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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

How to Hang Side Fenders on the Shropshire Union

If you associate enough with older people who do enjoy their lives, who are not stored away in any golden ghettos, you will gain a sense of continuity and of the possibility for a full life. ~Margaret Mead, American anthropologist, 1901-1978

     Les loved the Shroppie and so do I. There is still some countryside left up here in Cheshire, it borders Wales, and the people up here are friendly in the way country folk tend to be, even with strangers. Even the fishermen are friendly!!!
     I finally cruised to the bottom of Audlem locks and moored up on the two week moorings. It was a week ago on Friday about 10:15 am and the sun was already unforgivably hot. These moorings are just back from the winding hole at the bottom of the lock flight and since they are general two week moorings there are no rings and there is the infamous Shroppie Shelf with which to contend.  I pulled slowly adjacent to an old replica working boat, gently passed it, pointed my bow in to the towpath, slowed some more and felt the bow gently tap the concrete canal side before inching back out again. I steered the stern in to the shelf and jumped the gap with the mid-line in hand and began to pull NBV back in parallel to the towpath when a slim, elderly gent with long white hair, a long white beard and mustache, and twinkling blue eyes appeared and asked kindly if I would like him to hold my mid-line while I moored up. I was happy to take him up on his offer, and we chatted as I pulled out a hammer and steel pins, grabbed bow and then stern mooring ropes and hammered pins in the hard, unforgiving, drought cracked ground. He suggested I turn my pins so the steel loops were at the back to make the pin more secure in the ground, and demonstrated to me how to loop the mooring rope around the body of the pin instead of the metal loop which can eventually break from metal stress.
     We introduced ourselves. His name is Tony and his boat is NB Foxglove. He travels with his partner/ significant other/ friend named Suzy whose sweet little boat NB Juspidoreous was moored directly behind Foxglove. I had first passed Suzy's boat on the Maccie last autumn, I called out to her then and told her how much I loved her paint job. Later on when I came out of Aqueduct marina mid January and was readying to pull in and set Church Minshull lock, a couple of boaters ambling along the cut offered to set it for me. It was Tony and Suzy! Her boat does not sport a professional glossy paint job. It is obviously hand painted by her but I simply love the colors of light and darker green, the autumn leaves on the side, and the tatted lace panels at the window hung with crystals. Her bow garden is glorious with flowers and trailing leaves. It was a pleasure to chat with them and I was impressed by the gentlemanly behavior of Tony, reminiscent of Les. They would have gotten on well. From Tony I learned a new and useful way of hanging fenders to deal with the bloody Shroppie Shelf.

I would never have thought of this on my own but it works perfectly. 
The boat moored in front of me used this unusual claw type mooring pin. The double tined claw is buried in the ground. This is only the second set I have seen in seven years and both boat owners bought the boats from somewhere on the Broads and the unusual pins came with their boats. I wish I could find a set to buy. They are perfect for mooring when the bank is sandy or too loose to hold a regular straight mooring pin. I have searched for them on-line and found nought.
    I am sussing out life in and around Audlem which is a lovely little village seven miles south of Nantwich with a population just over 2000. The flight of fifteen locks on traveling through the edge of the village raise the Shropshire Union Canal 93 feet over a  mile and a half to the Shropshire plain. The river Weaver passes west of the village and the canal sports a short aqueduct over the river near where I am moored. There is one school in the village but ten local clubs to keep locals busy: tennis, badminton, football, cricket, golf, pigeon racing (or pigeon-fancying), caravanning, bell ringing, cycling and bowls. For those who are fond of boats  and water the Shroppie passes right by The Shroppie Fly Pub with a bar shaped like the prow of a narrow boat and the Audlem Mill, built in 1915-1916 to mill grain into animal feed. Now it sports canalia of all kinds: books, basic hardware like lock windlasses and mooring pins, tea towels puzzles, children's  toys, art, embroidery and loads more. There is a small Co-op Grocery store to top up a few bits and bobs such as lettuce, mushroom and garlic. Williams of Audlem is my favorite shop on the main street. It is over a hundred years old and features an intriguing mixture of bits and bobs: scarves, bags, aprons, collectibles, stationery, glues, tools, oil, solvents, newspapers, and a few food snack items. I purchase my Saturday paper from Williams instead of the Co-op. They have scarves I sigh over but will not buy as they are not practical for me, 'nor do I need to add another scarf to my burgeoning collection. 
     Last Tuesday I decided to head in to Overwater marina for two days. It had been six months since I was last in a marina and I try to do this quarterly to give my batteries a really good charge, and wash everything inside and out while I have unlimited dedicated access to water and electric. It was ten pounds a night and well worth it. The folks there are very nice. The marina has a laid back, friendly vibe and it is clear from its design that wildlife and the environment are very important to the owners. I also had the opportunity to pay a visit to Steve and Angela on NB Tumbleweed who moor here. The small cafe even serves gluten free scones and cakes! I didn't try them but it is nice to know I could actually go there and find something I could eat. The thing with Crohn's Disease I am discovering is that I can eat the same thing on consecutive days and on one day be fine, and the next everything pours out of me in diarrhea so profound I dare not leave the boat. Afterward I feel totally spent, reincarnated as a limp dish rag that has been drug through a knot hole backward.
     My first day in the marina I had no shore power despite being hooked up properly. I was too exhausted and ill to do more than moor up, wash up a few things inside, wash all the curtains, and then rest. The possible issues that could be plaguing my shoreline power caused me to worry through most of a sleepless night and then at 4 am someone's bloody car alarm went off, ran for ten minutes before they woke up and shut it off and then it started up again twenty minutes later. I was up then for the rest of the morning. I had groceries delivered at 8 am and sorted out a few things on board. At 10 AM a marine engineer from Overwater Marina Services came to suss out the problem which turned out to be a relatively minor issue in the scheme of boats. The shoreline plug on the boat had given up the ghost after twelve years. Forty minutes later it had been replaced with a new plug and power was happily humming into my batteries. I flipped on the immersion heater and an hour later had a gloriously hot shower which temporarily revived me. It could have been so much worse. It could have been the £3000.00 Sterling pure sine wave combi-invertor which would have been a disaster.
    I am moored up back on the cut now, on two week moorings close enough to walk in to Audlem to dispose of my rubbish at the service point, pick up a newspaper from Williams and Co. and enjoy the beauty of the countryside. 

Morning mist flows over and down the hillocks in the adjacent farmer's fields.
At 5:30 AM one can witness nature painting the landscape with breathtaking beauty!
This shot appears almost prehistoric in its atmosphere. All that is missing are some dinosaurs at the pond edge dipping their long necks down for a drink...
...something like this Hadrosaur perhaps!
Tony's boat NB Foxglove in the morning mist.
NB The Angry Bull on the private mooring at the winding hole beside the golden cottage. The bottom lock on the Audlem flight is off to the left through the bridge hole. Scuttlebutt from locals informs me that the farmer who owns the fields on both side of the cut here did not own the cottage. Apparently he is a perpetually angry, nasty old git who delights in going out of his way to make life miserable for others. He bid on this cottage when it came up for sale a few years back but the owners didn't want to sell to him. In retaliation he refuses to allow delivery trucks on any kind to use the private road that leads on to this home, and he stacks plastic covered rounds of hay and straw directly behind the cottage to ruin their view. It just illustrates that not all lovely pictures tell the full story!
Access to the village is generally had at lock 13 which is three locks up from where I was moored at the bottom beyond the winding hole. There is a water point below this lock and local boaters who moor at the bottom and don't want to continue on up the lock flight will come up the first two locks, fill up with water at the water point and then reverse back down past the moored boats, down through the two locks and turn in the winding hole to moor up on the two week moorings. I  fill up once a week although generally I am only down by half a tank by then. A full tank of water, diesel and coal on the roof are my security! It used to be a full larder but things change.
This lovely cottage is just to the right of the lock gates in the picture above. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Boaty Books for Summer Reading

"I am a reader, not because I don't have a life, but because I choose to have many." ~Anonymous

     Reading did not come easily to me. I have three learning disabilities and one of them is dyslexia. I had to repeat first grade and in the summer in between the end of the first time and the repeat of the year I attended remedial reading classes with other children struggling to learn how to read. We sat in a circle in our little wooden school chairs and take took turns reading sections of our primary reader Fun With Dick and Jane out loud. I vaguely remember a phonics workbook, and day after frustrating day being unable to make any sense of the puzzle on the pages in front of me. I couldn't connect what the sounds we were making had to do with the tangled mass of meaningless letters in our book and when it was my turn to read I simply sat mute with my eyes on my shoes, except the moment near the end of the summer when the words suddenly untangled themselves, literally rearranging characters on the page and suddenly--suddenly I could read. I could read!!
     My paternal grandmother read Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass to me when I was four. I had a brilliant imagination at a very early age. I thought the description of Alice shrinking down to fit through a door to a garden, was a little girl who was actually visiting my Gran's garden! At four years old I thought her garden was huge and it seemed to match the description in Carroll's book. Gran took me to the Loussac Library in Anchorage to get my first library card when I was five and by the time I turned eight she had the distinction of having read every single book in the library.
     My paternal grandfather was Norwegian and he had the most wonderful stories, tales, and myths of the "old country' to tell me with his thick Norwegian accent. My desire for stories was fed by my Gran and Papa.
     Once I learned how to read I lived in an alternate universe every time I opened a book. I checked out a book on speed reading from the local library and by the end of my thirteenth year I was devouring books at a pace that has never slowed down. I made a count of the books I downloaded to Les' Kindle Fire from February 2017 to June 2018: two hundred and forty seven books and I've read every one of them. I retrieved them via BookBub. The majority of them were free and some were no more than 99 pence. Reading has saved my life more times than I can count. I am pretty sure Paradise involves a library full of delicious books I have yet to read. Les will be there, sitting in the sun with a book, my empty chair beside him. We were cultural touchstones and dictionaries for one another. We often sat side by side in our chairs reading. If his author was American, Les would query me every now and then about puzzling Yankee words and phrases. Likewise I would question my Best Beloved in return about British-isms that left me baffled.
     I am working on a book list that I can upload to a tab on this blog so I can share all the lovely books I've discovered with my readers. I have kept a list of all the books I've read since June 1993 when I finished my university degree and I could finally read for pleasure again. Today though I am sharing two books only and both are about boats! Mary South is an American author and Ernle Bradford is British.

The CURE for ANYTHING Is SALT WATER by Mary South


At forty, Mary South had a beautiful home, good friends, and a successful career in book publishing. But she couldn't help feeling that she was missing something intangible but essential. So she decided to go looking for it . . . at sea. Six months later she had quit her job, sold the house, and was living aboard a forty-foot, thirty-ton steel trawler she rechristened Bossanova. Despite her total lack of experience, South set out on her maiden voyage--a fifteen-hundred-mile odyssey from Florida to Maine--with her one-man, two-dog crew. But what began as the fulfillment of an idle wish became a crash course in navigating the complicated byways of the self. South's candid look at her life is bracing and laugh out loud funny. 
 Excerpt: "Not long ago,  I was probably a lot like you. I had a successful career, a pretty home, two dogs, and a fairly normal life. 
     All I kept were the dogs. 
     The one day in October 2003, I quit my good job and put my sweet house on the market. I packed a duffle bag of clothes and everything else I owned went in to storage. Within weeks I was the proud owner of an empty bank account and a 40-foot, 30-ton steel trawler that I had no idea who to run. I enrolled in nine weeks of seamanship school, and two weeks after my course ended, I pulled away from the dock on my very first trip: a 1500 mile journey through the Atlantic from Florida to Maine. 
     My transformation from normal person to unhinged mariner started casually enough..."  
     The author's candid and humorous insights into her life hit just the right spot for anyone who has ever taken stock of life and wondered if they were where they really wanted to be. The majority of us have experienced this but few have the courage to turn away from a conventional life and reach for a dream. Mary South did just this and she generously brings us along on her journey.

The Journeying Moon by Ernle Bradford

‘Life does not come again; if you have not lived during the days that were given to you, once only, then write it down as lost …’

Ernle Bradford was 21 years old when he read these words of Chekhov which were forever to haunt him. It was this simple truth that later prompted him and his wife to sell their flat and furniture, leave their jobs and, four months later, sail off to France in a ten-ton Dutch cutter, the Mother Goose. The Journeying Moon tells of their voyage through the French canals to Southern Italy and Greece and a peaceful existence off the beaten track. Ernle Bradford writes charmingly and evocatively of his Mediterranean adventures: of the people of Malta who were convinced he was from MI5; of his brushes with the Mafia on Sicily; of his experiences as ‘assistant naval adviser’ on a film unit in Palermo, and of the caves of Levanzo, which boast the southernmost examples of prehistoric European art.

Excerpt: "The first time you make a departure for a foreign coastline in your own boat is as unforgettable as first love...the rain had stopped and a soft mist sprawled over the river (The Seine) and the country. As we sat in the cockpit over breakfast MOTHER GOOSE seemed to float suspended in a gossamer world...the damp earth smelt rich with grass, trees, and flowers,the distilled essence of spring.  We were motoring through an innocent world--a morning such as one remembers from childhood."
     Bradford's prose is quite simply lush, full and rich with description that pulls in his readers. We cannot  help but sail along with Ernle; pick up this book and read the first few pages and you will be hooked.
     I include this message for one of my dearest friends, my heart and soul sister Karen Barron back in Pullman, Washington, USA: Although you were not aware of it, you travelled along with me through the pages of Bradford's boo; you and Charlie, sailing and living on Hana Maru. I could feel your presence sailing with me through Ernle's  exquisite prose as we were  kissed by the sun, the salted sea and the fragrant winds of the Mediterranean.
     Finally,  since this is a literary post I conclude with a poem for everyone suffering from the heat. I don't think anyone captures better how I feel in this miserable unremitting weather than one of my favorite poets, Marge Piercy, from her book Available Light, page 69.  


Dog Days Dogged Rag

The crickets rub their legs so fast they zizz
so I imagine their thin, dry legs sparking, 
starting a fire, except that nothing would catch

on this concave day when every piece of paper
feels like overcooked linguine. Wood
of table, chair exudes a tacky grease. 

This is not fire but only heat: life
in a slow pressure cooker. Steaming
preserves vitamins. Yet no predators

bound after prey. They are all sleeping
under bushes, bellies to the still cool
earth the compress of leaves has saved. 

Night comes as a clumsy lover pressing
you into clammy sheets; smothered
you gasp and loll, less a landed fish

than a drowning wombat who dreams
the thin dry air of mountaintops--not
its natural habitat, but is this steam table?

Surely I am cooked now. Turn me over,
sprinkle salt on me. Try me with garlic.
The other possibility is that god is a slug. 

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Coming Out of the Fog

"Behind my smile is a hurting heart, behind my laugh I'm falling apart, behind my smile is tears at night; now I'm a widow when once I was someone's wife." ~ Anonymous

     The fog that comes with grief is disorienting. It feels like a part of my mind is always on search mode somewhere out in the vast universe, seeking signs of Les, just as the giant antenna dishes at Aricibo sweep the universe looking for a signal from other intelligent life. This isn't something one can control; it is something that simply occurs like a computer program running silently in the back ground of your everyday desk top. It has taken me sixteen months to realize it is occurring covertly now instead of overtly as in the days, weeks and months after Les died when I searched for signs of him everywhere accompanied by a different kind of fog--viscous and impenetrable; it is one's soul wrapping our mind and heart in cotton wool for protection from the awful reality of a life unwanted--a loss too deep to bear that manifests itself every single day---forever.
     There is nothing like a serious illness to slap one around a bit and say, "Snap out of it!!"
     With a clear diagnosis I now look back and realize I have been ill with Crohn's Disease for a long time--at least since January of 2016 when Les' health began to fail. Malnutrition accompanies this illness. We in the developed world of the 21st century have no real idea what that is and what it feels like. We think of it as starving children in Bangladesh or skeletonized babies in Syria. The fact is there are hundreds of thousands of us in first world countries suffering from malnutrition,  especially the elderly, but we don't know it. Most people are never taught anything about actual nutrition. We eat the food we were taught to eat by our parents. Of course now I should append that to say a lot of folks eat the stuff they are taught to want by the telly.
     All through the spring and summer of 2016 I kept finding strands of my hair EVERYWHERE in the boat. It was beginning to feel like some drunken Christmas fairy was decorating early, pulling my hair while I slept and using it to festoon everything in site in lieu of Christmas tinsel. I used to jokingly say to Les, "Baby that silver haired bitch has found her way back in our boat. She is shedding all over the place. If you find her please put her outside." I know from being a schooled and licensed hair stylist that we all lose an average of 50-100 hairs a day. That seems like a lot but most of us never even notice it unless we find our hair in the drain or some other place we don't want it. I understand now that accelerated hair loss (we are not talking male pattern baldness here) can be a symptom of malnutrition, along with feeling cold all the time, lack of interest in eating, feeling tired all the time, poor concentration, and wounds taking a long time to heal. Severe lack of Protein and vitamin D with extreme stress causes excessive hair shedding.
© May 14, 1992; Jim Davis.
     My disinterest in food manifested with a loss of taste in tandem with a loss of interest in cooking. I still cannot bring myself to fix a lot of the foods Les loved.  I no longer have any passion for cooking so I fed myself for months on end with things requiring me to simply tear open a bag and eat, like gummy bears, and crisps. I  would cook one meal repeatedly: my childhood comfort meal of fried potatoes and eggs over easy with vinegar.  The loss of my sense of taste was caused by malnutrition and a severe lack of Vitamin B12 and Zinc. I also know that auto immune diseases can cause one to lose the sense of taste.
     My intestines and colon issues have been ongoing since 2008, when I was diagnosed with Diverticulitis. I learned about managing this disease and did fine until Les was diagnosed with cancer. Now I am learning how to manage Crohn's Disease.
Moored up before the bridge at Hurleston Junction, the end of April.
     I was shocked when I realized more than a month has passed without my blogging and I've fallen behind with so many things I wanted to write about so please bear with me while I play catch up.
With CRT's permission I spent a month moored up at the top of Hurleston locks just through the first bridge. It is a perfect place to fetch up if one is ill because there are rubbish bins and water points at the top of the lock flight and it is very easy to reverse back through the bridge hole to the services. There is also a generous layby up at the bridge for people to park if they visit or one needs to get a taxi and there is a bus stop very close by for the 84 bus from Chester through Nantwich and on to Crewe. There are two farmhouses there so it is an easy place to take possession of a grocery delivery. It is also a lovely bit of canal view wise although the sound of traffic is quite noisy. After having to take taxi's to the Premier Inn twice in a week, stay over night to take the dreaded bowel prep and then a taxi to the hospital and a taxi back home (due to cuts to the bus services in Cheshire in now takes two buses to get to Leighton hospital in Crewe and I was in no shape to attempt it). Deep and grateful thanks to Steve and Angela on NB Tumbleweed who stepped in on short notice to give me a lift to the hospital when I couldn't get a taxi.
Looking through the first bridge at the top of Hurleston locks towards the top lock and the water and rubbish point off to the right. The large tree in the distance is actually growing along the Shropshire Union at the bottom of the flight of the first four locks on the LLangollen Canal. 
NB Bendigedig sporting a fresh paint job, moored up bow-to-bow with NB Valerie, Hurleston in early May. 
     While I was moored there I was overjoyed to see NB Bendigedig pull up. I flagged Eric down and they moored up in front of me overnight and came aboard for a cuppa' and a good chin wag. Les thought the world of Eric and Elsie and so do I. It was early May and they were just starting off on their summer tour, headed for the Severn.
     One hot afternoon I heard a lot of loud shouting out by the bridge. I was expecting a grocery delivery between 5:30 an 6:30 pm. Just through the bridge hole by the stairs up to the bridge and the parking were eight children of various ages and three adults--two men and a woman. All of them had sea magnets on plastic line and they were dipping the cut for metal objects. For some reason there was something about them that made me feel uneasy. It seemed more like they were working rather than playing even though most of them were children. It bothered me that I couldn't put my finger on what was causing my unease. At 5:30 pm I walked up to the stairs to find they were blocked with loads of rusted bits from the cut and rubbish. I spoke to one of the men and asked him to please clear the stairs as I was having a grocery delivery come soon. He simply grunted and nodded once and then shoved everything into the grass by the stairs. I stood on the bridge facing the road so I could watch for the Ocado delivery van and keep an eye on NB Valerie. I noticed this seemed to make the group mining for metal a bit nervous. I stepped away from the bridge and stood out of site where I could see them but they couldn't see me. As soon as the adults noticed I wasn't standing there any more the older man signaled to the younger bloke to move down the canal towards the boats. I watched as this young fella cast his magnet in the cut repeatedly as he walked towards my boat.  Just before he reached the bow, he looked around to see if anyone was watching and I stepped back out to the edge of the bridge and stared at him. He was clearly scoping out my boat and I have no doubt he would  have gone aboard if I had not been watching. I had left the bow doors open because I knew I I could see it from the bridge. He did a weired pretend cast of the magnet by the tip of NBV's bow and quickly pulled up the magnet and walked quickly back to the bridge hole as my eyes bored into him, whispered something to the older man who looked up at me with a frown. Suddenly at some unseen signal the children all gathered around the the adults, gathered their buckets of found metal objects, left all their trash strewn around, and marched up the stairs to enter two brand new vehicles and drive off. It was then the penny dropped. I am certain they were Travelers which is fine, as is fishing the cut for lost metal items. It certainly makes a great front for scoping out boats to see if any of them have items of interest or have been left unattended. Another boater remarked to me a few days previously that he had moored there for four weeks over winter and his diesel tank had been drained dry one day when he went in to town for groceries. Now I understood my unease. The kids were not having fun playing; they were actually working.
     June 5th and I had survived a CT scan, a colonoscopy and I started a six week liquid diet to begin the healing process. I couldn't sit still any longer. I was so tired of not moving for weeks on end. Down the Hurleston Flight I went with help from a CRT employee and a CRT volunteer.  I cruised into Nantwich and checked my mail, had a grocery delivery, and knackered beyond belief I moored up again and rested for four days before winding and cruising out to the Middlewich Arm. I spent a week moored just through bridge 4. Due to the breach at the other end of the arm near Middlewich, traffic is almost non-existent. I noted five boats over four days. I checked out the new water point CRT installed near the top of Chalmondsten lock. It is possible to cruise to the water point, then reverse back to the winding hole and turn around, doing away with the need to go down through the lock, cruise to the next winding hole, turn and cruise back up through the lock. While I had no Wi-fi or phone signal there, and only a few TV stations, it was so quiet and peaceful I relished every moment. It was a good place to moor up for more recovery time. I sat out on the bow and watched the swallows taking turns diving to the surface of the canal for a sip of water and then shooting off up the cut, banking to the right and flying over the nearest field, like bombers on a sortie. I walked the towpath to Sykes Hill moorings just after the next winding hole and sat in the warm late spring sun chatting with a friend on the phone while butterflies and dragonflies darted around me.
A peaceful afternoon on the bow of NB Valerie, moored up on the near empty Middlewich Arm through bridge 4.
     As I cruised back into Nantwich for services, I passed a field with six horses, four of which had foals! I couldn't take a picture sadly, as it is on a bend and there was a boat coming from the other direction but the foals were lovely, dappled with white spots and patches on their Carmel coloured flanks. Two of them were lying down in the cool grass as their mothers grazed nearby. It was a Les moment. He would have been chuffed to bits and no doubt would have managed a good picture too.
Dual propane bottles with pigtails to each bottle.
    As the boat filled with water at the service point in Nantwich, I checked my mail and dumped my rubbish, then washed down the boat. I cruised up to the Nantwich Canal Centre service point and had the pigtails on my dual propane bottles replaced. One side had a leak and I thought it prudent to replace both hoses. It turns out they should be replaced every five years and ours were twelve years old!
     Job done, I moored up, took possession of a grocery delivery and picked up a Saturday paper. Sunday morning I cruised out headed south. It was time to cruise towards Audlem and find some good mooring spots in that direction. I found a lovely spot half way between bridges 89 and 88. There was metal siding and enough space for two 58 foot boats to moor. It was out in the middle of grassy fields, quiet and peaceful. I stood out on the bow as twilight slowly descended. Bats flitted by me and a barn owl flew along the bank on the offside, hunting. Venus, the morning and evening star shown brightly.  Had Les been alive he would have stood with his arms around my waist and I would have leaned back resting against him. Together we would have stood in awe of the magical beauty of the gloaming; instead it was me, the bats, the barn owl, and one solitary planet representing the Goddess of love, reflecting the sun's light in the night sky.
     Amazingly I picked up four bars of Wi-fi, and a great phone and TV signal--much better than I can get in Nantwich! After a week in this bucolic paradise,  I pulled my pins at 5:30 AM and headed for the nearest winding hole. Along the way I watched with delight as the world woke around me. I saw an ermine in his brown summer coat (also known as a Stoat) slip out of the hedge with something live and wriggling in its mouth. Much to my astonishment the bijou Mustelid plopped into the cut and disappeared!! A bit farther on I looked out to see a Fox sitting placidly in the middle of a field. It too was watching the world wake up. I turned and cruised back into Nantwich mooring up by the playground and walk in to town for a paper and a light grocery top up before the oppressive heat wiped me out.
It has been too hot to cook inside so the Cobb Oven has been a blessing. There isn't anything that cannot be prepared on a Cobb Oven. I prepared enough wild Alaskan Salmon marinated in soy sauce, honey, fresh grated ginger, minced fresh garlic and crushed red pepper flakes for three meals. Lovely!!
Dusk closes in at Nantwich.
     We've had nearly two months of unremitting hot weather here in Cheshire, interrupted on only three occasions with cloudy weather and one day and night of  rain. It is in the high 70's and mid to high 80's Fahrenheit every day. Living in a metal tube means the temperature inside the boat will be ten degree or more higher even with the doors, hatches and windows open and the curtains closed.  It is lightly humid and there is not a breath of wind to stir the cut. The heat makes me ill even after twenty two years of living in Eastern Washington's high desert country and dry, hot summers which can reach triple digits. I have had heat stroke four times--the first at age four on a road trip to Mexico. The last time was in 2007 when my GP diagnosed it. She told me that if I suffered another bout of heat stroke it could kill me so I do my utmost to stay out of the worst of the mid day heat, drink lots of liquids, and rest during the hottest part of the day. I am up at 5:00 AM every morning and I get all my daily chores out of the way before 10:30 AM.
     This past week kicked off with several appointments in Nantwich on Monday, and much anticipated visitors on Tuesday: Ken and Sue Deveson (NB Cleddau) with two of their American grandchildren in tow! The Deveson's and I often share anecdotes about our grandchildren and I feel as though I know theirs quite well. Ken and fifteen year old Rhys dropped Sue and eight year old Haydn by the boat. After a short visit, Grampy and Rhys set off by car to spend several hours in the cool depths of the Hack Green Nuclear bunker. Since Ken was a bomber pilot in the RAF he has first person insight into certain aspects of nuclear war which I am sure made the tour far more meaningful than usual. Meanwhile Granny, Haydn, and I played on the swings in the playground for a few minutes and then set off on NB Valerie and cruised up to Hack Green where we moored and had lunch. Ken and Rhys joined us later in the afternoon and we had a lovely visit. Thank you Ken and Sue for sharing your wonderful grandchildren with me for a day.  I miss my own grandchildren more than words can say...
Sue Deveson and her youngest grandson Haydn with windlasses in hand. Many thanks for cruising with me.
Sue, Rhys, Ken, and Haydn on the grass near the playground moorings in Nantwich.
      After the Deveson crew departed I stepped out on the bow to tighten my bow ropes and a woman stepped out of the boat moored in front of me to introduce herself. Her name is Anne, her husband's name is Paul and their boat is NB Bisbigliando which means very light and murmuring—used as a direction in music for a fingered tremolo on the harp. We chatted for a few minutes and I was very touched by Anne's words, "I follow your blog. I've read it for several years now. When you haven't posted for awhile I wonder if you are all right...I really enjoy your writing.You should write a book." It is always lovely when someone stops to let me know they read the blog--especially now that Les is no longer writing all those wonderful historical posts that his followers (including me) delighted in reading. Thank you Anne for coming out and chatting with me and for your lovely words of praise.
     Writing is a lonely business fraught with discouragement which can cause writer's block and stop us in our tracks so meeting you really lifted my spirits. It was just a shame it was so excruciatingly hot that afternoon. I would have loved to have sat out on the towpath and chatted with you longer--it was just too dang hot!!! It is always great to chat with other boaters along the way. I am actually working on two books at present. I am on the second draft of one, and just beginning the other. I need to research agents and publishers next. I am also still applying for jobs.
     I only stayed one night moored at the top of Hack Green locks as there was absolutely no shade to be had and there is a nearby manor house across the cut on the off side which offers clay pigeon shooting. After a morning and afternoon ruined with the continual shot gun blasts and bursting clay pigeons I determined it was time to move but before I could get organized a very familiar boat cruised slowly past and I heard a man's voice with a Welsh accent exclaim, " I recognize the aerial on that boat..."It was Eric on NB Bendigedig! I jumped up and looked out the side hatch to see Eric and a strange woman on the stern with him. Where was Elsie?? Did he trade her in for another model??!! I hailed Eric and he pulled in behind me, moored up and Elsie popped up out of the boat to introduce me to Paula--Eric's Fancy Woman--er no, his lovely sister! We sipped tea and had a good catch up.
Elsie and her sister-in-law Paula. The craic is good with these two!!
Eric and Bendigedig wait for the lock to fill at Hack Green.
     Too soon it was time for them to be on their way and me on mine, cruising in opposite directions.
 As the sun grew shorter in a sherbet colored sky, I cruised a short way forward and found a simply heavenly slice of cut between a road bridge and a bridge hole where a farmer's track had once crossed the canal. The bridge was gone now, but the footings and narrow bridge hole were still there in a bit of shady cutting with a high, shaded bank on the towpath side and clumps of trees and shrubs on the off side providing a cool tunnel of mostly shade and only room for exactly one boat to moor!! I spent two glorious days and nights there and was loath to move but cruise I must. 
My bijou mooring in the shade of a small cutting between this bridge...
...and the footing from the old farm bridge, now removed.
I dawdled along yesterday in  morning sunshine, soaking up vitamin D. I cruised slowly past Overwater Marina and sussed out where the diesel and water were located. I will be accessing their services occasionally when I am moored up nearby. As I cruised around the bend towards Audlem bottom lock, a woman was strolling along with a carrier bag of groceries. As I cruised up on her I realized it was Angela!! I slowed NBV to a stop and hovered as we exchanged greetings and had a short conversation to catch up. I've Spent the last six months cruising and mooring between Chester and Nantwich with forays up on the Llangollen and the Middlewich Arm but I was just now making my way past the two Hack Green locks and cruising to Audlem which will be the most southern point of my cruising since I have to stay within bus travel to Chester, Nantwich and Crewe. I had been putting off cruising up to Audlem because I wasn't sure if I was ready to deal with the memories there.
     Les and I moored up on the Aqueduct below the bottom of the Audlem flight on March 27th, 2012. We had five incredibly sunny and hot days in the mid-80's F overlooking the River Weaver. We were still newly weds and our unfolding life aboard NBV brought something amazing for me every day. Audlem was also the last time I saw and Spoke to Mo and Nessa on NB Balmaha. As some boaters will probably recall, Mo died too soon of cancer, a year before Les. Such lovely memories and too many losses...

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Wool Anniversary




"As long as I live, you will live, as long as I live, you will be remembered, as l live, you will be loved." ~Anonymous


Our wedding day, Kamiak Butte, Washington
     The 18th of June is our Seventh wedding anniversary; my second without Les. Time does not dull the pain of his death. The necessary demands of life cause it to recede into the background while one grapples with the activities of daily living. The moment I think of Les and our life together, memories rush over me and the pain of my loss returns with a force that bites deep and takes my breath away. This is the other side of the coin of what it means to truly love someone and give them your heart. 
     I am struck by the depth of love in Les' eyes as he looks back at me when I took these pictures and now, nearly sixteen months after his death, I sometimes find myself caught in a memory-moment. A piece of music will come on the radio and suddenly Les is here like a hologram, doing his crazy little dance he used to do for me, or someone on telly will make a statement and I can hear Les' voice clearly in my mind replying sarcastically. Occasionally on the news coverage of a football match a team makes a goal and I hear Les exclaiming excitedly, "Go on boy, get it in! Yes!!!" Sometimes in the very still small hours of those countless nights when I cannot sleep, I hear Les say, "I love you Jaqueline Marie Almdale Biggs."

Taken on the back of NB Valerie in May 2011 during my pre-wedding visit.
Les showing me the ruins of the motte and bailey at Berkhamstead, May 2011.
Dancing at our wedding reception at Chrisi and Keith Kincaid's farm, Pullman, WA July 2011.
Les relaxing on the back deck of Cloudhouse--our home in Pullman, Washington. June 2011.
Les and our Grandson Connor at Laird Park, August 2011. We took a picnic and spent the day with family, swimming in the river under the hot summer sun.
Les reveling in his catch on a never to be forgotten boating trip on the Snake River in Washington with friends Roger and Joe, August 2011.
Les posing with the statue of the Station Master in some small Washington State town. We were on our way to Seattle for a three day honeymoon before flying back to England and NB Valerie.
Les trying out our friend Karen's Segway, Pullman, Washington, August 2011. Wearing her flowered helmet was part of the deal!
Cheeky Les at the tiller in March 2012 on our way to Llangollen.
Les waiting for me at Burland on the Llangollen canal in 2012. I was returning from a walk to the Burland country Store for a Saturday paper and the best pies we ever ate.
The Bluebird of Happiness stretching his wings as we hiked to the ruins of Valle Crucis Abbey near Llangollen, March 2012.
Les in paroxysms of delight over a freshly baked chocolate Kahlua cake, May 2012.
Les giving me a mock-sexy pose on the Audlem Flight,Spring 2012.
The quintessential Englishman with his brolly, on the grounds of Dunham Massey Estate, Bridgewater canal, July 2012.
One of the countess times we stopped to score wood along our travels.
Les loved chopping wood. It gave him a great sense of accomplishment and appealed to his deep sense of thrift--accumulating a winter heat source for nothing more than a few hours labor. I loved helping him stack the wood on the roof, bark upwards, in neat sections to dry in the summer sun.
At our daughter Sparky's apartment in Portland, Oregon, November 2012. Our daughter Jesse in the background decorating cupcakes for her sister's wedding the next day.
Daughter-in-law Kelli, MOBs, daughter Sparky, FOBs, November 2012.
Les and his girls after the wedding, November 2012.
Les warm and cozy in his new LL Bean down jacket, on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint, Idaho, November 2012.
Bliss! Portland, Oregon, November 2012.
Teaching Les the joy of playing in the snow, January 2013, Blisworth.
Wakey-wakey baby! Les before his morning tea, 2012.
I love this picture! Les having a moment, April 2013 moored up above Walthamstead Lock, the Lea and Stort navigation.

My boys (Les and son Kevin) cleaning up after a spaghetti lunch with family aboard NB Valerie, March 2014.
Les posing on the Lapworth flight, September 2015. It took me 10 months after his liver surgery to get him back to this fit state.
My baby making kissy lips at a kissing gate on the Wendover Arm, 2015.
Les was always happiest at the tiller of our boat, cruising through life at 2 MPH.
Look at the love in his eyes...Granddad with Kiernan and Kiera, Campbell Park, 2015.
Granddad in a happy moment, August 2016, at Cowroast, with our grandsons Teo and Battu.
Les, our grandson Jack, daughter-in-law Bev, and me, Cowroast, August 2016.
Me and my shadow, always.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs