But no more toilets, I promise.
I mentioned dredgers, and things wrapped round propellers, in my last post*. In the past, in some of the heavy industrial areas, we have encountered many shopping trolleys and bicycles Once, we found an entire bag of laundry wound round our propeller and once rescued a suitcase full of clothes from a lock. Well, to say rescued, is a bit of an overstatement. I don’t think anyone would ever have wanted to wear or use the contents again. On this trip it seemed that we had set off in the dredging season and were delayed several times by dredgers with crews of workmen, apparently moving the enormous flatbeds by hand and rope**. It took a while to get past this one.
While we were waiting, Barney chatted to one of the crew and learnt that in Birmingham, they had dredged up guns, swords, 9 safes (with the backs cut off), cars, small trees and at least one dead body. Ah, but not the crew of this dredger as Barney, the fount of all canal wisdom, tells me it’s too wide to get to Birmingham.
This is because the Erewash Canal, where this photo was taken, has wide locks but after a short distance, the Trent and Mersey has narrow locks***. We were very lucky to meet a couple going the same way as us soon after we left the Trent and started up the Erewash. They were lucky too because wide locks are a lot more work than narrow ones and if two boats can go through them together it all becomes much less exhausting. It turned out that their boat’s home mooring is just outside the marina where ours is moored and they recognised the boat, if not the crew. A very nice couple they were too. It was a pleasure travelling with them.
There they are watching us set off up the River Trent.
which is very wide
Quite a change from the tree-lined confines of the canal. This is the Trent and Mersey approaching Fradley Junction.
It’s been a cold week hasn’t it. I decided that the time had come to get all my woolly trousers out and put my tee shirts away (since I was unpacking holiday stuff anyway) and then last night it got warmer again. I’m boiling now. And we’re going out for dinner because a friend’s pub has new managers after a long and troubled period with the last incumbents so we’re going to be supportive. Pleasure with pleasure (I hope) so now I’m going to fling clothes about and mutter a lot. Will the pub be cold? Warm? Hot? Surely not too dressy-up???
Impossible to tell. I’ll let you know.
*No not dredgers wrapped round the propeller. (Comma inserted hastily).
**Eventually we realised that the flatbed had a motor and was able to move ponderously in random directions. Steering appeared to be done by pulling the ropes from the shore which is only a little bit less surprising.
***There is an immensely complicated explanation for this which requires maps and historical knowledge to make it even slightly comprehensible. I shan’t bore you with it. Not today anyway.
Usually very shallow really but I’ll call it artistic licence.
The nice things about travelling in a long, thin boat on a long thin waterway, with an apparently inexhaustible supply of wine and and a barrel* of beer, enough sausage and bacon and necessary accompaniments for an army, lots of warmth (inside the boat as long as everyone remembers to shut the front door) and good company are, well, obvious aren’t they. The less enjoyable things are usually outside – rain, icy winds, mud, blocked locks, dredgers, idiots, greedy and aggressive swans, plastic bags, trouser zips, wire, shopping trolleys**, all that sort of stuff.
One of the less enjoyable things, however, is sometimes the toilets. (Are sometimes?) Usually they’re very efficient and very easy to keep in good order and not particularly smelly. On this occasion we had been told that a slight problem had been investigated at the boatyard and was probably fixed. But the afternoon we left, we had a call from Tom (who’s in charge of this kind of emergency) to say the problem wasn’t identifiable without a week’s work (probably a leaking tank, so needed complete dismantling of most of the boat’s interior) and the plan was to avoid using the main loo if possible until winter when the winter works will be done. A lot of the syndicate don’t take anyone with them so keeping to the little loo isn’t a big deal. Impossible for five people working their way through all that booze though. So we agreed to minimise use of the main loo and pump out more often and live in hope.
Alas, hope evaporated on the second day as a small wet and smelly patch appeared on the floor of OUR BEDROOM! Then it grew and multiplied. I will say nothing of the upheaval of carpet tiles and mopping and scrubbing with perfumed disinfectant stuff. And all that. In the end we threw out the tiles and pumped out all the loos and put down newspaper. It all subsided and dried out gradually and after hasty phone calls to Tom and other concerned people it was agreed that the next couple, due to follow us, would abandon their week so that dismantlement and repairs could start as soon as we returned. What amazes me is that anyone thought anyone else would be prepared to live with the smell even if the leak could be avoided. WTF? I mean if it happened in your home you’d have it done before anyone could say “Eeww”! In a holiday cottage you’d demand compensation and a free week. On a hire boat you’d expect an alternative boat provided the next day (though I’m not sure you’d get one – I have vague memories of a temporary cassette toilet being installed on one occasion). We came back a day early and would probably have come back sooner if it had been possible.
Never mind. There are compensations – the first night
The morning after
And the (active) crew, photographed by the galley slave and discussing shore leave with the Captain (on the right)
A bit of a no-brainer really, as the only civilisation within walking distance was the Wolseley Arms which is known to serve very nice food. Where else would you go?
We went. It was all very nice.
*Yes, really, a whole pin (36 pints) for 4/5 people for a week. And we also brought, between us, 14 bottles of wine. Sadly, we forgot the rum.
**Some of these are things we often find wrapped round the propellor which have to be removed with pliers and saws and sharp knives and a naked arm plunged into the weed hatch.
We went off and did our good deed and enjoyed it very much. Mr M and Barney got us all the way down the Bosley flight, in view of the Bosley Cloud all the way (that unprepossessing grey lump in the background, not the clouds overhead, though they were also in view nearly all the way)
and all the way down Heartbreak Hill. (Not that it looks particularly heartbreaking in such gorgeous early morning sun.)
which made a total of 39 out of the 58 locks they need to do in the week so I think they’re happy. Mrs M did quite a few locks herself
and I think she’s gained a bit of confidence if not any extra strength and I found myself in charge of enormous breakfasts which was fine by me and left me free to run up and down the locks with the camera for the rest of the time.
And Jacko did what ship’s dogs do (if they’re quite small ship’s dogs that is)
Now we’re back, I’m getting ready for the next trip which is very soon. This involves making enormous lists and cherry picking the things I want to do (like getting a hair cut, going to an Alexander lesson, going to book group and visiting Ziggi) then rewriting the things I obviously didn’t want to do very much (washing, shopping, putting out the compost, the recycling and the landfill, cleaning up, booking the cat feeder and collecting the keys from the last cat feeder). Ok, so now I still have to do the washing → → → → → → → → → →→ → → → → → → → → →→ → → → →→ → → → →→ → → → and collect the keys from the last cat feeder but that’s fine. I had a good time not getting those things done and no doubt they will get done just about in time. Oh and I did get the washing machine man to come and pronounce doom on the dryer. I knew it was a mistake to get one of those fancy all singing and drying machines.
Meanwhile, I’ve made a slightly spectacular error in the pie department. I thought it would be a good thing (and make Barney happy) to use up a bit of left over pastry to make jam tarts. Only it was puff pastry and instead of nice little nests of runny jam I’ve got light and fluffy little mounds with burnt jam on top – and all over the tray.
Never mind, they taste alright.
Some pleasingly symmetrical
and romantic sights
Probably I won’t have time to post again before we set off again what with all that compost and shopping and stuff and it’s unlikely that I’ll have signal on the boat for long enough to do anything useful. So I hope all’s well with all of you. See you soon.
Last night, I was at home having decided not to go to the pub with Barney and dinner was nearly ready and the phone rang. As I walked towards it I thought fondly, it’s so sweet of him to ring five minutes before he comes home (much too late for me to change anything about dinner time of course) just to say he’ll be on the way soon. And I picked up the phone and said “Hello my love” and he said ” I’ll be leaving in a few minutes, burble burble.” and I suddenly realised that it might not have been him at all. I mean it might have been a customer! Or someone from the stamp club. Or absolutely anyone …. one or two of you even! He hadn’t even noticed that I didn’t wait for his id before offering love to whoever it might have been. Well obviously he knew it was himself.
So we had a good giggle about that. And then when he came home we had a lengthy discussion about who’s going to be free at what time on which holiday for travelling up to various boats. After that I was totally confused, dinner was warmish and since Barney had garnered most of his information at the pub, we’ll probably have to do it all again later.
Later, I watched this TED talk which I found astonishing and even a bit breathtaking*. (I’m getting addicted to TED, can’t go to bed without watching one or five talks).
Then I updated and charged the netbook because I might need it on holiday. Now I’m waiting for a hundred or so of Barney’s emails to arrive so I can delete them – they’re all on the computer and his iphone so really, we don’t need them on the little netbook as well!
A final nice surprise; when Z came to stay, she brought us a very pretty and exotic looking pink cyclamen (I think) which has been sitting on he kitchen windowsill, looking quite happy until yesterday morning when I realised it hadn’t been watered for quite a while. All the pink flowers were lying sadly on the sill. Oops! I thought and gave it a quick splash and forgot about it. Lo and behold, last night, there it was all standing up again and looking happy. Remarkably resilient.
And here are a couple of pics from a quick walk round Hosehill Lake nature reserve. The walk was squeezed in between a trip to Reading and rushing home to make dinner a few weeks ago. It was touch and go whether the sun would come out as I was passing and make it worth the small detour.
Grebe, swans and coots
Kind of Autumnal warning weather. It’s well and truly Autumn now isn’t it. The heating has been on for several evenings and there’s drizzle and rain and howling gales and all sorts. I foresee a wet weekend!
Oh and there are lorries trying to pass outside our gate. It’s pretty tight even for cars, never mind half a mile of reversing juggernaut!
*Not so much the music, though it was nice enough, but the concept and the scope.
Finally my car is coming back – any minute now. Oh look, it’s coming into the drive as I write! Yay!!
And I’ve rung Boots and my new computer/music distance specs are ready.
And the sun has come out. It must be my lucky day or something.
Anyway, suddenly it’s about to be all go!
The Magnificent Mr and Mrs Mills used to be reliable crew for us on the boat but they loved it so much that they decided to get a share of their own. Not the same one as ours, sadly. Anyway, Rodbaston has been moored at Anderton on the Trent and Mersey canal and last week, the canal was breached. The contents of a fifteen mile pound were emptied into the River below through the breach – which is quite an impressive, even alarming, sight. Luckily, they weren’t moored on the drained section but it will be closed for a very long time, until repairs are done. So The boat is being moved to Macclesfield and suddenly Mr and Mrs M have to do a lot of locks in their week’s holiday. Heart break hill in fact. I wonder if my camera can do that time lapse thing! (No. Oh well)
Thing is, Mrs M isn’t keen on heavy locking (I’m in sympathy there) and she doesn’t love steering either (yep, me too, again). So Barney and I are stepping into the breach – Oh, a metaphorical breach, not the one in the canal, that would be silly. No point in getting your feet wet. Anyway it looks as though we’re getting an extra weekend on the cut, yay! There will be some serious logistics to consider though, where to leave cars – not only will we be leaving mid-trip and so will not not be where our car is parked, but also, the boat is being moved to its new mooring by a kind of relay system so Mr Mills will have to collect the current boater, deliver him to his car, park his own car and then be delivered back to the boat. Or something like that. I spent a happy hour making a beautiful diagram in full technicolour with arrows and stars and wavy lines showing how this could be done in such a way that we can all step off the boat into our cars at the end of our various times on board. Then I wrote it out in numbered headings in black and white because I realised that men prefer black and white numbers to coloured wavy lines as a way of conveying information (shame).
Anyway, I left this work of art and logic (well, just the logic bit) for Barney to peruse in the morning and he revealed that I was missing a crucial bit of information* which means that everybody will have to use taxis to get to or from their cars and no sharing of transport will be possible. Never mind. I’d show you the wavy coloured lines and stars and arrows but I inadvertently deleted it without saving it.
Now I have to go and mash some potatoes. I’ll leave you with a quick trip to look at white horses. The weather was uncertain so I only got as far as Pewsey and the horse really needed to be seen from further away but the peculiar light sort of made up for it.
And it’s always nice to see spindleberries
and familiar hill tops from a different angle
And then I stopped on the way home from Grandbaby minding because of more peculiar light. Cars kept driving into my view but I found more spindleberries and made the best of it.
They are so deliciously vulgar. Proper teenage girl plants, in your face and pink and orange
*Never ask me to make detailed and complicated plans after the third glass of wine unless you’ve made sure that all the details (and devils in them**) are firmly in my head before I started drinking.
**One day I must find about about that quote.***
***”The devil is in the details”. I looked it up. Clearly it’s a modern, ironic misquote of the original, slightly pious and worthy expression “God is in the detail”. However I can’t find out who did it! Any one know? It sounds like an engineer or an architect**** to me but I can’t think where or when I first heard it.
****or a poet or songwriter
Really, I should think twice before updating anything at bed time.
I thought I’d just plug the iphone in and tidy up a few bits and pieces and then studied the worrying information that I could update the OS but I had to copy some apps to iTunes first. After a while, I worked out how to do this (just a question of reading the instructions again really) and then thought oh well why not update now. So off it went, and then said “downloading 1 item. 3 hours remaining”. ! But but but?
I’m not waiting up. If it has problems it’ll have to wait till morning.
It didn’t have problems.
What an excellent weekend!
I drove to Wiltshire to meet Ziggi and Z and we had marvelous cake and were surrounded by lovely furry and feathery people. (Eva shown here being furry and leafy)
It was brilliant seeing Zig and Z and then I drove home, with Z following, and she stayed the night. Z was a lovely guest and charmed both Barney and the cat – who I have to say is very good at being charmed – though a bit hairy with it. Barney is a much tougher proposition but like all of us, he now loves Z.
Then we introduced Z to the Youngests and the Middles and Gorgeous Babe – quite briefly, as Z had yet another meet to go to – and then we had a big lunch, cooked by the three Youngest* grandchildren with a bit of help from Mum. Then we were overwhelmed by exhaustion and went home and fell asleep. How Z managed to cope with 600 miles and at least six different visits and still look as fresh and relaxed and cheerful as she did, I can’t imagine.
The three Youngest grandchildren demonstrated amazing skills – not just in cooking.
Now I’m going to finish my interrupted afternoon sleep. Goodnight and sleep well.
*That’s Youngest as in Mr and Mrs Youngest – they are really the older grandchildren. Little Middle (Gorgeous Babe the second) is the youngest.