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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sunshine Time

"When the sun  is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, not trouble too difficult to overcome." ~Wilma Rudolph, American track & Field Olympian

     It has been unseasonably hot and sunny here for the last few days. I took the opportunity to get some chores done. My wardrobe and drawers are now tidy with summer clothes out and winter clothes packed away. I changed the oil this morning for the first time all by myself. 
     For those who do not live on a boat, imagine: lifting the hood (bonnet for Brits) of the car, climbing inside next to the engine and squatting down, laying everything out on top of the engine, turning sideways, and then pumping the old oil out into a container, cleaning up the drips and removing the oil filter with a tool that looks like some modified gynecological surgeon's instrument. The filter is located on the side of the engine so it drips out and makes a mess; I clean up the mess, rub clean oil on the rubber gasket of the new oil filter, screw it in place, hoist a 5 liter bottle of clean oil up and pour it in without spilling it all over, remember to put the oil cap back on the engine, gather up all the gloopy detritus into a garbage bag, remove my rubber gloves, lay clean bed liners under the engine, wipe everything down with Huggies nappy wipes, wait for the spasms in my neck, arms and side to pass, untwist my pretzelated self and climb out from under the hood. Job done!!!
     I needed a shower so I stripped down and while I was showering several boats rocketed past at the speed of sound and suddenly I was bouncing off the shower walls like a fart in a skillet, my eyes squeezed shut, shampoo running down my face and the entire boat rocking like a mechanical bull in a Texas bar! A passing boat pulled my back mooring pin out and the rear of the boat went AWOL from the tow path, all unknown to me. I rinsed off, shut off the water, climbed out of the tub like a decrepit drunk on a three day bender, threw a towel around myself and opened the bathroom door to the sound of a mooring pin being hammered in very close by. I had left the rear hatch open for ventilation and sunshine. Just as I dropped my towel to slip on some undies a shadow appeared looking down my hatch and a deep male voice called, "Hello??? Hello???? Your mooring pin came loose and I pinned it back in oh god sorry!!!" 
     We both got more than we bargained for...and there you have it-- the perfect sunny spring day in England.

Friday, April 06, 2018

The Beast From the East Has Arrived!!

"The snow doesn't give a soft white damn whom it touches." ~E.E. Cummings, American poet, painter, essayist, author and playwright; 1894-1962.

 (Many, many thanks to blog reader Steve Hicks  who found my blog at Feedly and there it was--the missing post which I accidentally deleted! Steve emailed it to me and here it is, restored!!) 
  
     Where shall I begin? With the weather I suppose. For those not living through it here in Britain, here is a synopsis of what has occurred: a disturbance in the upper atmosphere caused the Jet Stream, which flows west to east, to change direction and flow east to west, carrying bitter cold weather and high winds out of Siberia, across Finland, Denmark, Northern Germany and onward to the UK. It struck the East coast of Scotland and England on Tuesday, February 27th, bringing snow and plunging temperatures with amber and red warnings by the weather service. An amber warning over here is a weather caution: pay attention and be prepared. A red warning means loss of life can occur; stay home if at all possible. A warm, wet front named Emma, coming up from the coast of Africa and sweeping up over Western Europe was set to shake hands and dance with The Beast over Southwestern England and Southeastern Wales Thursday or Friday last, dumping loads of snow, drifted dangerously by high winds of up to 75 MPH. And so it has come to pass. People have been stuck in tailbacks as they are called over here, on the motorways for eighteen hours in blinding snow and ferocious winds.The entire train service in this country ground to a halt s it is electric and ice on the lines means the trains cannot run. Snow piles up on the tracks as well and impedes the journey. Folks were stranded in trains for days in some parts of the country.
    Up here in east Cheshire on the border with west Shropshire we had several inches of snow on Tuesday which was blown away by a bitter cold, scouring wind roaring on continually four four and a half days. Day four (Friday, March 2nd), and the high was 34F/1C degrees; the low according to my outdoor thermometer was 17F/-8C. The constant wind and the wet cold make this a far more bone chilling experience than similar temperatures in Alaska or Eastern Washington where I have lived previously. Dry cold does not penetrate all three layers of clothing and all five layers of skin to sink into one's bones like this wet cold does.
Two drakes fighting outside the boat.
A man in a Nantwich street with a Penny Farthing bicycle!
The snowy scene on my walk to the bus station the first morning of the storm, on my way to a job interview in Chester.

