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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hospital Update

As you can see the patient is up and trying out the exercise bike in the hall. The procedure went well, I feel fine and look forward to going home tomorrow. Thanks for all your good wishes.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Australia and Kangaroo

A lovely pair of old working boats passed by yesterday on their way to Little Venice and the Cavalcade.

Nearest is the motor Kangaroo built 1928, alongside Butty Australia built 1894.
Away they go with another 62 miles and 68 locks. Just a drop in the ocean after the lock miles this old pair have put behind them.

A lovely time of year with the trees coming to life, ducklings are everywhere and Swans and Geese are sitting on nests.
All that`s needed now is for Nb Valerie to head north away from the Milton Keynes area. The quickest way this will happen is if I get a phone call from the hospital telling me a bed is available. As it`s now 5pm perhaps I will hold off publishing this post in the hope I can add some good news.
How on earth they don`t know if they have empty beds at 5 pm is beyond me. If all patient discharges took place before noon then the picture would be clearer earlier.
Sad but admission farces like this make the NHS look bad. It was about this time a couple of weeks ago they phoned to say sorry no bed.

Well talking about it seemed to work. It`s 5.15pm and the hospital has phoned to say they have a bed.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Swan that met his match

Over a couple of days this pair of swans have occupied the pond canal side at Milton Keynes. The male on the bank has in this time chased off several swans that had come off the canal or heaven forbid landed on the pond.

Now he has seen another intruder, or perhaps it`s been the same one all along. How can we humans tell, they all look the same.

All puffed up and head down in attack mode all I can do is watch. Previous attacks have been quite heavy with the pursuer pecking at the neck of the intruder all during a part flying part walking chase across the water surface.

Seems the intruder has stood his ground, turned to face the attacker,  puffed up and assumed the head down pose. Nothing! It seems as though a few threats were made and listened to then rebuffed with a deal being made that the visitor can stay for lunch.

That`s how it finished and eventually the male went back to the pond probably telling his mate it was just a distant cousin. I suppose he could hardly tell her he backed down.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Boat hire on the Grand Union

Something new on the southern Grand Union is Puddling Cruisers hire boat. Plenty of hire boats on this canal but the difference is Serenity is a wide beam 10feet wide and 55 feet in length. I have come across wide beam hire on the Leeds and Liverpool but not this far south although I await correction on this.
Looking at the bookings for the rest of this year; there seems to be a lot of vacant weeks. I suppose a number of factors could be the reason: it`s a wide beam, which could be daunting for first timers; the company has yet to get established. My guess is the price of £1375 ($1993) for one week starting May 2nd.
Wyvern Shipping at Leighton Buzzard is a large hire base of about 32 boats, all narrow beam, and is just a few miles south of  Puddling Cruiser`s Milton Keynes base. They have a narrow beam boat on the same date, four berths but 9 feet shorter in length for £842 ($1220). Due to the different class of boat price comparison is not fair but... Put yourself in the position of a young family, 2 young kiddies seeking their first canal boat holiday looking at Puddling Cruisers.  The width would probably nerve them but in this day and age I would guess price would be the biggest consideration.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

It Pays to Keep a Boater's Log Book

"I remember the time I was kidnapped and they sent a piece of my finger to my father. He said he wanted more proof." ~Rodney Dangerfield, American comedian
   I am writing this post at Les' request. Tuesday, April 14th, we received an email from Canal and River Trust (CRT), the charity which is now responsible for the running, maintenance, and oversight of the English and Welsh Canals and some navigable rivers. They also license all boats using said canals and rivers, including ours. The email said:

From: Patricia Fox <>

Dear Boater

Our sightings suggest your boat has been moored in the same locality for more than 14 days. If you have not already moved, please continue your journey, or call Customer Services on 03030 404040 to discuss, remembering to quote your boat index number and that you are currently moored in the South East waterway area.


Trish Fox

Boating Co-ordinator South East

Canal & River Trust

   I spent an hour the next morning, going back through my daily diary which I've kept since moving aboard NB Valerie. Besides the events of each day--when we got up, the weather for the day, what we did (washed two loads of laundry, emptied the loo, and made bread, while Les worked on the new wood box...), I also keep track of all maintenance to the boat, hours on the engine, all repairs (date, repair, cost), all changes, and how much and when we spend money for diesel, Calor gas, and coal. Finally, I also track our cruising, noting where we are each day, when we arrived, and when we cruise somewhere else.  Every January when I buy a new diary, I write where we were each day the previous year, at the bottom of that day's entry on the new diary pages so I know where we were a year ago.
    I drafted an email to Ms. Fox, as seen below:
 From: Jaqueline Biggs []
Sent: 15 April 2015 10:54
To: Patricia Fox
Cc: Richard Parry
Ms. Fox,
I am Leslie Biggs' wife, Jaqueline. We live aboard NB Valerie (513386). I am answering your email of yesterday for two reasons:

1. I am the keeper of a detailed log book of all of our travels--when we moor up and where, how long we stay, etc. etc. going back to 2011 when we married and I moved aboard our boat.

2. My husband was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in August of 2013. We have endured no less than three surgeries to date, with cancellations of all of them by the NHS and during all this time we have abided by the conditions of our license or contacted the local CRT representative to inform them of our need to overstay in an area due to serious health issues.

We worked with Phil Brogan when we had need to moor longer than 14 days in October-December 2013 at Cow Roast and CRT graciously allowed us to overstay while Les went into hospital, came home to the boat and had visiting nurses in every day, fell ill with Sepsis and nearly died, and eventually recovered enough for us to cruise as we are used to doing and prefer to do. We set off January 14th, 2014 northward and visited the Aylesbury Arm and cruised all the way To Welford on the Leicester Arm.

My husband was informed in August of 2014 that cancer had traveled to his liver. We were up on the Leicester Arm at the time and turned around to return to Cow Roast as we could access buses and trains down to London from there without taking the boat to London and becoming mired in the morass of continuous moorers living there. We opted to go into Cow Roast Marina as another three month recovery was required for a far more serious operation than the first one. We Left Cow Roast marina the end of January 2015 with the plan to cruise northward, but cancer has other plans for us.

Les was scheduled to undergo a procedure for possible metastasized cancer to his left lung, yesterday at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead Heath, London. We need to be close to a good bus/rail line to travel to London. We didn't want to return to Cow Roast so we decided Fenny Stratford/Milton Keynes was a good place to meet our needs. We waited three and half weeks before hearing anything. We received a call on April 8th to say Les' surgery was scheduled to April 14th. So we came back to Fenny Stratford and prepared to go down to London. We were told this procedure (Radio Frequency Ablation) would require 1 nights stay in hsopital and then Les could come home. We planned to head North then...but his surgery was canceled again. The inefficiency of the NHS is sending us 'round in circles as we wait to hear, get a set appointment, and then have it canceled. This has happened to us three times now, and all three times we've sought to find ways to meet the conditions of our CC'rs license.

From our log book, here are our exact days and movements for the past two months:
March 2105, NB Valerie, 513386
March 1st: moored up below Slapton Lock. Stayed there through Wednesday, March 4th.
March 5th: cruised to Leighton Buzzard so Les could catch train to RFH, London for a scan. Stayed through Saturday, March 8th, filled with H2O and dumped rubbish.
March 9th: Cruised to Soulbury Three locks and moored up at the top on 14 day moorings. Stayed here through March 14th.
March 15th: Cruised to Fenny Stratford and moored up past the stop lock and swing bridge and stayed until Thursday March 19th. Filled with H2O and dumped rubbish.
March 20th: Cruised to Old Linslade Manor Park and moored up for 48 hours. Notified by the RFH that Les needed to come in for a consultation on the 24th.
Monday, March 23rd: Winded and cruised back to Fenny Stratford and moored up before the stop lock on 14 day moorings where we stayed until March 28th. We took the train to London the next day and were informed of the new lesions on Les' lungs. We were given options and Les chose Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) as the least detrimental and most likely successful option. We were told he would be scheduled for surgery--and the procedure would take place--within 4 weeks.
March 29th: Winded the boat, filled with H2O and dumped rubbish. Cruised to Stantonbury and moored up on 14 day moorings. Stayed moored up through Friday April 10th.

April 2015:
April 1st-10th: Stantonbury 14 day moorings.

Wednesday April 8th the RFH called to say Les' appointment for RFA was scheduled. He needed to arrive in London at the RFH on Monday , April 13thfor pre-op and check in and stay overnight. the surgery would be done the next morning on Tuesday, April 14th and Les would stay overnight in hospital. Barring any complications Les could come home on Wednesday April 15th and we planned to wind the boat, fill with H2O and cruise north again--and keep going. He planned to catch the train back down to London in about 6 weeks time at Rugby, for the follow up appt. with the surgeon. Instead Les' surgery was canceled for lack of beds and we are forced to wait for a re-schedule while trying to figure out how to keep moving and meet the condition of our license while staying near to someplace we can easily access trains to London.

April 11th: We cruised to Cosgrove, filled up with H20, dumped our rubbish and winded, cruising back to Fenny Stratford, where we moored up at our current location.

It is not our intent to continuously cruise the same section of canal--we hate it but are forced to do it presently due to my husband's health and the complete inefficiency of the bloody NHS. We will never overstay in one place but we may have to keep turning and going back and forth between Fenny Stratford and Stanton Low, mooring in places along the way where we can get a Tesco delivery, and access bus and rail service until the NHS gets Les' RFA procedure scheduled, gets him in, does the job and releases him home. Once that occurs we will be on our way Northward to cruise continuously as is our joy, delight, aim, and desire.

If you have any questions or concerns about our further movements or you require medical proof of Les' health issues please contact me and I will walk into town and get copies of his paperwork printed and mail them to you. CRT personnel may also read our blog I will follow up this email with a phone call to the number you included in your original notice to my husband's email address but I wanted to be sure CRT representatives have a written copy of this information as well. If you review the sighting records for NB Valerie since my husband had her put into the water in 2006 you will see that we have always met the conditions of our license and cruised continuously until ill health has forced our hand and required us to stay for longer than we have ever wanted, in areas where we could access services, grocery deliveries, visiting nurses could easily find us, and we could easily catch buses and trains to London for medical appointments and surgeries.

We would like a list of CRT sightings of our boat please for the past two months, as it appears they do not match our daily log book.


Jaqueline and Les Biggs,
NB Valerie

   I also followed up my email within minutes, phoning the CRT customer service number. Ms. Fox was on another line. She returned my call ten minutes later, we went over my email, and she apologized for troubling us, saying that when a boat is recorded by Enforcement Officers (EO's) in the same place over a period beyond 14 days, it is included in a mass email notice which is sent out to boaters.
   Trish said she would let the EO, Glynn Bumford, know about our circumstances and CRT would open a file on us, explaining our circumstances and our need for limited cruising. She asked only that we keep CRT informed of our circumstances. Our phone conversation was lovely--cordial, respecftul, helpful. She also followed up right away with this email reply:


Further to our telephone conversation a short while ago, here are the boat sightings you requested.

Fenny Stratford 14 day S1 Mooring
Grand Union km 139
Grand Union km 158
Grand Union km 158
Grand Union km 160
Cowroast 14 day Visitor S1 Mooring
Grand Union km 164

As I suggested during our conversation, I have sent an e-mail to the two EOs who cover the area you are in and around at the moment and have asked them to consider a restricted movement pattern in order to facilitate catching trains for your husband’s appointments. I will contact you again once I hear back from them, or they may contact you directly themselves.

I hope everything goes well and please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance.

Regards, Trish

Trish Fox
Boating Co-ordinator South East
Canal & River Trust
Tel: 01908 681277

   An hour later as I was finishing up breakfast out on the bow, Glynn Bumford himself came calling. He was actually out on the towpath working, and he was there to place a patrol notice on a plastic cruiser moored in front of us that already had two patrol notices on it.  
   Glynn introduced himself, we shook hands and he said Trish had called him to explain our situation and asked him to stop in and say hi to us. We had a ten minute conversation, Les showed Glynn his Stoma and his scars, Glynn asked if I would please email him a copy of the letter from the RFH so he could open the file for us in the CRT system, and we all parted cordially. (NHS letters from the RFH with updates have been emailed and are on file).
   About two hours later another CRT employee strode up the towpath towards us. Les and I were outside working on the wood box. This fellow--with a large sheaf of legal looking papers in his hand--stopped to say hello. He introduced himself as Peter Palmer--Glynn's supervisor. 
   Peter was out in the area to handle an issue which had escalated, requiring someone with more power than an EO to address. He had spoken with Trish in the office and she said he would likely pass by NB Valerie and would he please introduce himself to the nice folks on board. We had a lovely brief chat with Mr. Palmer who said a check of CRT records did indeed underscore that we are bonafide Continuous Cruisers and he apologized as well for the mass email. We parted with smiles and off he went to see a man about a boat, as they say. 
   Now quite obviously the boat reporting system currently in use by CRT is far from perfect. Despite our movements and the fact our bow was pointed in the opposite direction when first spotted, from their recording records it appeared we had not moved. Never mind...Les and I have seen positive changes all across the canal system since CRT took over from the U.K. government department of British Waterways (BW). Canals are being dredged, old, broken gates are repaired, overgrowth is being trimmed back, towpaths have been improved, and Continuous Moorers are finally being dealt with legally, instead of ignored as they were in the days of BW.
   Our interactions with CRT have always been pleasant, informative, and supportive. But then, as our records indicate, we are bonafide Continuous Cruisers. It isn't rocket science; it's not brain surgery; it's quite simple: abide by the requirements of your boat's license as set forth by CRT at the time of licensing. Any time you cannot abide by those regulations, contact CRT and let them know. Explain why and be willing to provide proof. Be polite and respectful. It also never hurts to offer a cuppa and a slice of cake either!
   On a final note, we met a young man and his father at the Fenny stop lock when we winded (turned the boat around) and stopped for water. They had gone through the lock before us, leaving the footbridge opened, and a gate opened with a paddle up as well. They stopped at the canalside pub for a brew. They had just bought the boat and Dad was helping his son cruise down to London where the young man will live on it. He cannot afford housing in London and was chuffed to bits to be the owner of a new floating home. He will join the masses already floating side by side in the City, adding to the congestion and issues rampant on the canals in the south. He is the fourth boater we've met this year who bought a boat as an answer to lack of affordable housing in London. From our conversations with each of these young men, not a single one of them had a clue about the rules and regulations regarding their licenses, how to operate locks or paddles, or indeed how to care for their boats.
   We wish CRT luck with this thorny issue and thank Trish, Glynn, and Peter for their kind and friendly care of us during this stressful time. We hope to wave goodbye to this section of the G.U. soon, and with NB Valerie's bow pointed north, we plan to keep going. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

The new log box

I have now got a new date for the surgery, April 29th. Hopefully they will have a bed and with just a 24/48 hour stay we could be off cruising soon after.

As Jaq mentioned in her blog post  I have used the time to get the solar panels located in the new log box. Still not finished but time is plentiful in this boating life and why work yourself silly. So some before and after pictures of the project so far.
 Looking down the roof as it was the two solar panels are fixed to the roof. Further forward the original log box.

Now we have the panels set into the new log box. Jaq likes that she can now see up ahead more clearly when she is on the tiller. Notice the chimney in both pics to see what she means. With the coal sacks moved back it will be even better.

 In this original shot you can see the roof space was very congested.

 The small solar panel was in between the two Brass roof vents and the old log box was on the right where the brush is lying. We have gained 14 feet of roof space and have doubled the log storage space. Jaq has plans to start a vegetable garden using grow bags.

 As before the large panel tips in four directions. The hatch now slides under the corner of the box.

This is the section of the project that needs finishing. The panel swivels and tilts just as before. As the panel doesn`t completely cover the box i`ll make a lift out lid to keep the logs dry.

Propellers do pick up rubbish now and again but this time Jaq decided it was time for her to learn a new skill. She climbed down into the engine bay and released the cover to the weed hatch just above the prop. Down her arm went into the murky depths and found a thick clump of plastic entangled on the prop.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Surgery CANCELED!!!!

   Les was instructed to call the RFH at 10 am yesterday for check in times and details. He did as instructed and was told they would ring him back later as beds became available. He explained he was far outside London, necessitating two trains and a bus to get to the RFH. They said they've made note of this and if we didn't hear from them by 4 p.m. yesterday, we should call back.
   Les paced all day, his stress level rising as time passed. He called them back at 4:10 p.m. and was told the surgery had been canceled as there were no beds available; they will phone with a new appointment time in a few days...gutted.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Forth and Back: What We've Been Up To Here and There

"Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to so one thing, but you are bound to do something else. Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn't. You take certain things for granted even when you know you should never take anything for granted.  A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band; and most of us live somewhere in the middle. " ~Mitch Albom, Author of Tuesdays with Morrie

   This is a mostly pictorial blog. I hope to do a more in-depth post about Old Linford Manor another time. We've spent a shade over three weeks waiting to hear about Les' upcoming RFA procedure. Knowing we couldn't just take off and cruise northward as we wanted--as we had planned--we've been staying 6-8 days at a stretch, turning for services, and cruising back to moor somewhere for another 6 day stretch. Les and I both get itchy feet after four days somewhere, so this has been an interesting change for us.
   We've been back and forth from Fenny Stratford to Stantonbury and points in between, passing through Milton Keynes, stopping for a couple of days at Linford Manor Park, turning to get water and dump our rubbish, pick up groceries, turning again to moor somewhere with bus service allowing Les to travel to Luton to pick up our mail, purchase decking boards and other bits and bobs for projects, hunkering down for days at a time waiting out rains squalls and high winds; all the while keeping busy while waiting to hear from the Royal Free Hospital. 
NBV moored up at Great Linford Manor Park on a warm spring afternoon.
The view of the Manor Park from our windows. To the left is part of the old stone wall surrounding the large Manor house. Off in the middle distance is the village of Great Linford. To the right are the old Almshouses.
Another view from the front of our boat, across one of two ponds, to the old church tower. The almshouses can just be seen on the left through the trees.
Approaching the church walk on a sunny Sunday morning. The bells ring out a repeating peal to call worshippers to service; they come on foot and also by horse through the park. This church dates to 1250 ACE. Parts of it have been rebuilt and other bits have been added.
Les and I wander amongst the headstones reading what epitaphs have not been erased by time and weather while the living gather inside.
Standing in the church yard looking over its old stone wall, one gets a good view of the old Almshouses up close. In 1702 manor owner Sir William Pritchard provided £24 per annum for the support of six poor people of the village living in them, and £10 for the school teacher who had the larger section in which to live and teach school.
I decided to have a closer look...
and peek through the back gate. These are now used as artists studios and nearby stable buildings are occupied as an Arts Centre.
England at its finest! A rare sunny day lights up spring blossoms by an ancient dry stacked stone wall.
My Best Beloved looking on through the trees towards NB Valerie. 
A view of the Almshouses from the central path. Once could easily believe it was still the 17th century.
These two lovely buildings were once the stables--designed to appear as posh gate houses. The Almshouses are directly off to the right, the church is off the to the right behind the Almshouses and the manor house is directly behind me.
This manor house was built in 1678 by Sir William Pritchard although a manor of some sort has been recorded as standing here since 944 ACE. In 1984 its new owner converted the two story ballroom in the right wing, into a recording studio.
Standing at the cross road with the manor house off to my left and the Gatehouses, Almshouses and church off to my right, up ahead is village of Great Linford. It is a fine 15 minute walk from our boat, across the park, through the village, and down a foot path to the NO. 7 bus stop which takes one to Milton Keynes Central where there is a HUGE shopping mall, theater complex, indoor ski slope, dozens of restaurants and an outdoor market.
As we stand at the Manor Park gate, ahead is the thatched roof Nag's Head pub dating back to the 15th century.

    I love the composition of this picture which includes the old stone wall, the ancient pub's sign, and a bright red phone box in the distance. 
  Many layers of history are in evidence and it is easy to lose one's self in it--like diving into a layer cake!

Looking back through the gate and down the long pathway across the park, to NB Valerie moored in the distance.
This is the view from a low stone wall which once surrounded a woodland. The Manor house is out of site on the left; the village is off in the distance and the gatehouses, almshouses, ponds and church are out of site far off on my right. The canal lies behind me.
There are permanent mooring at Great Linford Manor Park with access to a water point. There are three visitor mooring spaces available for no charge for 48 hours. Our time is up so Les reversed NBV backwards down the cut to the winding hole just before the bridge (marked by the arrow).
Here is a view of boating backwards for those readers who have never been on a boat!
 As we made our way back from Old Lindford Park to Fenny Stratford, we stopped at Gifford Park to fill up with H2O, dump our rubbish and pick up a Saturday paper.  This AMAZING wide beam was on the 14 day moorings...
Latin for vanity, Vanitas implies a sense of emptiness or worthless action, coming from the Christian Bible, Ecclesiastes 12:8. It is also an artistic term for a period in 17th century Dutch art wherein painting included various objects designed to remind viewers of their mortality and the worthlessness of worldly goods and pleasures. Skulls figure prominently of course!
"Every Castle Has Its Keeper Behind Locked Doors, Waiting Silently in the Dark Shadows Lies The Grim Reaper." Cheery, no??
The Paint job on this boat is phenomenal as are the frosted windows with their business phone number etched on the glass in one window and other interesting things on the other porthole windows. This boat is the owner's advertisement for their work and I think it's fabulous.
Moving on again we pass through a bridge with a sign stating the Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterways will start just North of here on the right....
and someday a new canal will branch off here, following the route the path currently takes. This badly needed new canal will allow wide beams as well as narrow boats to access the middle levels via Bedford. Currently wide beams can only travel north on the Grand Union Canal to just outside of Birmingham or south to the Thames. Narrow boats can leave the GU and travel up the Northampton Arm to access rivers on the Middle Levels which lead to cities such as Peterborough, Cambridge, and lovely places farther East.
One never knows what one will spy along the cut! A bride and groom begin their new life with wedding photos taken at Campbell Park in Milton Keynes.
Here is NBV moored up at one of our favorite places: Stantonbury as it is known today, or Stanton Low as it was once called. The housing estate on the off side is called Oakridge and is, I think, the loveliest example of a very finely planned community. Trees have been planted in the field between the houses and the cut, a pea gravel path has been laid down and benches are staggered across the top of the gentle slope allowing people living here to access the field, the canal, and the delightful views. Not so long ago, it was all an old farm!
We braved several days of high winds and the absolute mania of boaters on the Easter four day weekend while moored here.
On the towpath side, just beyond the hedge lies private farm land with the ruins of St. Peter's 12th century chapel which was in use until 1956. If you would like to read more of its truly fascinating history, including how this parcel of land came to be owned currently by Earl Spencer, Viscount Althorp (Princess Diana's brother), click on this link to my earlier post dated February 08, 2013. The church is now in the process of being rebuilt and its historical society contacted me for permission to use my post in their records and blog site.
    Above Les stands looking out across the field in which the ruins sit, off to his right. Previously we have only stayed three or four days here and we didn't do much investigating of the local area beyond our boat. With time on our hands we walked much farther afield and discovered the path past the church ruins continues forward with the River Great Ouse on the left and Linford Great Lakes off to the right. 
   The lakes were created after gravel pits were dug out in past decades. There are a string of almost a dozen lakes--two of which are held in a 91 acre parcel just adjacent to Viscount Althorp's field and belonging to Hanson Environmental Study Centre. One can enjoy the views of the lakes and the wildlife from the footpath we followed, or one can join the HESC and gain access to its grounds which include paths through woodland around the lakes and several bird hides from which splendid views may be had. As we walked along the path a green woodpecker landed on a nearby stump with an insect in its mouth. It rested there for several minutes while we stared in awe and misery as we hadn't brought our cameras with us.
Photographs © Tony Bedford 2011
    We were absolutely gobsmacked to turn around on the path and see with our very own eyes--a small island just off from shore, carpeted by trees and in those trees were no less than twenty pairs of nesting Herons accompanied by a nesting pair of white Egrets!! I tell you now that if either Irene Jamieson or Jo Lodge had been there with their mighty cameras and spectacular abilities to frame a shot, they would easily have taken a £1000.00 picture.
   As we continued around the lake we spotted over fifteen Cormorants, countless different kinds of ducks, geese, Terns and off in the distance on the brow of a farmer's field we spotted a dozen or so pairs of nesting swans. We also saw three barn owl nesting boxes. 
   We hiked in between the two lakes, climbed a fence and found ourselves at the doorstep of the HESC. It was locked up tight so we walked up the road to the Black Horse Pub and back down the towpath to NBV for a 3 mile hike.
   As Easter weekend bore down upon us, our quiet stretch of countryside quickly filled to the brim with boaters and soon we were nut to butt with other folks seeking to enjoy a slice of nature on their four day weekend.
   We were also entertained by hundreds--and I do mean hundreds--of boats coming and going in a frenzy all four days. From the way boats were piloted and the livery on them I spotted: small day boats loaded with family and friends whizzing by at top speed, hire boaters--mostly from Canal Boat Club and Wyvern Shipping Co. Ltd.
   Many of these folks wore the broad smiles and  "fake-it-till-you-make-it" glazed eyes of boating newbies as they plowed around the bend in the canal beyond us without slowing down-only to meet a wide beam creeping out of the curve aimed directly at them. Hire boats turned up in a row, stacking up behind one another like five o'clock traffic, not slowing down until they were right on top of the boat in front of the boat in front of the boat in front who was dueling for right of way with another wide beam!
   We also witnessed a few shiny boats out with their no nonsense attitude of "It's my holiday and I've paid to use this slice of canal so get out of my bloody way!"  We saw beautiful Share ownership boats thoughtfully and carefully piloted, tatty live aboard vessels looking like floating rubbish bins, and everything in between. We smiled and waved to many folks who slowed down, passed politely and were obviously thrilled down to their socks to be out on a boat pootling up a canal on a four day weekend.
   Of course the towpath was not devoid of action either. Swarms of joggers, dog walkers in the several dozens, bicyclists--oh everyone and their mother's brother's sister's cousin's kids were out and about. Thank the Goddess for the end of the holiday and for our lives aboard every day. We are so incredibly lucky we don't have to turn in the keys at the weekend, trudge back to the car, battle traffic and head to a house for another week in the rat race.
    While pandelerium reigned on the water, Les and I enjoyed evening walks up to the old farm bridge over the canal and waited for the gloaming to fall and bring with it barn owls quartering across the fields, hunting for dinner. Watching these beautiful birds fly on silent wings, dip, dive and come up again with a mouse is magical. 
   Too keep ourselves busy we worked on our new large wood box. Les picked up the deck boards in Fenny Stratford, I chose the stain color, and Les took my inquiry as to whether we could move or small wood box to the back of the roof and reinterpreted it into a brilliant large box upon which both of our solar panels will be mounted sometime soon. My baby does beautiful work!!!
Les staining the pieces for the new wood box.
A view of the top as it currently sits unfinished. Plenty of time to complete this project and we are in no hurry.
This kept Les busy and his mind off of the hospital. It turned out fabulous and the roof already looks better; all part of our plan to paint the boat later in the summer, have the sign writing repainted, and spruce her up nicely. Keep an eye on this space!!
   The phone rang suddenly on Thursday, April 9th. It was someone from the RFH to say Les' procedure is scheduled for Tuesday April 14th, with pre-op check in and overnight stay on Monday the 13th. We packed up, cleaned up, and headed back to Fenny Stratford where access to a train is easy. I will keep everyone posted as the week unfolds.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs