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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Next Surgeries or the Lack of Them...

My health problems stretch back to July and it`s been quite a ride through the good, bad, and at times ugly workings of the NHS. The new year seemed to bring some order to my life health wise, and a basic plan for 2014 appeared to be mapped out. It was not to be a free and easy no restrictions plan but after 2013 and discovery of death lurking within it would be a big improvement.

Following the cancer surgery the surgeon accepted eventually I had no desire to have 6 months of chemo and radio therapy with as he said just a 12-15% chance of stopping cancer form returning.

So the first hurdle was to go through the system, see the Oncologist at Mount Vernon and get a referral back to the surgeon so the stoma could be reversed. Living on the boat and being located far from the hospital means a 4/5 hour round trip by public transport. This was not so much a problem as I feel very fit but my concern was the waste of an appointment. Why should an appointment be used just for me to say no to more treatment?

Some will say I might regret that decision but the outcome is only going to be based on my `no` vote as no one will see the result of the 6 months therapy treatments I declined. So just wish me the best of luck on the decision I made.

Phoning the Oncologist`s secretary accessed an answering machine that stated the messages were monitored several times a day and calls would be returned. After four days waiting for a call, I called again and left another message. Eventually I managed to speak to someone via the main switchboard and was thanked for not taking up an appointment and was told the referral would be processed. Fantastic! Everyone is reading from the same hymn sheet but why did it take 4 days and still no return call?

Okay--I am in the system and I had an appointment mid March to see the surgeon about the stoma reversal. He will by then have received the referral and by then I will also have had the early March  surgery on my prostate ( TURP  ).  Things seem to be going well.

WRONG!!! I have received a letter changing the reversal appointment by two months to May. Still at least I  have a surgery date of March 3rd, 11am admission time for the prostate . A week ago I had a letter to confirm this surgery date except the time was now 7am and would I phone to confirm my attendance on the 3rd.

Now you need to concentrate. I phoned and was told to ignore the letter. My admission time was still 11am; then they phoned back to say it was being changed  to 7am and the letter was wrong, but is now correct. I am rapidly losing the will to live and just said "what time on the 3rd do you want me to attend?" Answer: "11am!! Ooops!!! Sorry," she says, "I`m getting confused. It's 7am for sure."

Ok stay calm says I, and in less than a week the surgery will be done and we can at least go off for a cruise while waiting for the reversal surgery to take place. The actual stoma reversal surgery would  not have  been mid March as I would need a colonoscopy to check all was well through the back gate before a surgery date would be assigned anyway. We could cruise well into summer before the actual op.

Today the Urology dept. phoned to cancel  the prostate surgery as an urgent case has caused the schedules to be revised. They will phone as soon as they have a new date. Of course this means I will need to attend another pre-op appointment. The pre-op is good for 12 weeks and my 12 week time slot ends the day after the cancelled surgery date. How they can safely assume a person is still fit enough for surgery 12 weeks after the pre-op check is beyond me.

There are many opinions as to why our health service is failing and I just..................
Not going down that route; best course of action is to decide how we stand now in respect of what has or has not happened. We can`t change the world but we can take a step back and change our plans for the foreseeable future.

1.  All being well the cancer has been removed and I will live to bore you all through the blog for many years to come.
2.  I have a stoma bag to attend to but this is not a big hardship. It just means the body has a different exit for waste.
3.  The prostate surgery needs to be done but only came to light during the cancer surgery. The symptoms having been around for years so surely I can live with them a bit longer. 
4. As I write this I am 100% fit enough to cruise, although not as fit as before all these health issues materialised.

Although it would have been nice to stick to the schedule and get everything attended to sooner rather than later, things could have turned out a lot worse and I could easily not be writing these words. As I am writing this it might be an idea to tell you of our plans and the reason for them.

The intention is to cruise south to London and spend a week in Paddington Basin, visiting a few places Jaq has on her list. From Marsworth, Watford hospital is on the way south and of course will be on the way back so when an appointment hopefully comes up we will not be too far away. This at least gives us some kind of plan that will not be too badly affected when the surgery appointment finally materializes. I only have one life and Mr. C has already taken up part of it so it is time now to get back to cruising.

A big welcome home to Keith on Hadar. Like me he has had health problems and like me he has a good lady, Jo, to look after him.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Update on Morgan & Co.

Following my Feb. 4th blog post `How and what it was` I have received an E mail from the research dept. of the National Motor Museum trust at Beaulieu. Their comments are alongside the pictures.

The cars seen in the Morgan works appear to be Hudson or Hudson Essex.

I’m less sure of the identity of the car in the advertisement but as Morgan were also associated with bodies for Studebaker in the early 1920s it could be one of these as it does not appear to be a Hudson. I understand that Morgan also provided bodies for Renaults but it definitely isn’t one of those either.

Hudson in the 1920`s was in the U.S. the third largest car maker behind Ford and Chevrolet. They had factories in Canada, Belgium and England so the picture caption above could be right in saying the chassis were imported from America.
The Morgan carriage co. must have been very big in their time if they coach built onto chassis from Germany, France and the U.S.
Nice to get some input on what was to me a puzzle.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Reservoir Levels

 The wettest winter since records began in 1910.

On the left Startops reservoir a couple of days ago and above back in 2011. The amount of rain lately has increased levels of the Grand Union south group of reservoirs by 35.8% in the last three months. The group is made up of Startops, Marsworth, Tringford and Wilstone.  The latter is the one I posted a link to showing it overflowing in my last post.
The CaRT site reservoir watch gives the latest figures and the Friends of Tring reservoirs posts individual figures for each reservoir as supplied by CaRT.

Tring Pumping Station Status 15th February 2014.
Wilstone     +0.22m – Overflowing at the rate of 475 litres a second!
Startops      -0.90m
Tringford     -0.50m
Marsworth +0.1m

Tringford has some spare capacity.
Marsworth is showing a surplus all of which is flowing into Startops
All the reservoirs were built in the early 19century on land purchased from the Rothschild family. The shooting and fishing rights went in 2008 to British Waterways ( now CaRT).

Boaters might be familiar with the British Waterways launch `Verulam` that has been moored at Bulbourne for quite some time. It has now been sold and was collected earlier this week. It was taken out on a trailer at Cow Roast marina and taken to Lincolnshire to be restored.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A look down the Aylesbury Arm

The trip down the Aylesbury Arm was to have been an adventure for us both as in all the times I had passed this junction never had I turned into the arm. Even though we never reached Aylesbury because of the floods lets just have a look at the pictures.

For a few days before the trip we were moored opposite the entrance to the arm and below the sign telling us it was just six miles to Aylesbury. On top of those six miles  there are also 16 locks but all being well that should be no problem.
Perhaps the swans and ducks were trying to warn Jaq of what lay ahead of us. The entrance to the first lock chamber of the arm can be seen left of the grey fence. A close up appears lower down the page.

 Some readers especially those in the U.S. have little concept of the workings of the UK canal system so I will try to explain the way this staircase lock functions.
Locks one and two are formed by two chambers and three gates. It is the lock in the last post that showed the boat having it`s propeller changed. Jaq is in the second chamber and the middle of the three gates can be seen behind her. In the foreground is the section of canal we need to cruise along. The chamber she has left, pictured left was level with  the water on our mooring.
So she entered the first chamber (left pic) and closed the gate. Water was then released into the second lower chamber (where Jaq is pictured above). When this water equalled the water in the second chamber the gates, pictured behind Jaq that are the middle of the three, could be opened. The gates opened and Jaq brought the boat into the second chamber as pictured above. Now this chamber is drained of water and the boat lowers to the level of the canal ahead of us.

Ok a diagram to perhaps help. " A picture is worth a thousand words".
In the first diagram the boat has entered the gate into the first chamber. This is the gate pictured above on the left and is also the one in the very first picture.
Water is released from the first chamber into the second chamber by raising paddles on the gates.

In the second diagram you can see the water has levelled between chambers and we can now enter chamber two shutting the gate behind us. Jaq is pictured above in the second chamber.

In the third diagram we open the paddles on the gate in front of  Jaq. This lets water flow into the canal below us bringing us to it`s level. When the water is level we can open those gates ahead and move out of the lock and cruise along the lower section of canal. We are now about 12 feet lower than our mooring on the main line of the canal. The next 16 locks will take us down a further 84 feet. The 16 will be standard single locks and not of the staircase type.
Hope this has helped some readers to understand what Jaq and I call home. So now we cruise along the Aylesbury arm.

Signs of  some TLC being needed
One side repaired and the other side hit. Not sure of the history of this damage but further along bridge 15 has been damaged by a hit and run driver and left CaRT with a £30,000 bill. Most of the bridges are 200+ years old and a lot are listed structures.

Dixon`s wharf is being developed. This block is `C` on the site map and were £500,000 ($750.000)

Keeping the chimney at this angle was just enough to clear the tight arches.

This is after Wilstone village and was the first sign that things might get tricky. The next picture is a close up of those mooring bollards up ahead.

This is the overflow from Wilstone reservoir. CaRT stated 3 days ago the reservoir was overflowing at a rate of 475 litres per second. That's about 100 gallons.....per second! Link to a you tube video

Water now getting worse over the gates.

 The new Arla dairy. It aims to  process and package 1.3 billion litres of milk annually. 85 acres and has a business park on site where a company called Alpha, manufactures the plastic milk  bottles. From what I`ve read Arla hope some of their other suppliers will take up industrial space on site to cut down truck miles to and from the site and Arla collects the rents. Clever?

 This is Buckland lock 12. Last year the collapse of the lock wall caused the canal to be closed and boats craned out and taken by truck back to the main line canal at Milton Keynes. The Arla site started before this lock and stretches as far as you can see to lock  13.

Lock 13 (unlucky for us) Redhouse Lock is as far as we could go. As is our style of sharing lock and boat duties it was Jaq who had the job of wading ankle deep to reach the lock gate. Having struggled getting the gate open which was only possible using the bow rope and easing the boat back gently we then got the boat in.
Twenty five minutes later and it was obvious the water coming in far exceeded the water going out so mother nature won this round.
Shutting the paddles allowed the lock to fill just with the flow over the top gate. Spent three days moored just outside of the lock.

This is Red House lock named after the pub that is now a private residence alongside the lock. I snatched the picture from Google,  the water flooded across the grass and up to the door as I talked to the owner who was on the phone to C.a.R.T.  Thought it not nice to take pictures of his house absorbing canal water. Opening the gate paddles stopped the flow but it still poured around the back of the house from the top gate and of course everywhere it could over the bottom gates as in the video a couple of posts back.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Saturday Walk to Wilstone Village

"Chimes ring out, calling the wind to play." ~Jaqueline Almdale Biggs

   As Les said we did make it off the Aylesbury Arm, where we fetched up at Marsworth only to be pinned down again by the next storm front--and the next. Rain continually lashed from leaden skies, and the winds grew steadily over the last few days until the trees appeared to be engaged in some wild, staggering dance. 
   Last night we lay cuddled together under the down comforter as the boat lurched and jerked against its mooring. It felt like a night spent in a Texas bar drunk on tequila, riding the mechanical bull.
   Saturday morning after we set ourselves right with a hot cup of tea and a quick look at the online BBC for news updates, we decided to take advantage of the sunshine making a casual appearance between wind tossed clouds. Les and I wanted to pick up a Saturday Daily Mail with the TV guide and some bread. We walked up the towpath, over the bridge on Church lane that spans the Grand Union canal overlooking our mooring, and down Watery Lane onto the towpath along the Aylesbury arm. 
   Though the wind was still gusting, it was a warmer wind now. Sunlight erased harsh shadows and lit up the damages which took place overnight: storm strewn branches from the hedge littered the ground, making the slick mud chunky in places. Still the world glittered as fat water droplets hung from everything--the leftover confetti of last night's storm, gilded golden by the morning sun. A tiny Wren sheltered in the thorny, twisted twigs of a hawthorn hedge.
   We walked along past five locks and decided on a whim to cut across a farmer's field, following a public footpath into the village of Wilstone--renown as the place of the last public ducking of a witch in in 1751.
   The field was bogged down with water and half stiffened mud as we slogged along. The wind picked up and assaulted our faces, making us bend forward against the onslaught to reach the edge of the Village and its back side allotments (public garden spaces). The path into the village was sodden with too much water, squelching as our boots assailed the mud in a deluded effort to seek out any bit of higher ground. Ahead a large dark puddle had grown in the storm to create a deep pond obscuring the end of Rosebarn Road. I spotted an alternative path through the trees and directly along the sides of some fenced yards. Ducking into the overhanging brush, the high ground here was dry.
   We quickly came to a right turn between two houses which tumbled us out without fanfare into Wilstone village along Grange Road. Les and I traipsed along, buffered now from the wind by the houses on either side. Turning left onto Tring Road we walked past the community centre as the road curved back around to the village shops. 
These cottages had sandbags at their doors
   We passed the fronts of cottages with sandbags stacked across the front entrances. Wilstone reservoir has exceeded its ability to hold any more water. The overflow passes into Gudgeon stream which comes out in the Village, running along Tring Road. Their septic systems flooded as well, the mixture of sewage and surface water inundating these homes in January with no relief in sight.
The Half Moon Pub
   As we carried on up Tring Road into the center of the Village we passed the 16th century Half Moon pub--site of the inquest for the accused witches John and his wife Ruth Osborne, were drowned as a result of being ducked in a local pond. 
   Just beyond the road splits in two with the old village forge building sitting in between. Tring road continues on to the right and eventually meets up with The Icknield Way--an ancient track way that pre-Roman peoples used to travel from Norfolk to Wiltshire. Eventually Icknield Way became one of the four major highways in the 12th century.
   To the left in the heart of the village is New Road and the Wilstone Community Shop resides here. Unable to make a going concern of it, in 2012 the proprietors turned the premises over to the community which held a series of fund raisers to reimburse the former owners some of their monies. The shop is staffed by local community volunteers with limited hours of operation. Nonetheless it is surprisingly well stocked. We purchased the most delicious brown bread studded with seeds and dressed with a scattering of rolled oats across the rounded top. Moist, tender with a lovely crumb of real dark wheat--not molasses and caramel colored bleached wheat bread--this loaf makes fabulous sandwiches. It is produced by Prudens Bakery
Wilstone Village Shop, left side,  courtesy of NB Caxton, © 2010
    After a quick and cheery exchange with the shop volunteers, we stepped out the door with our fresh loaf of bread and Saturday paper in one hand--and a freshly baked pasty in the other hand! Heaven!! I really do mean it! Pasties are the original British fast food and they beat McDonalds hands down. Served hot, a pasty will warm you down to your toes; eaten cold, they are delicious stodge which will stick to your ribs and keep you going.
   Walking along New Road, we relished the tender, flaky pastry shaped into an oblong pocket filled with a mixture of potatoes, onions, parsnips, carrots and spiced beef mince. Steam poured off the ruffled dough seam across the top, filling our noses with the scent of good food.
   We were on the hunt for the Wilstone Farm Shop which came highly recommended by several Cow Roast boaters. Les eschews these establishments because they are usually very pricey but I love to go in and look around. Les was reluctant to search for it but as far as I am concerned, it is all an adventure--especially given typical English instructions by the locals who told me as we stood outside the Community shop, " Oh yes the farm shop is just up this road, " pointing up New Road, "just follow it along to the right and there it is at the top of the road." Righty-oh then...
   Eventually New Road gives way to a public footpath parallel to Wilstone Green--the old common. A large pond lapped at the edge of the private road which bends round the far end and meets up with Tring Road. Was this the pond in which poor Ruth Osborne was drowned?? We walked along, Les attempting to get me to turn back--turn back!! This from the man who NEVER takes the same route out and back on a walk! 
   We reached the end of New Road, followed the private road around to Tring Road, turned left and walked about 150 yards to the intersection with Icknield Way. A left turn and we spotted the farm shop 20 yards up on the right. 
   Les waited outside, using his touch phone map app to suss out the best way back home to our boat. Inside I wandered the aisles eyes agog with delight at the expensive offerings: Gin and Tonic skin and bath products made me think of our friends Chrisi and Keith Kincaid and Chrisi's mom Sandy Field back in Pullman: G & T's on the back deck of their farmhouse in the sinking sun on a scorching Palouse evening.
   I loved the way the Wilstone Farm Shop had its own line of frozen foods--Field Fare. Instead of offering frozen mixed vegetables or single veg or fruit in bags, they were flash frozen and sat in tubs in the freezer section. One just dipped in a scoop and bagged up as much--or as little as one wants. Brilliant! 
  Shelves were lined with glowing jars of chutneys, jams, mustards, vinaigrettes, and sauces; freshly baked breads were mounded atop one another in rounds, loaves, planchettes, and flats with tomato sauce, cheese and garlic baked on top; freshly baked pasties, both savory and sweet mingled with Victoria sponge cakes. Chocolate espresso sponge cakes frosted with coffee frosting and small Bakewell tarts perched saucily nearby with bright red cherries on top made my mouth water. A fresh food section offered bins filled with really lovely fruit and vegetables--all quite costly. A tea bar tempted shoppers to sit and have a Danish or a slice of cake with their cuppa. 
   The Wilstone Farm Shop also offers bags of coal, cut firewood, special mixed blends of animal feed for a variety of farm animals large and small, and a plant shop with seeds and small pots of blooming plants ready for another season. 
Our 2.5 mile journey is marked in red. A: NB Val moored up on the Grand Union canal at the bridge into Marsworth village; B; Wilstone Community shop; C: Wilstone Farm Shop; D: Angler's Retreat Pub.
   Outside Les and I set off up Icknield Way heading back around toward the village of Marsworth where we are moored, skirting the Reservoirs--there are four just South of Wilstone Village--created to keep the Grand Union Canal and its arms in water.
   Sighting the 13th century square stone tower of Marsworth's All Saints church we set off with the wind at our backs, buffeting us along the road side. To our right was the steep green wall of Wilstone Reservoir.  To our left across the wet green fields ran the Aylesbury Arm. We could see the new Cala Homes (half a million pounds for these new townhouses) being built with their backs on the Arm. 
   Nearing the roundabout with Wingrave Road we looked back from high ground towards Wilstone Reservoir in total astonishment to see the water lapping at the very top of the walls, buffeted into waves by the wind which lashed spumes of watery foam over the sides!
   Up the road and past The Angler's Retreat Pub where we ate out Wednesday last for our monthly date night, across the canal bridge, down the stairs on to the towpath, picking our way gingerly through the muck and finally--"...home gain, home again when market is done!"
   A bracing walk of 2.5 miles, a hot cuppa, an afternoon nap rocked by the continuing wind, dinner of meat loaf, mashed potatoes, gravy and carrots, steamed chocolate pud for dessert, a hot shower, clean jammies and the re-make of the movie True Grit on the telly. This is our version of "A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou." (Omar Khayyam, Persian Poet, 1038-1131)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentines Day

Jaq and I wish family, friends and lovers everywhere a happy Valentines Day.

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Off the Aylesbury Arm

Having been at Red House lock for three days we noticed the water level had dropped although the water was still cascading over both top and bottom gates. We were able to open the top gate without the use of the bow rope so the decision was made to give it a go. We had to get through the lock as the only winding (turning) point was 500 yards further on.
Having got the boat in and started to lower the boat we noticed once again it suddenly stopped lowering. After about 20 minutes it finally levelled and the gates opened with a struggle.
I winded the boat and came back in the lock. For half an hour the bottom gates had been open and this allowed a considerable amount of water to pass through unhindered. For a brief few minutes after we left the lock the level had dropped but by the time we shut the gate the water was once again flowing across the towpath.
Similar problems were experienced at every lock until we reached Wilstone. It was here the overflow from Wilstone reservoir entered the canal and we now could see where a lot of this water was coming from.
Having walked into the village for milk and some very tasty crusty brown bread covered in oats and seeds our journey was uneventful although there was still a lot of water coming over gates it caused no problems. Some property`s in the village had suffered flooding from the overflow channel at the rear of  houses.

This is a canal side property that was surrounded by flood water. We moored nearby on the way down and noticed blue lights  of fire engines late at night so can only guess this was when the water engulfed the house.

A couple of days before our Aylesbury arm adventure began I happened across this scene. He had grounded the boat on the cill in the staircase lock at Marsworth jct. to change the propeller.
Information is the guy is setting up the boat as a pump out service along the southern Grand Union possibly between L. Buzzard and Rickmansworth. Good luck to him, he might just end up with a nice little business.

Plan is at the moment to try the Aylesbury trip after my surgery early March. Just want to get everything sorted and get back to normal cruising but it is not going to be for a while yet. Perhaps by March it might stop raining, still at least we are not frozen in......ooops what have I said.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Trapped on the Aylesbury Arm!

“In Amsterdam the water is the mistress and the land the vassal. throughout the city there are as many canals and drawbridges as bracelets on a Gypsy's bronzed arms.” ~Felix Marti-Ibanez

    Last Monday found us at Marsworth waiting for the wind and rain to ease. We awaited the delivery of a Tesco order before we commenced to cruise on new water. Neither of us have ever been down the Aylesbury Arm. Our need to stay in the general area for Les' upcoming surgery on March 3rd meant we were restricted by how far we could cruise.
   The Aylesbury arm is convenient and we didn't see any restrictions posted so off we cruised into the staircase lock, down onto a new bit of canal. It felt great to be doing single locks again! The pound directly below was a bit low in water several days before when we walked down to have a look. After two nights of near continuous rain it was full and we soon reached Blackjack's lock which sports new brickwork repairing the breach from March 2013. 
   By this time the winds were quite furious. Rain was pelting from bruised and livid skies and we had the devil's own time mooring up. With some quick moves on Les' part he managed to tether the stern with mooring chains while I hung on to the center rope for all I was worth. Meanwhile the wind shoved our boat at an angle across the canal. It took the combined efforts of us both hauling on the center line, slipping in three inches of muck and mud, to get NB Valerie's nose back.
   Finally, wet and exhausted, we managed to pull in the bow and moor up. Hot showers, clean, dry clothes and something warm in our bellies soon revived us.
   The next morning we watched NB Ramses II pass us early in the morning, heading for Aylesbury. As he passed, the bloke steering gave us a queer, intent look, loaded with meaning. We've seen his boat around the general area. In retrospect I am sure he knew what the Aylesbury Arm was like in flood and wondered why we were faffing about instead of making a beeline for the basin. Oh well, live and learn. And boy have we...that night the high winds rocked us and the continuing precipitation drummed on the roof.
   Friday morning dawned dry and bright and we decided to move on toward Aylesbury. We wanted to catch a bus at the station in town and visit family on Monday. This arm is only six miles long although it sports 16 locks to move boats from near the summit level at Marsworth down to Aylesbury town. Moored up just before lock 10, we figured we could easily cruise to the new digs of the Aylesbury Boat Club and suss out the area. 
   Off we went, fools who travel where Angels fear to tread! With each progressive lock the water was higher and higher. In many sections the towpath was a thick mire of sodden muck. In other places the canal had overflowed, pouring across the towpath. Two lock gates had so much water flowing over them that we could not budge the gate without tying our bow rope to it and hauling it open with NB Valerie in reverse. We naively assumed this was a problem with just a couple of locks, and thought we could keep moving and eventually outpace the issue. 
   My LL Bean waterproof snow boots eventually became wet as water poured over the tops while I worked the locks. My jeans were soaked to the knees. Les slipped on some Wellies but they have no real grip and he nearly lost his balance and landed on his back in four inches of fast moving water pouring across the towpath, hiding three inches of complete sludge underneath. Signs on the lock gates asked that the locks be left empty so we left the paddles up carrying loads of water along with us as we moved on down. 
   Eventually we fetched up at Red House Lock (13). So much water was pouring over the top lock gate it sped the length of the overfull lock in seconds and thundered over the bottom gates, crashing to the bottom pound in a maelstrom of whirling water with unbelievable force. I waded into flowing water six inches deep obscuring the towpath and the lock itself to reach the bottom gates. Water poured across the cottage yard and flowed down the small embankment, lapping all around the base of the Red House, obscuring the deck. A 70-something silver haired man stood at the sliding glass doors looking out at his disappearing yard with worry etched on his face. I waved, and he smiled and turned away. 
   Les and I managed to work the top gate open and Les brought the boat in. We hoped leaving both lower gate paddles up on our way out would ease the water pouring from the lock into the yard of the lock side cottage. As NB Valerie slowly began descending with the water level in the lock, the silver haired gent appeared in sweater and Wellies to chat with Les. As they talked I realized our boat had stopped descending and was hovering mid level. Hundreds of gallons of water a second overflowing the top gate meant we could not empty lock 13 and move down. 
   The cottage owner called CART on his mobile and Les explained the situation. We were told this flooding was common at Red House Lock with heavy rainfall and the only thing we could do was refill the lock and reverse out. Up went the boat in the lock, the top gate groaned open at my extreme urging and Les moored the boat on the bollards. I checked my email forty minutes later to find this notice from CART:

Notice Alert

Lock 28, Grove Lock to Lock 45, Lock 1 to Lock 16
Friday 7 February 2014 until further notice
Type: Navigation Closure
Reason: Water resources

Original message:

Due to excessively high water levels following recent heavy rainfall, the Grand Union Canal between Grove Lock 28 and Marsworth Lock 45 and the Aylesbury Arm, will be closed with immediate effect. This is in order to allow the running of flood water through locks.
This closure will remain in place until further notice, and will be reviewed at 12:00pm on Monday 10th February 2014.
You can view this notice and its map online here:
You can find all notices at the url below:

   I had checked my email that morning with my tea and cereal. There was nothing from CART at that time. Apparently our phone call set off an alarm and the alert was sent--too late for us. For the time being we are trapped here at lock 13, making careful use of our water, and sussing out the 3.8 mile round trip walk to the shop in Aston Clinton for supplies should we need them. Still, we have groceries, coal, wood, diesel, and each other. We feel fortunate our home floats and is water proof. So many others have suffered much worse. Below is video Les shot of Red House Lock yesterday afternoon:

Stay safe everyone! Stay warm and dry if possible. Take care!!

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Daily Mail's Scathing Indictment of NHS hospital trust for Watford General

"Managers of hospitals over the years have been increasingly recruited from outside the health service, and although their experience of running a supermarket chain might allow them to balance the books, it does not mean they have any insight into how a ward should be managed and patients best served. " ~Jo Brand, British comedian

   Yesterday's Daily Mail offers a scathing indictment of the NHS West Hertfordshire Trust which manages Watford General Hospital--one of three under its umbrella--the very hospital in which Les had his surgery. 800 cancer patients missed desperately needed appointments due to never being informed of them in the first place. Many thanks to fellow boater Mike Wall (NB Independence) for sending the link along via email.

   For Americans reading this, you need to know that over here the NHS appointment system functions as though we are all still living in the late 1800's when postal mail service was at its best as a thoroughly modern system of communication. British patients can call a surgery to get an appointment and the actual appointment information is often not arranged over the phone but sent in a letter through the mail, supposedly, as a follow up.
   When we were waiting for Les' appointments to come through last August for his scans and endoscopy, we received nothing from the NHS to tell us the appointments had been booked. No one called, either because over here no one really has to take any responsibility or culpability, or because someone assumes some other department has dealt with the appointment and the buck is endlessly passed on elsewhere. Les had to call all over hell's half acre to find out if the tests had been booked, where they were booked, and when. One letter did manage to find its way to our address--the afternoon of the day the appointment was scheduled!
   Last November after Les came home and was finally in full recovery mode he received a phone call from a woman who informed him he had an appointment for surgical pre-op booked for the following week. After a prolonged conversation in which Les explained he wasn't scheduled to have any surgery just yet, having just had surgery in October, the woman double checked Les' name, National Health Number and mailing address were the same as what she had in front of her, but basically shrugged her shoulders and said, "Oh well, I'll see what I can find out and hung up. Nothing ever came of that and Les was calling hell's half acre a second time to get to the bottom of the next NHS appointment debacle.
   Les explained to me that the young woman couldn't tell him anything about who booked the pre-op or anything else as she was just a clerk hired to make phone calls from a list!! A bloody telemarketer would have known more let me tell you! I was shocked by this.
   Why--WHY would a system which governs the life and death of patients have someone with absolutely zero connections to the referring physician or department make appointments for something as crucial as surgery scheduling or pre-op appointments? Perhaps because the actual receptionists for said doctors and departments are so bloody busy faffing about with printing out appointment letters that are overdue and seeing them off in the mail.
   I've never been treated so rudely in my life or dismissed so casually in the States as I have here by receptionists at my primary doctor's office, the Oncologists office, or the surgeon's office. Bad manners and an impatient attitude seem to be a per-requisite for being hired by the NHS as a medical receptionist--and I use the term "medical" loosely.
   Les did find out the Urology department supposedly scheduled this pre-op appointment. He called the Watford General Hospital Dept. of Urology and a bloke picked up the phone, commencing fifteen minutes of the strangest medical conversation. Les explained the crux of the issue which was that while he was informed he may need urology surgery for an enlarged prostate, he wasn't in the pipeline for surgery yet--he had an appointment for flow tests and other exams first to determine if surgery was indeed the best route AND he also explained he was recovering from rectal cancer surgery complicated by sepsis, and still had an abdominal catheter in place over a month after surgery which he wanted removed. 
   The bloke on the other end of the line told Les a urinary catheter should only be left in place for five days! Les asked the man if he was a urologist. 
   "No mate, I was waiting here to use the phone and it rang so I picked it up!" Really???? REALLY???!!!!! I kid you not; some days I feel like I've been sucked into the vortex of an alternate reality and come out the other end ass over teakettle landing on my head.
   Stateside one calls the doctor's office and asks for an appointment. The receptionist tells you which days/times are available. You choose one that works with your schedule. She pencils you in, and you are good to go. She will handle all the insurance forms, payment issues, etc.
  Some offices will send a reminder email or text. Some will call you the day before, but most assume you are a responsible adult with an urgent desire to see the doctor therefore you will turn up on time. If not, you will charged for the appointment anyway. ($75.00 for 15 minutes of a primary care physician's time--a whole lot more $$$ for a specialist's time).
   If your doctor determines tests are needed, referrals are required to specialists, or you need hospitalization, usually your primary care doctor's staff set these up for you with the next party in the chain and call you to let you know the appointment time and date. Otherwise you are given the pertinent contact information and asked to book those appointments directly.  Amazingly this system works successfully for millions of American patients.
   The amount of British taxpayer money paid to the mis-managers of the NHS is appalling. This article in the Daily Mail underscores our recent bad experiences and it makes me sad. British patients suffer terribly under the appalling lack of care and concern shown by the NHS and its minions. Good care and excellent customer service should not be the exception--it should be the norm.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

How and what it was

Just a brief, and I use the word brief because of the lack of information available, look into two of the buildings featured on the last post.
This is taken from the Leighton Road bridge. Behind me under the bridge is Brantoms wharf and the water point. On the right is Tesco.
The same view probably around the early 1900`s. Over on the left is Wichellos wharf and beyond it out of sight were Lime kilns like these. Along the towpath in the top right can be seen the sign of Morgan and Co. carriage makers.

Morgan and Co. carriage works, not to be confused with the Morgan car, were founded in 1762.  In 1899 they had taken over the Battlesden steam carriage works located on what is now Tesco from W. King and set themselves up as coach builders. The word coach builder means the building of any bodywork, be it car or commercial vehicles, onto a chassis. My dad was a coach builder almost all his working life.
The picture above states the date is 1923 and the chassis were imported from America. This made my ears prick up as it connected with my lovely American wife, Jaq.
In the early 1900`s Morgans were the agents for Adler cars of Germany building the bodywork in Leighton Buzzard. Now I can`t find any reference to the U.S. and can only find information on a Morgan/Adler connection up to 1914 as in the advert on the right for a Carette priced at 200guineas. I suppose younger readers in the UK might question `guineas` and for sure U.S. readers will have no clue so perhaps two translations are needed. A Guinea was £1 and 1shilling pre decimal. So now it is £1 5p.
The car is £210 ($315).The upper advert on the right is dated 1923 but gives no clue as to the car so no way to confirm the car being built is an Adler.
My theory is the caption referring to chassis from America is wrong and should be Germany. The 1914-1918 WW1 figures here in that if the chassis were German would we as a nation have been interested in buying a German car just 5 years post war?.  Also if the chassis were not the  German Adler, what make was the American import.
Morgan's constructed the Vimy WW1 bomber at it`s Leighton Buzzard works, hence the road into Tesco is Vimy Road.

This is Brantom`s wharf about 1900 originally it was Grant`s wharf. The post bottom right marks the end of the basin and I would guess three full length boats could fit in alongside each other. The basin dates back to 1800 and was one of the  first of many requested by commercial operators along the canal.
Picture from HERE.

A good site for information is Graces Guide not just for the motor car but many early companies. It has 98,000 pages containing 131,000 images. The subjects covered is vast so please check it out. The Adler and Morgan and Co. come under the car heading. Biographies under people will bring up canal builders.
Any extra information on the car would be most appreciated.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Looking down from the sky

I came across these pictures by chance when researching for a blog post. Details and link to the site is further down the page. So looking at the picture below you can see a canal but as the shot dates back to 1938 there are not many clues as to the location.

With my overwriting on the image and my saying it`s Leighton Buzzard all has become clear. I guess at this point I must apologise to those who have no idea of  the area. If you have never been to Leighton Buzzard this post will have no interest but the canal makes it a suitable subject for a blog post.

Zooming in on the same image.
Zoom in even more. Brantoms wharf, now filled in although the bridge remains, could hold three full length working boats. I guess the wharf was the reason the winding hole came about.
Now looking from the opposite bank. Notice the very small arm, roughly opposite the pedestrian gate from the towpath into Tesco. This section was called Whichello`s Wharf.
Same shot zoomed in
Back across to the opposite bank and the arm is to the left. The buildings at the bottom of the page are on the road into L. Buzz. next to the bridge over the canal.

The site to view aerial photos of the UK is Britain From Above. The `browse by  map` link shows the UK as a mass of markers but you can zoom in to your required area as in my screen shot on the right.  The Blue flags are images that can be viewed. You will only get the photo as taken. See first 2 images above.
To zoom in you must register. NO CHARGE just click register and you will see they want almost nothing from you by way of information.

 Another very old (1949) view of Apsley and many boaters will have walked across the bridge to shop at Sainsburys. All the buildings in the picture were the John Dickenson works. Just one small brick building remains the rest fell to make way for a retail park.(Mall)

Notice the bottle kilns to the right of bridge 8. Stoke on Trent. There are about 8 visible on the zoomed in image. Also to the left are more kilns and 4/5 tall chimneys. During the heyday of pottery making it is estimated up to 4,000 kilns were in use. On the lower left is the electricity generating works. Image taken 1933.

With luck you might get an aerial shot of your home or a canal you are familiar with but to get a good view with the zoom feature remember to register.
This post came about from searching for information on the `cargo of sand` blog post. Then Jaq and I spent a couple of hours in the local library looking for answers to other questions that arose from  the Internet search. Jaq so loves libraries and always has since her first library card in Alaska at the age of six.  "A universe of ideas and knowledge is available for free to anyone with a library card" is how she explains it to me. We both hold library cards.
I remember when Jaq first stepped foot on English soil before we went to the U.S. to marry. She turned down my offer to see the usual touristy places like Buckingham Palace etc saying plenty of time for that, just take me into an English library!
So now I have some more snippets for my next blog post.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Going to Market

"To market, to market, to buy a plum cake; home again, home again, market is late. To market, to market, to buy a plum bun;
home again, home again, market is done." ~Mother Goose

   I wrote this post over a year ago and never got around to publishing it! 
   It is market day in the town of Market Drayton, where the Wednesday market dates back over 750 years. We walk in from our mooring on the Shroppie (Shropshire Union canal), passing a large school and green playing fields. The road into town is a narrow ribbon of tarmac flowing downhill toward the market place on Cheshire Street which is surrounded by very old brick and wood frame buildings.
   One can find almost anything at an open market. Stalls offer the usual items such farm fresh produce, fresh picked berries, and fruit imported from the continent.

   Keep moving and you will also find bed linens, hand stitched quilts, pillows, a hardware store selection that rivals anything Ace hardware offers Stateside; tools, tape, rope, fire starter, chains.

   The next booth offers china plates and cups. The one after provides a dime store selection of makeup, hairspray, brushes and combs, scissors, and candy.
   There are fast food stalls with menus ranging from hot dogs to hot meat pies. These dogs will not be American style Franks but rather a long sausage on a bun. I never chance a hamburger since I ordered a burger over here once and it had a strong, gamy taste. It turns out it was cooked in what they call "drippings," which is another word for beef fat.
   Chips cooked in drippings are very popular here, so I've learned to ask ahead of time in chip shops if this is the case. I find the drippings too strong for my taste buds--as gamy as old mutton fat! Apparently drippings are a cultivated taste which my palate refuses to embrace.
   Stalls sell packaged cakes almost out of their sell-by date for pence. There are vendors offering holiday, birthday and greeting cards, envelopes, books, magazines, clothing, shoes, electrical appliances and kitchen ware. Indeed one could even purchase a motorized wheel chair!
   There is also a narrow alley in which birds of prey were set out on pedestals for viewing, to raise funds for a wildlife center. Moving past the crowds clustered around the Owls you will find a small indoor market hosting a fresh butcher who sells the best cracked black pepper sausage links, a cheese stall with the usual offerings of British cheeses, and a pastry booth with fresh Bakewell tarts, cream and fruit filled croissants, and lovely browned scones. 
   And how you might inquire, do folks manage to cart all their market treasures home? Well I'm glad you asked! Trolleys. Hand held trolleys are ubiquitous here. They come with canvas or heavy plastic bags of assorted colors and patterns. 
   Brits also use a variety of reusable grocery bags with handles because the clerks in the grocery stores over here ask you when they ring your purchases if you need a bag and they guard them behind the counter like gold. This is an island nation with a limited amount of room for refuse, so it is assumed customers will bring their own bags and some stores will offer a point worth money on a card for bringing your own.
   I've had plenty of chance now, having lived here several years aboard a boat and without a car, to sit on benches in different villages and towns, observing the locals. Europeans walk! Whenever possible they take buses and trains, and use automobiles only when it is necessary, mainly due to the high cost of petrol and the lack of parking spaces.
   The small, intimate nature of markets and tiny shoebox sized shops over here invite one to stroll around, unlike the vast malls and supermarkets strewn across the outskirts of American towns which require a car to get there and back.
   Since traveling by shank's mare (on foot) is the usual mode of transportation across Europe, Brits take their footwear far more seriously than Americans. The shoes and boots I see on feet which cross my field of vision, from London in the south to small villages farther north, are usually made of good leather with sensible soles and heels, and in very good shape. Americans, by comparison buy cheap, synthetic shoes because they won't rely on them to walk far or long unless they are into serious sports. Due to all this walking, British women often favor knee length boots, and they have the legs for them.
   There are also a fair number of older market goers who require a cane or some form of mobility assistance. They may move slower than many of the folks around them but nothing stops them from walking thorugh the market, bags in hand, picking up a few items.
   For many elderly market day is an occasion to wear a good coat and trousers, and often for the women, hose, skirts, and nice shoes with sensible heels; trolley in hand and maybe a couple of canvas bags for good measure. Their hair is dressed and they have taken care with their appearance.
   Younger folks dress more casually in jeans or leggings, a sweater and a jacket, and many are pushing prams with babies buckled in. In the States we call them Umbrella strollers for the J shaped handles. The younger generation congregate in small knots greeting friends and socializing in the narrow cobbled lanes between the stalls.
   One thing which always knocks me for six as they say over here, is how common cigarette smokers are--they are everywhere and they light up everywhere--except inside public buildings.
   Unlike Washington State, there are no rules here requiring smokers to stand a minimum of twenty five feet from any buildings and doorways. I really struggle with waiting at bus stops, surrounded by people puffing away on their fag (another word for cigarettes), oblivious to others nearby who cannot or should not be breathing in second hand smoke.
   At Market Drayton I chose an empty bench on which to sit and watch the world go by while I waited for Les to dip into Wilkinson's for a can of red oxide and some fire lighters. An elderly gent struggled to the bench with his trolley trailing alongside, gasping for breath--and then pulled a cigarette from a pack and lit up--right next to me. As a cancer survivor the last thing I need is cigarette smoke in my lungs, so I got up and moved off.
   Those knots of young mothers pushing babies in prams, frequenlty with several youngsters in tow usually have a fag hanging off their lip or a lit cigarette streaming noxious smoke over their children.
   I am reminded of my own youth when adults filled house and car with the stink of cigarettes, forgetting we kids had no choice but to breath it in along with them. (My father was a forty pack a day smoker and my mother added her share, along with cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, and siblings.)
   The other thing that strikes me about Brits in public is how many couples stroll along hand-in-hand. Americans do this very rarely; usually it is teenagers enthralled with one another in the first blush of attraction.
   Over here I've seen many couples from twenty somethings to eighty plus years, holding hands like young lovers as they walk. Les always reaches for my hand or offers his arm for me to link mine through as we stroll along.
   Market day allows me to bring home more than groceries and a few other needed bits and bobs. I bring back my impressions as my love affair with Britain slowly builds.  

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs