Monday 29 October 2012

A pub with no beer!

Someone should write a song about that - oh, they did.

We moored on the EA moorings next to the pub at Littleport. Now called The Swan On The River, it has been re-opened just 3 weeks ago by the new owners after refurbishment.

With Yarwood moored opposite, G went off to see his Mum; Joe was ensconced in front of the grand prix and Lesley and I walked the dogs. Walk completed, we decided a pint was a good idea - so did Joe and he put the racing onto record when we realised the pub shut at 4.00pm and didn't re-open until Tuesday lunchtime! They have a lovely real fire and nice squidgy sofas now so we settled down with a pint of Doombar each - just what we needed on a miserable Sunday afternoon. Went down well so I went for another - they hadn't got any. No beer of any kind. "I'm afraid you'll have to wait for a new barrel tomorrow" I was told. "But you don't open tomorrow" I replied. "Oh no. We don't" she said. Our 48 hours are up Tuesday morning (tomorrow).

How sad was I that I left that 8 pint cask of Broadside sitting on the supermarket shelf on Friday.

When we were out with the dogs today, NB Harnser came pootling passed on their way to Cambridge to do the Backs on Wednesday. Brian tried to pretend he hadn't seen us, but Diana took pity on us and came out to give us a cheery wave

Saturday 27 October 2012

We're stuck until March and it's snowed

After our early morning coal delivery (which broke our sack truck), G headed off in MR towards Littleport to meet up with our mates on NB Yarwood. I headed off by car to try and replace the sack truck, fill the car with diesel, do a Tesco run and then to Soham to see if I could swap the expensive cat bed (new and unused by one careful lady owner) for a sack of, equally expensive, dog food.
All of the mission successful, except for a folding sack truck, I rejoined MR to find Lesley, Floyd and Fletcher on board. Lesley had driven up from Brandon Creek and Joe hadn't yet arrived on Yarwood - he's usually last. I missed the dogs'  reunion, but I'm told all 4 went nuts in their joy at meeting up again.

So this is the gist of the subsequent planning meeting; we're stuck until March.

With high tides until 2nd November (therefore no hope of hitting level waters with the Middle Levels until at least the 4th) and Islip lock, which is at the top end of the River Nene, closing for repairs on 5th November, we have no chance. After those repairs are finished, the locks at this end of the Nene will be closed until 28th February.  We are too cowardly (or sensible) to sit it out on the Nene waiting for Isis to re-open. I did offer another option which was to get onto the Middle Levels as soon as the tides and rainfalls permit and then go out through Wisbech to the sea with both boats strapped together and a pilot and then back in at The Witham Navigation by Boston. Equally, if we can't get level waters, we could do the same thing but go out through King's Lynn. For some reason my contribution to the planning meeting was met with a lot of strange noises. My subsequent offering to buy another round was met with far more agreeability.

This is the first year we have lived aboard and not found edible Field mushrooms - although I did get some Oyster mushrooms  earlier this year when I was out on the kayak. I certainly don't fancy eating these!

Look what I found on Tesco's shelf - an 8 pint metal cask at £15.99

G is actually out there fishing in this - his float is the only splash of colour today
It snowed overnight and there were hailstones on the ground this morning - strong North winds and intermittent heavy showers. If I was still harbouring the slightest hope of getting out it has been washed away with this rain. So, we will keep the car and plan for at least one day out a week to.... well... somewhere. Lesley and I will study Memory Map to try and find some nice circular walks to drive out to with the dogs to get away from this wretched flood bank. After all it was our intention, originally, to stay for the winter.

Thursday 25 October 2012

The Coal Man Cometh

Awhile back we tried to find some coal as there are not the usual coal/diesel working boats out here on the Great Ouse. We weren't allowed to collect it, but they happily delivered it to our mooring by The Cutters in Ely. 25kg sacks of 'Max Heat' which was fantastic - stayed in well overnight, burnt long and slow  and produced very little ash.
Thought we might have more of that before we leave (IF we can leave) so checked with Yarwood to see if they would like some (they would) and, subsequently, ordered 20 sacks, 'could you deliver tomorrow please?'. 'Certainly, we'll be there at 7.30 tomorrow morning'.
7.30. 7.30 am. Blimey, it's 19.45 now - I'd better head to bed!

We left the Lazy Otter in the murk - I set off along the floodbank with the dogs but Baxter wasn't having any of it, so I put him back on MR with Graham whilst Muttley and I continued on towards Popes Corner. What a grim walk - every style was bogged down in mud, cow poo and urine (the cows', not ours). I could hardly lift my feet for the weight of the mud on my boots, but there was nothing I could do about it - no bridge 'oles to be rescued like the canals. Even my little mudlark (aka Muttley) had a straight tail

 The piglets had a similar problem but maybe they are happier in it than we were. Yuk, yuk and thrice yuk!
Going to have to get used to early starts if we're going to get out of here. What with rain, high tides and River Nene lock stoppages (ignoring River Nene floods); if we do get out we'll be doing sunrise to sunset for a few days.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

I've never much liked the idea of Facebook

The idea of someone (quite often a stranger) asking to be your friend smacks, somewhat, of  infant school playgrounds and too many people seem to air personal angst against others which might be best kept private. Monday, however, Facebook did us a big favour.
Late Monday morning G was on Facebook and Jean posted that they (she and Paul) were having a look round Newmarket on their way, by car, for an overnighter in Ely. I grabbed the 'phone and told them that we were at the Lazy Otter and within 30 minutes they were on MR having a coffee and a good natter.
Jean and Paul live on NB Enchantress and we last saw them in 2010 when we travelled up to Chester and Ellesmere Port together. Thank you Facebook - without it they would have gone straight passed us and we would have been none the wiser.
I still think Facebook is scary though and will continue to leave it to G!

Monday 22 October 2012

The perversity of pussy cats

I have, of late, become rather fed up with Daisy sleeping (and subsequently shedding hair) all over stuff - my clean clothes, my sheet under the duvet, the 'guest' pillows in the bottom of the wardrobe, etc., etc., so I decided to buy her a proper cat bed. One of those igloo type that she could snuggle into..
Unfortunately, I started looking for one whilst G was with me and the only one we found in that shop was in rather poor taste and expensive. G didn't think Daisy would worry about the poor taste and he loves expensive so decided it was just what she needed for the long winter months so, in a trice, we were heading towards the checkout with this.
 I did ask the sales lady if we could return it if it wasn't used - she responded with a rather non-committal,  'the trouble with cats is that it takes them a long time to get used to anything new'
Nice and cosy away from drafts and accidental dog paws

This is, of course, Daisy that we are talking about and she loves new things. For example, these cushions are new and I was putting them on the table until the dogs had dried off; only I got distracted.
 She stayed on this cushion (did I mention that it was new) all evening, all night and most of the following morning, despite my moving the new cat bed to all her favourite places.
In the end I confiscated the new cushions and hid them under a blanket on our bed; putting the new cat bed up the top corner in one of her most favourite spots. Could she get any further away from it without falling off the bed?
Anyone want to swap a cat bed, as new, only one previous lady owner for a bag of dog food?

Second thoughts, anyone want to swap a cat for....well......just about anything really?

PS I think the lady in the pet shop needs re-training

Sunday 21 October 2012

Saturday was sad - an odd sort of day

We drove back to Caister to do a number of things. We wanted to visit Mum's friend and helper across the road and Mum's next door neighbour whose husband has just had a major operation due to cancer (over the years we've come to know both couples well and I would hate to lose touch). We also wanted to have a little nose at the outside of Mum's bungalow to see the improvements the new tenants had made. I knew it was going to feel odd and more than a little difficult for me so I was prepared. What I wasn't prepared for was that, as soon as we turned at the traffic lights, the dogs jumped up and started wagging their tales - they knew exactly where they were; they were off to see 'Grandma'. We parked outside and, of course, they couldn't go in. It must have been very confusing for them and it was nearly my undoing.

After we'd finished coffees, buns and natters,we made it up to them by giving them a good run across the dunes and beach at Winterton - one of their favourite places. Baxter has now spent roughly half of his life by the sea and half on the rivers and canals. He really hasn't been wanting to walk far recently and I was beginning to think he was prematurely aging but, the minute his feet hit the sand and marron grass, he was off like a homesick angel with it's bum on fire - now what's all that about?

We then went to the Fisherman's to meet up with our friends Peter and Sally for a quick bite and catch up and to exchange books and collect our post. Sally had received G's new passport and the Land Registry certificate (both of which we needed) so it seemed a good excuse to meet up rather than have them sent on to a post office. Unfortunately they had other commitments so couldn't stop long.
Muttley lost his rabbit down a hole
This is more like it! I hate soggy paths and all those nasty thistles on the flood banks
The sea, on Saturday, was calmer than the Great Ouse has been for the last week and a half - should have bought the kayak; it's 10 days since I last used it due to the strong winds and I'm getting withdrawals
I forgot to publish these Ely sunsets - we have had some crackers round here recently

Feeling a bit chirpier this evening as there is a glimmer of a possibility that we can get back onto the Grand Union Canal before Christmas - it's tight and it depends on the tides and the lovely, but vagarious, River Nene - keep your fingers crossed for a dry November for us.

Friday 19 October 2012

The lounge/dinette refurbishment is complete

And very nice it looks too. All the panel painting has been completed and it makes her look much wider and generally brighter. You've already seen the changes in the stove corner and now the dinette cushions have been recovered. The end 'caps' are there to prevent Daisy sharpening her claws and shredding the corners - well that's the theory anyway
 So that's the admiration over - quick, cover it up before the wet and muddy dogs get up there!
Today G fashioned this stripey denim fabric into proper covers - it looks so nice it makes me wonder why we had it re-upholstered in the first place. We remind me of people who buy a new car and leave the plastic on the seats or put 'runners' down over new carpets!
G's halo was shining brightly and, whilst the sewing machine was out, he kindly replaced the broken zip in my favourite walking trousers.

I managed to find  some really cheap scatter cushions with removable and washable covers so we're now looking all  fresh and cosy for the winter.
We could, of course, throw the dogs off the furniture but the problem with that is that they tend to sleep joined together and then no-one can move around the boat
And it would take a much harder heart than mine to chuck off a dog that looked this comfy - and is snoring. Baxter? If he's not joined to Muttley then he's asleep on G's lap of course.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

1,110,000 guineas changed hands in under 2 hours!

Being only a short distance from the racing town of Newmarket, we decided to have a day out and visit the yearling auction at Tattersalls.
All sales are still conducted in units of guineas and, for those of you too young to remember, a guinea was 21 shillings when there were 20 shillings to the pound - so, in today's parlance, that's £1.05 pence = 1 guinea.
We parked the car and walked up the hill but, if you wished, you could just hand over the key to your Mercedes, Range Rover etc to the valet parkers
 Outside in the paddock the next 6 or 7 lots were paraded in front of potential buyers (and us) before going into the auction ring. No names yet (that will be up to the purchasers as these are yearlings and haven't yet raced) just lot numbers and the form of dam/sire siblings and half siblings. This is lot 1134 which went on to sell at a mere 28,000 guineas
 Lot 1141
 This chestnut only fetched the minimum sale price of 3,000 guineas. We enjoyed trying to spot the bidders and picking our favourites in the paddock and then seeing what money they fetched. G had apoplexy every time I moved in case I spent the odd 50,000 without realising it
 The auctioneer 'admonishes' someone for dropping out of the bidding
 It's a fantastic arena - the few people you see in the stands here are the main people bidding for this, or one of the next few, lots. They are seated directly opposite the auctioneer, so are more able to catch his eye although he did have 3 'spotters' working for him in case he missed a bid
 This is our lot 1141 again; now in the ring - sold for 50,000 guineas
 Outside, above the paddock, an LED screen displays the lot number and bids currently being auctioned inside; although somewhat superfluous as you could hear the auctioneer halfway across town

 Stabling surrounds the main building, paddock and auction room. Car and horsebox parks surround the stabling - it covers a massive area, especially slap bang in the middle of town!

 This statue in memory of Hyperion stands outside the jockey club
So here are some statistics for you. We watched for just under 2 hours and, during that time, 33 lots were sold for 1,110,000 guineas (dearest 170,000; cheapest 3,000). That's an average price of 33,636 guineas x 1,042 lots over 4 days = 35,048,712 guineas which is £36,801,148 which (we think) includes VAT at £6,133,525 of revenue collected for the government - mind boggling Monopoly money for 4 days work!!
Even if you're not particular interested in horses, it's a fascinating day out and a real piece of 'olde England'

(for the record, my 3 favourites went for 170,000; 160,000 and 20,000 guineas respectively. G picked out a chestnut which went for 66,000 - I wonder how many will go on to recoup their purchase prices, let alone make a profit, and that's without training fees?)

This blog will strike a chord for Sue of NB No Problem - she used to work in the racing industry here.

Sunday 14 October 2012

I'm beginning to feel like a bridge hopper.

Not that there are many bridges to hop to out here. We're not though; the rules here are different. My understanding is that you can stay for 48 hours, leave for 48 hours and then come back again if you want to. Unlike the canals where you can stay for 14 nights (except designated moorings) but not return as you must be on a 'continuous journey' (there are probably at least 20 interpretations, but this is the gist of it). Now all the cruisers have been put to bed for the winter, you can see what's left ie the local live aboards - mostly narras - with no permanent or winter moorings. Every 48 hours they sort of shuffle around 2 or 3 different moorings in and around Ely; although, when we returned for G's chiropractic appointment Thursday, there seem to be a number of narras and a wide beam that have taken up permanent residence in Ely and aren't bothering with the 48 hour shuffle, so we struggled to find a mooring in the area we wanted. We did manage to catch up with Kevin and Debbie, off of WB Avalon, for a coffee before we left yesterday morning and they kindly offered us Avalon to breast up against if we need to (they have a permanent mooring in Ely).

This mooring problem will probably become a great deal worse due to the temporary closure of Pope's Corner Marina and it's permanent closure to live aboards - more on this another day or you can catch up with all the politics on Canal Forum. We, of course, are fortunate in that we don't have to stay in one area, but Hermitage Lock and all places upstream will get very scary if we suddenly get a lot of rain and we can't often get clearance under the bridge in the lock - high rainfalls and high tides would stop us dashing back here for safety. So we'll see how it goes; we're more than content in this area at the moment as G is having regular chiro appointments and I'm due a few days stay in hospital in Cambridge this side of Christmas.

Moored this weekend on the rather remote and desolate EA Diamond 44. Just as well really as Baxter has a funny tummy again and there's no-one to see us jumping on and off the boat in our dressing gowns.
 With all this lot for Daisy to mouse and rummage in she still, somehow, managed to fall in the River again this evening
The lovely thing about being in remote and desolate places in this neck of the woods is the sky

Thursday 11 October 2012

So to Soham

Monday was a bit gloomy after the previous 2 days so we had a nice lazy start and I walked the dogs before a pleasant lunch at the 5 Miles pub - mains and a pud for £7.50. Plenty of choice and quite pleasant for the money so, with a belly full of apple crumble and custard, we pulled pins.
As there were no locks to contend with, and I would be using her again shortly, we towed the little boat behind us. Baxter was furious about this and barked at it continuosly until we got totally fed up with him and shut him back indoors
Passing the Little Thetford mooring, we decided to moor on the opposite bank as G fancied the fishing might be good. I jumped down and out with the front rope; landing in a ton of swan shit and G couldn't get MR in as it was too shallow so he yelled that we'd have to cross back over onto the EA moorings. I couldn't, however, reverse my leap upwards to get back on and there isn't a bridge in either direction for miles. After to-ing and fro-ing for ages, I really thought he'd have to throw me the kayak and the paddles and leave me to paddle after him. Eventually he managed to get enough boat in for me to throw the pins and mallet back  and scrabble back on board. Nightmare.
We awoke on Tuesday morning to a very hazy (and, in my case, very bad-see previous blog) start to the day. The sun soon came out and, after a quick walk withe dogs, I headed off a little way down the Gt Ouse before turning right into Soham Lode.
Although it all looks rather forbidding, this gate had been left tantalisingly open - I slipped through feeling a bit like a character from an Enid Blyton story. I fully expected to be met by wall-to-wall weeds
But no - this was what met me on the other side - big, big, skies
At the end of that long straight, by the trees, it started to twist and turn
and then I came round a corner and found a bridge 'ole......I haven't seen one of these March ish. I came over all nostalgic for a moment until I looked down through the beautifully clear waters at the fish
I even found a house or two
With Pampas grasses blocking off their view of the Lode
I often wonder why so many people pay through the nose for a waterside location and then do their best to hide it/pretend it's not there. Perhaps they don't want idiots like me gawping up their gardens
Then I found a bus graveyard - despite the sad state of them, they still looked quite cheerful due to the bright paintwork
Perfect Kingfisher territory but, sadly, there was no-one home
a typical flat Lode bridge purely for farm traffic
After nearly 2 hours I passed a footpath sign on the bank - Soham village and 'Lode end' was still 2 1/2 miles away. Another 5 miles plus at least another hour (downstream on the Lode; upstream on the Ouse) was just not feasible so, reluctantly, I turned and headed back - I still had the dogs to walk as well. Another time
back passed Kingfisher branch - still no-one home
and then, as I approached the bridge 'ole a little fish jumped, followed by a Pike - I just caught the turmoil in the water that the Pike's presence caused
These guys must have been on the bank somewhere when I came up - it's amazing how they ignore you when you're down at their level. None of the usual hissing even when they have young
If you had started from the top end you'ld think you'd reached a dead end
but round to my left is the exit - I wouldn't half be stuffed if someone had come and closed the gates - perhaps I should have blue-tacked a sign on, 'please stay open, back at 5.00pm'
and back onto the vast River Gt Ouse - a big push to the left and I'm back to MR
and out again with the dogs aroun the circular walk at Little Thetford, up to Pope's Corner and back along the flood bank. An early..ish night for me, as we had to be up at 7.00am the following morning