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.