Sunday, 8 July 2018

Odd Creatures and Wildlife


I had a piece of quiche for tea the other night. The tomatoes were at twelve 'o'clock on my plate, the spring onions were at three 'o' clock and the quiche was at nine 'o' clock. There were other fully paid up members of the salad family nestling contentedly around the aforementioned items. Cheese was also involved. Please bear with me on this. When I was just a boy we used to call it egg and bacon flan. Very tasty, very sweet. During the intervening years (decades of them, all speeding faster and faster), egg and bacon flan became quiche and second hand became Pre-loved. Then there's Nestle which used to be pronounced “Nessuls” and what happened to Spangles? Especially the Olde English ones – everything's changing and I don't like it.

Moving on, I have to admit that we've done no boating for the last few weeks, so writing around one thousand words in a boating blog may prove somewhat tricky. Which brings me neatly around to our little dog, Tricky. Although she is really a border terrier, she must also be part Sad-Eyed Gimmefood, as demonstrated this morning when I ate my breakfast (boiled egg). She sat by my chair, begging with a cuteness that is hard to ignore. Walking her has been awkward lately, what with the hot weather and all. Early morning and late evening we go through the usual routine – I get the lead out and Tricky ignores me. I told her straight last night. “You're going for a walk, even if I have to carry you myself!” She really does need to lose weight as my arms were aching after five minutes.

We're still land lubbers at the moment, but I'll try to inject my wild, nonsensical ramblings with a hint of nauticulness where I can. We both miss the watery wildlife we see from our boat, although we do meet some non-wild people from time to time. Most of the hire boats we meet have non-wild people aboard; a lot from Britain, of course, but a surprising number from New Zealand, America and Holland. I'm sure people from other nations come here to boat as well, but these are the ones we seem to meet most of the time. One thing that I've noticed is that hire boaters from abroad are generally either chemists, engineers, or world class yachtsmen/women. This isn't always the case, though. While chatting to an overseas visitor in a lock on the Thames, who seemed very engineerish and looked like he could do really hard sums, I was rather taken aback when he told me that he was a retired emu caller. Maybe I misheard him. The thing is, though, most boaters we meet on the canals are really nice people, and will usually try to help anyone who is struggling. For example, we had a breakdown on our previous boat, “Moonshine”. We managed to get the boat into the side and tie up. A couple on a boat moored up a short way away, who didn't know us from Adam, came over and asked if they could do anything to help. They even offered to get us some shopping if we needed any supplies. This is very common with boaters - very nice people.

We are missing Lady Aberlour, but with this hot weather it would be extremely uncomfortable aboard, even with the cream roof. Speaking of which, I need to finish painting her. I've found that using a roller and then laying off with a soft brush really tickles Linda, but she doesn't mind. No, no, I'm only joking. I feel confident that I'll get our boat finished this year though. The downside of this lovely weather is that the dry spell could lead to a drop in water levels on the canal system. The Leeds and Liverpool canal from Wigan to Gargrave looks likely to close completely unless we get rain in the next three weeks and I'm sure there will soon be further restrictions if this dry weather continues – its 1976 all over again!

I mentioned wildlife a while back. I'll now return to this subject. We've been lucky enough to journey through some very remote, rural places. Places where there's nothing to be heard but the wind and birdsong. Pleasant, shady moorings, where the only sounds are the reed warblers across the water, a blackbird in the hedge behind, and a gentle breeze rustling the treetops. We've seen a weasel dancing just twenty yards from our boat at five in the morning (I jest not), a badger running across a narrow lane right by our feet, hares and hedgehogs, foxes and grass snakes. We've also seen a lone horse trotting along the tow-path and across a bridge, looking for all the world as though he was on his way to buy a loaf of bread and a pint of milk.

We've never seen the satanic leaf gecko, however. Nor have we seen a thunder cow, a heat seeking razor snail travelling at the speed of dark, a safety wasp, or a tyrannosaurus mouse. Believe it or not, one of the above does actually exist. While I'm droning on and trying not to dribble, here are a few more bizarre sounding creatures: tasseled wobbegong (carpet shark), sarcastic fringe head (a small, ferocious fish), sparklemuffin (a spider) and lastly the tufted titmouse (a small bird). I have deliberately not included the sabre toothed bomb-worm, the house platypus or the beach chicken.

As I said, I would try to give things a boaty flavour, but it is proving harder than I thought. Probably because I haven't actually been boating. Right, boaty stuff. Some of you may know that when the Spanish Armada was drawing near, Sir Francis Drake carried on playing bowls. Well, being the great man that he was, he knew that he couldn't launch the English ships until the tide turned. In other words, there was absolutely nothing he could do about the Spanish for quite a while. So he carried on with his game. When conditions changed, he took charge and, with the help of the great British weather, the rest is history.

That's all folks.

PS Do you know what my Grandfather's last words to me were? He asked me how old I was, and I said “six and a half”. Then he said his last words to me. I've never forgotten them. He said “you selfish boy”. So I left school and became a fishmonger. Think about it.
Garden Centre for coffee

PPS Note from Linda – Mum is home and doing well,thanks everyone for your good wishes, she's back in the garden again, dead-heading her beautiful roses. (Happy face emoji)

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Carl's Turning Point

The Lady Aberlour

Hello there shipmates!

The other day I asked Linda where the newspaper was. She asked me why I didn't try living in the 21st century for a change and to use her iPad instead. The fly didn't stand a chance. Boom! Boom!

The Lady Aberlour has been abandoned at her home mooring while her crew (me and Linda) have returned to our land-locked residence in order to carry out some garden based activities. Well, what can I tell you - the last week or two have been so exciting, so exhilarent, so thrilling that I don't know where to begin. Actually, the most exciting thing was that I turned the boat twice without initiating a major law suit. But I am getting ahead of myself.

On Saturday 16th June the weather was warm, there was no wind (except for Tricky the wind machine) and no rain was forecast. Perfect painting weather. I had already done a shed load of preparation on the boat's port side, so began the task of masking everything. This involved taping over the white coach lines, the windows and the gunwales with masking tape and newspaper, a very onerous task but necessary. By Sunday afternoon I had successfully painted my trainers, my jeans, fifty seven feet of tow-path, two astonished geese and one side of the Lady Aberlour. I was very pleased with the result. The boat actually looked quite good. Unfortunately, due to one of life's lesser known laws, some of my clothes inside the boat, which I hadn't even been wearing, were also covered with paint. The 'Naga Queen' arrived on Sunday afternoon and Pat and Malc admired the painted scenery. Eventually, I guided their attention towards the freshly painted port side, and was rewarded with some appreciative comments. After a quick shopping trip and even quicker cup of coffee they said their goodbyes and cast off, leaving me to apologise to the geese for painting two of their brethren, albeit by accident. Tricky was bereft again - first Mummy disappears and then the 'Bringers of the Magic Water' take off as well.

Linda abandoned me at Branston (no, we didn't have a row although there might be one when she finds the paint everywhere) and caught the train to see her Mum who had some back pain that seemed to be getting worse. I was tasked with minding Tricky and the boat until we knew more. The plan was that I'd take the boat back to our home mooring, where Linda would pick us up on Tuesday morning. On Monday morning I was up by 05.30, determined to get an early start before any other boaters were about. I cast off and passed through two locks without incident. Although it was still very early, I met several boats going the other way, and there was at least one boat following me – so much for the early start!. When I got to Barton Turns Marina, I swung round like a pirouetting ballerina and started back the way I had come.(Linda inserted a smiley face emoji here) Alas, there was no audience, except for a lone fisherman who seemed to be asleep.

Burton on Trent was my penultimate destination that day, and I was moored up by mid-morning. Just after I had tied up, I saw a dog chasing it's own tail. “Aren't dogs easily amused?” I asked myself. Then I realised that I was being amused by watching a dog chasing it's tail.
Around mid-day I had a bit of dinner; cheese sandwich (of course) and an apple, that sort of thing. I also opened a packet of air, and found there were a few crisps rattling around in the bottom, which I ate. They tasted of chicken. The day had been hot and sunny so far, but by mid-afternoon a brisk wind began to blow. I needed to get to our home mooring by tomorrow morning, so planned to cast off later today. The wind got stronger as the day progressed, and I wondered whether I should hang on until the morning, but eventually I cast off just after seven that evening.

As I approached Horninglow Lock, I noticed a tall youth wandering around it in a very suspicious manner. I brought the boat in to the lock landing, tied up and walked towards the lock windlass in hand. The youth stood by the lock gate and stared at me as I approached. He was a big lad, around six feet, broad across the shoulder, narrow across the hip. “You ok?” I asked, as I approached. He just stood there, folded his arms and glared menacingly at me. As I got closer he put his hand on the lock gate as if to say “You ain't coming through here”. Then he took a deep breath and shouted “Mum, do you think this man will let me help him do the lock?”. Then a little lady appeared with a tiny dog and said “If you ask him nicely I'm sure he won't mind”. It turned out this lad was autistic and loved boats. He couldn't do enough to help. He raised the paddles and opened the gates for me, then closed the gates after I left the lock. It just shows that you should never judge a book by it's cover. I actually felt quite guilty for assuming he was looking for trouble.

Then followed the cruise to Willington and back towards the mooring. Tricky had been sitting patiently on the hatch all this time, but was starting to fidget. I knew the signs and looked for a place to pull in, so that she could attend to her ablutions. The wind was still gusting, so getting the boat to the side proved, er, tricky, but we got there unscathed. With Tricky wriggling under one arm I managed to step ashore and put her down, then held the boat against the bank, much to the chagrin of the wind, which fought me every step of the way. While this epic battle took place Tricky was happily bumbling about, sniffing first this patch of grass, then that patch thistles and showing no sign that she wanted to come back aboard. I called her and she sat down and looked gormless. I called her a second time and, after a suitable pause to show that she was doing me a special favour, she slowly flolloped to the boat and jumped aboard. The wind then dropped and the evening became quite still.

After such a warm day it was quite a surprise to feel a chill developing in the air as the sun began to go down. We reached Willington as the sun was setting, and I pointed the boat into the winding hole for the final turn. Another pirouette and this time there was a very large audience watching from the George and Dragon on Willington Green ! An audience usually guarantees a fiasco of a turn.

It was nearly dark by now and quite cold. I slowly cruised back the way I'd come and tucked us up for the night just above bridge twenty five and battened down the hatches. I made myself tinned chilli-con-carne and watched an episode of “The Detectorists”. Tricky and I agreed that its not much fun boating without 'her indoors'.

It's now Tuesday morning and here is a thought. You should always cry over spilt milk, otherwise how would you value milk and avoid spilling it in future? There. I've got that off my chest! Anyway, all that is left to relate is that, after a good night's sleep, I took The Lady Aberlour back to our home mooring and tied up there at around 09.30. More riveting adventures to come, they will definitely, probably be related, maybe soon. Who knows.

Anyway, bye for now
Love from
Half of the Floating Chandlers

PS    Don't you hate it when people answer their own questions? I do.

PPS  From Linda - Mum has had a couple of weeks in the QMC with a recurrence of her back problem.  She's doing really well now and we hope she will be coming home this week.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

No Boating for now

Soon be back in your favourite spot Tricky
Morning All

I'm taking a short break from the Jottings - be back soon


Sunday, 3 June 2018

Tricky - The Punk Robber!

Tricky before the clippers
Morning Jotters

What a delightful week we've had travelling along with our friends Pat and Malc on the Naga Queen. After so many months of being too far away for us to meet up, it's been a treat to chug with them along the wandering waters of the River Soar between Zouch and Thurmaston. By day we paired up through the broad locks and in the evenings, we took turns to host evenings of wine, wit and wisdom – well, we laugh a lot, but I'm not sure which of the three that's down to! 2018 is turning out to be the most sociable of years so far – Tricky loves it.  As usual, she can't wait to get on Pat's boat for their 'magic' water and a snooze on the snip mat in front of the stove - she doesn't care if it's lit or not, there's always the chance of a snack from those two softies that live aboard. She's not forgiven me for the terrible haircut she had on Friday - I really must get some decent clippers as mine are very old and blunt - if Tricky had a mirror she's scream and shut herself in the bathroom for a few weeks till it grew out. Luckily for us, she's not a bit bothered what she looks like as she is blissfully cool and no longer wakes us up at silly o'clock panting like a train.
Punk Tricky
I waited at Zouch lock on Monday afternoon with my windlass ready, for Pat and Malc to appear.  I sat on a handy bench and talked to the walkers and ramblers who stopped to watch the boats and to chat for a while. Boat after boat came through the lock - Harry in his Pith Helmet (a lovely old chap we have met before),wide beams and cruisers, families out for the half term holidays. A pair of boats came along with one towing the other behind. There was much jollity and laughter as they jostled about in the lock, not letting a little thing like a breakdown spoil their holiday. A nice young man parked his bike by the bench and stopped to take photos. When I saw the size of his lens, I had serious camera envy! We chatted about photography and he helped me fix a problem with my settings which had been bugging me since Carl last used the camera to try and photograph Jupiter - needless to say, that was a long shot (groan emoji)
Love this swan family

The weather forecast for this week was grim and Carl and I were a little reluctant to stay on the Soar in case the deluge arrived and trapped us on the flooded river. Pat and Malc however, are seasoned boaters and they weren't put off by the forecast. Not wanting to appear to be wussies, we dropped the boat down through the lock, turned and moored up ready to accompany them on their expedition to Thurmaston the next morning and I'm so glad we did. The weather has been very kind, cool mornings turning into warm sunny afternoons and long, still evenings - perfect boating weather.
Flags Are Out
The mooring fairy has been with us all the way there and back and we chugged straight into a gap on the pontoons in the Loughborough basin on Tuesday and strolled into town to collected some provisions for the journey - tonic water for the gin, cider and beer for the sunny afternoons and a small bottle of Kraken grog to celebrate our voyage together. We turned the boats without too much trouble, although Carl grumbled when we needed water from the services as its on a high quayside and mooring alongside it involved Carl climbing up a ladder with the rope between his teeth. Luckily for me, he's a nimble chap and managed the mooring and hauled the hoses and the cassette up the runged ladder without my help and we were soon chugging off and making the sharp turn right towards Barrow-upon-Soar and the lovely mooring by bridge 34. The hawthorn blossom that was so beautiful last week is fading to be replaced by yellow flags at the water's edge and the clusters of creamy elder flower in the hedgerows. May is bowing out to welcome June and the longest day is just around the corner now. The warm evenings are filled with the scent of the dog rose and honeysuckle and we listened to a beautiful bird song at dusk one evening and wondered if it might be a nightingale.
Matt Allwright filming 
The next day was overcast and showery and I was glumly looking out of the window hoping for the drizzle to clear up so we could set off again when a boat came chugging along. I scared the heck out of Pat and Carl by suddenly rushing to the hatch, throwing it open and waving and yooohooing to the boaters. 'I know you' I called out to the man sitting on the roof. He frowned and replied 'OK - who am I then'. 'You're Matt Allwright' I crowed triumphantly - and it was him, filming a segment for 'The One Show'. I did get a photo but in my excitement, I had the camera on the wrong setting and you can't actually tell it's him (sad face emoji) It was only afterwards that I realised that the hooded man next to him had a video camera on his shoulder and had captured every second of me shouting and waving like a middle aged groupie. Matt Allwright does Watch Dog and Rogue Traders but he's not exactly George Clooney so maybe I was a little OTT. I hope I don't make it onto the One Show, I hadn't even combed my hair let alone applied a dash of lippie,
Barrow Deep Lock
The rain cleared up and we chugged off under clearing skies to find Pillings Lock closed and the river racing along from Barrow towards the Trent. The water levels were lapping on the line between the red and amber but there were plenty of boats moving in both directions so we carried on up towards Barrow Deep Lock and a safe mooring above the lock there. I had a moment of panic when I heard the sudden loud 'chug chug chug' from the Naga Queen and saw her suddenly veer off towards the wrong side of the river and then swing her stern back again to get into the lock channel. I soon found out why as our bows entered the weir stream by the bridge and we were pulled much too close to the weir barriers for my liking. Carl put on the power and seemed to enjoy fighting the current as we rounded the bend and caught up with Pat and Malc on the lock landings - they weren't even the tiniest bit concerned about the charging waters, they've seen it all before and much worse.
Barrow Bridge
It's been such a lovely week and I've so much more to tell you that I might have to do an extra blog to fit it all in. Please, do tell me if I'm boring you - I'd hate to think that you groan when I pop up in your in box!!

That's all for now my good friends, have a good week and tell me your news if you have a minute

Lots of Love

The Floating Chandlers

PS Tricky stole a sandwich from a man sitting on a bench by our boat, she did it so sneakily that we both had to laugh and luckily for me, he took it in good part. Naughty Tricky!

Bridge in a Field - Why???
Did you see that Punk dog Freda!

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Bluebell Buggy

Secret Pool by the Water Park in Birstall

Dear Jotters
It was hard to tear ourselves away from Birstall and the most excellent company of our friends Keith and Jan. On Monday, we had an excursion with them to the tea rooms at Copt Oak, run by the Shuttlewood Clarke Foundation. It was warm enough to sit outside and enjoy the splendid views over Charnwood Forest and then we had a hair-raising golf buggy ride, down the valley and through the bluebell woods, to Ulverscroft Manor. I made an unscheduled donation to the Trust's funds by leaving my best cardigan on a rail when I tried on a summer jacket in their charity shop. I hope they got a good price for it, it was almost new! If you're ever up that way, it's a great place to visit, especially when the bluebells are out.

We got the dreaded dentist appointment out of the way on Tuesday morning then tidied the cobwebs out of the cratch ready to receive Jan and Keith on board for an afternoon cruise. Jan has long wanted to come aboard and have a cruise with us but, even with the help of her robotic leg, we weren't sure she could get over the gunwales. Jan is a very determined lady and made it aboard with hardly a murmur and was soon installed in the bows in her racy pink wheelchair ready for the cruise. Those of you who are regular readers know that the Captain really hates windy weather and that it can make turning the boat a little tricky. Today we have two turns to make and a stiff breeze to contend with - not a great combination but, as always, the Captain is up for the challenge. With the first turn completed successfully, we glided along the river and I left our guests enjoying the view to remind Carl that Jan was in the bows in her chair. 'Don't put the bows in the bushes will you' and went back to make the tea. What can I say - the wind caught us as we turned and blew us straight into a dog rose that was just coming into flower. Jan got a really close up view, although Carl stopped short before they actually snagged her hair. The boat jammed across the river and there was nothing for it but to deploy the long pole with Carl and his muscles on the end of it, to rescue the situation. I think Jan enjoyed the drama, but it was a relief to finally swing free and and resume our leisurely cruise back the way we came. I'm happy to say that everyone survived the afternoon and we're all still friends - we were sorry to say goodbye to them on Wednesday, after one final farewell coffee which turned into brunch and then – oh! what the heck, let's set off tomorrow!

It was a terrible shock going through the locks on Thursday morning – we needed hats, gloves and a coat on - it felt like winter was here again. We meandered through the Water Park towards Thurmaston and sipped hot coffee while we surveyed the grey skies, hoping to see the sun peeking through. It was late morning before, finally, the sun came out and the rest of our journey through the meadows from Mountsorrel to Barrow-upon-Soar was idyllic. By the time we moored up by Bridge 34, jut outside Loughborough, the sun was beating down and the icy wind had mellowed. Carl took himself off to his 'shed' (stern deck) and varnished the back doors while I sat on the tow-path with my IPod on shuffle and my crochet hook flying along, trying to keep up with the rocking tunes. Three beautiful horses in the field opposite cantered along the bank, nuzzling and play fighting, rearing and bucking then playing tiggy to the trees and back. I sat out until the hawthorn blossom filled my knitting bag and got into my tea cup, we do love the blossom but it gets everywhere - the roof, the cratch covers, the floors and every mat in the place has a sprinkling of Mother Nature's confetti.

On Friday we planned to go to Loughborough, but heavy rain persisted till after lunch, so we thought we'd stay put on this lovely mooring till Saturday, which promised to be dry and warm. The Great Central Steam Train station is close by and, once it fined up, we followed the signs and the clouds of steam, to find the ticket office. We bought platform tickets and drank tea and ate Genoa cake in the beautifully preserved refreshment rooms until it was time for the 13.45 steam engine to depart - which it did, right on time There was a tremendous snort and whistle and that lovely 'pish de coo' sound that reminds me of watching 'Ivor the Engine' on our first colour tv (there's a prize of an afternoon cruise if you can guess the year without resorting to google). The dining cars looked very inviting with snowy white napkins and gleaming cutlery, it's a treat we've always promised ourselves, dinner on the Charnwood Forester - one day, soon, maybe. Wistful face emoji. 

We were up and off on Saturday morning to get to Loughborough and moor in the basin for the 'Big Shop'. I needed new boat mats and kitchen scales and Carl needed Man Stuff from Wilko's. I waited outside the back door of Wilko's with Tricky and after about a trillion years, I rang Carl's phone to make sure he'd remembered where he left us. He was most indignant but did tear himself away from drooling over the nuts and bolts so I could do my shopping. Later, we met up with Terry and Liz, and toured the town sampling a few ciders/beers/gins (pick your poison) while we caught up with their news. Then it was "All Aboard' the Lady Aberlour for a cruise to Zouch in the last of the afternoon sun. It was a treat for me - I made the tea and pottered in the cabin while Carl and Liz worked the locks and Terry steered the boat – I was glad of the rest! The Plough in Normanton had space on there moorings and we whipped the boat round and headed back to stake a claim to this prized position. We edged gently in and tried to shoehorn our 57 foot boat into the 55 foot gap but in the end we had to give up and chug on to Zouch – what a shame, their beer garden looked so inviting. We found plenty of room to moor up by the Rose and Crown and so ended another very enjoyable day with good friends. Enjoy your retirement Terry and Liz and come back soon.

That's all from me for this week - have a great week everyone, let me know how you're doing if you get a minute.

Love and hugs

The Floating Chandlers

PS Do come along and join us for an Afternoon Cruise if you fancy it – bring your own secateurs.

PPS Now that I have new weighing scales, scones are back on the menu.

Jan and Keith

Evening Rainbow

Dog Rose


Captain Terry

Liz on the Windlass

Carl on lock duty

Brave doggy

Varnishing the Stern Doors

Bridge 34

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Wedding Curry Versus Birstall Curry

Kings Lock

Morning Jotters

What a perfect day for the Royal Wedding - the sun shone, the bride looked suitably virginal, the music was splendid, the flowers breathtaking, the guests in their finery, crammed into the pews to watch fiery Harry turn to mush as he made his vows - so far so very British! Then the whole event was completely upstaged by Bishop Michael Curry: his rousing sermon vibrated around that historic chapel and made a few upper lips stiffen in surprise. I'm sure his address will be the subject of much discussion and whatever your views, I hope you agree that the wedding was a triumph for our tourist industry. Good Luck to the happy couple, live long and prosper.
Pywell Lock

I'll try to keep off the wedding subject, but everywhere I look, the hawthorn blossom has garlanded the banks with purest white, as if they too are celebrating their nuptials. This year, the blossom is especially splendid after such a long, cold, wet winter and Carl and I are, at last, chugging along in the sun. We've really enjoyed our prolonged stay in Market Harborough, but our feet were itching to get going again. After one last saunter through town, we cast off and turned right at the bottom of Foxton Locks towards Leicester and the delights of the River Soar. The top lock at Kibworth marks the start of a long procession of broad locks down through Leicester and Loughborough to the Trent - a journey that we've done several times but none so memorable as the trip we made in our first boat Moonshine. Some of you may remember the floods of 2007 and we will certainly never forget swirling along the river section between Belgrave and Birstall and shooting through the Thurcaston Old Bridge like a cork from a bottle - Carl earned his Captain's hat that day!
Admiral Tricky

I've been busy with the locks this week but I've found time to click away with the camera trying to capture the splendour of the May blossom - I don't know if I've succeeded but I'll put the best ones on the blog and you can tell me what you think. I am very relieved to report that coots and moor hens have at last been spotted with young and several clutches of ducklings and goslings were happily paddling along the Leicester Mile. I wonder if the cold spring is to blame for the absence of wildlife on the canals - there were hardly any ducks and swans in Foxton, where they usually gather by the pub to be fed, and the Market Harborough Arm was almost totally devoid of wildlife - just a few mallards and no sign of any young. Where have all the country ducks gone? In previous years, we only had to open the hatch to attract a bevy of hungry beaks and the cheeky swans would tap on the hatch as they were passing to see if you were in and had any scraps. I'm glad to say the city ducks seem to have fared better, the stretch from Freemans Lock through the city centre was crowded with swans and geese and the water park here at Birstall is teeming with birds.
Cygnets on the Soar

Doesn't the sunny weather make such a big difference to your mood! Every morning this week, I've been springing out of bed, eager to start the day without needing two cups of coffee before I can be safely approached by the Captain wondering if I'll be getting dressed at all today. When the sun shines, I need no encouragement to get outside and roll up the covers and set off early while the birds are still singing. The tow paths are dry at last and Tricky and I wander along from lock to bridge, slipping back into the boating routine that is so familiar. These perfectly lovely May days are balm for the soul and we chug along through the rolling meadows on the sparkling water feeling very blessed indeed.
I think this is Wistow Church

The Captains Log this week says we have travelled a very respectable 30 miles and 27 locks since last Sunday although we seem to be the only boat travelling this way along the Soar. It's always nice to share the broad locks if you can and we looked out for anyone going our way from our overnight mooring in Kilby Bridge. There was a very friendly New Zealand farmer on the boat behind us and I wandered over to see if they were going our way and to admire his cat which was tethered to the boat on a long lead - a most unusual arrangement but very necessary if you want to be sure of setting off on time, cats do have a tendency to wander off. Unfortunately, he wasn't going our way, but we had a really long chat about how he came to be living on a boat in England. I heard all about his triplet grandchildren and how he first came here to judge pigs at the Yorkshire Show - you do meet the most interesting people living on boats.
NB Maude with their cat on a lead

The last part of the journey through Leicester is a reminder of how grim things can be when the waterway becomes a dumping ground for the locals and a focus for antisocial behaviour. The seats around the Lime Kilns Lock were occupied by a bunch of middle aged men drinking from cans - it looked like a regular meeting place as there were black bin liners hanging on the fence and they were full of empty cans (that's an improvement as they used to just throw them in the water!) The next stretch of water from Lime Kilns to Belgrave was treacherous with rubbish: bags and bottles had clumped together and made a floating platform for a heron to fish from and I marvelled at the tenacity of the local wildlife which made the best of this watery slum - Mother Nature is truly marvellous! Belgrave Lock was not as bad as I've seen it in the past but we still bow hauled the boat through the lock rather than risk Carl having to get down in the weed hatch. Tonight, we are moored in a delightful spot above Birstall Lock with the village amenities close at hand and the luxury of our favourite Indian Restaurant just a short stroll away. Shirley - Anne, if you are reading this, we are moored by the lock where we first met you and Mike and we have been thinking about our trip together and wondering if you're coming over to England again anytime soon?

That's all for this week from us both – enjoy the sun and I'll write again soon

Love as always

The Floating Chandlers

PS I had to trim my fringe this week, out on the tow-path with mirror in one hand and scissors in the other. It didn't go well! Luckily, there is a good hairdresser in this village who may be able to rescue me, meanwhile I have resorted to a baseball hat!
Bad Hair Day

PPS We moored on some railings by Aldi's in Aylestone and I stepped off the boat with the front rope and tried to duck under the railings and found that I couldn't fold myself up small enough to fit under. I had to stand on tippy toes and do a most unladylike straddle to get over. Of course, there was a large audience of parents in the play area and gongoozlers on the tow-path opposite to witness my clumsy attempt at the parallel bars. Sad Face Emoji!
Street Art in Leicester
Kibworth Top Lock

Going Down!

Tricky teetering on the edge - naughty dog

Yurts by the canal

Kings Lock

Tricky on watch

Graffiti with a message

Freemans Lock

Goslings at last

Leicester Mile - lots of bridges

Leicester City Centre

Beautiful weather vane

Frog Island - this one's yours Carl!

Sunday, 13 May 2018

The Rules Of The Game

A sunny walk

Carl here on Jottings duty - Linda says it's my turn this week and my motto is 'Happy Wife, Happy Life'!

It's true

We'd just got through the Foxton Swing-bridge when the day-boat hove into view, it was so close to the stonework of the next bridge that the sound of steel grinding against stone was clearly audible to the day trippers at Barry Island. I immediately slowed to tick over and prepared to finish off my cheese sandwich really quickly. I do like a nice cheese sandwich. Meanwhile, Ming the Merciless, the skipper of the incoming day-boat, did some quick mental arithmetic and, with masterful indecision, increased to ramming speed, simultaneously zig zagging from side to side. After trying and faiing to find the autopilot he ordered his crew to wave their arms about a bit. This didn't help as much as Ming would have liked. But wait! With a sudden and unexpected flash of inspiration, he stopped zooming from bank to bank and adopted a more traditional method of narrow boating, one which most of us adopt at some point in our cruising career. That is, he began cruising in a straightish line, following the contours of the waterway. All that was needed now was for him to not ram us. If our boat had deflection-shields, I would have activated them. As it was, all I could do was sound the horn and continue my evasive action. This gave him the clue he needed, and, right at the last possible moment, he swerved sharply, missing us by inches. Phew, close call folks.

Johnson's Bridge

Well dear readers, such excitement! The above incident happened this morning, as we made yet another journey back towards Market Harborough. There is very little to convey to you from this week's adventure except some aimless milling around - we've travelled two hundred and twenty miles so far this year without any real plan. By the way, does anyone else really hate this spell-checker/word altering thing? I happily type a paragraph or two about kingfishers, or how to bake bread while teaching ravens to fly underwater (thank you Peter Cook), and when I read it back it's been turned into an episode of Dixon of Dock Green, except with odd, random words added. Words like "butter huddle", "sparrow-fish" or, my personal favourite, "piffwibbler". How many of you remember George Dixon? They were the days weren't they? But I digress.

Now, we need to be in Leicester for 22nd May, and plan on going there by boat. Trouble is, we don't want to get there too early, hence why we're hanging around in this neck of the woods. I won't bore you to tears with talk of the Foxton flight (not a famous aircraft journey), Uncle Tom Cobbly's Wobbly bridge (totally made up) or the broken swing bridge at the entrance to the Market Harborough arm. There really is a broken swing bridge at the entrance to the Market Harborough arm. Rumour has it that the Canal and River Trust say they won't be mending it anytime soon, if at all.

Evening over Foxton

Poor old Tricky is confused. We've spent a lot of time this week with some very good friends of ours, who live close to M.H. (I will now refer to Market Harborough as M.H. as typing the town name in full is now causing me to lose the will to live.). Anyway, Tricky seems to have decided that having visitors on a daily basis is now a legal requirement, ratified by our parliament and also in Brussels. No-one has visited today, and our Tricky is very unnerved. She rode on the hatch earlier this morning, keeping awake for, oh I don't know, maybe a minute or so before snuggling down and going to sleep. Usually that's a full days "being awake" for her. In a totally out of character sort of way, she has been like an ill sitting hen all afternoon. She's slept for an hour, then spent five minutes gazing expectantly at the tow-path, slept for a further hour, then more tow-path gazing, and so it has gone on. I wonder if it is some sort of diabolical canine mind control. I guess we'll never know. Another of life's mysteries. Like do birds get beak-ache?

View from Johnson's Bridge

We've had a mixed bag of weather this week, starting out hot and sunny, gradually cooling down over the course of five days or so, and then persistent rain from yesterday afternoon until late last night. Luckily, it didn't rain while I was doing a bit of painting on the roof. The rain had the decency to wait until the last brush stroke had been applied before hammering down. Sadly, the battle of painting the boat versus the weather continues. A week in a dry-dock may be the only way to get the job done. We'll have to see. I'll keep you posted.

I've just been out for a breath of fresh air. Tricky has wind. It caused us to abandon ship and join the anglers on the tow-path. Moving on, the mornings have been a tad chilly aboard Lady Aberlour. Normally I'd light the fire, but for some reason I just couldn't be bothered. I can't remember why. Probably we didn't have any kindling, or matches or something. After a few hints from Linda, I decided (Linda decided) to turn on the central heating. And lo, the boat and all who sailed in her were warm. Needless to say, the heating has been on every morning since but only for an hour!

Is there anyone out there interested in astronomy? I only ask because I took a look at Jupiter last Saturday night through our telescope. What really blew me away was that I could even see some of Jupiter's moons. It was truly jaw dropping. I find it inconceivable that there is a flat earth society. Still, there you go.

Well, it would appear that this will have to be it for now. It's tea-time, and home made chicken korma beckons, so I'll call it a day and say farewell. Linda will be back next week with more of her witterings.

Love from
The Floating Chandlers

PS We spoke to a very old boater recently who'd spent almost his whole life on a narrowboat. He said that not many people realised that boating was a game, and just like any other game boating had rules. It was important to know the rules, because boating wasn't a game. (Black Books fans may recognise a different version of that story!).

PPS Linda here – I'm not allowed to censor this weeks edition so please address all complaints to The Captain!!

Still looking for this in the Collins Wildlife book