     I had to brave the first day of the storm to attend a job interview in Chester. The appointment time was 11:45 am but I left home at 8:30 am. I know how gnarly transportation becomes in poor weather over here so early is always best. It took me thirty minutes to walk to the center of town and the bus station. Two buses failed to show and were delayed by over forty minutes. I caught an alternative bus at 10:00 am. It stopped in Chester after wending its way through every small village and hamlet between Chester and Nantwich. Eventually we made it and I was fifteen minutes early for my interview. By the time the return bus dropped me at Welsh Row at 3:00 pm and I began the forward and left leaning walk along the embankment to the boat, I was tired and cold. The canal embankment sits high up above the town with no protection from the weather. The snow was blowing sideways in flurries and the wind was like an animal gnashing at my face and plucking at my outdoor clothing. I was never so grateful to get back to NB Valerie--warm as toast, dry, and home sweet home.
    Wednesday morning Tesco delivered groceries to me while they still could so that was sorted. Thursday in weather not fit for man 'nor beast, fuel boat Halsall came through after braving the twenty one locks on the Audlem flight and breaking ice in the less exposed sections of the cut, to load ten bags of coal on the roof and fill the diesel tank. I take my hat off to Roberta and Lee, along with Amy and James, Ann Marie and Brian on NB Alton, and all the other fuel boat women and men like Jules and Richard on their boat Towcester and Ryan Dimmock on his boat Southern Star down on the Grand Union and North Oxford. They along with the dozen or so other boats and owners plying their trade in all weathers across 2000 miles of canal system are my heroes, to quote Pip who said it on her blog first! Many thanks for your hard graft.
     I had a half tank of water and I was using it frugally to make it last as this winter storm wasn't set to blow itself out until sometime after last weekend. In the meantime there is nothing for it but to hunker down and wait it out, which I did but it does wear me down and make me feel blue and antsy. I took my first ever sponge bath using nappy wipes. Better than the alternative which was nothing. Before the storm hit I had been moored up for nearly a week at Henhull, north of Nantwich. I was sussing out whether or not it was a good place to access the bus down to Chester when the weather warnings started rolling in and I decided to turn and head back into Nantwich to moor up where I was surrounded by other boaters, could walk to the shops and town and moor up safely. It was a good move. While moored here I got to know some of my fellow boaters.    
    
Moored  up at Henhull Bridge.
There is Bob on NB Leopard. He is eighty-something years old and has had his permanent mooring near the playground in Nantwich for nineteen years! I called on him during the storm to check that he was okay. He has a car and offered to drive me anywhere I might need to go. Bob also has a generator which he offered to loan me should I need it. This is what boaters are like.  I went out for a walk on Sunday when the winds died down but the temperature was still pretty frosty.  I met John on NB Serenity. He was walking to the shop with his hand truck in tow for coal. A Brit born and raised, John is employed by Holland tractors and is based most of the year in Pennsylvania, USA. He has a home and a family there and has lived there for over twenty five years. John bought his narrow boat for a place to live when his company brought him back to Britain to work for three months each year. He is retired now but kept the boat and spends six months of the year here on the cut and the other six months in the States. I also met Julia on NB Shamwarna. She and her family live aboard on a permanent online mooring. We had a towpath chat about the permanent moorings in Nantwich. Harder to get then Hen's teeth, and fairly pricey. She pays £140.00 a month for the privilege of mooring on the embankment with no electric, water or rubbish. this means they have to go for services every two weeks which takes about three hours each time as they have to turn the boat around at the nearest winding hole to arrive back at their mooring again. I have been toying with the idea of taking a permanent online mooring if I could get one. It would make traveling for work a lot easier, but then, but then I would be place bound even more than I currently am so I am still mulling it over.
   On a separate theme of visitors I must catch up.  First a hello to the folks on NB Bessie Surtees whom I don't know by name but who have passed me twice. the lovely woman on board called out to me that she reads this blog and she wished me well. Thank you for following along and for your good wishes. I hope you and your man are moored up somewhere safe and staying warm.
    Ken and Sue Deveson of NB Cleddau stopped in two weeks ago on their way from Aqueduct Marina where they checked on the progress of their boat being painted. As always it was lovely to see you both. I was so looking forward to a nice lunch and a good natter to catch up with you two; I am so sorry our visit was cut short by my feeling ill.
   Several days later Angela And Steve of NB Tumbleweed came over for lunch and we had a lovely afternoon visit. It was great to see you both and share an afternoon together.
Pip and Mick from NB Oleanna.

Finally Pip and Mick on NB Oleanna were moored up back near the canal centre and they walked up to say hello. We met briefly at Westport Lake in October, but know we had several hours to have a good chinwag and get to know each other. Then I walked down to visit on their boat on Sunday and to meet the lovely boat cat Tilly.  Mick and Pip are typical boaters if there is such a person; down to earth, wonderful sense of humor, and great stories of another life before they moved aboard their first boat Lilianne.  Pip writes a wonderful blog. How I wish Les were alive. He would have so enjoyed meeting new friends, catching up with old ones, and waiting for the arrival of the fuel boat. He loved our life on the cut and was never bored or unhappy even in the worst of the weather. I would have enjoyed seeing his reaction to this storm. I have to say life is not much fun without him.
    Anyway NB Valerie is full of water again, I dumped four coal bags of rubbish, and cruised back to Henhull to catch up on five loads of laundry, and take on a Tesco order tomorrow. Then I plan to cruise to Hurleston Junction to moor up. I want to walk up the lock flight there which starts the Llangollen canal and see if it is easy to catch the Arriva 84 bus which travels between Crewe and Chester with a stop at Nantwich. Slowly, slowly I am girding my loins for the trip into Chester. The locks become bigger double locks at Bunbury with the staircase locks there. I plan to stop at the Calvely services for water, etc. and then moor up on the offside back behind the permanent moorings as Bunbury and wait for another boat heading down the locks. It would be helpful indeed to share the locks down to Chester with another boat.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs