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Thursday, June 27, 2013

The 2013 Thames Boaters' and Bloggers' Convention

"The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us." ~Ashley Montagu

    We came onto the Thames on May 25th, moored up up at Kingston-upon-Thames our first night, moved on to Hampton Court for two nights and then cruised up to Weybridge and moored for a night at D'Oyly Carte Island. The next morning we were off up the River Wey for three delightful weeks where we blogged like fiends trying to catch up this electronic travel companion as quickly as we could. The trouble lies not with Dear Sir but with me--the American writer gobsmacked by each thing that comes at me 'round a bend, over or under a bridge, or up the path! Add in time for work instructing my courses, the every day affairs of living and time slips away from me like a silken thread on a high wind. We will fill you all in about our experiences on the Wey but for right now we need to catch up some long overdue how'da dos and lamented goodbyes!
   As we came off the River Wey we caught up with James and Doug on NB Chance--boater's who also blog and whose path has crossed ours several times in the past year, although we've either been sleeping in or in Tesco's stocking up on groceries when they passed! Finally we moored up near each other and we invited them to dinner aboard NB Valerie. 
"Doug--can you believe it? I have a run of nine--and no wild cards!!"
   Doug and James brought the wine and we got to know each other over plates of Cheddar Cheese Risotto. The four of us enjoyed ourselves thoroughly with an after dinner game of Phase Ten, and Doug introduced me to a lovely new licorice liquor! Yummy! Never pass up a chance to party with the couple aboard NB Chance--they are good folk and good fun is to be had in their company.
   The next morning we visited their boat for coffee, cake and Doug's dreamy muffins. Theirs is a lovely floating home with comfy appointments. As soon as we parted--we parted again literally; James and Doug headed south down the Thames for Kingston and on to London, and we turned NB Valerie upstream through Shepperton Lock. 
Goodbye to James and Doug aboard NB Chance
   One of the crazy making things about being on a river is the massive amount of insects which make their way inside; May flies and moths mainly along with a fair share of mosquitoes and tiny white bodies midges. 
   Very late after dinner with Doug and James, we realized our open windows and bright lights were acting as a bug magnet. There were so many insects inside that as we washed up and put the dishes away they were swarming around our faces, in our hair, and trying to crawl in my ears! At the end of my rope (or tether as they say over here) and fairly tipsy on wine, I  devised a scathingly brilliant plan to rid our floating home of flying vermin. 
   We shut off all the lights except the ones in the galley. I went and stood out on the dark bow with doors wide open, and instructed Les to take the dish towel in hand and flap it at the ceiling, herding the bugs toward me, and shutting off the galley lights as he went, turning on the saloon lights to attract all the insects forward toward me. We did this (I say we but really it was Dear Sir doing the insect herding and much the better for all the wine he had with supper) in stages, shutting off lights behind and turning them on in front, Les flapping the tea towel madly as he went until finally he reached the bow stairs, where I stood outside.
   I flipped the switch on our large torch (flashlight for Americans), and stood like a combination of Lady Liberty and the man who flags in the planes at the airport, attempting to attract the thousands of flying things out of the boat. It was a combo of Rawhide and Give me your tired, your hungry, your poor...we sat giggling with wine and hysteria on the darkened bow. The next morning as we visited NB Chance we were mightily impressed by the fact that not one flying insect was to be found inside. I had thought they just wouldn't dare, but Doug set me straight on the facts: he sucked them all up with the Dyson!
Parisien Star--home to Aussies Elly and Mick
  When we finally made our way to Royal Windsor to moor up, live-aboard bloggers Elly and Mick on Parisien Star pulled in behind us and breasted up with their traveling companions aboard NB Wyntons Folly. We had a short chinwag and introduced ourselves before setting off for a walk round town.
   It was lovely to meet Mick and Elly, who posted comments on our blog previously, making me feel much better about being a melancholy American. She is Australian and Mick is British by birth but has lived his life in Australia so they can both understand life in England in all its many permutations.
  The same afternoon as we sat at the dinette considering another blog post, Les' phone rang. It was Sue aboard No Problem to say they would be stopping by for a day. A dinner invitation aboard NB Valerie was forthcoming and to say I was excited would be understating things.
   Sue remembers me commenting on their blog back when I lived in the Washington State and had a million and one questions about canals, narrow boats, and life aboard--all of which she answered with patience and good humor. We struck up a friendship over the miles, and after Les came to visit me the first time as a guest, leaving with my heart wrapped around his little finger, it was to Sue I turned, leaving a comment on her blog post of October 28, 2010:
"Oh Sue–the picture of Cowley tunnel is magnificent! I am going to wrap it around me and wear it like a shawl today. It is cold and bleak here and not just the weather. I had a visit from a certain Englishman of our mutual acquaintance who happened to be in the States visiting Las Vegas. He’s stolen my heart, and taken it–and the sun back to England with him."
   Les, Sue and Vic are dear friends, and Les had told Sue he was coming to visit me. She thought he might melt my heart--and he did! So it seems crazy that it took nearly two years for our paths to meet at last. 
   It was a brilliant day--sunny and warm. Sue and Vic stopped to chat on their way into town and back out again, inviting us over that afternoon for tea. They were moored up on the far side of the little island that skirts the edge of the Thames here at Windsor. Les and I held hands as we walked along over the bridge and sauntered across the grass to their brilliant mooring; plenty of space for the Penny and Meg to run, a bit of privacy from gongoozlers walking the towpath, and room to set out a table and chairs--Lovely! Trust Sue and Vic to know the best places to moor anywhere. They have been living aboard, continuously cruising for fourteen years and their blog is a must-read for anyone serious about a life on board a narrow boat.
   Sue invited me aboard NB No Problem for a tour. At 69 feet it is a lo-o-o-ng, narrow boat. It is also an extremely comfortable home, filled with love, laughter, memories and mementos of their life. Outside, yet another live aboard boater/blogger turned up--Ken aboard NB Dogma, whose blog titled Badger Sandwiches is a good read. (Nice to meet you Ken and we hope to see you and Sheena again sometime.) We all sat and had tea and scones, laughing as Les and I shared some of our more memorable "cultural moments" as we call them.
Sue, Les, and Vic
   Later that night Sue and Vic joined us, bottle of wine, a jar of Sue's homemade Tardebigge Flight Wild Fruit Jam, and lovely red roses in hand, for dinner, drinks, and a much anticipated evening. We share a great deal in common, we four--life experiences, desires, life lessons, and goals. Like us, Sue and Vic like to catch up with other boaters, share a meal, enjoy a laugh, have a natter, and then move on to a bit of quiet on their own, enjoying the peace and beauty of this life.
   I feel now, nearly two years after landing here, that I have been well and properly welcomed to our boating life --by the Goddess Mother and Father of continuous cruisers; two people who appear ordinary in every way--and yet are mythic to me as they embody the life of which I dreamed. Thank you Sue and Vic for folding me into your lives as a friend along with Les who you both obviously adore!

   This morning as my best beloved and I lay in bed, curtains closed against the morning sun, the day just beginning to hum around us, we woke to a gentle rhythmic knock. 
   "Les I think someone's at the door."  
   "Hmmmm? No it's just the swans pecking the side of the boat." He rolls over and takes the covers with him.
   "Not unless they've learned how to peck in a gentle syncopated rhythm it isn't." I got up and flicked the bow door curtains, seeing no one outside. I decided to put on the kettle and get dressed. Les joined me for a cuppa on the sun splashed bow as ducks, Egyptian and Canadian Geese, and Mute Swans gathered 'round in hopes of a hand out. 
Maffi and Sara
  Just then I looked up and saw another larger than life live aboard boater on a boat not his own--the mythical Maffi was at the helm of a replica working boat, NB Rowan. Les called out and I waved my arms. Together we caught Maffi's attention and he turned the boat from the main Thames stream, bringing it in to moor up in front of us. 
Maffi waving goodbye; Mollie is steering!
  Soon enough Maffi, Mollie, and his friend Sara joined us for tea. We had a good chinwag and found out Maffi was moving this boat from Oxford to Royden for a chap who had just bought it with Sara and her husband Mark aboard to keep company. It was lovely to greet them all--brief though it was. We look forward to having a longer visit when we come up the South Oxford in late August or early September.
   As Maffi and crew waved and went on their way, Les and I prepared for a walk into town to watch the changing of the guard at Windsor Castle and a stroll over the bridge to Eton--but that's for another blog post!


nb Chance said...

A great evening guys, with great company and great food! Looks like you have had a busy few weeks, look forward to the next meeting! xx

Unknown said...

I read all those blogs. I do smile when I see each of you saying how they have met the other. Thaqnks for the comment Les, I am o.k. Toying with selling the house to start a boat fund.........

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

James and Doug your blog posts make London seem like the most fashionable and happening place to be! as you know, there really are very few dull moments aboard a narrow boat! Take care and enjoy the city.

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Carol--go for it!! Nothing would make my heart sing louder than for me and Les to moor up somewhere--and find you and your boat already there--wherever it may be!
Love JaqXX

Sue said...

I am so pleased you jumped forward on your blog just for the day..

It was such a pleasure to meet you after all this time and your total acceptance to share a bit of Les with me... After all he is my favourite fella! :-)

I am happy now and my mind is at rest that we have all met.. It has been bothering me for over a year. I have found it very frustrating when you meet other bloggers yet we have yet to go bow to bow.

Thank you so much for the fabulous meal followed by the most awesome chocolate dessert I have every had.. AND I am still enjoying with the hunk you sent me home with!

I am so looking forward to meeting up with you both again when we return to cruise upstream in a couple of months time..

Thanks Jaq! xx

Les Biggs said...

Hi Sue,
It was lovely meeting you and Vic at long last. We look forward to seeing you in the months to come and mooring up again nearby . Next time I will introduce you to Angel Bars.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs