Sunday, 30 October 2016

Fairy Gulls

Morning World
Have you missed me? I've missed writing my weekly witterings and getting your emails full of news and chat and I'm so happy to be back aboard our lovely 'Lady' and chugging up the Trent and Mersey once more. We decided we'd had enough of broad locks for this year, so the destination could only be our favourite sausage centre – Alrewas. It's not a long journey - there are only 6 narrow locks between our moorings and Alrewas but even so, we spread the locks out over two days – no sense in rushing is there! On the first day we seemed to encounter those annoying treacle people at every lock. I'm sure I've mentioned them before - they creep everywhere on tick-over and can't seem to grasp when the lock gates have opened and they can bring their boat out. They stand there gazing into space before finally easing the throttle up and edging very carefully out of the lock. I'm gritting my teeth and biting my tongue in case I should accidentally spit out some words of encouragement and spoil both our days. The warmth of the sun on our faces and the promise of a few settled days soon lulled us back into the waterways world of calm and peace and we moored up and left the treacle people to it.
It's very quiet on the canals once half term is over, and we're happy to cruise along with only the ducks for company. The marinas are full of boats that have been bedded down for the winter and I wonder how many of them are kept as floating cottages, visited by their work weary owners when they can snatch a few hours away from their labours. When we had our first boat, Moonshine, we would be off every weekend, whatever the weather. We kept a folding crate in the utility room and during the week, I would fill it with things that we would need for a boating weekend. Clean sheets for the bed, suitable clothes for the weather and treats for the Captain. We'd be up early on Saturday morning, load the cat into her basket and zoom off up the motorway to our moorings. We always had to cruise the way we were facing so one week we'd go to Alrewas and the next we'd go to Shardlow. The first long trip we had was in 2007 – some of you may remember that it rained a lot that year. We chose to take our little Moonshine to Northampton up the River Soar. We made it there OK but heavy storms hit us on the way back and we were marooned in Leicester Marina for 6 whole weeks before we could make the journey back to our moorings on the Trent and Mersey. It almost put me off boating for good and we still avoid rivers when there's been a lot of rain. No danger of that on this trip, the river Trent is so low that we had to abandon our plans to moor on the riverbank at Wychnor. Carl wanted to touch up the paintwork and the bit he wanted to paint was below the level of the bank. Instead, we chugged on through the next lock and moored opposite the wharf. It's a great place to moor, right by the water point and the path is nice and wide so Carl could get on with his painting while I skipped off to the butchers with Tricky.
Our Sunday stroll along the tow-path this morning was damp and chilly but a Kingfisher streaked by and warmed our hearts with his piping call and that wonderful splash of colour which is twice as potent when viewed against the murky browns and greys of the dull morning. During our first few years of living aboard we experienced every kind of weather but the days I remember most are those misty, autumnal mornings with the low sun glinting off the black water and fiery trees creating a breathtaking backdrop for the grey skies
Fairy Gulls
. The sun was reluctant to put in an appearance this morning as we set off from Alrewas but, as we rounded a bend in the river, a flock of fairy gulls* lined up along the footbridge, silently saluting our passage as we swished past their roost then, as one, they all rose up into the air and swooped off across the fields. A willow tree at Wychnor had a gathering of long-tailed tits:they are nervous birds, chattering and fluttering in the branches, waiting for the next game of follow-my-leader to begin, then they too rise up and flit away across the fields.
Phew – I seem to have gone all poetic. Better get back to boating! I took a turn on the tiller on Friday and managed a perfect reverse into Shobnall Marina for fuel. I was surprised it went so well but I didn't gloat in case Captain Carl decides to make it a permanent arrangement - I fear we'd need a lot more paint as I tend to scrape along the sides a lot more than Carl does. I hardly ever steer – I much prefer doing the locks and, if you've seen me recently, you'll have noticed that it keeps me in great shape. That was, of course, an ironic remark.
I'm glad to say that I've not been idle on this trip while Carl has been busy painting, I cleaned the windows and polished away the black dots left by the dreaded Cratch Spider. No matter how many times I take them ashore they always manage to stowaway again in the folds of the cover or in the log basket. They are in for a jolly time this winter, I've made them their very own illuminations by scrunching a string of solar lights into a garden lantern and hanging it from a hook on the cratch board. Every evening the lights comes on and make a welcoming light over the bow doors, what a shame that only the spiders will see it.
Right, that's it from me – the batteries are running out and so am I. See you all for the 'Christmas Special'
Love as Always
The Floating Chandlers

A naughty cocker spaniel tried to run away with the sticks when Carl was chopping kindling – Carl wasn't too bothered, he says its better that they steal it rather than giving it a soaking!

* I've no idea what make those fairy gulls are – they're the little dainty ones, perhaps some keen twitcher can put me right.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Running For Home

Morning All
A beautiful day

Now I've got my breath back, I thought I'd fill you in on events since my last Jotting. I can honestly say that it's a while since I worked so hard. I don't recommend the '50 Locks in Three Days' diet as a way of life, but it shifted a spare tyre and at least one of my chins as we raced back to our home mooring last week. Why all the rush? I hear you ask. Well, its the phone call that every boater dreads – someone very dear is taken ill and you want to get there as soon as possible. We set off from Market Harborough early on Friday morning, Carl on the tiller and Tricky and I trotting along the dewy tow-path, hoping that the weather would be kind to us. There was a crisp freshness to the morning and a Kingfisher flashed brilliantly along in front of us, wishing us a safe journey. I took this as a good omen and tried not to think about the hard slog of 50 broad locks standing between us and home.

I spent Friday morning pottering in the cabin as we chugged along, making a pasta sauce for later and downloading the practise shots I've taken with my new camera. I'm very pleased with it although, on reflection, I may have to refrain from taking 'bursts' of pictures. I have a great many boring, green photos with no central image. I did manage a panoramic shot, which pleased me no end, but I'm sorry to say I still managed to take pictures of my feet and some blurry butterflies which aren't going to make it into the family album. Thank heavens for digital photography and the delete button. Remember how we used to post off our films to Trueprint and get a folder of disappointing pictures back – I'm glad we've moved on from those days.

We managed 19 miles and 19 locks on the first day although we were flagging a bit by the time we caught up with Kevin and Nicola just through Kilby Bridge. Broad locks are so much easier with two boats and, with their help, we got as far as Gee's Bridge on the first day. I'm not sure they wanted to start off quite so early on Saturday morning but they didn't fancy the slog through Leicester on their own either so we all set off together, in the early morning mist, towards Blue Bank Lock. The sun came out and cheered us through the backwaters of Aylestone and the Leicester Mile was busy with rowers as we left Freeman's Meadow Lock and passed through the heart of the city. There were a few early morning drinkers hanging around Limekiln Lock and then we were through Belgrave and out onto the Soar, swooping along through the trees and under the bridges, speeding along with the current towards Birstall. Our boating partners left us here and waved us off as we slipped through the Water Park towards Thurmaston – we were sorry to leave them behind but there wasn't time to miss them as we reached the next lock just in time to join a band of pensioner pirates for the next part of our journey. A very sprightly 85 year old was celebrating her birthday and joy of joys – their hired boat was fully crewed. We made cracking time through the next four locks to Mountsorrel and I had time to dress Tricky in her skull and crossbones bandana and get out my pirate hat and plastic cutlass so I could do a bit of 'Avast there' and ' Aaaaar – Jim lad' to entertain the birthday girl. We left them giggling and chortling at the Waterside pub but we couldn't linger as we wanted to get to Zouch or further before dark. We pressed on towards Barrow-on-Soar where we met a couple of cyclists on the water, they were out for a back-breaking afternoon of pedalling on one of those floating bikes. 'That looks like hard work' I called out to them. 'We've been out since Tuesday - is it far to London?' came the reply. Well, you have to have a sense of humour to pay good money for a bike ride on the river!

Our luck still held as Barrow Deep lock came into view and we saw there was already a boat in the lock waiting for us to join them – the day couldn't have gone any better. When we finally moored just above Kegworth Deep Lock, I was wondering where I would find the energy for another early start especially as the weather forecast was for overnight rain with intermittent showers through the next day. I woke early when the rain started drumming on the roof and Tricky and I dragged ourselves out of bed and trudged up to the first lock. Neither of us wanted to be out so early in the gloomy drizzle, we both had wet feet and Tricky couldn't wait to jump aboard at the first available opportunity. I couldn't blame her and I felt pretty miserable too as we left the Soar behind and turned onto the River Trent. Sunday was the hardest day. I won't go into the dull details of broken paddles and queues at almost every lock except to tell you that the hi-light of our day was seeing our friends Pat and Malc – they came to find us in their car and helped us through two locks before whizzing back to the mooring to catch our ropes as we finally reached home.

I'm pleased to report that Mum is home now and getting on with things in her usual stoical fashion. We are staying with her and happily pottering around, admiring her lovely garden and putting back the spare tyre and double chins with trips out for coffee and cake. Our autumn cruise didn't quite go as planned but we have really enjoyed our trip to Market Harborough and back. We'll be hanging up our windlasses for a while so that's about all from us for this year. Thanks to all of you who have read 'The Jottings' – I shall miss you all and look forward to writing again when we cast off once more.

Love as Always
The Floating Chandlers

PS Just outside Foxton there is a house overlooking the canal with a Latin inscription on the gable which reads 'Sero, Sed, Serio'. I was curious enough to google it and the translation made me laugh, apparently it means 'We're richer than you' – well that's a matter of opinion matey!

A pretty bridge on the Market Harborough Arm

Lovely to have Ian and Di aboard at last - come back soon.

Translates as 'We're Richer Then You' according to Google  
Someone went for a dip and left these behind! We passed these lonely boots on the way and they were still there on our return.  

Captain Carl lends a hand with a heavy gate