Monday, 21 September 2015

Should Dogs Eat Runner Beans?

Sunday 20th September 2015

 Should dogs eat runner beans?

Hello again. Now, I know what you're thinking “Oh, no, he's going to rant on and on about other boaters ramming him and narrow bridges on sharp bends and toilet rolls unrolling and so on”. Well, let me tell you right now that I'm not. Although the toilet roll did unroll itself again the other day, I won't rant on about it. There may be a few other incidents that will get a mention, but they'll be described in a nice, feel-good sort of way.

To begin, then. We left the Llangollen canal for the Shropshire Union canal last Monday morning, dressed in waterproofs against the drizzle and heavy showers that had been forecast. Drizzle did fall from the heavens, followed by heavy showers, so we were glad to have dressed appropriately.

Nantwich was our first port of call; we moored just beyond the aqueduct there around lunchtime, so we decided to have our usual cheese sandwich. Later, on leaving the boat, we saw a sign telling us that the towpath was closed, which left us in a bit of a quandary, as we needed to use it to get into town. Luckily, we didn't take any notice of the sign and found that the towpath was still open for business as usual. The sign was probably some form of Health and Safety exercise. Either that or the Department of Aggravation had been meddling.

There are two busy crossroads in Nantwich, both of which have a set of traffic signals and pelican crossings that synchronise in a rather unusual way. At regular intervals all the traffic signals on every junction and every approach change to red at the same time, regardless of whether or not there is any traffic around. Bizarrely, instead of changing to green, the lights for the pelican crossings also stay on red, warning pedestrians not to cross. Any traffic unfortunate enough to approach queues pointlessly at these crossroads, and crowds of unsuspecting people can find themselves aimlessly milling about waiting for a green light. The locals on foot ignore this bemusing arrangement altogether and just stroll across at will, with barely a glance at any traffic that may or may not be waiting. Maybe the Dept. of Aggravation designed the above system.

Our business in Nantwich concluded, we set off the next morning for Audlem, with it's flight of thirteen locks. The journey was pretty straight forward, except for a boater that we saw approaching in the distance. He was on the wrong side of the canal. I expected him to steer across at some point. He did seem to make an attempt, but aborted this. As he came closer he started to weave about a bit and then looked in our direction for a second or two. Against the accepted wisdom of travelling on the correct side of the canal, which seems to work pretty well most of the time, he aimed straight at us. At the point where I began to take evasive action, he suddenly veered off to his side of the canal and skimmed by us. As his stern shot by we caught a glimpse of the iPad on his hatch and the riveting film he was watching. From the little we saw it wasn't actually a film about riveting. It looked like some sort of Western, Linda said. Speaking of films, I must watch Zulu again soon. A brilliant film. I always think any film is best enjoyed sitting down, though, not when you're driving twenty tons of steel boat along a narrow waterway.

We only came up the first three locks at Audlem; there was a good mooring available outside the Shroppie Fly so we decided to call it a day.  Linda promptly disappeared into the Craft Shop and was in there for some time, she said she was only chatting but I think another bag of wool came back with her.

The next morning, after negotiating the eleven remaining Audlem locks, Linda brought my attention to a field of sheep on our right. The sheep were all lying down under a hedge in a mathematically perfect straight line. They all faced the same direction, and wore a look of “don't ask” on their faces. The mooring that night was at a quiet spot, in the middle of nowhere, just below the Adderley flight of locks - the 'shooting star mooring' for those of you who read the jottings on a regular basis.

part of the regular mooring routine is to mop the stern deck and gunwales (pronounced gunnells) with my sweeping brush.  It's ideal for the job, nice soft bristles and a long handle to dip into the water. I shook the broom over my shoulder to dry it off, and the brush flew off and into the canal, where it sank without trace. Oh, dear, I thought. Another sacrifice to the canal gods!

Market Drayton was the next stop. We were both smiling when we got there. We'd just seen two dogs enjoying the fruits of gardening. Enjoying the vegetables, actually. There was a nice crop of runner beans growing up some canes, and the dogs were standing on their hind legs, reaching up and plucking the beans with their teeth. Once they'd got one, they would then run across the garden, looking ever so pleased with themselves, and sit and eat it with great relish.

I needed a new brush, so we headed into Market Drayton. As we were hungry we stopped at a cafe for some lunch. We were the only customers there, which should have told us something. We walked through the door and a waiter nodded to us from behind his paper. We went over to a table and, sitting down, looked through the menu. I decided to have the steak and ale pie, chips and veg; Linda wanted the scampi. After a minute or so the waiter slowly ambled over, somehow making it look like we should feel honoured at this great gesture of him going the extra mile. “You ready to, like, order?” he wondered, in a not particularly interested sort of way. Then he asked us what we wanted to drink. We told him two teas. “Two teas” he repeated distastefully, as if two coffees would have been the correct answer. “Yes please, two teas” I answered, displaying my amazing gift of being polite. Off he went to the lad in the kitchen. Just as we began to over-hear some rather interesting muttering, it was drowned out by Led Zeppelin on number 11, which is obviously their music of choice when preparing food. We both like a bit of Led Zep, but I would have preferred Deep Purple or Black Sabbath. They go so much better with pie. Still, you can't have everything. When they arrived, the meals were not very rock and roll. My pie was good, but the peas were tinned. The tea was hot and the white builder's mugs seemed genuine. One particular bonus was that when I poured the tea, the teapot poured straight into the mugs, and not all over the table and into my lap, as has happened in the past. As we were leaving, a very elderly couple made their way in. “'ello John”, said the elderly man to the waiter. “Like, 'allo George and Lofty. You sitting over there or what?” said John the waiter, falling over himself with joy at the appearance of these two regulars. “We've like got some nice pies today what Tony has done”, he went on. As we passed out onto the street the last thing I heard was George saying “Not with my teeth”. We probably won't go back there again. We wandered back to the boat, forgetting all about my brush.

Linda here again - I couldn't let you go without telling you about our evening cruise on Saturday evening.  It was sunny, pleasantly warm and still as we set off and chugged under the first bridge, both of us on the stern deck with Tricky in her usual place on the hatch.  Carl said to me 'Have you got the microwave on?'  Daft question really - we never use the microwave, so how could it be on.  That's when I remembered that I HAD used it earlier that day and it was just possible I hadn't switched it off.  In order to understand the full implications of this, I should first tell you that the microwave is my secret stash for 'treats' and I had recently stocked up with peanuts, penguin bars and a large block of milk chocolate - for emergencies you understand.  Earlier that day I'd used the microwave and as soon as I'd finished, Carl switched off the power in the engine room and, without thinking, I put the plastic basket of goodies back inside and closed the door without returning the timer to zero. When we set off for our cruise, Carl switched on the power and the microwave hummed into life and started to cook the goodies - we were both happily chugging along, totally unaware of what was happening.  Thankfully, Carl noticed that something was 'ON' and using a lot of power, that's when I realised what I'd done. I ran down to the galley and I could smell burning and there were flames flickering behind the door.  Luckily, there's a large amount of water outside the boat, so I opened the hatch and pulled the turntable out of the microwave and tipped the contents into the water.  They sort of floated about for a while and then sank leaving just a sad Penguin wrapper floating, until it too gave up and disappeared.  It was a sort of viking funeral for our guilty secret.  It's hard to believe it, but there wasn't a single soul around to witness this drama and I'm sure you won't tell anyone will you?

So that's all for now, folks. We're going into Norbury for blacking this week and then we'll be on our way home.  Have a lovely week everyone

Love from

The Floating Chandlers

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Beetroot Cider

Sunday 6th September 2015 Beetroot Cider

Hello again,

This has been a perfect week for hatch-gazing. Those double doors, set into the side of the boat, are my window on the world - it's the perfect place for getting a real close up of the watery wildlife outside. Ducks, geese, swans and coots glide by and I saw a moor-hen climbing around in a bush eating blackberries – I'd never have know they did that if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. The swallows are packing their bags for sunnier climes, how often have I watched them dipping and weaving along the water as I wait for the kettle to boil. I don't always get a watery view, sometimes the hatch opens onto the tow-path and then I'm the one being inspected by every passing dog especially if it's sausages for tea.

I know it's autumn when we get the annual invasion of spiders, wasps and daddy long-legs. Carl has developed a new technique for dealing with these pesky varmints after I was terrorised by the spider that refused to leave. It should have been a straight forward evacuation of a medium-sized spider which parachuted from the ceiling and hung at eye level as I was passing. I've tried really hard to conquer my fear of spiders but I've not managed it yet. My voice goes up two octaves and I squeak out 'Carl – spider' and run away. Carl scooped up the dangling arachnid and tried to put it out of the hatch onto the grassy bank outside. The spider did not want to leave! It hung onto Carl and swung back inside and that's when I lost sight of it as I was running away to the other end of the boat. Carl told me it had gone under the fridge but I think he was fibbing because I'm sure it was that same spider that came looking for me later. It climbed onto my e-reader as I was settling down in bed to read the latest Jo Nesbo! After Carl had peeled himself off the ceiling ( yes, I did scream very loudly!) he ejected the spider and we stripped the bed in case there were any more creepy crawlies waiting to read a thriller. I'm so thankful that we don't have poisonous spiders in England. Carl catches them in a jam jar now and escorts them right out of the boat, just to be sure they've really gone.

It was a lovely sunny morning when we left Nantwich last Monday morning and we were swishing along, hoping to reach the 4 locks at Hurlestone before they got too busy. We rounded a bend to see a boat slewed sideways across the canal and a little knot of people trying to get a rope on a black and white horse that was chest-deep in the water. Canals are not very deep but the sides are steep and the horse was struggling to heave itself out of the water and onto dry land. Just when I thought the poor thing was going to give up altogether, it gave one last almighty scrabble with it's hooves and managed to get out. Phew! What a relief. It's nice to be part of the boating community, you can be sure of a helping hand if you're in trouble and that's becoming a rare thing in this modern world.

We made a return visit to Percy's when we moored overnight in Whitchurch. Some of you might remember we were here a couple of years ago and we really enjoyed the quirky atmosphere of this cross between a pub and a tea room. Carl and I sat in the theatre seats this time, opposite the giant stuffed moose head which hangs behind the bar (I told you it was quirky!) I opted for half a beetroot cider which was a lovely shade of raspberry in the glass but the flavour didn't lived up to the appearance, if I'm honest. The moose stared down at us glumly and Tricky settled under the table for a nice snooze – now what could possibly happen to spoil this pleasant interlude, I hear you ask. Have you ever been button-holed by one of those bar-room braggers who want to tell you about their life in the British Army when men were men and could run the London Marathon in 20 minutes? Well, I didn't mind that so much but when he started making insinuations about Mary, the landlady at the pub next door, my good will vanished and my cyanide lips itched to deliver a cutting remark. Carl saved him from a mauling by whisking me off to find the post office - no wonder that poor moose looked so glum!
'Shall we take this footpath back to the boat?' I said to Carl on the way home. It probably wasn't the best time to wander off – we'd been to Tescos for shopping and our rucksacks were quite heavy. The footpath took us through some houses and turned uphill across a field. In the distance, I caught a glimpse of the distinctive lift bridge which was just by our boat. It didn't look too far away but the footpath continued uphill which was slightly worrying. Tricky wasn't impressed by the 'short cut' and panted along behind us and after a while I began to think my internal compass had let me down. Through another field, still going uphill and finally, a left hand turn going downhill towards what I hoped was the field gate just by the boat – luckily for me, it was. I could tell Carl wasn't impressed and if I'm honest, it wasn't the best idea I've had. I put it down to the beetroot cider!

The Llangollen Canal is always busy at this time of year and meeting the first-time hirers along the way has been very entertaining. If you get to a lock and there are 3 people wandering about with windlasses but nothing is happening then you can be sure that they've just come out of a nearby marina for their first narrow-boat holiday. I met a lovely family from California this morning, they come over every year and hire a narrow-boat as a way of enjoying our British Weather. I thought of them as I watched Countryfile tonight – the jet stream has dipped down bringing in low pressure with as much weather as you want. Wind, rain, thunder – oh and some sunny intervals if we're lucky! I hope they have a lovely holiday whatever the weather.

That's all from me for now - have a lovely week everyone, I'll write again soon with more Hedgerow Jottings

Love from

The Floating Chandlers

Monday, 7 September 2015

Nantwich Revisited

Sunday 6th September 2015

Hello again

It's a lovely sunny day here in Nantwich and I'm tapping away on the laptop in a cabin flooded with sunshine. Tricky is snoozing away in her basket - she's had a few long walks since we moored up in Nantwich on Friday and is enjoying a little nap to recover.   Did I mention that I'd given her a trim the other week? I got a bit carried away with the clippers and decided to remove the guard to get a closer clip on her legs. I'm sure the bald spots will fur up again before the winter!

Did you get caught in the rain on Bank Holiday Monday? I think it rained off and on for most of the day as we made our way through Royal Vale Lock and Hunters Lock to get back to Northwich. We took a late passage on the Anderton Boat Lift and were soon dragging our bottom (if you'll pardon the expression) along the Trent and Mersey Canal. Is it my imagination, or didthe level drop while we were away? It was a miserable, dank evening and the weather matched our mood as we moored up under the dripping trees and Carl fiddled about with the TV aerial trying to find something to cheer us up. In the end we settled for a DVD of 'The Vicar of Dibley' and had just settled down to enjoy the episode where Geraldine jumps into a puddle, when there was a tap on the roof. An apologetic face appeared at the window and I popped down to the hatch to see what he wanted. We don't get many unexpected visitors as a rule and I wanted to check him out for 'strangeness' first. He must have had the same thought because he stood well back as I peered up at him and waited for him to explain why he was interrupting our viewing. It took me a while to get the drift of things as I didn't at first understand why he was hauling a canoe up the canal instead of paddling it. Eventually, I unpicked the full story and gathered he was doing a sponsored canoe paddle around the Cheshire Ring and after a day of paddling in the rain, him and his mate had found the Boaters Facilities at Anderton and dived in for a hot shower and some clean, dry clothes. Rather than climb back into the wet boat, they decided to walk to the next pub, pulling the canoe along after them. All he wanted was permission to pass the rope over our roof. Finally, I cottoned on - what a nice young man, such courtesy is rare these days. I watched as he and his paddling partner went off to repeat their request at the next two boats and thought it would take them a while to get to the pub if they encountered many moored boats along the way.

The weather has been kind to us this week, we've had sun most days and have been happily dawdling along without meeting a rush of boats at every bridge. The hedges are tinged with autumn berries and the fields are a patchwork of freshly furrowed earth and lush green pastures. A kingfisher escorted us along the canal, through his 'patch' – sitting on a low branch waiting for us to get tantalisingly close before streaking off to the next perch. We tiptoed down the canal trying to get close enough for a photo but he was too shy and all I captured was a blur on a grey background. That won't get me in the 'Countryfile Calendar'! I never tire of the views from this canal – in some places you can look out over the River Weaver as it meanders through the valley below – we're still under the spell of Weaver World.

As we approached the end of the Middlewich Arm, I was sent to the front to check if the way was clear to turn left towards Nantwich. The canal builders always put a bridge in the way so you can't see if there's anything coming and then, to add to the confusion, the steerer is 57feet from the bows trying to negotiate a blind 90 degree bend. By the time I can see if there's anything coming, we're already under the bridge and starting the turn.  I think Carl sends me down there to get me out of the way! I get a bird's eye view into the cabin of a boat that has carelessly moored right opposite the junction – I'm surprised that anyone would moor there as not everyone knows there are no brakes on a narrow boat until the first time they try to stop.  Luckily for him, Carl is on form today and we slide past with hardly a ripple – whatever was I worried about!

We arrived in Nantwich just in time to get the last spot on the embankment overlooking the town – it was still quite early and we were surprised to find it was so busy until we saw the signs for the annual 'Food Festival'. We set off into town, hoping to find rabbit pies on the menu (remember the 'warm bunnies' from the Gloucester Food Festival?) They are obviously more refined in this part of the world as it was all goats cheese and hummus. The marquee in the park was buzzing with people and there were stalls offering Pimms and Prosecco, Strawberries and Cream, locally brewed beers, German, English and Polish sausage, pork pies and the prettiest cup cakes you ever did see. It was very hard to resist the delicious smells floating from the grill although I don't eat burgers, the smell of fried onions always makes me wish I did.

I almost never wish I was a child again but I saw a little girl carrying a huge balloon that was shaped like a merry-go-round horse. It was a thing of beauty and just for that moment I wanted to be 5 years old again. Then I remembered that I had pigtails when I was five and thought better of it.

That's all from me for now - have a lovely week everyone, I'll write again soon with more Hedgerow Jottings

Love from

The Floating Chandlers

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Plum Done

 Plum Done

Happy Bank Holiday Monday everyone

I don't suppose there's anyone reading this today, you'll be paddling at the seaside or sitting in a traffic jam on the M6 which seems to be another popular bank holiday pastime these days. Carl and I are still under the spell of Weaver World and have been happily chugging from one remote mooring to the next. Today we're back on the Royal Vale moorings again - we hadn't planned to stay another night but this morning, the Royal Vale Lock was stubbornly refusing to open it's gates to let boats pass through.

The cheery lock-keeper swung his grappling hook through the water trawling for the blockage while we floated around outside the lock. I remember this lock-keeper from our previous visit - he's worked on these locks for many years and looks like Captain Birds Eye with his bushy grey beard and twinkling eyes. Captain Carl soon got tired of waiting and spun the boat round and left them to it – it's a beautiful morning and it matters not at all which way we go. The sun is warm as we chug past last night's mooring spot and make for the low swing bridge – as we approach it I'm thinking it's too low for us to get under, so I scoop Tricky up and step down off the deck while Carl steers us safely through – whatever was I worried about, there was loads of room, it was one of those 'optical delusions'!! We're not the only ones enjoying the day, a pair of Grebes are giving their offspring fishing lessons, a cloud of swallows streak along the water, dipping and dancing and a lone cormorant fishes from the wooden posts near the weir. The humans are fishing too – khaki tents pitched on the river bank with a line of rods dangling in the water and an unsmiling figure glaring up at us as we slip quietly by. If they're enjoying their bank holiday fishing trip then it's not apparent from their grim faces – I wave anyway in case it might cheer them up.

The industrial past of the the Weaver Navigation is almost forgotten now except for the salt workings that we pass on our way to Winsford. A JCB is working away at the top of a huge mountain of rock salt, running back and forwards along the summit, heaping up the salt and pushing it over the the steep edges – it's a giant game of sandcastles and as we watch him charging up and down, I'm holding my breath and wandering what force of nature stops the whole lot from slithering into the river. We chug along there and back, just a mini cruise today to charge the batteries and escape from the three Jack Russell terriorists owned by the people who moored by us late yesterday evening. Their dogs immediately leapt ashore and set up gang headquarters on the bank – they chased after bikes and walkers, yapping and barking at anything and everything that moved. I don't want to sound unreasonable, after all I like dogs and these little chaps were really cute but we'd been enjoying a particularly tranquil afternoon, reading and listening to the summer sounds of the riverbank, until these canine hoodlums arrived. The Royal Vale moorings are a particularly peaceful spot - there's no traffic noise, only an occasional train in the distance sometimes and the whoosh of a bike rushing by on the tow-path so I'm glad to say that the locks have re-opened and our noisy neighbours have left us to enjoy the peace and quiet one more.

The Spanish Plume has retreated leaving cooler mornings and a cooler breeze to remind us that Autumn is just around the corner. The rain storms that were forecast have mostly eluded us here in Weaver World – we've had rain showers in the evenings but the mornings have been dry with sunny intervals – perfect boating weather. If it rains after we've moored for the day then it doesn't count unless I have to put my waterproofs on to walk Tricky!

Weatherspoons - what a beautiful building
The weather forecast for Thursday was good so we left the boat moored by the picturesque Sutton Weaver swing bridge and made the long trek into Frodsham to catch the train to Llandudno. The train travels along the Dee estuary towards the resorts of Prestatyn and Colwyn Bay before reaching Llandudno Town, the last stop on the line – it's a very scenic route with the sea on one side and hidden castles in the wooded slopes on the other. You can't beat a day at the sea-side and this is a real old-fashioned resort with a promenade that stretches for miles, although I'm not so keen on the pebbly beach. I managed to dip my toes in the sea but not one person was swimming - the water was very cold and infested with jelly fish. Welcome to Wales! We shuffled along the pier with all the other old codgers and looked back at the word 'Llandudno' picked out in white on the lush green of the grass in the park. The cable car wasn't working(too windy) and there was a huge queue for the Tram which runs up the steep slope to the top of the 'Big Orme'. I stood at the bottom of the road leading up to the summit and assessed the gradient and decided that the view from the top will have to wait until either I'm fitter (who am I kidding!) or I have the time to queue for the Tram.

On our travels this week we found a plum tree laden with golden fruit, sweet and juicy and ripe – it's making my mouth water just telling you about them. Those awful, tasteless things you buy in the supermarket aren't a patch on those eaten fresh from the tree. Our fruit trees at home remain stubbornly barren – if they don't get cracking soon they're going to be kindling!

That's all from us for this week – we'll be back on the canals next week doing some proper boating instead of this aimless floating around. Have a lovely week everyone.

Love from

The Floating Chandlers