Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I was bowled over ….

Well, anyone would be ….. In fact, bowled over twice - see what you think to this......
For my Christmas present from Dai, I had not one but two brand new shiny washing up bowls AND a very shiny new toast rack.   I am one lucky girl.

Needless to say, both are gifts I was yearning for.   Do you know just how difficult it is to buy a washing up bowl these days and, as for toast racks, well ………….   We have been moored up in middle of Birmingham city centre for 2 weeks now and could not get either item anywhere.   So Dai set off Christmas Eve and returned about 4 hours later with my surprises!!

Christmas Day was as quiet as it can be with just us - the highlight of the day for me was Skype-ing with Amy in Thailand (after she got back from work as, of course, it is predominently a Buddist country so christmas is not celebrated)  and for Dai it was “Dr. Who”. Then we both enjoyed the Strictly Christmas Special, the Midwives and then Downton Abbey before we stumbled to bed full of food and drink!

You wouldn’t believe what has just bobbed by our boat!    Priceless!   A washing up bowl - proof below.   It has now got wedged at the bow of a boat moored opposite us.   I was just about to ask Dai to go and fish it out for me but realised that somehow that seems like I am ungrateful for all his traipsing around the backstreets of Birmingham (and it is slewing it down with rain and I might just get an earful)  - but, yes,  I do already now have one in reserve.   Three on the boat does seem a tad greedy.

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and once the New Year celebrations are out of the way next week, we can all get back to normality.  

Have a Very Happy New Year and trust that 2013 will bring you all you wish for.

Since last blog we have done … 0 miles and 0 locks  
Total since Setting Off ….. 2069 miles and  1701 locks  

PS - I did get a lovely bunch of flowers as well.   Dai is still enjoying the fruits of my 6 hour baking session - mince pies and sausage rolls galore!
Foxxie getting acquainted with her new friend Piggy.
Thanks Uncle Fred and Auntie Lisa xx

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

anyone want a Christmas Elf?

Foxxie says : Woof, Woof, Woof to you All Lovely People
at Christmas Time

I think I could get a job as a “Birmingham German Christmas Market” tour guide!  We’ve been round a million times now in this past week - think I am Nutcracker’ed out!
It is huge and so colourful - especially in the dark - and would recommend anyone to visit.  It’s been there since middle of November and they all pack up and fly home this coming Sunday.   We’ve been told they bring their families over and the local council sort out school places for the children - it’s obviously a huge winner for Birmingham.   As well as all the stalls selling goods, there is loads of food and drink stands (although I did gag a bit at £5.50 for a small mug of Gluhwein ---- and no, that didn’t include the £3 deposit for the mug.   It was very welcome though as that particular night was very cold and it does warm the cockles of your heart quite merrily).

So, yes, we’re still in Birmingham and going to stay here now until after Christmas as we are on the 14 day moorings so shouldn’t have anyone knocking on the cabin telling us to move on!    There aren’t that many boats around but one or two float by each day and the occasional one stops overnight.   There is enough room for about 4 boats on each side on the 14 day moorings and since we got here, we’ve had 2 “permanent” neighbours.

Had visitations from family and friends this past week:
My mum came on the train from Nottingham for the day; Dai’s brother Glyn and wife Linda live in the suburbs of Birmingham so we had a lovely night on the Market with them; boatie friends Martine and Phillipa from coolcanals ; and boatie pals Fred and Lisa of NB Chyandour also came a-calling.   So you can understand my brilliant references to be a German Christmas Elf next year!     Bet you we won’t have any more visitors for a while --- it’s rather like the boatie version of no buses, then 4 in a row.    If anyone reading this happens to be walking/cruising by us over the Christmas holidays, do knock on our door to share a cup of tea and maybe even a homemade mince pie!

Dai is in his eyeholes being here in centre of Birmingham - he just loves prowling around the Meat and Fruit/Veg Markets and we’ve been feasting well on lamb chops, beef, cured bacon, etc etc.    We’ll certainly have a laden table Christmas Day!

For anyone who signed the petition I posted the link here to save Georges on the Audlem Flight on the Shropshire Union - thank you.   We hear that CART and Dan have come to some amicable agreement on how to proceed and he will remain selling his produce on the canalside, which is very good news.

We do wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays whether or not you celebrate this festivity in quite the same way as we do here in the UK (as I know we do get readers from all around the world)

Since last blog we have done … 0 miles and 0 locks  
Total since Setting Off ….. 2069 miles and  1701 locks  

I just had to share this christmas card with you - my daughter Amy sent it to me from Thailand.   If you look very carefully, you might just recognise the stars!  (you have to wait a few minutes while the video loads)

do you like my cross-stitched baubles?
these snowmen are my favourites

although I do love these Santas as well
I started sewing these Christmas decs in the summer
they take for ever to complete!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

adventure time this week !

So, if all goes to plan, next week’s blog will be from somewhere around Gas Street in Birmingham.   ….. is what I said last Wednesday.   Well, we are in the centre of Birmingham BUT all did not go to plan!!

Yes, all of the Lapworth Lock flight opened as promised after winter repairs finished on time last Friday, so we were up early and up the flight.   Took longer than we expected as we caught up with a single-handed man on a little “plastic” boat who needed a stick to walk.
Oh dear ------ so I took over the steering and Dai was working the locks for him and then for me.   Well, he is always going on about how he doesn’t get to do locks so he couldn’t really moan could he!

After the flight we carried on for a few miles and moored at Hockley Heath as we knew there is an excellent fish ‘n’ chips there.   Next morning we sent off early again and just had a brief stop by Bridge 20 to get lovely sourdough bread from the bakery about 2 mins walk from the canal.   After a bit of cruising we were told by a man-on-a-moored-boat that we wouldn’t be getting into Birmingham that way.    Oh no - what?   So I scooted inside to fire up the laptop.   Oh no - he was correct -  work at Guillotine Lock was being extended to Dec 21 as they had discovered more to be done but we could get into Brum the other way as they were lifting other stoppages so there was at least one way in from the south.

What to do?    Hang around for 2 weeks or turn around and go the other way??    Yes, we winded about 2 miles from Shirley (so about 8 miles and no locks from Brum) and mentally prepared to do Lapworth flight again!!    We did manage to get through the 2 lift bridges and first 4 locks of the flight before dark ascended.

Next morning we tackled the rest of Lapworth and turned back onto the Grand Union Canal; then through Knowle 5 double locks (bit of a trial as the wind was blowing a gale over the pounds and Dai approaching the lock entrances side-ways-on !) and then we moved on to Catharine de Barnes which Nicolsons tells us is “the last mooring opportunity before centre of Birmingham”.   We decided to trust Nicolson and moored up even though we still had a couple more hours of daylight.

Alarm set next morning so we could get an early getaway.   Why all the panic you may ask?   Well, Mr. Weatherman was telling us below freezing temps day and night fast approaching and the last place you want to be stuck in the ice on a narrow boat is on the outskirts of Birmingham with no facilities and prospect of naughty scallywags wandering around.   So on Monday we set off at 7.45 am as daylight was breaking, ready to do 11 miles and 25 locks whilst it was still light!    

Down Camp Hill locks (which rather confused me cos Dai had always told me locks into Birmingham are up as the city is on a plateau - well,  these ones aren’t !).   I was going ahead setting the locks so rounded a corner leaving Dai and Jandai going down in the lock - lo and behold, a million CART men, vans, generators, boats.    They had just finished up working on this flight and now had to move their 3 workboats to next location.  Trouble was, 3 boats and only one engine so they had to do a lot of hitching up to move each workboat and hitching off.   Oh boy, just what we wanted - today of all days.    There was a workboat just being pulled out of the lock by one man but, his rope wasn’t long enough as the towpath went round in a big circle so once the boat lost its momentum it stopped, half in and half out the lock.    I went back to tell the men messing about with a generator - so they had to haul the boat back into the lock so a man could go down the lock ladder to push the boat out by pushing on the lock wall and gates!   The other two boats had disappeared and by the time we got to the next lock, there they all were doing their thing with the engine boat!     However, they all helped us through the last lock so I at least had a “free” one!   

Only enough time for a quick wee and then Ashted Lock flight was upon us…. And yet another adventure!    Half way up there was a cuff on the paddle spindle and yards of thick chain and padlock on both paddles which meant the lock could not be operated.   No way, we just could not be stuck there!!   Luckily, because these paddles have a spindle either side (apparently so they could be raised by two children, one each side, to make the passage quicker when Birmingham was chocoblock with working boats) there was enough movement for me to pull the cuff while Dai could raise the paddle on the other spindle which didn’t have a cuff on it.     
Then, going through the very short Ashted Tunnel before the last lock, I heard a big scraping sound and “annoyed” shouts from Dai.  There was some stonework sticking out which knocked off the nav light and scraped all the paint off down to bare steel for about 6 inches on the top hand rail.    Actually it could have been a lot worse - at least the scratch wasn’t down the cabin side!   We saw a CART man once up the locks and told him about the chains/padlock.   Yes, as we thought, there was supposed to be a stoppage on the flight and they had forgotten to take the locks off as no stoppage now.

Thank goodness we had no “adventures” on Farmers Bridge flight which we flew up as they were nearly all set for us.    No narrow boats at all on the 48 hour moorings in Birmingham and room on the 14 day moorings so that’s where we are and will probably take full advantage of the 14 days which takes us to Christmas Eve ----- and maybe we’ll get iced in as it is sooooo cold here right now!

The German Christmas market is on until 22 December and we had our first rummage around it last night with Dai’s brother Glyn and Linda - German sausages, donuts and hot Gleuwein (don’t think that is how you spell it though!!).    It was a lovely evening and very atmospheric.    We’ll be going round several times before it’s gone as we’re expecting quite a few visitors over next weeks!!  

Since last blog we have done … 37 miles and 67 locks  
Total since Setting Off ….. 2106 miles and  1768 locks  

if you're ever passing bridge 20 on the GU
you must go to this bakery - fantastic
CART workboat stuck in lock
CART man had to manhandle the boat out of the lock
by pushing against the walks and gate!

what an arty shot eh??!!
Birmingham's Big Wheel reflected in Symphony Hall
Big Wheel with the swingchairs behind

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ice Crust

First ice crust on the canal this week at start of winter season - yikes, oh no …. however, it did only last the day …. Except when we moved today, we did have to do a bit of ice-breaking!   It was only cat ice (why is it called “cat ice”?   My guess is that a cat can walk on it without falling through, but I could be wrong!)   Apparently temperature is going to plummet tonight to minus 8 degrees, so we might well wake up to icy canal as it’s also been jolly cold today. Most of day it’s been around 2 degrees outside (but feeling like minus 2 because of wind chill) and as I write this Fritz (our trusty weatherman) is saying it’s 1.6 degrees outside.

We moved today up to Kingswood Junction where the Grand Union, North Stratford and South Stratford Canals meet.   We had a walk up the Lapworth Lock Flight to Lock 9 to see how the work was progressing as is telling us the lock will be open this Friday, 9 December so we can then progress into Birmingham.   The nice man we found at the lock assured us the navigation would be open Friday - they only had to clear and tidy up after fitting a new top gate and re-hanging the bottom gate.   Ha - we’ll be mad if we get iced in now!

Went a walk to discover the delights of HattonWorld yesterday which is about quarter of mile from Bridge 55, so only about a mile from our mooring.   To say I was a bit disappointed is putting it mildly!  Obviously a farm who had diversified by adapting farm outbuildings into retail units.   Usual array of “homemade” jewellery, stained glass, furniture etc etc.   The garden centre big loss and the Farm Shop (who advertise very encouragingly on the leaflet) only had a few packs of sausage and bacon.   They must have had a mad rush on at the weekend eh.  Oh well - it was a destination and a lovely sunny day - even though a bit icy round the nose end! -  so it wasn’t a completely waste of time.   At least I didn’t spend any money!   So, we walked a bit further to the top lock of Hatton Flight and had a mug of coffee.

If you have enjoyed a sausage or two, or maybe a few rashers of bacon with free range eggs from Dan at “George’s Pork and Poultry Shop” at lock 15 of the Audlem Flight on the Shropshire Union Canal, then you’ll be as upset as us because we’re told that CART have given Dan notice to quit.   Please sign the petition at this location

Also you could drop an email to CART at .  

Well, I did catch the train to Warwick to do the food shopping for the week as the shop at Shrewley is limited.   Good for basics, newspapers and incorporates a Post Office but as the return train fare was only £2.80 and the trains pretty frequent, I went off on a jolly!  

Last week I told you about the glass exploding in our stove ---- thanks “bwp” for suggestion of  See if you can get the sheared off bolt drilled out and tapped, I had the same problem with my Morso stove. Drilling and tapping and replacement of bolts with stainless steel bolts = £25 + price of replacement glass still a lot less than a new door
Dai likes this idea and plans to get it sorted once the fire isn’t lit 24/7 (so probably next August!!).   We did find a replacement door but at around £190, we could almost buy a brand new complete stove instead so that idea is out of the window!

So, if all goes to plan, next week’s blog will be from somewhere around Gas Street in Birmingham.   

Since last blog we have done … 4 miles and 0 locks  
Total since Setting Off ….. 2069 miles and  1701 locks  

Trust me - it's ice on the canal
on the top lock of Hatton Flight
looking down Hatton Flight
thank god that's the end of double candlestick locks
for us this year!
I really like this dragonfly sculpture in a pond
by side of one of the Hatton locks
especially posted for Lisa and Fred

work still going on at Lock 9 of Lapworth Flight
but we are assured it will be open again on Fri 7 Dec
and this is why they needed the gantry at Lock 9
old lock gate
can we have it please for firewood?  Solid oak - perfect !
Kingswood Junction
look at the lovely bridge metalwork
nice sign - pity you can't read it!
at kingswood Junction so the three directions are
1.  Grand Union
2.  Stratford
3.  Kings Norton

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Send the sea sick pills please !

For the first time ever on the boat, I was sea sick one day last week and then again a few days later!   Bucket at the ready - better to be safe than sorry, but thankfully it wasn't used!   We were rocking about like a cork in the ocean ….and then of course, the rain, rain, rain.   However we are quite safe and sound and the only issue we encountered was having to move a couple of boats length on the main canal by Saltisford Arm in Warwick.    Got up last Sunday morning to find the towpath underwater - poor old Foxxie wouldn’t jump off - canal one side and no see-able towpath the other!    We could see the towpath further up so we just pulled Jandai along - Foxxie’s relief was quite noticeable.

I got quite excited last Friday - “proper” supermarkets right by the canal between Leamington Spa and Warwick.    We haven’t seen one of these for 43 days when we were in Loughborough.   Major stockup; first at Lidl and then at Tesco.   Of course we will trundle down towpaths with our Grannie Trolleys but there is a limit as to just how far you can do this!   Couple of miles is about ok but dragging full trolleys any more than that is a test of strength and stamina I really can do without.   So since Loughborough we have just been buying the absolute essentials (like milk, eggs,  fresh veg and meat) from little village stores.    However, now the stock cupboards are full again - yes!

Had a walk around Warwick town centre - it’s a lot smaller than I remembered from when we were here 2+ years ago.   Of course it’s famous for its Castle but, honestly, the shopping is a bit limited.   Apparently everyone goes to Leamington Spa for real retail therapy but all boaters we talked to and CarT men and a policeman advised not to moor there.   It’s ok in the summer when there’s safety in numbers but not to be done in the winter months.

After a walk so far up Hatton Locks, Dai spotted a load of very recently felled trees right by the towpath - so guess what?    Yes, we moved up 3 locks and he was able to spend 2 happy days sawing and stacking.   It broke his heart when the roof was full to over-flowing and there was just no point in sawing anymore.    It must be the first time we have ever left behind a bounty of wood!!

Today we have come up the remaining 18 locks of Hatton Flight and are moored between bridges 57 and 58 close to Shrewley Tunnel in open countryside.   Another boat happened to come by just as were up-ing pins ready to rock and roll.   It makes it so much easier to do these double locks - still with those blasted candlestick paddles! - with two boats.   You find you soon get a system going with two steerers and two doing the locks that you lose count of the number of locks ---- but glad to be in the last one!    Took us 3 hours which is pretty good going as all but 2 locks were set against us.

Then, once moored and relaxing inside, disaster struck!   Dai was mending the fire and then suddenly, I heard a lot of blaspheming (wot, from Dai?…. Surely not!!).   Somehow the glass door on the fire shattered.    Temperature outside plummeting as we are forecast below freezing tonight and we have to let the fire go out.   Thank god (well,  thanks really to Ian and Irene off NB Freespirit blogging about their fire glass shattering) we had a spare since Braunston (remember me ranting about “gold plated cardboard” a few weeks back?).   After a hour or two, Dai managed to lift the door off its hinges and put it outside to cool down quicker, which it did, but then one of the fixing bolts seared off!
To cut a long story short, Dai did manage to wrangle it so the glass went in and, in fact, the door back on the fire before it went out completely!    So now, we need to source a new door but at least it will do its job until then (fingers crossed!!).

Going to stay put for a week or so now (got plenty of wood, coal, full water tank and 3 empty loo cassettes).    Will see what the village of Shrewley has to offer in the way of fresh veg and meat, but if nothing, Hatton train station is only a bridge or 2 away so I can get into Warwick if necessary - Happy Days!!

Do hope that anyone reading this who has had (or having) flood problems, that you are OK now ---- no more rain forecast for immediate future, just freezing temperatures!

Since last blog we have done … 8 miles and 23 locks  
Total since Setting Off ….. 2065 miles and  1701 locks  

this was towpath side
as Foxxie couldn't see the towpath
(and probably remembering the time she jumped into the
canal from the wrong side)
she wouldn't jump off for her early morning ablutions
pound between Hatton Locks 33 and 34 empty
quite a mystery as therewas more water than the sea
cascading over the bywash.
We discovered the next day that CART men had drained it as
the house right by the lock was in danger of being flooded
wood bounty
CART are doing a lot of tree felling on Hatton Flight.
They know that if they just leave them, they won't be
there very long.   We boaters are very happy to shift them!
a nice towpath walker informed us that they were ash willow

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What will be dangled in the Cut next?

Quiet week as we still on “go slow” because of winter stoppages at Lapworth lock flight and Camp Hill (we could go either way into Birmingham from here) which are both due to open on December 7.

Moved from Long Itchington down through Bascote 2-lock staircase and the 2 “normal locks” fully intending to then moor but - as is a constant problem at this time of year - nowhere to moor unless we wanted a mud bath every time we ventured off the boat!  Not a problem really for us but Foxxie does get a very dirty undercarriage!    So we carried on and stopped just above Lock 22.    

All the way down these “candlestick” locks (as I call them, Dai calls them lolllipops) there is the usable wide lock with the original single lock blocked off and used as a bywash.    So we moored in front of the old single lock well out of the way of the double one.   There was a little fishermans tent (ar, well, the tent was little I mean!) pitched there but no-one around.  No worries, he’s probably gone home for something or even perhaps inside fast asleep.

Guess what greeted us when we got up the next morning?    No, unfortunately not a frying pan full of fish - or even a solo tiddler - but a chappie washing his feet in the canal !  Now its middle of November and was blowing a gale strong enough for me to send out urgent requests for seasick pills.   I so wanted to take a photo but dare not as he was obviously a crazy man.   But you know how you want not to look at something but for some reason you are mesmerised?    So it was - I was just wondering what he would be washing next !!     But no, he just put his boots on (I bet the socks walked away by themselves) and then his 2 mates arrived.   

They were OK and didn’t bother us but got louder and louder as the contents of the White Diamond bottles reduced and even, at one stage, started fighting and then suddenly all went quiet.   It was too dark by now for Dai to check how many bodies were in the cut, I was just glad they had shut up because naturally by now, Foxxie was getting a bit vocal.

Dai was woken up this morning by arguing so I guess they had just passed out last night so we decided we would up pins and move.   However, it then started teeming down and as all was quiet on the western front, we stayed warm and dry inside.   The rain stopped about 2 pm so we decided to move and just went down 2 locks and are now moored in open countryside just before Leamington Spa.  

Since last blog we have done … 5 miles and 9 locks  
Total since Setting Off ….. 2057 miles and  1678 locks

I tried it but my legs are too short!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

34 degrees and rising

…. Well it was inside the boat the other day when we got back from a 2 hour walk!!   When we opened the back door, the heat billowing out was like when you get off an aeroplane somewhere like Madrid in the middle of summer …. Oh boy, we had to rush in and open all the windows before it was safe enough to stay in and breathe at the same time!     

A coal/wood fire is not easy to control unless you damp it right down like we do just before we go to bed.   Trouble then is during the day when you are just sitting in the boat at this time of year, you do need a bit more heat than during the night but then it gets soooo hot, all the windows are open and I‘m down to my thin cotton nightie which must look a bit odd (and “odd“ is only as far as I am prepared to go!!) when those lovely people walking the towpath “glance“ through the windows!   

When we had Jandai built, we also had gas central heating fitted as we think it is essential to have more than one source of heating just in case one breaks down or it gets mega mega cold.     We have only ever put the central heating on twice in the bedroom for about half a hour.

We came down the 10 wide locks at Stockton yesterday - all set against us and no-one else in sight!    Hard work.   I’m trying not to think about the upcoming Hatton Flight which is I believe 21 and we’ll be going up!!     Plan is to lurk at the bottom and wait for someone else to share the locks with!!

So we are moored now at Long Itchington with its 6 pubs - unbelievable as it‘s only a village with just one shop (little Co-op with Post Office inside) so how does it support 6 pubs??    Last time we were here in 2010 there was a big sign on the road as you entered the village boosting about the number of pubs but it’s no longer there.    Perhaps some villagers aren’t as proud of this fact as others!!

Went a nice walk today along a disused railway track - these tracks are great and it does make a change to walk without the canal on one side!      Dai is out with Foxxie foraging for wood even though I don’t know where he’s going to put it - the roof is just about full !
Ah well, keeps him amused and gives me a bit of peace!

Since last blog we have done … 4 miles and 13 locks  
Total since Setting Off ….. 2052 miles and  1669 locks  

"candlestick" paddles on the GU
there is the "nut thing" hanging on the chain
 that you fix on when you've
wound up the paddle to stop it closing
Lias Line Cycleway map on the disused
rail track at Long Itchington
where's yer bike Foxxie??
This is a Cycleway - so the info board tells us
Found some - I'll have that ....
and come back for the rest
Bit too big a stick for Foxxie !
although she was pestering Dai for him to chuck it for her!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gold plated cardboard

After reading Ian and Irene's blog entry of 29 October, we thought we’d better get a spare glass door insert for our fire and, as it happened, we were in Braunston for a long weekend so walked up to Midland Chandlers.    I really must try and keep my mouth shut in shops these days!  Okay, so nearly £50 for a bit of glass measuring about 7 inches square - cool.   It wasn’t that which was so expensive, it was the cardboard protecting it at about 2 foot square as, hopefully, the glass will sit in there for ever being protected as we’ll never have to use it.  £50 for peace of mind - okay, can live with that (ha ha).

So, first frost Monday night - Fritz (our weather boy) recorded a night time low of -1.8 degrees.   Lots of rain this last week too and the towpath in Braunston was like a quagmire.    We came down the locks and I stayed off the boat then to find a mooring spot and, to be honest, think it is rather disgusting that the towpath is left like it is.   For some reason (unknown to me) Braunston appears to be “one of those canal places you must visit” so is very popular with visitors who then must spend money in the village shops and pubs - so you would think they could do something with the towpath.    I expect it to be left to nature in the countryside - and, in fact, want it to be, but really you would think that these canalside villages/towns would go everything they can to attract boaters to stay a night or two.   Eventually I found a mooring not quite as knee deep in mud as others so we were lucky.   I wonder how many other boaters went through the village and onwards taking their money somewhere else.    I better shut up about this subject, else I will be on a bigger soapbox than I am already!!

Good general store in Braunston with post office and brilliant butcher.   Also a chippie although don’t know if any good as it appears to only be open for short times.    Two pubs on the High Street; big Marston’s pub/eatery by canal (although it is on offsite so you have to walk up the hill to village, along the road and down the hill !!) and the Admiral Nelson by Lock 3 ---- which reminds me.   We would have eaten there but no way prepared to get muddied up to the armpits trying to get there.

We left Braunston yesterday and are now moored just before Calcutt Top Lock.    Now that half-term has gone and winter stoppages started, the amount of boats we will see is vastly reduced - just us hardened continuous cruisers enjoying the winter solitude!  

Since last blog we have done … 10 miles and 6 locks  
Total since Setting Off ….. 2048 miles and  1656 locks

sorry no pictures - internet connection off and on, off and on

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Love is near-raw cauliflower

……. I realised this week!!    I can only eat vegetables if they just look at the steamer (and that’s one reason why we never go out for Sunday lunch as, in my experience, there is always moshy veg and too much gravy swimming around the plate).   Dai likes his veg (well, cauliflower and broccoli) a bit more cooked BUT he always tries to do the Sunday lunch veg to my taste.   Isn’t he wonderful !!

We left Crick last Thursday morning, through the Tunnel and then down Watford Locks which is (going down) - one normal lock; a 4 lock staircase; two normal locks.   There was a volunteer lockkeeper on and then a second one arrived to take on the afternoon shift.   The staircase uses the same system as Foxton Locks - ie, side pounds and you have to operate the red paddle first, then the white one.

Forgive me all you southerners but I always thought that Watford was very close to London as there is always the thing about the north/south divide being at Watford Gap.    So I was quite surprised to see that we were going down the Watford Locks on the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union Canal !!   Silly me!!   There is obviously Watford Gap and Watford - two different locations!!   And did you know that the Watford Gap Services were the first services on the M1 motorway opened on 2 November 1959?  In fact, you can find out all sorts of joys about Watford Gap Services here.

We moored just before Norton Junction (where the Leicester Arm of the GU joins the mainline - you turn left to travel towards London and right towards Birmingham - and are still here tonight!   It is a 14 day mooring in the middle of nowhere so we are forced to go for lots of long walks!!    So went back up the towpath towards Watford Locks as the M1 services are right by the canal but only got a newspaper there last Saturday as no way was I going to pay £1.25 for a litre of milk !

We walked towards Braunston with the aim of looking at Welton village but turned the wrong way off the canal (left instead of right) and very soon passed a sign welcoming us to Daventry.   We had no idea as Nicholsons makes no mention of the fact!   Anyway we then saw a lot of parked cars up this road so went to investigate and found a small shopping centre of a pub, pharmacy, doctors, dentists, Tesco Metro and a chippie.   Result!!    So naturally as it was lunchtime we had a bag of chips and then purchases some essentials from Tesco.    Didn’t bother going on to Daventry town centre as we suspected it was probably miles away as the bus stop indicated you caught the bus to Daventry from there!

Yesterday (Tuesday) we decided to walk to Braunston which according to the sign at the Junction is four and a quarter miles away.   The towpath doesn’t go through the tunnel (long, wet, kinky one) so we had to go up and over so goodness knows how many more miles this added to the journey!    And when the sign says 4 miles to Braunston, where exactly in Braunston do they mean?    There is Braunston Tunnel, then 6 locks, then boatyards and the marina and the actual village is off the canal.    So, not sure how many miles we ended up doing but my leg muscles reckon it was more than Dai said !!

Bit of sadness in that the pub “the New Inn” at the first of the Buckby Locks just after the Junction towards London is all boarded up.   On April 22, 2010 we ate Desperate Dan pies there, it was so good, it got a mention in the blog that week here !   ---- and we repeated the exercise on 26 May 2010 on our return from London.

Our thoughts these last couple of days have been with friends/family in the USA and Canada  with the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.    It reminded me of the time I got stuck in New York because of Hurricane Floyd in September 1999 - that was bad enough but nothing like Sandy.  Mother Nature certainly is a force to reckon with.

We will probably cruise down to Braunston for the weekend and then the plan is to carry on the Grand Union to Napton Junction.   Of course this is now the time of year when you have to make a bit of a plan because of the winter stoppages which start next week, so our bit of a plan right now is to get to Lapworth Locks or Camp Hill Locks by Dec 7 when the stoppages are lifted there to travel on into Birmingham.   Unfortunately they both start mid November so unless we really rushed we would “normally” arrive in the middle of the stoppage!    It’s no problem, we just take our time now for a bit and hope we don’t have to re-visit the Plan because of being iced in !!

Since last blog we have done … 5 miles and 7 locks  
Total since Setting Off ….. 2038 miles and  1650 locks

Another canalside pub bites the dust.
The New Inn at Buckby Top Lock on the Grand Union

Wonder if this was done by the Water Sprites for Halloween?
Spotted by Wilton Marina at bottom of Buckby Locks
on our walk today (Wed, Halloween tonight)

and here is Dai doing another Good Turn today 
as he attempts to close Buckby Top Lock gate

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Moist Doldrums

What an odd week this has been ……

Before I go into that though - one big piece of good news is that Amy and Andy have both got jobs this week with work permits teaching English over in Chiang Mai, Thailand.   I am so very proud (now waiting for my first class air ticket to Thailand as they become baht millionaires!!)

We’re been moored outside Crick Marina since last Saturday and it feels like we are “becalmed” in the Doldrums - not that that I‘ve ever really experienced this but I have watched the movie “Master and Commander” more than once!!   It’s been - and still is today - very warm day and night (umm, is it usually around 16 degrees outside during the day and falling to 12 degrees at its lowest in the night at this time of year??) no wind, moist and mirky and misty outside.

Added to the “doldrums” feeling is that I haven’t been off the boat for 3 days now.   Let me explain why :  Last week I decided it was time for socks and boots as it was getting a bit nippy round the toe ends and too muddy on the towpath to stay with the bare feet and walking sandals.    So I donned the colder weather footwear for a nice long walk along the towpath - oh no,  the first outing of boots resulted in agony.  When we got back to Jandai,  I gingerly removed them and it was like a bloodbath.   No, seriously, my heels resembled raw liver and only today, 3 days later, am I able to hobble about without dripping blood everywhere.   

OK, I know I am sometimes prone to a bit of exaggeration but it was so bad, the boots are in the nearest skip and I’ve had to hunt out my reserve pair as Dai wants to move tomorrow.  He and Foxxie are now fed up of walking the same bit of path - ha ha, especially as he walked back to Yelvertoft yesterday to visit the butcher there and he was closed all day!   Mind you, they went again today and so we are well stocked with bacon and sausage.   Although - poo - they are not “Award Winning”.    We have to laugh at so many butchers we come across ---- with their “Award Winning” posters and Certificates with Gold Stamps embossed on them pinned up --- we never realised how many “Sausage Champion” shows there must be around and about.

Following my comments about the “noisy parkers” last week, 2 fellow bloggers told us: 

Well I don't suppose it would work as well on a narrow boat, but when I had a problem with a rude male neighbour who thought it would be good to flash naked whenever i came to my living room window, I took the male nude centerfold out of Playgirl magazine and taped it up to the window! He soon lost interest in flashing me. We haven't had any over curious nosy peeps except very small children which Les always offers them a peek inside the main cabin from the front steps.


As far as nosy people go we once had a hand, grasping a compact camera come in the side hatch and take a photo', he then turned the camera round and took a picture the other way. That was on the Thames, lucky we were only having a cuppa at the time.

Dai and I had to laugh the other day - a small boy was approaching Jandai and I heard him say (remember, very warm this last week so lots of windows open) “I’m going to have a good look into this boat”.    So, true to his word, he came up very close to the window only to say, very sadly “oh no, I’m not, there’s someone in there”.    It doesn’t seem very funny written down here does it?    I think it was more his tone - going from loud/excited to soft/forlorn.   OK, you had to be here!

So, our next excitement is going through Crick Tunnel and then down Watford Locks.  We are even contemplating a McDonnells or a KFC or a Burger King pig-out as the canal touches the M1 Watford Gap Services after the Locks - well, it would be out of character as, yes, we have started the ritual pot of stew on the fire, now that the fire is in 24/7 !

Take care everyone on Halloween and don’t forget the clocks go back this coming weekend - from your crippled blogger Janice

Since last blog we have done … 11 miles and 0 locks  
Total since Setting Off ….. 2033 miles and  1643 locks  

Sorry, no photos this week as internet connection here is too weak.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ways to stop the Noisy Parkers!

Foxton Flight done - and probably the easiest flight I have ever locked through!
Two staircases of 5 locks each - took us around 45 minutes.   The lock-keeper set us off but after the first one, obviously assessed that we did know what we were doing and left us to it (and there was me thinking I would have help all the way up!)

Stayed a few nights at the top of the flight as we knew Roger and Pat off NB Cats Whiskers were on their way (going other way to us).   Had a very nice meal at the Foxton Locks Inn and then a pint at the other pub just across the canal called “Bridge 61”.   Mind you, the price of beer was frightening - £3.50 a pint at Foxton Locks and £3.30 at Bridge 61.   I know we are headed south but we’ll still in Leicestershire!!

Actually today we are in Northamptonshire - moored at the junction with the Welford Arm.   Went down the Arm last Monday after finding nowhere to moor between Foxton Locks and start of the Arm, so thought we may as well go the 2 miles to the end.   Several moorings but all taken!!  (Roger - you said there was plenty of room!!).    Anyway, we ended up blocking another boat in, with Jandai in the bushes from about half way down We decided on this course of action as a boat at the start of the “proper” moorings told us he was leaving in the morning, so we could move into that space….. Which is what we did and spent Tuesday night there.    
Trouble was we could only tie up the back and side, so when the wind started up during the night we were rudely awoken by the banging (repeat of the night in Market Harborough basin a week or so ago!).    

Big trumpet fanfare - our friends Fred and Lisa had handover of their narrowboat this week so look out for NB Chyandour on your travels or look at their blog at chyandour 

Telly heaven this last week ---- Strictly is back and Bake Off Final yesterday - love them both (and so does Dai by the way).

I am building up ways to deter those Noisy Parkers (those who know me well, know I am being very polite by saying “Parkers” - those who don’t will just have to make a guess at what I usually call them!).   That night in Welford Basin was good because at least no-one could walk by and peer in through the windows with vegetation one side and the canal the other!!   I am thinking of making a big sign inviting boarders at £1 a time for a proper look-see; feel like sticking my tongue out with a big scowl and waving fist.   What I do do when I get too fed up with it, is simply close the curtains!     It doesn’t bother Dai at all and I can cope with the “quick glancers”; laugh at the “I’m having a good look but pretending not to-ers” but the “press my nose to the window for a real good take it all in-ers” do get to me sometimes!!    Any good ideas would be most welcome!

With that said, I’d better now download the week’s photos and decide which to show you …….

Since last blog we have done … 12 miles and 12 locks  
Total since Setting Off ….. 2022 miles and  1643 locks  

Pat and Roger on back of Cat's Whiskers
going down in last lock of Foxton Flight
looking down Foxton Flight
looking up Foxton Flight
where has everyone gone?
one of the many info plaques around Foxton Locks
too much water on Foxton flight
pouring over the top gate

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

2000 plus

----- that is, miles we have covered since starting to  continuously cruise - 2010 miles to be exact since March 28, 2010.

The 20 miles this last week have been from Kilbey Bridge to Foxton Locks Flight plus the 11 miles to and from Market Harborough along the arm which goes off at bottom of Foxton flight.    It’s really been one of those “Bonus” weeks with the lovely autumn sunshine, although we are now resigned to the fact that the fire is in permanently now as the evenings and nights are definitely cold enough to want it!

Arrived at bottom of Foxton flight last Saturday to hoards of folks milling around.   This flight is a certain tourist attraction because of the locks and also the fact that there was an inclined plane here to bypass the locks which was opened in 1900 and closed in 1911.   Loads more info is to be found here .  In a nutshell it is two staircases of five locks each with a passing pound in the middle.    They are single locks filled and emptied into side pounds.  You have to remember the ditty “red before white and you’re alright” as you go up or down.   That is you always deal with the (painted) red paddle before the (painted) white one.   The locks are always supervised by one or more (at busy times) lock-keeper/s who you have to report to before you can enter the top or bottom lock.

However, before we negotiate Foxton Locks, we went down the arm to Market Harborough.   A pleasant enough trip with a very big basin at the terminus.   Hireboat base for Canaltime boats and a couple of Alevchurch boats.   The visitor moorings are on the towpath but very dark and gloomy and there was no spaces as we went by.   A man and woman from the hireboat company told us we could moor anywhere except in one corner which was reserved for Alevchurch boats.    So, Dai manoeuvred into a corner “plot” which was all very nice expect that we could only tie off back and side - consequently every time we moved a muscle on the boat, we banged like crazy against the side (luckily wood-planked) and no way could we alleviate this by using fenders.    There is electricity available to plug into but we had full batteries so didn’t need to do this.   

We walked up into the town about 10 minutes away which appeared to be quite prosperous (no boarded up shops for a change!) with a big Sainsburys, smaller Tesco, Aldi and Wilkos.   Some non-chain shops too which was interesting to wander amongst.  Market day is Tues, Fri and Sat so we missed that delight.    

Early Tuesday morning Dai took Foxxie for morning constitutional and saw there were 2 free moorings so we quickly went over to the Services to water up, loo and rubbish out.  Would you believe it, by the time we had done, 2 boats came and turned in the basin and then moored in “our” mooring!!    So, to cut a long story short, we ended up last night back at Foxton without supplying up and no supermarkets for ages!!   Ah well, will have to live out of the store cupboard for a bit.  No harm done - we have some tins (corned beef, tuna, salmon) that have been on Jandai as long as us, so we won’t starve!!   can get basics at the shop at bottom of locks but Dai will have to do the buying cos I bet he'll need his credit card to buy even a litre of milk and, as you know from previous postings, it breaks my heart to pay above £1 for milk!

We are now staying put until our friends Roger and Pat arrive (probably Friday) on thecatswhiskersnb so I’ll keep you all in suspensers and post photos of Foxton flight next week!
Since last blog we have done … 20 miles and 12 locks  
Total since Setting Off ….. 2010 miles and  1631 locks

a Bonus Day in Autumn, so I got my
washing dry outside (apart from knickers of course -
can't have them flapping about with so many tourists around!)
village store located in the old Skittle Alley
of the Black Horse pub in Foxton 
you don't see this very often nowadays
A weighing machine at entrance to a property in Foxton
(see the weights hanging on post)
great statute on towpath above Foxton Locks
(with sign asking you not to sit on the horse!)
taster for next week's photos!
"Restore the Inclined Plane" society museum by
Foxton Locks.  £3.50 entry fee per adult to see a
working model of the inclined plane and mock-up
of Boatman's Cabin

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

locked to death

It’s October - how did that happen??   Dark at 7 pm and fire lit every night.   Will have to be finding out full length trousers, boots and thermals next thing.

At last, 6 days late due to the Trent being in flood, the fuel boat Callisco got through and we filled up at Loughborough.    92 pence a litre base price but that’s heaps better than the nearest “permanent” fuel station at Pillings Lock which was £1.09 pence a litre.   So, full diesel tank and 10 full bags of coal, we are ready to move.    Dai reversed out from our week long mooring (we were on 14 days mooring though) back through Bridge 40 to the services in Loughborough Basin so also full of water with 3 empty loo cassettes and no rubbish - all ready for the journey through Leicester!!

Must just tell you though that we really enjoyed our stay in Loughborough - good shopping and the biggest outdoor market I have seen in ages on Thursday and Saturday; good pubs and a grand mooring spot.

Went out for a really nice meal with our friends Paul and Cait last Friday evening as they were cruising the other way on a 2-week holiday.   Went to the Swan in the Rushes pub which sold loads of different real ales, cider and perry.   Then, “naturally” finished off the evening with wine for Cait and I, and half a bottle of malt whiskey for the boys!!

Left Loughborough Tuesday morning and moored just through Birstall Lock.   Good fish ‘n’ chips for dinner and early to bed (we had done 11 miles and 8 locks after a weeks rest!).    Especially early to bed as we’d arranged to start moving at 7 am this morning to travel through Leicester with Mark off the fuel boat as (a) better in numbers going through “bandit country” and (b) wide locks.     So, as I write this, we are moored up after doing 12 miles and 15 locks (and I was exhausted after Tuesday’s jaunt!) and all I want to do is have a 5 minute nap ….. But I’m not going to succumb as I’ll probably be zzzzz-ing till morning!!     

All the boatie wisdom is to get through Leicester in one go.    There are supposedly “safe” moorings at Abbey Park which are on non-towpath side, fenced in and locked by a BW key.    But, to be honest, there is room for about 3 or 4 boats on a pontoon and it looks pretty grotty.    Such a shame as it would have been nice to leisurely look around Leicester City centre for a few days.      But, after seeing my first ever rat seen since we lived on the canal, scurrying about at the second lock going through the city, I was kind of put off.    We didn’t encounter any scrouts or drunks though.

There is a tremendous weir at Freeman’s lock (right by Leicester City Football Stadium) and Mark told us that it was only last winter that they put the floating orange thingies across and, as you’ll see from photo below, they certainly do not extend the whole way across.    But at least the river wasn’t in flood today so we were in no danger.

After Kings Lock, you are then on canal with no more river parts to negotiate.   It’s quite challenging at times from the beginning of the River Soar at Trent Lock to know when you’re on river and when you’re on canal but we definitely on canal now with no more river stretches  - the Grand Union in fact.

Going to have a couple of days “rest” now before we move on and, in any case, believe it or not, there’s just been a downpour as Dai was filling the coal shuttle and log basket “there’s lumps in this rain” he was shouting.    So it can rain, hail or snow now for me!!

Since last blog we have done … 23 miles and 23 locks  
Total since Setting Off ….. 1990 miles and  1619 locks  

"I'll just top up my tan while me mum .....
..... lugs open that pesky lock gate."
Space Centre in Leicester seen from canal
There was more water coming over these lock gates in Leicester
than was emptying out at the other end!
Dai had to go and free up the bywash

the weir just by Freeman's lock in Leicester
same weir but you can now see start of barrier

and here is the barrier - don't fancy doing this bit when river in flood!
someone else catching the late summer sunshine!!
(2nd rat of the day!)