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Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Wine Time

"Honor the space between no longer and not yet." ~Nancy Levin, American author

     A lot has happened since I last blogged. I've had the distinct pleasure of spending time in the company of dear friends and made a new friend. Painting the boat has stalled for a week now due to inclement weather and excessive wine. I've required the services of a marine engineer to sort out the Ebispacher diesel heater, and I've discovered a divine new (for me) cheese! Where to start??? 
     A week ago yesterday I was walking back from the Farm Shop at Great Haywood laden with two bags of groceries, when around the curve of the towpath the silhouette of a tall man with a Border Collie on a leash and a shorter woman appeared from the shadows under the trees. I slowed as I do when a dog is involved. They stood smiling at me. I must have looked a bit confused because the woman said, "You don't recognize us do you?" The accent was softly Welsh and I knew I had heard her voice before. 
     "It's Eric and Elsie from Bendigedig."
Eric and Elsie Fletcher from NB Bendigedig which means wonderful in Welsh, which they absolutely are. I had to nick this picture from their blog as I have lost Les' camera with the fabulous picture I took of them.
     Oh! I dropped my grocery bags on the ground and stepped over to hug them both. What a lovely surprise! I had not seen them in five years!! We met in 2012 when Les and I cruised the Llangollen canal. Les counted Eric and Elsie as firm friends and we made a point to stop in near the Prees Arm where they moor their boat to say hello. So many years gone by...so much water under the bridges. We had been desperately trying to make our way back up to Eric and Elsie's patch of canal and every time Les and I attempted to escape north, another health issue raised its ugly head and drew us back south again.
     Not only did Eric and Elsie and Ben the dog drive down from Whixall Marina to see me, they came bearing gifts of honey, jam, and a lovely Lemon Drizzle cake. We had a good three hours together catching up, remembering Les and talking about what happens next. I thought to winter on the Llangollen but I've decided to save it for next spring. Nevertheless it does my heart a world of good to know I am only an hour and half away from NB Bendigedig--by car!! Your visit was such a gift for my heart and I am so pleased you are both looking and feeling well.
     The next day I worked on painting a bit more, cocked it up and now it has to be sanded lightly and repainted. Oh well...On Thursday a familiar boat hove into view coming from the direction of Penkridge and suddenly NB Waka Huia was mooring up in front of me. Kiwi friends Marilyn and David had caught up with me again--at last!! With Marilyn around it is never long until "wine time!" I had a box of Hardy's Australian Shiraz that I purchased back in July for just such a moment. The box and I boarded Waka Huia and I settled in with Marilyn, David and boaty mate Mel! We had a lovely dinner and Marilyn thoughtfully invited my new friend Chris, about whom you will read more later. 
Me, Mel, and my glass of boxed plonk aboard NB Waka Huia. Picture courtesy of Marilyn MacDonald, 2017.
     Friday dawned and I was happily surprised to discover that although I had imbibed the previous night, I did not have a hangover! Yay for me!! I am a light weight drinker, easily drinking far too much because I don't drink very often, and then I am in pain the next morning. I wondered why I felt so good. It certainly couldn't have anything to do with the fact I was drinking boxed plonk could it??? Further research on the subject was required and painting was suspended for the duration which is just as well because painting sober left me with blobs of green paint in my hair, up my arms to the elbows, my hands covered in it, my jeans too as I wiped my hands on them, and I even had it up my nose--don't ask me how--I certainly never went anywhere near my face with fingers or paintbrush that I recall. If I come away from painting sober covered in my medium, imagine what both me and the boat might look like if I undertook to paint while inebriated!!
     David and Marilyn came to dinner on NBV and then Marilyn scarpered off for an early night while David and I sat and had a lovely chat into the late evening about all manner of things from the mundane to the sublime, ending with philosophy and the limitless nature of infinity.
     Saturday arrived with moody weather on the way but the sun was still making an effort to shine on us between the darkening clouds. Marilyn and I walked in to the Farm Shop for comestibles and I bought the most luscious chunk of cheddar cheese it has ever been my pleasure to eat, called Black Bomber. This cheese is a very mature and sharp cheddar but the texture is closer to that of butter or cream cheese. It is smooth, creamy, rich and moreish!!
     Walking with Marilyn is always an adventure because she knows no strangers: none! Marilyn says hello to every single living thing that crosses her path or enters her sight line. Every dog is greeted warmly with, "Hello Good Dog, hellooo Good Dog!" Of course stopping and petting Good Dog is a necessity as is a chinwag with its owner(s). I could live without seeing, hearing, or petting dogs, however I have learned a lot from the folks Marilyn says hello to along the way. Mrs. MacDonald will remember their details and names too, much like the school principal (head teachers I think you call them over here) who chats up every single student in her school over the course of a year and manages to remember every child's name and favorite activity. The personal and canine chow-chow was far more exhausting for me than the actual physical walk and I was in dire need of a nap when we returned.
     Mid afternoon we got word that Adam and Adrian on NB Briar Rose were on their way to see us all the way from Hopwas on the North Coventry, in one day. I overheard Marilyn telling them to "Paddle faster!" That is one long haul with several bottlenecks like Fradley Junction and the narrow Plum Pudding section under the overpass before Rugeley, but they did it--they did it!! As the early evening sun spent golden shafts of sunlight across the cut, Briar Rose appeared and was quickly moored in front of Marilyn and Dave's boat. Soon enough not only was wine flowing but Champagne too! Someone had thoughtfully poured me a glass of each and what is an American to do in such circumstances? I couldn't be rude so I drank them both. Marilyn's dinner was delicious as always, the wine flowed and we laughed ourselves silly, eventually wandering off to our respective beds at the decent enough hour of 10:30 PM. 
Good friends, good nibbles and the craic was delightful!! This picture was stolen from Waka Huia's blog which underscores the blatant need for Marilyn to tarnish my good reputation by titling her blog, "Jaq is a lush!" As this picture proves I am sitting there with a glass of Shiraz and another of champagne but who's counting???
     Sunday morning was a rough one, I will not lie. The bed spun most of the night and my guts went with it. I woke feeling like old gum must feel on the bottom of someone's shoe. My head throbbed and my knees felt weak and gimpy. Still, I heard boats on the move and so I pulled myself from bed and threw on the Great Woob. What is the Great Woob you ask? More on that later too. 
     Outside Marilyn and David had already made a very early morning escape to the service point and a rendezvous with their son. They were coming back later to spend one more day with me. Adam and Adrian were just casting off as I stumbled down the towpath for hugs goodbye whilst holding my head on my shoulders with both hands. Waka Huia soon appeared once again and of course Marilyn had to sound the bloody beast of a horn which shattered my aching head into a thousand tiny shards of pain. Never mind, a walk will make it better yeah? Naaaahhh...
     While a local carpenter came to do some work on Marilyn and Dave's boat, I discovered that my Ebispacher diesel heater was not working properly. White smoke poured from it and it shut itself off after five minutes. Time to call an engineer to suss it out. This was a new Ebi Les had installed back in late 2015 or early 2016. It wasn't old enough to be coked up with use but I did feel the issue was related to diesel intake because it worked just fine whenever I had a full tank of diesel but as soon as the level dropped any appreciable measure in the fuel tank the Ebi snuffed itself. 
     On the recommendation of the MacDonalds I contacted Ed Shiers of Four Counties Marine Services. The following day Ed came out to NBV and sussed out the problem: while the Ebispacher unit is new, the pipework feeding diesel to the unit from the gas tank is original to the boat build back in 2006. Over the years it had developed layer upon layer of scale inside which was effectively choking the Ebispacher from lack of diesel. Parts needed to be ordered and so I await the reappearance of Ed next week to complete the job. 
     In the meantime Marilyn and David have managed to tear themselves away from my stellar company and cruise onward to the next drunken orgy meeting with friends further down the Trent and Mersey. I can only say how lovely it was to spend days in your company, enjoying that particularly magical Kiwi brand of love, laughter, and sarcastic insight that flows in your wake. 
     One more visitor made their way to NBV at this time. It was Paul from NB Waterways Routes who came to uncross the wires I had inadvertently crossed in lost emails and the stress of losing Les. While his wife Christine stayed with the boat back at the Junction Paul walked out to Tixall Wide to find me, talk with me and present me with an updated copy of the maps. Thank you Paul for taking the time to come see me, and I apologize for getting snarky with you in my comments some posts back. I've lost many things in the days and months since I lost Les; my heart, a treasured locket he gave me, Les' camera, and a host of emails when my computer began to fail back in February, among other things. Bright Blessings to you and Christine and NB Waterways Routes.
     Onward to my new friend Chris on NB Hare Krishna and yes he is one but Chris doesn't proselytize; he merely tries to live a life of goodness under the Krishna precepts. He is a good, kind, humble soul and I am enriched for knowing him. We've sat over tea and talked about spirituality, boats and boaters, and all manner of things. I've helped Chris to make the jump from very outdated technology (3 gigs of wi-fi and a very old computer) to 4G wireless router with 25 gigs,  and a new Samsung Notebook with all the settings just as he prefers;  Kindle books too. In return Chris offered to take me grocery shopping in Rugeley which we did this morning, and we stopped at Wolseley bridge to pay our respects to Les' Daffodil planted there and to Chris' little dog he buried there three years ago. Soon we will part ways but we plan to stay in touch via email. His lovely little Welsh Jack Russell Terrier Gem, is pregnant and Chris hopes to give the pups away to boaters so I will post a birth announcement on the blog when they arrive. 
Image result for Mr. Mom     Okay I hear you say, "What about The Great Woob? What is it? Do I need one?"
     The name comes from the movie Mr. Mom with Michael Keaton as the hard working professional hubby who is laid off or made redundant as you say over here. His wife, played by actor Terri Garr, goes back to work leaving three children and their home in the hands of her clueless husband. The youngest child is a four year old boy who has a favorite blanket which is never out of his site or his hands. Consequently it has worn away to a small, dirty square which lives tucked into his chubby little fist day and night. Keaton's character names this dank patch of comfort a "Woobie" and proceeds to try and talk his young son out of it.
Image result for long grey falp front cardigan     My Woobie is a synthetic gray and black speckled long cardigan that reaches my knees, has a floppy collar front shaped the flukes of a fish with sleeves so long I have to roll them back almost to my elbows for my hands to appear. I bought it at Tesco three years ago. It is now covered in gray-black pills of fiber and pretty ugly but...it is my comfort thing; like a large blanket with sleeves and so I have named it the Great Woob and I feel safe and warm when I wrap it around me nearly one a half times with room to spare. Now you know what a Great Woob is. The answer to the question, "Do I need one?" is yes--everyone should have something that has been loved out of shape; worn, stretched, and completely comfortable like a hug from a loved one on a cold, dark morning; a Woobie is an emotional bandage to cover life's sadness and icky boo-boos allowing you to carry onward.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Loose Threads

"An invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break. May you be open to each thread that comes into your life, the golden ones and the coarse ones and may you weave them into a brilliant and beautiful life." ~Anonymous

     I am moored up on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire canal at Tixall Wide just past the junction with the Trent & Mersey. I will be here for two weeks as I am in the middle of painting the boat. Les and I started this in 2015 but we ran out of good weather and then my left knee finally gave out and had to be replaced. Les' health declined and you know the rest of the story...
     So here I am and since I am not moving or doing anything but hard grafting I have decided to write a post covering a few leftover bits and bobs from the past month up to today.  Les would have called this post "Odds and Sods" but he has already written a post by that title so I will go with "Loose Threads." The first item is an answer to Chris Thorp's (NB Ceiriog) query in a previous blog comment:
     "Jaq, I"m interested in Gerson Therapy and I wondered if you could explain why a fully functional colon is necessary for it to work and how the medics can tell if a cancer is traveling via blood rather than lymph? Many thanks Chris (nb Ceiriog) "on Goodbye Braunston, Hello Rugby, With Some Characters in Between
     Gerson Therapy addresses serious systemic body illnesses such as cancer and other diseases by healing the body's immune system. In order to accomplish this feat, a body in its current ill state has to be supported so that healing can occur.  GT accomplishes this on a number of levels. In the case of cancer, most patients have had some form of conventional cancer treatment with cytotoxic chemotherapy and.or radiation treatments; neither one cures cancer. Both treatments simply kill cells--benign as well as malignant. Even if one has not had traditional therapy, once any therapy is initiated cancer cells die and tumor lysis kicks in (metabolic abnormalities that occur as a complication during the treatment of cancer, where large amounts of tumor cells are killed off (lysed) at the same time by the treatment, releasing their contents into the bloodstream). U.S. statistics relate that 20% of certain solid malignancy cancers result in death from lysis however it is now recognized that lysis occurs in all cancers especially those treated with chemotherapy. Deaths from lysis, like Iatrogenic deaths (caused by the treatment and not the disease) are generally folded into the cancer deaths and not provided separately but the American Cancer Society reckons that the death rate from lysis and iatrogenic causes is as high as 40%.
      There are no stats for cancer patients treated with alternative programs because large sums of money cannot be made from them. Studies are expensive and the funding is recouped through proprietary development of treatments and drugs sold for exorbitant prices to medical professionals. In my case, when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, my health insurance company would pay the Oncologist $10,000.00 a month for the Cisplatin chemo drug they wanted to give me, but insurance will not cover alternative therapies. It cost me $840.00 a month for all the organic foods, supplements and other items required by GT. One thing you may be sure of though is that any treatment--conventional or alternative--that successfully kills human cells can and will result in lysis. 
     As treatment occurs, cells die and tumors begin to disintegrate. All of this garbage enters the human blood stream and must be processed by the lymph system, the liver and the kidneys which quickly become overwhelmed with massive levels of cell death (apoptosis). When this occurs, the result is acute kidney and liver failure, cardiac arrhythmia, seizures, loss of muscle control and death. 
     Coffee enemas are an essential part of Gerson Therapy which successfully addresses this syndrome and here is how it works: a pint of fresh coffee is brewed, strained, and allowed to come to room temperature and then used as an enema to flood the colon. It has to be held inside the colon for fifteen minutes and repeated up to four times a day. Our large colons have bile ducts in them just as the liver does. Coffee enemas open those bile ducts in the large colon. In fifteen minutes your entire blood supply will have traveled two complete circuits through your body. With each circuit the blood stream will pick up garbage and dump the dead cells directly into the large colon if and only if those bile ducts are open; otherwise this load of death continues to circulate within the bloodstream while the liver and kidneys attempt to process it. Once the fifteen minutes is up, one releases the coffee and all the detritus it carries into the toilet and the body can continue to work on healing the immune system instead of using energy to deal with cell death overload. This is why an intact colon is necessary to successfully undergo Gerson Therapy.  
     I will tell you I dreaded the enemas when I first begin researching Gerson Therapy but after I started on them I was amazed at how much better I felt--right away--and I found it very easy to complete this process several times a day. One doesn't have to have cancer to benefit from coffee enemas--everyone can use them to clean out your body, give your organs of elimination a rest, and boost your immune system. Coffee was known as Butt Brew in my house for several years!
     Speaking of coffee, I find myself frustrated by finding a good whole bean coffee over here that tastes good and doesn't cost an arm and a leg. My favorite coffee in this world is Kona which is grown in Hawaii. We used to be able to buy the beans by the pound in the '80's.The Hawaiian Islands are small and so is the resulting Kona coffee crop. Since it has been discovered by the wealthy it now costs an insane amount for pure Kona coffee beans--somewhere around $40 a pound so the next best thing is a Kona blend of beans. In the States I purchased Kona Blend coffee from Cost Plus World Market for $8.50 and we are talking about solid one pound vacuum sealed bricks, full to the top with delicious, aromatic beans. I brought several back with me in April. Sadly, it is gone now so I have been trying without success to find a satisfying alternative.
     Imagine my dismay to find that whole bean coffee is not available in the grocery stores here and trust me I have looked in Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons,Waitrose and Ocado online. Zip, zilch, nada.; what is available is ground coffee. I prefer to grind my own beans because it tastes fresher and I like to grind cinnamon stick with my beans which adds a further depth and richness to my brew and also because the magic of cinnamon is to promote wealth and who couldn't use some of that with their daily brew? My second choice after Kona is Columbian coffee. I ordered a 227 gram (half a pound) bag of ground Columbian Supremo coffee from Tesco Online. Imagine my deep distress to open the bag and find it half empty!! I paid for a bag of half coffee and half air. Quel dommage.The search continues...
     I made a trip to IKEA a month ago and while there I picked up the most luscious throw rugs. They are actually bath mats. I love the texture of them and while there is no latex anti slip backing on these mats, they stay put on my floor just fine. They also wash up in a trice and dry easily. At £3.50 each I bought three in deep Turquoise and I use them on the hallway floor to keep my bare feet warm when I am dressing, undressing or getting out of bed to use the loo in the night. These throw rugs make my feet and my heart sing...
Luscious bath mat from IKEA.
     It has been a long time since I have baked bread--over a year now. I simply didn't have time while caring for Les in those last month and no appetite in the time after he died. I am back to baking my favorite N. Y. Times No-Knead Artisan bread. I love the rich baked bread smell as it fills the boat; I love the way the loaf crackles as it cools, talking to me. I adore the way the thin, crisp crust shatters in my mouth while the flavorful, chewy interior fills me with joy. It makes wonderful toast too. The actual recipe is here
Aaaah! Fresh bread!!
Les at Cloudhouse in Pullman, WA in July 2011. He was justifiably proud of his first ever loaf of Artisan bread.

     As I have been moored up here at Tixall I've enjoyed meeting several wonderful boaters. First there was Sue and Mike Gallagher on NB Curraghmore berthed in Pelican Wharf on the River Wey. They were moored behind me the other day and we struck up a conversation one morning as I began sanding the boat. It turns out they know my friend and fellow boater Ray Oakfield (NB Stronghold) who kept his boat on the Wey in a nearby berth. When I mentioned Ray's name, Mike laughed and said, "Oh yes we know Ray. He's crazy!" We had a lovely chat before they cruised off. 
     The next boater to cross my path was Chris on a boat moored seven lengths away from me. I noticed him trodding along the tow path past NBV several times a day, walking his short legged, Welsh Jack Russell Terriers which trotted along behind him. While other boaters waved and said hi to me, they didn't acknowledge this bloke but they certainly couldn't ignore his presence. Obviously Gay, he was rather swish as he walked along wearing a very, very short-short sleeveless black onesie or jumpsuit with a multicolored striped shirt underneath, a scarf around his neck, red Converse sneakers on his feet, bright red rhinestone earrings in his ears, and a red beret a'top his short, well groomed silver hair. Oh and he wears those very large Jackie O sunglasses. Not everyone could pull off this look but this man did it well and had a great "I don't give a rat's arse if you like me or not," attitude. On Friday afternoon as he made trip number three into Great Haywood, I noticed his canine retinue was not along for the walk so I stopped painting and said,
     "Where is your crew?" He stopped and looked at me blankly. " Your dogs--they are usually following along behind you."
     "Oh! They are at home. The dogs are only good for two trips to the village After that they lie down with their little legs in the air and say, "No more-we're done!" We laughed and introduced ourselves and had a lovely chat about this and that.
     I rose at 5:30 AM on Saturday to get stuck into painting. As soon as the sun hits the metal it heats right up and one cannot paint hot metal. I was just finishing up at 7:30 when Chris and company came along the tow path. After a quick chat he asked if I needed anything from the village store and kindly brought me back a Saturday paper. I love Gay men. I feel safe with them. They have no designs on me or anything I own unlike some straight men who view a single woman as a victim opportunity. Gay men are a part of the GLBTQ family of which I am an adopted member owing to a daughter who is an L and dozens and dozens of wonderful friends who are gay, lesbian, and transgender. It was the GLBTQ community that supported me and my daughters through my Uni years as a single parent student. Every year the Imperial Sovereign Court of Spokane held fundraising drag shows which entertained and supported people like me and mine. 
Image result for Auntie Bijou
Our friend Kevan Gardner right, AKA the beloved drag Queen Auntie Bijou and his mom Mother Matinee!
     I was adopted by the university GLBTQ community and they put my name in every Thanksgiving and Christmas for gifts and food baskets without which my daughters would have had very poor holidays indeed. Their kindness, generosity and support made a tremendous difference to us. I will always go out of my way to acknowledge one of the Tribe if for no other reason than to make it understood that this boat is a safe place and I am a supportive and non-judgmental woman who believes in acknowledging people especially those that privileged mainstream folk often prefer to marginalize. 
     This morning I simply couldn't rise at dawn to paint again. When Les and I started this job two years ago he made it fun as he did most things in life. It is a grueling job on my own and I will be well happy when it is done. I hope to never undertake it again other than touch ups as needed. So I was happily lounging about in my jammies and house coat, coffee in hand, when a woman appeared at my window and knocked. I went out to the bow and said hello. 
     "Hi Jaq. You probably don't remember me but we met up on the Ashby several years back when you had your boat out for blacking. I'm Pat Smart on NB Smart Move and my husband is Collin. I've followed your blog since then. I knew you were up here somewhere and as we were moored up at Great Haywood I decided to take a walk and find you!'
Pat and Collin on their boat NB Smart Move on the way to the Llangollen canal.
December 2012 on the Ashby Canal. NBV was out of the water for blacking. We lived aboard while we blacked it ourselves. Les is telling me, "Go ahead Jaq--jump! I'll catch you baby!

   We had a lovely fifteen minute chat while Collin brought the boat around and pulled in behind me to pick up Pat. They have been boating for twenty seven years and are on their way up the Shroppie. Meeting Pat and Collin gave my day a lovely start and I hope our paths cross again when we cam sit over a cuppa. Just after they cruised onward my bread came out of the oven and I decided to cut my hair and shower. I was dressed and brushing out my wet hair when I saw the bow of NB Free Spirit cruising past. I jumped up and ran out to the bow, hailing Irene and Ian. We've followed each others blogs for five years but never met! They pulled in, I put the kettle on, Irene and Ian brought a delicious cake and we sat at the dinette catching up in person. What a delight!! We covered a wide variety of topics from cancer (Ian was diagnosed some years ago and they have been through the cancer war too), how they first met, when they first fell in the cut, and I shared  some Les stories too. I feel as though I know them well having followed their blog for five years and as we sat and talked I knew I was in the company of kindred spirits and dear friends. Finally they had to move on as they are traveling with friends up to the Llangollen. 
Ian and Irene Jameison kindly stopped for tea and cake aboard NBV.
Me and Les on a final short cruise last August.
     Finally as I look at the calendar I wonder where August went! I am not ready for September but it rolls onward none the less. Les has been gone for seven months now. I note in my journal that a year ago today we met with the Hospice Team on our boat. We hoped and fervently thought we had twelve months left but cancer had stolen a six month head start on us...I still wake in the middle of the night sobbing with grief, loss, and loneliness. I was awake at 3:40 this morning, crying in the dark, hugging Les' pillow, aching to feel his strong, warm arm gathering me in, creating my safe place which doesn't exist anymore in this world. 
     I want to thank blog reader and boater Lesley Parkinson for contacting me about a book she recently read and recommended to me: Getting Grief Right - Finding Your Story of Love in the Sorrow of Loss by Patrick O'Malley. This book contravenes the five stages of Grief as defined by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross. I was surprised to read these stages are not actually built upon actual scientific research and yet they have become concretized as the proper way to grieve. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one or you want to be sure to support someone who is grieving and you aren't sure how to do that, then this is the book to read.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Long Cruise and A Week at Wolseley Bridge

"Never make important decisions, undertake journeys or make changes when you are cold, tired, hungry, angry, any or all of the preceding." ~Anonymous

     Tuesday August 15th dawned bright and sunny. Time to move! I cruised away from Whittington at seven AM with four miles in front of me until I reached Fradley Junction service point where I could fill up the water tank and dump my rubbish. Fradley is also where the Coventry meets the Trent & Mersey canal. It is a crazy-busy place with boats heading in three different directions so an early start was a good thing.
     I reached Fradley by 9 AM and creeped past a long, long line of moored boats to find one spot open near the second water point before the swing bridge. Pulling in I moored up in front a lovely all wooden boat that was over fifty years old. I started water filling the tank and carried three black rubbish bags to the garbage collection point. On my return I started a load of laundry--just to get the water in for a wash and then I stopped it. Now that I am single handing I have to think of these things ahead of time as I cannot just nip down the stern stairs after I commence cruising again to start a load of washing so I load the washer, put in the soap and let the machine fill with wash water and then I turn it off and wait to start the wash until I am ready to cruise off again to re-start the washing machine and let it continue the cycle.
     While the water tank finished filling I opened and closed the swing bridge after four boats so their owners didn't have to step off and one bloke on a working boat was single handing it and very grateful for my help. As I stood there at the bridge I was thinking,
     "Why does it take so long to fill my tank?"
      I finally figured it out after asking myself this question for months now. I was moored up about twelve feet away from the water point but I have 100 feet of hose!! I have since purchased a 25 foot hose but I have to figure out how to make a hose fitting like Les did for the longer hose. I cannot switch it out because my darling husband glued it in place so it will neva' eva', eva' come apart!! Les bought the bits and pieces to make the end fitting at Screwfix so I need to take a picture of what I have and then visit Screwfix and ask them if they can figure out what pieces I need. Then I have to figure out how to put it all together. I hate puzzles!! Oh well...life is one big puzzle lately.
This is an aerial view of Fradley Junction. The yellow dots are the water points and the blue line is the swing bridge on the Coventry Canal. The red mark on the upper right is the location of the rubbish bins. Below the second yellow dot is always along line of moored boats on must past on the approach to the junction. According to Google this shot was taken in October of 2010--a time of the year and a year in the past when there were few boats along this stretch, hence why you see boats moored up there!
    At ten AM it was finally my turn. I went through the swing bridge leaving it open for the pretty red boat that had pulled in behind me but thought better of mooring up for whatever reason when he saw me loose my lines after setting the bridge for myself. He thought he might overtake me and beat me through the swing bridge after I did the work of opening it. No sirreee Bob! I pulled out and refused to give any quarter. He could wait his turn like I waited mine. I turned left onto the T & M and cruised slowly toward the lock. There is a dearth of places to pull in and moor up while waiting for Fradley Middle Lock. Boats are moored up on both sides of the canal and there were two boats waiting to get in the lock with one coming down the lock and another waiting at the top to come down. I slowed and came to a stop two boat lengths back from the lock, hovering there. As I waited for boats to come out and go in, a small boat behind me asked if I was going to moor up on the very short lock landing.
     "No my boat won't fit there."
     "Do you mind if I slip in and moor up while I wait for you to go up?"
     "Not at all, go for it." And with that he came around me on my left as I slowly backed up another boat length so he could slip into the lock landing. Eventually the lock emptied and the boat inside cruised slowly out. I cruised slowly in asking the voluntary lock keeper if I needed to get off and help.
     "Hi, I am single handing. do you need me to get off and help? I just need to know before I being the boat inside the lock."
     "Nope you're fine but we could all do with a cup of coffee," and he winked at me. Helping out were two women with windlasses and a young girl about age nine. I didn't see any boat nearby that they might be attached to so I figured they were just out on a sunny day helping to lock boats through and doing a bit of gongoozling (staring at boats and boaters). While the lock began to fill I dashed down to the galley, pulled off four paper towels and came back up with them filled with two Brownies for each lockee.
     "I don't have coffee but I do have freshly baked Brownies for each of you."
     "Ooh lass now that will go down a treat! I will tuck mine up with me lunch" says the lock keeper. The two women and young girl were shy and appreciative. We chatted about where I was from and why I was on my own.  The volunteer lock keeper came to me and asked quietly what had taken my husband. I explained about the cancer.
     "Oh lass I am so sorry for your loss. I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2013. They caught it early. I have a stoma but needed no treatment other than surgery."
     "Well you are fortunate indeed. I hope your health goes from strength to strength and I am grateful for your help today."
Taken in front of the White Swan Pub AKA the Mucky Duck. The blue lines in the distance mark the the bottom lock gate. This gives one a very good idea of how crowded with boats it is here at Fradley Middle lock.
I waved to the others helping me with the lock and thanked them for blessing me with their help. I went on through the next lock with Brownies for the lock keeper there as well which were much appreciated and eventually I cruised slowly out at mid morning with the sun shining brightly. I could have stopped and moored up on the one week visitor moorings but I decided to make a big push and see if I could actually cruise all the way to Rugeley and beyond. I had one more lock in front of me about a half mile away. A boat was just coming out of the lock as I made my approach so I sounded my horn and asked the woman doing the lock if it was okay for me to go in. She was obviously on a boat waiting to come down and helping out others as you do. She smiled and waved me onward. Just as I entered the lock I picked up something around the prop. It was a shallow lock and I climbed out with the midline to help wind up the top paddles but the young woman and two children had already taken care of everything.
     As I stepped back on board NBV I tried forward gear and it went fine. Reverse? Not so good! The engine coughed and sputtered.  I needed to either find a place to pull over and go down the weed hatch or see if some gear shifting of forward and reverse would loosen whatever it was. I decided to try and cruise to a place that was safe enough to pull over in case I couldn't get the engine started again but by the time I found such a place whatever it was had mostly dropped away from the prop. Onward I cruised slowly because the boat still felt laggy--as if there might be some little bit of something still stuck. I covered the six miles slowly and the small boat behind me was lovely and patient all six miles to the canal side Tesco at Rugeley. The weather was forecast to change from sunny and mild to sheets of rain and gusting winds by later afternoon or early evening. The wind was already rising.
     After pulling in, mooring up, closing all the curtains on the boat, locking both bow and stern doors and getting my trolley and backpack organized I was delighted to find that the small boat which had been so patient had pulled up just in front of me and was none other than the two women and the young girl who had assisted me through Fradley Middle lock earlier. Dad was on the boat, and they too were preparing to go for groceries. I nipped back inside NBV and came out with more Brownies for everyone--and an extra one for dad.
     "Thank you again for all your help today and your patience with my slow cruising. I think I have something around my prop which slowed me down. Here's an extra Brownie for Dad as you didn't get any of the first round."
     "Wow! Thank you so much! We were just talking about having a tea break with some biscuits but this will be much better. That's very kind of you."
We parted with smiles and off I went to top up my larder. Of course I was tired as I had been up since 6:00 AM and hadn't eaten anything all day. I returned to the boat forty five minutes later with a half full trolley to find I didn't know where my keys were. Shit-shit-shit!!
     I remembered removing them from the ignition and tossing them on the bed.  Those were Les' keys but where were mine??? I always kept mine clipped to my backpack. I hadn't a clue and then panic set in. I started making my way around the boat to the large sliding window which was on the canal side of the boat. I had left the top half of that window open. While I held on to the roof railing with one hand, I maneuvered the window out and dropped it down inside the boat onto the dinette cushion. Then I stretched down and managed to undo the clip on the sliding window. My only problem was that I couldn't fit my short round self through it! Les could slip in that window--just barely--but not me.
     Just at this moment the dad on the little boat in front spotted me hanging off the side of NBV with my grocery trolley abandoned against the bow of the boat. He came walking towards NBV.
     "Are you okay?"
     "Not really, I think I locked the keys inside the boat."
    "Do you know where they are?"
     "Yes; on the bed at the back. I've managed to get the sliding window open but I can't fit though it." The young dad came around from the bow and walked along the gunnel to me.
     "I think I might be able to fit through there. Is it all right if I try?"
     "Certainly! You can brace your legs on the dinette table. It is quite sturdy." In young dad went and within seconds he handed my keys out to me. I felt like such a knob head.  I worked my way to the bow and unlocked the front door, releasing the young man who came to my rescue, thanking him profusely.
     "It was nothing. I am so glad I could help," and off he went with a smile.
     Back inside NBV with groceries I realized several things; I had the shakes from not eating all day. It was nearly three thirty PM. I was also too hot and as I felt my trouser pockets I found my keys! They were with me all the time although I never keep my keys in my pockets because it is too easy for things to fall out into the cut when mooring and un-mooring. What an idiot!!
     I dared not stay overnight in Rugeley. Les always said it wasn't the best spot and Anne and Steve on NB Bracken had warned me that some juveniles had pulled the flowering pots off of the roof of several boats moored there for groceries two weeks ago. Despite feeling exhausted and rough around the edges it was time to push on and find a safe quiet place in the countryside.
    I had a couple of crackers with cheese so the red warning light in the back of my brain would quit flashing, and the shakes subsided. Two miles and an hour and fifteen minutes later I was moored up just after bridge 70--Wolseley Bridge--another favorite spot of Les' at the foot of Cannock Chase.  I had cruised a total of 13.5 miles over eight hours. After mooring up in the early evening sunshine I sat on the bow and just breathed in and out, remembering the past times Les and I moored here. Clearly I had pushed myself too far, too long. Another lesson learned. Down the weed hatch I went, groping around the prop to find it clean! I took a moment to label the upper left corner of the cover so it is always replaced properly; as most boaters are  aware, failure to close the weed hatch exactly so can and does result in a sunken boat.
     There is room for about five or six boats at this site with a set of stairs leading up from the tow path to the road above. Nearby is the Wolseley Arms pub which was a coaching Inn in the days before the railroad with a hundred horses stabled there. Across the way and around the corner is the Wyevale Gardening Centre and let me tell you! Their plant selections and gardening tools on offer are truly huge. The gift shop is amazing with something to suit everyone--man, woman, and child. I even found clothes in my size which were lovely and very inexpensive--a 50% off sale was taking place! I picked up a new fleece jacket for seventeen pounds.
     Adjacent to the gardening centre is the Wolseley Nature Reserve where Les and I spent a delightful afternoon wandering the paths and enjoying the peace and quiet of nature while moored at bridge 70 back in 2012.
The bright green line is where NBV was moored up on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Bridge 70. You can see the Colwich filling station up near the top.
     I spent seven days moored up here, enjoying the camaraderie of Trevor and Pat on NB El Camino, moored behind me. The boat is named after El Camino Real de Compostela--the 500 mile long Pilgrim's Way dating back to the ninth century which carries pilgrims through France and Spain to the Church of Santiago de Compostela at its end. It was believed at one time that walking the Pilgrim's Way to completion would absolve a person of their sins. Many famous people like Martin Sheen and Shirley McClaine have walked and wrote about their experiences on the Pilgrim's Way. Sheen's son Emilio Estevez also produced a movie called The Way which I watched some years ago. I found it quite moving.  Trevor has walked The Way twice. He told me the experience saved his life and sanity and changed his world for the better.
   I didn't get the name of the folks who moored in front of me, or their boat's name either. We had three days of spouting rain so I didn't venture out much during it. He had long silver hair pulled into a pony tail and I watched him mop out his bilge after one particularly hard day's rain. I stepped out to move the solar panels around and said,
     "It's not a job any of us enjoy doing, but I have to say it is nice to see someone besides myself down in the engine hold emptying the bilge!" He laughed and we chatted for a few minutes before he and his wife took advantage of a break in the weather to catch a bus into Stone for shopping.
     I was blessed to have visitors on Thursday the 17th. Our lovely friend Carol Ives and her friend Sue were up from London for a funeral in Crewe and they stopped in for three hours to visit with me on their way home. We sat out on the bow in the late afternoon sunshine eating Brownies, drinking tea, talking and laughing, remembering Les. Carol and Sue are planning to come up and stay with me sometime before winter sets in for a weekend which I am looking forward to with joy.
Sue and Carol with "The Brownies." A good time was had by all and a repeat visit will be most welcome!
    During my week at Wolseley bridge I re-visited the nearby wildlife reserve and walked the trails, thinking about Les. I treated myself to a dinner of hamburger and chips at the Wolseley Arms. I washed Les' rain gear; I believe it as the first time in eleven years that they were washed! Once dried, I spent the morning painting the coat and trousers with Fabsil--a liquid waterproof treatment. I also did my shoes, winter boots, and my wide brimmed cruising hat. I am now fully waterproof!!
     I walked over to the Colwich petrol station across the cut from where I was moored to pick up a Saturday paper and a Lotto ticket. I visited the Garden Centre looking for Tarragon--no joy.  Finally before I left I planted a Daffodil with some of Les' ashes nearby.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs