Sunday, 19 March 2017

Gas and Air

Morning All

It's a chilly, windy, March day here in Braunston. It's the kind of weather you'd expect for March but a little disappointing after the warm sun and gentle breezes that have wafted us along from Alrewas. The wind is blowing really hard here, turning the placid canal into frothing, rippling rapids that rock the boat and make Tricky so nervous that she wants to sit outside on the towpath in case we sink.

I didn't need any persuading to stay put today, we're only a couple of miles outside of Braunston village and I'm in no hurry to get there. The locks change from narrow to broad in Braunston and that's where the hard work really starts. I'm fairly sure that the rest of our journey to Bath consists of broad locks, river locks and lift bridges – some of which are notoriously difficult. I've got the Ibruprofen gel on standby! This week has been a lockwheelers delight – miles and miles of canal without a lock in sight. Captain Carl has been well supplied with hot drinks and Tunnock bars and I've had time to make scones and bubble up a casserole on the stove – proper boating fare. I've also had time to get to grips with Carl's camera and I've taken some photos that you might be interested in including a long distance shot of a spectacular white heron in flight. Has anyone else seen a white heron? Are they rare?

White Heron - Hawkesbury Junction

As it's still so early in the season, I've not quite reached my physical peak (no smirking please!) and I was sure I'd need gas and air to tackle the Atherstone flight (only eleven narrow locks). Carl promised me a trip to 'The Larder'(forties themed cafe) when we reached the top, which spurred me on and I skipped up the first two pairs. When we reached the flight of five, they were all empty, just waiting for us to open the gates and glide in. My luck held until we reached the last two and saw all the volunteers in a huddle at the top, guarding a lock full of water – I still don't know why. I expected they would see us coming and open the paddles but nothing happened. The Canals and Rivers Trust (what on earth was wrong with their old name, British Waterways!) are strapped for cash so the full-time Lock-keepers, that knew what they were doing, have mostly been made redundant and their cottages sold off. Volunteers are being recruited in some places, to fill the gap but they have a hard task to live up to the knowledge and wit of the old Lock-keepers. I'm always grateful for any help however and these guys couldn't have been nicer once they realised we were there – they opened and closed the paddles and gates for me and I skipped off into town for my much anticipated milky coffee and spammy eggs.
Nice clock Carl

The weather remained balmy for the run up through Nuneaton and it was so warm on Wednesday afternoon that I was able to walk Tricky without a coat (me not her). The tables outside The Greyhound pub were crowded with people enjoying the warmth and the Cheese Boat and the Wine Boat were both open for business from their prime moorings on the Hawksbury Junction. Of curse it was too good to last and it was back to gloves and hats when we set off the next morning. It was so chilly that Tricky kept running down to the stove for a warm – well, that might be because she was following me!

After a short chug on Friday morning, we squeezed into the last space at the top of the Hillmorton Locks so I could catch the bus into Rugby town. It's always an adventure trying to catch a bus from a place you're not familiar with – I can usually get into town alright, its finding the right stop on the way back that's often the problem. I thought I'd been really clever by taking a photo of the road name on the way in but when I showed it to the bus driver, he shrugged and said he'd no idea where it was. Luckily, I'd made friends with a nice lady sitting in the seat in front and she put me off at the right stop. The reason for my urgent trip into town was to find a Specsavers to see if they could prevent me from going completely cross eyed trying to break in my new specs. I've persevered for two weeks and it wasn't getting any better. Finally, after much discussion, they agreed to re-test my eyes and found that the right lens was too strong – its no wonder I couldn't see straight! This will be the third pair they've made for me – I hope it's third time lucky.

My sleep was rudely interrupted last night by the glass rattling in the bathroom porthole. I fixed that by bunging a wad of toilet paper in the gap then I couldn't get back to sleep because the wind was causing waves to slap against the stern and the barge pole was tap dancing on the roof. Carl slept peacefully on while I'm wide awake, conjuring up all sorts of ruffians and pirates who I'm convinced are about to break in through the hatch. I normally sleep well so I can only think it must be the book I'm reading about a detective who can see dead people – its a handy way of solving crimes apparently but it's probably not the best bed-time reading available. Has anyone got any recommendations? I've just finished reading 'A Cake Shop In The Garden' ( thanks Debz) It had everything I like – boats, cakes and a love story, much more my scene.

In spite of the wind today, spring has definitely arrived on the canals. On our walk this morning, the grassy banks were fairly sprinkled with purple violets and the hedges are coming alive with their spring greenness just as the blackthorns are coming to the end of their beautiful blossom. I've only seen a few lambs this year, but they didn't let me down when at last I spied some gambolling and skipping along the banks by the canal. The ducks are out patrolling the water and performing their yearly mating ritual. It's not a pretty sight - the drake pecks the hell out of the poor little duckette, stands on her back and tries to drown her – the poor thing seems to be under water for most of the performance, only popping up occasionally to quack pathetically. If you ever get tired of watching the telly, come out on the canals and watch ducks – I promise, you won't be bored!

That's all from me for this week – it's nice to be back.

Love and Hugs as always

The Floating Chandlers  

PS Here's a picture of a nice slice of cake especially for my sister Jenny - it was Courgette and Avocado with Pistachio and Primrose decoration supplied by the Papillon Cafe in Rugby - scrumptious.

Courgette and Avocado Cake from The Papillon Cafe in Rugby

Unusual window boxes on a cottage called Brighter Morn

Evening stroll