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!)