Did I really wake up to snow yesterday? Oh yes – the unpredictable April weather cast a wintry coating over the spring blossoms to remind us that summer might still be a way off. I noticed a blue haze of bluebells as I walked Tricky this week and longed to be back in the magical kingdom of the River Weaver. It's on the list of 'things to do' later this year along with our other northern favourite, The Shropshire Union, but we'll miss the bluebell season. Maybe next year. Do I sound a little nostalgic? That's because the boat has been tied up in Market Harborough for a week and I've been sleeping in a landlubbers bed. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to my cabin tonight, although I'm hoping that I don't wake to the sound of rain on the roof.
So, what will I write about this week? I was wondering that myself and thinking I might have to look through the archives for something to amuse you with your Monday morning coffee but then I met Noodle!
It was a sunny morning when I went to collect my Mum for a garden centre outing and I was racking my brains to think of somewhere different to take her. My Mum lives in the shadow of Belvoir Castle so we set off across the very pretty Vale of Belvoir looking for garden centres and tea shops. One of our more recent finds is the Dove Cottage Cafe and Charity Shop right by the Grantham Canal. The approach is down a long, narrow lane and over a very steep hump-backed bridge to get to the little cottage that serves snacks to anyone brave enough to attempt that bridge. My little blue car only has about six Shetland ponies under the bonnet so its a case of 'toot the hooter and hold your breath' as you race up the steep incline with Mother holding tight to the edges of her seat. It's busy with walkers, bikers and pensioners and we're too early for lunch and too late for the Cherry and Ginger scones - what a shame! We settle for a cup of tea and their very acceptable fruit scones and browse through the books and CD's in the library near the door. The sun is still shining and we set off again, with no particular plan in mind, heading for Melton Mowbray and a bit of retail therapy. As we tootle along, I notice another 'Tea Shop and Garden Centre' sign – one I've not seen before, and it looks interesting. I think about calling in but decide that even my Mum can't make room for another cup of tea so soon after leaving Dove Cottage. We carry on towards Melton and the sunny day is perfectly lovely when viewed from the warmth of the car but there's an icy wind blowing. We're reluctant to walk round the town so we hurry into the warmth of Tesco's for a birthday card and some broccoli. Of course, you never come out with only the things you went in for. I have to admire the clever marketing strategy which persuaded me to buy a pair of bright turquoise bath towels, which I didn't really need, as well as the milk, eggs and yoghurt which I did! Well, such is life and I'll leave you to mull that one over with your cup of coffee and let me know if you too, have been guilty of buying scented candles when all you went in for was a packet of frozen peas.
As usual, I've completely forgotten the whole point of the story which was to tell you about 'Noodle'. By the time we left Melton, it was past time for Mum's tea fix – she's a terrible addict and gets all twitchy if the tea levels fall too low. It took a little time to find the place again but eventually I pulled into 'The Old Brickyard' and found a little wooden cabin set on the edge of a large grassy area with lovely views over the fields beyond. A collie cross doggie wearing a hi-vis jacket came running over to us as soon as we got out of the car and I bent down to say hello but the doggie hadn't come for fuss – this was a working dog with a job to do. On the jacket was printed 'Follow Me for Tea and Cakes' and the dog was intent on rounding us up and taking us to the tea shop. It would run a few steps and then look back at us as if to say 'Come On – this way' and circle round us to make sure we weren't side-tracked by the garden centre. Once inside the charming tea cabin, the lady owner rewarded us with a dog biscuit (for the dog, of course, not us!) and we were introduced to Noodle who sat there patiently waiting for her reward for 'fetching' the customers. That's the best marketing strategy I've ever seen and if Tesco's could employ a 'Noodle' to bring in the customers their profits would soar!
I was up with the larks this morning – happy to be going back to the boat and hoping that I can find the hot water bottles to take the chill off the bed. The boat will be cold after almost a week without any heating and the stove does take a little while to get up to temperature. Carl will be worried about Grumpy Wife Syndrome which often kicks in when the thermostat drops below 'tropical'.
Have a lovely week everyone – I'll write again soon
Love as always
The Floating Chandlers