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Monday, August 28, 2017

Loose Threads

"An invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break. May you be open to each thread that comes into your life, the golden ones and the coarse ones and may you weave them into a brilliant and beautiful life." ~Anonymous

     I am moored up on the Staffordshire & Worcestershire canal at Tixall Wide just past the junction with the Trent & Mersey. I will be here for two weeks as I am in the middle of painting the boat. Les and I started this in 2015 but we ran out of good weather and then my left knee finally gave out and had to be replaced. Les' health declined and you know the rest of the story...
     So here I am and since I am not moving or doing anything but hard grafting I have decided to write a post covering a few leftover bits and bobs from the past month up to today.  Les would have called this post "Odds and Sods" but he has already written a post by that title so I will go with "Loose Threads." The first item is an answer to Chris Thorp's (NB Ceiriog) query in a previous blog comment:
     "Jaq, I"m interested in Gerson Therapy and I wondered if you could explain why a fully functional colon is necessary for it to work and how the medics can tell if a cancer is traveling via blood rather than lymph? Many thanks Chris (nb Ceiriog) "on Goodbye Braunston, Hello Rugby, With Some Characters in Between
     Gerson Therapy addresses serious systemic body illnesses such as cancer and other diseases by healing the body's immune system. In order to accomplish this feat, a body in its current ill state has to be supported so that healing can occur.  GT accomplishes this on a number of levels. In the case of cancer, most patients have had some form of conventional cancer treatment with cytotoxic chemotherapy and.or radiation treatments; neither one cures cancer. Both treatments simply kill cells--benign as well as malignant. Even if one has not had traditional therapy, once any therapy is initiated cancer cells die and tumor lysis kicks in (metabolic abnormalities that occur as a complication during the treatment of cancer, where large amounts of tumor cells are killed off (lysed) at the same time by the treatment, releasing their contents into the bloodstream). U.S. statistics relate that 20% of certain solid malignancy cancers result in death from lysis however it is now recognized that lysis occurs in all cancers especially those treated with chemotherapy. Deaths from lysis, like Iatrogenic deaths (caused by the treatment and not the disease) are generally folded into the cancer deaths and not provided separately but the American Cancer Society reckons that the death rate from lysis and iatrogenic causes is as high as 40%.
      There are no stats for cancer patients treated with alternative programs because large sums of money cannot be made from them. Studies are expensive and the funding is recouped through proprietary development of treatments and drugs sold for exorbitant prices to medical professionals. In my case, when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, my health insurance company would pay the Oncologist $10,000.00 a month for the Cisplatin chemo drug they wanted to give me, but insurance will not cover alternative therapies. It cost me $840.00 a month for all the organic foods, supplements and other items required by GT. One thing you may be sure of though is that any treatment--conventional or alternative--that successfully kills human cells can and will result in lysis. 
     As treatment occurs, cells die and tumors begin to disintegrate. All of this garbage enters the human blood stream and must be processed by the lymph system, the liver and the kidneys which quickly become overwhelmed with massive levels of cell death (apoptosis). When this occurs, the result is acute kidney and liver failure, cardiac arrhythmia, seizures, loss of muscle control and death. 
     Coffee enemas are an essential part of Gerson Therapy which successfully addresses this syndrome and here is how it works: a pint of fresh coffee is brewed, strained, and allowed to come to room temperature and then used as an enema to flood the colon. It has to be held inside the colon for fifteen minutes and repeated up to four times a day. Our large colons have bile ducts in them just as the liver does. Coffee enemas open those bile ducts in the large colon. In fifteen minutes your entire blood supply will have traveled two complete circuits through your body. With each circuit the blood stream will pick up garbage and dump the dead cells directly into the large colon if and only if those bile ducts are open; otherwise this load of death continues to circulate within the bloodstream while the liver and kidneys attempt to process it. Once the fifteen minutes is up, one releases the coffee and all the detritus it carries into the toilet and the body can continue to work on healing the immune system instead of using energy to deal with cell death overload. This is why an intact colon is necessary to successfully undergo Gerson Therapy.  
     I will tell you I dreaded the enemas when I first begin researching Gerson Therapy but after I started on them I was amazed at how much better I felt--right away--and I found it very easy to complete this process several times a day. One doesn't have to have cancer to benefit from coffee enemas--everyone can use them to clean out your body, give your organs of elimination a rest, and boost your immune system. Coffee was known as Butt Brew in my house for several years!
     Speaking of coffee, I find myself frustrated by finding a good whole bean coffee over here that tastes good and doesn't cost an arm and a leg. My favorite coffee in this world is Kona which is grown in Hawaii. We used to be able to buy the beans by the pound in the '80's.The Hawaiian Islands are small and so is the resulting Kona coffee crop. Since it has been discovered by the wealthy it now costs an insane amount for pure Kona coffee beans--somewhere around $40 a pound so the next best thing is a Kona blend of beans. In the States I purchased Kona Blend coffee from Cost Plus World Market for $8.50 and we are talking about solid one pound vacuum sealed bricks, full to the top with delicious, aromatic beans. I brought several back with me in April. Sadly, it is gone now so I have been trying without success to find a satisfying alternative.
     Imagine my dismay to find that whole bean coffee is not available in the grocery stores here and trust me I have looked in Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons,Waitrose and Ocado online. Zip, zilch, nada.; what is available is ground coffee. I prefer to grind my own beans because it tastes fresher and I like to grind cinnamon stick with my beans which adds a further depth and richness to my brew and also because the magic of cinnamon is to promote wealth and who couldn't use some of that with their daily brew? My second choice after Kona is Columbian coffee. I ordered a 227 gram (half a pound) bag of ground Columbian Supremo coffee from Tesco Online. Imagine my deep distress to open the bag and find it half empty!! I paid for a bag of half coffee and half air. Quel dommage.The search continues...
     I made a trip to IKEA a month ago and while there I picked up the most luscious throw rugs. They are actually bath mats. I love the texture of them and while there is no latex anti slip backing on these mats, they stay put on my floor just fine. They also wash up in a trice and dry easily. At £3.50 each I bought three in deep Turquoise and I use them on the hallway floor to keep my bare feet warm when I am dressing, undressing or getting out of bed to use the loo in the night. These throw rugs make my feet and my heart sing...
Luscious bath mat from IKEA.
     It has been a long time since I have baked bread--over a year now. I simply didn't have time while caring for Les in those last month and no appetite in the time after he died. I am back to baking my favorite N. Y. Times No-Knead Artisan bread. I love the rich baked bread smell as it fills the boat; I love the way the loaf crackles as it cools, talking to me. I adore the way the thin, crisp crust shatters in my mouth while the flavorful, chewy interior fills me with joy. It makes wonderful toast too. The actual recipe is here
Aaaah! Fresh bread!!
Les at Cloudhouse in Pullman, WA in July 2011. He was justifiably proud of his first ever loaf of Artisan bread.

     As I have been moored up here at Tixall I've enjoyed meeting several wonderful boaters. First there was Sue and Mike Gallagher on NB Curraghmore berthed in Pelican Wharf on the River Wey. They were moored behind me the other day and we struck up a conversation one morning as I began sanding the boat. It turns out they know my friend and fellow boater Ray Oakfield (NB Stronghold) who kept his boat on the Wey in a nearby berth. When I mentioned Ray's name, Mike laughed and said, "Oh yes we know Ray. He's crazy!" We had a lovely chat before they cruised off. 
     The next boater to cross my path was Chris on a boat moored seven lengths away from me. I noticed him trodding along the tow path past NBV several times a day, walking his short legged, Welsh Jack Russell Terriers which trotted along behind him. While other boaters waved and said hi to me, they didn't acknowledge this bloke but they certainly couldn't ignore his presence. Obviously Gay, he was rather swish as he walked along wearing a very, very short-short sleeveless black onesie or jumpsuit with a multicolored striped shirt underneath, a scarf around his neck, red Converse sneakers on his feet, bright red rhinestone earrings in his ears, and a red beret a'top his short, well groomed silver hair. Oh and he wears those very large Jackie O sunglasses. Not everyone could pull off this look but this man did it well and had a great "I don't give a rat's arse if you like me or not," attitude. On Friday afternoon as he made trip number three into Great Haywood, I noticed his canine retinue was not along for the walk so I stopped painting and said,
     "Where is your crew?" He stopped and looked at me blankly. " Your dogs--they are usually following along behind you."
     "Oh! They are at home. The dogs are only good for two trips to the village After that they lie down with their little legs in the air and say, "No more-we're done!" We laughed and introduced ourselves and had a lovely chat about this and that.
     I rose at 5:30 AM on Saturday to get stuck into painting. As soon as the sun hits the metal it heats right up and one cannot paint hot metal. I was just finishing up at 7:30 when Chris and company came along the tow path. After a quick chat he asked if I needed anything from the village store and kindly brought me back a Saturday paper. I love Gay men. I feel safe with them. They have no designs on me or anything I own unlike some straight men who view a single woman as a victim opportunity. Gay men are a part of the GLBTQ family of which I am an adopted member owing to a daughter who is an L and dozens and dozens of wonderful friends who are gay, lesbian, and transgender. It was the GLBTQ community that supported me and my daughters through my Uni years as a single parent student. Every year the Imperial Sovereign Court of Spokane held fundraising drag shows which entertained and supported people like me and mine. 
Image result for Auntie Bijou
Our friend Kevan Gardner right, AKA the beloved drag Queen Auntie Bijou and his mom Mother Matinee!
     I was adopted by the university GLBTQ community and they put my name in every Thanksgiving and Christmas for gifts and food baskets without which my daughters would have had very poor holidays indeed. Their kindness, generosity and support made a tremendous difference to us. I will always go out of my way to acknowledge one of the Tribe if for no other reason than to make it understood that this boat is a safe place and I am a supportive and non-judgmental woman who believes in acknowledging people especially those that privileged mainstream folk often prefer to marginalize. 
     This morning I simply couldn't rise at dawn to paint again. When Les and I started this job two years ago he made it fun as he did most things in life. It is a grueling job on my own and I will be well happy when it is done. I hope to never undertake it again other than touch ups as needed. So I was happily lounging about in my jammies and house coat, coffee in hand, when a woman appeared at my window and knocked. I went out to the bow and said hello. 
     "Hi Jaq. You probably don't remember me but we met up on the Ashby several years back when you had your boat out for blacking. I'm Pat Smart on NB Smart Move and my husband is Collin. I've followed your blog since then. I knew you were up here somewhere and as we were moored up at Great Haywood I decided to take a walk and find you!'
Pat and Collin on their boat NB Smart Move on the way to the Llangollen canal.
December 2012 on the Ashby Canal. NBV was out of the water for blacking. We lived aboard while we blacked it ourselves. Les is telling me, "Go ahead Jaq--jump! I'll catch you baby!

   We had a lovely fifteen minute chat while Collin brought the boat around and pulled in behind me to pick up Pat. They have been boating for twenty seven years and are on their way up the Shroppie. Meeting Pat and Collin gave my day a lovely start and I hope our paths cross again when we cam sit over a cuppa. Just after they cruised onward my bread came out of the oven and I decided to cut my hair and shower. I was dressed and brushing out my wet hair when I saw the bow of NB Free Spirit cruising past. I jumped up and ran out to the bow, hailing Irene and Ian. We've followed each others blogs for five years but never met! They pulled in, I put the kettle on, Irene and Ian brought a delicious cake and we sat at the dinette catching up in person. What a delight!! We covered a wide variety of topics from cancer (Ian was diagnosed some years ago and they have been through the cancer war too), how they first met, when they first fell in the cut, and I shared  some Les stories too. I feel as though I know them well having followed their blog for five years and as we sat and talked I knew I was in the company of kindred spirits and dear friends. Finally they had to move on as they are traveling with friends up to the Llangollen. 
Ian and Irene Jameison kindly stopped for tea and cake aboard NBV.
Me and Les on a final short cruise last August.
     Finally as I look at the calendar I wonder where August went! I am not ready for September but it rolls onward none the less. Les has been gone for seven months now. I note in my journal that a year ago today we met with the Hospice Team on our boat. We hoped and fervently thought we had twelve months left but cancer had stolen a six month head start on us...I still wake in the middle of the night sobbing with grief, loss, and loneliness. I was awake at 3:40 this morning, crying in the dark, hugging Les' pillow, aching to feel his strong, warm arm gathering me in, creating my safe place which doesn't exist anymore in this world. 
     I want to thank blog reader and boater Lesley Parkinson for contacting me about a book she recently read and recommended to me: Getting Grief Right - Finding Your Story of Love in the Sorrow of Loss by Patrick O'Malley. This book contravenes the five stages of Grief as defined by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross. I was surprised to read these stages are not actually built upon actual scientific research and yet they have become concretized as the proper way to grieve. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one or you want to be sure to support someone who is grieving and you aren't sure how to do that, then this is the book to read.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Long Cruise and A Week at Wolseley Bridge

"Never make important decisions, undertake journeys or make changes when you are cold, tired, hungry, angry, any or all of the preceding." ~Anonymous

     Tuesday August 15th dawned bright and sunny. Time to move! I cruised away from Whittington at seven AM with four miles in front of me until I reached Fradley Junction service point where I could fill up the water tank and dump my rubbish. Fradley is also where the Coventry meets the Trent & Mersey canal. It is a crazy-busy place with boats heading in three different directions so an early start was a good thing.
     I reached Fradley by 9 AM and creeped past a long, long line of moored boats to find one spot open near the second water point before the swing bridge. Pulling in I moored up in front a lovely all wooden boat that was over fifty years old. I started water filling the tank and carried three black rubbish bags to the garbage collection point. On my return I started a load of laundry--just to get the water in for a wash and then I stopped it. Now that I am single handing I have to think of these things ahead of time as I cannot just nip down the stern stairs after I commence cruising again to start a load of washing so I load the washer, put in the soap and let the machine fill with wash water and then I turn it off and wait to start the wash until I am ready to cruise off again to re-start the washing machine and let it continue the cycle.
     While the water tank finished filling I opened and closed the swing bridge after four boats so their owners didn't have to step off and one bloke on a working boat was single handing it and very grateful for my help. As I stood there at the bridge I was thinking,
     "Why does it take so long to fill my tank?"
      I finally figured it out after asking myself this question for months now. I was moored up about twelve feet away from the water point but I have 100 feet of hose!! I have since purchased a 25 foot hose but I have to figure out how to make a hose fitting like Les did for the longer hose. I cannot switch it out because my darling husband glued it in place so it will neva' eva', eva' come apart!! Les bought the bits and pieces to make the end fitting at Screwfix so I need to take a picture of what I have and then visit Screwfix and ask them if they can figure out what pieces I need. Then I have to figure out how to put it all together. I hate puzzles!! Oh is one big puzzle lately.
This is an aerial view of Fradley Junction. The yellow dots are the water points and the blue line is the swing bridge on the Coventry Canal. The red mark on the upper right is the location of the rubbish bins. Below the second yellow dot is always along line of moored boats on must past on the approach to the junction. According to Google this shot was taken in October of 2010--a time of the year and a year in the past when there were few boats along this stretch, hence why you see boats moored up there!
    At ten AM it was finally my turn. I went through the swing bridge leaving it open for the pretty red boat that had pulled in behind me but thought better of mooring up for whatever reason when he saw me loose my lines after setting the bridge for myself. He thought he might overtake me and beat me through the swing bridge after I did the work of opening it. No sirreee Bob! I pulled out and refused to give any quarter. He could wait his turn like I waited mine. I turned left onto the T & M and cruised slowly toward the lock. There is a dearth of places to pull in and moor up while waiting for Fradley Middle Lock. Boats are moored up on both sides of the canal and there were two boats waiting to get in the lock with one coming down the lock and another waiting at the top to come down. I slowed and came to a stop two boat lengths back from the lock, hovering there. As I waited for boats to come out and go in, a small boat behind me asked if I was going to moor up on the very short lock landing.
     "No my boat won't fit there."
     "Do you mind if I slip in and moor up while I wait for you to go up?"
     "Not at all, go for it." And with that he came around me on my left as I slowly backed up another boat length so he could slip into the lock landing. Eventually the lock emptied and the boat inside cruised slowly out. I cruised slowly in asking the voluntary lock keeper if I needed to get off and help.
     "Hi, I am single handing. do you need me to get off and help? I just need to know before I being the boat inside the lock."
     "Nope you're fine but we could all do with a cup of coffee," and he winked at me. Helping out were two women with windlasses and a young girl about age nine. I didn't see any boat nearby that they might be attached to so I figured they were just out on a sunny day helping to lock boats through and doing a bit of gongoozling (staring at boats and boaters). While the lock began to fill I dashed down to the galley, pulled off four paper towels and came back up with them filled with two Brownies for each lockee.
     "I don't have coffee but I do have freshly baked Brownies for each of you."
     "Ooh lass now that will go down a treat! I will tuck mine up with me lunch" says the lock keeper. The two women and young girl were shy and appreciative. We chatted about where I was from and why I was on my own.  The volunteer lock keeper came to me and asked quietly what had taken my husband. I explained about the cancer.
     "Oh lass I am so sorry for your loss. I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2013. They caught it early. I have a stoma but needed no treatment other than surgery."
     "Well you are fortunate indeed. I hope your health goes from strength to strength and I am grateful for your help today."
Taken in front of the White Swan Pub AKA the Mucky Duck. The blue lines in the distance mark the the bottom lock gate. This gives one a very good idea of how crowded with boats it is here at Fradley Middle lock.
I waved to the others helping me with the lock and thanked them for blessing me with their help. I went on through the next lock with Brownies for the lock keeper there as well which were much appreciated and eventually I cruised slowly out at mid morning with the sun shining brightly. I could have stopped and moored up on the one week visitor moorings but I decided to make a big push and see if I could actually cruise all the way to Rugeley and beyond. I had one more lock in front of me about a half mile away. A boat was just coming out of the lock as I made my approach so I sounded my horn and asked the woman doing the lock if it was okay for me to go in. She was obviously on a boat waiting to come down and helping out others as you do. She smiled and waved me onward. Just as I entered the lock I picked up something around the prop. It was a shallow lock and I climbed out with the midline to help wind up the top paddles but the young woman and two children had already taken care of everything.
     As I stepped back on board NBV I tried forward gear and it went fine. Reverse? Not so good! The engine coughed and sputtered.  I needed to either find a place to pull over and go down the weed hatch or see if some gear shifting of forward and reverse would loosen whatever it was. I decided to try and cruise to a place that was safe enough to pull over in case I couldn't get the engine started again but by the time I found such a place whatever it was had mostly dropped away from the prop. Onward I cruised slowly because the boat still felt laggy--as if there might be some little bit of something still stuck. I covered the six miles slowly and the small boat behind me was lovely and patient all six miles to the canal side Tesco at Rugeley. The weather was forecast to change from sunny and mild to sheets of rain and gusting winds by later afternoon or early evening. The wind was already rising.
     After pulling in, mooring up, closing all the curtains on the boat, locking both bow and stern doors and getting my trolley and backpack organized I was delighted to find that the small boat which had been so patient had pulled up just in front of me and was none other than the two women and the young girl who had assisted me through Fradley Middle lock earlier. Dad was on the boat, and they too were preparing to go for groceries. I nipped back inside NBV and came out with more Brownies for everyone--and an extra one for dad.
     "Thank you again for all your help today and your patience with my slow cruising. I think I have something around my prop which slowed me down. Here's an extra Brownie for Dad as you didn't get any of the first round."
     "Wow! Thank you so much! We were just talking about having a tea break with some biscuits but this will be much better. That's very kind of you."
We parted with smiles and off I went to top up my larder. Of course I was tired as I had been up since 6:00 AM and hadn't eaten anything all day. I returned to the boat forty five minutes later with a half full trolley to find I didn't know where my keys were. Shit-shit-shit!!
     I remembered removing them from the ignition and tossing them on the bed.  Those were Les' keys but where were mine??? I always kept mine clipped to my backpack. I hadn't a clue and then panic set in. I started making my way around the boat to the large sliding window which was on the canal side of the boat. I had left the top half of that window open. While I held on to the roof railing with one hand, I maneuvered the window out and dropped it down inside the boat onto the dinette cushion. Then I stretched down and managed to undo the clip on the sliding window. My only problem was that I couldn't fit my short round self through it! Les could slip in that window--just barely--but not me.
     Just at this moment the dad on the little boat in front spotted me hanging off the side of NBV with my grocery trolley abandoned against the bow of the boat. He came walking towards NBV.
     "Are you okay?"
     "Not really, I think I locked the keys inside the boat."
    "Do you know where they are?"
     "Yes; on the bed at the back. I've managed to get the sliding window open but I can't fit though it." The young dad came around from the bow and walked along the gunnel to me.
     "I think I might be able to fit through there. Is it all right if I try?"
     "Certainly! You can brace your legs on the dinette table. It is quite sturdy." In young dad went and within seconds he handed my keys out to me. I felt like such a knob head.  I worked my way to the bow and unlocked the front door, releasing the young man who came to my rescue, thanking him profusely.
     "It was nothing. I am so glad I could help," and off he went with a smile.
     Back inside NBV with groceries I realized several things; I had the shakes from not eating all day. It was nearly three thirty PM. I was also too hot and as I felt my trouser pockets I found my keys! They were with me all the time although I never keep my keys in my pockets because it is too easy for things to fall out into the cut when mooring and un-mooring. What an idiot!!
     I dared not stay overnight in Rugeley. Les always said it wasn't the best spot and Anne and Steve on NB Bracken had warned me that some juveniles had pulled the flowering pots off of the roof of several boats moored there for groceries two weeks ago. Despite feeling exhausted and rough around the edges it was time to push on and find a safe quiet place in the countryside.
    I had a couple of crackers with cheese so the red warning light in the back of my brain would quit flashing, and the shakes subsided. Two miles and an hour and fifteen minutes later I was moored up just after bridge 70--Wolseley Bridge--another favorite spot of Les' at the foot of Cannock Chase.  I had cruised a total of 13.5 miles over eight hours. After mooring up in the early evening sunshine I sat on the bow and just breathed in and out, remembering the past times Les and I moored here. Clearly I had pushed myself too far, too long. Another lesson learned. Down the weed hatch I went, groping around the prop to find it clean! I took a moment to label the upper left corner of the cover so it is always replaced properly; as most boaters are  aware, failure to close the weed hatch exactly so can and does result in a sunken boat.
     There is room for about five or six boats at this site with a set of stairs leading up from the tow path to the road above. Nearby is the Wolseley Arms pub which was a coaching Inn in the days before the railroad with a hundred horses stabled there. Across the way and around the corner is the Wyevale Gardening Centre and let me tell you! Their plant selections and gardening tools on offer are truly huge. The gift shop is amazing with something to suit everyone--man, woman, and child. I even found clothes in my size which were lovely and very inexpensive--a 50% off sale was taking place! I picked up a new fleece jacket for seventeen pounds.
     Adjacent to the gardening centre is the Wolseley Nature Reserve where Les and I spent a delightful afternoon wandering the paths and enjoying the peace and quiet of nature while moored at bridge 70 back in 2012.
The bright green line is where NBV was moored up on the Trent & Mersey Canal at Bridge 70. You can see the Colwich filling station up near the top.
     I spent seven days moored up here, enjoying the camaraderie of Trevor and Pat on NB El Camino, moored behind me. The boat is named after El Camino Real de Compostela--the 500 mile long Pilgrim's Way dating back to the ninth century which carries pilgrims through France and Spain to the Church of Santiago de Compostela at its end. It was believed at one time that walking the Pilgrim's Way to completion would absolve a person of their sins. Many famous people like Martin Sheen and Shirley McClaine have walked and wrote about their experiences on the Pilgrim's Way. Sheen's son Emilio Estevez also produced a movie called The Way which I watched some years ago. I found it quite moving.  Trevor has walked The Way twice. He told me the experience saved his life and sanity and changed his world for the better.
   I didn't get the name of the folks who moored in front of me, or their boat's name either. We had three days of spouting rain so I didn't venture out much during it. He had long silver hair pulled into a pony tail and I watched him mop out his bilge after one particularly hard day's rain. I stepped out to move the solar panels around and said,
     "It's not a job any of us enjoy doing, but I have to say it is nice to see someone besides myself down in the engine hold emptying the bilge!" He laughed and we chatted for a few minutes before he and his wife took advantage of a break in the weather to catch a bus into Stone for shopping.
     I was blessed to have visitors on Thursday the 17th. Our lovely friend Carol Ives and her friend Sue were up from London for a funeral in Crewe and they stopped in for three hours to visit with me on their way home. We sat out on the bow in the late afternoon sunshine eating Brownies, drinking tea, talking and laughing, remembering Les. Carol and Sue are planning to come up and stay with me sometime before winter sets in for a weekend which I am looking forward to with joy.
Sue and Carol with "The Brownies." A good time was had by all and a repeat visit will be most welcome!
    During my week at Wolseley bridge I re-visited the nearby wildlife reserve and walked the trails, thinking about Les. I treated myself to a dinner of hamburger and chips at the Wolseley Arms. I washed Les' rain gear; I believe it as the first time in eleven years that they were washed! Once dried, I spent the morning painting the coat and trousers with Fabsil--a liquid waterproof treatment. I also did my shoes, winter boots, and my wide brimmed cruising hat. I am now fully waterproof!!
     I walked over to the Colwich petrol station across the cut from where I was moored to pick up a Saturday paper and a Lotto ticket. I visited the Garden Centre looking for Tarragon--no joy.  Finally before I left I planted a Daffodil with some of Les' ashes nearby.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Tamworth to Whittington on the North Coventry Canal

"Pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses our understanding." ~Kahlil Gibran

     Once the rain let up I set off early in the morning for Peel Wharf at the junction of the Coventry and the Birmingham and Fazelely canals. I planned to stop overnight in Polesworth and pick up an Ocado grocery delivery and then venture on towards Peel Wharf for services. Well of course I managed to screw it all up. things look very different on the cut than they do on Google maps. That combined with using Nicholson's canal guides which are fifteen years out of date have created a perfect storm for me. Les always said we didn't need to update our Nicholson's guides since he knew every mile of all the canals he had traveled and a quick look in one of our old guides brought everything back to him. I no longer have benefit of my Best Beloved's fine memory for the cut, and using outdated guides is not working for me. Note to self: purchase the most up to date guides at the next chandlery.
     Meanwhile because I didn't actually recognize the place I designated to stop and pick up my grocery order until it was too late to try slowing down and backing up, my choices were to find a winding hole and turn around to come back or keep going and find another likely place for a delivery--which is what I did. I reached the aptly named Askew Bridge in a subdivision on the very outskirts of Tamworth and moored up across from a large house near the bridge. There was a path from the cut up to the road and I used the address of a nearby house to change the delivery details on my grocery order. I also changed the time from 10:00 am to 5:30 am so I could load up and be off down Glascote locks before traffic on the cut picked up.
The house across the canal from me on the outskirts of Tamworth where I moored up for the evening to await my grocery delivery.
The rest of the yard across from my mooring spot in Tamworth with the canal bridge stretching out of site on the right.  Lovely view for me!
Five am and the Ocado delivery man appears with my grocery order! There is a path up to the lane between the bridge and the tall hedge.
     Thursday, August 10th dawned clean and bright but yet another weather system bringing rain and high winds was forecast for later in the day leading into the weekend. I walked up to the road in the quiet of the morning and shortly an Ocado delivery van turned up. I flagged him down, he stopped, and we walked back to the boat together. By 5:40 am my groceries were on board and put away, and I was off by 6 am.
     I reached Glascote locks at 7 am with no one else in sight. I tied up the boat, set the top lock and walked down and set the bottom lock as well since I had them both to myself. Taking my time, I brought NBV into the top lock, hopped off, closed the gate, wound down the paddle and went to the other end to wind up the bottom gate paddles and drop the lock down. Soon enough it was done.
     I opened first one gate then walked around and opened the other side. I began bow hauling the boat out and I hopped on at the stairs to steer the boat over to the bollards and tie up. I needed to walk back and close the gates behind me and then walk up and open the top gate on the next lock. Just as I pulled over I spotted someone standing in the shadows near the bottom gates of the second lock with a windlass in hand and I realized that she had opened the next top lock gate for me! Yay! A boat was coming up and they were waiting for me to come down. This meant I could simply cruise gently into the next lock and I didn't need to go back and shut the bottom gates on the first lock because it was now set and ready for the folks waiting for me.
     I called out a hello and thank you to the woman with the windlass. She asked if I was alone and I replied in the affirmative so she offered to lock me down. Lovely! by 7:45 am I was cruising out of the bottom gates of the second lock and on my way! My thanks to the wife on NB Shendish for her help.
     I cruised along in the early morning sunshine watching as people and homes on either side of the cut began waking up and starting their day, my mind wandering to Les. He so loved his perch on the stern of NBV, the tiller tucked under his arm, a smile on his face. I missed him so badly I ached and my  thoughts of him distracted me from steering the boat. I made a pig's ear out of going through the bridge approaching the junction, glancing off the right side and then the left with a dog walker and two boaters as audience. I could feel the condemnation as they watched: women boaters! They simply cannot steer a boat...I always feel as a woman on my own that I need to be twice as good as a man at anything aboard in order to be seen half as capable in the eyes of a lot of men. Ah well, it is what it is. I came through to the other side to see a water point on my right but too late to stop (it isn't listed in our old Nicholson's guides, having been put in recently) and in any event there were four boats queued up to use it. I wondered why a couple of them hadn't used the services at Peel Wharf.
     As I pulled in to the wharf side I was about to find out: a piece of paper taped to the side of the wooden planter informed boaters that as of the week previously, rubbish would no longer be collected from Peel Wharf and so boaters could no longer use the rubbish bins as they had been taken away. Also the water point had been disabled permanently, leaving only an Elsan point with a sign warning "No Self pump outs allowed!" Great!! There went my carefully laid plans. I had two black rubbish bags on the roof and one was from the emptied Airhead loo. I knew I had half a tank of water so I wasn't in danger of running out but still, I like to keep my tank topped up. Nothing for it now but to continue on to the other side of Tamworth and moor up near Bonehill Road and the adjacent industrial estate. Les always moored there to access the shops. When we first stopped in February of 2012 there was an ASDA, a B&Q, several car dealers and not much more. Now there is also a Sainsbury's supermarket, and loads of other shops.
     I found a good spot just three boat lengths from the bridge, moored up and proceeded to do a good boat clean, vacuuming, dusting and washing all the windows inside and out. I also walked into Sainsbury's on Saturday very early for a paper and a few bits, stopped at B&Q for more compound glue and found the oak-look vinyl planks in stock that Les used to recover the bow steps. I purchased two boxes of them and hoicked it all back to the boat. I need to re-cover the stern steps so now I have everything I need to get on with that job.
     Of course since I had washed the windows, the farmer in the adjacent field on the offside of the canal decided to harvest his wheat before the threatening rain became a reality and he was off--up and down the harvester covered his field threshing wheat from chaff. The wind was gusting at 35 MPH carrying the chaff everywhere. It covered the boats and stuck to our windows. Several folks moved off elsewhere in disgust as they could not open their windows without chaff flying in. Never mind, I can hear Les saying. It is all part of living on a boat. I got on with baking a batch of NY 10th Street Brownies for the visit of Ken and Sue Deveson (NB Cleddau) on the morrow.
Moored up at Tamworth, Bonehill Road. The farmer's field is on the left out of site.
Laundry out to dry. It is difficult to believe that just beyond the trees on the left is a huge industrial estate with car lots supermarkets and malls!
     They arrived mid-morning Saturday bearing lovely gifts of  Ken's Welsh cakes, flowers, hand cream, and other items making me feel thoroughly spoiled! We had a good long catch-up over coffee, tea, lunch and Brownies. As the afternoon wore on a boat cruised past with a barn owl painted near the front and Ken suddenly jumped up shouting, 
     "Hang on, I know that boat!"
     It was Angela and Patrick on NB Chouette. They had traveled across the wash with NB Cleddau two summers ago and become firm friends. Angela pulled in, in front of NBV and they tied up for a quick chin wag. Lovely to meet you both!
     Soon enough it was time for Ken and Sue to leave. I decided to move on as well...for it was tough being moored up in this spot. It was here on June 27th that we were given the news that cancer had spread to Les' bones and my lovely cousin Joanne in America had died that morning of lymphoma. This was to be my last tough memory place on the cut.
     In the long golden rays of the early evening sun I cruised onward, through the lovely village of Hopwas, passing Angela and Patrick who had moored for the night and were preparing dinner; past a wedding celebration in full swing at the Hopwas community centre, the bride looking gorgeous and glowing. I passed only two boats on the move which made me happy. I am finding that very early mornings and supper time in the evening are my favorite times to move. Less traffic and more leeway on the cut. The Coventry narrows now as it travels on northward so I was delighted to travel in evening peace. Soon enough I reached the village of Whittington where Les and I moored in early 2012 and I met Keith and Jo on NB Hadar for the first time. Les and I also took a bus from the village into Litchfield.
NBV moored up near Whittington in a perfect spot to watch the Perseid meteor showers and get stuck in to a spot of boat work.
Sunset at Bridge 80 the North Coventry Canal near Whittington.
     While moored here for two days I finally scraped away all the old rotting door seals, glued new seals on the bow doors and added a sturdy new seal to the newly refitted stern hatch which had a gap of nearly two inches letting in loads of cold air all winter (I stuffed a towel up against it last winter to block out the draft), and I finally added a seal to the outside stern doors which means along with the new latch installed by friend Andy Elford the outside stern doors no longer bang in the wind, keeping me up all night. With the latch and the new seal it also means I can close those doors while cruising in cold weather and it will block the winds somewhat and help keep me warmer. Job done--onto the next thing!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Down the Atherstone Flight and Onward to Tamworth

"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." ~Blanche DuBois, character in A Streetcar Named Desire written by Tennessee Williams, American author and playwright

     Monday August 7th dawned bright and dry, with rain forecast for late in the afternoon. I decided to move up to the water point early as it is located in an awkward place--the top of a lock flight and the side of a winding hole! I swear the design of the canals was the forerunner to today's action video games! 
The lock gates are marked in blue. The rubbish bins and Elsan toilet disposal is in red and the two water points are the yellow dots at either end of the winding hole!
Here is an excellent picture of what it looks like as one is cruising through the Coleshill Road bridge. Atherstone top lock is directly in front of you and to the left, out of site behind the brick wall is the service point and winding hole. I pinched this from Tom and Jan Jones' blog, dated June 11th, 2014. Thanks Tom for being such a fabulous photographer!! Big hugs to you both back in Oz.
     While Les took most things in his stride, I find that every day is accompanied by a minimum low level of anxiety which can quickly ratchet up to overwhelming, making my skin crawl and my stomach clench. I wasn't really aware of this continual anxiety until I was filling at this water point. It was 7:30 am and there was no one else around. There was no reason for me to feel anxious but I did and I sat on the bow listening to water pour into the stainless steel tank as I analyzed my feelings. I realized I feel the way I do because up until the last three weeks of Les' life we have always been on the boat facing things together. I seldom had anxious moments on NBV with Les--not after my first year aboard. I always knew Les would take good care of me and our floating home. Now I am going it alone and there is so much I don't know and I cannot plan for every single possible contingency--something that drives a personal control freak like myself to distraction. I realize I either deal with these feelings through crazy dreams or I find I must talk myself down off the anxiety ledge and work my way through the issue at hand. 
     Anxiety is no stranger to me. I spent all of my childhood and more than the first third of my life as a single parent dealing with it every day. Facing cancer and battling it seemed to put paid to my constant anxiety and of course Les showed up and we fell in love. Anxiety was a thing of the past until he received a cancer diagnosis and then it climbed back in bed with me; now it keeps me company at my meals and creeps through my dreams. I am trying to work through all this while I work through my grief at losing Les because I really do want to enjoy life and I am far from that most days.
     Right so back to boating. When my tank was nearly full I walked over to the top lock gate with a windlass and was going to set the lock for myself when I looked down the flight and saw a boat coming up the next lock down so I actually emptied the lock completely and set it for them, at which point a boat came through the bridge hole and moored up for the lock to go down so, okay I would have to wait until they went down and then set the lock for myself. The boat coming up out of the next lock was NB Bracken and Anne was at the tiller. Her husband Steve appeared on the towpath walking towards me and I called out a hello. He walked up and wrapped his big bear arms around me, giving me a hello hug.
     We met Anne and Steve in 2014 waiting for a bus into Tring. Our paths have crossed many times since then and it is always lovely to see them. Les and I had moored up near them on the Grand Union just north of Leighton Buzzard last July on our way back down to Cowroast. Informed of Les' 'terminal cancer diagnosis, they had contacted other boaters ahead of us who were aware of our need for speed and we found many of the locks in our favor as boaters coming north who knew of our plight through Anne And Steve had left the locks set in our favor, helping us along the water road. After a quick natter and catch up, they came out of the top lock and waved goodbye and the other boat went in. I moved NBV over to the towpath and queued for the lock, helping to lock the other folks down.
     A lock keeper in a bright blue jersey with a screaming orange life jacket on came over and asked me if I was alone.
     "Good morning and yes I am."
     "Right then, I will send my husband along to help you down the locks."
     "Oh that would be such a blessing. Thank you!"
 Off she went to get her OH and I set and filled the lock for myself. She returned to help me while her husband went down to set the next two locks below me as on this particular lock flight the locks fill twice as fast as they empty. Gwynneth and Steven work the Atherstone flight on Mondays as Canal and River Trust (CaRT) volunteer lock keepers and they are a force to be reckoned with! It didn't take long at all before Steven and I working together, had NBV down the first five locks.
     "Right", Steven said, "There is long pound between between locks seven and six. Then there is another set of four locks and another long pound before the final two. Are you planning to go straight through?"
     "Yes I am."
     "Do you want me to walk down and help you through the rest of the flight?"
     "No that's Okay Steven. I think I will be fine now. We've broken the back of it haven't we?"
     "Yes indeed we have. Okay, if you are sure you will be all right I will go back up now and begin working other boats down. Take care of yourself now."
With a wave he was off up the towpath. I wasn't at all sure about how well I would do on my own because as I have mentioned before I don't set the locks and then jump down on the roof or climb down the lock ladders. I bow haul my boat out by hand and it takes more time, which some boaters are loathe to give me. The only way now was downward and time would tell how I did.
     I began meeting boats coming up and everyone was very friendly and willing to help me set the locks, allowing me to jump back on the boat before it dropped too low for me to climb aboard from the side and opening the gates for me. I also met John--a member of the CaRT Asset management team. He was testing the gates on all the locks in the Atherstone flight and so he helped out with lock gates as I went along.
     I reached a lock where no one was coming up and so I set it myself and was about to go across the lock gates to open the far side when another boater coming up the locks came up and offered to get it. He was a young fellow and he watched me with admiration as I bow hauled NBV out of the lock, pulled her over to the side and climbed aboard while his partner came up out the the lock below and passed me to enter the open gate behind me. The young man called out, "Good on you for keeping going on your own and for doing it your way and keeping old traditions alive!" 
Bless his sweet, kind, patient heart. All was managed without mishap because no one was in a hurry, no one was rude, and we all helped each other as and when. which is how this boating life is supposed to work--and does when selfish gits are off doing other things.
     Soon enough I was in the long pound between the ninth lock and the final two ahead of me. There is a white foot bridge half way through this pound and Les loved to stop there at a low gap in the hedge. It is quiet countryside with a lovely view of the surrounding rolling fields. I wanted to stop and plant a daffodil for him but I felt the pressure to keep moving as there was now a line of boats behind me, so I cried as I went along remembering our last time mooring there. My left knee replacement was seven months old and doing well but my right knee was in a very bad way. We took great care of one another as we each limped uncertainly into a dim and limited future together.
A view of the white footbridge from the back of NBV as I cruise past one Les' favorite mooring spots.
     I made it through the final two locks, meeting another single handed boater coming up the last one. It was just past 11:00 AM and the weather was beginning to deteriorate. I needed to find a good mooring spot for two days as another low pressure front was bearing down, bringing loads of rain and wind. I fetched up at Bridge 40 on the North Coventry canal with farmland all around me, and one other boat moored by the bridge. I put my pins in a lovely stretch between two sentinel Oak trees with a large open space in the hedge row between for sun to reach the solar panels. After mooring up, I set the panels towards the direction of the sun and I hoisted the TV antennae, having made note of which direction the antennae was facing on the nearby farmhouse. I mainly watch BBC Four with its historical documentaries and science programs, but I have to be able to tune in All Four for Outlander--the marvelous series made true to every word and idea in author Diana Gabaldon's amazing book of the same name. The winds rose, the rain came and the temperature dropped so low I had to start a fire! Sorted...
From the series Outlander. Claire's husband Frank Randall reaches through the mists of time for her. She has been transported from Scotland in 1947 to 1743 by the magic in the standing stones at Craig NaDunn. In Scotland 1743 she meets and falls in love with Jamie Fraser...whom she also marries!

This is a lovely old working boat. It belonged to the present owner's parents. he remembers going on holidays as a kid. His parents bought a working boat so they could bring the family goats! Now 'days the cargo hold is a garden area and quite lovely too!
     The next day with a short break in the weather I went for  walk along the towpath to stretch my legs. The flap on the cratch cover of NB Hope, moored by the bridge, flipped up and a man stepped out with a spaniel on a lead. We greeted one another and as he walked off down the path, his wife stuck her curly auburn head out the bow cover and we chatted for about twenty minutes. Her name is Morwenna, isn't it lovely?
     She and her husband cruise throughout the summer months but live in a house down in Sussex, I think she said. She makes and sells lovely Lavender wands.  We had a long chat in which she shared with me that she and her husband were waiting for a lock and she fell in the canal just outside of a lock which was being filled with a boat inside. Morwenna recalled that she was not wearing a life jacket which actually saved her life although they usually wear one. She was stuck at the bottom by the suction of the water pouring into the lock. Her husband managed to reach her hand and tried to pull her up but instead he fell in and was sucked through under the gate and came up in the lock and Morwenna ended up making the same trip. If they had been wearing life vest they would have gotten caught in the hole and the water could not have forced them through the gate and into the lock. She doesn't remember taking a breath between falling in and finally coming up in the lock but she feels as though she did...under water! My breath was in my throat as Morwenna shared her story. What a terrifying ordeal and it could have turned out really badly. I am so relieved it didn't though and we hugged goodbye as Morwenna pressed a Lavender wand into my hand and suddenly I hear boater Mo from NB Balmaha who has also sadly passed on, saying, "Aren't boaters lovely?"
Sunset lights the evening sky and the sides of the boats moored in front of NBV.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Into Atherstone

"What was it like to love him? Asked Gratitude. It was like being exhumed, I answered, and brought to life in a flash of brilliance. What was it like to be loved in return? Asked Joy. It was like being seen after a perpetual darkness, I replied. To be heard after a lifetime of silence. What was it like to lose him? Asked Sorrow. There was a long pause before I responded: It was like hearing every goodbye ever said to me—said all at once.” ~ Lang Leav, Australian poet and author

     I left Brinklow on Monday, July 31st at 7:30 am. The morning sunlight was just stretching forth golden fingers across the cut, lighting up the solar panels and topping up my batteries, to my deep satisfaction. Before I leave a place and push on, I always check the water level in the engine radiator, grease the stern gland it needed, and empty the bilge of any water. So far, so good!!
     I had eight miles to go to arrive at Hawkesbury Junction--a long haul in a craft whose top speed is four MPH and which usually cruises at 1.5 MPH when nothing is moored up on either side, or just above tick over which is about .50 MPH and there are always lines and clusters of boats to pass in summer. Passing the spot where Les I met Geoff and Mags Wade (NB Seyella) at last in early summer 2016 I broke into sobs which made my shoulders wrack and my chest ache. We saw our first ever Water Vole there in that same place. We were headed north to Chester and we thought the world was our oyster at last. Les was complaining of lower back pain then but it was a twinge and we thought a chiropractor could sort it out...
     I made the journey from Brinklow to Hawkesbury Junction in just over over five hours hoping to beat the advancing line of storm clouds from the west. I came around the sharp bend at the end of the North Oxford to find one spot available--right on the curve--so I backed up and as I sorted out mooring up on a curve, the clouds moved in and rain pissed down in a torrent that soaked me to the skin in less than a minute. By the time I finished tying up the boat and stuffing large fenders in the gaps on the ends, the rain passed and the world was washed clean.
Moored on the curve at Hawkesbury Junction.

     Inside I took advantage of plenty of hot water to scrub the travel grime away and warm up again. In clean clothes with a cup of hot tea, I settled in for the rest of the day. Despite having never entered the famous Greyhound Pub about eight boat lengths in front of me through the shallow stop lock marking the convergence of the North Oxford with the Coventry canal, I didn't bother to check it out. I find myself with a nearly total lack of curiosity or interest in most things these days. Even eating is a chore unless it is crisps or gummy bears which have done nothing for my health or my waistline. Without Les to cook for the act of fixing a meal feels pointless and my endeavors don't taste very good either. I simply cannot cook well without putting my heart into it and my heart is fractured and limping along at present.
     As the clouds lifted I looked out the port side window to spot a mare and her offspring
tethered in the grass nearby. As I watched they each took turns rolling in the grass, nuzzling each other and then playing a quick game of chase and bite with the pony always just out of the reach of mamma's teeth. Just as I put Les' camera down I was aware of a lot of engine revving coming from the starboard side, and NBV rocked as a boat passed close. With boats moored up on both sides of the canal here, it is necessary to go slowly and take one's time--especially in passing other boats. As I looked out the window at a hire boat cruising slowly, closely by me, I was rocked nearly off my feet as another boat hit mine! I recovered my balance and popped up through the stern hatch to see NB April Mist, backing up and revving the bollocks out of their engine, narrowly missing a boat moored permanently across from me.
     I piped up, "Hey what the hell are you doing? You hit my boat!!" The man at the tiller ignored me but his wife said, "Oh did we tap you?
     "That was more than a tap. You slammed into the side of my boat. This is my home so have a care please."
     She rolled her eyes as she declared, "Well we've been stuck three hours behind a bloody hire boat going one mile an hour. We were trying to pass them. It's been utterly ridiculous. Some people have no regard for others." Brits would think or say "Well that was the understatement of the century," but Americans including this one respond with,"No shit Sherlock, and you without a clue."
     "Did you signal to them that you wanted to overtake them?"
     "We walked up to ask them and they refused to answer, she said huffily. Huh??? Walked up, really?? Where was that at--the hire base?? And no reply was forthcoming?? What a load of codswallop. 
     "Is Autumn Mist your boat?" I asked. 
     "Yes of course," she replied frostily.
     "Well then regardless of what any of the other boaters are doing around you, you should be able to maintain control of your own boat--which clearly you have not managed," and I popped back down inside as she gave me the finger. They moved slowly forward and waited their turn to go through the stop lock. What a couple of losers. A shiny, lovely boat, and they drive it like they are on the race track at Le Mans. I'll bet they were right on the stern of the hire boat the entire time and I am sure they didn't bother with any manners or signals. This couple is a prime example of  the selfish mindset which says, "I've brought my boat out of the marina for summer fun so all of you tossers need to get out of our way. We have a schedule to keep."
     I was up at 5:00 AM just as the sun was flowing across the grass and the water. By 6:30 I was through the stop lock just as a young woman came along with her spritely terrier on a leash. Her name is Sharon and she stopped to chat with me as I stood, mid line in hand in front of the Greyhound pub. 
     "Are you alone then on your boat?" She asked as she looked around for someone else.
     "Yes I am. My husband I were married for six years and lived aboard continuously cruising. He died a few months ago and I am continuing on my own." After the usual condolences, she asked me how I found it on my own, explaining that she had wanted to sell her flat and buy a boat for about five years but she had been told women couldn't handle a boat on their own and being single and forty seven she didn't think she could have her dream without a man.
     "It is quite possible and I urge you to reconsider. If you really want a life afloat then research it carefully, and know that women are as capable as men when single handing. Never let anyone rob you of your dreams." We parted ways and I climbed aboard NBV, turned the boat in the sharp basin, went off through the bridge only to find CaRT employees had tied up a huge CaRT barge on the water front by the rubbish bins and a plastic cruiser was tied right in behind them, also on the last of the water point bollards. I went forward then through the narrow gap and moored up at the water points on the Coventry heading north. Of course a hire boat was moored up on one of them. It is a wonder there were any water taps available.
Keep your eyes peeled for this boat; blink and you will miss them as it cracks on past you at Mach 2.
     After topping up the water and dumping the rubbish I was off at 7:35 AM, attempting to outrun another low pressure ridge bringing more rain and high winds. As I cruised slowly past the long line of moored boats I spotted April Mist. At last I was away, remembering last July as I donned Les' rain gear and plowed on through a torrential rain shower that lasted all day. Time was of the essence and we needed to get from Nuneaton, through the junction and back to Cowroast ASAP. Les was in too much pain to sit with me and so he was lying on the bed while I motored on in the rain,which mingled with my tears because I knew the next time I came this way Les would be dead and I would be without him...and so it is.
     Just before reaching the charity dock between Bedworth and Nuneaton I slowed as I started through a bridge hole. I could see a small boat moored up just ahead in the gloom of the close growing trees. A woman was untying it and so I slowed right down to tick over as she stood waiting for me to pass, ropes in hand. I smiled at her and she suddenly shouted, "You are the only person who has bothered to slow down at all when passing!"
     "That's because I am a woman too and I know what it's like when you are on your own and trying to hold on to your boat as some idiot cracks past at the speed of light." She laughed and thanked me, letting my gentle wash pull her bow out as she climbed aboard and moved into the middle of the canal.
Gorilla on the cut!! This house used to be a pub. Through the bridge hole you will see a small boat. She is waiting for me to pass so she can pull out behind me.

     I continued on into and through Nuneaton, lost in my thoughts of Les and better days as we honeymooned on the Ashby canal, whose entrance I passed along my way, and before I knew it I was out the other side and headed for Springwood Haven Marina. I
Springwood Haven Marina and Chandler's.
think it is one of the loveliest marinas in England. Nestled in the lee of a low hill covered in grasses and edged with oaks, the main two story brick building sits right on the cut at the jetty and it is easy as pie to pull in for diesel, propane, or other items from the Chandler's inside. Across the cut is a small, dense woodland where Les and I moored up in late February 2012. Trees had been felled and another boat was moored there cutting wood. he invited us in to help ourselves and we made the acquaintance of Paul and Jenny on NB Panda Julienne. I topped up the diesel, bought two more 18 inch long mooring pins so I can double pin when I moor on soft ground and trundled off to moor up just around the curve, out of site of the marina with woods all around but a break in the trees to allow all day sunshine for the solar panels.

     The wind had been steadily rising in gusts and it felt good to be moored up safe and sound. There were two tatty looking boats moored up about three boat lengths in front of me under some over hanging trees. Otherwise nothing else to infer humanity or civilization was nearby. I spent three glorious days cocooned here as rain and very high winds tossed the world around me to and fro and NBV sat solid and calm, moored tightly to the metal siding, which was a good thing because as I was washing my hands in the bathroom, I heard the approach of a boat's engine going like the clappers. Without any drop in revs as they cracked on past me, their huge wake yanking on my mooring chains, I stepped to a galley window and opened it with the intent of shouting, "You lost your bloody water skier!" As soon as I saw it was NB April Mist and he swilling a can of beer while he lounged against the tiller, I decided not to waste my breath.

     The second afternoon, with a break in the rain offering sunny weather but still very high wind gusts whipping everything around, I washed two loads of clothes on the solar panels--no engine power--and hung them outside to dry. The wind would whip the water out of everything in a trice and my clothes would smell like clean air. I returned to the boat to do some much needed boat cleaning inside, singing happily as I cleaned with the side hatch doors open to the wind and fresh air, remembering how I always sent Les out to take a walk or run an errand while I cleaned. He showed such appreciation for my efforts, telling me that I made our boat a lovely home.
     An hour later a bloke on one of the boats moored up in front of me came walking along the towpath with his dog on a lead. He was wearing baggy sweat pants and an old down jacket, walking with a pronounced limp. Given that he shambled past my boat and then returned less than two minutes later I figured he had come along to check out the neighbor. 
     "Hello. How are you today?" I asked through the hatch doors as he started to pass.
     "A darn sight better for hearing your lovely singing," he replied with a smile as he slowly walked onward. 
     "Thank you, " I said, sincerely touched.
     Very few people know I have a lovely singing voice. At one point in my life after seven years of concert choir in junior high and high school, I won a voice scholarship to Kings Lake Fine Arts camp and my instructors were targeting me to apply for university and earn a music degree in voice, hoping I would take it further and go into opera. The top of my range was e above high c. This is the note that breaks glass. But I had no interest in singing opera or indeed singing in public. Extremely shy, I had no problems singing with a choir but singing solo was not for me. Too much emotion is required to do it well and I wasn't going to stand on a stage alone and emote for the public. I also couldn't get into Uni at age 17 because the Financial Aid laws at the time required the parents of any student under the age of 25 to contribute 30% financially to each year's tuition and fees. My step-father was a mean, violent alcoholic who drank the money up, when it wasn't going for attorney's fees over his public violations or the continual custody cases brought against my mother by my alcoholic father. There is no line on the FAFSA form to explain such behavior--only a box to tick for gross household income. With both my mother and step-father working full time and my step-father working part time on top of that (drinking money), I could not qualify for aid and I could not afford tuition on my own. My step-father couldn't read or write and I was often severely chastised and several times I was physically tormented for reading at home when he thought I should be doing chores--even if all the chores were done, so I knew he would never agree to help fund a university degree. My attitude towards singing solo changed only in my thirties for singing at funerals. People attending funerals are too caught up in the life and death of the deceased to pay someone singing any real attention. One thing I have learned though; never attempt to sing at your own husband's funeral--especially with a raging head cold!
     After the winds finally died down and the rain abated for a day, I upped sticks and motored onward into Atherstone, finding a spot six boats back from Coleshill Road Bridge, the main artery into the village. I moored up and walked into the Cooperative grocery store for a a few bits and bobs and then moseyed across the street to the Aldi store for a few other bits. Home again, I put things away and then spoke to my dear friend Bryce in Canada. Hearing his voice is balm for a sore and weary heart. His tones are mellifluous and his accent easy to understand, an audio hug from someone dear.
Keri Ann's Cosmetics in Atherstone.
     I spent three days at Atherstone, mooching around the shops for tweezers (I cannot seem to hang on to a pair these days. Since Les died I have gone through four pair!), I found an amazing shop called Keri Ann's Cosmetics which had shelves and baskets of every kind of makeup, perfume, skin care, and beauty accessory known to woman; if they don't stock the product then it simply is not manufactured on this earth! I loved the wicker baskets full of pots of lip color, nail polish and other amazing items. I purchased two pair of tweezers just to be on the safe side and took myself off down the sidewalk to the book store of St. Giles Hospice where I picked up a decent abridged Oxford dictionary, a Welsh-English dictionary, a couple of other books, the entire set of I Claudius on DVD, the complete set of Wire in the Blood on DVD and four Cd's--all American artists, paying a song for them. These book stores are lovely jewel boxes, clean, well organized and with such a great variety of books, DVDs and Cd's to choose from; a veritable feast for any book lover. 
     Back home by 10:00 AM,  I settled in while a predicted thunderstorm made its way towards Atherstone. It could be heard from eight miles away. When it arrived, the heavens opened and chucked rain, hail, and lightening! 

I sat warm and dry with a small fire in the stove, planning the next leg of my journey down the Atherstone flight of eleven locks. Should I go early and attempt to do  it all myself or wait until 8:00 AM and risk the help of other boaters? The answer will be in my next blog post!

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs