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Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Wine Time

"Honor the space between no longer and not yet." ~Nancy Levin, American author

     A lot has happened since I last blogged. I've had the distinct pleasure of spending time in the company of dear friends and made a new friend. Painting the boat has stalled for a week now due to inclement weather and excessive wine. I've required the services of a marine engineer to sort out the Ebispacher diesel heater, and I've discovered a divine new (for me) cheese! Where to start??? 
     A week ago yesterday I was walking back from the Farm Shop at Great Haywood laden with two bags of groceries, when around the curve of the towpath the silhouette of a tall man with a Border Collie on a leash and a shorter woman appeared from the shadows under the trees. I slowed as I do when a dog is involved. They stood smiling at me. I must have looked a bit confused because the woman said, "You don't recognize us do you?" The accent was softly Welsh and I knew I had heard her voice before. 
     "It's Eric and Elsie from Bendigedig."
Eric and Elsie Fletcher from NB Bendigedig which means wonderful in Welsh, which they absolutely are. I had to nick this picture from their blog as I have lost Les' camera with the fabulous picture I took of them.
     Oh! I dropped my grocery bags on the ground and stepped over to hug them both. What a lovely surprise! I had not seen them in five years!! We met in 2012 when Les and I cruised the Llangollen canal. Les counted Eric and Elsie as firm friends and we made a point to stop in near the Prees Arm where they moor their boat to say hello. So many years gone much water under the bridges. We had been desperately trying to make our way back up to Eric and Elsie's patch of canal and every time Les and I attempted to escape north, another health issue raised its ugly head and drew us back south again.
     Not only did Eric and Elsie and Ben the dog drive down from Whixall Marina to see me, they came bearing gifts of honey, jam, and a lovely Lemon Drizzle cake. We had a good three hours together catching up, remembering Les and talking about what happens next. I thought to winter on the Llangollen but I've decided to save it for next spring. Nevertheless it does my heart a world of good to know I am only an hour and half away from NB Bendigedig--by car!! Your visit was such a gift for my heart and I am so pleased you are both looking and feeling well.
     The next day I worked on painting a bit more, cocked it up and now it has to be sanded lightly and repainted. Oh well...On Thursday a familiar boat hove into view coming from the direction of Penkridge and suddenly NB Waka Huia was mooring up in front of me. Kiwi friends Marilyn and David had caught up with me again--at last!! With Marilyn around it is never long until "wine time!" I had a box of Hardy's Australian Shiraz that I purchased back in July for just such a moment. The box and I boarded Waka Huia and I settled in with Marilyn, David and boaty mate Mel! We had a lovely dinner and Marilyn thoughtfully invited my new friend Chris, about whom you will read more later. 
Me, Mel, and my glass of boxed plonk aboard NB Waka Huia. Picture courtesy of Marilyn MacDonald, 2017.
     Friday dawned and I was happily surprised to discover that although I had imbibed the previous night, I did not have a hangover! Yay for me!! I am a light weight drinker, easily drinking far too much because I don't drink very often, and then I am in pain the next morning. I wondered why I felt so good. It certainly couldn't have anything to do with the fact I was drinking boxed plonk could it??? Further research on the subject was required and painting was suspended for the duration which is just as well because painting sober left me with blobs of green paint in my hair, up my arms to the elbows, my hands covered in it, my jeans too as I wiped my hands on them, and I even had it up my nose--don't ask me how--I certainly never went anywhere near my face with fingers or paintbrush that I recall. If I come away from painting sober covered in my medium, imagine what both me and the boat might look like if I undertook to paint while inebriated!!
     David and Marilyn came to dinner on NBV and then Marilyn scarpered off for an early night while David and I sat and had a lovely chat into the late evening about all manner of things from the mundane to the sublime, ending with philosophy and the limitless nature of infinity.
     Saturday arrived with moody weather on the way but the sun was still making an effort to shine on us between the darkening clouds. Marilyn and I walked in to the Farm Shop for comestibles and I bought the most luscious chunk of cheddar cheese it has ever been my pleasure to eat, called Black Bomber. This cheese is a very mature and sharp cheddar but the texture is closer to that of butter or cream cheese. It is smooth, creamy, rich and moreish!!
     Walking with Marilyn is always an adventure because she knows no strangers: none! Marilyn says hello to every single living thing that crosses her path or enters her sight line. Every dog is greeted warmly with, "Hello Good Dog, hellooo Good Dog!" Of course stopping and petting Good Dog is a necessity as is a chinwag with its owner(s). I could live without seeing, hearing, or petting dogs, however I have learned a lot from the folks Marilyn says hello to along the way. Mrs. MacDonald will remember their details and names too, much like the school principal (head teachers I think you call them over here) who chats up every single student in her school over the course of a year and manages to remember every child's name and favorite activity. The personal and canine chow-chow was far more exhausting for me than the actual physical walk and I was in dire need of a nap when we returned.
     Mid afternoon we got word that Adam and Adrian on NB Briar Rose were on their way to see us all the way from Hopwas on the North Coventry, in one day. I overheard Marilyn telling them to "Paddle faster!" That is one long haul with several bottlenecks like Fradley Junction and the narrow Plum Pudding section under the overpass before Rugeley, but they did it--they did it!! As the early evening sun spent golden shafts of sunlight across the cut, Briar Rose appeared and was quickly moored in front of Marilyn and Dave's boat. Soon enough not only was wine flowing but Champagne too! Someone had thoughtfully poured me a glass of each and what is an American to do in such circumstances? I couldn't be rude so I drank them both. Marilyn's dinner was delicious as always, the wine flowed and we laughed ourselves silly, eventually wandering off to our respective beds at the decent enough hour of 10:30 PM. 
Good friends, good nibbles and the craic was delightful!! This picture was stolen from Waka Huia's blog which underscores the blatant need for Marilyn to tarnish my good reputation by titling her blog, "Jaq is a lush!" As this picture proves I am sitting there with a glass of Shiraz and another of champagne but who's counting???
     Sunday morning was a rough one, I will not lie. The bed spun most of the night and my guts went with it. I woke feeling like old gum must feel on the bottom of someone's shoe. My head throbbed and my knees felt weak and gimpy. Still, I heard boats on the move and so I pulled myself from bed and threw on the Great Woob. What is the Great Woob you ask? More on that later too. 
     Outside Marilyn and David had already made a very early morning escape to the service point and a rendezvous with their son. They were coming back later to spend one more day with me. Adam and Adrian were just casting off as I stumbled down the towpath for hugs goodbye whilst holding my head on my shoulders with both hands. Waka Huia soon appeared once again and of course Marilyn had to sound the bloody beast of a horn which shattered my aching head into a thousand tiny shards of pain. Never mind, a walk will make it better yeah? Naaaahhh...
     While a local carpenter came to do some work on Marilyn and Dave's boat, I discovered that my Ebispacher diesel heater was not working properly. White smoke poured from it and it shut itself off after five minutes. Time to call an engineer to suss it out. This was a new Ebi Les had installed back in late 2015 or early 2016. It wasn't old enough to be coked up with use but I did feel the issue was related to diesel intake because it worked just fine whenever I had a full tank of diesel but as soon as the level dropped any appreciable measure in the fuel tank the Ebi snuffed itself. 
     On the recommendation of the MacDonalds I contacted Ed Shiers of Four Counties Marine Services. The following day Ed came out to NBV and sussed out the problem: while the Ebispacher unit is new, the pipework feeding diesel to the unit from the gas tank is original to the boat build back in 2006. Over the years it had developed layer upon layer of scale inside which was effectively choking the Ebispacher from lack of diesel. Parts needed to be ordered and so I await the reappearance of Ed next week to complete the job. 
     In the meantime Marilyn and David have managed to tear themselves away from my stellar company and cruise onward to the next drunken orgy meeting with friends further down the Trent and Mersey. I can only say how lovely it was to spend days in your company, enjoying that particularly magical Kiwi brand of love, laughter, and sarcastic insight that flows in your wake. 
     One more visitor made their way to NBV at this time. It was Paul from NB Waterways Routes who came to uncross the wires I had inadvertently crossed in lost emails and the stress of losing Les. While his wife Christine stayed with the boat back at the Junction Paul walked out to Tixall Wide to find me, talk with me and present me with an updated copy of the maps. Thank you Paul for taking the time to come see me, and I apologize for getting snarky with you in my comments some posts back. I've lost many things in the days and months since I lost Les; my heart, a treasured locket he gave me, Les' camera, and a host of emails when my computer began to fail back in February, among other things. Bright Blessings to you and Christine and NB Waterways Routes.
     Onward to my new friend Chris on NB Hare Krishna and yes he is one but Chris doesn't proselytize; he merely tries to live a life of goodness under the Krishna precepts. He is a good, kind, humble soul and I am enriched for knowing him. We've sat over tea and talked about spirituality, boats and boaters, and all manner of things. I've helped Chris to make the jump from very outdated technology (3 gigs of wi-fi and a very old computer) to 4G wireless router with 25 gigs,  and a new Samsung Notebook with all the settings just as he prefers;  Kindle books too. In return Chris offered to take me grocery shopping in Rugeley which we did this morning, and we stopped at Wolseley bridge to pay our respects to Les' Daffodil planted there and to Chris' little dog he buried there three years ago. Soon we will part ways but we plan to stay in touch via email. His lovely little Welsh Jack Russell Terrier Gem, is pregnant and Chris hopes to give the pups away to boaters so I will post a birth announcement on the blog when they arrive. 
Image result for Mr. Mom     Okay I hear you say, "What about The Great Woob? What is it? Do I need one?"
     The name comes from the movie Mr. Mom with Michael Keaton as the hard working professional hubby who is laid off or made redundant as you say over here. His wife, played by actor Terri Garr, goes back to work leaving three children and their home in the hands of her clueless husband. The youngest child is a four year old boy who has a favorite blanket which is never out of his site or his hands. Consequently it has worn away to a small, dirty square which lives tucked into his chubby little fist day and night. Keaton's character names this dank patch of comfort a "Woobie" and proceeds to try and talk his young son out of it.
Image result for long grey falp front cardigan     My Woobie is a synthetic gray and black speckled long cardigan that reaches my knees, has a floppy collar front shaped the flukes of a fish with sleeves so long I have to roll them back almost to my elbows for my hands to appear. I bought it at Tesco three years ago. It is now covered in gray-black pills of fiber and pretty ugly is my comfort thing; like a large blanket with sleeves and so I have named it the Great Woob and I feel safe and warm when I wrap it around me nearly one a half times with room to spare. Now you know what a Great Woob is. The answer to the question, "Do I need one?" is yes--everyone should have something that has been loved out of shape; worn, stretched, and completely comfortable like a hug from a loved one on a cold, dark morning; a Woobie is an emotional bandage to cover life's sadness and icky boo-boos allowing you to carry onward.


Marilyn, nb Waka Huia said...

Very pleased to see I wasn't slandered and my apologies for mis-naming your chateau cardboard!
It was great fun seeing you, Jaq, and lovely to be able to provide food, hugs and irony in equal measure!
I reckon your Sunday hangover was because you mixed your drinks - you had red and you had bubbles. The bubbles were probably French and we all know they cannot make wine as well as we do in the southern hemisphere (stands back from the fallout ...)
I base my hangover theory (not the French insult) on the fact that you drank lots on both of the other nights, but only had a hangover when you had bubbles too.
My coaching - eschew bubbles next time and save yourself - of course, one benefit of that strategy is that there is more for the rest of us!
By the way, I have been thinking more about a boating companion for you - I reckon one of Chris's puppies will be ideal:
* it'll always be little
* it will be potty trained within about two weeks (unlike children ...)
* it will always listen to you, never disagree, and always be ready for cuddles and walks
* it will be happy to snuggle next to you on the bed, or on your lap
* little or not, it'll always let you know if anyone is about
* it'll make sure you get out walking and socialising - a Mel would provide most of those things, but you'd look really stupid taking a Mel for a walk ...

Biggs hugs, my friend,

Mxx (and Dxx)

Judith nb Serena said...

Lovely blog. Sounds as if you had a good time with so many friends around you. Love your Big Woobie, we all need something we can snuggle in and feel comforted. Look forward to the next post. XXX
Judith nb Serena

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Oh Marilyn I sense a campaign here. All of your points regarding a puppy are great but for one thing: I really don't like dogs! I have no desire to share my life or my bed with a dog. I am happy to enjoy the very few dogs I have meet and do like, vicariously through the lives of their owners.

I credit there is some truth to the mixing of the bubbly and the red wines. I will be sober as a judge now for some time to come.

Enjoy the rest of your journey this season my dear loves, and I have no doubt you will keep us entertained with your posts about it all. Please give my love to one and all when you meet up wit them in a day or so. In fact, toucan lift a glass for me!!

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Judith

Yep we all do need a Great Woob to wrap ourselves in. Any chance we might meet up this season?

Jaq xxx

Adrian said...

Was so lovely to spend the evening together, and thanks for coming out for hugs as we set off in the morning.

Thanks to Marilyn and David for an excellent dinner, and great company.

Unknown said...

Glad you have been having fun with friends pin the last week - just as well I missed you as we passed by on Sunday!
I can't locate your email on the blog, but this is mine
I'm going home for a few days, but after that will be heading back towards Great Haywood & then on to the Shroppie (probably) so our routes may yet cross xxx

Judith nb Serena said...

Hi Jaq,we're still on the Grand Union almost at Fenny Stratford, picking up a filter in the morning. We are then making our way to Fazeley to leave boat while we go to Wales for 10 days ish. Once back we will make our way back to Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal on our way to Stourport on Severn where we over winter. We have to be the other side of Kidderminster by the 7th November because of stoppages. We will hang around between there and Stourport as it's a bit early to go into the basin. So depending where you go after leaving Tixall hopefully we can meet up. Fingers crossed.
Judith nb Serena XXX

Adam said...

Ditto what Adrian said. It was really great to see you; can't remember what we were laughing at so much, I just remember the laughing!

And to Marilyn -- prosecco is Italian not French, so you can't blame them on this occasion.

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

Hi Judith,
Well bummer! I think we will miss each other. I am leaving Great Haywood this week after my Ebispacher is sorted and I am heading North on the Trent & Mersey, for the Peak District.

Have fun in Wales and fingers crossed that we finally do meet up.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Christine
My email is on the left margin just to the side of the blog title. I will email you!!

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...


I think you are a champion hugger and I wouldn't miss the opportunity of getting one. You hug like a gentle grizzly! This appeals to the Alaskan in me. :) I so appreciate that you guys were willing to travel so far in one day to spend time with me, Marilyn and David.


I don't remember what we were laughing about either. I just know that every time I am graced with a visit from you it lifts my heart and makes my day and I often learn something of good value from you as well.

I don't generally like prosecco. Too fizzy and harsh for me but that one tasted pretty good. It most have been a good bottle! I favor Asti Spumante for sparkling wines. Good to know Prosecco is Italian. We cannot blame the French for everything. They carry a large enough burden on their shoulders with forcing the world to use bloody metric measurements.

The two of you take good care of each other.

Love and hugs,

Jaq xxx

Unknown said...

Succinct but meaningful
Look forward to it!

life afloat on nb tickety boo said...

A woobie!! I love that. Thank you for your lovely post, I love reading your blog and so envious of all the lucky people you have met and had fun with....apart from your hangover!!
Stay safe lovely and keep writing your wonderful blog Debbie xxxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Oh surely Deb, you have a woobie too?! We will meet some day I promise.

Love Jaq xxx

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs