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Friday, March 30, 2012

Three Spectacular and Very Different Days Continuously Cruising

(This post was written just over a month ago. We are currently moored up just before the turn onto the Llangollen canal which begins with Hurleston Locks.)

Day One
   Thursday morning I awoke to the sound of soft rain pattering on the roof of the boat. Les was up before me, having dumped the stove ash, and refueled the fire. I lay snuggled deep in bed, cocooned in our down comforter, cuddled up on my favorite Portuguese grey flannel sheets, inhaling the sweet, clean scent of my husband on the pillows.
   We were moored up in the long pound before lock ten of the Atherstone flight. For non boaters, a pound is the section of canal between locks. Often the pounds are short, meaning the boat comes out of one lock and travels a couple hundred yards more or less to the next lock; a long pound can be a half mile or more between locks, offering places to moor up for a few days. The long pound before lock ten on the Atherstone flight of locks is out in the country and offers a lovely view with peace and quiet.
   After a leisurely breakfast we bundled up and walked hand-in-hand down the towpath past the final two locks, noting a large tree had been felled with lengths of wood neatly stacked in between trees along the towpath. We climbed the bank besides bridge 48 and walked along the tree lined road into the small village of Grendon, following a tiny, babbling brook which takes its water from the nearby River Anker. The two of us stood on the stone bridge over the river which dates back to 1633, and watched the water rushing past underneath.
   The square tower of All Saints church was our targeted visit, as parts of it date back to the 12th century; unfortunately the gate to the churchyard was heavily chained and padlocked with warning notices about CCTV.   
   Still we enjoyed the mild, overcast weather, taking the public path over the brook and across the farm field on our way home. We stopped at the little bridge over the trickling stream and played Pooh sticks. I won!   
   Back home we settled down in our chairs in front of the fire, each of us with our respective books--Dear Sir was reading a Patricia Cornwall murder mystery, and I finished up the fourth in a series of books by Irish actress Carol Drinkwater about her life on Appasionata--a four hundred year old olive farm in Provence. It was a lovely, relaxing day with no agenda. The typical English overcast weather provided an atmosphere of snuggly comfort aboard our floating home.

Day Two     
  Friday was partly overcast with the sun playing peek-a-boo through fat, fluffy clouds. Inside the NB Valerie, it shined off the canal and reflected the moving water in shimmery waves spilling across the ceiling. Sunlight caught the crystal hanging in the galley window, splitting into a multitude of rainbow lights bouncing off the walls. The bow doors were open and birdsong filled our ears.
   Les and I smiled at each other over our mugs of morning tea and coffee, which he always accompanies with two biscuits (In American speak those are cookies--yes, cookies and tea for breakfast!) The decision was made to up sticks, move through the two remaining locks of the flight, pick up some of that wood, fill up with water, dump the rubbish, and continue our journey Northward.   
   We stopped at Polesworth in the late afternoon and moored up on the grassy verge near a bend just inside the village. Polesworth is a site of low ground on either side of the River Anker, which floods the banks periodically, making the soil quite fertile. People settled there in the Iron age, and in the 9th century a Benedictine Abbey was founded in 829 to mark the hamlet. The first abbess was Editha--whose younger brother may have been Alfred the Great. The abbey prospered over the years with land and monies bequeathed to it by the wealthy families of the women who took the veil and became its nuns, and the abbey school educated the families of wealth, gaining fame across England and Abroad. 
  The school met in the Gatehouse which still exists today. Although Polesworth Abbey was granted asylum from dissolution by Royal Commission which stated "the Nunnery at Polesworth should stand and remayne unsuppressed... [for, if it were to close] the towne will shortly after fall into ruyne and dekaye..."   ( ; accessed online 02/26/12).
   The Abbey voluntarily surrendered to the Crown in 1539 with only 14 nuns in residence and much decay of the buildings and grounds. The village of Polesworth was sold by Henry VIII to Frances Goodere, and passed into the hands of his son Henry, who spent time in the tower of London for displeasing the king.  
   Henry's daughter Lucy inherited Polesworth in 1627 and later married Francis Nethersole, who was also imprisoned in the tower. He made the unfortunate choice to support the wrong monarch in a war involving religion. Poor Lucy had to suffer over the fate of her father and her husband at the hands of royalty.  
   Upon her request The Nethersole Parish school was established which educated both boys and girls of Polesworth for free. Support for this school was raised by tithes of cereal and wool and the school and tithe barn are still there in Polesworth. The children of Polesworth Parish were educated at this school, in this building, until 1973.
   It is thought Shakespeare was educated here, as his father had ties with folks in the area and his family was Catholic. The area was filled with Catholic families. After our stroll through historical Polesworth and forays to all three small grocery shops for ice cream (in vain I might add--too early in the season!) we moored up just outside of the village, enjoying a late dinner, a fine sunset and bit of CSI and NCIS on the telly.

   Saturday morning dawned calm, bright and sun warmed. Taking our steaming mugs of tea out on the back, we soon were underway. Les undid the stern rope and pulled the anchor chain from the metal siding while I loosened the bow rope, pulled the chain and tossed it and the rope on the bow, and pushed the front of the boat out towards the middle of the canal. This sets up the NB Valerie to glide away from the bank and brings the stern to the tow path so I can easily step aboard with my vestigial legs (Les doesn't call me short ass for nothing!).   
   We weren't sure how long we might cruise, but it didn't really matter--we enjoyed the touch of the sun on our faces, the fresh, crisp air, the company of the local waterfowl and the friendly waves of passing boaters. We didn't know when we would stop for lunch, or how long we might stay. That's the beauty of living aboard as continuous cruisers; our lives belong to us and each other. Les and I move when we choose and moor up when the urge takes hold of us.   
   Dear Sir is at the tiller of NB Valerie, leaning against the stern with one leg under him and the other propped on the bench across where I am sitting. A certain look transforms his face; it tugs at my heart.
   I sit quietly, sipping my tea, watching it steal across his features as I peek over the rim of my mug. Les' sharp brown eyes sparkle--laugh lines radiating out from their sides-crinkling up against the glare of the sun on the water. He wears an elusive smile--a Mona Lisa smile for better want of description. The years fall away and I see his young self looking out at the world, and back at me. I love this look; it tells me Dear Sir is satisified down to the souls of his feet and the foot of his soul. Les is exactly where he is happiest in all the world--and we are two exquisitely fortunate people to share these moments together.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Continuous Cruising.......our interpretation

"Continuously Cruising" it says at the top of the page, but what exactly does this mean? Boaters without a permanent mooring do it and they are referred as continuous cruisers. The Oxford dictionary definition is here.

British Waterways--our landlord--defines these words here. Now this link is just for those readers who are not aware of the rules, including friends of Jaq and I across the pond. You can easily reduce your life expectancy by wading through all the rules and regulations, and genuine boaters without a home mooring know the rules; they prefer to be cruising rather than reading the rule book.
A very rough but fair way of summarising the rules are:
Unless canal signage says otherwise you may moor for 14 days and then move on.
How far to move is another debate but the rule seems to say one must move into the next district. For U.S. readers this might equate to moving from town to town. We have today, as I type this, travelled 3 miles, but my belief is as long as your journey moves gradually to pastures new and you don`t keep doubling back, British Waterways are happy you are complying with your licence conditions.

Anyway this is not quite what I had in mind when I decided to write this post but that will come later. My point is how we boaters divide the 7 days of the week between cruising and mooring up. We recently moored up to stroll into town to re-stock the galley and have a wander through the weekly market. After filling the water tank (we actually ran out of water for the first time ever) we moved 3 miles further along the canal to peace and quiet.

Ahead we have 5 locks and then within a mile 15 locks so the decision tomorrow is 5 locks or 20 if we decide to move. This is what I`m getting at: do Continuous Cruisers move Mon through Friday and moor up for the weekend. On whatever days they do cruise how many hours do they cruise per day? Would 20 locks be considered one day's cruising for some?

I know the human race are a varied species and we all have our ways of passing through our span of life. For sure I think boating is a wonderful way to finish whatever length of sentence I have been allocated and hope it goes on for a long time yet. Remember the recent blog on the canal side deaths? Some of us get a very short sentence.

I have met people living afloat who attempt to see as much of the system in a given time, perhaps 2 years, so they spend a lot of time cruising quite a few hours a day.

Some I know moor on Sunday for religious reasons and are therefor Mon-Sat boaters.

There are the early birds who are cruising while others sleep and who moor up for the day very early every afternoon. In summer this is a good move as the holiday boats all look for moorings in the late afternoon so finishing early in the day gets you a mooring in the popular spots. Is the early start their way of getting in more crusing hours?

Some boaters will never moor in a busy spot other than to shop. Others seem to need the company of another boat. How many times have we moored miles away from towns and along comes a boat and moors a few hundred yards away us. Surely 15 minutes more cruising would find them a better mooring.

Some of our trips of late are recorded here purely from memory as I do not keep written records of lock and miles traveled on a daily basis.
7 miles 2 locks
9 miles 2 locks
8 miles
2miles 2 locks
Now as to whether these trips were 2 hrs., 3 hrs., weekday or weekend, I have no idea as we do not follow a set pattern of cruising such as weekdays only and stopping over the weekend.
What until now has been my casual laid back attitude to cruising hours on any particular day might be a thing of the past if this article below is anything to go by. We must stand together on this; the EU has interfered with our red diesel and now wants to restrict our boating time.

Article from Waterways World.

I will be calling on you all to protest in the strongest way to Brussels but until we can group up and decide our plan of action I want every boater to stop buying Sprouts. Other actions will be decided at our first battle meeting to be held on 1/4/2012. or 4/1/2012 in U.S.
Anyway folks I just wrote this because the combination of our bog heading and the WW article got me thinking of different boaters cruising habits. I do know for sure that we cruise a lot less hours than when I was solo boating and I must say I like it a lot. This is after all retirement so no rush and my solo boating motto "there`s always tomorrow" still stands.
We all cruise differently but can you imagine if we had to have tachographs fitted like the register drivers hours. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Question time on the Shroppie

Just a short trip across from our mooring opposite the Shroppie Fly to the services. Topping up the water tank was first then dump the rubbish(trash). This service area being in front of the pub and the nice weather encouraging people to sit outside leaves the boater wide open for the usual questions of "do you really live on it" " can you go to London on the canal" and the old chestnut "is it cold in winter". I have never minded the questions always thinking back to when I asked a thousand questions of boaters when doing my pre boat owner research. An original question came up today with a lady walking up and down several times eyeing our huge wood stock. Through the window i heard her say to a friend that a passing boat also had a chimney. On going out on deck "excuse me but are all the boats steam driven because they all have chimneys"
Then a regular occurrence was taking place as i looked to the stern. A lady was standing near the boat and a another lady was trying all sorts of angles to take a picture. " Let me guess, your name is Valerie" i said. Of course having seen this scenario a thousand times before I said for her to stand on the back and get a good photo with the name. Jaq is just getting used to people calling out as we cruise "are you Valerie".
So just 3 locks and about a mile and our cruise pauses for lunch at a spot I have always wanted to stop at but the scenery got to us and having sat in the chairs on the towpath looking at the view below we have decided to stay a couple of nights.

Still the short cruises are getting us used to the new cruising regulations coming soon.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Bloggers a locking.

We are back blogging although we are using the old post editor to load pictures and then the new one to do everything else. I am so confused and p....d off with blogger that I am not sure if that is how we are blogging now but i think it is. Many thanks to you all for your input and we might just pick your brains again as we try to rectify the problems.

Having spent a few days at the top we have this morning descended the Audlem flight and are outside the Shroppie Fly. On the way down the flight we first met fellow bloggers Janet and Dai on Nb JandaI
and not to far behind Mo and Ness on Nb Balmaha. While at the top of the flight both crews had walked up for a chat.

Jaq decided to do all the locks today and as is usual with our ladies she got chatting to a lady and it appears there will be restrictions on the flight. Not sure if this will be just for the Easter holiday rush or not but there is no sign of water shortage here. Waterscape is not showing any restrictions so perhaps they might have a volunteer lock keeper trying to organise the boats and save a bit of water. Not sure if BW have heard the phrase "prevention is better than cure" so i can`t believe they are going to put a lockey on some of the flights. Horse/Gate comes to mind.  In fact a lot of gates leak badly but the by washes were flowing fast so I can only assume water is being pumped back to the top of the flight costing a fortune in electricity charges.

So just a short move as I want to take Jaq in the Shroppie Fly because usually on a Monday there is a music get together of many musicians who move pub to pub for an ad hoc get together.
Also we need to get used to not cruising so much when the new regulations come in. Having to limit our hours is going to be a pain. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Some progress

Ok we are now able to upload pics using OLD interface, thanks a million Sue. We have not tried any of your other suggestions yet but we would like to go back to the NEW interface eventually, we think. We did change from Internet Explorer to Firefox but the problem was still there so we went to old interface. At the moment we are still trying some of the suggestions made by everyone; thanks to you all.
My pics have always been about 1.2MB and I have never had a problem loading them fairly quick. A 1.2MB will now load on the old interface BUT resizing loads real fast.
Now I`m going to try NEW interface and try to load a re-sized image to see if the original problem still exists.
We did use Jaq`s blog and even set up a new blog but the photo problem was still there. Anti virus is up to date.
I need to check the camera settings but the pics i`m trying to load from PC are about 1.2MB so don`t think that`s the problem.
Don`t really want to change to another blog host unless i need to as i am no computer ace and have got used to blogger. The Picasa thing is strange, i downloaded the latest version and all my pics are there when i open Picasa. When i try to upload direct from Picasa where blogger gives the choice my photos have almost all dissapeared and only have a choice of some old ones.
We have been sitting here with Mo & Nessa (NB Balmaha) and he explained about resizing pictures for speed of uploading to Blogger and other bits and bobs.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Still not!!!!!!!!!!

We have tried all the recommened fixes we can find on blogger help but still the problem is there.
Now looking at Wordpress or live writer. One of them has a facility to transfer blogger to it and one I think Jaq said has a 3GB limit so need to make sure we don`t exceed this if we move our blog.  Jaq is studying the ins and outs but if anyone has any observations about what would be a better option than blogger or indeed what might be wrong now please let us know.

Pain of it all is the photo thing might be a simple fix but neither of us are a computer genius and the fact is blogger always has been a pain to do a fancy layout altering everything when you publish.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Something is wrong

For some reason we are having big problems with the blog. When trying to upload a picture to the blog all we get is a camera  icon listing the picture number.jpeg

Have tried lots including system restore, deleting cookies. Just wondering if this will publish, anyway this is why we have not blogged all week.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Les!

"All the world is birthday cake, so take a piece, but not too much." ~George Harrison

   I ordered Les' birthday gift the first week of March--once I knew where we would be on March 19th! It came from via Post Restante, which is, for my American family and friends, the UK equivalent of General Delivery in the States.
   I picked up a birthday card at Penkridge Market last week when Dear Sir wasn't looking, and made sure I had the goods in the cupboard to make a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting at his request.
   Last Friday as we were cruising up to Market Drayton we stopped near Goldstone bridge so Les could walk into the village of Cheswardine for a loaf of bread. We found a crew on a BW work boat cutting overhanging tree limbs along the Shroppie in front of us. Les and I walked up the towpath to inspect the work and we found several large piles of logs sitting on the offside of the canal free to anyone who could get to them. 
   After lunch we nosed the boat bow first into the bank and Les walked the plank. We scored nearly a dozen four foot lengths of solid oak which made my heart sing because Oak wood burns long and hot. 
   We continued on to the Tyrley five locks thinking we would breeze through them and be on our way. Lock five was such a pig due to leaking gates at the far end of the lock; neither of us could open it--not even with the bow rope and the boat pulling on it, and we needed the help of a passing walker and allour weight to finally budge the gate open. Eventually we cruised out of Woodseaves cutting and moored up on the embankment ten minutes from Market Drayton. 
   Saturday gave us a chance to cut up all that glorious Oak. Les sawed it up with our new Husqvarna chainsaw, split it with a hand ax, and I hauled it up to the roof so we could stack it to cure for next winter. Satisfying work indeed!
   We awoke early this morning to a sun bright sky filling the NB Valerie with light and warmth. While Les was putting the bed up and pulling the winter thermal plastic off the windows, I placed his cards and gift on the dinette and made our morning tea-for-him and coffee-for-her. 
  Finding his birthday pile, my husband smiled big and sat down in his robe to read cards that had arrived from friends and family, saving mine for last.
   Would he like his gift? I thought so but Les had made a comment several weeks prior about preferring to hold books in his hand rather than using a Kindle. 
   I figured he could have the best of both worlds; we could still swap paper books as we go along the canals, but now Les could also order and download those Inspector Banks books he enjoyed, and the Linda La Plante and Martina Cole murder mysteries which he had not been able to find along the cut.
   And, in the event of being frozen in again next winter, Dear Sir need not pace the floors for lack of anything to read--now he will have access to 900,000 books, newspapers, magazines, and one million free books! 
   The Kindle will hold 1400 books, store all purchases in the Amazon cloud for security, and the battery once charged, will last for a month. Books download wirelessly in sixty seconds! But would he like it?
   At first Les' face registered surprise and shock--he thought I had bought him a book! His brow furrowed as he unwrapped the packaging and saw what was inside. Once he turned the Kindle on, registered it and began playing with it, his brow smoothed out and delight stole across Dear sir's face! I knew it! 
   After watching him play for hours on end with his palm pilot filled with Ordnance Survey maps of the UK, I really thought Les would take to the Kindle technology. 
   Before ordering though, I did check to make sure his favorite authors were available as well as a few I've read and know he will enjoy as well  and when he wasn't looking I bought him a book: Sandstorm by James Rollins. It is the first in a the series of Sigma Force tales. Rollins is the next generation Clive Cussler. I can see Jason Statham playing his main character! 
   Les' phone has been going off all day with calls and text messages from family and friends here in the UK. On FaceBook, friends and family far and wide have posted a "Happy Birthday Les" in his honor.
   I felt totally industrious as I had baked his birthday cake, eaten breakfast, and washed and hung three loads of clothes outside to dry--all before noon!
   While I shooed Dear Sir off on a walk to Market Drayton to pick up a few things at the market, I opened the windows which had been sealed shut all winter, and gave the boat a good scrub down inside, starting at the tops of the curtain rails which continually gather coal dust and dirt from the solid fuel stove; cleaned the glass covering our pictures with surgical alcohol, and generally worked my way from ceiling to floor and bow to stern.
   Later Les dozed in his chair in the sun, a hard cover book of Graham Norton's biography on his lap, as I put in some hours working in my classes. Last week was Spring Break at WSU in Pullman, Washington and there were no assignments for last due for the week. My students were diligently back at it over the weekend and there was much to read and grade. 
   We were gifted with a fine sunset tonight, coloring the sky....
   Dinner was a favorite of Dear Sir's: Mediterranean Potatoes and pan seared pork chops with my special homemade rub of Beau Monde, garlic and Lemon Pepper, along with a salad. Joe Horton's Best-in-the world carrot cake and cream cheese frosting for dessert, and allis good! We are settled side by side in our Ikea sling chairs, feet up, holding hands as we so often do while watching a bit of telly! 
  Happy birthday my darling water gypsy; my lover and my heart's mate. Thanks for gifting me with your friendship and your love.

Bridges over Water, Rock and Cuttings

I mentioned in the last post about the water being plentiful since coming north. Surfing some of my fellow bloggers posts I noticed on Derwent 6 a document from BW `drought impact on navigation` and found a national map here. The map shows that most of the system in pale Blue on the map as preferred cruising routes with no restrictions and adequate water. I know things could change but at least for now we are not having to deal with restrictions and can cruise freely?, continuously?......reminds me to do that piece on continuous cruising.

Many times I have cruised the Shropshire Union and it is once again my chosen route, much to Jaq`s delight,  to the Llangollen into north Wales.
 The high embankments and deep cuttings(right) are plentiful along it`s very straight sections and make you wonder how many more locks would have been needed had these not been the engineers choice. An alternative choice following land contours would have eliminated some of the cuttings/embankments but the boldness of  the many, many straight sections would have been lost and those high bridges across the cuttings.

The pictures are of Woodseaves cutting, which is 70` deep in places,  just south of Tyrley locks.Cruising through these cuttings, and for sure don`t moor up for lunch, you have to be aware the steep slopes each side are not the most stable. Back in January 2011 a bad rockfall closed the canal and by the pictures I took a    rockfall, albeit small, had recently occurred.

In a past life when I worked my curiosity for knowing where a road led gained me a huge memory bank of the area I earned a living. This curiosity still stands and the many times I`ve cruised the Shroppie canal and passed below the bridges my feet tingle wanting to investigate. Cowley double road bridge(31) and Double culvert bridge(40) are two that seemed to be calling. What could be the meaning of `double road` is it a dual carriageway (U.S. freeway)?,  surely not over a narrow canal bridge. Bridge 40 according to the map book carries a stream and a footpath.  So Jaq stood guard holding the centre line(mooring rope) while quickly went up onto each bridge to satisfy the tingle in my toes.
 Bridge 31. Not exactly 2 roads with heavy traffic. Perhaps the farmer uses the left for his tractor and the Cows use the right for moving to new pastures.

Yes indeed above bridge a footpath and a dried out stream bed. also up here is part of Loynton Moss although better access can be had from bridge 39. 
I feel better now although for sure there will be other bridges and hills to climb pathways to walk just to satisfy my curiosity.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Something for the weekend

The title of this post just means I have pulled some pictures together for readers to view over the weekend. We will be stopped over this w`end but this is not for us the norm, ie cruise Monday-Friday and moor up Sat/Sun anyway I have some thoughts on this and will blog them in the near future.

The title of this post takes me back to childhood and dad taking me to the barber for a haircut. I would go in the chair first and when dad had his turn the barber on finishing dad`s hair would say"something for the weekend sir?". There then followed a fumbled attempt of the barber to pass a small package to dad without me seeing. Surely dad was not a weekend spy getting his orders, was the barber `M` to my 007 dad.
It was some years later my dreams of dad being a spy were shattered when my reading improved and I discovered, probably in the school playground, what Durex (Trojans Stateside) were for.

OK first up some pictures taken when I walked along the Hatherton branch of the Staffs & Worc. canal.
The entrance taken from Staffs & Worc.
Taken from bridge in previous picture. The towpath is all closed off and the surrounding roads need to be used to follow the route of the canal.
The canal ends at the end of a garden. The M6 has been built across the canal. A culvert beneath the motorway(freeway) allows the natural flow of  what is a feeder to the canal.

Walking below the motorway the canal towpath can now be accessed from a bridge in Oak lane.
Remains of a bridge
Wonder if this is listed as a stoppage

 The Health and Safety dept. of  British Waterways have been busy following the sad death last year of
a cyclist. This is the 3rd bridge that a barrier has been erected to prevent the bridge use. Sad as it is if the cyclist or even a boater for that matter had fell into the lock do we then fence off the locks. Life is full of dangers and we just have to accept some degree of danger and behave accordingly. Sad for the parents, they have my sympathy.

Another lock along the way had this little shrine. I have cut out the youngsters face in the name of
decency. Unlike the previous picture I have no desire to find out the story behind this. Yes my little beautiful in peace.

Gailey reservoirs have a very healthy stock of h2o. I must say the water situation since we left the Grand Union and came north has been tip top. Plenty of water in the canals up here so far.

We that is my wife and I, that sounds good to me, decided to invest in a decent chainsaw as the cheap one I have been using has given up. This one is a Husqvarna 435, Swedish made. Jaq says they are used by the United States forest service. Thing is with smokeless fuel now reaching £10($15) per bag the burning of logs during the day and evening is a big saver. The coal just to keep the fire going all night.

Look at this, I nip down below the Aqueduct to take a picture of the Aqueduct and someone is up there pointing a camera at me. Stretton Aqueduct over the A5 built by Telford in 1832 and still doing the job 180years later.

After mooring up we walked back from Wheaton Aston to visit Sarah and Jim on Chertsey and Bakewell.  Cups of tea with good conversation and before you know hours have passed. Lovely to meet you both.
Turner`s wharf at Wheaton Aston and the price of red diesel 78.9p per litre. We took on 107 litres, it would be a shame not to at that price. Turners for those not aware is a small country garage up on the bridge that has both white and red diesel pumps the latter having an extra nozzle stretching down the embankment for canal boats. Up on the road his red pump serves the local tractors etc.
For the American readers our wonderful government under pressure of Europe have allowed different duty(Taxes) on diesel used for charging batteries and producing hot water and diesel used to propel the boat. The HMRC(our tax people) suggest 60% propulsion and 40% batteries/hot water. They leave it up to the boater to declare his duty for propulsion so what happens at the cash point is for me to know and you to guess. Friends in USA read here about the farcical way they collect taxes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Wednesday Women

"You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen. But if you are beautiful at sixty, it will be your soul's own doing." ~Marie Stopes

   Those of you who followed our love story on my blog "So This is Love," may remember the blog post about my group of friends I call The Wednesday Women. We connected in 1995 at a Unitarian Universalist course on the dark Goddesses across world cultures. 
   Of the thirty some women who enrolled, nine of us bonded to the point we wanted to keep meeting after the course finished. We agreed to meet every Wednesday night from 6-8 p.m. at someone's house for dinner. Our host for the evening cooked for the rest of us and cleaned up. Each Wednesday dinner was at a different woman's home. Eventually we each took a turn hosting everyone else.
   We didn't miss a Wednesday for five years.
   We saw each other through divorces, marriage, relationships beginning and ending, illnesses, crises with our children and our parents; new jobs beginning and old ones ending, purchasing homes and selling them, and all of life's joys ans sorrows.
   Over time women have moved away or life circumstances dictated they leave our group, which is down to five solid members who meet once a month now, with a sixth who comes when she can. Two members live in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho and the rest live in Spokane, Washington.
   Les jokes about the cavalier way in which Americans travel hundreds of miles for dinner. Well it's true. We traveled one hundred and seventy two miles round trip for dinner with the Wednesday Women twice, and Les was the first man to ever receive an invitation to one of our gatherings!
   Tonight, across the Atlantic, and all the way across the North American continent to the Pacific Northwest, the Wednesday Women are meeting for dinner. 
   Recently one of them received an Inland Waterways map from me and Les. They can follow us on our journeys, along with the eight other Americans who received maps from us.
   Currently we are moored up at Wheaton Aston on the Shropshire Union canal, across from the Hartley Arms pub, at the top of Wheaton Aston lock.  After breakfast we are filling up with diesel and we are cruising a few miles further Northwest towards Wales. 
   The weather is overcast, with a pale grey sky and warm, dewy air. Roses, forsythia, gorse, ornamental cherry trees, primroses and daffodils are all blooming right now!
   Nettles, yellow dock, lung wort, comfrey, and heal-all are greening up on their young spring shoots and new leaves.
   Ducks, Geese, Swans, Herons, Crows, Moor hens, Coots, and most other birds are gearing up for the mating season. They are building nests, and beginning the chase that brings on another generation. Soon the canals will be filled with ducklings, goslings, and dark baby swans. Coot chicks will wobble around looking like crazy, feathered Muppets. Life is good!
   Tonight the Wednesday women will meet at Kialynn's for dinner and they will open the map and look for me and Les.
   So this is a love letter from me to them; an embrace from England to those amazing women I love dearly: Kialynn, Marian, Lisa, Rose Marie, Rhea, and Gina. The quote at the top reflects each of you, whom I carry here in my heart, every day; I miss all of you tremendously. I am there with you in spirit. Just think of the little witch! Maybe you can set a place at the table for me? Bon Appetit! Blessed Be.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Keep it clean, keep it filtered.

You all know the meaning of  BOAT, Bring Out Another Thousand. Keeping the heart of your boat pumping away below decks can result in a big cash outlay for the non DIY boaters amongst us.

A straight forward service can add up to a hefty bill with filters being of no small part of the total. I am the service mechanic for Nb Valerie and as such search out the best prices for filters. Now probably a lot of you are already aware that the oil and fuel filters used on boats are also used on road vehicles, remember engine manufacturers make engines not filters. So if you think your branded high price filter is the only one that`s not.

Ok i can hear you saying `yes Les we know all this`. Well I am just trying to help those who like myself years back sought out the branded filters until another boater put me on the right road.

 Nb Valerie has a Vetus 4.15 engine and anyone will tell you Vetus parts probably no different to any other engine are expensive.
Left to right in the picture, electric lift pump, oil, fuel (metal drain plug) and last the water separator WS180. The 2 that I was most keen to get were the pump(left) and WS180(right) filters. Vetus dealer prices are £10 and £37 respectively, those above £3.99 and £13.99.
Altogether on 4 filters the price difference was £46 and as you can see I have a stock.

One of the reasons I blogged this was the fact the outlet was 10/15 mins walk from the boat moored near Acton Trussell on the Staffs. and Worc. canal so no worries of mailing.
Filtermania can supply practically any marine filters, Barrus, Beta, Bmc, Bukh, Hatz, Isuzu, Lister, Russel newberry, Nanni, the list goes on. They are also on E Bay.

I have no connection with Filtermania and the only reason for this blog is to help others.  I will say though the plug might not have been so big but for the fact that Lee the M.D. was so helpful assisting the sales desk switching stock around to accommodate my multiple order and it was nice chatting after  the transaction.

So as I said a short walk from Mill Lane Acton Trussell bridge 93, there is a bus or if you moor soon after bridge 94 there is a path across the field.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Stafford Branch Canal

The Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal opened in 1772 but never came closer to Stafford than the 1.5 miles from Radford Wharf. The wharf was situated on the opposite side of bridge 98 from where we had our Sunday roast. The site is now occupied by a car sales outlet for BMW.

In 1805 a horse tramway was built from the wharf into Stafford town centre but this seemed not to be profitable and it closed in 1814.

Four years on in 1816 a new connection to Stafford from the canal was opened. It started from Baswich lock just a short distance from bridge 101 and was not so much a new canal but the canalisation of the River Sow. Just one lock here led down to the Sow and a 1.5 mile much realigned course of the river into Stafford. The Wharfhouse and canal buildings at the terminus were demolished in 1972; the basin was filled in and ended up below a multi storey car park. (parking garage, U.S.)

The entrance to the arm was beneath a roving bridge. The canal then entered a pound (a section of canal for U.S. readers) of 100ftx20ft, then an aquaduct over a drainage channel and the lock down to the River Sow. The lockhouse was demolished in the mid 1960`s and the bridge in the 1950`s. Records show the brickwork of the lock was intact in 1971.

So not much left it seems but in fact if you stop by and look there is a lot of evidence of the structures and a lot on the internet including recollections of one Olive Price.                             Olive spent some of her childhood living in the lockhouse and if you read all the information here together with drawings by Olive and a rare picture of the bridge you can then appreciate what you can still see on the site of the old Stafford canal. (The picture at left shows remains of the pound walls.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Sunday roast and a lucky elderly lady.

Radford bridge (98) was the destination for a Sunday roast. We had as normal moored out in the countryside but the 2 mile walk was well worth it.  Sunday £6.99($10.50) with 4 choices of meat and as many visits to the vegetable pots as you want.  Mon-Sat the price drops to £3.89 ($5) with the same quality but one less choice of meats. The roast is served 11am thru to 9.30pm
The bottomless Cornish ice cream bowl at £1.99($3) was just not to be missed and after all the walk back would help burn some calories.

Now for just this post....animal corner. This little fella did his aerial act across the trees then came down for a little refreshment.

I did tell Jaq it won`t go away if you feed it, and it didn`t even hopping over a moving water hose as I wound it after taking on water.
Robins are such posers always ready for the camera. The Robin in the States is about 3 times the size of the UK bird.

This 14 year old lady is for sure not posing. She is on our back deck soaking wet, panting and shaking real bad. I spotted her for the first time on a passing boat as we had lunch. The second sighting was for her, very lucky. She was just a nose and pair of eyes when I spotted her on the offside as we slowly rounded a bend and I think she was almost finished. I reversed and just managed to get the boat into a position that enabled me to grab her by the neck and haul her aboard.
Jaq dried her off while I first tried the boat that had passed us earlier but no one was aboard. I just went down the line of boats knocking and found the owner on a boat further down the towpath. The dog had little function in her rear legs and an abscess on the eye that had burst, both conditions the owner said were pre her water adventure. Jaq and I went on our way happy we had rescued the dog hoping she (the owner) would keep the dog safe.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

What I love About English Men

He is half of a blessed man. Left to be finished by such as she; and she a fair divided excellence, whose fullness of perfection lies in him." ~ William Shakespeare

   They call you love. They call everyone love. And they say it in a fabulous English accent seasoned with one of the many dialects inherent upon what part of the Island a man was raised. You American women know what I'm talking 'bout ??!!
  In America the only men who might address women by the pet name of "love" are those who have had recent carnal knowledge of said female. And it will probably only slip from his lips once.
   The first time Les addressed me as love, was in a voice message on the phone. We had yet to meet in person and it left me puzzled and puzzling; whatever does Dir Sir mean by that? Was he taking my offer to stay for a week as a guest in my home as something more? Or is this a "British" thing?
   After a day or two I soon forgot about I am married to a Brit and living in England, and MY English man calls me darlin' most of the time (sappy sod comes into play occasionally as well).
   To be sure, English women call me love too, but we are both quite clear it is a general term of endearment, said while offering me assistance. I much prefer it to the American term "Hon." I am no ones' honey--not even Les'.
   Ques in this country make me uncomfortable. Everyone jams themselves in nut to butt. We Americans are used to our own personal space--LOTS of it; typically in the U.S. we stake out a three foot circumference and only those who are invited intrude upon it. When standing in line--as we refer to queuing--we might withdraw our personal space to 18 inches.
   Back in September we were queud up nose to neck at a store in Hinckley, Les in front and me behind. All of a sudden a voice laden with rich, husky, dulcet tones not unlike that of Tom Jones whispered warmly right into my ear, "Excuse me love." I almost wet myself.
   My first shocked thought was "MY GOD!!! That is NOT my husband's voice," followed a nanosecond later by "HOLY MARY MOTHER OF PEARL!! A-strange-man-just-whispered-in-my-ear-and-called-me-love!
   About this time the unassuming fellow behind me pushed gently by and went on out the door with no clue he had just left an American woman in a total state of confused emotional distress.
   As an American ex-pat I will never get used to English men addressing me thus. And I hope I never do!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Approaching Great Haywood

This mooring is at Wolseley Bridge on the Trent and Mersey canal. We decided this would be a nice place to stay and catch up on the washing. As you can see the towpath is very wide here which is what`s needed so our washing line will not get tangled around walkers.                             The line just hooks on in this case from the rear wind turbine fixing to the centre line rope guide. The boat pole hooks the line angled away from the boat and is held in place by a mooring pin. Seen this done by other boaters, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, some using the whole boat length and a sturdier pole. Another reason to stop here was to investigate what was seen across the field beyond the bridge over the River Trent that as a bachelor I had seen often.                                                                     Once when cruising past I asked some boaters who seemed to be in the process of opening a local tip or perhaps it was a themed open air beer garden with central heating(log fire in centre of towpath)....oh yes i asked them if they knew what was over the bridge. In a slurred 70% proof accent they said a garden centre and surprise surprise a pub. So glad I was on the boat and I could just wave my thanks and keep cruising.
This was 2yrs back and I`m glad to say they were nowhere to be seen when we moored, perhaps the local council didn`t approve of their new venture.  So across the bridge there is indeed a pub the Wolseley Arms known pre 1960 as the Roebuck. It was long before the railways came a horse changeover stop for the coaches travelling from London heading north and a large number of horses were kept here.
Across from the pub a collection of old farm buildings and machinery have been assembled together and are in use antique, picture framing, soft  furnishings and hairdressing.                     The Wolseley family  go back to Norman times and all this area was part of the family estate with Wolseley hall being the family seat. The hall was demolished in 1954 and the estate was sold off in 1996 and it`s this that leads us to the final and best part of this corner of Staffordshire. The Wolseley centre set in 26 acres around lakes and alongside the river Trent was once the landscaped gardens of the Wolseley estate and now managed by Staffordshire wildlife trust. The entrance is the same as the garden centre but as you enter off the road look RIGHT for the Wildlife trust entrance.
One of the walkways around a lake, entry to the gardens is free.

So onto Great Haywood where i hoped to take Jaq for a look around Shugborough Hall but it is shut for winter until late March. So we had a stroll around all the places I blogged about HERE back in 2008. Jaq was fascinated but disappointed the hall was shut so a return visit will be on the to do list.
This picture of us I took on the stone arched packhorse bridge in the link above. In the background the rivers Trent and Sow meet and flow beneath us.

Back on the boat and just a short trip to Haywood Jct. and we turn onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal.  We moored on Tixall wide for lunch opposite the old gatehouse below.
The gatehouse was the grand entrance to Tixall hall that was demolished in 1929. Perhaps if we had been boating then the view for lunch would have been more like the picture below.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

If Only I'd Known... MMMmmm Good!!!

"Food, like a loving touch or a glimpse of divine power, has that ability to comfort." ~Norman Kolpas
  When My daughters were small I used to make a slow roasted dinner in the oven every Sunday. This dish consisted of a four pound chuck roast, 6 large potatoes, one large onion, and seven large carrots. I also used 2 packages of Lipton Onion Soup Mix, four cups of water, and a bay leaf.
   I seared the chuck roast in a hot skillet then laid it on a bed of sliced onion in a roasting pan, arranged the carrots around it, mixed the Lipton Onion Soup mix with the water, poured it over the meat and veg, tossed in a bay leaf, covered it and set the oven for 300F (Gas Mark 2), letting the roast cook slowly for about two and half hours.
   I turned the roast, threw in the potatoes, covered it all and returned it to the oven to finish cooking for another hour. I always served this with rolls, tossed green salad, and Lazy pie--a shortcut canned peach dessert with a browned crust. This is a quintessential American Sunday pot roast dinner.
   Since moving to the U.K. I've been introduced to a new recipe which--had I only known about it--would have been my Sunday favorite hands down! Boiled Bacon with Colcannon! OH-MY- GODDESS!!
   Les' daughter in law Joanne comes from Irish folk and she gave me her recipe. I also did some online research and most authentic Irish sites say any good soul from the Old Sod would have had boiled bacon for Saint Paddy's Day--not Corned Beef and Cabbage--which is solidly American (and which my two favorite daughters despise; whenever I made Corned Beef and Cabbage they turned down their mouths and called it Irish pond scum.)
   When Les and I were courting over the phone he mentioned once that he was visiting his son Kevin and his daughter in law Joanne, and JoJo was fixing one of his favorites-- boiled bacon and vegetables.
   My American imagination saw stringy pieces of fatty bacon, swimming in a vat of boiling water with carrots, potatoes and cabbage. I remember thinking, "Note to self: "Do not EVER accept a dinner invite for boiled Bacon. uh unh!"
   When I queried Les about it he was less that helpful since he had no idea I had no idea what he was talking about. It was another one of those funny cultural moments we bump into every now and then.
   Now that I've actually seen Boiled Bacon and tasted it I can only say Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Magna CULPA.
   It was the tenderest, most mouthwatering, succulent bit of pork to ever rest on my palate. I had to make it and without further delay here is the recipe for my American friends and family who have NO CLUE what they are missing!

Boiled Bacon with Colcannon:

1 four pound (1.8 Kg) smoked or unsmoked boneless gammon joint.
For Americans this is what the British call ham, so you are looking for a four pound, boneless unsmoked ham roast.
Unwrap the ham and place in a 5 quart cast iron enameled Dutch oven or a large soup pot with a tight fitting lid. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Put the lid on the pan and boil the ham for 2 hours. Flip over the roast so the bottom is on the top, replace the lid and turn down the heat to simmer for another 2 hours.
Remove the cooked ham from the pot and place it in another shallow pan with a little of the ham water, cover with tinfoil and keep warm in a low oven.
Peel 6 large potatoes and cut into quarters. Add them to the water in which you cooked the ham and boil until fork tender. I tossed a bay leaf into my water just because...
While the potatoes are cooking, chop half a small head of green cabbage into small chunks or shreds. Set aside. Peel seven carrots and cut into thick round coins.
Toss the carrots into the pan with the potatoes 10 minutes after you started the spuds. Once the potatoes are done, remove them from the ham water with a slotted spoon.
Add your cabbage to the pan with the carrots, cover and simmer for another eight minutes. Remove the bay leaf at this time.
Meanwhile mash your potatoes with a large knob of butter and 1/4 c. of warm evaporated milk. Add ground pepper to taste but you will not need salt--the ham provided it already.
Now strain out your carrots into a dish, add a knob of butter, a splash of maple syrup and a sprinkling of salt. They are ready to go!
Stir the drained cabbage into the mashed potatoes. I also added one Tablespoon of fresh diced chives because I love the taste of onion with all of this goodness.
Remove the ham from the oven, unwrap and pull apart. Serve with heaping spoonfuls of Colcannon and carrot coins. Slainte!! (That's Gaelic and it means To Your Health!)

Post Script: I edited this blog to remove all references to Bubble & Squeak which Sarah aboard NB Chertsey was kind enough to point out, is cold boiled potatoes chopped up and fried with bits of cabbage.

After looking online I found a recipe for the mashed potatoes with cabbage and it is called Colcannon in Irish, so...there you go!

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs