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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Free at Last, Free at Last!

   We are pleased to report that as of 3:30 this afternoon NB Valerie is moored up on the towpath! There was a break in the wind gusts and the spot we wanted  just outside the marina entrance was available. I knew we needed to make a break for it or bad weather might trap us in the marina through the weekend.
   We topped up our water, Les brought in plenty of well seasoned wood, filled the coal bucket and we received a Tesco order. Our electric cords are packed away, the T.V. antenna is set up, and the batteries are well charged. A pot of homemade Spaghetti sauce is bubbling away on the stove top and a loaf of freshly baked rye bread is cooling on the counter.  Most importantly Les has his sparkle back again and he is taking the P out me at every opportunity.
   My best beloved is healing well, AND it is snowing!!! What more could a good Alaskan woman and a well loved British water gypsy want??? Farmed salmon no more--we are wild again!! Woot!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Looking back....years back.

It always surprises me how folk can remember where they were when a certain non personal event took place. Events like the passing of Elvis, John Lennon or perhaps a political  figure like Thatcher or JFK.

Some folk can quote you places for all or at least 50% of not just these but a large number of memorable dates over the past 2,3 or 4 decades.

Personally I can quote only one, perhaps because it was so horrific an event that took place in my adult life that it stuck in the memory bank. It was 9/11, September 11th 2001. I was in Tenerife on holiday with some of the family less than a year after Valerie passed away. We were in an electrical store and took some convincing by the staff that the TV images were real and not some Hollywood film.

So I just thought of reminding myself where I was back not decades but within my years afloat and it turned into a blog post.  January 26th or as close as can be is the chosen date.

Andy and Tina
Starting in 2007 as the boat was still under construction in Jan. 2006. I was in Apsley 2007 travelling with good friends of 8 years now, Andy and Tina. Some talk in the comments as to suitable pictures to publish. Looking back to the post before I had just received my
boat licence at a cost of £572($858). I mention this as we have just received our Licence for 2015 and it cost £856($1284). In 2007 that worked out to £11($17) not the figure I quoted in a comment on that post. Nowadays that weekly amount is just above £16($24). I suppose for a continuous cruiser like us that is our weekly rent. Also I note we were heading for Llangollen in Wales and the journey details in that `before` post might interest you.

Next look back is 2009 and I am heading north through Leighton Buzzard on my own having parted in November from Andy and Tina, after two and a half years cruising together; they were off on a new boat related venture. Again earlier posts around this time showed my being moored 18 days in Berkhamsted having dental work. In those days there was a local mooring warden who was happy for me to overstay having seen my appointment card.

 We now come to 2011 and I am moored in Rugby . This post sees me hanging around waiting to fly back early February to the USA and propose to Jaq.  The post by coincidence has me looking back and there are a lot of pictures of my travels including a pair of newborn's hitching a ride. Again looking at previous posts to this date I have just about finished laying a new floor.

January 2013 sees us frozen in at Stoke Breurne. Well at this point I will enter what is up in my top ten of pictures.
It`s January 2013 and we are heading to London and onwards to the Lea and Stort then onto the River Thames. Look at the pair of us married 18 months--not a care in the world, just living what still is now a fun filled, laughter fuelled life.
Now why I publish this picture is because as regular blog readers know 2013 was not going to be a good year for us. Mr. C. showed his face half way through the year. I can say the laughter has now returned and uncontrollable giggling is a regular on Nb Valerie.
Remember folks you only have one life--make your dreams reality whatever they may be. You have no idea of what lies ahead; look at the picture. We had no idea.

Ok January 26th 2015, we are in Cow Roast and in 4 days we will be leaving the prison marina and heading in a northerly direction, no other plans at the moment.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The fish and boat horse blog

I think it was back in late October I had to go the the Royal Free hospital for a pre-op check. Having arrived at Euston station I took the bus as far as Camden and had a walk through the tourist attraction of Camden market. The market is situated in the old horse stables that were part of the railway goods yard built by the London North Western Railway (LNWR) in the period 1845-1902. It was in the latter part of this period that  the Interchange building was opened. It spanned the canal basin and enabled goods to be taken from boat to train and vice versa through trap doors in the floor.

Goods yard in 1839 after 1854-6 re construction
Tunnels were built so that horses and goods could be taken under the railway tracks from one yard to another. In it`s heyday 600 horses worked on this site. Although mostly railway horses there were a lot of boat horses stabled here and when needed would be treated in the horse hospital building that had stabling on two floors for in excess of 150 horses.
The site was chosen because the canal was here in 1820 and gave access to the London docks. Goods could be loaded onto horse drawn carts and delivered to an ever expanding capital.
On the left is the Interchange building that spans the canal basin.
Possibly how the Interchange basin will look. I have already reserved the mooring.
There are plans afoot to bring the basin beneath the Interchange building back into public use.

Horse stalls now used as market sales outlets.

Everywhere you walk in the market are reminders of it`s past.

Horse ramp to upper level of horse hospital building on the left.
 A big site that has become one of the tourists must visit sites although I doubt most of them have little idea of just what went on here.
If you walk outside the market and stand looking at the hustle and bustle going on around it is hard to imagine that when the canal came through here it was just fields. It was a coaching route from London and highway men were common. Now if you ask me the highwaymen have become stall holders each selling mostly the same cheap rubbish as each other.

The blog title mentions fish so to save being sued under the boaters blog description act we will finish off with....
some fish therapy. Available in the market you can have a foot pedigree. For £10 ($15) you can sit for 15 minutes and let the Gara Ruffa fish nibble away your dead skin.
Just how hygienic  can this be, even with filters would you like to dip where others have dipped before you.
Pumice Stones or a Dr. Scholl foot file were in the past I`m sure the choice of folk to do what these fish do.
At least the stall was exclusive whilst the others sold the same goods as each other. The site is still worth a look around from a boaters point of view but just keep your money in your pocket there are better places to spend a bob or two.

Camden goods depot LINK.
Horses at work in Camden goods yard LINK.
LNWR goods interchange LINK.
Hoses and stables LINK.
Listed Interchange building LINK.
Map of site LINK. Also some great click able links plus click map to enlarge.
National Railway Museum LINK.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


"A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky, unbidden, and seems like a thing of wonder." ~Susan Orlean

I have waited two years for snow. SNOW!!!! I love it! Such delicate unrestrained beauty; frozen water falling from the sky, cloaking everything in a mantle of clean brightness. I'll take snow over rain any day. Sadly this snowfall will not last. Nature has clothed Herself in an ephemeral slip of snow lace which will melt away with the sunshine.
   The first thing I did after checking the fire, was to put on some snow music. Jean Pierre Rampal and Claude Bolling's Suite for Piano and Flute. To me this is the quintessential sound of snowflakes, dancing down the sky, each one as individual as a musical note. My daughters knew from the time they were toddlers, whenever they heard this music, that the first snow was falling. The music and the snow make me want to do the happy Snoopy Dance!
   On another note, Les is doing great. We just need to put some muscle back on Dear Sir, and that will happen as soon as we leave this marina and begin cruising again.

Only 13 more days to go. I'm off now to make some Malted Barley whole wheat bread and play in the snow!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Blockage at Dudswell

Stuck on our medical mooring in the marina there`s nothing like an Canal River Trust E. mail alert to get the blood pumping through a boater`s veins.
A tree has fallen down blocking the towpath and partially blocking navigation below Bridge 138, Grand Union Canal.
Boats please pass with caution.
The tree has fallen from third party's land so we are working with the land owner to resolve the issue soon as possible.
We will update this notice with further information when available.

As you can see no one is on site so we can only guess the householder is trying to arrange a tree surgeon.
For sure if I had come along and seen this the tree surgeon would have found the towpath clear when he arrived.
It`s not just the tree across the towpath that`s the problem. If you look closely the main trunk is leaning out and only the other trees have stopped it also falling across the canal. Narrowboats should get by ok but wide beams have to be aware it`s shallow to the left.

The reservoirs list above shows a big increase of 6.7% over the November figure to 57.9% in the holding here on the Grand Union south. A big difference to the same period in 2011 after a very dry year most of which Jaq and I missed as we spent a lot of time in the U.S. getting Jaq a visa etc. I guess with the amount of rain lately the figure will have increased in the January figures.
 Reservoir watch site HERE.

 The comments filtering system, on the left, seems to be working although as you can see when I answer comments it wants me to tick the `I`m not a robot box`. Sometimes it just lets me carry on after I tick the box but occasionally it asks me to type the numbers I see. Bloody cheek, it`s me blogger, surely you can tell I`m signed in and working. Oh well at least it is keeping the spam at bay.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The blog post that changed direction

Three weeks today and we leave the marina here at Cow Roast. Well as good as it`s been to help me heal I must say both of us will be glad to leave what is a very claustrophobic mooring and have the joy of the sun shining into the boat at some time in the day.

When we leave on the 30th our journey will be northbound but owing to a bridge being re-built in Milton Keynes our route past is blocked until March 13th. Six weeks is nothing and a slow journey with stops along the way will be a good way of easing myself gently back into boating.

I have of late been reading quite a few blogs some of which tell a similar Mr. C story to the one that has unfolded aboard Nb Valerie. A lot of different stories, none of which I wish to refer to, some still ongoing and some like mine that.... Now here`s the difficult part, how do you describe the stage I`m at?  In remission, cured, all clear.

Understanding the Difference Between Cure and Remission

Cure means that there are no traces of your cancer after treatment and the cancer will never come back.
Remission means that the signs and symptoms of your cancer are reduced. Remission can be partial or complete. In a complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared.
If you remain in complete remission for 5 years or more, some doctors may say that you are cured. Still, some cancer cells can remain in your body for many years after treatment. These cells may cause the cancer to come back one day. Most types of cancer usually return within the first 5 years after treatment. But, there is a chance that cancer will come back later. For this reason, doctors cannot say for sure that you are cured. The most they can say is that there are no signs of cancer at this time.
Because of the chance that cancer can come back, your doctor will monitor you for many years and do tests to look for signs of cancer’s return. They will also look for signs of late side effects from the cancer treatments you received.

My choice is remission or at least on the way to it.  Use this LINK and  read the terms doctors use. I don`t think I would ever use the word cured unless in twenty + years time perhaps if I`m lucky enough to fall asleep never to wake and still no sign of cancer then my family can use that word.
In the meantime fellow fighters live each day and hope or pray, depending how you live your life, that the scans keep coming up clear.

I did intend to blog about the left and right hands of the NHS but the sentences  were like gates blocking my thoughts and leading me along a different route until by the third paragraph there was no turning back.

Flesh eating fish and boat horses were believe it or not also to feature in a blog post. These two subjects would at least keep the blog along a boating route.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Post script

We wish to thank our friends who've stopped by to visit, check on Les' recovery, share visits to America and their own news, and whose faces are always welcome on our doorstep: Mike Griffin (NB Albion), Ken and Sue Deveson (NB Cleddau), Robert Rogers (WB Wind in the willows), Adam and Adrian (NB Briar Rose), Mike Wall (NB Independence). Phone calls and email from family and friends in North America have kept us busy and it helps break the monotony of marina life. XXX

Marina Fever!

 "We've moved well beyond “Oh Boy Snow Day!” and are now at the “Let's make NyQuil Popsicles for the kids” stage of Cabin Fever... "Anon.

   As an Alaskan born and raised to homesteaders who often lived what one would call a "rustic" lifestyle  compared to most folks in their homes with all the mod-cons, I've seen my share of very loooong, cold, dark winters. In the South Central area of the 49th state, one recognizes three seasons: winter (8 months), spring break up (1 very ugly month of melting snow and slogging mud), and summer (12 weekends between frosts during which one may see some sunshine before winter closes back in). There really is no autumn in Alaska. The leaves do turn, but it happens all at once. It takes about two weeks for all the leaves to turn mostly yellow and then fall in one fell swoop. On the mountains in the distance the very first dusting of snow is called Termination Dust--for obvious reasons. 
   I've survived my share of cabin fever episodes when one is dressed for the season in a dark depression which is accompanied by deep mourning--for light, space, sunshine, blue skies, green growing things (a blade of grass!), vine ripened tomatoes, fresh snap peas, raspberries on the bush, hot weather, money, love, time, health, companionship, the sound of another human voice--or any of a dozen other emotions and situations of which one might feel a desperate lack converging under cover of an Alaskan stygian night that seems endless.
   I have two main requirements for happiness: space and quiet in nature--lots of it. While I can enjoy the company of others, I could just as easily live a life of full-on solitude without seeing or hearing another human being for many months without any difficulty because I can abide in the company of nature and my own self. 
   What I cannot abide is living nut to butt with other people. Living in such close quarters in this marina is definitely driving me slowly around the bend. Dear Sir is not far behind me.
   The folks on one side of us visit their boat frequently over the weekend. Although they don't take it out of the marina, they stay the night, and party. The first weekend they came, we endured a six minute rendition of them singing "if the boat is a rockin' don't bother knockin'." The next afternoon as we sat at our dinette, our windows and curtains closed on the side facing their boat, Les sneezed and our neighbor replied, "Bless you!"
Jack Nicholson in The Shining: a bad case of cabin Fever!
   We have exchanged pleasantries but it is clear that it does not occur to them that as our narrow boat is our home and we live on it full time, we appreciate our privacy, which means it is not good form to hang out of your hatch doors smoking a fag and then reach out and knock on our window to have a chat with us--especially as we are obviously ignoring your presence--right there in our face. It is also not on to have your friends visit the weekend and engage in a drunken celebration which keeps us up all night, or let your large Labrador out the cratch cover to wander--and pee--and stick its nose where it doesn't belong--on its own.
   The crux of the issue is this: marina boaters often don't twig to the fact that live aboard boaters are in their homes--not a weekend pleasure boat. We respectfully do not stare into their windows and we try to keep our voices and our noise down. We don't burn wood when they are on board as we don't want our smoke to annoy them. No doubt our weekend neighbors find us a bit aloof; when we see them outside our boat we are happy to stop and chat. When we are inside our boat it is our home and we want privacy. 
    In the meantime my daily walks have yielded some interesting situations and information. Just after Christmas as I was strolling through the main gate of the marina, I spied a council notice taped to one of the gate posts. Dated the first week of December, it announced the marina's application to change sixteen berths from leisure to residential which means space rent is going to go up and council taxes will be due for those who live aboard here. It isn't cheap to stay here and the longer one stays the more expensive it is--one doesn't actually get a break for signing an annual contract--oh no--after three months the cost of a mooring at this marina rises steeply. 
These bottles magically reappear every weekend!
   On the plus side, the facilities are cleaned daily and kept immaculate. The Bosch washing machine and dryer actually work (if one can figure out the European pictures which mean absolutely nothing if one cannot understand the three pages of written directions to begin with). There is a good lending library in the laundry room, and the grounds are tidy, with containers of salt to scoop up and sprinkle on the icy ground and jetties. 
   The bloke who is a jack-of-all-trades here is welcoming and helpful. One of his jobs is to go around the marina every Monday morning and gather up all the wine and booze bottles left out by weekend boaters who for some reason cannot seem to place their alcohol empties in the bin. Nothing like being paid to enable others to indulge and then behave irresponsibly. After seeing the massive weekend pile of empty bottles one can only hope these folks don't take their boats out of the marina!
Heavy frost on the bow locker and jetty.
   We've weathered the cold snap in good shape. We had plenty of coal and wood to burn, Tesco brought our groceries, and we've kept the petrol and water tanks full. We hadn't started the engine for 10 days so Les cranked it up and it turned over right away.
Breaking the ice behind us with the engine running in gear for a moment. NB Val is on the left.
Thawing the water hose in front of the fire.
   I also had my superb, vulcanized rubber hot water bottle--made in England! With Portuguese gray flannel sheets on the bed and a lovely queen size down comforter (duvet), the hot water bottle took the chill from our bed and made it a cozy, warm nest. The down duvet keeps the hot water bottle warm all night--and us as well! 
 We were moored here when Les came home from hospital!   
      Another walk a few days later brought me the shocking view of the pound between Dudswell locks 46 and 47 almost completely drained of water! On closer inspection, all the gate paddles were down, and the lock gates were closed as well, although water poured through the  worn top gates of lock 47, it was clearly not making it out the lower lock gates and into the pound. I suspect there is a leak in the lock below the bottom cill. 
   We are tired of staring at the same view day after day, week after week. We long to see birds in a new hedgerow, ducks, swans, geese and other wildlife on the cut, and most of all the reflection of sunlight on the water, making ripples on the ceiling of our boat. We sit in the shade of the boats either side of us all day. We long to pull our pins and move along. We are thankful for a place to rest while Les makes great strides regaining good health, and even more thankful it is January and in 29 days we will be back out on the cut. Happy New Year to each of You and may 2105 take you wherever in life you most wish to be!

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs