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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.


life afloat on nb tickety boo said...

Hi Jaq, I am back on a laptop and blogging again! I only wish my blogs were as interesting as yours! You are a special lady and somebody I would love to be like in the way you just get on with things! I think I left a comment somewhere on one of your blogs, but I can't find it so maybe not! I have just been giggling to myself after your comment about being a, 'Knob Head' that made me laugh out loud. You are not a Knobhead, far from it, but hearing you use that term was so funny. I always thought it was a Scouser phrase but obviously not! You still continue to amaze me, you always have and always will. I am so sad that we have not met in person yet, even more sad that I didn't meet your lovely Les and yet, I feel like I know you both personally, such a weird but pleasant feeling. So love and hugs to you and I hope the day is getting nearer that we finally have a face to face chat over a cuppa and a brownie. Debbie xx

Marilyn, nb Waka Huia said...

Hi Jaq,
David and I moored up in Rugeley when we came up this way, and I was nervous about it, as our friends Bill and Carole had told me they didn't like mooring there - yoofs ...
But David and I had a very peaceful night.
However I think it's sensible to moor up away from possible troublespots, esp on your own!
People are being very kind and helpful, aren't they? I always think that most people do like being asked for help! It seems to bring out the best in us, I reckon!
Looking forward to catching up soon, friend, Mxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Debbie,

I loved your blog posts! I really miss Bobby and I am not a dog lover, but your poss about TB and Bobby and your life in geneal were lovely.

Well knobhead is a term I picked up over here, probably from a northern comedian!! It certainly rang true in this case!

I am so pleased you still find my posts interesting and worth reading after six years, and I would love to have you visit. I am currently moored up at Tixall Wide on the Staff and Worcs. I will be here for two weeks while I hopefully finish painting the boat. Then I have a friend visiting from the States and I am away for about week at the end of September. After that I hope to head up to the Maccie and Peak Forest canals. I look forward to meeting you sometime in the near future Debbie.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Marilyn,

Yes, by and large people are being angels, and I agree with you; I know I feel so pleased to help out if someone needs a hand. That is one of the blessing of being on the cut I think.

I noticed when I was moored up at Wolseley Bridge (70, T & M) that a lot of the boaters who stopped and moored up near me temporarily, were catching the local bus into Rugeley, getting their shopping and coming back with it to cruise onward instead of mooring up in Rugeley to get their shop.

It will be such fun to see you again soon, soon, soon!

Love Jaq xxx

Jennie said...

Hi Jaq, It is good to see that you are getting help where needed. I am sure I would have been in a flat spin if I thought I had locked myself out of the boat; thankfully that is something we cannot do as we have to lock from the outside. I am glad there was a knight in shining armour nearby to rescue you. Rugeley was the site of my first dunking into the canal - just to my thighs, but that was more than enough!! Take care and keep blogging. Love Jennie xxx

Anonymous said...

Ah life on the cut. We land locked folks to get a sense of what your travels and meet ups are like and so enjoy it from afar. Lady ... you just keep on solving problems and challenges one after another. Will it be a good or sad day when you move on to waters beyond what you and Les shared?
Karen in Pullman where smoke from fires keeps my eyes tearing.

Anonymous said...

Getting close to where we met at the Dog and Doublet for that lovely dinner with you and Les! Had to laugh at the key incident - just the sort of thing I would do ��

Unknown said...

Just remember, if you can break into your boat - so can somebody else... especially a slim yoof
nb Ceiriog

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

i Karen,
I am so pleased you enjoy reading the posts and living through my joys and sorrows, trials and successes vicariously. It is a wondrous thing that you can be landlocked halfway across the globe suffering from wildfire smoke and still be here with me.

Every time I consider cruising new water it terrifies me. I cannot wrap my mind around it really, and thankfully I don't have to face it now.

Give Jim a hug from me and keep at least one for yourself.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Sally,
Yes Trentham and the Dog and Doublet wait ahead of me. I am trying to decide which direction to cruise from here: onward to the Shropshire Union or turn around and head up the T&M towards the Macclesfield canal, which would take me past our meeting place.

Ithink we all misplace our keys at least once. It is such a universally shared experience.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Chris, Yep and that is why Les always made sure all of our windows were tightly closed whenever we left the boat. I will be mindful of it as it is shocking how easily someone can access if anything is left open. I also have to pay closer attention to whete my keys are at all times. That is one of the issues inherent inmourning. I am distracted frequently by my thoughtsof Les and the accompanying emotions. It is at such moments that accidents can and do ocur.

Jaq xxx

Maffi said...

Jaq I am so proud of you. I think Les would be too. Hugs!

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank you Maffi, that means a great deal to me.
Big hugs for you too!

Jaq xxx

Carla Michaelsen said...

Hi Jaq,

I continue to read your blog and I am entertained and inspired by your stories!
It has been a tough couple of years for Bill and I, as well. Bill's sister took her own life a year and a half ago. We find ourselves still reeling from that loss. Than my mother died a month later and the care for Bill's mother increased until she, too, died a year after my mom. These losses do not really compare in magnitude to the loss of a constant life companion and lover, but I can empathize with your pain of losing Les on some level, as many of us can. You are a gifted writer and the way you can keep Les's memory alive in that way is truly beautiful.

So now, here you are - taking life by the horns and moving forward! I love the way you have chosen to memorialize your husband with daffodils. It is nice to read the "Les stories" in your blog. You have a way of making me feel as though I knew him personally.

Keep on living to the fullest and writing about it. Your stories are so very interesting!
If I ever get a chance to visit England in the future, you know I will look you up...

Love, Carla

Carol said...

You're doing great Jaq! Love and hugs from us xxx

MikeW said...

Evening Jaq,
A good read. Well done on all fronts.
A few years back I walked the Ridgeway and for one stage left my car in Tesco car park at Princes Risborough. On returning I couldn't find my keys but was certain I'd left them in the my jacket in the boot. I called out the AA who took five minutes to break in but I could find no keys. I told the AA man I would call Pam to come with the spare keys, thanked him profusely and gave him a fiver for a drink. In order to get at my money I had to remove the car keys from my pocket!!. They'd been there all along. Now that IS a knobhead.



Unknown said...

Yes, I'm hopeless with keys and always have been! Once had to break into my own house by climbing onto the conservatory roof and forcing a back bedroom window open.. Maybe on a boat there might be a secure place for a spare key? I can think of a few on my boat, but not gonna advertise here!! Actually, I'm not far away at the mo'- on S&W travelling towards GH junction;then I'm not sure, probably left! You never know, our boats might cross
Grief takes time, that's all I know (chin up chuck, as we say in parts of Yorkshire)

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Carla,

Thank you so much for leaving a comment. I am chuffed to bits that you are still following along with me. I am so sorry you and Bill have had so many losses and trials one upon another. Thank good ness you have each other to lean upon. If we dare to love then we will experience the devastation of loss as it comes to us all in the end. Les lives on in me and it is my pleasure to keep his memory alive. He was and is my joy.

I am so touched that you enjoy my writing. Your praise is like honey as writing is a solitary and lonely occupation so it is with relief that I read you enjoy reading my scribbles. I am working on turning my blog into a book manuscript and hopefully I will be able to find a publisher for it.

You are most welcome to come visit! the dinette makes into a lovely double bed and we could have such fun cruising. You would love it!!

Big hugs and loads of love to you, Bill, your children and their spouses,

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Carol,

Thank and thanks for checking with me via the blog. I keep trying to call you and G. and every time I start to dit and I get sidetracked. I cannot tell you how exhausting it is to single hand. I literally feel like two people in one skin!

I promise to call soon,

Love jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Mike,

Thank you, thank you, and thank you for the belly laugh! I am so relieved to know I have fabulous company in the club for knob heads who lose their keys in their pockets! Les would be having a good laugh over it and I hope you and Pam did too.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Chris,

Well I plan to be here for two weeks as I am painting the boat. it would be lovely to have a good natter over tea and biscuits. You are a brave woman for climbing up your house to break in! The roof of the narrow boat is about all the height I care to deal with. Good on you!

I hope we do meet up soon,

Jaq xxx

Unknown said...

Do hope so Jaq, will keep in touch...
You really should publish, tho some editing would probably be necessary
btw, twas I that is interested in Gerson - so maybe over tea&biccies?

Anonymous said...

It was lovely for sue and I. I needed some ahhhhh time after the funeral. Brownies were delish. Flying back to the u.k tomorrow night so I will give you a call. Xxx carol.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs