Monday, 21 August 2017

Pictures will tell the story

Lots of photos were taken over the last couple of weeks. And as I have been busy with new stuff, old stuff, driving etc, I thought best to use the photos instead of a long wordy post. However don't think there won't be captions - and they won't be single words ...

The first few are from when Leonie and Paul were with us on the Llangollen Canal.

Not the first time we have had an artist on board (little Neill is our other) but the first from NZ ...

Paul is steering and Leonie is sketching him
Leonie and Mel are paying attention, I was sorting the TV. Note that I can put the chardonnay down ...

 And then there's photos of the motorhome experience.

This is Luke, the Caravan Manager at Michael Jordan's in Gomshall - be aware this is a selfie when we had asked him to take photos of us - narcissistic or what!? I think his surname may be Trump, and his hair is the right colour ...

An easy vehicle to drive and I love being up so high!

The Hindhead Tunnel on the A3

Only one lane open. A car had broken down on the left and the family were out of the car waiting to be rescued - little kids too, so a real stress for the parents.
Here we are 'moored up' at Riverside Holiday Park. You can see Gordon and Sharon's awning in the background, plus lots of yachts up on the hard in the marina next door.

The little shelf above the bed - fits a cup of tea and a couple of biccies!
On the way down to Hamble le Rice, the view down to the river. Lots of boats (mainly yachts and gin palaces) around here - and therefore plenty of money! Gordon tells me every river on the south coast is similarly endowed.

I think this was at Banana Wharf - Gordon is trying to do rabbit's ears behind my head - a big fail!

This is a move I learned way back in judo classes back when I was 16 - Note that I have a good memory for important things. It's a very simple and effective choke hold. I cannot think of anyone who deserved it more than Gordon - at that particular moment anyway!
David's dinner at Banana Wharf - chicken fajitas. A very classy way of serving it. Just not enough fajitas and they were a bit small to make easy to hold parcels...

The galley - you can see the only element that works ...

A decent sized fridge freezer. Two bottles of chardonnay and no alcoholic ginger beer in cold storage - this was just before we left so don't feel sorry for David as he had drunk all 6 of the bottles I brought with us - note that I brought them (I packed them, stored them safely for travel, kept them in the fridge ...) so yes, it was I, not he ...
While we were out on Gordon's boat we came past this - these boats are in storage. I cannot believe they are not strapped down in case of high wind! They would not still be in situ after a Wellington northerly or southerly!
There are so many boats here - it is hard to escape the knowledge that there are a huge number of people with lots and lots of money!
Walking down Pontoon E to Gordon and Sharon's boat. There were at least 60 boats on each of the pontoons and 5 pontoons, so at least 300 boats. Some quite modest, but many very posh and expensive.

Gordon was very trusting and let me steer for the whole trip - apart from back into the jetty at the end. Of course we were only going 6 knots as there were so many moored boats.

Sharon up front. She had swapped places with David by the time Gordon made sure to cause a giant splash over the bow. And of course she was at the back when Gordon thrust the throttle forward to warp speed when we were out in the bumpy bit of the river ... Bastard.

Gordon and Sharon went home for one night and I did some work - a fair chunk of reading project documents. The table and the captain's chair make a good office, I think. Galley is handy for cups of tea, the toilet is close - what more could I want?
We met these lovely people at Riverside Park: Steve, Phil (who had come to see if he could help with the gas fitting on our first evening), Kim and Ali. The sleeping bags are so de rigueur in posh caravan parks!
When we dropped the motorhome off at Gordon and Sharon's, where it'll stay till we take it down to Southampton next month, we went to stay with Gordon's mum, my Aunty Molly. Not far from her place is The Plough which has a really great Thai restaurant . Yummy food! Molly and I shared mixed starters and then shared a main course of shredded duck and pancakes. Yummy and there was enough left over for Molly to take home for the next day's dinner!
By the way, Molly is 89 - she certainly doesn't look it, eh?

There's our shredded duck and pancakes with cucumber and spring onion plus hoi sin sauce. David's beef salad was apparently very yummy too.

The next day we drove the rental car back to Swanley Marina to rejoin Waka Huia who had been on adventures of its own without us (see below).

The trip back was a bit slow
  • After High Wycombe we avoided motorways and went on all sorts of little back lanes and went through and past lots of villages I recognised from when my Aunt Daphne lived in Soulbury - Wing, Stewkley, Great Missenden, ... We had to call in on Mick and Julia at home in Desborough - there was a box of chardonnay to collect (Julia had shopped at Lidl's for me based on a tasting with the crew in the photo above), and we had to uplift our extra gas cylinder that they had stored for us. 
  • From Desborough the only real option was the A14 and on to the M6. However, as luck would have it, we got on the A14 and passed the Welford exit only to come pretty much to a halt for about half an hour - accident somewhere ahead on the M6. Once we were past that, we kept the radio on to hear traffic news - Mmmm, M6 closed between Junctions 19 and 20 due to accident. No worries for us as we were getting off at Junction 16. Then, fortunately because we were approaching Junction 14, we saw the overhead notices saying that there were long delays between Jcts 15 and 16 due to an accident . Off we went at Jct 14 and I headed for Stone while David re-programmed the GPS - avoiding motorways again. So through Stone, through Stoke on Trent, on towards Nantwich - all at slow speeds as it was approaching rush hour (Why is it called that? It is the last thing we do at that time!!) I was meant to be dropping the rental car off at Crewe but we decided that was a hiding to nothing in the congestion, so went back to Swanley Marina. Car was taken back at 6am the following day, no extra charge and a much more peaceful trip with a lovely taxi ride back to the marina.
Waka Huia's adventure:

We lent Waka Huia to Ed and his family while we were off motorhoming and they trundled at a much faster pace than we do, all the way up to Trevor, I think. They had a great time, and left the boat in beautifully clean shape - it is (was, it's not now) the cleanest I had ever seen it inside!
I think Ed got to drive a little bit ...

Esme had a good time and looks super-cool in Karol's life jacket and her sunhat

Lisa was the champion steerer and won our hearts because she said Waka Huia handles very well!

Right! Job done! I don't have to go across the aqueduct because Lisa has done it for me. OK, Mick? No need for singing Eye of the Tiger, and you won't be at risk of being pushed off the side.

 Back on our boat now:

This statue is outside Nantwich Marina - we like it!

OK, we have moved on from Nantwich, although I was beginning to think we were taking up residence there. After 3 days of strenuous boating (not) we are currently nearly at the top of the Audlem Flight, after about 2 lock-free miles and 13 locks today. On Saturday and Sunday we were moored out in the countryside, and Sunday was a work day for me but David spent most of it in bed watching movies, listening to the radio, snoozing - a strange kind of role reversal as that's generally my Sunday at home. Well, snoozing and reading, but not movies and radio...
Friday's sunset at Nantwich

OK, this tells you where we moored for two nights over the weekend.
Evidence - see daylight coming in the window towards the stern?
David has reviewed and discarded his policy of not stepping across the gates. I am fine with it as long as it's dry. Julia, you can see he has both hands out to catch on to the bar if he stumbles ... And the bike was beside the lock too!

Approaching Lock 12 of the Audlem Flight - 4th one of the day, after we had emptied the loo, cleared the rubbish (yes, I did recycle the bottles, Julia) and filled with water

Moored up and David wanted a hug, but he desperately** needed a shower ...
** in my view. Hug accomplished with olfactory equipment closed! And the shower has now been taken.

Friday, 18 August 2017

The motorhome is ours!

Well, there we were down in the Hambles - at the Riverside Holiday Park to be precise, 'moored up' next to my cousin Gordon and his lovely wife Sharon.

At the time of writing, we were three nights in to our shakedown trip and slowly getting to grips with this new beast.

There are a few things that need to be sorted when we get back to Surrey. And the list grows and shrinks and grows again, depending on what we have sorted in the meantime and crossed off the list. Well, to be brutally honest, it's the stuff David sorts rather than me doing it. Who is the one with the patience? Well, it's the one with actual gonads, not the one popularly but mistakenly identified as having them.

In the last minute, he has worked out how to turn off the external light ... I tell you, it's a voyage of discovery 👴👵😅 and I think we are almost holding our own! To be honest though, it's not as stressful as when we first took over Waka Huia. I have only once said that I am taking the motorhome back and demanding my money back - so that is an improvement then!

Before we first picked it up on Friday we had the briefing on Thursday arvo - 2.5 hours (far better than the 20 minutes we got with the boat handover) - and then drove up to Gordon's place to transfer the contents of the car into the motorhome. Luke the dealer drove the rental car up, and was pretty complimentary about my getting up the narrow lane to Gordon's and passing a jeep illegally parked in the passing bay. That was points to me, I gather.
Luke is explaining something to David. You will note that the reg plate ends with ALO - given I am an Angela (known by my cousin Gordon as Angel) he was pleased to tell me I have an 'alo. Appropriate, eh?

Demo of the outing of the awning. Easy for him - he's quite tall

We stacked most stuff in the body of the motorhome (to keep the weight above the back axle rather than behind it - stability, you know) and some stuff in the 'garage'.  Then I locked the garage and checked it was locked. Ah no, I could open it even in the locked position. David tried and had the same result (lucky for him ...) So back we went to the dealer. The receiving plate needed packing out to make the catch lever actually catch. That done, off we went, through the tiny lanes of Surrey out to the A3 near Guildford.
We had to bring it back to get the garage catch sorted so I got a photo taken.

Over a cup of tea before we left, my cousin Vince (Gordon's older brother) had given me the advice that:
  • if there was contention for space, just stop and let the other vehicle/s through - no worries, of course I'll be doing that
  • aim for the middle of low bridgeholes because the motorhome is taller than I will remember as I am driving - correct: being aware of height is something I have not had to contend with in previous driving
  • watch out for low hanging branches - they will take the TV aerial off the roof or whack the windscreen - good point
  • if the space is too narrow, pull the side mirrors in - we have a fabulous two way camera: in reverse it shows me what is just behind the motorhome, and when I am in forward it shows me the traffic following, so I can do without the side mirrors in extremis - another good point
 The drive down here was fine - the narrow A25 was a baptism of fire but I kept an eye on the white lines either side and I was always inside them, even though it didn't feel like that. The A3 felt spacious by comparison.

The biggest hassle has been the gas linkage. In the UK, no one, and I mean NO ONE apart from a Corgi certified technician-tradesman-engineer-scientist-astrophysicist-surgeon is allowed to fit a gas pig tail to a gas bottle. So we left the dealers with the gas bottle unconnected. We get down to the holiday park, and David tries to connect the gas bottle. The pig tail won't fit. after a time of much trying, David and Gordon have a joint look. No, still can't make it work. My suggestion, offered a few times, is to go and ask another Bolero motorhome owner to come and check it. After I had said that it was clear testicles would be at risk if either of them went to ask for help, I said I would go. That seemed to spur some action, and off they went.

The guy came over and he couldn't make it work, and nor could Phil, a guy Gordon had met a few weeks ago.

In the meantime, I was a bit stressed, as I had to make a potato salad and a lettuce salad for our contribution to a BBQ dinner with Gordon and Sharon. Fortunately there is one electric element and the power was switched on ...

So potato salad, lettuce salad on the go, bags unpacked and things stored in cupboards that I promptly forgot the location of, the mattress unpacked from its giant plastic condom, bed made and collapse was imminent - chardonnay to the rescue.

So we have coped without gas for the last few days. It means no toast, no home made bread, no cheese tart and no cheese scones - Bugger!!

But we do have hot water courtesy of the electric. And water is an even more significant issue in the motorhome than it is on the boat. On the boat we have a 450 litre tank and in the motorhome it's 90 - 100 litres. Frugality is key. We can drive about 50 metres to re-fill but that means unhooking the electric and then being able to re-position ourselves on the pieces of wood which are keeping us on the level ...

It's going to be fine, but as always, getting to grips with new things is a bit of a stressful journey.

Friday 18 August update:
I tried the shower before we set off back to Gordon's - and it is lovely with plenty of pressure, not the jets, but plenty of pressure to know you are getting clean.

We got our money back on the gas bottle and a new pigtail has been fitted - both the pigtail and the bottle were faulty apparently, but I am not convinced as it didn't work on Gordon's bottle either ...

We are now back on the boat, the day is sunny, I have returned the rental car, and we are about to head back to Nantwich for my osteopath appointment.

More later.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Well, that was fun!

Way back in the dim dark past, about 5 or 6 months ago, David came down to the West Coast to join me and we spent a wet weekend in Reefton. In spite of the rain and a persistent migraine that started as we left Hokitika and continued most of the weekend, we had a lovely time and managed to meet some locals, find Gary’s childhood home and speak to the current tenants who remembered Gary’s dad, and explore the museum at Black’s Point.

One evening (Saturday, I think) we were looking for somewhere to have dinner, and met a woman walking in to a pub for her evening meal. We had a quick chat about the place she was going in to, and then kept looking around. About half an hour later, after a great deal of indecision (shall we have fish and chips, shall we eat in a restaurant, shall we go back to the pub  (???), we headed back to the pub.

In the interim, the place had filled up, so we joined the woman we had met outside – she offered us the seats but would not share her food, for some reason.

Anyway, in the inimitable way that NZers have of making connections fast, we all clicked, and when we had spoken about the narrowboat and she had expressed an interest in it, David suggested that she and her husband come and join us on it for a few days this season.

Understand, she was on her own in the pub, her husband was nowhere in sight (back at home in Westport allegedly), she didn’t know us from Adam and Eve – I’m aware it’s an easy mistake to make, not knowing the difference except for the facts that:
  • Adam and Eve are fictional characters
  • They purportedly were young and nubile
  • They were purportedly naked, or at the most, wore fig leaves.

The rebuttal of it being easy to make that mistake lies in the following:
  • David and I are real people, allegedly, and some disagree with that I am sure
  • We are 68 and 66 respectively – neither young nor nubile
  • In Reefton on a wet chilly evening, naked is not a sensible dress code, and we are sensible, in the main.

So why Leonie would make that simple-to-spot mistake is anyone’s guess. She is an artist, after all, and they are not usually renowned for their common sense … I mean to say, one of them cut off his own ear, and many of them have lived in garrets and refused to work as waiters or engineers or doctors because they are prostrating themselves for their art. Now none of that sounds very sensible, does it?

Anyway, David suggested, and I concurred, that she and her unknown and absent husband (Paul) should come and join us on the narrowboat. We, as we do, followed up that suggestion a few days later with an email, confirming that we had said what we meant, and meant what we said, because we are faithful, 100% (apologies to Dr Seuss for plagiarising from Horton Hatches the Egg).

So cut to Monday on the cut: Leonie and Paul turn up at the pre-arranged meeting place (Swanley Bridge Marina), and join us for a couple of days.

It all goes to show that going with the instinctive response to connecting with someone, in Reefton on a wet Saturday night is a good thing to do.

The four of us had a blast. The things we found out include:
  • Neither of them have a degree, so they have been invited to join the Zero Degrees Club;
  • Paul trained as a diesel mechanic
  • Paul taught David lots about the engine including how to check if the oil needs changing (probably not every 100 hours as per the Lister Petter manual, but more likely closer to 150 – 200 hours). The technique is to do with the dipstick, visibility of finger print through the oil, presence of black spots in it. If you need further information, send me your questions and I will forward them to Paul;
  • Paul steered the boat for the two days and did a sterling job;
    Paul steering into the lock - I don't think he touched the sides at all, or if he did, it was a mere nudge.

  • Leonie was lock-wheeler in chief, and did a sterling job;
    Lift bridges on the Llangollen Canal - and she was a star at these and the locks.

  • I was cook in chief, and I overfed everyone
  • Paul was insulting about one batch of bread that I didn’t put in the oven as soon as it had risen – it tasted great as always, but looked a bit wrong – he declared it was the ugliest bread he’d ever seen
  • The second batch of bread was given the thumbs up for looks and taste …
  • Paul doesn’t much like chilli so the Thai Chicken Noodle Salad wasn’t a big hit -  he didn’t starve though …
  • Dinner on the second night was more successful – braised steak and onions, mashed potatoes, carrots and peas, followed by apple pie and cream
  • David loved having someone on-board who took part of his share of sh*t, and he taught Paul about strategic positioning of cushions when anatomies were under threat
  • Paul explained why the dairy farm fields here smell so bloody awful at times – it’s the ammonia in the slurry (i.e. cow poos and wees) that gets stored and then sprayed on to them as fertiliser. Problem with it, I gather from Paul, is the grass can be toxic as the ammonia is so prevalent …
  • Leonie and Paul just got in and helped – no hanging back waiting to be asked, they just start off with ‘What can I do to help? What do you want me to do now?’ It is a wonderful characteristic.

Leonie in the galley checking what she can do to assist. I see the julienned veges for the Thai Chicken Noodle Salad on the bench, so that must have been Monday.

We had a great two days going to Wrenbury and back to Swanley Marina. And then we followed it up with meeting up in Woodstock on Wednesday night and going out to dinner together.

They know, and are living in fear of it, that we are coming to Westport in the motorhome and going to steal their power and water. Apparently we cannot block their driveway as they have a huge driveway with lots of trucks and machinery – we had better be well behaved, I think …

A parallel story is that the grandsons are on a cruise with their lovely mum. Slightly different than narrowboating - their ship has three swimming pools and can get to and from Canada.

Here they are dressed for dinner. Don't they look spiffing? I am going to try and find NZ flag bow ties for their next adventure ...

Friday, 11 August 2017

Leaving Nantwich

This is becoming a theme, I fear ...

We had the weekend in Nantwich as I had an osteopath appointment on the Friday and we were due at Swanley Bridge Marina on the Sunday night waiting for friends to join us.

If I remember correctly (never a certainty ...) it was pretty quiet, punctuated by seeing nb 3 No Trumps go past, and having an extremely short conversation with Mick T on the stern and a wave from Alison in the fordeck. They were heading to Audlem for the weekend.

David and I debated going there on the bikes to see them but they had friends on board, so we opted not to intrude and took a bus trip into Chester.  You have read about that previously ...

We decided to leave Nantwich on Sunday at mid-morning as the Shropshire Branch of the IWA was having their annual fundraiser, the Hurleston Lock Wind, that weekend and we thought it may be rather busy there.

So down we went under the bridge to turn around. We did so, with great difficulty as the reeds seemed to hold the nose quite firmly in place and any reversing just resulted in the wind undoing any progress I had made. It all got better when I used a few more revs in forward to break the hold of the dastardly reeds ...

As we were turning, a guy on the towpath asked where the name was from, and on hearing it was Maori, he said he'd lived in NZ. Where? sez we; Waikanae Beach, sez he; WTH?! sez we, we live in Waikanae! Where in Waikanae Beach? sez we; Williams St, sez he (inner jubilation cos that's where our friend Derek had a bach for the longest time, so we know it well) Rata St, sez we, in response to his query about our address. Yes he knew it. Where did you kids go to school, sez we; Kapanui, sez they. Yes, we know it, we walk past it quite often.

Then (and I am not sure who fetched it from the house) he and his kids showed us their painting/photo of Kapiti Island - ahhh, it is lovely!
This is Karl with his two lovely kids. And their also lovely Kapiti Island picture.

So, what are the chances, do you reckon, of meeting people on the other side of the world who used to live about 5kms from us? When we come back through Nantwich next Friday, we will moor up and call in on Karl and his family. Don't worry, English readers, they did say we should do so, and as they have lived in NZ, I am sure they mean it!

I was really pleased that the winding had been a hassle - if it had been easy we wouldn't have seen or chatted with them, and that would have been a loss - one we wouldn't have known about, but a loss all the same.

And then it was back through Nantwich and on to Hurleston.

We had seen this boat as we went north to the environs of Venetian Marina to meet up with Ed and when we came back. I know someone lives onboard, as this time it was facing the opposite way and may have moved along a smidge. However, I am not sure it is driveable given the amount of crap on the counter. The cut was wide enough there for it to be turned using a rope and the breeze.

I think it is the abode of a serious hoarder, and that is a sad and difficult thing to be. I'll say one thing for the woman (yes it is, we saw her on our way north last time), she has not spilled out on to or beside the towpath.
The forward well deck is similarly full. Much of the stuff is unusable but obviously unable to be disposed of.

Hurleston Locks weren't very busy (we were third in line and the first was about to head in as we arrived) but the fundraisers did tell us that when they arrived to start at 8am each day, the place was heaving - obviously people wanted to avoid the queues and created their own ... David and I had considered going up really early too, so I am glad we resisted the temptation to be out of bed by 5am!

David gave them £10 and I gave the operators on the first lock some helpful advice: i.e. Talk to the people you are hoping to raise money from. Obvious, I would have thought, but they were deep in conversation above my head as I came in (without touching the sides, mark you). I did say it more jocularly than that - I think my words were 'Come on, guys, interact with the people who are going to donate to your cause'. It got a laugh and then one of the guys and I chatted for quite a while (I had to wait for the boat coming down to exit his lock) - he and his wife had been campervanning around the North Island so there was quite a lot to chat about.

It was an easy journey up to Swanley Bridge Marina, and an easy entry to the jetty, even in reverse, because there was no wind. A far better experience than our entry and exit at Overwater with Mike and Helen a week or so previously! Swanley Bridge is a lovely marina and the customer service was great too. I think their set up is excellent - they have pumpout and diesel on the offside of the canal so that passing boaters don't need to come in to the marina, and they have the services replicated just inside the entrance for their resident or stored boats. Speaking of which, look what we found:
The middle boat is an old friend, and we miss the original skipper and cabin boy! But we did see them in Gloucester so that was very very nice!
They stock very limited groceries (bread, milk, icecream and pies) we scored a steak and ale pies and an apple pie which transferred from their freezer to ours plus icecreams which transferred from their freezer to our tummies. And I swapped DVDs in their extensive library - if you are passing, and have books/DVDs/jigsaw puzzles that you no longer want, go in and shout yourself an icecream and get swapping!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Back in Nantwich

You'll be pleased to know we are feeling less down about the weather now. We have had some sunshine and it is amazing how differently it affects the mind.

I think that during the last week or so we confirmed that we would not be able to live aboard all year round - we do not cope well with confined spaces in bad weather. So we would be hopeless (literally) in winter here when the rain/cold/snow would probably have us feeling incarcerated.

However, enough of negativity.

David has taken up Sudoku; and in the manner of a boffin, he has worked out a strategy that will stand him in good stead whether he is doing easy ones or diabolical ones - so he says. Given his first attempts at the Easy ones took over an hour then reduced to 45 minutes and then 30 minutes, I think I am safe from his crowing for a while yet. He tells me he is now on to Medium ones ...

He tells me he doesn't yet qualify for the yellow jersey of Sudoku but he does qualify for the yellow gloves for champion dishwasher ... He is aiming to get faster than me at Sudoku - and he will catch up, I am sure - he is extremely competitive and now he has taken it up, he won't rest until he has got faster ...
We had an entertaining day after my last blog - we moved all of 500 metres, having intended to cruise for at least a couple of hours to get to Bridge 14 on the Middlewich Arm to meet up with Ed, our favourite engineer.

We had looked at the forecast and it was meant to be clear until about 8am, so thought we'd move off early to beat the rain. But, sod's law, as we moved off at about 6am, it started to persist down. Into the lock we went thinking 'yes, we can boat in the rain, after all it's only water', but when we got out the lock we decided that given the forecast for the next few days also had some of the wet stuff, we would have to do the two hours again. So discretion being the better part of valour, we winded at the Venetian marina and pulled over and moored up. Of course, I had already put on a load of washing, so the engine had to stay on till that was done and the batteries close enough to 100% again.

Not to worry - I was busy making bread (started before we moved off), baking cheese scones - Ed was coming and I always feed the tradies, eh Luke Nattrass? There was Tom Kha Gai in the fridge for lunch, so food was sorted.

At one point he had to go back to his van in the marina carpark and mentioned the dog was in the van. Of course Orla had to come back to visit. She is a six month old lurcher - I knew Mick and Julia would be jealous, so I sent a photo.
She is rather cute, isn't she? Mel wasn't safe though, so when Ed and Lisa use the boat next week while we go down to have a few days in the motorhome, we will take Mel with us. Even though he has horns, Mel is not very good at defending himself.

The sun came out in the afternoon but the wind came up very very briskly - a number of boats came through the lock and we got whacked several times throughout the afternoon - we were moored just back from the lock moorings, so it was inevitable really. And people were very apologetic. But let's face it, it is extremely hard to control what is essentially a 60 foot steel sail when going very slowly forwards.

Ed had told us that the first lock is one of the busiest on the whole system so I decreed that we'd leave really early in the morning. David thought I was joking, until I woke him at 6 - I did make him a cup of tea, but he was more than a trifle grumpy ...

And even though it was scheduled to be clear, it wasn't until we got to about Barbridge. So I force-fed him magnesium to lighten the mood (his) and make sure I didn't toss him overboard.

When we got to Nantwich waterpoint it was about 8.30am and it was empty, so no waiting. And because we hadn't used much water in the previous 36 hours (we are grubby), the tank topped up fast, rubbish got disposed of and the portable toilet emptied. David headed off to find the laundrette and came back very chirpy that the woman would do the washing and drying and call us when it was done - excellent service!! We usually do the washing on board, but given the rain and the inability for it to dry outside, we thought that living in among draped wet washing would only add to the depressive atmosphere and should therefore, for the sake of sanity and relationship, be avoided.

So off he went with the pillowcase full of whites and the coin bag. Happy as a pig in mud.

We scored an excellent mooring, right next to the path down to Marsh Lane (convenient for the walk into town), and tied up - that was entertaining in hindsight. As we moored, a boat of NZers came past - we had seen them as we left the waterpoint, then saw them as I held the boat further along the moorings as David went up to find a better spot, and then again as we pulled in (they had gone to the nearby winding hole and turned). While chatting to them I tied up the stern only to find that David needed the boat moved back a few feet so we weren't encroaching on the long term mooring spots. Stern untied, boat moved back, and the man (no longer my husband at this point but some stranger who had taken over his mind and body) started giving me a lecture on how to moor up the boat. Given we have been boating for the same length of time (27 years) and given I have had two more weeks' experience than him (holidays without him) I quickly dismissed the body/mind snatcher and cut short his lecture and went inside to make breakfast, with my parting shot being 'My bad. I didn't check that you were standing where you needed to tie up to. Shall check next time. OK? Now give over.'

I did win forgiveness for not listening to a lecture by preparing BLTs with an egg on the side. So calm was restored.
Breakfast suitably smothered in cracked black pepper in case the man who came into the boat had turned back into my nice husband, not the grumpy old bugger mentioned above.
And that night we went to Simply Thai on Welsh Row for an early dinner (breakfast was actually brunch, so no lunch was consumed) and a bottle of NZ sauv blanc (OK with spicy food ... well, actually rather yummy).
Mains: I had a mussamam (?) chicken curry and David had something with beef. We did have starters but I forgot to photograph them, sorry. I am going to find a recipe for the soup David had - it was a hot and sour soup, rather than with coconut milk.

On Friday I went to the osteopath again - a second session to get my neck, back and right leg sorted. Grace is a lovely young woman - only a few weeks out of her (formal) training and already a good practitioner. She is also planning to do equine osteopathy - not that I am the horse's ass, mind you, in case you were thinking you could make that link.

Today we took a bus trip to Chester - it confirmed for me why I don't often travel by bus:
  1. the bus to Chester was about 20 minutes late arriving to pick us up
  2. the trip there took much longer than scheduled - lots of stops and lots of Saturday morning traffic - neither of those were a problem really
  3. the bus back was 30 minutes late leaving Chester
  4. the driver went like a bat out of hell, exceeding the speed limit for a large portion of the drive back - we know because we checked his speed on the Memory Map app we use on the boat. I am planning to dob him in as I did not enjoy being thrown around as he sped around corners. GGGRRR!!!
 In Chester we did a little bit of grocery shopping, and bought two bells for the bikes, some matt black paint, a cold storage bag and some freezer pads.

We then looked for somewhere to have lunch. We considered the Chester Grosvenor but looked at the prices, and went over to a popular-looking Italian place just across the road. Good value and the food was pretty good too.

And I don't think we met the dress standard ...

Mocktails at the Italian place - I am sure they were about 30% sugar, but rather scrummy.

Back on the bus, a calming cup of tea and now it is healthily chardonnay o'clock - David has already started on his alcoholic ginger beer so I am behind. Fear not, I shall catch up.

Dinner tonight is possibly going to be nibbles. They may be forfeited if we are full after the Gu puddings. As Garfield says 'Life is uncertain - Eat dessert first'. It is a very wise maxim, and we would be silly to ignore it!

And I realised that Friday was my 66.6th birthday - a devilish little number and two thirds of a century. Why do I not yet feel like I have grown up?