Thursday, 13 October 2016

To Bude and back to see how far it is

Do you know how far it is down to Bude in Cornwall from the Midlands?

Do you know how far it is from Bude in Cornwall to Austwick on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales - well, I don't know far the former distance is, but the latter is about twice as far!

We are used to travelling into what seems like the back of beyond in NZ, but the trip to and from Bude had a whole different feel. I think that's because we are not used to such long uninhabited distances here in the UK. In NZ, yes - as anyone who has visited there from the UK will tell you, you can drive for miles and not see another car, let alone any houses. And what is marked with a place name on a map often is a crossroads with perhaps one lone house...

Are you getting the picture that it took ages to get to and from Bude? Well, it did. On the way there, the trip was not enhanced by mutual tantrums from driver and passenger. Nor was it enhanced by the GPS directing us down to Exeter, I kid you not, which is on the south coast, for #@*&%# sake, on the A30 (who cares what the damn number is!) and then back up to the northerly side of the ithsmus.

On the way back, because I couldn't see the whole section of the map on the GPS, while I could see the direction of travel (south and south east - GGGRRR!!!) and road signs indicating that Exeter was getting ever closer (AAARRRGGGHHH!!!) as we approached the junction for us to join the M5, my blood pressure was starting to rise yet again.

But wait, David found the function for the very zoomed out screen on the GPS that showed we were heading only slightly southfor just a little while really; and then magically, the GPS started to show a more northerly direction of travel. All was well within the car again**. Breathe, relax. **We had promised not to throw tantrums and we succeeded. Well done, us.

Our time in Bude, well Woodford to be more exact, with Neil and Neill was just lovely. And Enzo is a hoot - a seasoned scavenger with such winning ways he gets away with begging for food.

We (little Neill, David, me and Enzo), while big Neil looked after the bike hire shop) had a long walk from their house across fields, down through the woods, through a village called Duckpool - how lovely is that? Then along a road lined with blackberries which were ripe and juicy, but we only had dog poo bags with us and they are perfumed, so no point in collecting blackberries. Ah well, we just had to eat them and have pudding on the move. As Garfield says "Life is uncertain, eat dessert first."

On we went down to a beach, and a long walk back up a steep hill (avoiding the cliff path of course - for my scaredy-cat sake) and along the road to their village past GCHQ's listening station - easily accessible from the side by the cliff and pathways with only low fences, but by the roadway it was double high fenced with barbed wire and cameras and warning signs about not entering or taking photos or breathing or looking or dawdling or ... Then back across fields to home.

A lovely house by the ford at Duckpool

The stream across the ford

But for those of us who didn't want to get our feet wet, there was a pedestrian bridge.


See? How's that for a village name?
Rocky at mid-tide
Rocky access too, but people were certainly making use of the beach.

Sorry about the shadow, but check out the hillside and road. Neill tells us that in summer, that road is heaving and the carpark is overflowing. And there wasn't much sand on the beach either - mostly rather craggy rocks. Still plenty of people there tho, quite late in the afternoon.

The walk was great and we could readily see why Neil and Neill loved the place when they were looking to leave Oxfordshire. Enzo was suitably tired out and even allowed me to put him to bed in his basket in the lounge and not stir for the next few hours! I felt a bit the same myself, to be honest!

More later - since Cornwall, we have had time in Austwick (the clue was in the first couple of sentences of this post) and are now in Scotland with the grandsons - Yay!! This post has been written after almost a full day's work for me - started about 5am, so now it's time for a lie down!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Desborough devilment with the crew of Unknown No 3

We drove down from Hull to Desborough following a scenic route rather than using the motorways - they are fast but nerve-wracking and not particularly interesting. The nerve-wracking aspect comes from the three or four lanes of traffic and the requirement to have eyes in the back and sides of your head at all times: trucks to the left of me, trucks to the right of me and here I am stuck in the middle ... And drivers of cars who change lanes without signalling and without much room. Spooky!
The GPS is a marvellous invention and we have two in the car - the one the car was born with and our own. Having two is fun, esp in the UK where there are a myriad of ways you can get between two places.

We started off by crossing the Humber Bridge - a very impressive structure

On the southern side the aspect was lovely

I don't remember the village this was in (Sleaford perhaps) but the traffic was at a standstill so I took this from the car. Not a bad place to be in a line of traffic, I thought.

The two days in Desborough were great. We stayed in a hotel (the R Inn - known as the Ritz but not advertised as such or I am sure there would be a storm of protest and threats of litigation - as there were in NZ when the Blackball Hilton had to change its name some years ago - renamed itself Formerly The Blackball Hilton ...)

Dinner each night was at Mick and Julia's. Recipes imported from NZ ... (ooh, sorry, Jack - and from Australia) And brekkie was at Lucy's Cafe in Desborough, juyst around the corner from the hotel. She has a lovely poster which says: A heavy person is hard to kidnap - eat cake and stay safe.
In the kitchen at Mick and Julia's - I think a fair amount of cider had been consumed by this stage. David is sitting on Mick's poorly knee; but not to worry, as Mick is going in to hospital on Monday to have it replaced.

Concentration is writ large on his face - salad prep requires it, you know.
We had a day out on Unknown No 3 - back and forth between Saddington Turn and the bottom of Foxton Locks with the obligatory stop at the Bridge 61 pub.
The galley - time for tea

Doesn't that look peaceful?

I don't think Mick looks terribly anxious that I have the tiller, do you?

Mick and me - selfies are not my strong point but the aim was to get a pic of Mick!

The immaculate engine. Makes a lovely sound. Wouldn't do for us though as it requires more knowledge than we have and far more cleaning rags...

Not sure if he was pretending to be Bluebeard or what at this point. But you see what I mean about cleaning rags? Ours are always oily - that one looks pristine!
In Lucy's Cafe for brekkie before we headed off on our way to Bude. Mick looks charming in a floral headband. Of course, he has the hair for it!

Driving for more socialising with family and friends

I wrote this a few days ago and time has slipped past - I noticed it going but was too slow to grab hold of it and get this finished.

So here I am down in Cornwall, sitting in bed while David and big Neil have taken Enzo for a walk and little Neill has gone to work at their Bude Bike Hire shop. And I should be doing some work, but if I don't get this published now, it'll never get done! So bear with me about it being behind hand.

I am currently sitting up in bed at Tony and Helen's house in Hedon, near Hull. David is beside me, naturally - he's listening to the news. I gather the UKIP president has resigned after 18 days in the job. That must be some kind of record, yes?

Tony and Helen are boating friends whom we met back in 2014 at Burton on Trent after reading each other's blogs. So yesterday we made our way over here for the afternoon, evening, night and morning. Tony took us on a historic walk around Hedon yesterday afternoon. Who knew that Hedon used to have a harbour? And that the town was a rotten borough and that it had about 200 years of extreme prosperity, and that there is a cross that was stored in a barn for a number of years and then erected in a garden. It's looking a bit worse for wear but who wouldn't after 400 years or so?

Tony and Helen have volunteered for work for the Year of Culture in Hull next year, and Tony already does guided walks around Hedon when they aren't on the boat. He's very knowledgeable and extremely interesting. He was disconcerted though when David confessed later that he had stopped listening to his informative discourse when Tony mentioned that the cries we could hear were from an old person in the nursing home in the garden of which the cross was now located. David started to count the cries ...

On the green. If I remember correctly Tony was discoursing on the buildings across the way, and the number of pubs there had been locally. He's very interested in beer, is our Tony. He took us to a boutique bar and was disappointed that David had a lager shandy and I had a lemonade ...

He looks like he's listening, but he's actually counting on his fingers

We were about to leave - no wonder Tony looks so happy! This photo is a dual selfie - David held the phone and I clicked the button. Team work!
Tony and Helen are planning a trip to NZ in a couple of years, so it will be lovely to be able to repay their hospitality.

We came to T&H from Huddersfield where we stayed a night with Mick and Alison whom we also met in 2014 when we were all on the Maccesfield Canal. They are getting a fair bit of approval from people over boating from the US. Their boat is called 3 No Trumps.

A lot of talk and laughter at their place too, and a lovely walk around bits of Huddersfield and the neighbouring/adjoining village of Linley. Some beautiful homes and buildings and green spaces. The building styles are very different from NZ (old or new they are mostly stone) but the topography is similar in that it is very hilly in parts of the north.
Mick, Alison and David - in the shade so not a good photo, sorry. We were out walking and I took the photo to allow myself time to regain my breath after a big uphill walk.
Mick and Alison are also planning a trip to NZ in a couple of years, so it will be lovely to be able to repay their hospitality too.

We drove to Huddersfield on Monday from Debdale Wharf Marina where Waka Huia is up on the hard. We went to visit the boat - it is looking happy enough among the others residing there. We didn't go inside it as it was going to be too much of as faff to take off the tonneau cover to undo the padlock. We have arranged some more work to be done on the boat but the boat yard is so busy it will have to wait until we finish boating next year. We have booked a slot to have the bottom grit sprayed, zinc coated and two pot epoxy blacked. They are going to do above the rubbing strakes up to the gunnels as well. Yay!! And hopefully before we come back in May next year, we will have two half hatch portholes fitted in the saloon replacing the non-opening ones. A bit of airflow would be useful, we thought, especially if the summer is as warm as last year's.

We took the opportunity while at Debdale to go and visit Mick and Julia who we met boating back in 1994 at Norton Junction. Julia wrote us up in her log as Australians - bloody cheek! We soon disabused her, I tell you. After our first meeting there we joined up at the pub and then went back to their boat to sample their home made fruit wine. Peach and rhubarb were the varieties on offer, I seem to remember. Yummy and strong ... A stumble back to our boat and then we boated together for a couple of days.

We lost touch with M&J and then found them again on our last day of boating in 2014 (read about it here

So on Monday we headed, getting lost on the first attempt, to where Mick and Julia moor their boat. They were there in the lovely sunshine to do a bit of work on Unknown No 3 (named after something to do with the movie The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and registered in Eastwood ...) Cups of tea, much laughter and arrangements to meet up again today. Julia is making dinner - salmon steaks marinated in sweet thai chilli sauce, soy sauce, lemon juice and coriander - our fave!
David made the salad, I made the marinade for the salmon, Julia did the potatoes and Mick was in charge of music.

But let's go back further - on Saturday, our son Tim brought his boys down to Leatherhead in Surrey to see us and Molly. Tim hasn't seen Molly for a number of years - I think the last time was on his birthday one year when they still lived in Beckham, and they left there in 2008.

It was wonderful to see the lovely grandsons - we took them up to Boxhill and even though it was raining on our way, it cleared up while we picnicked in the two vehicles with an umbrella perched between them so food could be passed back and forth. A bit of a food fight ensued with mandarin peel being aimed between vehicles - I swear that Tim started it, but Olek and I were happy to carry on...

We then repaired to Gordon and Sharon's for the rest of the afternoon, and Gordon took/led us all to Michael Jordan's which sells motorhomes and caravans. Karol excitedly checked out the ones I should see ('OK, Grammy, you want an automatic and a bed that is always made up, yes? And a good sized stove?) I am sure we still looked at pretty much all of them, but it was lovely to be infected by his enthusiasm.

Saying goodbye to the grandsons wasn't as heart-wrenching as it usually is because we'll be seeing them again on 12 Oct. I won't be able to be quite so upbeat on 30 October though, as then it'll be a wait until May next year to see them again.

We spent the night at Gordon and Sharon's - too much wine but a lovely evening. It is so lovely having cousins.
Gordon and Sharon's dogs keeping watch - you never know, there might be a cat, a mouse, a squirrel who needs seeing off the property ...
On Sunday we drove to Banbury and had lunch on-board nb Oakfield with the lovely Ann and Keith - we met them on the Thames last year. I had read Ann's blog, so of course when they were struggling to moor up in a shallow bit above Day's Lock, I felt like I already knew them and invited them to breast up alongside. An evening of drinking and eating on the bank ensued ... You can read about it here:
Ann and Keith walked us back to the boat in the Morrison's carpark in Banbury.

From Banbury (without investigating the Canal Fair) it was on to overnight in Market Harborough. I was shattered so had a little lie down that resulted in my sleeping from 5pm to 7,30pm then getting in to bed a sleeping almost through the night - is it age or what? Maybe it was a left over from the previous night's over-indulgence - or a combination of both!

OK, all caught up now. And today (well, it was today when I first wrote it) we are heading back to Desborough to spend a couple of nights catching up with Mick and Julia. The Enterprise Hire car is lovely - a Vauxhall Insignia, diesel, lovely to drive. Good thing as there are still a few hundred miles to be traversed over the next 10 days: Stroud, Bude, St John's Town of Dalry (Scotland), London ...

Friday, 30 September 2016

How to maintain a 5-2 fasting diet on holiday?

Can someone please let me know the answer to that conundrum, as we are struggling! It was easy when we were on the boat last year, and it's easy at home. But on holiday, with eating out lots, it's proving pretty much impossible.

We were trying to go walking for an hour each day, but that hasn't been maintained.

And we've had some lovely food:
  • lunch at La Perla with Barry and Pauline
  • Sunday lunch with Ray at a pub in Praed St near Paddington
  • dinner at Kazan in Wilton Road with our son Tim
  • dinner at Lionel and Carole's in Beckenham 
  • lunch today at the Watermill in Dorking with my lovely aunt Molly
  • followed by cake at Gordon and Sharon's, son and D-I-L of Molly 
Needless to say, tonight's dinner consisted of 3 crackers and cheese for me, grapes for David.

The lovely son and his mum at Kazan on Wilton Rd, Pimlico

A selfie - well done, David! The lovely Molly at Watermill in Dorking
My cousin Vince - Molly's second son

My cousin, Gordon, Molly's 3rd son, the big twin

The lovely Sharon, Molly's daughter in law, married to Gordon
Molly's youngest son, Nick, came in too, but left before cake and photos ... And Chris (the 4th son, and Gordon's twin) did not appear (not surprising as he lives in Devon) - nor did Pete the eldest. Ah well, no cake for them, then!

Fortunately we are seeing our grandsons tomorrow - that should involve a bit of running around! Sounds like a High Intensity Training session coming up!

Old friends, new friend

Since we arrived on Friday last week it has been a bit of a social whirl.

Barry and Pauline met us at Hatton Cross station on Friday evening - we were meant to hook up in the Arrivals Hall at LHR but we were through early and they were a bit delayed. They had come all the way out from Hammersmith to help us get our cases to the hotel we were booked into for the night. We managed to get ourselves plus luggage to Hatton Cross and then they took over! We had a quick bite to eat in the bar and then they left us to fall asleep ...

On Saturday morning Lesley, aka ODS, came to collect her food parcel from the hotel and joined us for brekkie. Then she toddled off, having donated one gingernut to the woman on the neighbouring table - to try out with her coffee and decide whether she and her husband needed to do a repeat trip to NZ. Last time in NZ apparently they discovered hokey pokey icecream, but no one had told them about the gingernuts!

ODS continually or continuously or constantly or all the time, tells people that I talk to anyone. She blames it on my New Zealand-ness. I have to say, she isn't far wrong on either count, although both my parents (English) happily struck up conversations with total strangers anywhere. So it's in the genes.

I am not sure what ODS's excuse was at breakfast though. Not only did she strike up a conversation with the couple at the neighbouring table, she also chatted with the man who was waiting for toast at the same time she was. I only found this out because he came up and shook my hand and wished us a good holiday ...

I was pleased to see that ODS had the grace to blush when she was justifying her sociable behaviour.

Back on track, McD, get back on track.

So then ODS departed, and we went back to the room to pack and await Barry and Pauline again. They were accompanying us into Pimlico where we were based for a few days, and then we were off out for lunch together. You saw the last two posts with La Perla (yummy fajitas) and Horse Guards Parade photos.

Then on Sunday we went over to Rembrandt Gardens to meet Ray of nb Ferndale. We didn't meet Diane as she was playing in Spain with their daughter.

Lunch in a pub on Praed St, two chardonnays, two lager shandies, two ciders, and lots of chat and laughs. Ray is a lovely man, but a trifle too tall ...

He doesn't look quite so tall when he's sitting down ...

And on Monday we headed out to Cow Roast to see Jaq and Les on nb Valerie. And what a lovely surprise to find that Carol and George from wb Still Rocking were due to visit too.

I copied these photos from Carol's blog : Les and Jaq, L&J and David and me, and then L&J, M&D and Carol and George, plus Molly - the last one is a bit dark, but we are all there - well, physically, but I am not sure about mentally ...

Lovely lunch, a huge number of laughs and some serious talk about end of life stuff. It's hard to describe how refreshing it is to converse with Jaq and Les who are so open about Les's terminal diagnosis, what's happening, how they are coping/crying/laughing/planning. There was a real sense of comfort given and received throughout our visit. We only stayed about 3 hours - they loved seeing us all, but Les's stamina isn't what it was and he isn't one of those people who can just slope off to bed in spite of visitors being on board. Anyway, we didn't want to be travelling back through rush hour - our stamina for that isn't what it was either!

A note to other boaters/blog readers: if you are in the area, DO go and see Jaq and Les - don't feel constrained or feel like you shouldn't bother them at this time: they want to be bothered and talked with and listened to and laughed with. Take wine - Les can have the occasional tipple ...

Sunday, 25 September 2016

body language

Says it all really ...

Food parcel distribution - two down, two to go

The main reason for coming to the UK this time was to deliver food parcels. Yes, really. Well, OK, not the main reason, but an important one.

So gingernuts have been provided to Lesley (the aforementioned ODS), plus a stone fridge magnet with a kiwi (painted) on it - from Hokitika, you understand. But more importantly, we gave her a hoodie.
ODS has been threatening to come back to NZ for a few years now, but hasn't made it yet. And she is sadly in need of a break. The hoodie says it all really. Although therapy probably wouldn't be a bad idea ...

And a loaf of Vogel's gluten free soy and linseed bread has been given to Pauline. It is pretty yummy and a huge number of steps above GF bread that I have found over here. It is strange: there is a huge range of yummy GF foods here in the UK, lots more than at home, but the bread isn't comparable. I brought over one for her and one for me, and if I'd had room I would have brought more. As it was the two loaves had to travel in a plastic container so as not to be squashed in transit.

Last two food parcels for distribution are pineapple lumps for my lovely Aunty Molly, and perky nana bars for Tim. As neither of them (the people) are within cooee at the moment, they will have to wait. The perky nanas are not in danger, but those pineapple lumps are being eyed up menacingly ...

Will Molly know if we only give her one bag, instead of the two purchased?