Sunday, 9 April 2017

Church Bells and Yoga

 Happy Monday Morning from the metropolis of Berkhamstead

We've squeezed onto the last available mooring in this busy town and even managed to find a good spot with the sun on our panels, which makes Carl a happy Captain - loadsa power.

This week we have travelled from the Egg Mooring in Milton Keynes to the Duckling Moorings here in Berko (that's what the locals call it). Mummy Duck was taking her brood of 9 along the line of moored boats and almost everyone stopped to watch. I was deep in conversation with some lovely Australians that I'd adopted at the last lock but I couldn't concentrate once I'd seen the ducklings. I'm smiling as I write this - lambs last week, ducklings this week and yesterday, finally, we saw our first Kingfisher of the year.

I've had a few queries about the Egg this week - I should have realised not everyone watches George Clark and therefore quite a few of you hadn't a clue what the Exbury Egg was all about. It was built by a man who wanted to commune with nature and built this egg shaped floating home so he could be 'at one' with his surroundings. If anyone is interested in reading more then have a look at I couldn't help thinking that his showering facilities left a lot to be desired and don't ask about the toilet unless you have a strong stomach.

On Monday, we moored by the bridge/lock in Fenny Stratford for the obligatory trip to IKEA - more of this later. I may have mentioned this lock before, it's unusual because it has a swing bridge across the middle which has to be opened before boats can enter the lock. It can cause a bit of head scratching the first time you have to go through it but I feel like an old hand and I lift the handle and swing the bridge with ease.  It's only when I need to swing it back that the I'm in trouble. I push and heave, trying to get it moving - nothing happens. Eventually, I walk to the other end of the bridge and find a hook preventing the bridge from closing accidentally - well, fancy that! Pride goes before a fall and all that jazz.

The highlight of the week was a trip to Bletchley Park on Tuesday. It's a short train journey away from the moorings at Fenny Stratford and well worth a visit if you're looking for somewhere interesting to take the children/parents over Easter. I think most of you will have heard of the Enigma Code but there's a whole back story that's captured in the huts and secret bunkers of the museum. You can try your hand at code breaking in the many interactive displays or you can hear the real life stories as told by the people who actually worked there. Some rooms use the magic of live images projected into the room where the stories really happened, you could imagine yourself actually there. We loved the vintage cars and motorbikes on display in the garages and left the wonders of the Enigma machine till last and weren't disappointed.

We've made the most of this lovely weather, travelling through Leighton Buzzard and Marsworth, reaching today's mooring in Berkhamstead in glorious sunshine and soaring temperatures. It's busy here and I prefer the peaceful mooring we had on Thursday in Slapton. It was a one-boat spot with nothing to disturb our peace except the distant thrum of trains and a wren composing her own rhapsody from the hedge. It was warm enough to sit out with my crochet and Carl got on with one of the never ending paint jobs - there's always something that needs painting. Today, we're in the thick of things on a busy towpath - a never ending stream of prams, wheelchairs and walkers are vying for space with cyclists and runners. As I struggled up the Marsworth flight yesterday, baring my lily white arms for the first time this year, a group of Lycra clad ladies whinnied past, pony tails of lustrous hair bouncing and flicking. They were managing to talk and run at the same time and were skimming along the path on tippy toes, making their daily exercise look effortless. Tricky and I watched from the shade as we waited for the lock to fill, I don't know which I envied the most - the ability to run effortlessly or the long glossy locks.

Did I mention that we popped into IKEA this week? It's always a treat for Carl (yes - really!) he likes to stock up on batteries and I like to browse for innovative storage solutions. I'm trialling a stick-on caddy for the bathroom to hold the shower gels and shampoo. Carl says it will come unstuck but it's been a few days now and it's still up, so I'm hopeful. I'm most delighted with a little clock (Lottorp)that tells the time and temperature and has an alarm and timer function. That's how I know that most mornings this week it's been colder than a fridge inside the boat and, in spite of this lovely warm sun, it's still only April.

The village of Northchurch was a welcome sight yesterday after 11 locks taking us up and over the Tring summit. We're now starting the long trek down to London and the Thames at Brentford. We moored below the lock, in front of some very desirable properties with huge extensions and acres of bi-folding glass doors, making the most of their view across the valley to the village below. The bells were ringing out from the nearby church, which we quite liked until it became obvious that they were going for some kind of record. They stopped for a break about half past five then rang continuously till 8pm by which time we'd tuned into a Tony Blackburn podcast before Carl turned into Quasimodo!

Quirky floor in Ollie Vee's Cafe

I almost forgot to mention our trip into Leighton Buzzard, a lovely market town that still retains some English charm, a handful of independent shops and a really quirky cafe called Ollie Vee's. The decor is a mixture of jungle chic and vintage vinyl and as we settled at a cosy table for two, Ella Fitzgerald began singing 'Every Time I Say Goodbye' from the elderly record deck. The two ladies at the next table joined in and so did I - it's a beautiful song but very sad. The ladies were replaced by a couple of likely lads - one arrived on a vintage Vespa scooter and breezed in like a latter day Mod looking for his lost youth and the other came in with a swollen head. He soon told us all that he had a blocked saliva gland which had caused the whole of one side of his head to swell. It didn't go down too well with my orange and poppyseed cake but that's the price you pay for quirky!

Carl sends his regards and says he'll write soon but he's got hay fever at the moment so please can he be excused until his eyes stop watering.

Love and Hugs as always
The Floating Chandlers

PS Walking along the towpath from Slapton, I was surprised to find a couple laying down on the towpath. Ey Up, I thought. It's a bit early for hanky panky. It turns out they were doing Yoga!! Not seen that on the towpath before.

He's sworn to secrecy - Bletchey Park

Marsworth cottage

Marsworth Church

Thatched Cottage on the Grand Union

Barge with a view - Marsworth

More painting -  Marsworth Junction
Library Bletchley Park