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Friday, May 29, 2015

Good Things Come all at Once

"Make your life a house your heart can live in, with a door to receive friends and a garden full of many things." ~Anonymous

© NB Northern Pride.
   One of the beauties of life aboard a boat on the cut, is that unexpected things may occur each day. One never knows what will happen around the next bend, or what will appear around the next curve in the canal. 
   We are nearing the end of waiting around for this latest round of Les' medical appointments, which requires us to be near buses and an easily accessed train to Euston. With that in mind we cruised to Cosgrove to await a Tesco delivery at Soloman's bridge. As we waited for Mr. Tesco to arrive we heard a HUGE honking horn and knew our Kiwi friends Marilyn and David (NB Waka Huia) had caught up with us. They are back in Britain for a Northern Hemisphere summer of cruising. They were meeting up below Cosgrove lock with friends. We told them we were heading back that way after our grocery delivery. Thumbs up and away they went!
   After putting away our groceries we cruised to the nearest winding hole, turned and headed back to Cosgrove to fill up with water and dump our rubbish. As we came around the bend towards the water point we saw a CRT (Canal & river Trust) barge moored up on our left. Further on a small thirty five foot boat called Sassy was on the water point facing the top of the lock; a wide beam called Hetty was also on the water point facing the opposite direction.
   We decided to breast up next to the CRT barge and wait for space on the water point to open. As we were backing up to come along side the barge, NB Honey Street came around the bend behind us making for the lock and Les waved them on. Instead of going for the lock they ground to a complete halt. In the meantime the wide beam had finished filling up, and they were casting off. As the wide beam came off the water point in our direction, NB Honey Street suddenly put their boat in gear and plowed determinedly forward! 
  In that moment we were staring at the bow of the oncoming wide beam, steered by a couple with astonishment on their faces, trying to figure out what the hell the owner boat heading for their port side was doing. Les threw NB Valerie in reverse and backed up to give the wide beam room.
   NB Honey Street barely missed the side of the wide beam, the bloke on the back yelling, "We almost ran aground there you know!" I was thinking, "Well no shit Sherlock. That's what happens when you have a barge and a narrow boat breasted up on one side and a wide beam heading up the canal toward you." There is only so much width to the canal and the guy on Honey Street should have backed up to make room for WB Hetty to pass us before going forward to the lock. Never mind, he will certainly not be kept from enjoying his holiday. I just hope he and his lovely wife survive to enjoy it! Geez...
   While we filled up with water, Les cleaned the roof and I made lunch. Soon we were ready and down the lock we went, to come out headed toward Wolverton. We didn't get very far before a little Kiwi woman began flagging us down. It was Marilyn and we pulled in behind them. It was a lovely, sunny afternoon, and we all sat outside around a table with glasses of wine, chatting and laughing. Marilyn invited one and all aboard for an early dinner of Curry. I passed but Les loves a good Curry and he was not disappointed! After another hour or so of laughing, talking, story telling and taking the mick, it was time to go. We cruised off in the late evening sunset and moored up out in the countryside near a housing estate with a good bus system to Central Milton Keynes Rail station and fell asleep will full bellies and happy hearts. 
Adam in his boating hat
   The next day dawned windy but bright with the promise of sunshine. Our daughter-in-law Joanne was coming to visit with two of her four children and we were keen to see them. While I prepared lunch, Les walked up to the bus stop and caught a bus into Milton Keynes to meet them. Suddenly a familiar boat came round the bend: it was NB Brier Rose! Adam Porter was traveling back from the Crick Festival. What a lovely surprise!  He invited me aboard his Braidbar boat for a tour and must say I was impressed by how well laid out Brier Rose is. We came back to NB Valerie for a cuppa and a natter about all manner of things including the rise of Airhead composting toilets being installed on boats, before Adam had to push on. 
Kiernan steering while wearing Granddad's hat and Nanny Jaq's gloves!
   A short while later as I finished up fixing lunch I heard children's voices on the towpath calling, "Nanny Jaq, Nanny Jaq!" In the bow doors burst Kiernan and Kiera with big hugs for me. 
Kiera concentrates as she steers past moored up boats.
 We had a lovely visit and it was grand to see Jojo, who is busy with College and preparing for Nursing school at Uni. While the weather had grown overcast it was still warm and we decided to cruise to Campbell Park in Milton Keynes. Our grandkids took turns feeding bread to the wildlife along the way, and steering the boat with Granddad! It took about an hour to reach the park where we moored up to walk up to the bus station for their trip home. 
  Campbell Park is one of the best planned public recreation areas I've had the pleasure of walking through. Leaving the canal behind us, we followed the path across the roundabout and to the right of the Cricket pitch. It winds through the hilly grassland with small side rooms hidden by trees and shrubs. 
   We came to two small shallow overflow ponds with fuzzy greenish stuff growing in the bottom and lots of tiny pond life zipping around. We all stopped to investigate things closer and the kids found a large stick to stir the bottom and see what moved. We saw tiny, transparent alien looking things with what looked like a rounded fin on each side of its round body, teeny, tiny fish, pond skaters, and snails. 
   Low hedges of purple Ceonothus catch the eye, and the trees are all leafed out now--the Hawthorn trees appear to be spring maidens in floral gowns carrying flowing trains over their branched arms. Horse chestnut trees have panicles of white and pink frilled flowers reaching toward the sky. Mock Jasmine planted en mass fills the air with a light, sweet sent. 
The long and winding path from the canal moorings up toward the top of the park.
Granddad leads the way.
Ceonothus in bloom.
Chain Reaction Sculpture surrounded by Ceonothus shrubs.
Stairs up to the Chain Reaction Sculpture at Skeldon Gate.
Looking across the labyrinth to the Armillary Sphere in the center.
This is an aerial view of the labyrinth.
Jojo, Kiera, and Kiernan sitting on the benches around the edge of the labyrinth.
Dear Sir sits smiling amidst the sweet scented False Jasmine.
Looking across the park from the heights, toward the path we followed coming up.
The canal is out of site beyond the tree line and hill in the right foreground.
Tres Biggs!
   Besides being a spacious and beautiful green space filled with sculpture, Campbell Park boasts pedestrian walkways over the carriage ways (freeways), so that one may walk right into Central Milton Keynes from the canal without ever having to hang about on a street corner waiting for road traffic to ease before dashing across the street.
   Soon enough we were at the bus stop and it was time to say goodbye. Les and I caught a bus back down to the canal. We had a rendezvous with NB Waka Huia to make and an hour and half of cruising to do first. We turned the boat around and headed back out to the countryside, stopping at Gifford Park to top up our H2O and dump the day's rubbish. when living aboard a canal boat, one soon learns never to pass a service point without topping up the water tank and getting rid of any trash! I also nipped across the road to the One Stop for several bottles of wine and some hard pear cider. While Les steered, I chilled the wine, finished up making a cold chicken and grape salad and laying out some nibbles.
   We came through bridge number seventy five and there was Waka Huia! Marilyn came out and helped us moor up and soon she and David were on board, glasses filled with wine and the evening came on to the strains of straight ahead jazz greats Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin, Billy Holiday and others crooning in the background as we talked, laughed and caught with each other. 
   Les and I are not morning people. We both had to get up at the crack of dawn all of our working lives and now we often stay up until 1 or 2 a.m. and sleep in until 9 or 10 a.m. Marilyn paid us a visit to see two people who looked like deer in headlights! The wine of the night before left me feeling a little iffy as well. I threw myself into a scalding hot shower, chugged a cup of hot water with lemon juice and dressed. It appeared I would indeed live!
Marilyn and David in the sunshine
   I caught up with with the Kiwis walking back up from the nearby church ruins. We spent about two hours gong through their Nicholson's Guides marking them for good chandlers and moorings spots the rest of the way down the Grand Union, the Paddington Arm, and the Thames as far as Reading. Soon it was time for NB Waka Huia to cast off, heading for London and then the Thames. 
I am a blessed woman to have many, many, many best beloveds--and these are three of the many.
NB Waka Huia cruises south, Marilyn standing on her footstool steering!
   We caught a bus into Milton Keynes and another bus to Fenny Stratford so I could see an Osteopath. My lumbar vertebrae and some other bits of bobs of backbone have been out for three weeks and I could no longer stand the pain. Two buses back home again and I was totally bushed from the Osteo treatment, and feeling tenderized as my sore twisted muscles un-twisted and slowly returned to normal. 
  Rain was forecast for all day today and that has indeed been the case. We rose at 10 a.m. and I did last night's dishes while Les emptied the pee bottle on the Airhead, started a fire, filled the coal bucket and brought in a couple loads of wood and kindling. After breakfast we sat in our side-by-side recliners in front of the fire reading and napping while rain hammered the roof. A pot of home made chicken noodle soup was simmering on the stove top. We are well loved, well fed, dry and warm, and life is good!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Little Light Housekeeping...

"Keep calm and maintain the cleanliness." ~Anonymous

   As we continue to cover the same few miles of waterways while waiting for the next doctor's appointment, I decided it was time to get crackin' on spring cleaning. After all it hadn't been done since March of 2012. We skipped 2013 to head for the Lee and Stort navigation and onward to the Thames, thinking we could do a good spring cleaning in 2014, but Les was recovering from his first two surgeries and so we let is slide yet another year.
   The layer of wood and coal smoke--and soot--on everything was three years in the making. NB Valerie just felt grimy and dirty to me and I wanted our lovely floating home to sparkle. Besides, I love cleaning, and now we have ample time to get it done. Les finally caved in and bought a small wet/dry vacuum. After nine years, NB Valerie was getting a thorough cleaning. Les hemmed and hawed about the need to disassemble the interior of the boat in order to clean. Spring cleaning isn't his favored pastime, nonetheless he is an able and generous partner and a good worker!
   Our supplies consisted of four bottles of sugar soap, two spray bottles, a 10 pack of scrubby sponges (sponge on one side and scrubby on the other), a large bucket, and a large packet of personal dry wipes like one gets in hospital.
Les cleans an H on on the ceiling.
   We started at the back of the cabin, stripping it bare and putting the mattress, all the bedding, and anything not nailed or glued down, forward into the saloon. With the first swipe of a sugar soap laden sponge across the ceiling Les remarked, "Crikey Jaq--look at that! It's filthy!!" I smiled and replied, "Yes dear," as I thought 'tell me something I don't know.' Not only was every square inch of the boat and everything--every curtain, blind, picture, book, DVD cover, pretty collectible nic-nac--covered in grime, but nine years of no vacuuming and only sweeping meant dust bunnies the size of dinner plates hid back underneath the galley cupboards, along with multiple generations of spider webs, the odd dried pea and bits of dehydrated food rubbish from thousands of meals. All that dust and grime absorbed cooking grease and smells, making the boat smell musty.
Look at the shine on the galley ceiling--and the filth on the forward section yet to be cleaned!
Me on hands and knees cleaning the dinette and the bookshelves.
    It took us three and half days to complete the entire boat from stern to bow. Les did the ceilings and the upper walls and I did the lower walls, book cases, drawers, cupboards, and floors. Les took our roller blinds down, soaked them in the bathtub with half a tub of Oxy powder, scrubbed them clean and hung them to dry. We washed all the curtains, and all books were stacked on the table, wiped clean with a cloth and replaced on the shelves after said shelves were vacuumed and wiped down with sugar soap.
   And this is why we will never paint the interior of our boat cream. There is a FaceBook page called Canal Boat Interior Design with hundreds of lovely, creative and amazing pictures of things people have done to the interior of their narrow boats. Painting an old boat a lovely fresh cream throughout the inside is quite popular. All I can think of is how quickly it will become dingy and stained when winter sets in and the solid fuel stove is going 24/7.
The end is in sight! The last few feet of ceiling left to be cleaned.
   Spring cleaning done, NB Valerie feels light and airy inside once more. The lovely golden wood grain gleams in the light and it feels like a brand new boat inside. Of course it is taking us both longer than three and half days to recover from all the stretching, reaching, scrubbing, bending, and kneeling. Time to focus on the outside now...
   A month ago in the Saturday newspaper a Robert Dyas catalog fell from the folds. Inside I spotted a lovely resin Bistro table and chair set which made my heart quicken. We didn't have anything to sit at and enjoy a meal out on the towpath so we usually sat in the bow. I wanted a nice sized table and two chairs that folded up compactly out of sight on the roof, made of something that would not rot. This Tropea bistro set was just the ticket and it came in white and a lovely bright spring green, for £69.99. Of course I had my heart set on green and Robert Dyas was sold out.
   An in-depth search on the 'Net found a half dozen online shops offering the same unit for anywhere from £70 to £149.00!! Finally I found it in green at Primrose Online: Everything Garden for the bargain price of £59.00. I placed the order mid-afternoon and it arrived the next morning! Now that is service!! A huge thank you to Robert and his sister Maria for allowing us to have it sent to an address nearby and for delivery of it to our boat.
   Les insisted I call Primrose before I ordered it, and make sure they had the set available in green He sat watching me as I attempted to carry on a conversation. The bloke on the phone said I could put in my order right then. I tried but honestly after three minutes of repeating myself six times, and asking him to repeat himself six times, I just said, "Thank you for your help but I am going to go online and put this order in." After nearly four years living in Britain I am still the one with the accent and I still cannot understand most phone conversations with the plethora of dialects one gets across this country.
   Thanks with deep appreciation also go out to Ken and Sue Deveson for all the support, care and love they have lavished on me and Les throughout the past few months. We've visited their lovely home several times. Each visit was a joy; delicious meals, endless cups of tea, fascinating conversation, and an introduction to a great new game helped to break up the monotony of traveling back and forth on the same patch of canal in between NHS appointments made, canceled and rescheduled. For delivery of parcels and husband, my deepest thanks to you both for a lovely friendship.
   While moored up at Campbell Park in Milton Keynes, we were blessed to see a wedding party having professional photos taken near the canal. It was a blustery spring day. The Bride and Groom were surrounded by family and friends, all talking and laughing as the they jostled one another for a bit of space during the picture taking.
"Everybody wave now!" Somewhere in there is a bride and a groom.
   Little boys all dressed up in three piece suits tried hard to look serious--for about two minutes. Little girls in jewel bright dresses spun and twirled like living confections until the boys could stand it no more and had to jump in and participate. The newlyweds spotted me standing in the bow of the boat snapping pictures so after the official photos were finished, they turned towards me with a smile and gave me a thumbs up! It was the loveliest wedding party I've seen for some time. 
The newlyweds on a colorful bridge in the park.
   We are nearly at the end of this cycle of waiting. After Les' June 1st appointment with the Royal Free Hospital we are off to cruise in earnest. He has decided to catch a train back to London for all remaining appointments and surgeries. Happy spring everyone!!
This is a living sculpture at Campbell Park titled Dancing Willows.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Three men in a Balloon

Just click the video and scroll down through my pictures.

 Not an uncommon sight from the canals as we cruise through the countryside
 but he seems to be losing height. A few blasts on the burner and things improve

 but only just.
 Wow a second balloon has just come into view over the same tree line

 he looks to be just as low as the first one in fact he seems to be getting lower all the time.

 Here comes a third balloon. he seems to be climbing quite fast.

Yep. no doubt about it he`s climbing. Hang on where`s that second one gone.

 Oops. Looks like a giant Ladybird has landed.

 As they fold the balloon into a bag you can see the jacket top of the path where the top of the balloon settled, close to those houses.

Four gas cylinders. I wonder what the range would have been. "Where were you heading" I asked. "Here" says he. "saw the field and decided to land"  Asking how far he had come I was shocked when he said Cosgrove Park. Just under three miles as the crow or in this case hot air balloon flies. "so where have the others gone" I asked. "Probably gone on to somewhere else". I got the feeling not only did he not want to carry on the conversation but he was also peeved. I think he had no choice as to where to land.
The canal is at the bottom of the field.

Cosgrove to the left and the landing site on the right. You can see the blue line of the canal passing the top of the right hand arrow.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Female gives birth to nine!

Still a bit frustrated about the other lung needing treatment but hey ho it is what it is. We need to be around a railway station for a post op clinic appointment June 1st. plus we have something  being delivered so not in a great hurry. Running low on water we made a trip in the sunshine to Cosgrove and returned to Stanton where we have another 7 days left of our 14 day mooring right. Having contacted CRT and been told they would overlook us being in one area we could just not bother about moving on time but that is NOT our style.
Future plans are to head for Warwick and Birmingham and hopefully get the train back for the lung RFA when they give me a date which will probably get canceled and rescheduled.
Good thing is I feel great.
Bet it won`t be long before the line is forgotten as they wander off investigating.

Two more chicks were hiding in the reeds.

Not a very nice sight. The plastic ring might make feeding difficult and flying might be hard as they tend to stretch their necks out straight in flight. We left two 18/20 year olds trying to find someone with a net or they would phone the RSPCA.
Cosgrove Aquaduct towpath side
and just the edge of the iron trough the other so don`t fall off this side.
or you will end up in the River Great Ouse.

Nice way to travel on a sunny day. The swan was not amused and took flight through the bridge hole.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs