Sunday, 18 September 2016

Canadian Lovebirds

Morning Campers,
I'm writing today from the first available mooring past Kibworth Top lock, which any self respecting boater will tell you, is the last of the broad locks until we rejoin the Grand Union at Norton Junction. Every time we do the Leicester Ring, I forget just how many locks there are and I'm thankful to be relaxing in a comfy chair with the hard work behind me.
We left Sawley on Monday morning in bright sunshine. The volunteer on lock duty told us that they'd had over a hundred boats through that pair of locks on Sunday and I was glad we'd waited so we could enjoy the peace and quiet of this lovely stretch of river. We found a one-boat mooring on the Soar, with a lovely view of the power station across the water, and a handy willow tree in case the promised heatwave arrived to turn the boat into a sauna. The clouds hung around stubbornly and, although it was warm, we had a nice cooling breeze, so we decided to risk a walk over the fields into Kegworth before it got too hot. At the third stile the sun came out and roasted us all the way to the Co-op and back. I was glad of the shade when we climbed the last stile and found the boat sweltering in the full glare of the hot sun – Tricky and I sat out on the bank until the boat cooled down a bit.
Tuesday was another beautiful morning and the river was sparkling and burbling in the sunshine as we pottered along down to Kegworth Deep Lock. On the other side of the lock, a fox sat waiting patiently to be fed. It showed no sign of fear as I crossed over to close the gates behind Carl and it followed me as I walked back to open the paddles. That wily fox was making a good living posing for photos and being fed scraps by the passing boaters. I doubt it would have been impressed with a cheese sandwich which was about all I could muster up at short notice. The temperature soared as we moored in Zouch cut, waiting for our boating friends to arrive. Terry and Liz live close by and we were hoping they would fancy a cruise into Loughborough so we could get a bit of breeze through the boat and maybe find some shade. Luckily, they had the same idea and we ladies settled in the bows with a cool glass of pink stuff while the boys had a beer on the back. The extraordinary heat continued and we moored in Loughborough Basin and departed to the 'White Hart' where there is a shady garden, cool cider and scrumptious food – what better way to spend a hot afternoon. We took advantage of the balmy evening to cruise out of town and moor in the countryside, leaving the noisy town mooring to a pair of visiting Canadians, who were staying for a few days to visit the Bell Foundry. More of them later.
The mornings continued to be misty and cool and I relished the coolness as I trotted along the tow-paths with Tricky. The hot nights have made it difficult to sleep and I've thought longingly of those crisp, cold mornings that I know are just around the corner. The River Soar is so very lovely through Barrow and Mountsorrel and we shared the locks for a little while with a couple who were only out for the day, taking strawberries and prosecco to their favourite mooring, to celebrate the last of the summer in style. We loitered outside the Hope and Anchor and met our old friends Keith and Jan for coffee. We found a shady spot and set out our tables and chairs in the middle of the tow-path. We had to shuffle about sometimes to let cyclists and walkers through and I dare say they might have mumbled a bit under their breath, but we were too busy talking to take any heed. Later that afternoon, we arrived in our old home town and moored once again on the Water Park, ready for the long slog through Leicester. We'd decided to take a day off on Thursday to visit our friends and restock our provisions – the Co-op do really well out of us! The day was overcast and muggy as we walked through the village and up the hill, passing by our old house and thinking how different our lives would have been if we'd stayed there. We visited our friends and came away loaded down with home-grown tomatoes, cabbages and apples – no scurvy on this boat with those lovely goodies! Thanks Jan and Keith – we'll be back soon.
There was no time to put my feet up and play scrabble on my phone. As soon as we arrived home, I had a message to say another visitor was on their way. We tidied the grass cuttings and assorted spiders out of the bows and made ourselves presentable and very soon the lovely Celia arrived to see for herself what this boating lark is all about. We swept her off along the Soar for a mini cruise in the late afternoon sun, the weather was perfect and the river looked beautiful as we swept under the ring-road towards Belgrave. Finding the winding hole was a little tricky, but Captain Carl didn't let us down and we chugged back to Birstall in time for Celia to join the rush hour traffic back to Lincolnshire. Come back soon Celia.
It was raining Friday morning and I'd almost run out of dog food so we decided to stay put and I caught the bus into town for Minced Morsels and came back with a Panasonic Lumix camera. I know, its not going to be any good for Tricky but I'm really happy to be able to take decent photos at long last. I'm hoping for Kingfishers but so far I only have a pair of Canadian Lovebirds. Do you remember the couple who were visiting the Bell Foundry in Loughborough? Well we met them again, coming up through the lock in Birstall on Friday afternoon and they were having a bit of trouble with the heavy gates. Shirley-Ann and Mike are taking their hire boat around the Leicester Ring from Sawley (their boat is called Sawley Tempted – how cute!) It was half past one in the afternoon and Shirley-Ann told me that they were carrying on through Leicester that day. I was horrified – those locks are hard work, I have to gird my loins and take a run at them and Carl and I are a good few years younger than them. So we cast off our lines and set off with them, the sun came out and Leicester did its best to look welcoming as we struggled through Belgrave and along the Mile towards the Football Stadium. We arrived at Kings Lock in the early evening and collapsed into their boat for rum and coke before returning to our boat for a hasty chicken curry, leaving Mike and Shirley-Ann to their tinned beef and veg pie. It's been a pleasure to spend time with such lovely people and we'll miss them tomorrow as they go up Foxton locks on their way back to Sawley. I am totally in awe of their amazing energy and spirit of adventure; they're sailors, mountaineers, skiers and naturists – I didn't enquire too much in to that last one, but Mike had a twinkle in his eye when he wore his 'Nudists are Cool' sweat shirt to the pub last night!
After all this excitement, I'll be mostly resting tomorrow – I might wander over the fields to the Fleckney Co-op, just for a change.
Love as Always
The Floating Chandlers

PS I have taken loads of photos with my new camera but I haven't worked out how to download them yet. Maybe next week!

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Banging About

Morning All

As usual, when we get back aboard after a spell away, I spent the first hour unpacking and saying hello to the boat we love. The first job is to make up the bed and as the clean sheets waft their scent through the cabin, I'm almost tempted to climb in for a nap. We always feel exhausted after a few weeks ashore and I'm looking forward to winding down to 4 miles an hour again. Captain Carl is busy with the outside jobs – settling the gangplank and life-ring in their usual places and fondling his beloved solar panels. I'm checking for spiders and stowing essentials in their rightful places, the fridge is humming and the kettle is coming to boil for a much needed cuppa. It's good to be home.

Anyone who saw us trying to load the car on Friday morning might have worried that a murder was about to be committed. We had several goes at trying to get the freshly painted top-box into the back of the car before Carl got the screwdriver out and removed the feet. It was still a struggle and I'm afraid some of the new grey paint was removed in the loading process and angry words exchanged before it finally slid into place. It was worth all the effort to get it back to the boat, once we'd prised it out of the car and got it up on the roof, it looked very smart. Carl has already spent several hours filling it with spares ropes, fenders, mooring pins and the wheelbarrow tyres which are essential if you want to get a good night's sleep on a shallow mooring. In our early boating days, before we knew better, we didn't always get the boat tied up tightly and you don't notice that there's anything wrong until you get into bed. That's when you realise that the tapping noise that you could hardly hear earlier, sounds like a gong striking as soon as you put your head on the pillow. Or the water level has dropped and the bottom of the boat has grounded and every movement causes the bottom to shift slightly, which makes a sound like one of those rain sticks. We're much better at mooring these days – Carl ties the ropes and I go in and make a cup of tea and occasionally stick my head out of the hatch with helpful advice. 'We're still banging about' I say and Carl rearranges the ropes and fenders again until everyone is happy.

It seemed like a good idea to bring the tiller arm home when we left the boat in August. We'd had a slight 'hang up' at a lock on the Weaver and the tiller arm got caught in the lock gate. The articulated hinge was stretched out of shape – nothing serious, it just needed a good bashing with a hammer to straighten it out. Carl did a temporary repair but thought he could do a better job at home, where he had more tools and a vice. Unfortunately, the tiller arm is still under the chest of drawers at home and it wasn't until we wanted to cast off that Carl realised it was missing. We really didn't want to drive all the way home to collect the forgotten arm so we put our thinking caps on and tried a variety of solutions. First we dismantled the sweeping brush and tried the handle but it was too thin. Then we found an old chair leg that we'd picked up for firewood – it was too fat. Finally, Carl whittled a bit of stick and it was just right and so we set off on our Autumn Cruise with Tricky in her usual place on the roof and the sun on our backs. Perfick!

September can be a glorious month – our first narrow-boat holiday was in September and when I look back through the boating diaries, we've often had lovely, sunny days with long spells of dry weather in September. We made the best of the sunshine on Friday and chugged through Willington and dropped down through Stenson Lock arriving at our Swarkestone mooring before the rain set in. I love a rainy evening when we're moored up and cosy. I'm also enjoying my morning walks along the tow-path with Tricky, although she doesn't seem to be perking up like she normally does. Anyone know why my pampered pooch might be so depressed? The hedgerows are dripping with blackberries and the trees are just thinking about changing into their autumn finery. This morning, there was a heavy dew clinging to the boat and my summer sandals were soaked as soon as I stepped ashore. I reluctantly dusted off my walking boots and clopped off down to the lock feeling like a newly-shod shire horse. My sandals have been drying on the roof all day – the forecast for this week is 'Scorchio' – I'll need them for at least one more week before they retire to a dustbin. I've had to mend them with string and I don't expect the temporary lash up to last long, I just hope they don't fail as I'm crossing a lock.

I've downloaded a book that I've been meaning to read for a long time, it's called 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves'. The author writes about the apostrophe in a very humorous way but I'm sorry to say that I sometimes don't get the joke, so abysmal is my grasp of punctuation. I thought I'd better pay more attention to my grammar, now that 'The Jottings' are in print. Perhaps I should rename them to attract a wider audience – maybe I could call them 'Hedgerow Floggings' or '57 feet of Grey Paint' and change my name to Saucy Sally. Well, now that you're all laughing, I'll leave you to your Monday morning chores while I get back to wielding my windlass. Next week we'll be heading for the delights of Loughborough and Barrow on Soar and I'll write more then. I hope you're enjoying this last burst of summer as much as we are.

Love as Always

The Floating Chandlers