are not sharing with kindred spirits it is often way better to be on your own; the trouble is, by the time you've realised that there are "irreconcilable differences," how do you get out of the situation? "You go on, we need to stop for water" and "you go on, we have something wrapped round our prop," are invariably met with, "no worries, we'll wait & have a brew" or "we'll stay & help". Because, 99.99999% of boaters are lovely; but not always compatible!. I'm more than willing to do my share of the far sides of locks (heavier due to less usage & if only one gate has to be closed it's that one), but it really stresses the dogs out when we are separated from them lock after lock, & then they try to cross the gates which freaks us out. So...for the record.... I do not do locks in ANY kind of a rush & I don't do locks with people who don't take their share of the far side (for whatever reason -vertigo, tinatus, etc). Don't ask, I aint dancing!
Today we came up the Stockton flight with some great guys, Dave & Carol on Bronnington, waved farewell at the top of the flight &, about 40 minutes later hit the last 3 locks with the wind howling across the Marina-some poor chap broken down on the lock moorings (right where everyone coming round the bend bashed into him) doing everything he could to help both Barry & Bonnie on Audierne & us get into the lock - neither of us could have managed it without his help. The weather went from fine to scary in moments. Moored at the first opportunity!
I have a feeling I still won't have enough signal to load photos - but at least we have a connection tonight.

Sunday 19 October 2008

Last few days since leaving the Hatton flight have been quiet but interesting, We had a night out on Friday in the Cape of Good Hope pub (locally known as the Cape of good Dope!) in Warwick, had a good meal and were in a prime position to sit and listen to a band who played 60s and 70s music, they were good, PJK Pees I think they were called, worth seeing if your in the area. However we did leave at the 1st interval (about an hours playing) as we didn't want to have to cross the lock in darkness and a little worse for ware, rumour has it that he has lost atleast one customer this way!!!

Moved on out of Warwick and Leamington Spa to give the animals a chance to have a good run, and also a chance for Baxter to have a change of diet! See above.

Thursday 16 October 2008

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Statistical Interpretation!

Because, for various aforementioned reasons, we have been cruising up & down the Stratford for just over 3 weeks, but also to ease my conscience & cost justify the purchase of the extremely expensive boots; I worked out a few statistics which, I thought, were rather impressive:-
In 23 days we operated 4 lift bridges & 144 locks, whilst travelling 72 miles - I travelled on the boat 22 miles, walking all the rest plus, of course, running up to set the next lock & running back to close gates behind MR where necessary & dog walking on non-cruising days. When I imparted this info to Graham it took him about 3 seconds to calculate that it worked out at about 2 miles a day, "oh" he added as an afterthought, "and 6 locks". Oh well, I certainly wore Muttley out. I wonder if I should try working out how many HOURS I spent walking.......
The purchase of the boots has also presented me with another dilemma. We have a rather important "boat" rule - if you bring something new onto the boat, something of a similar size has to go off. I've always enjoyed this one as it's never applied to ME before. I've now convinced him that this rule can be bent because it makes sense to keep a spare pair of boots in case I fall in - boots can't be dried out overnight in winter. However I now have a spare & an heir & even I can't justify keeping 3 pairs, so what shall I do? Do I bin a brand new pare of Gortex boots that slip & rub my ankles or do I bin my trusty friends that leak?

I also have to make a confession: as you probably gathered that wasn't a photo of my log pile (I wish). Tesco boxes and cratches don't lend themselves to such log "walling" perfection. I have now been banned from any further log collections as the cratch is full and the weight on the roof is in danger of de-stabilising the boat. I saw some smashing branches whilst out with the dogs today-oh well, cold turkey it is (for a week or so anyway).

Still moored up at, what we call, the picnic site South of Bridge 62 on the embankment on the Grand Union-will move on tomorrow or Friday; Friday might give us a better chance of finding someone to lock down the Hatton with, given the time of year.

Monday 13 October 2008

Neeewwwww Boots !

Since moving onto the boat I have virtually lived in my walking boots (let's face it-few of us had the weather for anything else) from morning until dinner time - these are of the leather variety and I have owned them for around 25 years. More friends than boots; we have travelled together through the white peaks, dark peaks, brecons...yeah, you get the picture. For some time I have been eyeing the rusting eyelets nervously and wondering whether a good cobbler (if cobblers still exist) would replace them. For about a week, I started to notice my feet were getting wet, which was odd, and then I realised why-the uppers completely separated from the soles & did their own personal "Mammy" impression. Despite his efforts with the superglue these boots will never be waterproof again.
In a panic I bought a pair on the net & had them delivered to the friends that were visiting the following weekend - boots were absolutely rigid around the ankle &, worse still, had nowhere near enough grip: coming very close to depositing me feet first (under heavy bottom gates) into the cut whilst locking down the Lapworth in the wet.
Whilst in Stratford , the first time , I noticed that my beloved "Ecco" shoe company (sooooo....... comfy) was now doing proper walking boots-so given that we had to go back to Stratford again ........
I am now the proud owner of the most gorgeously comfy Yak hide & Gortex boots. Environmentally sustainable Yaks? Don't know, don't care, but I have very, very sustainable & happy feet.
Walked thelast 2 miles & 9 locks back onto the Grand Union in a trice!

Saturday 11 October 2008

Time to move on

I'm trying to get over this wood thing, but I just had to sneak in one photo - pretty yeah?

Particularly sad our friends couldn't be here as the weather this weekend has to be some of the best we've seen all year. We came down to Wootton Wawen after finding out that they couldn't come because, on enquiring with the bank why our card was refused for a Tesco order, we discovered that it had been cloned & was being used up North -the bank had picked it up immediately and cancelled the card. Therefore had to hang around until they sent through new cards/accounts to the Stratford branch. Went in by bus to Stratford today - neither of us could remember when we were last on a bus - to collect new cards. Bit chaotic as a fair on in the town centre & we had to swap buses on the way back (not at all sure why). Anyway, all sorted, thanks to good old Nationwide so back on our travels tomorrow. Have been looking at winter travels & stoppages & think we might head down towards London on the Grand Union after sorting out the BSC at Rugby & a, slightly dramatic, problem with the central heating boiler - LOADS of wood, so no problem! Only one last job to be done in this neck of the woods - a delivery of dog food at Lowsonford.

Thursday 9 October 2008

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Both NBs Debdale & Granny Buttons have commented recently that they hadn't connected our boat with our blog - the former being Matilda Rose & the latter being Contented Souls. The simple reason for this is that Graham started the blog when we exchanged contracts on the sale of our home & business &, although he had emotionally purchased MR, it would have looked more than a little presumptious to name the blog accordingly when:
a) I hadn't seen her
b) No financial approach had been made to her owners
c) She hadn't been surveyed
20ish years ago we had a 22ft Norman at the top of the Thames called Contented Sole II (sadly, she blew up & sank - but that's a different story!) so we adapted her name for this blog in anticipation of our hoped for state of mind in our new lifestyle.
Talking of, "state of mind" I am beginning to suffer from a serious case of OCD with regard to wood. When I said we finished chopping and sorting wood, what I didn't say was what I(he's not to blame) had sorted it into! I now have sections for lighting (dried leaves & stalks etc); kindling (up to 1"); early stage (about 1/2" in diameter); quick burn (Leylandi etc); slow burn (dense wood like Hawthorn) and wet (to smoke out any annoying neighbours-although we haven't had any YET). Up to now, he's treated this growing obsession with mild, albeit slightly patronising, humour-but when I went to take photos of each section for the blog, I could tell by the look on his face that I've gone a bit too far. I'll have the last laugh when winter sets in big time!

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Perfect Day

Days don't really, for me, get any better than today. Beautiful, hot, sunny day - always to be cherished in October (especially this year). Little bit of a lie in - just while Graham perked up the fire & made tea - wandered off with the dogs & nattered to some really lovely people; pulled a bit of a scam with a lady at a lock to buy more talking time -she only half opened one paddle so we could finish our exchange of info. Her husband enquired over the radio if there was a problem, "no dear" she replied, "it's just slow emptying". I stayed to help her open the gate & then ran back to our boat & was innocently stacking logs when her husband came past! (Thanks for the towel tips). Had a huge cooked breakfast at 2.oop &, generally, spent all day in the sun finishing off the sorting of our wood & getting it all chopped & organised.

We're back on the South Stratford again to take on a food delivery & pick up friends for 4 days - but one of them is VERY poorly & they can't come; we're really gutted 'cause we haven't seen them since May. I hope you soon feel loads better.

Having decided to come back down anyway, & after a day in the rain walking for 6 hours & doing 25 locks, we decided to go to the Fleur-de Lys pub for dinner. Graham's chicken looked & tasted like shoe leather crossed with a plastic duck, when we sent it back they replaced it with a perfectly OK duck breast. Only after I started to reach the pastry edges of my pie did I realise that, that too, was case hardened & he said he'd fetch the manager & the manager couldn't be bothered & blur de blur de blur....Boring, but so often the case & it really p's me off. Miss this one; visit the Bluebell Cider House instead. So, one way & another, we particularly enjoyed our lovely day after all yesterday's disapointments. Big Ted particularly enjoyed the sun on his old bones.

Monday 6 October 2008

Bluebell Cider House

It's a small world, a few days ago, moored up on the Grand Union Canal, NB Casiopeia passed us and as my photographic memory went into overdrive I said to the helmsman "i Know you, were you in the RAF?" It transpired that we served together on 216 Sqn. He was one of my Skippers.
Muttley has been in for a trim, I threw more of a dog into the bin than was left on the dog.
Came across this, what looked like a disney film set, on the side of the Stratford between bridges 10 and 11, quite some set up; flats, offices water features. totally out of place yet wierdly not. One minute your in the woods then this appears and then the next your back in the woods.

I'm hiding before he removes my skin!!!!!!

Had an evening in the Bluebell Cider House, it was absolutely packed, everyone was pleasant and welcoming. The Bluebell is what a pub should be.

Saturday 4 October 2008

Disappearing Days!

Despite himself having the grumps yesterday evening, we really did have a nice cruise. We crawled out of bed at 7.30 and it was quite cold and windy, but by the time we'd stuck into the locks and the sun had done it's best, it was fun. Had a further confrontation with my arch enemy the hydraulic lift bridge - wind & wind & wind & the bridge lifts 2". 20 mins later we're finally through & I'm back on board in an exhausted heap with him in hysterical giggles at the state of me & wearing that superior man look which suggests it's me that's the problem; not the bridge - you know how men manage to do that without saying a word? Two bridges on & there's another one of the b*****s - "right," I say, "here's your windlass, off you go" as I settle down to admire the scenery 100 yards off. 1 minute later the lift bridge rises in front of me (this one has obviously been repaired)! Give him his due, he never said a word when I picked him up but he did smirk a lot when he thought I wasn't looking.
We moored up about 3.30 &, as I'd been on my feet since 7.30, all I really wanted to do was sit down with my excellent book, but by the time I'd lit the fire, fed the animals, washed up, put the pasta on, eaten & washed up again, watched him get bad tempered 'cause of technical problems in the telly department, 'phoned my mum & a friend it was 8.30! Without the telly to occupy him I was never going to get any peace, so I suggested we pop up to the "Bluebell Cider House" for a pint. Had a pint and then a young lady insisted I must try the, rather luridly orange, cider. Common sense told me to make it a half but, for all that, I remember nothing else - there you go; another day disappeared without even opening my book.

Friday 3 October 2008

Back On Stratford Heading North

Decided to head North up the Stratford and do the Lapworth Flight, all 19 locks done and dusted in just three hours. Past a BWB boat which was heading south to Bancroft Basin in Stratford, they left Tardebigge this morning, three workers onboard, their mission once they were in Stratford was to turn around and paint the white Cill markers in each lock on their way back to Tardebigge, apparently they are not allowed to paint them on the way down. What an absolute waste of money, and British Waterways are complaining they have no funds, not surprising when they take on sub contractors who then have to hire a boat to complete the task. Give me, the paint, brushes a free Licence next year and I'll paint every cill marker as and when I go through each lock. Oh No gasp, can't do that what about health and safety, what has happened to this once beautiful country of ours?

Politics has now taken over our Police. What next?

Helppppppppppp! send in the white coats.

Anyone know what this is? Butterfly or moth, it was enjoying the sunshine yesterday.

Thursday 2 October 2008

Woops a Daisy (again)!

I really don't understand why Daisy hasn't learnt to stay out of the cut - one minute she was asleep in the sun and the next she was washing for England; pretty quick reactions though as her head and neck are still dry this time.
Having been flushed UP Wilmcote locks last week in double time (by a load of service guys on a "blokes" weekend), we had had little time to do more than fling the odd branch onto the roof - blackberry picking was completely out of the question. So spent a little time logging, kindling & stacking.
The dogs, of course, insisted on helping!
Then wore themselves out.
Winded on the Grand Union & walked to the shop through the towpath tunnel at Shrewley, so we are now pointed the right way to nip back onto the Stratford & head North tomorrow.