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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Cheap London Housing

During my recent London trip I picked up one of the free London newspapers and found this story tucked away inside.
New London Architecture with the Mayor of London organised a competition to solve London`s housing crisis. Two hundred entries from around the world have now been reduced to a short list of 100. Among these were some water related schemes that attracted my attention.
 Above and below is the entry from Baca architects who worked with Floating Homes. You might remember Baca from the Grand Designs TV programme about the floating house on the River Thames at Marlow.
 The Baca scheme is to place pre-fabricated floating houses along 50 miles of Greater London canals and rivers. Not sure about a permanent home in front of some dilapidated factory or warehouse, perhaps around the Olympic park might be better.

The above pictured scheme came from dRMMwho want to turn the old London docks into housing estates of floating homes called Floatopolis.
Another entry saw 9,000 miles of roads being turned into homes but we will stick to the H2O and pass on to the entry below.

This is an idea from Mae architects who see 4,000 homes along London`s canals. The canal scene will come alive on the link showing the homes in sections being towed into place on barges and erected by floating crane.

All the schemes seem to overlook the access part. Moving in can be achieved by boat, it happens with remote bricks and mortar homes canal side so would be simple with floating homes. Just where do the residents park the car? London and other large cities have enough problem with car parking with some buildings having underground car spaces and still residents have to pay to park outside their own home and even that is not guaranteed.

Perhaps this new housing project can be launched with car ownership banned but free travel within the city area.What about an elevated road above the canal with parking bays and steps down to each floating home.

No, it would be like living in a tunnel. Ok try this. No cars but an electric water bus service picking up at your deck and transporting you to large car parks of 20 floors built below and above ground. Perhaps we can look to the American valet parking where your car would be ready as the water bus docks.

Tesco will have to re think their home delivery service. They could have a superstore of mega proportions with water bus stops, click and collect or their own delivery boats as well as the normal street entrance.  I can see a lot of business opportunity's with this floating home scheme.

We have the water bus and the parking facility but what about rubbish/garbage collection. No roads to drive a vehicle along so it has to be water transport. Miles and miles of floating homes are not going to be connected to sewage mains so again a pump out service is needed. Electricity could be easily fed to each home but bottled gas would have to be used.
Also needed is a general delivery service for just about anything normally delivered kerbside. Canal River Trust will be advertising for tenders/bids to supply these services.

I have given the address problem some thought, well not much actually it seemed pretty obvious to a boater. Bridges along the canal are numbered so if your floating home is between bridge 17 and 18 your home would be numbered in sequence between bridges. Royal Mail would have to issue post/zip codes as they see fit but your address could be; Dock 3, 17-18 Regents Canal, London, RC3 1718.

Ok I`ll stop now but to be honest sitting here writing this the sun is shining warming my face on one side, I have not a care in the world and I am sitting opposite my princess as she works with her students mostly based across the U.S.
Just another fantastic day afloat.

I snapped this scene of boats moored three and four abreast on the Regent`s canal in 2013. Can we expect to see these boats replaced by some of the floating homes pictured above.

All I can say is money talks and if Canal River Trust get the chance then it could happen. I would imagine CRT as land owners would be selling plots on a leasehold basis. What happens when the London area is full?  Will we see the floating homes slowly expanding along the Grand Union towards the Midlands and along every canal it comes in contact with. Certainly opens up a new meaning of the phrase continuous moorer.

Will continuous cruisers like us be just that, continuous. Will the canals be taken over by never ending lines of floating homes. Jaq and I will have to work shifts to keep moving 24/7 all year every year.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Eight Minutes

Eight minutes is not a long time although I guess that depends what is going on as those minutes tick away. Just by chance I clicked on one of my half dozen shots of the sun setting at Radford Semele near Leamington Spa and noticed the time. Looking at the others I chose these two completely unaltered images because they were so similar in content and then checked the time difference.........8 minutes.
So just because I have the time and because it amused me I looked towards Google and searched "eight minutes". Not much so a new search "what could happen in eight minutes" was entered.
Bingo! It seems if the sun disappeared we here on earth would not be aware for about eight minutes the time it takes for the sun`s light to reach earth. After that the moon if out would lose the sun`s light reflecting on it and as with the other planets would also fade away.
I dedicate this blog post to every retiree who now has time to look into the things in life that escaped their attention while being part of the mad world called work.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Les an Jaq Health Update

"I cried like a baby. When no one could see me or hear me. Not because I feared what cancer would do, but because I didn't want the disease. I wanted my life to be normal, which it could no longer be." ~Yuvraj Singh

     Les went down to London on Tuesday last for his latest scan results. There is one microscopic lesion on his right lung which has not grown at all since his previous scan in July and a lesion on his left lung that has grown from 4 mm to 5 mm which is very slow growth for metastatic colon cancer.  Their advice: wait and watch; see what the next three month scan indicates.
     I have been diagnosed with degenerative Osteoarthritis in both knees. This is a disease that occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joints wears away. Cartilage is a buffer of sorts that lets your joints move smoothly. When cartilage begins to break down, your bones end up rubbing together when you move. The friction causes inflammation, pain, stiffness, and other uncomfortable symptoms.
     It is not uncommon for older people to develop OA, but it is not restricted to baby boomers and other aging populations. Younger adults can also feel the morning joint stiffness, aching pain, tender joints, and limited range of motion that signifies OA. Younger people are more likely to develop arthritis as a direct result of a trauma.
     The seven common causes are: Genetic pre-disposition (my mother suffered from it), age and gender: before age fifty-five both genders develop OA evenly. After age fifty-five more women than men develop OA. The trauma of injury from sports, accidents, war, and abuse can cause OA to develop in a joint. Repetitive straining of the joints can cause the cartilage to wear down prematurely. People who perform physical labor, kneel, squat, or climb stairs for hours at a time may be more likely to develop joint pain and stiffness. The hands, knees, and hips are common joints affected by occupation-related OA. your risk increases if you’re overweight. Excess body weight places additional stress on your joints, especially your knees, hips, and back. It can also cause cartilage damage, which is the hallmark of osteoarthritis. You’re also more at risk for OA if you have other forms of arthritis, such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.
      I had my knees x-rayed on Thursday and amazingly Dr. D called me that afternoon at 5:30 PM to tell me the x-rays revealed I have degenerative Osteoarthritis in both knees with my left knee joint severely affected. My knee pad has shrunk severely and the bones on the outward left side of my knee are rubbing together and have done so for long enough to cause severe damage to the bones.
     The GP said I would need a knee replacement but first I had to go through physio and see what they recommended and I needed to lose as much weight as possible before any surgery could be done. 
     I am a big proponent of personal responsibility. So, onward and upward as they say. I will fast two days a week, by having fresh made carrot-apple juice twice a day, and eating Ozlem's delicious vegetarian soup (recipe here) for lunch and dinner.
     Since we had all these medical appointments to attend to in Warwick, we stayed moored up near Hatton Station on the North Grand Union for five days. We had the pleasure of Tom and Jan's company as NB Waiouru came up the Hatton flight and moored behind us for a few days. Afternoon tea and conversation gave us a great chance to get to know one another. It was a joy to sit and converse face-to-face. They are lovely folk and we learned a ton from Tom about the latest computer gadgets. Note to Les: time to upgrade a couple of things!!
    We moved up Thursday afternoon to pick up a Tesco order at Station bridge and then cruised up for water at Tom 'O' the Woods and on to Kingswood Junction where the Grand Union intersects the Stratford Canal. The sky was a bright blue, the leaves turning slowly to tapestry colors of gold and red. We were on new water for me. As we cruised along the cutting and embankment between Shrewley Tunnel and Turner's Green, we passed by a tree farm. The embankment was so high we only saw the very tops of large, tall Blue Spruce. For those who have never been on a canal before, let me explain these geographic terms.
     A cutting is a deep trench dug through a hill into which the canal bed is laid, lowering it down. I imagine the dirt dug out of the trench is piled up on the top. An embankment is a place where the dirt is piled up high to build up a stretch of land into which the canal bed is laid, lifting it up. Both forms allow a canal to pass through an area without the need for building locks to lift or lower the canal; it also means the canal need not meander like a river in wide arcs and turns as it was dug around low or high spots in the landscape, essentially going around them to keep the building of locks to a minimum.
Inside Shrewley Tunnel.
Cruising along the embankment. See how high up we are?  Embankments offer great views across the countryside.
Here we are entering a cutting. Note the trees growing up the sloping sides.
As we come out of the cutting and cruise toward an embankment, I looked back at the narrowed cut we just came through.
The tunnel through the bridge hole!
Just past the hedge one can see the tops of very tall, large spruce trees growing down the other side of the embankment, on a tree farm.
A fall tapestry hedge.
Someone's cat is perched in an excellent spot for mouse hunting.
Approaching the permanent offside moorings at Tom O the Woods. We discovered a water point here on the towpath side which doesn't appear in our fifteen year old Nicholson's Guide Books. According to a local boater it was installed three years ago.  Never pass up a water point! We top up our tank before moving on.
     As we cruised along enjoying the brilliance of the day and each other's company I began to think about Les' latest scan results and the loss of family and  friends from cancer this past year.
     My brother-in-law died a year ago tomorrow of liver cancer caused by over exposure to carcinogenic chemicals at work. He waited patiently for a liver transplant but by the time one became available, the cancer had spread too far. He was young and full of spirit--only in his early 60's. Nick used to hold all phone callers hostage by telling a joke and then waiting for you to tell one back. Whenever he wanted to learn something new he undertook to gather as much information as possible and then practiced, practiced, practiced until he mastered the skill he sought to own. He too had dimples one could drown in and laughter so contagious one could have a hilarious meltdown just watching him, as his belly heaved with mirth, his dark brown eyes crinkled up in the corners, cheeks roundly lifted underneath. Nick always laughed from his belly and you couldn't help but join in.
     On Summer Solstice a dear friend and mentor died of advanced colon cancer at the age of fifty eight. We'd known each other for twenty five years. In that time he had gone from one strength to the next, gaining national recognition as an educator and serving as president of a top ranked research university. His career made him wealthy and well known and his character made him highly respected and well loved. E. could afford the very best in medical care, and he received it, undergoing surgery,  radiotherapy and chemotherapy. For six months he recovered slowly, hopeful he had beat the monster inside.
     The cancer returned with a flourish, growing faster than before and spreading everywhere. Sadly this is an all too common outcome of chemotherapy. Oncologists tell patients it will kill all the cancerous cells but cancer is a tricky disease. It evolves, developing immunity to the poison of chemotherapy, while healthy cells die of shock and the immune system breathes its last.  Oncologists use cytotoxic therapy to take a patient to death's door, leaving them there in the hope they will somehow recover. The newly evolved malignant cells' immunity to chemo allow even faster growth, spreading with a vengeance that is breathtaking in its pace. As cancer colonized his liver, blood, bone and brain, he pushed to establish a new school of medicine for the university.  It was his last act. His final days were spent in hospital, with every need attended to by someone while his wife watched day by day, hour by hour, as this stinking disease devoured her husband and my friend.
     Today I've received word that another boater--the lovely, funny, kindhearted Mo of NB Balmaha--died last night after a lengthy battle of his own with cancer.  Their deaths have left a huge wound in their communities, their families, and my heart. 
    When Les was told, after undergoing five days of radiotherapy followed by what we were told was a successful surgery, that he needed six months of chemotherapy as a follow up despite there being only a 12-15% chance of living another five years with a highly recommended regimen of cytotoxic agent Capcitibane/5 FU, which oncologists jokingly refer to as "Five Feet Under," he refused to have chemo and has refused it every time he returns for scan results.
Cheeky Monkey!
     We are using a variety of different alternative methods to fight our battle, as the doctors reveal a bit more information with each assault. We know now that colon cancer is considered one of the metastatic cancers, and it nearly always spreads from the colon to the liver, and from there to the lungs, heart, and brain.  If only they had been completely honest with us from the beginning, but medical professionals assume they are the only ones with any answers to the questions concerning cancer. They assume patients can do nothing but sit at home on their hands and fret until a surgeon or oncologist takes control of the situation. There are alternative treatments we could have tried earlier on with a greater chance of stopping cancer from spreading to Les' liver and lungs if we had been told everything earlier rather than after his liver surgery or with each new scan.

     Nevertheless something we are doing is slowing cancer's growth inside him. We take heart in that small miracle, and we are thankful he feels good in himself. He has energy enough for both of us, a hearty appetite, a zest for life, and he is enjoying every day. We believe Les' body with its functional immune system is responding to the change in our diet, the supplements, and alternative treatments we are trying. When Les was told cancer had colonized his liver, The medical team said the scan indicated a minimum of 30% of his liver would have to be removed--probably more. I started him immediately on large doses of Milk Thistle which assists the liver in healing and regeneration. He took it for a month. To his surgical team's amazement, only 10% of his liver had to be removed and then only the actual malignant lesions and a small margin of healthy tissue.
I fell in love with those dimples!!
     Lest you labor under the assumption that we think we have all the answers, I tell you we feel like blind beggars groping in the dark. We try something and see what the next scan brings. If we see no improvement we try something else. All my research indicates that when relying on alternative treatments for cancer one has a better chance of survival by combining at least three treatments. But which three? Which three will work for us? That is the puzzle, isn't it? 
     I still continue my research, pounding away at the keyboard late at night delving into cell biology, grasping tumor morphology: DNA synthesizing for preparation of mitosis that allows accelerated cell growth, taking notes, asking questions, searching for answers, reading literature reviews, abstracts and medical research reports, downloading book after book onto my Kindle regarding the biology of cancer, reviews of alternative treatments, and so on. I immerse myself in looking at different alternative modalities and surfing cancer patient forums which are a wealth of real time information about treatments experienced by real patients who don't sugar coat the side effects or hide behind pharmaceutical company literature and non-profits that have jumped onto the cancer industry bankroll, to "be there for you through your disease."
     Most folks over here have see the Cancer Research adverts on TV which say " Fifty percent of all cancer patients survive; but we know that isn't good enough..." for those who are a part of that fifty percent we are hysterically happy for you, your family, and your community. And you fifty percenters who survive have all the mainstream media, medicine, and politics supporting you. But what about the other fifty percent? The other HALF of cancer patients who die despite following all the protocols, the new drug trials, etc. etc. Who speaks for them? Who speaks for those of us with cancer who don't believe fifty percent survival to five years is actually a cure, or something in which we can trust with our lives? I am sure I don't know. In this blog I am only speaking for me and Les.
     Lest you think I never tire, I will tell you the bitter truth: there are times when I take a shower and cry while the water runs so Les doesn't hear me. There are mornings when I have to force myself to get up and put my feet on the floor, to walk to the galley and begin "The regimen" of hot water with fresh squeezed lemon juice first, which we drink while I count out twenty four of the thirty pills Les will take each day, knowing he will not remember to take them if I don't remind him throughout each interval of every single day.
     I plan our menus with care to make the most nutritious, healing meals filled with cancer fighting agents resveratrol, ellagic acids, buteryl acids, short chain fatty acids, and so on to stop or slow angiogenesis, cell division and mitosis of cancer cells inside my husband. I grow weary of brewing herbal decoctions every week, decanting them into jars taking up precious real estate in our tiny fridge, and remembering to mix them: 30 ML of medicinal herbal decoction with 60 ML of water every night before bed; mixing blackberry, raspberry or blueberry smoothies for lunch with additions of Ultra B Complex. IP-6, Whey powder, and Modified Citrus Complex.
     Understand, I am not complaining about the doing of these things for Les--he is my lover, my best friend, and the best of my Best Beloveds. I feel entirely grateful he is still here to laugh with me and pull me into his arms each night. It is the disease that makes me weary, sad, tired and angry; my enemy, my foe--and the modern cancer industry which grows richer each month while it consumes the lives of those I love and feeds on our misery.  I have spent almost a decade now fighting cancer; for myself first and now for Les. Cancer is relentless in its growth and colonization of new territory and so I must be just as relentless. I cannot afford a day off here, a night out there; a vacation from this war is not an option.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Hadar and Waiouru

"There are some people in life that make you laugh a little louder,  smile a little bigger, and live a little longer."  ~ Anonymous

     Sorry to take so long to post folks. Between working part time (people forget that only Les is living it up as a retiree), activities of daily living like cleaning, laundry, dishes, cooking, etc., and keeping Les on a regimen for his health, I find myself continually playing catch up time-wise.
Entrance to the Saltisford Arm
     Last week we cruised from Radford Semele to Warwick, stopped to pick up groceries at the almost-canal-side Tesco store, Les did some running around in town for manly bits and bobs, we filled up with water, came up the two Cape locks and stopped at dusk far later than we usually do, totally knackered and pleased that our nearest neighbors were dead quiet all night. We were of course moored by a cemetery!
   For some reason we lost our Freeview television which had been working fine the previous evening, and that put Les in a tizzy. We don't watch a lot of telly but we do have our favorite shows at any given time: Canals-The Making of a Nation was airing a six part series we didn't want to miss; Rick Stein's food travelogue, From Venice to Istanbul is one of my latest favorites and we are both enjoying the latest series of New Tricks and Terry and Mason's Food Adventures. I will leave it to Les to bring you all up to date on The Freeview Saga and how he fixed it in another post.
Looking down the Saltisford Arm
     The next afternoon saw a welcome spot of sunshine as we cruised into Saltisford Arm to a joyous reunion with our friends Keith and Jo Lodge on NB Hadar.  The last time we saw each other was at Bourne End in March of 2013 as Les and I were on the way down to the Lee & Stort and then the Thames.
     In the interim ill health visited both boats with Les' diagnosis of cancer and Keith's biliary operation and recovery. Suffice it to say both men look great and feel well and Jo is as radiant as ever.
     We spent two days moored in Arm and I have to say it is lovely there. The gardens are delightful, the Saltisford Arm Trust take great care of the buildings and property, and it is a simple walk out the side gate and down the sidewalk to catch a bus into the center of Warwick.
     Sadly, I didn't get to see Warwick Castle because I've injured my left knee quite badly. Two visits to a local osteopath finally got the muscles and tendons to relax but the treatment was excruciating.
Keith and Jo in front of NB Hadar
     Meanwhile I hobbled around the grounds of the Arm and delighted specifically in Jo and Keith's boat-side garden. Tea and a long natter aboard Hadar brought us both up to speed. I met Marmite the boat cat and Paddy the dog.
      The Lodge's came to dinner aboard NB Valerie and the craic was grand. If you ever get a chance to hear Keith's stories of working on a historic narrow boat don't miss it. His blue eyes sparkle with delight as he spins a good yarn of the once-ways on the cut. He knows more about working and living aboard than the rest of us have forgotten.
      Jo is filled with energetic light and laughter. It seems the Saltisford Arm Trust is a good fit for her and the Arm is a fantastic place for NB Hadar as a permanent mooring.
     We introduced them to several board games, including The Great Game of Britain--a railroad game of great strategy and fun which our friends Sue and Ken Deveson on NB Cleddau introduced to us last March. We knew after our first game it was our kind of fun and we found a used game set on E-Bay. Keith liked it so much he ordered one for Hadar!
    We cruised out of the arm and settled nearby on the towpath so Les could get stuck into fixing our Freeview. He had previously mapped out our travel so we could be at Hatton Railroad Station for Tuesday the 15th. He has to travel down to London for the latest scan results. Ahead of us we had the 21 lock Hatton Flight--my first huge flight of locks--to climb up before we reached the station.  It was my hope the osteopath treatments would sort my knee as they did last January, so I could take the locks in turn with Les doing five, switching off and steering for five, doing five more, etc.
Looking up the 21 lock Hatton Flight: up 146 feet in less then two miles!
     The morning came to attempt the flight. We stepped out on the stern with tiller and pin in hand to see NB Waiouru turning into the Saltisford Arm! We strolled down to say goodbye to Jo and Keith and hello to Tom and Jan.
     The Lodges were out but we did manage a cup of tea and a piece of Jan's lovely cherry cake before we finally said we've got to go do the flight. Tom kindly offered to help us and so the three of us set off--I steered and the men worked the locks. Two hours and thirty five minutes later in lovely sunny weather and we were up! Both men looked hot and knackered, so I fixed scrambled egg burritos and American Lemonade for lunch. Many thanks Tom for your help.
Out of one lock...
     My knee pad (patella) is catching on the lower left corner and putting any weight on my knee has been terribly painful as its quite swollen. The osteopath recommended a visit to a GP for a possible scan to see if I might have a torn miniscus. I've been to the GP as a temporary patient and she has dubiously ordered x-rays of both knees and physio for me, so we are stuck here in the area for the foreseeable future and it is Les' turn to take care of me.
     I can travel by train down to Warwick Station for £2.42 round trip--less than it costs me to travel anywhere in this country by bus! It takes eleven minutes and we are in central Warwick so that makes it handy for appointments. Les has a senior rail card so he can travel for £1.20!
and into the next!
     Meanwhile this has been a lovely, quiet stretch of canal which is exactly what we prefer.  The trains are close by but they don't bother us and they are seldom the high speed Virgin trains that rip through the countryside lifting the sod as they fly by with their obnoxious sounding horns.
     I sanded the port side of the boat and Les painted it. We also got a handle on our water pump which has been running off-on-off-on-off-on continually for months, driving me barmy as I try to sit and read in the evening. That too is another Les tale to tell, it being manly man kind of work and all! Now we just need to get our Ebispacher fuel operated heater serviced, and I think we will be ready to head north after a bit more work on my knee.
     NB Waiouru is coming up the Hatton Flight in the rain this afternoon and I've invited Tom and Jan to dinner for Spaghetti Bolagnese, so she won't have to cook after all that work. We are looking forward to another evening of good craic in the company of friends. To quote Mo of NB Balmaha, one of the kindest, funniest, and most delightful boaters I've ever met, "Aren't boater's the loveliest people?" Yes Mo they are...and not a one of them we've met will ever be forgotten.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Napton-On-The-Hill: Windmills and Friends

"When the winds of change blow, some build walls, others build windmills." ~Chinese proverb

    This is a LONG post folks, but it is mostly pictures so if you are sitting inside a clammy boat in the rain, or trapped indoors by the unforgiving smoke from the raging PNW (Pacific Northwest of the U.S.) fires, perhaps you would like to refresh your soul with a cup of tea and walk through the English countryside to an ancient village church. Enjoy the sunshine on a drowsy afternoon in England and walk along with us. You might be surprise at what we find! We might even play some children's games--Okay you're it!!

We were were penned inside by three days of rain in which Les moaned like a child, "I am bored. I just want to be moving again." Me too mate!!
    We decided to leave our secluded country mooring on the stretch of the Oxford canal shared by the Grand Union, and cruise to Wigram's Turn. We went up to the top lock of the Calcutt flight and pulled in to fill up with water, then we winded the boat and cruised back to the junction, heading for Napton. Our dear friends Tina and Andy on live nearby and we always stop to visit while we are in the area. 
     Of course every inch of mooring space was rammed with boats. We cruised slowly through Tomlow Road bridge; I kept my eyes peeled for a space while Les kept his eyes on the canal ahead. As we slowly passed the first two boats a lovely red and blue boat with a familiar name appeared: Carrie Ann. As NBV crept by I said, "Les look it's Sue and Colin's boat--Carrie Ann!" Of course we were all excited now as the last time we had seen them was a sunny Sunday in August at Fenny Stratford when we were heading back to Cow Roast to settle in for Les' liver surgery a year ago. They don't blog and spend no time to speak of on-line so we had no idea they were nearby.
     I called out and up came Colin who welcomed us enthusiastically. We pulled over and breasted up next to their boat and out came the chairs. We sat on their cruiser stern in the afternoon sunshine drinking tea and catching up. I even had a pet of their lovely boat rabbit, Winston. While we sat talking, the boat behind them decided to leave and we pulled in to moor up in the space. Sorted!! If you see them cruising along please wave and say hello. Col and Sue are lovely folk and have taken to living aboard as continuous cruisers quite well.
Sue and Colin next to their boat Carrie-Ann. Winston the boat rabbit is inside looking for a nibble!
     The next day Les decided we had to walk up and see the windmill. For those who aren't familiar with this area, Napton-on-the-Hill is famous for the large dutch style windmill that caps its 500 foot high crown. While I was enthusiastic for a walk I am ever leery of Les' description of how long it will take, how easy or difficult it will be, and so on. He is notorious for telling folks a walk of thirty minutes only takes fifteen. What he told me was, "Okay Jaq, if we walk up to the Tomlow road bridge and up through the village it will be far harder. The path is quite a climb and I think it will be too steep for you, but if we walk along the towpath toward The Boat pub and cross the road to the farmer's field it is a longer but gentler climb to the top." Uh-huh...
      So off we went, favored with a beautiful summer day, a bonnet-blue sky and the luscious yellow sun tempered by a lovely breeze. 
A climb through nettles and blackberry brambles left my ankles red and raw...
...but it was worth it to see the field covered in rabbits. Dear Sir went ahead of me, closed the gate and insisted I pay his customary toll fee; a kiss, hence the reason why we call these "kissing gates!"
The ancient ridge and furrow field system can still be seem here. High ground like this was turned over to grazing sheep and has not been tilled since the 15th century.
      Ridge and furrow is the way farming was done in the Middle Ages. It actually dates from the immediate post-Roman period (499 ACE) to the mid-17th century in some places across Britain and Ireland. These distinctive fields came about from being ploughed with non-reversible, single sided ploughs each year. Each strip was held by one family with large open fields held as common space and shared amongst the villagers. this is where the term furlong came from as a strip was generally a furrow long--about 220 feet and from five to over twenty yards wide. According to Paula Levick in the Archeology of East Oxford, "There were practical advantages in creating ridges – they increase soil depth and add to the overall surface area of the field, and the furrows between assist in drainage." (Accessed on line on 07/19/15, 
All righty then, to quote my Best Beloved, "It's a gentle climb..."although he neglected to say we would be wading through fresh and drying piles of cattle, sheep, goat, emu, and rabbit poop!
"Come on Jaq--the summit of the hill is just 500 feet ahead!
At the second gate to the next field, another toll must be paid. This walk is definitely improving! Looking back towards the bottom of the first field.

"Farmland: Please keep to the path and keep your dogs under control." 
A rabbit hole! The fields were full of them all near the edges and the top. Now where is my pocket watch...
A buzzard rides the thermals...
...while I stand in silent reverence, drinking in the view. The canal and our boat are down there somewhere...
...but it matters not where we are moored. I feel small and insignificant perched on the brow of this hill where it is said one can look out over seven counties!
Away to the left lies the city of Coventry.
      We walked up hill across two large fields. The lower section had penned animals, rabbit burrows, and lots of poo; the second field had one large rabbit hole and a brow of hill with breathtaking views West and North, and we still weren't done climbing! As I turned away from the buzzard in flight and the vista across the Oxford canal and beyond, I faced a short, wide field with sheep which had been sheared but their tails were left long and they seemed to be wearing pony tail holders or rubber bands every so often down the length of their tails to to keep the hair in place. These were the cleanest sheep I've ever seen!
The clean, long tailed sheep. I was beginning to wonder about the people farming this hillside. It all seems less than conventional to allow rabbits to burrow without closing up the holes, and sheep were allowed to keep their tails albeit under control.These animals were sleek and clean. Hmmm...what else will we find as we walk over the brow of this final bit of hillside?
One final reminder to dog owners!
     We came out of the final gate onto a dirt lane which cut across the very top of the hill. Across the lane was another large field which stretched away down the other side of the hill. In it we found some very interesting cattle!
These braw animals are Highland cattle...
...and the "coos" all have names!
Not your run-of-the-mill road sign!
     Well that clinched it for me. Obviously we are not dealing with your run-of-the-mill farmer. I was intrigued. From the names on the list it appeared they were all cows except Gorse, Bracken and Frosty--the three bulls. After admiring the fluffy cows we followed the lane a short way on and came to a penned triangular corner of field in which a picnic table, and separate bench and a memorial plaque were located in the shade of a tree. It says: 
     You are welcome to use the seat on this private property at your own risk. This seat and Rowan tree are on the site of the WWII Observer Post operated by the Royal Observer Corps. It was part of a network of observer towers built for the purpose of providing a system for detecting and tracking aircraft. the Blitz on Coventry (to the North of this spot) on November 1940 would have been observed from the tower. Villagers also witnessed the event from these fields. The tree was planted on the 50th anniversary.

     The Oxford canal is close by and also played a part in the defenses of the area in WWII. Following the fall of France in 1940 a German invasion was considered imminent and part of Britain's defense system was a network of infrared stop lines. The canal around Napton was part of the Western Command's Napton to Coventry stop line. Evidence of these defenses can still be found on the canal to the south of this spot. There are still Stent Pill Boxes and anti-tank blocks to the side of, and just off of the canal. 
     The support to this Country in its desperate hours by such people as the Observer Corps, the Home Guard, the Women's Land Army and the Agricultural and Horticultural workers who fed and protected the Nation is not always adequately remembered. So please take time to sit and reflect on the freedom we have today. 
The memorial plaque and the windmill.
     At the start of WWII Coventry was a town teeming with over 230,000 citizens. It was a hub of the metal industry in this country, manufacturing bicycles, automobiles, airplane engines and munitions, making the city fair game as a target during the war. In typical British fashion its factories sat cheek-by-jowl with its workers; homes, and shops such as bakeries, dry goods, greengrocers, butchers, and of course the church. 
     Between August and October 1940, the German Luftwaffe (air force) bombed Coventry eighteen times, dropping 198 tons of ordinance on Coventry killing nearly 200 people and injuring over 500. 
     On November 14, 1940 the Germans tried their best to bomb Coventry off the map. Five hundred and fifteen German bombers flew a mission code named Moonlight sonata, dropping 500 tons of high explosives, including 36,000 incendiary bombs. High explosive bombs and air mines coupled with incendiary devices turned the city into a firestorm. Coventry's defense consisted of twenty four 3.7 inch AA guns and twelve 40mm Bofors, which are large anti-aircraft guns on axles and wheels with long barrels. 
     The bombing commenced at 8 p.m. and lasted until the all clear was sounded at 6:15 am. While nearly a thousand people were killed or injured the casualties were not higher due to the air raid shelters which housed thousands upon thousands. Another thing that saved lives was the habit of Coventrians trekking out of town each night to kip in nearby towns and villages or in the fields to avoid bombing.
   The destruction of Coventry was so severe Josef Goebbels, the Minister of Propoganda for the Third Reich adopted the term "Coventriert" when discussing plans to undertake similar large bombing raids on other allied towns and cities. 
     The BOOM of anti-aircraft guns, the drone of German bombers flying overhead, the snap and crackle of bombs detonating as they hit their targets, all would have been heard by the villagers of Napton standing witness on the winter dark hill. Smoke from the firestorm would have blotted out the horizon in the distance, their cold breath coalescing in the frigid air to mingle with the distance smoke of thousands of bombs cracking Coventry to its core. The firestorm would have lit the night sky like the devil's own bonfire. It was a sobering thing to contemplate on a fine, bucolic summer day seventy five years later. 
As we sat on the picnic table at the memorial, our backs to Coventry, another lovely vista opened before us, this time spreading out toward Oxford.
Up the lane we walked toward the private home with the windmill... find a public towpath veering off to the right, parallel to the hedge.
Following the public footpath a short way we discovered this breathtaking view looking south toward the city of Oxford.
Aha! These two are the farmers who run the clean, long tailed sheep and name their Highland cattle.
    As we walked back down the lane across the top of the hill, we met a Land rover coming out of a tree shaded drive. They rolled down their window and we commenced a twenty minute chat! These two lovely people have been married nearly fifty five years. they were both born in the village of Napton-on-the-Hill; schooled here and have farmed the land for nearly as long as they have been married. He was a medic and she a nurse. They retired early from the NHS and he undertook schooling as an herbalist! they use all natural treatments for their animals whenever possible as well as for themselves. They raise their stock organically and sell the meat locally. 
   We mentioned the WWII plaque and he told us it was their idea! They set the corner of land aside and built the memorial. She was eleven years old when Coventry was bombed. I asked if she remembered seeing it from the hill top. She soberly nodded her head. 
   "I remember the flash of light in the sky as each bomb found its target. We could hear the percussion as they struck and hear the booming of the British guns as they answered back. It was a hellish thing to see in the skies so close, knowing people were dying and there was nothing we could do." We parted eventually, thanking them for taking the time to talk with us.
    On our way again we followed the leaf sheltered track around and came to the 12th century village Church of St. Lawrence where American actor Ed Bishop is buried. He made his film debut as the cabbie in Kubrick's 1962 film Lolita. In 2001:A Space Odyssey Bishop played the captain of the Ares 1B Moon shuttle. I looked for his grave but didn't find it. 
Les takes a break from our stroll in the churchyard, as the bells toll, filling the sun drowsed air with notes.
Old moss covered stones lean as a bright bunch of Cosmos dance atop William Eadon's grave.
Old Celtic crosses stand side-by-side, sentinels of the churchyard.
Old crosses atop long forgotten graves lean toward one another as if to whisper, "Remember me?"
   We are impressed by the church yard of St. Lawrence, Napton-on-the-Hill. It is the best kept yard we've seen in all our travels. After a meander around, reading the gravestones, and short rest on the benches in late afternoon sunshine, we quickly tried the front doors but they were locked. We stopped to read the grafitti etched into the soft stone. Most of it was modern, but we found the date 1680 tucked into a lower corner!
  Turning around I was taken by the view of the alee of trees before me, leading out of the churchyard and down School Hill to the village. It took my breath away and brought thoughts of eternity. This is the only churchyard in which I have ever been on two continents, which actually made me contemplate the hereafter in any meaningful way. 
                  Isn't this an atmospheric view? It felt as if time has spun itself out and stopped--a forever moment that engendered thoughts of eternity of a grander scale.
The view back up to the church door, which would have, in some similar form, greeted worshipers throughout the centuries--from the 1100's to the present. Local lore says the church was supposed to be built at the bottom of the hill in the heart of the village. three times villagers started to build the church down below and all three times the stones moved themselves in the night to the top of the hill where the church sits today. 
Away we walk, down School Hill, as time reels itself into the present and begins ticking forward once again.

   As Les and I walked slowly down the steep hill to the village proper, small side gardens beckoned to us with their shady nooks and floral glories. Our thoughts turned to school children making their way down the hill to the school in howling winds and winter storms. Such events seemed impossible to hold onto on such a beautiful day.
  The view looking down on the village was striking. It seems as though it would be a child's paradise in which to wander, playing hide and seek in the labyrinth of hilly, shaded public foot paths, winding lanes and obvious places to step and catch one's breath and sip the view. Imagine reaching the War memorial as dusk falls and calling out, "safe!"

The old school is actually located behind me, across the street from this sign. Almost there!
My Best Beloved sits on the bench waiting for his wife who snaps 80 pictures on a two hour walk! The old School is out of site on the left. the War memorial is just in view, left with its brick back facing School Hill. The Old parsonage sits at right, remodeled for the 21st century.

   For those Americans who are not familiar with the impact of WWI on this country, the middle tablet bears the names of twenty nine men of this village who lost their lives in "The Great War." Two brothers, father and son, Two fathers and their sons...compared to the smaller loss in WWII of eight village men. This same sad epitaph repeats itself in every village and town across this country.
   As I stand reading the names I am struck with the deadly understanding of why this was known in Britain as The Lost Generation. So many men were killed, a glut of women were left alone at home to mourn their husbands, brothers, cousins, uncles, sweethearts; the women were left alone to pick up the pieces and try to build a happy life in spite of the  absence of their men; their grief spent itself in the Jazz era, as women let go of circumspection, lifted their hemlines, cut off their hair, took up smoking and drinking. After all, the war proved anyone--anyone at all--could die tomorrow. 
   If I had been raised in this village, I would have used the War Memorial as a "safety" in children's games because there is no doubt in my mind at all that every child in the village would recognize at least one person's name in the epitaph. What better place to reach and call "safe" than the monument which consecrates the sacrifice and loss of your older brother, your father, grandfather, great grandfather, great Uncle, second cousin...
This is the back of the Old School House--now private residences. The War Memorial and bench on which Les waited for me are just out of site on the left.
The view over the roofs of the village to the fields beyond from the War memorial and the back of the Old School House.
As we continue to walk down the lower hill into the heart of the old village, I spot a thatched roof peeking through an apple tree.
Now a private residence, this was once the village bakery. Napton was designated as Neptone in the Domesday Book of 1068. It is a corruption of cneap and tun meaning hilltop and settlement. The village was granted a royal charter for a market in 1400. At one time it was the largest settlement in Warwickshire. The market died out and today the population is about 1000--the same as in the Middle Ages.
Right next door to the old thatched bakery house is this now defunct village pub. From 1899 to 1973 a brickyard on the lower far side other side of the hill near the canal offered employment to the villagers--many of whom would have gathered here in the evening for a pint on the way home. Empty and sad looking, I cannot help but think, "If those walls could talk!"
The Old Granary left, has been restored with a modern addition on the right. It's now re-purposed as someone's home.
On the main road through the village now, we pass modern cottages like this one...
...and this whimsical bijou garden caught my eye.

Yet another public footpath disappears up the hill on the left . Don't you just love free range children?! Ollie, ollie oxen-free!
Yep--you read it right: Butt Hill! what the name actually refers to though are the archery fields or butts that once stood up hill closer to the church. In fact it seems the grooves carved in the soft rock of the church porch columns were made back in the 1500's by men sharpening their arrows before competition at the Parish Butts commenced.
The intersection leading to Napton Narrow boats to the top, to Southam at left, to Daventry right and behind me, back up into the village. Out of site on my left is the Kings Head Pub.
The Kings Head Pub is a five minute walk from the Oxford canal and it has superb food!! Those who know me, know that I am a very good cook. I don't eat out at pubs unless the food is at least as good as I can fix at home, and hopefully better. I had one of the finest meals I've eaten in this country or back in the States at this pub.  If you want to eat here be sure to call and book a table. They are always busy.
I've enjoyed several late night walks back to our boat with Les, Andy and Tina after a meal and drinks in the Kings Head. It looks much prettier in the daylight!
Les stops to look over the side of the Tomlow Road bridge...
...looking down on Napton Narrowboats hire fleet and Napton Marina. Wigram's Turn is back out of site beyond the trees.
This is the view looking down on the opposite side of the bridge. The canal travels down to the city of Oxford in this direction, eventually hooking up with the river Thames.

"I'm a little teapot..." not really! Les is waiting yet again for his wifey to quit taking pictures and catch up. Over the bridge, down through the gate to the towpath...
...and under the bridge.
Why is it the boat by the bridge nearest parking, or the service point for water, rubbish, etc. usually has a sign in the window indicating they are broken down? It makes such a great excuse to overstay doesn't it? We've been broken down three times in my four years aboard. RCR (River  Canal Rescue) had us up and running again in 24 hours at the longest.
Home again , home again jiggety jig! Les removes the lock on the back hatch and we collapse over a cup of herb tea.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs