Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Home again, home again!

Well here we are, back in NZ, back in Waikanae, back in our lovely cosy house with our spring garden looking lovely, back with the tuis and the wood pigeons.

I am losing the appetite for flying - my fear seems to have increased as my sense of impending doom arising from the idiocy of the trumpster in the White House. So now, not only am I scared of the plane falling out of the sky (I have the best imagination for things that could go wrong and are most likely to do so when I am onboard) but I am scared that whatever plane I am on will be the focus of bad people or that the two children in the kindergarten sandpit of the world will start a war while I am flying near where their bombs may go off ...
Our plane at LHR - we were seated upstairs - I've never been in the upstairs cabin before.

In our large business class seats - David was leaving a message for Kirsty.

For Jaq - see the cheese selection, darling?
The Singapore Air table setting - no photos of food though ...

However, I have an increased sense of safety if I am sitting in Business Class - I know, I know, it's not logical. However, being physically comfortable, being well cared for by the four (Singapore Air) or two (Air NZ) staff assigned to ~48 and 32 passengers respectively, not having to queue for the toilets and not having to be careful where I put my feet in the aisle or the toilets, and not seeing the 300 other people being carried high above the earth in a metal tube added to my sense of safety and reduced my anxiety levels - this was in spite of both flights being rather bumpy.

From London to Singapore I remember it being bumpy after a few hours, then smooth until we were approaching Malaysia across the sea. And from Singapore it was bumpy for the first 3 or 4 hours until we crossed the coast of Australia near Darwin and then again as we crossed the Tasman Sea to NZ.

We have decided that we love AirNZ Business Class - great seat configuration, really comfortable sleeping arrangements, lovely food (plus an excellent Villa Maria Reserve Chardonnay ...) So our next UK trip will be through Shanghai on a code share with Virgin Atlantic, as the AirNZ staff told us that VA has the same business class configuration (AirNZ bought it from VA, apparently).

Singapore Air's Business Class had lovely food and OK wine (French chardonnay and an Australian sauvignon blanc - what are they thinking?) and the service was friendly and helpful. But their seating/bed configuration is not anywhere near as good as AirNZ's. The seats are definitely larger and more roomy, but for the two seats in the middle, there is no handy storage apart from on the floor and no overhead locker for the middle seats; and the bed arrangement was downright strange, with the folded out seat being sort of L-shaped: a long-ish rectangle with a small square at the foot end. And it sloped rather than being level. Because of the weird shape, the mattress was velcroed on (not always successfully) to the folded out seat and it wasn't terribly comfy really. However David tells me I did sleep, although I don't remember that I did, much. He says he didn't, but I remember getting the staff to come and wake him so they could put his bed together ...

The Butterfly House in Singapore airport was lovely - but this was the only variety I could photograph as the others were constantly on the move and very fluttery!
I know I slept on the  AirNZ flight, dozing as the bumps occurred and the seatbelt sign pinged on and off, and more deeply as we crossed Australia from Darwin to Brisbane. That was in between my numerous trips to the toilet - nervousness is one of my excuses ...

After a night in the hotel just across the taxi stand/bus route from the International Terminal at Auckland, we caught a little plane (50 seater) complete with our 5 suitcases, back to Paraparaumu. A lovely flight, and it was wonderful on the approach coming in from the west of Kapiti Island in the sunshine.

Kapiti Island across the bay. The back patches are cloud shadows

Green spaces, large sections, separate houses, the beach .... Aaahh!

And there to meet us were our favourites, the lovely Bruce and Gary!! Yay!! It is so lovely being able to fly in to an airport that is only 20 minutes from home!

A quick flit around the supermarket ('I am only going in for milk, bread and butter' says I and came out with a trolley load of meat, veges, fruit, wine, fish, cheese, crackers, croissants, date scones ... plus a tomato plant in a pot!) then home to Rata St. Scones, tea and coffee with B&G - funny how after 5 months my mind forgot where things were kept, but my hands and body remembered - I'd think 'where do we keep the plates?' as my hands and feet were already moving towards the drawers ...
See, the sun is shining, flowers are out - OK, there are still some weeds but Susan is coming today!
Yes, I am home too.
Our favourites with David. Joy and Grahame's magnolia behind Gary.

On the corner of Horopito Road - we had walked around to see Joy and Grahame, but they were out, dammit!

Looking up Kohekohe Road - juxtaposition of imported blossom trees and native trees on the hills beyond.

The Waikanae social round has resumed:
  • dinner at Bruce and Gary's on the first evening home, after a nana nap
  • breakfast yesterday at Jan's Cafe in Paraparaumu
  • dinner last night at John's in Paraparaumu

Eggs benedict with ham at Jan's Cafe in Paraparaumu yesterday - best we've had anywhere

Today I think I will see if we can get Joy and Grahame over for a catch up ...

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Two thirds of the convoy reunites

Mick and Julia joined us at the top of Foxton Locks on Friday arvo (over a week ago now!), and came for dinner preceded by nibbles - so no dessert, even though I had planned to make little open apple tarts from my 20 minute dessert recipe book by Alison and Simon Holst (I'll post a copy of the recipe when I get home if anyone is interested). Still, when we emptied the cupboards, they got the rest of the apples and the pastry so they can make them and think of us ...

In the morning, Julia drove the car to Debdale and then walked back, prior to brekkie - she is a champion! We came down the locks in convoy, them first and fastest, and moored up. They were going to head for their mooring, but Mick had to get briefed on all the work he is doing for us over the winter.

Then he helped David diagnose the source of the water that had persistently been leaking into the cabin bilge since we bought the boat. Although we'd thought it was to do with overfilling the washing machine, it turns out it was not.
A bit out of sequence, but here is Mick putting the panel back in place

Mick and David pulled out the washing machine and then removed (16 screws later) the panel between the washing machine and the calorifier. Aha!! The leak was from a pipe connected to the end of the calorifier, seemingly as an overflow/pressure outlet. As the pipe had a jubilee clip on the open end it seemed most likely it had been connected to a previous washing machine that was dual feed (hot and cold). When the washing machine was replaced, the hose was left attached to the calorifier and angled down into the bilge. Dammit!! It had leaked slowly and persistently and the water had made its way to the inspection hatch, and created quite a rust problem in that area of the cabin bilge.

The hose is still in situ, but there is a container beneath it to catch any drips, and we will get Ed to sort it next time he comes. In the meantime, we know it won't be leaking as the water has been drained from the system.

So Mick and Julia's departure for their mooring was delayed and my access to the galley was disrupted - hence lunch just had to be at the Foxton Locks Inn, for the second time in 3 days ...

I had managed to take the pram cover down while David and Mick were heads down in the bilge, and I very cleverly dropped a couple of the fittings in the cut as I did so (DOH!!!) - so more need to be ordered for delivery to Mick and Julia's place.

Sunday we stayed on at Foxton to complete some cleaning/clearing on the boat and to work on the giant packing exercise.

And of course we had to have dinner at the Foxton Locks Inn again.
Squint and you'll be able to read it. I think it expresses it well ...

From the by the swing bridge on our way back to the boat

On Monday morning we did headed the short distance to Debdale and made our way in the the mooring after chatting with Pat (I cannot remember the name of their boat) while we waited for a few boats to be moved about.

At least the boats meet, even if the owners don't ...

Yep, it's the WaL nestled in front of us, while Lisa and David are in the Caribbean (sp?)

And we had a lovely dinner with Mick and Julia in Rothwell at a Thai restaurant that night - very yummy, and Mick and Julia's treat, thanks, team! Getting back to the boat was easy, but getting there was fraught:
  • First of all I couldn't start the car. Even got out the manual - a tome of about 600 pages ... Only to find that I needed to depress the clutch while starting the engine ... Doh!!
  • Then I failed to follow the TomTom instructions as I was focused on what Mick had told me about going past Gartree Prison. Not the way he told me of course ... So I am sure we travelled about twice the distance we needed to through the slowest roads possible at the taile end of rush hour, such as it is near Market Harborough!
The next couple of days were taken up with packing, packing, packing - for which I had to go into Market Harborough to buy two more cases. I have brought home the sewing machine to replace the one I have there which is at least 60 years old and which weighs about 60 kg - well, I exaggerate, but not by much. OK by a factor of about 6.

Mel is coming home with us as he has declared his rightful place is in the motorhome now.
Take a deep breath, Mel!

He has done the 5-2 diet so he fits in the case easily.

Wednesday was departure day from the boat but first cleaning, cleaning, cleaning inside and out. Care packages were prepared for Mick and Julia, Barry and Pauline, and Molly, plus for the B&B hosts we were staying with before heading south.

We had intended to be away from the boat by 3pm, and did well to be on our way not long after 4pm. I do clean while we are on board throughout the summer, but clearly not thoroughly enough!

We stayed in a lovely B&B called Marston Croft in Marston Trussell. We thoroughly recommend it - 6 stars out of 5. Amanda and Graham are great hosts, and Amanda provides yummy cake and bisuits, plus a wonderful breakfast. Her style is more like an NZ B&B than the usual UK experience.

Then on down to Surrey to stay with the lovely Aunt Molly. A nana nap was required on arrival, and the next day a trip into London to go to my favourite osteopath, Rupert Chapman in Warwick Way.

We are clear that we are over London - too busy, grubby, noisy. I am sure it is our age and nothing against the city really.

Dinner that night was at The Plough in Leatherhead, with Molly and Gordon and Sharon. The restaurant there is Thai and the food is excellent. David had scanned and printed in a larger size, some old family photos for Molly, so she had an extremely late night of nostalgia - looking at the the photos and  reading a book about New Brighton, near where she and my mum had been in a home for waifs and strays after their mum died.

Yesterday morning, Molly and I went to M&S in Dorking - a favourite haunt - then back to hers for lunch and then off David and I went, heading for the Premier Inn at Heathrow. A nap after the marathon of returning the car to Enterprise - returning it was simple, getting a cab back to the hotel was a challenge and time consuming, plus the driver took me far further than he needed to as he wouldn't U turn where everyone else does ...

A snooze and then dinner at the hotel with Barry and Pauline - lovely to see them again before we left.

We are now checked in, sitting in the Singapore Air Lounge with just under an hour till we are due to leave - my goodness, blogging helps pass time!

Foxton to North Kilworth and back to Foxton

But first pikelets! Jennie Gash of nb Tentatrice commented that she had looked up pikelets after I referred to them in a previous post. They are the grandsons' favourite breakfast when with us - at home with their mum it's waffles, but it's been pikelets for them since I first made them for Olek when Marta asked me to make pancakes for him. As I don't do pancakes much, I did pikelets and he has loved them since. And Karol took to them with gusto as well - well, he would esp when he can have them with nutella! None of that on the boat, so he had them with a pot of Aero chocolate mousse. He told me it was yummy.

OK, so pikelets. They are like pancakes but smaller and slightly fatter. The recipe I use is a modification of the Edmond's cookbook (it used to be that very few NZ households were without an Edmond's cookbook, and many young NZers who came to the UK had one put in their backpacks by their mums - I know I gave one to Tim).

1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup milk soured with 1tsp of vinegar
1 dsp butter - melted

Sift dry ingredients, add egg and soured milk, and beat with a whisk (as I do on the boat) a hand beater, or electric beater (at home). Add the melted butter and briefly beat it in.

Heat a frying pan to pretty hot and drop in about 1/2 tsp butter and coat the pan. Drop tablespoonsful of the mixture from the point of the spoon on to the surface. When bubbles start to burst on the top of the pikelets, turn them over and cook the second side until golden. Place in a clean tea towel to cool. This mix makes about 16 - 20 depending on the size; it feeds David and I plus the boys for brekkie; it is only just enough if I am making them for morning tea when Luke is working at our place. 😜

For the boys I put maple syrup and jam (and Aero chocolate mousse 👍) on the table. If there is no maple syrup, then it's golden syrup. I like them with just butter - either hot or cold. They are often served in NZ with butter, jam and a dollop of cream for morning or afternoon tea. When we were B&Bing I used to serve them with bacon, banana and maple syrup with a side of plain yoghurt 👍👍👍.

Olek in the limelight,

and then Karol.

On Sunday after pikelets and when Tim and Dana picked up the boys, David and I walked up to the top of the locks to meet John who had brought our hose reel back for us. Kind man! Then back down to the boat and a decision to proceed up to the top to moor up. There was a bit of a wait for a boat to come down, and then up we went.
Into the second lock, I think.

In the 5th lock, about to enter the passing pound. There is a boat coming out of the lock ahead of me, and they will pull over and I will go straight in. Easy peasy.

David working - paddles on staircase flights have to be done in a certain order: Red before white and you'll be alright; white before read and you'll be dead. Not sure what is fatal about it, but clearly it matters ...

David was assisted by three quite small children (the eldest was about 6) - I am sure he got them to help as that way he could make sure they didn't fall in. We were both frit, as John would say, that so many little ones were allowed to wander/toddle/totter near the locksides ... I know Tim thinks we are super cautious, but we were both on tenterhooks as we made our way up, David from on a level with the kids and me from well below them. I was watching them like a hawk as I moved from one lock to the next as several kids seemed to be racing to watch, and I knew I'd be hard pushed to stop if one of them fell in. But safely to the top we got without casualties but several more grey hairs for David - too late for me, all of mine are grey!

There was only one boat moored at the top when we arrived - it was Bob (and Oliver the lovely dog) on nb Inanda, both of whom we met at Kilby Bridge and we've been leapfrogging since.

There is a large apple tree on the offside at the top of the locks. It is accessible and apparently part of an orchard. I only saw the one tree fruiting and there were loads on the ground (and in the cut). So of course free food had to be taken advantage of. They cooked up beautifully and tasted great with greek yoghurt and muesli.
On Monday Bob kindly drove us into Market Harborough for some shopping and for me to get a haircut. I found a small place just off the square and across the bridge from the (expensive) Toni and Guy place. The Polish woman who works there did a great dry cut and it only cost £11.50 - about a quarter of what I paid in Woodstock a couple of months ago ... As a thank you for his driving us around, we invited Bob to dinner on nb Waka Huia - BBC GoodFood Saturday Night Curry (Ginger Chicken but with the addition of heaps of veges).

On Tuesday we moved on to North Kilworth having first filled with water - said operation required that I reverse back past Bob's boat and past a hireboat who'd stopped for lunch on one waterpoint (GGGRRR!!!). There was much laundry to be done as we had avoided doing any while the weather was pants and although we'd got some done on the journey from Kilby Bridge to Newton Harcourt to Fleckney, somehow the stack did not seem to diminish! I am not sure why this occurs - any ideas, anyone?

It was a breezy day and I managed to get thoroughly cold - for some reason I didn't pause and get my thermal top on and just got colder and colder and colder - methinks that incipient hypothermia  affected my brain. We stopped at North Kilworth to get diesel and to re-fill with water and I managed to thaw out a bit in the sunshine. I did decide I needed to moor up and so we attempted to do so about 100 yards past the wharf. What a bloody disaster! 😡😰😱 David couldn't jump off the boat as the grass was too long for him to see if there were holes in it (sensible), there was a boat coming along behind us, and once David did get off with the front rope, the stern went out past the middle of the cut and it didn't matter what I did we still splayed out across the canal. Bloody hell, I HATE that!!! And what I hated more was the laughter on the faces of the hirers coming along behind us ... I do HATE looking stupid! And it's definitely worse in front of hirers!

And the mooring place was crap. So in a tantrum, I said that as soon as I'd eaten my Magnum (when cold eat something colder to make you realise how warm you are really) I was moving to a better place. David was valiantly trying to make me feel better but I was past being comforted/cared for/attended to/reasoned with - David seemed to know without being told that the last would have sent me into orbit!!!😱😱😱

So we moved on about 400 yards, moored up successfully and I retreated for a lie down/nana nap with a strengthening cup of tea and magnesium. What a wuss I am! (My sister Dee and I have talked in the past about how I go from full steam ahead to hitting the wall in about 5 minutes flat - she knew I did it, but hadn't seen it really until she came to help me in the B&B when David was in Opunake helping Marta out when Karol was due - she was meant to be resting up, but getting her to do that was not easy ... ) Anyway, I notice that I hit the wall that day and it was after a very poor night's sleep.

Bob moved up too and moored a couple of hundred yards behind us and through the bridge. He has been for cheese scones and to help with a range of tasks - another very helpful boater with all the tools/equipment on his boat that anyone could possibly need!

Bob taking advantage of a selfie.

Oliver the dog is very lovely - but good heavens, he can shed hair! Following Bob's example, I guess ...

Yesterday (note before posting on 15/10: I now have no idea what day that was, OK?) before David did a Hammerite paint job in the cabin bilge where we'd had overflowed washing machine water gathering off and on since we bought the boat, I managed to wash and paint (with said Hammerite) the starboard gunwale. And this morning we cruised to the entrance to the Welford Arm and winded (it was a bit windy and I messed it up, so David had to get off the front and pull the boat around until I could complete the turn, doh!!😡😡) and then we moored up in exactly the same place but facing the other way.

Since then, David has walked to and from Welford to do a shop for the last supplies we'll need this season, and I have:
  • made cheese scones
  • made two loaves of bread
  • cooked a piece of gammon for tonight's dinner
  • done three loads of dishes
  • washed and painted the port side gunwale
  • painted the sides and hinges of the gas locker
  • painted the deck cover for the weedhatch area.
 I sense that wall approaching ...

And today we have cruised back to Foxton in beautiful sunshine - a stunning morning indeed. It was chilly though so I had 5 layers on:
  • camisole
  • long sleeved merino thermal top
  • shirt
  • my dad's jersey
  • my coat
plus my silk scarf, David's dad's leather and lambswool driving gloves (only flaw is that they are domed and have an elegant keyhole gap at the wrist) and my fedora. And I was still quite cold by the time we arrived ...

We have done some painting - I let David loose with the Hammerite and the paintbrush and he insisted on wearing rubber gloves. When I went out to do a smidgen of painting on the roof, I realised why the gloves - he manages to cover the brush from bristle tips to the tip of the handle in paint, and he seems to think that wiping the brush off is done on the outside lip of the tin. Hence I picked up brush and tin and was instantly messy. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

However he has painted the front deck and the gas locker lid in and out, and the engine cover, and I didn't have to do them, so that's the payoff for me.

If he promises to accept the coaching about dipping only the tip of the bristles in the can and wiping the excess off on the inside lip, I will let him paint the back counter - he'll have to be very well behaved though!

Note later: he did do a great job on the back counter. He may be promoted to painter-in-chief of unimportant-how-they-look bits (acting) for the next season.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

No more sleeps till we head for home

A quick note to say that we are in the Premier Inn at Heathrow, and after breakfast, we will head to Terminal 2 for our flights home to NZ.

I haven't blogged since we first got back to Foxton Locks - a post is partially drafted, but needs updating and photos. I will look to do that between checking in, security and boarding the plane.

One crisis was averted this morning - I realised that I had made the hotel booking in Auckland (we arrive at 11.25pm, exactly 24 hours after we leave LHR) for the wrong night. A phone call has sorted it fortunately - it would have been crappy indeed to turn up at Reception to find there was no room for us ...

OK, time for another cup of tea and then downstairs for brekkie.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Kilby Bridge to Foxton Locks

Before leaving Kilby Bridge I made a loaf of ciabatta - it was a good thing it rained in the morning as it meant I didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn to get the ciabatta ready to rise: I could stay in bed until a decent time. My only concern was that John was going out and I didn't want to leave freshly baked bread anywhere outside on his boat for him to discover later, as I thought (conceitedly, no doubt) that the bread would get nicked by some hungry passerby, or by a flying fish or a by the local swan family who were always looking for free food.

Luck was with me though, so I delivered half a loaf of still warm ciabatta to him (John, not the swans, fish or passersby) as we were about to set off. I only gave him half a loaf as he would have complained that a full loaf would have been too much, and anyway, I thought half a loaf is better than none, and David and I like it too, so we shared! Do you accept my reasons or are you declaring them as excuses? Too bad, it's all gone now anyway from Waka Huia, although John may not have munched through all of his half yet.

We pulled over to the services area and did a pumpout using a CRT card purchased a couple of years ago and carefully kept - what amazed me is that David knew where to find it - our usual style is to put things in a safe place never to be found again.

Pumpout accomplished, we filled with water (important not to confuse the two) and emptied the elsan. As there was a boat waiting to share the locks with us, we pushed off with John on board to give us a hand for the first couple of locks. And as we found out yesterday, we left behind the hose reel at the service area and a mooring chain at the mooring - John found the hose reel but not the chain - I also asked him to search for our lost minds but no sign of them has been discovered at this point.

Plenty of water in these pounds and the locks are pretty heavy. David and I have been making use of the rope and hook we bought at Tewkesbury Lock - David dangles the hook down as I come to a stop in the lock and I loop the rope over it so he can pull it up and pass it around the bolllard and hand it back to me. That helps me stay close to the side, but sometimes it doesn't work so well - the water flow in these locks is pretty powerful, and it is good to have the rope so I can at least partly control where the boat gets thrown ... And it doesn't seem to make much difference if the nearside ground paddle is lifted slowly or fast - sometimes I saty put on the side and sometimes the boat gets thrown around. Each lock seems to have different waterflow characteristics.

