Sunday, 13 March 2016

A Very Pretty Skirt and a Dithering Pensioner

6th March 2016

Morning All

The jottings are back – have you missed them? The winter has flown by with so many good friends to catch up with as well as the joys of the 'Murder Mystery' in the Village Hall. Then there was Christmas and the New Year celebrations and sadly, some old friends to say goodbye to. I wasn't idle through those long, dark months though – the little blue car has been zooming here, there and everywhere and is now languishing in another hedge, waiting for me to get back the bus back there tomorrow. I'm very happy to be swapping the steering wheel for a windlass.

We had a false start on Wednesday as Captain Carl had forgotten the boat keys. Luckily, we'd only got to the next village before he remembered, so the day wasn't spoilt.  'American Pie' was on radio 2 and I trundled along, singing about driving my Chevy to the Levy and quite forgot to be cross. The sun shone, the sky was blue as we bounced by the village pond for the second time and tried to ignore the black clouds looming on the horizon. We knew the forecast for Wednesday was for wintry showers and blustery winds, but once the calendar turns over from February to March, our love of boating is stronger than the threat of a few flakes of snow. The sleeting rain started as we flew down the new dual carriageway between Nottingham and the M1- that's an improvement after the terrible roads around us in Lincolnshire– a smooth road with no pot-holes.

It's such a joy to get on board 'Lady Aberlour' after being away for so long. The cabin smelt fresh – not a trace of mustiness anywhere except in the large drawer that I call the 'airing cupboard'. Its where I keep the spare bedding and towels and everything in it is clammy and smells odd – it will have to be washed before we can use it. Undeterred, I potter through the cabin, smiling at the curtain lace, the books, the pretty postcards, the sheep coaster, the 'Beach Huts' plaque – things I collected on our travels or gifts from thoughtful friends. It's good to be home. I find the new diary and place it in the usual spot by the radio, ready for Carl to keep a record of our battery usage, weather, engine hours and other mundane matters. I think its more interesting to write about swallows, ducklings and kingfishers and often scribble in large letters 'Kingfisher day' across the bottom of the page – I must try to be a bit more descriptive if I want to be a real Twitcher. Nothing to record so far, our one day of chugging from Burton to Alrewas started with snow and sleet and was bitterly cold and grey. The river Trent was running fast as we crossed it and Carl throttled up to power us through the cross current. We love that river stretch from Wychnor to Alrewas and most years we have moored here and walked up to the picturesque church, but this year the water levels are too high and we can't linger.

The big orange casserole dish has been bubbling away on the stove almost every day since we left Burton, I made a beef stew large enough to feed the crew of the QE2! The big kettle and the little kettle jostle for room on the stove top and I can squeeze my porridge pan on there too. Tricky quickly remembered where the warmest spot is and can usually be found gazing at the cosy glow from her place right in front of the it. I've had to make her a new bed by stuffing a cover with old tee shirts and woollies – I forgot that I threw her old bed away when we left the boat last year and spent a while looking for it before I remembered. The older I get the more time I spend looking for things!

Another old 'friend' I re-discovered since we got back is my lovely comfy bed. I was shattered on Wednesday night after all the packing and unpacking and it might have had something to do with the large glass of wine I had with our friends from Naga Queen. I'd had both hot water bottles in the bed all day but even so the edges felt a little chilly.  The rain was lashing down and the wind was howling through the trees when we finally settled down. The boat rocked us to sleep and we slept like babies - when we surfaced the next morning, it was a beautiful day, sunny and calm, perfect weather for turning around, a manoeuvre which can be tricky when its windy. If anything is guaranteed to start an argument between Captain and Crew its trying to turn the boat in a gale!

Today, the boat is moored in our favourite spot in Alrewas and the sun has been shining on our solar panels for most of the afternoon, which has pleased Carl greatly. The canals are quiet, only a handful of boats have passed our mooring but there have been streams of people along the towpath. A big dog put his head in through the hatch this morning and drooled at the smell of bacon and his owner almost did the same – I had forgotten about the delights of the 'gongoozlers' who press their noses against our windows and seem surprised to find real people living inside. Carl is alternating between reading a book and entertaining me with snippets about those devils across the channel who are trying to keep us in the EU against our will. When he finally crossed into the 21st century and bought himself a tablet, I didn't think he would use it for trawling through the political pages and sending his blood pressure sky high.

And Finally...

As Carl came chugging into Alrewas Lock, a man on a bike went by and cycled off along the towpath. Not unusual, except for one thing – the bobble hat, waterproof jacket and boots were all quite normal but the knitted, yellow and green, pleated skirt, revealing a pair of very knobbly knees, was most definitely unusual. And so, another boating year begins

That's all from me, have a good week everyone

Love as always
The Floating Chandlers

13th March 2016
A sunny Sunday in early March - one of those soft days, when I love to be boating. Spring is visiting the hedgerows and copses along the way and the first green buds are braving the chill as we swish by. It sounds poetic as I write it, but the reality of our journey so far today, has been far from idyllic – the modern curse of plastic wrappers and empty vodka bottles are everywhere along this stretch. For miles around Nuneaton there are floating bergs of plastic garden chairs and old TV's and the trees are festooned with items that look suspiciously like doggy bags. The locals don't seem to mind and we wave to hardy pensioners in bobble hats and stout walking boots, striding along with rucksacks full of tea and sandwiches. The dog-walkers march along with their Labradors and Staffies and Tricky turns her back in a huff – we've not had our usual walk this morning. I have new boots and I'm a bit precious about wading through muddy puddles until they get a bit more 'lived in' which has been a challenge with all the rain we had earlier in the week.

When I wrote to you last week, we were moored in the lovely village of Alrewas and on Monday I set off on the bus to collect the car from Willington and drive over to Mum's to deliver a package of the local sausages. She's rather partial to them but in hindsight, I'm wondering if I should have stuck to something more traditional for a Mothers Day gift, especially as our car will be cluttering up her drive for the next 6 months! I'll gloss over the train trip back to Burton except to tell you about the exceedingly annoying couple who were giggling the whole way into Nottingham and making loud conversation about contraceptives (as if I needed to know what flavours are available!). They managed to find me when I changed trains and sat just across the aisle to continue their flirtation. Isn't is flipping marvellous! I almost ran along the platform at Nottingham to get away from them and found myself a seat in a quiet carriage on the Birmingham train for the next leg of my journey. My heart sank when they came and plonked themselves down right by me and they managed to get on every single one of my nerves until I got off at Burton.

Carl and Tricky were pleased to see me although Tricky pretended not to know me and ran right by me to sniff aimlessly at some tufts of grass. The weather forecast was for heavy rain on Wednesday so we wasted no time and cast off to do the 5 locks to Fradley, where I was hoping to have another night off from cooking and eat in the pub there. The White Swan, known to boaters and locals as the Mucky Duck, always looks so inviting in the summer. For some reason we've never been in so I was looking forward to seeing if the inside matched up to the quaint outside. I was disappointed to find the kitchen closed and so was Carl, although he chewed down the hastily prepared ham and cheese omelette without complaint.

Wednesday dawned wet and miserable but dogs need walking whatever the weather so we donned full waterproof gear and set out along the towpath, which had turned into a river in places. We intended to walk to the first bridge and come back via the road, thinking it would be less muddy. As we trudged along the lane, a party of cyclists went zooming by us and found themselves up to their wheel hubs in flood water. When I saw the bow wave, I thought better of the 'dry' route and we turned back to the much shallower towpath puddles. By heck, it must have rained during the night!

Luckily for us, the canals rarely flood and so we have been able to travel onwards through Whittington, Hopwas and Polesworth reaching Atherstone on Saturday morning. I was ready for tackling the 11 locks and we whizzed through the first six and stopped under the railway bridge to let a descending boat come through. I made Carl a sandwich while we waited and when I got back to the lock I found they'd moored up for water. There is a simple etiquette amongst boaters, designed to ease the flow of boats through busy areas. It's certainly not the done thing to fill the lock, open the gate and then pull over for water! I pasted on a smile and asked if they minded if we boated through. The three young men shrugged and carried on trying to untangle their hose and attach it to the stand pipe. It was entertaining to watch them as I waited for the lock to empty and the day was warming up bringing people out to enjoy the sun. We passed another boat coming down and I hurried on to the next lock just around the corner and met a Neanderthal man with two very young children – the kids were collecting stones and chucking them into the water. I'm always worried when there are young children around locks, they teeter on the edge and often their parents seem oblivious to the dangers. These tots thought it was great fun to chuck handfuls of stones down onto the boat and both Carl and I shouted 'Oy – stop that' which set Mr Neanderthal off swearing and shouting at us. 'Never mind' I thought, only one more lock then we'll moor up for a nice wander around Atherstone, which has always been one of our favourite spots for browsing. As I waited for the lock to fill, I heard shouting and a man was coming towards me shouting loudly and pointing. Oh heck, he's coming my way. What's he saying? I can't tell you how awkward it is trying to hold a conversation with someone with their volume turned all the way up and who sprays you with every word and makes not one jot of sense. Carl was a captive audience as the boat rose up the lock and when we puttered off, he tagged along behind us, still shouting and pointing at us. We couldn't face Atherstone after all that, Carl shot off to the Tool shop for essential supplies and we carried on to find a quieter mooring.

I asked the most stupid of stupid questions in the pound shop this week. I stood at the till with two items in my hand and asked 'How much?' - the assistant would have been quite within her rights to have given me a hard slap for asking such a daft question and I had to smile to myself and shake my head as I fished the two pound coins out of my purse. I took a while as I have a new purse and the clasp's still a bit stiff. 'Oh no' I thought as the young girl stood there with her hand out ready to whip the money into the till. 'I've turned into a dithering pensioner'

That's all from me, have a good week everyone

Love as always

The Floating Chandlers