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Wednesday, May 23, 2012


"Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls." ~Joseph Campbell

liminal baoter's sunset

   The word bliss is defined by the dictionary as complete happiness, or heaven. Bliss looks and feels like different things to different people. For me bliss is about simple things—the beauty of nature, a well prepared meal enjoyed in the company of loved ones and friends; laughter is bliss and good medicine combined, as is capturing a moment in the natural world that I alone was privileged to see. Come along with me and share my bliss…
   We’ve cruised into Nantwich, out and in, and out again, as we hang around the general area for the month of May, exploring the Middlewich Arm, Barbridge, Calvely, and spots either side of Nantwich. Les needed some dental surgery and now we are waiting for impressions to be taken and a new dental plate for him; I was waiting for an appointment to see the chiropractor.
   My left shoulder is weak from a chronic injury of childhood which has left me with masses of scarred tissue and a left clavicle and shoulder than pulls out of place. Years of physical therapy, massage to break up the scar tissue, and attempts at rebuilding the muscle have helped minimally. There are some things for which we pay all of our lives..this is one of them. So we’ve decided Les will do the locks and I will steer the boat in and out of them.
   Our second cruise into Nantwich on a late Monday evening brought us into a mooring near the stairs down into town. By the time we moored up, straightened a few things out inside and thought about eating, nine o’clock had come and gone.
   We threw on our coats and walked hand in hand through the falling dusk into a town emptied and quiet. Here in England Restaurants don’t serve dinner past nine p.m.week nights and some close even earlier mid week. We found a Pizza Parlour joint open and ordered two mini-pizzas to go.
   Walking into the nearly empty street, we spied a bench in the middle of the two traffic lanes, facing toward the street front and pizza shop. Dear Sir and I settled on the bench side by side, opened our hot cardboard containers, leaned back and propped out legs on the metal banister in front of us, and ate our pizzas as we watched a few late night teenagers wandering the streets for some fun.
   Our little patch of night was lit dimly by an old street light, and we joked about our romantic dinner out, with a curb side seat on the street and overhead mood lighting. Hot, steamy, garlicky smells wafted off each piece of pizza as we ate and laughed in the gathering dark.
   The next morning we were off again, looking for a quiet bit of countryside. The Middlewich Arm beckoned and we turned off the Shroppie at Barbridge. We cruised through Church Minshull lock, past a lock-side cottage…
Church Minshulll Lock
lovely garden
   …with a lovely hidden back garden. One must peek over the wall to see it!

looking back at teh lock cottage
   Looking back I saw the cottage from another perspective, with boats lined up waiting for the lock gate to open, and their turn to go up. The Middlewich arm is only about twelve miles long but it cuts across some truly lovely countryside, bordered by dairy farms, and lush greenery.

a charming cottage with a wavy roofline
   Along the way I spotted this charming place with a whimsical wavy roof line.
teh flashes at Middlewich
   Eventually we settled for a couple of days near the Flashes—small lakes formed by subsidence from salt mining. These water jewels are a haven for wild life. The cut (canal) is up on an embankment looking down over the wooded hillside to the flashes below.

a stork in wait
   There is such an abundance of life on the canals. I cannot convey the continual birdsong that fills the air from a half an hour before dawn to just after dusk. It is the sound track of our loves aboard the NB Valerie, and they are songs I do not recognize—European birds singing their mating songs. I spotted this grey Heron hanging out near a bridge hole, waiting for fish sign.
close up of looking through thebridge hole
   As we cruised along I looked ahead to the next bridge through the hole of the nearest one…
along the canal to the next bridge
   ...and looked back through the one we just passed. Bridge holes fascinate me. They are essentially doorways, and both are liminal spaces—like margins, and the periphery of our sight. Liminal spaces provide a place for unusual events to occur. Liminality leaves space for things outside the everyday realm of reality to survive. 

the grass is greener on the other side ofthte bridge hole
   yes, the grass is greener though the next bridge hole!

a shower of flower petals
   Coming into the town of Middlewich the canal cuts through the backs of housing estates (subdivisions). Bijou back yards filled with flowers tilt down to the banks and private moorings are filled with boats. This one is decked out in a confetti of flower petals.
   On another trip into Nantwich our friends Jennifer and Peter Huskisson caught up with us. We met them in March at a bus stop in Shrewsbury. We were all waiting for the bus back to Ellesmere. I just knew they were boaters when I spotted them! Sure enough and they were moored up two boats past us on the Ellesmere Arm. We invited them to dinner and thoroughly enjoyed their company, so it was great to see them again in Nantwich.
  British by birth, their parents immigrated to Australia in the ‘50’s as “ten pound POMES.” In the 1950’s the Australian government wanted settlers. Brits were invited to emigrate with only ten pounds in their pockets—Australia would provide everything they needed once they arrived. POME stands for Property of Mother England-–a nickname given to British settlers by Aussies. Now days the Huskissons call Tasmania home, with a house on the beach. Both are university educators, and very widely travelled. They purchased a good used narrow boat and are enjoying Great Britain via the canals.

Jennifer and Peter Husskisson 
   Jennifer and Peter. We’ve become fast friends with them both. We share a love of laughter, great travel tales, and experience in higher education. Below is their boat, Mactra’s Filia
Mactras' Filia
   If you see Peter and Jennifer along the cut please give them a warm hello. Friendship bliss!
  After our next trip into Nantwich we passed Hurleston Junction, and the Middlewich Arm,  and cruised up to the winding hole at Calvely, just before the locks. We found a lovely spot to settle down for a few days before we had to make the trip back in to Nantwich again. During one brief day of warm weather I ran three loads of laundry and we hung them outside to dry while les chopped some more wood to stack and dry on the roof for next winter.

Hawthorns at teh Calvely winding hole
   The winding hole at Bunbury; I winded the boat for the very first time! For non-boaters that is pronounced “wind” as in a windy day—not “wind” like wind up a toy. Winding holes are large V shaped cuts in the canals so the long, narrow boats can wind or turn around.

bliss 039
   Hawthorn shrubs across the face of England and Wales are bursting into bloom. Literally thousands of  miles of Hawthorn hedges fill the air with their sweet scent, bringing joy to the bees and me! Bee bliss!
   A spell of rain set in, bringing unseasonably cool weather and a need for a fire in the late afternoons. Les finished reading a book he had here in the boat. I borrowed his Kindle and downloaded a C.D. Sansom “Mathew Shardlake” historical mystery novel and we settled in to relax and wait out the rain. The canals and reservoirs desperately needed the refill. Rain bliss…

rainon hte windows
   Day after day we woke to this view out the window…
rivulets of rainon the window…by mid mornings the water poured down…
   rain bouncing off the cut…bouncing off the surface of the cut!
  lack sky and rain with trees in silhouette
   The sky was dark and stormy for nearly two weeks as we travelled down to the water point and moved off again to find another quiet place, still tethered to the area by our dentist and chiropractor appointments.

bangers and mash
   I decided to try my hand at bangers and Mash for dinner one night. Oooh baby! I had no idea how delicious this dish tastes. Americans you’ve got to try it: Brown the links, then whip up some onion gravy (Americans can do this quickly by using a packet of Lipton Beefy Onion Soup mix. Mix it with 3 Tablespoons of corn starch and 2 cups of cold water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and the gravy will thicken. Make it in the same pan you browned the sausages for flavor. Add the sausages back into the gravy, cover, and let simmer on low while the potatoes and peas cook. Simmering the sausages in gravy mellows the flavor and keeps them moist without being greasy. Bliss on a plate!
   Finally the sun returned as we made another foray into Nantwich. With yellow light pouring forth from a cloudless sky we passed foals in the fields grazing contentedly with mom and dad; a late hatched clutch of tiny, fuzz-ball ducklings peeping in panic as our boat momentarily separated them from mom; around a curve of green field enclosed by trees dressed in spring green we spotted a pair of mated-for-life Canadian geese with eight goslings hoovering the field for anything good to eat. The babies are comical—large, fuzzy blobs on stilt legs with flat, webbed feet. New born babe bliss…
   We slowed down past a cluster of moored boats and Les spotted a dead Perch floating on the surface of the water. Nearby on the towpath a large black crow called and cackled as it hiked up and down the edge of the canal, eyes locked on the fish, waiting for it to drift close enough to snag. A fish dish and crow bliss…
   As we continued on past Barbridge two buzzards swooped across the air behind us, close enough I cold see their individual feathers! A third juvenile buzzard joined them at treetop height and they swept off across the fields.  Just past the next bridge hole a fisherman placidly dangled a line in the water. Suddenly a tern swooped out of nowhere in front of us, cruising low. It passed us, dipping to the water’s surface and just missed pinching a perch from the cut!
   We moored up in Nantwich for my long awaited chiropractor's appointment. Emma with Nantwich Chiropractic was brilliant. She correctly diagnosed my left shoulder was slightly out of joint and my left clavicle was also displaced. I did it three weeks earlier while cranking up the lock gates at Middlewich which are a bitch to work—the worst I’ve ever come across.
   Emma was able to find all that under a mass of old scar tissue and realize those misalignments were putting pressure on my neck and upper spine. As soon as she finished the adjustment I felt my energy level rise like water in a lock.
   While I was getting adjusted and massaged, Les picked up a bit of shopping. We started back to the boat in the heat of the late afternoon. Dear Sir insisted we stop at a small shop and get ice cream cones—Rrrrum Raisin! Deelicious! Ice cold bliss!!
   We left immediately to moor up just before the winding hole near hack Green, back toward Audlem. I made a quart of fresh homemade lemonade and tuna salad sandwiches on cheesy baps for dinner. And of course there was a chocolate Kahlua cake under cover on the counter for Les. He picked it up and sniffed appreciatively. “Gor Jaq—smell it! That’s gorgeous!” Cake bliss!!

les smelling his cake
   As May passes we take every opportunity for walks: Les goes out and disappears for several hours on the hunt for old mills and unused canal arms. Dear Sir loves the English summer weather and revels in it. I don’t tolerate weather hotter than 65 degrees Fahrenheit very well (read this chapter of my blog So This is Love for the full story) so I walk early in the morning and later in the evening, laying low in the heat of the afternoon when I log in to my courses to check in with my students, or read a chapter of one of my favorite Kate Shugak mystery series by Alaskan Author Dana Stabenow. This of course, after a morning tidy up of the boat.
   I lie in our bedroom with the curtains pulled, the sun-dappled shade lighting up the interior of the cabin—a gentle breeze perfumed with Hawthorn wafting in past the curtains. I am catching up on naps! All those naps I fought when I was a little kid—I’m making up for them now as the heat makes me feel sluggish and sleepy. Dreamy bliss…
   On one of our walks along the cut we passed a lively little stream working its way from Bunbury locks to who knows where?

a lilvey stream
   While Les kept his eyes peeled for firewood I slipped into a dance of euphoria over fields of cleavers and nettles. I have a bottle of Nettle vinegar settling down, and a jar of comfrey and Pot Marigold soaking in olive oil. I will make a salve with some melted beeswax that will heal any skin condition from chapped skin to burns. Herbal bliss!

masses of nettles and cleavers

   Today as I wrote this post Les had me installed like a Queen, in a chair on the bow under the sun umbrella, laptop perched on a pillow in my lap, a glass of cool lemonade nearby as he sanded rust spots off the side of the boat and repainted them.
   Music filled the warm, sunny air: David Gray, Pink, Maroon 5, John Lennon, The Dixie Chicks…two swans swam slowly past me, gracefully gliding on the water, nibbling at the green threads of algae along the canal edge. Mallard ducks landed with a splash nearby and began to bathe as they discussed the merits of this neck of the woods and water.
   Sue and Martyn on NB Cherokee slowed down for a chinwag on their way to Audlem. Followers of both our blogs, they are another lovely couple I am pleased to meet.
   Mornings on the cut dawn like this….

sunrise glorious

   …and evening closes sublimely with me and Les chasing each other down the narrow hallway to see who will be first in the bathroom. Once the bed is pulled out across the hallway we settle into all six feet of it under the down comforter, snuggled close. We talk, laugh, tickle, giggle, tell stories and jokes, chortle, guffaw and belly laugh…sometimes until tears of joy and laughter roll down my cheeks.
   I remember the few and far between times as child when I spent the night at a friend’s home. After the lights went out we would whisper to one another, telling stories and jokes and laughing under the covers. I never wanted to fall asleep—I wanted our laughter and the incredible sense of joy so unfamiliar to me in the nightmare of my childhood to go on forever. Now it does, and I fall asleep nearly every night with a goofy grin on my face, molecules bubbling with that indefinable feeling laughter evokes within us. Bliss for me is falling asleep, safe and happy, in my husband’s arms, rocked gently in our narrow boat bed.

Sunset 1


locheriboll said...

Oh yes... Bliss indeed. What a great post. Only problem is Amwrican sausages are NOT like bangers. Can't wait to get some in August!

Sue & Ken nb cleddau said...

Ater a long weekend on Cleddau - bliss!
Wanted to post a pic on this comment but don't know how.
Sue and Ken nb Cleddau

life afloat on nb tickety boo said...

As always a lovely blog post, Bliss!

Debbie the Hamster :)

Anonymous said...

Oh I commented on the wrong blog. Carol

Roger said...

Hi Les And Jaqueline.

I always understood that POME, shortened to POM most of the time, was PRISONER of Mother England, the nickname given to the convict deportees.


Les Biggs said...

Are you in teh U.S. and coming back in August? Which sausages are your favorite? Mine are Morrison's Thick Outdoor Bred Pork Sausages with Cracked Black Pepper. I'm glad you liked the post.

Les Biggs said...

Hi Sue,
I don't know how to add a picture to a blog comment. I'll bet you and Ken had a cracking good weekend though! Bliss indeed!
Love to you both,

Les Biggs said...

Hi Deb,
I knew you would enjoy it. In fact, You kept popping up in my head as I wrote it. You strike me as a woman who has a deep relationship with bliss!

Les Biggs said...

Hi Roger,
Lovely to hear froim you. It may well be the definition of POM is how it was orignally used by the British; some Aussies however spell it POME to refer to Property of Mother England, in refernce to the British. Jennifer told me this story and she related those Brits who emigrated to Australia on this deal were specifically referred to as ten pound POMES; Property of Mother England makes more sense in that context than Prisoners of Mother England. Any way one looks at it, this is an acronym that lends itself to either side of that coin!

Anonymous said...

One of the best essays yet!
You both may well have physical disabilities, however you have each other. Isn't that is what really

Anonymous said...

Hi Jaq,

I'm the mysterious Locheriboll. I finally got Google signon to work from my phone and forgot I hae a "nom de plume" on there (Needless to add it now won't work from my PC)

I like the plainest bangers...plenty of sawdust just like the old days.


Les Biggs said...

Hi Bryce,
You are indeed correct. None of us gets out of this world without scars and bruises. I feel so lucky to have found a good man who knows just the right medicine for mine.
Take care,

Les Biggs said...

Hi Sally!
We are so excited to hook up with you and Joe in August.

As to our trip back in November we will be staying with Cheri and Jerry Curtis in Pullman so we will definitely take you up on the offer of cocktails. It would be lovely if all 6 of us could get together for an evening.
Love Jaq

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs