Sunday, 22 October 2017

I'm Walking Backwards To Christmas

Morning All
Tricky's leaving home again

It's hard to believe that the cabin is bathed in sunshine as I write this. After a sullen, grey start to the day, the clouds cleared away and an incredibly blue sky appeared here in Alrewas. I'm not fooled by appearances though, the wind is gusting along the water and rattling the windows, the cratch cover is flapping and the fenders are tapping against the hull. Every time there is an extra big gust, the boat lurches and the ropes creak in protest. This upsets Tricky, who stops snoring and sits on the step looking worried. We stayed put yesterday as the forecast was for 50 mph winds due to Storm Brian. We left Tricky with our friends on Naga Queen and caught the bus into Lichfield for a browse around the antique shops and a wander down the High Street. I was amazed to find that some shops are already decorated up for Xmas and, before I knew it, I was caught up in the excitement and bought 2 presents and 3 balls of wool while Carl was distracted with a new Guitarist magazine. I can no longer hide the wool mountain which is exploding out from under the sofa - the question is, will it fit in the car for the return trip to our winter quarters.
Cream roof with red trim

In spite of the wind, Carl is up on the roof again - he's determined to get one more coat of paint on the handrail before we moor up for the winter. While we were in dry dock in Norbury, Carl spent 3 days, a pair of jeans, the skin off both knees and numerous rollers and brushes, painting the boat roof cream. It does look very smart, especially now that Carl has added the red detailing on the forward hatch, but we're not sure if we like it. Carl is already thinking he will have to redo it - I'm hoping that it will grow on us.
Red sun - weird!

Since we left the dry dock in Norbury 2 weeks ago, we've been pottering down the Shroppie, enjoying a final burst of summery warmth caused by Hurricane Ophelia drawing up warm air from Spain. It also threw a cloud of Saharan sand up into the sky and turned the sun red - a very strange sight, I'm not particularly superstitious, but it was enough to give you the shivers. We've been travelling back to base with our friends Pat and Malc on the Naga Queen - Tricky is thrilled about this as she absolutely adores them both and can't wait to jump aboard and decorate their mats with dog hairs and her own unique doggy perfume which smells like old socks. We've had some very happy evenings singing along to everything from Patsy Cline to Freddie Mercury - our rendition of 'Barcelona' was quite unique I thought. We had a slight hiccup on Monday when we chugged off towards Autherley leaving Pat and Malc to follow on behind. I went below and saw I had 5 missed calls from Pat - we hardly ever ring each other, so I knew at once that something was wrong. Their alternator had failed and they were waiting for the breakdown man to arrive. I have to hand it to the man from River and Canal Rescue - he walked 1 mile down the tow-path with his toolbox to get to them, fitted the replacement alternator and got them going again just as we arrived back from Autherley Junction to see if we could assist. It was, by now, late afternoon so we decided to stay another night at the same mooring we had set off from that morning although we were now facing the wrong way. Carl had the bright idea of turning at the winding hole by bridge 7 and reversing the couple of hundred yards back to the mooring spot - it sounds so easy on paper but try as I might, I couldn't keep the boat in a straight line. We were in the bushes on the off side, banging into the rocky shelf on the tow-path side and getting through a bridge backwards is a nightmare. Note to self - don't volunteer to steer the boat in reverse ever again even if Carl is on the bank with the rope!
Boat looking smart

As this is the last jotting for a while, and we're only 6 locks away from our home mooring, I can tell you that this year we have travelled 1005 miles, 249 narrow locks, 312 broad locks, 56 assorted river locks, 47 swing bridges, 21 lift bridges and 15 tunnels. We've seen the seasons change from the stern of our boat as we chugged along. We've watched the spring lambs and the ducklings, welcomed the return of the swallows and their aerial displays, delighted in the kingfishers, the herons, and the grebes. We never tire of the dabbling ducks or the regal swans and the cheeky robins that sing as we pass by. We've chugged through towns and cities, moored in the depths of the countryside, met strangers who became friends and renewed old friendships. We've shared locks and stories with lots of boaters along the way and been out in every kind of weather that you can think of (except snow - none so far!) This year, for the first time, I've made a photographic record of our travels and tried to capture the drama of a stormy sky or a setting sun - not always successfully, but I hope to improve. Finally, a quick word about Captain Carl who clears the weed hatch, empties the despatch box, stokes the stove, chops the wood, paints the boat, changes the oil and only asks that I feed him cheese sandwiches for lunch and Penguins with his morning coffee in return for his endless dedication to keeping our happy ship afloat. Thanks for another brilliant boating year and lets start planning our next cruise.

So that's it from me for this year, thanks for reading the Hedgerow Jottings and I hope to be back next year with more boating tales.

Take care
Love and Hugs
The Floating Chandlers

ps I'm Walking Backwards For Christmas is from the Goon Show – of course you all knew that, didn't you!
Fly Agaric

Knitted Fly Agaric

Wood End Lock, Fradley

Grey skies over Alrewas

Asian Giant Hornet - very nasty