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