Not a lot of boating has happened this week as we've been high and dry in the boatyard, having our bottom blacked. No jokes please – I've temporarily lost my sense of humour! The lovely sunny weather has been wasted on us this week, as we languished in a shed where the skylights were so dirty that no light has penetrated through them since the last century. You may remember from our last blacking that the boat is floated into the dock and then the water is pumped out leaving the boat marooned on cradles in the middle. It's quite difficult to get on and off the boat so the boatyard provide a gangplank from the walkway, across the 10 foot drop and onto the front deck of your boat. An arrangement of scaffold pipes supports a handrail, to prevent Mr and Mrs Boat Owner from falling into the dock – it's not very pretty but it works. The thing is, it must have been designed by a relation of Jack Spratt as the width of the gap between the handrails was set at 'Skinny' and I spent four days shuffling sideways across the plank every time I needed to go ashore, dusting the handrail with my overhanging parts as I went. Even the luxury of an electric hook-up for the duration couldn't compensate for being stuck up in the air with every light on down the length of the boat to overcome the gloom. I found myself watching 'Homes under the Hammer' on Friday morning – am I the only one who thinks those smug purchasers lie like crazy about how much they spend on their renovations?
There's no public transport from Norbury, so we were very happy to have a trip into the nearest small town of Newport with our friends Richard and Melanie. I should have known there was some plotting afoot when Richard told me it was 'Buy your husband a guitar' week. Was it a coincidence that Newport has a Sue Ryder charity shop? It wasn't until we were through the door that the penny dropped, by which time it was too late. Carl and Richard headed straight for the guitars and began tuning them up and strumming away while a worried looking lady stood guard. When Richard started playing the 'intro' to Pinball Wizard, the whole shop stopped and heads swivelled to watch this unexpected entertainment. I heard one of them say to him afterwards 'Are you someone famous?' He got a round of applause from customers and staff and of course, Carl did buy another guitar for how could I object during 'Buy your husband a guitar' week?
We continued to explore the town, arriving finally at a lovely old black and white timber framed tea shop. We went in and ordered Lavender Shortbread, Flapjack and Toasted Tea Cakes from the tempting display. The tea shop was a delightful mix of Local History and Craft items. Mel and I bought some unusual buttons and found a hand knitted tea cosy shaped like a highland cow amongst the hand-made cards and local artworks. An old gentleman introduced himself to us as Maurice and asked if we watched Emmerdale. I haven't watched it for years but that didn't put him off as he whipped out an envelope of postcards and passed each one to me with a pause so that I could identify the actor. He was thrilled when I picked out Seth and Jack but I'm afraid I was a disappointment to him where the rest were concerned. It seems that he was a coach driver in his younger days and took coach parties on the Emmerdale Trail, although I don't know if he ever met them or just bought the postcards as a souvenir. He was a lovely man, and I bet his guided tours were a lot of fun.
The morning mist cleared by the time we left the boatyard this morning and we were bathed in warm sunshine which was very welcome after that gloomy shed. Tricky almost wagged her tail, she was so happy to be back on the hatch and Carl and I resumed our morning routine with a nice mug of coffee and a Penguin bar as we chugged through Gnosall towards Wheaton Aston. (I can't look at a Penguin bar now without seeing that flaming basket sinking into the canal last week!) It's so good to be back on the water. This is our last week afloat for this season and we'll be whizzing back to our winter mooring on the Trent and Mersey. The weather forecast is looking good so I'm hoping for a last glimpse of summer before Christmas comes sneaking around the corner. It's also my last Jotting of the year so I thought I'd end by saying how much I've enjoyed writing to you and getting your replies back. We do love our boating life but now it's time to moor up and check if I can still remember how to drive the car so that we can start catching up with our families and friends – I wonder if anybody missed us?
That's all folks
The Floating Chandlers