Saturday, 26 May 2012

59th Street Bridge Song

We are now back home with a pile of washing to do and a garden that looks like the Congo. The boat is booked into Braunston for 3 weeks, which will give Jan time to recover. The break also fits well with the wedding I have to photograph, an appointment with the doctors, and our retirement present to each other, Tickets to Download to see Black Sabbath!

The break also gives us time to reassess the boat kit out and more importantly reflect on lessons learned so far.

1. In the words of the great Simon and Garfunkel "Slow down you move to fast. You got to make the morning last."  Time is a commodity that we now have in spades, so we have slowed down a little, but by no means enough. We can now take the time to stop and appreciate life.

2. There is no point in having a large frying pan as only the centre will get hot.
3. Estimate how long it would take to do some thing at home then double it on the boat.

4. You only need half the stuff you put on the boat.

5. When you go back to dry land everyone has kindly saved you all the shit you missed.

6. Taking photos using my pocked digital is fine but it is nowhere near as satisfying as using the big SLR (see below). 
Polesworth Abby and the Anker River 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Cod, Evolution and Christianity

A lunchtime start and a steady run to Braunston today - could'nt believe the weather: from hail only a few days ago to glorious sunshine today. Passed fellow blogger Derwent 6 en route. We were moored in the marina by 3pm and by 5pm Dave Palmer had driven down from Castle Donington to pick me up and take me back to get the car ready for an exit and homeward bound tomorrow. Thanks Dave! The novelty of having wheels again prompted us to drive over to the Admiral Nelson Pub at Braunston Lock 3.
Rural Northamptonshire

The pub has only just reopened with new owners, new decor and a really original  menu focusing on quality local ingredients but done sometimes in a very innovative way - they pride themselves on the old adage of not doing fast food but doing good food as fast as they can. The beer was extremely palatable and, when we arrived the new landlady gave us a bowl of chicken wings that were perfection in a very original bbq-type sauce. Jan was not hungry so I just has Cod and chips with mushy peas. A simple dish well done. Yesterday we ate at a Hungry Horse chain pub, beer and food for 2 for less than £20. Would I eat there again? Only if there was nowhere else. Would I eat at the Admiral Nelson again? Yes without a doubt. We sat outside the pub at a large picnic table. As there was only us two we made room for two chaps to have a seat. We spent the rest of the evening in a most enjoyable conversation about life, the universe, evolution and Christianity. Thanks for a great evening Tom and Nigel.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Cracked Ribs and Poo

What we failed to tell you yesterday, dear reader, is that Jan had a bit of a fall and we think cracked a couple of ribs making her somewhat immobile. It was decided we would take it easy and just motor on to Newbold on Avon then have a meal in the Barley Mow. We badly needed a pump out, but didn't see that as a problem as there were a number of places in the way marked on various maps. We had, however, forgotten it was Sunday and most places we went past were closed (seems a local thing of sucking through teeth with the "don't think you'll find anything open today"). We managed to phone a chap from Brinklow Marina, who was very helpful but 30 miles away from the marina. He gave us the mobile number of a chap on site who could sell us a token, so in we went. Unfortunately I do not remember the name of the chap from Brinklow Marina who came to our aid, he was kind and helpful and a credit to the marina (very concerned that Jan could'nt even handle a rope - kept saying "you'll be alright mate"; also recommended using Tiger Balm but not so good in this country as you can't get it with the opium found in other countries. Whoever you are, you were a life saver and thank you so much.

The Barley Mow pub was a bit of an experience. The food was ok but the entertainment was "different". First some old chap (not supposedly part of the stage crew) who was legless and refusing to get into numerous taxis that were called for him. Then the live music turned up! Two more old chaps with an organ and the other a saxophone. They tried hard, bless them.
Jan on Tilly May at Newbold on Avon

On the way to the pub, Spot disappeared over a foot bridge and returned seconds later wet. This is not new, but this time her top half was wet and the bottom half dry, all very confusing. The following morning we went for a walk over the bridge and found a field of rape. See photo below of Spot after her walk.
Spot wet and covered in rape petals

Today we did the three locks at Hillmorton but with a difference. Jan cannot operate the locks as it is now too painful, so she had a crash course (no pun intended) in controlling the boat into locks and I did the hard work. It all went very well until the third lock when she had'nt realised she had her knee on the bow thruster and could'nt understand why the rudder was not behaving as it had in the previous two locks - this was the 'crash' course. Things also improved weather wise, the sun came out and the countryside looked fantastic again.

We have decided to go to Braunston tomorrow, where we have arranged to leave the boat for a few weeks, We had to go back home for the start of June as I have a wedding to photograph, so it seemed a good idea to go a bit early and give Jan a chance to recover before continuing down the Oxford.

We are now moored outside the Old Royal Oak at Hillmorton.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

No No Not Nuneaton!

We finished off the top 5 locks at Atherstone this morning which took about an hour and a half and pushed on through Nuneaton and Bedworth. What can I say! I am sure that there are some nice bits of Nuneaton but you can't see any of them from the canal. They certainly like their allotments around here, we must have passed at least 200 plots today. We also passed a couple of boat yards which if you listened carefully you could hear banjo music. The photo below shows one yard which looked more like a scrap yard than a boat yard.

What also spoke volumes about the area was the razor wire (not your normal barbed wire) around some of the derelict buildings.  Also some of the housing estates had double lengths of railings - not very picturesque from the canal scene, we wondered if they were to keep in the guarding rottweilers!

By the way, did I mention it was bloody cold today!

We are now moored at Sutton Stop.

Had a good meal in the Greyhound, and spent a pleasant evening chatting to Tony and Michelle. We hope your plans workout and look forward to meeting you again on your boat.

Friday, 18 May 2012

To Fazeley and a Curry then on to Atherstone

Yesterday started badly, with a mad dash to Streethay following an 8am phone call from the boiler man asking where were we [thought these guys started at 9.00am!]

On arriving, after a great deal of the proverbial sucking air through teeth and tut-tutting, the boiler was fixed: there appeared to be a "problem" with the wiring which meant that the nav lights are no longer on line, but hey ho, don't think we'll need them in the short term as will not be travelling in the dark nor on tidal waters - good news though that the towels are dry and all is right with the world.

Just as we were about to leave Streethay Wharf we were passed by Sanity Again so shouted hello's to Bruce and Sheila, we passed them again mooring at Whittington.

By 11am we were heading back towards Fazeley but only long enough to get the water hot so we could stop, have a shower and clean teeth. Not much to say about the journey as it was the third time we had made it in the last three days. We stopped at the BW facility at Fazeley, turned right at the junction, then past Fazeley Mill Marina, winded and moored for the night next to said Marina - amazingly our mooring was only about 20 feet away over the fence from where we originally bought TM [then known as 'La Vuelta'].  Today's mooring was obviously a tribute to our first ever narrow boat trip from collecting our beloved Tilly May for her first trip back to Shardlow. We celebrated the moment by  eating a very good  take away curry from The Ivory Tusk restaurant [lots of Rennies in the night].

This morning we pushed on towards Atherstone. It was about 1pm before we got back to the point we had winded to go back to Streethay. As we approached the rail bridge just after Polesworth I saw a huge beach ball bounce above the rail embankment [do these guys have a real sense of adventure or no fear?!!]  Having seen huge swathes of bare earth on previous visits a few days ago, it became too obvious what the tracks were in the hillside. Once on the other side of the rail line we could see it was one of those adventure days which must have included being put into the centre of a large ball and bounced down a big hill. Not for me I think!
Big Bouncing Balls

As we passed the place where we had previously been held up while the police took a body out of the canal I noticed that someone had placed flowers on the spot. At least someone loved him - a nice touch.
Flowers in Memory of a fellow boater

We finally moored above Atherstone lock 6 and went to the pub. Had a big fry up for tea as the bacon was getting to the end of its best before date. Knackered, time for bed!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Police SOC and Faggots

Apologies for the short blog yesterday, things had not gone well. The weather was most definitely inclement so we had wet coats and dog towels to dry, but the Adle boiler (for central heating) decided it was not going to work so cold evening and damp clothes resulted. Fortunately the sun shone hot and bright this morning so coats etc went out first thing, and dried quickly. Also the man from Streethay Wharf phoned and said he could service the boiler on Thursday. Half an hour later we had winded and were on our way back to Streethay; we should be there by about 4pm, no problem!!

However ........all was well until we reached Alvecote Bridge where we were told the canal was closed because a body had been found in the water and police were in attendance . It turned out that a poor unfortunate chap that lived on a boat had apparently been socialising nearby and sober had fallen in the canal - due to his dog being found alone alarms had begun to ring hence the search for him.

Along with a number of other boats, we waited until about 2pm before the canal was reopened so, as part of a convoy (do not mention rubber duck!!), we had to push hard to get close to Streethay ready for a 9am start tomorrow on the service.

We finally moored at The Plough at Huddlesford at about 6:30, tired and hungry.
You have to eat at this pub!

Jan and I both had faggots chips and mushy peas, and I have to say we both agreed they were the best faggots we have ever tasted (and I have tasted a few). The beer was good, the staff friendly, and the food outstanding. In fact it was so good we intend to stop again tomorrow on the way back from Streehay.

All in all a good end to a not so good day.

On another note: a helicopter was circling around last night while we were moored at Polesworth and we later heard sirens (aka blue flashing lights).  We have since been told that a lady and her husband had a row and she ran over him in a 4x4 and, just to make sure she had done the job, reversed back over him.  Not sure how much of this is true, but if anyone has any info .........?

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Weather Changeable !

Sun, Rain, Thunder, Hail, More Hail! Cold, wet and tired, going to bed, will blog properly tomorrow when I'm in a better mood. Love and kisses peeps.

Hopwas Wood and the Tame

Jan had a lay in on Monday, she went to bed Sunday night at about 8:30 and didn't wake up until 8:00, most unlike her, but she said she was fine and felt better for almost 12 hours sleep. By the time we have sorted the rubbish, had a shower, topped up the water etc it was 10:30 before we set off.  The first stop was at Streethay Wharf for a pumpout, however, as you can see, they were a little busy when we arrived, so we spun TM around and had lunch. 
Streethay Wharf

We sorted the pumpout after lunch and and spent a while chatting before spinning around and setting off again.
When we bought TM I did not see the use of a bow thruster on a 45ft boat, but it does comes in very handy when you want to wind in a tight space.
We pushed on towards Wittlington passing fields of poly tunnels and some poor devils picking in the fields. It always looks back breaking work, not my cup of tea.

We eventually decided to moor at Hopwas Wood (an MOD firing range) next to the River Tame, where the canal is lined by trees and the only sound was birds singing. Although there were lots of well trodden paths through the woods we saw very few people so we have a pleasant evening listening to a Cuckoo. 
Hopwas Wood

I took Spot for a long walk through the woods and allowed her to have a swim in the Tame. She loves a dip but the canals are a bit smelly so we try to limit the swims to rivers. She did need a bath as Denis in the Swan spilt a pint of beer over her.
The sharp eyed amongst you will have noticed this post is dated Tuesday morning, this is because I had a touch of Jan disease last night and went to bed at 8:00 and slept through until 7:30 this morning. We think it must be something to do with getting used to this new lifestyle.
Raining this morning, don't mind  as I got sunburnt yesterday.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Fradley Junction and Sunday Lunch at The Swan

A bit of a lazy start this morning as the weather was hot and sunny so we sat on the deck and drank tea until about 10:30.  I took Spot for a walk along the tow path and came across Bruce and family on nb Sanity Again. Bruce is the first fellow blogger I have met on our travels, it is good to put a face to a blog. Nice to meet you Bruce I sure we will bump into each other again.
Finally we set off only to stop at the next lock to remove a large woven plastic coal sack from the prop.  The intention was to push on down the Birmingham and Fazley, but after talking to the crew of nb Tilly, we decided they had the better idea and went for Sunday Lunch at The Swan. The Calvary was very good, lots of meat and 10 different vegetables, Apple and Pear Crumble for pud.  We sat at a table with an 80 year old chap called Denis who eat there most Sundays. He entertained us with stories of his last years holiday, a 2500 mile road trip around Norway! I hope I am up to that sort of trip when I'm 80.
Got back to the boat about 3:00 and fell asleep.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Alrewas and the Cobb BBQ

Nice day, lots of sunshine, thousands of chicks skidding across the water like clockwork toys. Today we saw our first batch of swan chicks, see below.

Finally moored at Alrewas and just managed to get to Coates the butchers before they closed. Two sirloin steaks for tea, plus a hand raised pork pie the size of my head for later in the week.
As we have the steaks it is now time to put the new Cobb BBQ into action. Its the one the Hairy Bikers used when they were doing their first series. It has some advantages over other portable BBQ's, the most important of which is, it is cool to the touch, so you can put it on plastic tables or the roof of the boat without any fear of damage.
Cobb BBQ in action

Overall the Cobb experience was not great, the steak was overcooked and steamed rather than grilled, but some important lessons were learnt, so next time things will work better.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Quick Hop to Willington

After failing to make Willington yesterday we decided today would be a rest day. A short hop through Stenson Lock had us mooring close to the Green in Willington by about 11:30am. This gave us plenty of time to have a wonder around the village and pick up a few supplies. Amongst the boring stuff I managed to find some nice unpasteurised Lancashire, and traditional red Leicester cheese from the deli/cafe opposite the railway station. We also called into the Dragon pub to book a table for tonight and have a quick pint before returning to the boat for a spot of lunch.

As you can see from the photo, taken in the garden of the Dragon, Spot is finding all the cruising a bit to much.

How about this for a hard working mum, this mallard had 15 chicks in tow,  I was not fast enough to get them all into the photo.

The food at the Dragon was, as usual, excellent and good value, I am pleased we decided to have a short day to stop in Willington.
Weather forecast said sun tomorrow yippee, Alrewas here we come!

3.8 Miles 1 Lock

Ragley and the Blood Pressure Pills

Yesterday we finally managed to escape and set forth on Mill May. It turned out to be a long day. After loading enough stuff to last us 3 years not just 3 months, time of departure was delayed due to my incompetence, as I missed my last doctors appointment (I failed to transfer all my appointments from my old works phone to the new Blackberry, very done that before, big slap on wrist) so had to make an emergency appointment as I only had 2 weeks of pills left.  
Pulled pins about 1:30 with the intention of stopping at Willington but by 5:00 we were knackered so we are currently at The Ragley Boat Stop.
My intention is to get the blog out in the evening after we moor but we were in bed full of steak and ribs by 8:30. 5/10 for effort, must try harder.
Short hop today as we intend to have dinner in the Dragon at Willington.
No Photos could not find the camera until this morning.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

GU Leicester Line Open Again!!

Just packing stuff onto the boat ready for the off tomorrow and my phone went beep and this e-mail arrived.

"Grand Union Leicester Line Kibworth Top Lock 18 - Kings Lock 38

Monday 2 April 2012 until further notice

UPDATE (09 May 2012): Due to improved reservoir holdings we are lifting the closure currently in place on this section of the Grand Union Leicester Line.

From Friday 11th May 2012 this section will be open daily between 9.00am - 4.00pm until further notice.

Locks 18,30 & 38 will be padlocked to ensure there are no abuses/unnecessary water losses.

We will continue to monitor the reservoir situation closely and if we get further improvements we may lift the overnight locking altogether.

Was going towards Fradley but plans might change at the last minute.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

A Good Night and a Bad Hangover

New brass bell for Tilly May
Friday was the Castle Donington Parish Council annual dinner, this year held at the Manor Hotel Castle Donington. We have been attending the dinner for around 8 years, which coincidentally, is how long Jan as worked in the council office and  I have been a Parish Councillor. I am sure it will not be our last annual dinner, but it was a special evening because Friday was also Jan's last day at work before we set off on Tilly May next week. The evening was great fun, the food was good and the wine and brandy flowed freely, which is why this blog entry is being written on Sunday, because Saturday had to be written off!

Jan was nervous about the evening, she thought they might "make a fuss" about her leaving, and Jan does not cope well with being the center of attention. I said I thought the council would probably give her a bunch of flowers so not to worry. Wrong! Big Fuss, long speeches about how she will be missed, big bunch of flowers, cake with photo of Tilly May on the top and a fantastic brass bell to adorn TM.
Bunch of Flowers (No shit Sherlock!)

 Jan reacted in her usually way under this type of situation, she burst into tears, rubber makeup all over my shirt, then had a great night. At this moment I have no photo of the cake as we eat it, but hopefully I will post one later. We finally got home about 2:00am and woke on Sunday with hangovers from Hell.

We both have a busy day on Monday as the Parish Council organize a Medieval Market in the streets of Castle Donington on May Day bank holiday. Lots to do, bunting to go up, stall to organize, streets to clear, all done whist wearing a medieval costume. Photos etc to follow next week.

Life is good!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Side Hatch Problem Almost Solved

TM has a side hatch positioned opposite the dinette so we can sit and look out the hole. It makes a very light area on the boat and makes sitting at the dinette a joy, however when the hatch doors are closed the dinette becomes the Black Hole of Calcutta. I've been working on a solution that allows us to sit in the light without a howling gale or buckets of rain poring through the hole.
Yesterday a cut to size sheet of 3mm thick polycarbonate arrived from Very impressed with the company the sheet is cut exactly to my measurements, and it took only 3 working days to arrive!
All I have to do now is decide how I am going to fix the sheet into the hole. The current thinking is to drill 2 small hole in the sheet in the middle of each side and attach a loop of elastic, which will be pulled over small hooks inside the boat. If anyone out there has got a better idea I would love to hear from you.
ps No photo today because a clear sheet of polycarbonate don't photograph very well.