We did 6 locks all told that day, and I really buggered up the approach to one of them. It was full so had to be emptied and I was too close to the gates. The water comes out in such a rush that even a 17 tonne boat has no power to combat it. The boat was pushed from one side of the approach to the other and back again, in spite of my using the throttle. Bang, crash, wallop. It is no wonder I am sympathetic to hirers who stuff it up ...

We moored in a lovely spot and had a late lunch that morphed into chardonnay o'clock and then into leftovers for dinner (David), cheese/grapes and a couple of plums (me), watching a movie and then an early-ish night.
Lunch of ciabatta, boiled gammon with dijon mustard, avocado and tomato, plus thousand island dressing - yummy. Can we get gammon to cook in NZ? I need to find out - it is lovely and as easy to cook as corned beef.

The view from the boat in the late afternoon.

We had considered staying on there another night but I am pleased we didn't**.

I was quite impressed with this partial rainbow with its fainter echo off to the left.

We got up early yesterday and moved on through the remaining 5 locks.
David about to set off on the bike to do the locks

And away he goes!

Lovely autumn light
And the leaves in the water - so far they are not in prop-clogging amounts, thankfully.
We thought this was the last lock, but instead of being Kibworth Top Lock, it was Kibworth Second Lock. David had loaded his bike on board and secured it (while I was waiting for him to open the gate so I could exit, dammit) so he had to walk to the last one ...

When I was still labouring under misinformation from the husband that this was the last lock, I did wonder why he couldn't wait till we moored up to have a pee ... See the bike already folded up to be loaded onboard, and David looking for all the world as though he's looking across the hedgerow?

The countryside around here is beautiful - we think it rivals the Cotswolds.
We moored up not far from the path through to Fleckney. **The mooring wasn't as nice as at Newton Harcourt, but it was five locks and two miles closer to Foxton ...However we discovered that the Coop and the chip shop in Fleckney lived up to Julia's recommendation and the walk there and back was pleasant - even though the cattle in the field looked peaceful and I am never too sure of their intent!

I baked more ciabatta and a chocolate brownie for our visitors today. The grandsons are coming to stay overnight with us while Tim and Dana go into London for a party. I am pleased to report that David has managed to leave the chocolate brownie alone and no natural shrinkage has occurred yet.
I sent this photo to Olek to let him know what I had made for tonight's dessert - now I look at the photo, the chocolate brownie doesn't look that fantastic. No wonder he didn't reply! It will look better on a plate, sprinkled with icing sugar and dolloped with whipped cream though.

I made a Jamie Oliver fish and rice dish for dinner - David tells me it was lovely but I am not a fish fan, so toast for me. Another movie and an early night - the nights are getting darker earlier so it feels like we are going to bed much later.

Another early start, and while it was actually not that cold, I got thoroughly chilled on the stern - not enough clothes and no gloves. Doh! Hence I was pleased we only had a couple of hours to do - it is fine weather but very autumnal. A task I must complete before another morning start is finding my 3 pairs of gloves!

Low autumn light and chilly.

That doesn't look very warm, does it? But it definitely looks autumnal!
Just looking at it makes me chilly ...

Near Saddington

We are now moored at Foxton on the 2 day moorings. I was surprised to see there were fewer boats than I expected and David thought there were more than he was expecting...

We should only be here for a few hours, as when the boys arrive we plan to take them up the locks - well, more correctly I am hoping Tim will steer the boat and the boys will work the locks with David and the volunteer lock-keepers. (Change of plan - the boys have arrived, the weather has got colder and they don't want to do any boating ...)

However I am still on cooking duties:
  • toad in the hole for main
  • chocolate brownie for dessert
  • pikelets with maple syrup for brekkie
  • cheese tarts for their trip back to Scotland tomorrow

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Laughing John is here!

Aha! here we are breasted up alongside John. He arrived yesterday after the rain had slowed right down. David and I walked along to the first lock, expecting to go to the second one as arranged. But he hove into view behind nb Sokai which he'd locked up with the previous day as well. So only one lock to do - very heavy gates that needed rocking to get moving (a Julia trick) - and then back on John's boat to the mooring.

The kind people moored behind us moved their boat back a bit - the guy even got dressed to do so! - so that we could put John next to the bank as he'll be staying longer.

We went over to get water and empty the elsan and then reversed back to breast up. I was going to turn at the winding hole so that we could breast up, stern next to stern for ease of egress and ingress; but someone has moored across the winding hole. And I hadn't reversed far enough back to get in and around without touching their boat. So, even though the guy came out and offered to move, I decided just to continue with reversing. At least that way we won't have to turn to head for Debdale in a few days.

I had made ciabatta the day before in readiness for John's arrival, so the first order of the reunion once moored up was a cup of tea and ciabatta, olive oil and balsamic. Yum! Although I do prefer it with butter myself.
Not pretty but yummy!
John biked back to get his car from Smeeton Bends and then took me shopping in South Wigston. He said his cupboards were nearly empty, but he came out of Tesco's with two bags and I came out with a very heavily laden granny trolley and one bag ...

John came for dinner - I tempted him with his favourite of gammon, mashed potatoes and veges, and I had made a chocolate brownie for dessert. Nibbles were obligatory as there was still some ciabatta left ...
Had to send this photo to Mick and Julia - they said they were waiting for the taxi to arrive to bring them to us. Considering they are in Birmingham, all the cabs we phoned said no to such a long journey ...
A meal of great hilarity and I found that, in the absence of a good red, John likes chardonnay - a good thing that Julia brought me 9 more bottles to Willington then!

This morning I discovered that the remaining half of the chocolate brownie has been sundered. David has been warned that I have measured it now, and if any further microns of it are removed then a corresponding number of microns will be removed from a delicate part of his anatomy.

He tells me that I need to know that chocolate brownie has a natural shrinkage factor - so will said delicate nether regions if that chocolate brownie gets any smaller without permission of the ship's cook!

Kipping at Kilby Bridge

This post was written on Sunday evening and is finally being published on Tuesday. I am not sure how it occurs that life gets in the way of art ...

We are settled in at the Kilby Bridge 14 day moorings and will be here for a few days. It is quite full at the moment, given the upcoming extended closure of the section of the canal between Kilby Lock and Kings Lock. A lot of boats are waiting here and lots are coming up through the about to be closed area, just as we did.

CRT's website says the closure is because of lack of water from the reservoirs for Gee's and Whetstone Lane locks, but there is plenty of water above them. It looks to us like there is a problem of leakage in the pounds back to King's Lock. And if it's just winter rain that CRT are waiting for, why are there several large barges with cranes and diggers moored up waiting, and why has the mobile staffroom been delivered to the yard at Kilby Bridge? The plit thockens ...

We are staying on here as Laughing John is due either today (if the rain stops) or possibly tomorrow, and we are overdue a catch up with him. We have already planned that he can breast up with us and when we go, he can have our place. It'll be most convenient, as he can keep the spot while we go over to the services for water and possibly a pumpout.

While it is raining today, it was beautifully sunny and warm yesterday after a bit of a chilly autumnal start at 7am. Somehow I have lost 4 gloves onboard - I know they are here somewhere but I couldn't find them yesterday morning. I have six on board somewhere, two (not a pair but both black) were fetched from their rightful place on the wardrobe shelf, and did quite a good job keeping my fingers from numbing - at least until I had to hold a wet rope. Wet ropes are the kiss of death to gloves' warming capacity. Still and all, I have pockets, and if I steer with the tiller under my arm, I can stand with hands in pockets to at least thaw out a bit. And I kept warm with my silk scarf (standards have to be kept up, you know) and my hat.
I bought this hat at the market in Stratford upon Avon and this morning was my first opportunity to wear it - no wind, no rain. I have trouble finding hats that suit me, and I think the trilby is my style! So I am going to take a leaf out of our lovely daughter Kirsty's book and buy one in every colour ...

But the sunshine was lovely and it got warmer quite quickly. David, who walked the first couple of miles to and between locks, was quite warm. It's only me standing on the deck almost still, who gets a bit chilled. But I get to look around and see the beautiful countryside - some of it here is built up on the left of the canal, but to the right it seems to be mostly horse country with some cows.

At Bush Lock moorings near South Wigston, we passed Mole, the boat that Mark and Will were on. I did toot the horn (more of a series of blasts given its noise) in a cheery greeting, but there was no response - I think they may have been sleeping off the after effects of the beer tray contents Will had arrived with the previous day ...

Then at Ervin's Lock David did not notice the fisherman's zipped up tent at the offside base of the lock. Nor did he see the three fishing poles with lines out into the cut ... And up he raises the paddles on each gate and out rushes the water in a huge (I say HUGE) torrent. And somehow, over the water he hears a persistent beeping - he may not be able to see well, but at times (when not indulging in domestic deafness) his hearing is acute ...

The fisherman heard the beeping too and lurched sleepily out of his tent to attempt rescue of the rods.  Quite an effort as the lines had snagged on something in the water and were trying to race off down the cut. He did get them out and was quite fine about the whole drama - David had apologised for not seeing him/tent/poles and he was perfectly friendly about it all.

Then at Double Rail Lock we had the loveliest experience yet in all our years of locking - we are renaming the lock as Three Horses Lock.
This one arrived first and was munching away on the reeds and weed that boaters had removed from the lock
Then the other two arrived, started munching too as David wound paddles

and checked if the gate was ready to open

then they waited for him to come back across - I should have given him carrots or biscuits to feed them but was too busy off the boat with the camera, dammit.

Then this one was scratching herself on the beam. She did let David across to close the paddles. (I noticed that she needed a good hoof trimming.)
Lovely, eh?

After Kilby Lock, it was mooring time and we were a bit anxious about whether there would be a space, and decided we would take the first one we came to. And there it was, just one boat in - a gap about 75 feet long. But wait, there was a fisherman setting up towards the rear of the space. I asked if he'd mind if I pulled up as far forward as possible to make sure I got Waka Huia in and he had room to fish. No problem, he said. He said he couldn't walk any further so was pleased to be able to stop here. Turns out he (John) has had CIPD for 15 years (I discovered this after a few conversations and cups of tea with gingernuts throughout the day) and a variety of his leg muscles don't work and he loses his balance. So he has leg braces and uses crutches. He works out in the gym to keep his legs functioning and to keep his upper body strength up. He still works fulltime as a decorator, doing wallpapering and painting and says that at 61 he cannot retire as he is too much in demand! An amazing man, with a great attitude. He said he will eventually end up in a wheelchair but is working hard on his physical fitness and keeping moving to ward that day off.

Anyway, fast forward to about 3pm. And the boat behind us had moved off. I was lying down - attempting a nana nap but not succeeding as Mick had phoned and he and David had had a bit of a raucous chat (well, David's side of it was raucous, so I assume Mick's side was too - no doubt Julia had added to the hilarity, as is her way...)  Anyway, back to the story: So then around the corner from Kilby Lock come the sound of boats. And then the sound of a woman saying "I really do apologise" - you know that apology: the one that means I am nothing like sorry but I'll say I am so you can't accuse me of being arrogant. And then her voice saying "Well, boaters do have the right of way on the canal." (See what I mean about an apology that's not an apology?) John's voice quietly saying something, and her voice again, then John's. She seemed to be getting heated and John was sounding resigned, so I thought it was time I put in a calming appearance - yes, folks, I can and do have that effect at particular times. I think part of what motivated me was her wrong assertion that as boaters we have right of way/access - we don't really. We do pay hefty licence fees to pay for the upkeep of the canals, but they are a public resource and fishermen pay for fishing licences.

So I went up to ask John what was happening. He said he was going to have to pack up as these people (two boats ready to breast up) wanted the space and couldn't stay back from him as one of their number wanted to be able to step off straight on to level ground. I said I'd make him a cup of tea while he packed noting to the boaters that it would be a while as John cannot walk. The guy holding the rope did ask if he could help pack up. John said no as he knew where everything went and it would take him a fair old while. I suggested that the boaters tie up temporarily a bit further back to give John room to move. I disappeared inside to put the kettle on and next thing the two boats departed - someone of their crew had found a space further along... So John continued fishing, we had an extensive chat as he packed up later, and I was filled with admiration - an inspirational person.

What struck me was that the boaters didn't consider saying they'd tie up temporarily until he'd gone. Yes, the person wanted to step off on to solid ground, but a walk down the gunwale would have achieved that. And yes, space was at a premium, but I see that they managed a space each on the 48 hour mooring further down with bollards and paving stones ...

Inconsiderate boaters drive me nuts! Actually inconsiderate behaviour and selfishness of all kinds drive me nuts, OK?