Sunday, 1 October 2017

Winding Down

 Morning All

My heart sank this morning as the month turned over to October and I realised that the boating year is almost over. The mixed weather reflects my mixed feelings about going home - I'm looking forward to being closer to my Mum and being able to nip off in the car when the mood takes me but I'll miss Carl, who'll disappear into his music room until February! I'll miss the wandering lifestyle and the ever changing view from the side hatch in the galley but I'm looking forward to revisiting the wool mountain under my bed and starting a new winter project. I'll have a freezer full of ice cubes for my new gin craving and I left at least one bottle of Baileys on standby in case I get the 'Missing the Boat Blues' during November. I'll probably be signing up for 'Dry January' after all that boozing!
Morning coffee in Audlem

Warm enough to sit outside

After the gorgeous weather last Sunday, when Claire and I needed sunscreen for our trip around the M25, we awoke on Monday morning to the sound of rain pounding on the roof. We'd planned to walk into Nantwich for a few supplies before we trekked off along the next stretch of the Shroppie towards Audlem. In the end, I opted for a short walk with Tricky while Carl went off with the rucksack and I settled for a cosy morning on the laptop, catching up with the Jottings. It wasn't until lunchtime, when I tried to get out of my chair that I found my back had gone on strike! I think it had seized up after sitting for so long on Sunday, as we raced around London and then back to Nantwich.   It took several days and a few doses of Ibuprofen before it cleared up and I was worried about tackling the 15 locks of the Audlem flight, but we took a long tea break in the middle and it was fine. Luckily my 'Beetle Back' only lasted a few days and I'm back to normal, splashing along the muddy towpath in my new blue boots – it's so nice to have dry feet after my morning walks, now I wonder if they make them in Tricky sizes!

It was Thursday before we started up the Audlem flight. The early morning mist cleared and we were treated to a long sunny afternoon, just the most perfect day for it. There was hardly any wind and the first flurry of boats cleared quickly, including the 'John McEnroe' of solo boaters who moaned at me for 'stealing' his lock. The fact that he was moored on the water point with his hose connected seemed to have completely escaped his notice and when I apologised and said he was welcome to go in front as we weren't in a hurry, that just seemed to enrage him further. He began a 'John McEnroe' style of rant about 'you people' and how he was 'sick of us all'. I couldn't appease him whatever I said, so I walked off and left him to it. The next three boaters I met coming down the flight, had all offended him in some way and had been berated for some minor breach of etiquette. Beware Mr Grumpy Boater - we've all got your boat name and your fame will spread! I soon forgot him as I met the very handsomely bearded Allan, waiting to bring his boat into the lock. I heard all about his '5 minutes of fame' filming a TV advert for the local channel – I must admit I was a little envious as my own TV appearance was so fleeting as to be invisible!. While I was working the lock for him, an elderly man came along walking his greyhound and stopped to help me open and close the gates for Carl coming into the lock. He let down the paddles without a windlass, using his bare hands to control the speed. The old-time boaters used to do it that way so I asked him if he was a boater. Sadly, he's had to give it up as he's not fit enough any longer, but his love of boats hasn't diminished since he was a boy. From the age of 7, he would help the working boats through the locks, then hitch a ride to the first bridge as a reward. He has seen many changes on the waterways but he still walks along here every day, offering a helping hand when he can and sharing his stories with those of us fortunate enough to meet him. Meeting those two 'gentle men' more than made up for the ranting of Mr McEnroe.
More mushrooms
This week we have travelled from Nantwich to Market Drayton, sharing the waterways with other hardy boaters. We don't mind the muddy tow-paths and the chilly mornings as we get to enjoy the quietness that has descended on the canals now that the holiday season is over. The stove has been lit every morning and the 'big kettle' has appeared from its summer hiding place in the depths of the cupboard under the sink. The long summer evenings are a distant memory, the deckchairs are stowed away and the cabin is strewn with our winter jumpers which are sure to be needed any time soon.
 Spot the Red Admiral on Damson Tree
It was a sunny afternoon when I started writing this but the clouds have rolled in and the windows are speckled with the first rain drops. It's a typical autumn day really - a quiet running down of the year, leaves falling, sun slipping further down the horizon and the unmistakeable changing of the seasons makes me think longingly of the long hot day of summer that we had. (I do love a bit of irony don't you - it's almost as satisfying as sarcasm!) I haven't seen a swallow this week and I wonder if they've flown off early this year. I'm always sad to see them go and there is no sign of the 'Indian Summer' that I hoped for but I live in hope of a few more sunny days before we tie up for good at the end of October.
Sunset by lock 3 Audlem
This week we will be dawdling down to Norbury, ready to go into their dry dock for blacking. Carl has a list of jobs that he wants to get done while the boat is out of the water and I'll probably be walking the tow-paths looking for someone to talk to, just to pass the time. I don't like being in dock - the boat doesn't rock me to sleep and the view from the hatch isn't very inspiring. We will have an electric hook up which is always a treat as it means I can boil the electric kettle and use the electric toaster without needing to turn on the engine - I know that doesn't sound like much of a luxury but it really is a novelty after 7 months out on the boat. I've forgotten what it's like to have a shower without first removing the little step and the bucket that live in there because I can't find anywhere else handy for them. I'm looking forward to having a shower that lasts longer than 30 seconds and drying my hair properly instead of air drying it as I walk Tricky down the towpath. I'm longing to throw my smalls into the tumble dryer after months of using the "Peggy thing' - you know what I mean, one of those little plastic hangers that caravanners use on their holidays.

I'll skip next week if that's OK with you, unless something exciting happens. Like the year, I'm winding down and running out of things to say. Have a lovely week everyone.

Love and hugs
The Floating Chandlers

PS Happy Grandparents Day or #Older Peoples Day for the more modern amongst you. Another scam dreamt up by Hallmark Cards or am I being totally cynical?

PPS Can someone send me some new ideas for supper. I seem to have lost my mojo when it comes to thinking of something appetising for two hungry boaters. What's your favourite standby meal?
Gothic Beauty - Audlem Cemetary

Lock 12 Audlem - a beast of a run-off
Shropshire Skies

Shropshire Skies part 2
Is it tea time?