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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Time to Move!

"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. " Amelia Earhart, American aviation pioneer and author

     There are those who feel a winter mooring in a marina provides safety and stability. I thought so too and it was for this reason I took up the very kind offer of friends, to use their mooring for the winter. I allowed this offer to detour me from the direction my gut instinct told me to go. I have a very time difficult time making decisions. I wasn't taught how to make good decisions or any decisions at all. Alcoholics don't make great role models for such life issues. But one would think that by age sixty I would learn to trust my gut instinct. Of course this means I would trust myself and I don't. Oh, I am fine once I do finally come to a decision. I will lock in my course and proceed. But first I have to look at the institution or issue from every conceivable angle, consider every nuance, and deliberate on the information provided. I didn't do that this time, mainly because this year has been about my journey through grief, and grief is a fickle wind. The waves generated are HUGE and some days it is all one can do to hang on to the tiller and ride it out. Deliberation doesn't come into the picture and one's gut instinct is busy puking emotions all over the place, attempting to keep the pain of loss from becoming so overwhelming one simply wants to let go and slip below the surface.
     My only thought when I left Cow Roast marina on April 19th was this: get up north to the narrow canals which Les and I loved. Stop along the way and scatter Les' ashes and plant a Daffodil at every lovely, meaningful spot as I went. Get to Great Haywood and hopefully finish painting the boat. Head towards the Llangollen and Wales. I am one quarter Welsh and that DNA has always sung loud in my blood. Go there, settle in an area and look for work.
     Then the offer of a free winter mooring came and I thought it would be one less stressful thing to deal with--moving the boat in winter weathers. I assumed I could get a job easily and one place is as good as any other to settle in. I was wrong.
NBV moored up at Victoria Pit Marina.
     The cold, lashing rain and gusting high winds have lashed the boat for weeks with only a day or so in between weather bands. The clouds are so dark and thick I have had the lights on at 12:30 in the afternoon. I have been moored at Victoria Pit marina for a month and it has been a good respite for me. I am deeply thankful to my friends and the owner of this marina for allowing me to stay here. It has given me a lot of time to think while I searched and applied for jobs and sussed out public transit options. I now know this: there are not a whole lot of jobs in the general area of Macclesfield that apply to me, and public transit is difficult. It takes two buses to go from Poynton to Macclesfield and probably a third to get to a job somewhere in the town. The bus from Higher Poynton only runs once an hour requiring a long wait in the cold to make the connection on the way back home. The most reliable transport in this area goes down in to Manchester--a city of 2.55 million and WAY too big for me. I have no desire to join the Manchester Commuters Club; an hour in to the city by train and the same again at night to return.
     I also know for certain that I am not cut out to live in a marina. It is simply too claustrophobic for someone like me who requires the freedom to move, as and when. It is very easy to moor up in a marina, hook up to landline electricity and find one's self feeling stuck and unable to move out again, except on a very good weather day.  I need the challenge of being outside every day, checking the boat systems, and taking care of the need to locate a service point for water and rubbish, keeping a close eye on the weather and balancing it with the need to move. I was feeling a bit of fear about leaving the marina mooring, I must confess. It is hard work single handing a boat and doing the work of two people.
     The week after I arrived here, I was walking to the Boars Head pub to catch the bus into Poynton. A man coming along behind me from the marina overtook me and said hello. I smiled and replied. He stopped in front of me and introduced himself. We began the light social chatter of "how did you come to be here," etc. etc. His new boat just came out of the boat builders dock two weeks previously and he was settling in. He is recovering from Prostate cancer and divorce. Four nights later there was a knock on my door at 5:30 pm. It was this same man who was calling to invite me to dinner aboard his boat. I thought, "Sure why not." I am an introvert and inclined to cocoon myself at home. He wanted to show me his new top of the line boat. He asked me to give him an hour to cook and get things ready.
     I showed up an hour later, and his boat is lovely. Very posh and cutting edge. He was drinking a whiskey. Did I want one? No thank you. I had orange juice. He showed me through his boat, and as we went he kept moving into my personal space and touching  me; my shoulder, my arm, my back. It made me uncomfortable. I don't like to be touched by anyone unless I know them VERY well. I shrugged it off to being in the close confines of a narrow boat. I sat at his L shaped dinette as he finished fixing dinner. He asked me to scoot over and he slid into the end space. He was chattering on about how happy he was to have me on his boat and how he was looking forward to many more evenings shared together. I looked to my left and there was a huge pile of stuff--wet weather gear, papers, back pack, etc. hemming me in.
     We began to eat as he poured himself another whiskey and he told me the details about his divorce, at one point saying, "I know I am a bastard but I did want to leave my wife in our home." Warning bells began to ring for me. Oprah Winfrey has a list of twenty things she knows for sure.  Number four on her list: When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. (A lesson from Maya Angelou.) On her show Oprah illustrated this point by saying, "When a man tells you he is an asshole; believe him and don't stick around long enough to let him illustrate the point."
     After dinner as I was searching for a politic means of saying "it is time to go", this man put on some music by Bob Dylan and slipped back into the dinette. All of a sudden, he was sitting so close to me he was nearly on my lap and his hand was on my thigh. It was clear to me that he was drunk and not aware that he was intruding on my personal space. He was lost in the music and sharing how much certain songs meant to him. He is a man of a certain age in which it is okay to move into a woman's space and assert one's presence. I managed to extricate myself and head home as he insisted I wait for him to accompany me in the pitch black dark. I made it home just fine on my own.
     Contrast this event with Les' first visit to my home in October of 2010. We spent a week together and he behaved like the gentleman he was, even though he was immensely attracted to me. Several times he took my hand to help me step down on a rough path down Kamiak Butte but he never made any moves that were overtly intimate, out of line, or which intruded into my personal space.
High school graduation, age 17, 1975.
     I must say it has been years since I've experienced a situation like this. The last time I was young, curvaceous and beautiful. It happened to me frequently in a world where men were the model and women were the other; where men were active and women were supposed to be passive receptacles; a world where gender defined everything from employment ads in the paper and the kinds of jobs available to women as opposed to men, for whom the entire world was theirs to do with as they pleased, and that included the women in it. Men took up space and made themselves larger and more obvious; women shrunk themselves to fit and take up as little space as possible. Men of this era were born with a certain male privilege they are often ignorant of and thus they behave in ways they fail to hold themselves accountable for, allowing the onus to fall on women to check their behavior and call them on it. It made me shudder to think that for all the advances society has made in the direction of gender equality, there are still dark corners out there filled with "good old boys," as we call them in the States, and "Jack the lad," as they call them over here. I am sometimes mistaken by these blokes as an easy target because I have a friendly smile, good manners, and a soft voice. There are a lot of lonely men on the cut. Les warned me about them and other women boaters have also shared their horror stories. One of the joys of growing older for me, is the way I have slowly become invisible to the Male Gaze. I didn't expect this issue to raise its ugly head ever again in my silver haired years.
     I encountered this individual once more, at the marina gate on my way to a job interview. It was raining and windy, and he insisted on giving me a ride to wherever it was I was going; where was I going???? I thanked him and said no, it was a job interview and I needed to know I could get there on my own. He still insisted, reaching out to touch me, his hand lingering on my shoulder. I shook my head no and walked away as he said with a hurt expression on his face, "Is there something wrong?" He passes my boat three or four times a week, looking for me and waving as he passes. He made to stop once and come to my boat but I dropped eye contact with him and busied myself on my computer and he got the message. This is an example of the kind of issues that can arise anywhere but when one lives in a marina, the neighbors are close.
     The final incident which confirmed that I was making a good choice in leaving occurred Monday. The couple who own the boat moored next to me were up to stay for the weekend. I met them several weeks ago and they were friendly and welcoming. I was taking my rubbish over to the bins as they were getting ready to leave and I told them I was leaving midweek and wouldn't be back; I was in need of employment and public transit was not reliable up here so I was heading for Nantwich. We shook hands and they wished me well. I went out for a walk after dumping the rubbish as I needed some fresh air. I came back to my boat and started baking holiday cakes. I had turned on the calorifier to heat up some water for dishes and a hot shower.
     For Americans and non-boaters this is the hot water heater. As I was tying on my apron a heard a beeping sound coming from the small inverter which I use to power the kitchen range. It had never made this noise before. I opened the cupboard and looked at the inverter. It was lit with a green light indicating there was power. Then it beeped again and suddenly I realized it was telling me there was a problem with the electricity. I raced to the back of the boat and sure enough the batteries were reading a drasticdrop intheir charge to 11.99!!! 14.00 is fully charged. I went outside and quickly checked the extension cord to the landline electrics was still properly plugged in to the boat. Yes. I checked the actual electrical terminal and saw that the switch had been flipped from on to off.  I flipped it back on and went back to the boat. The batteries were charging again. As I sat thinking about what might have caused this I figured it out: the folks on the boat next to me accidentally switched off my electrics instead of theirs, which was still in the on position. It was an innocent mistake which could have drastic and expensive consequences for me.
     Les and I twice have had to replace our batteries because of the calorifier. The first time it happened, we were cruising through the Harecastle Tunnel and I went down the stern stairs in the dark to use the loo. The electrics panel is adjacent to the stairs and was uncovered. I bumped the calorifier switch on the way in, unknowingly turning it on. By the time we came out of the tunnel forty minutes later our very expensive batteries were deader than a door nail. We replaced them with cheap batteries and Les made a cover for the electrics panels. The calorifier is only ever used when we are hooked up to landline electricity. In 2015 we were moored up at Napton marina visiting friends. When we left, we unhooked from the landline electrics but neither of us checked to be sure the calorifier was off. Five minutes later Les panicked as the voltmeter on the boat was showing a marked loss in battery power despite the fact we were cruising. I looked down at the electric panel and the calorifier was still on! It shortened the life of our batteries considerably. If batteries suffer a quick, total discharge of energy they will not hold a full charge again.
     Stressed to the max, I called Ian, the marina manager, and explained what I thought had occurred. I wondered if I could get batteries delivered by Wednesday, did he know someone who could quickly remove my old batteries, install the new ones and dispose of the used batteries? Ian replied yes but first he recommended that I let the batteries charge up over night and then disconnect from the landline and watch them for 24 hours. He thought they should be okay, as they are only a year and eight months old and have an average lifespan of three years. 
Les helping me bake holiday cakes.
     It turns out Ian was correct and the batteries are okay. Whew! 
     My holiday baking has been disastrous. I wanted to double the recipe and bake two
 Golden Ginger Cakes at a time. Distracted by the battery issue, I forgot to double all the ingredients and two cakes failed and had to be turned out to the rubbish bin. I started over again yesterday. When I went to take the cakes out of the oven, one of the tins slipped from m hands, turned over, spilling out all over the floor, broken and steaming.  I sat down and cried my heart out. Last year around this time Les was here helping me bake golden Ginger Cakes. We made ten cakes for friends and family, and then took the train down to London for our final holiday together mooching about the Big Smoke.
The last ever photo taken of me and Les, in London this time last year.
     I woke this morning feeling hopeful. It was about 30F last night and the temperature inside the boat was about 40F first thing. The coal fire was banked and waiting for me to uncover the coals, dump the ash, and feed it  more coal. After a solid breakfast of fresh coffee, a mini Maple bagel, and a bowl of steel cut oats with milk, agave nectar and dried blueberries, I was ready to go. 
     I filled with water, dumped the rubbish, swept the leaves out of the bow and off the roof, checked for water in the bilge (it was dry), greased the stern gland, checked to make sure the calorifier was shut off, turned off the large inverter, disconnected the landline electrics and stowed the extension cords away, lifted the fenders, and started the engine. It had been a month since I had run it. The engine turned over and purred quietly like a kitten. I filled the coal bucket and set the fire, un-moored and cruised away. 
     I feel giddy and happy to be back on the towpath. It is going to be even colder tonight so I've doubled the down duvets tucked into the duvet cover on my bed. The boat windows are covered with insulating plastic. I was amazed to record a difference of nearly 10 degrees in temperature inside the boat after the plastic was in place!

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Courtesy of J Paylor, Luton Museums
     I will be in Bollington tomorrow to take care of some personal business and enjoy a weekend Roses & Castles painting course with Phil Speight--one of the foremost boat sign writers. This class is a gift to myself for having survived the most difficult year of my middle aged life; even more difficult than facing my own cancer diagnosis in 2008 and again in 2009. Friends have offered to help me down the Bosley lock flight and the first 12 locks at Heartbreak Hill. I expect to be heading down the Trent & Mersey by Friday the 8th of December. Nantwich here I come!!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Macclesfield to Congleton and on to Higher Poynton

"The moving finger writes, and having written, moves on. Not all thy piety or all thy wit can cancel half a line of it." ~Khalil Gibran, Lebanese writer, port and visual artist, 1883-1931

     After leaving the swing bridge near the Fools Nook pub behind, I cruised slowly in the warmth of October sun, the canal narrowing in places with large reed beds reaching out from the edges and long lines of boats on permanent moorings. I saw things that Les would have found interesting and no doubt would have taken pictures and blogged about but I find I have to pay very close attention on this narrow, shallow canal lest I find myself stuck in the mud of the shallows so the small, interesting things that catch my eye are there and then gone before I can even contemplate juggling the tiller and the camera.
My Best Beloved and our new sink.
     It only took me about two and half hours to cruise on and moor up just through Danes Moss bridge, number 46, near the Industrial/business estate. A gate from the towpath leads a short walk out to the road which winds through the stores and leads to the London Road. I moored up about noon and secured the boat. An eight minute walk brought me to the main road and Burger King restaurant; not a small commercial shop front tucked in between other concerns with no room to turnaround twice, but a large, proper BK restaurant standing on its own. I reasoned that this might afford them a better chance of actually preparing flame grilled burgers made my way rather than the microwaved, poorly assembled meat lumps on a bun that usually passes for BK over here and I was correct! Lunch was good indeed and a nice treat.
     I noted in my diary that this day last year my right knee was replaced at Warwick hospital and Les and our grandson Jack were home on the boat, replacing the bathroom sink and tiling around it. Les sent me a picture of himself sitting next to the new sink with the message, "With love from me to you. xxxx Get well soon I miss you! xxx"
     The next morning Ken and Sue Deveson appeared at my bow and we walked through the gate, down the small path and out to the car park nearby. They came to show me around the delights of Macclesfield--a town they know well as their daughter Abi, son-in-law Martin and granddaughter Tasha live here. We stopped at Halfords for a couple of items I needed, then continued on into the heart of town, parking in a lot and walking. It was a lovely day, lightly overcast, but warm with no breeze or rain.  Any day it doesn't rain up here is a bonus! After a few more forays into shops for bits and bobs I needed we walked up and found the amazing local bakery Flour Water Salt. Located in an industrial warehouse (soon to move to a shop front nearer the high street), I had the single best latte I've had in this country in the last six years. The Rhubarb Danish was divine and I bought a freshly baked baguette to take away for the week. Ken told me that FWS is among the top ten best bakeries in Britain. They certainly have my vote.
     Afterwards we drove up to Teggs Nose Country Park. Boaters you need to know about this lovely slice of countryside. It is very close to the canal.  If you moor up at the pontoon moorings in Macclesfield, and walk up to Buxton Road bridge no. 37 just across the street from the Puss n Boots pub and walk up hill to the bus stop at Black rd. The park is only a 12 minute walk up hill from the bus stop at Buxton new road at the Settler Dog Walker Barn. For those that are not up to the walk, it is well worth the 14 quid round trip for a taxi up there and then another back down.
     The views of  Jodrell Bank Observatory and the canal are spectacular, as are the views down into the valleys and the scenic way the hills rise up to hug the sky. There are a number of hikes of varying degrees of difficulty from easy, to moderate and there are lovely gems along the paths such as the Library in the Landscape. It is simply not to be missed. Les would have loved Teggs Nose Park if he had known it was so close by the canal and I know we would have visited it. When you stop in be sure to say hello to Martin, the local park ranger. His hard work over a number of years have made this park friendly, very accessible, and Martin is a wealth of information. He is Ken and Sue Deveson's son in law so he is well acquainted with boating.
     Ken and Sue topped off the afternoon by taking me to lunch in Bollington at Italian restaurant Briscola. The food was excellent and the ambience very nice, I can highly recommend them and they do have a take away menu if you are in Bollington and up for Italian. Afterward we drove to Higher Poynton to Victoria Pit Marina where a winter mooring was available to me courtesy of friends. I met Ian Byrceland, marina owner and was shown where the various facilities are located.
     I cruised off again Friday, October 26th on a mist ridden morning, passing the dredger that had been working just ahead of where I had been moored.  I was impressed by how he used the shovel as a metal claw to hold the muck filled barge close to the side of the dredger until I passed. Unfortunately there was an over full barge directly in front of me, just going through the next bridge, headed towards its base in the heart of Macclesfield.

Dredger in the mist!
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A barge in the bridge hole, © Dredgingtoday
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Dredger filling a barge with muck © Dredgingtoday
 The barge had been overloaded with muck from the bottom of the cut and every time it had to pass through a bridge hole it got stuck, requiring the operator to throw it into forward and then reverse repeatedly until he managed to become unstuck and coax the huge barge onward. I had hoped the driver would be courteous enough to pull over into the deeper part of the winding hole directly through the next bridge and let me pass but no, he decided to forge on which left me no choice but to follow at a discreet distance on tick over from bridge 54 to bridge 38 where the barge became well and truly secured to the bottom, half in and half out of the bridge hole with CRT's Swettenham Wharf Yard just in site. We had a queue now of boats behind me, all of us hovering in the cut, waiting for something to happen. Finally the young bloke on the barge manged to back out of the bridge hole and break free. I took the opportunity to s-l-o-w-l-y creep forward next to him as he called out, "I am just too heavy to get through this bridge hole and I need to go get some help."
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Full compliment of barges and dredgers at work, © NB Amyjo
     "Well how about I give your barge a gentle nudge with my boat as you put yours in reverse? At least that way we can go on through the bridge hole and I will signal the guys in the boatyard for you, okay?"
"Okay!" And with a thumbs up from the barge driver, he put it in reverse, I gave NBV a bit of gentle welly and the barge moved gently to the towpath side of the cut, allowing the rest of us to continue on. I slowed as I approached the CRT yard. A huge cat was shoveling up muck from another barge and depositing it in the back of a large lorry. I beeped NBV's horn and called out to get one bloke's attention. I passed on the news that his mate was stuck just the other side of bridge 38 with an overloaded barge and he smiled and gave me a thumbs up. Job done!
    I continued on to Bollington Wharf where Amy and James Tidy greeted me warmly as I took on diesel, coal, kindling and water. I cruised off to moor up on the Bollington aqueduct for four days while I reacquainted myself with the village. Les and I were last moored here for five days back in June 2012 as we waited for some mail to catch up to us Post Restante (general delivery for those Americans reading this). Bollington was a sleepy small village which felt as though not much had changed for many decades. Les and I strolled through different parts of the village each day. On one particularly hot summer day Les bought us both ice creams from the local corner shop and we walked over to to the children's playground at Coronation Gardens, sat on the swings and ate our ice cream while we watched the children play.
     Les commented that he could never have sat here and enjoyed the children at play on his own. A single man watching small children on a playground was suspicious but with me by his side we could sit and watch the children at play, and enjoy the sound of their innocent laughter and childish exuberance. Les loved little kids and I've never met a child that didn't take to Les immediately. He was gifted at spinning amazing stories out of thin air and Les could make almost any child laugh. I have such fond memories of him reading The Gruffalo to our grand daughter Kiera who sat enraptured as Granddad told the story with different voices for the various characters and hand signs like a large claw for the Gruffalo. Though Kiera had heard the story many, many times, she never tired of Les' telling and she always shrieked with surprise and delight, granddad and granddaughter colluding together to enjoy the shared experience.
   It was while moored up here that I met the lovely Bernadette of the Narrow Junk Food Project Boat which I blogged about previously. I was surprised and a bit disenchanted to find that in the five years since I was last in Bollington it had changed, becoming more upscale as commuters with money and jobs in Manchester move in to the area buying new houses springing up like dandelions everywhere throughout the village, changing the flavor and character of village life. I walked to the new Cooperative store for a grocery top up. A young man in his early thirties in expensive casual clothes, shoes, and jacket--clearly a YUPPIE (Young Urban Upwardly mobile Urban Professional)  stood outside the doors with a clip board in hand. As I approached he asked me to sign his petition for a new, second pharmacy in the village. I explained that I couldn't sign it as I didn't reside there.
     Then I stopped and asked, "Why does there need to be another pharmacy? Is there a problem with Rowlands?"
     "It would be nice to have a choice," the young man replied smoothly as he smiled smugly. As an outsider what could I know about the actual issues? While the local branch of Rowlands offers Express prescription delivery, flu jabs, and prescription collection services, they are only open from 8:30 to 5:30 pm Monday through Friday, 9am-1pm on Saturday and closed Sundays. Therein lies the crux of the issue. YUPPIES want to live a "village" lifestyle forcing housing prices and the cost of a lot of other services upward but they want all the conveniences of city living. It is what it is and the times they are "achangin'" as Bob Dylan sang. It just got my back up how smug and smooth this young man behaved while thinking a simplistic answer could buy off an actual query about the nature of the issue. It felt oily and political and left me with a sense of sadness about the nature of change sweeping over so many small villages as they are "discovered". Fortunately there are still lovely folks and old heritage to be found still at Bollington Wharf. The diesel and coal are reasonably priced, the fuel boat NB Alton is based here with trips up to Buxworth Basin every two weeks to service boaters and fuel supplied by delivery van to boaters south of Bollington and below the Bosley lock flight.
     Moving on, I cruised the final four miles to Victoria Pit and gently slid NB Valerie into NB Cleddau's spot while she is gone for the winter to be painted. Mains electricity established, I said hello to Ian, and began to suss out the local area over the next few weeks. I was hoping to find a job in the nearby village of Poynton but there was ought to be had. Waitrose had a position open but I failed the second part of their online multiple choice exam to determine whether or not I was a suitable candidate. After updating my CV, I applied for, interviewed, and was offered a job as an invigilator for Poynton High School and Performing Arts College however it only paid £7.58 an hour with two hours a week during school exam times. Not enough for me to support myself. The woman who interviewed me was sad I couldn't join her team, saying, "What a shame Jaqueline, you would be a lovely addition to our school."
     While it didn't work out for me, the experience bolstered my confidence and made me really consider what work I wanted to do, was qualified for with only a Bachelor's degree, and what would be available in the area. I discovered that Library Assistant is the perfect job for me. I have the necessary skills and abilities, and the pay is sufficient to allow me to support myself. I cannot get a job in academia over here because of my lack of an advanced degree. I was a known commodity at WSU and departments were willing to overlook this in favor of my many years of experience with students and my service to the University community; this is not going to happen over here where I am an unknown and foreign commodity.
     I have applied for two positions with the Cheshire East Council and I began to study public transit to Nantwich, forty miles West, and Alsager, twenty miles westward. This is when I discovered to my chagrin, that one can travel the length of this country but traversing the breadth becomes problematic. It would take three buses and most of the day to reach Nantwich from here at a cost of £12 each way or three trains and £31!
     I am quite isolated here at the upper end of the Macclesfield unless I want to join the hordes of commuters flowing into and out of Manchester each day and I don't! After considering cruising options (as a Continuous Cruiser I have to abide by the requirements of my boat license to cruise on a bonafide journey and to move the boat a minium of every two weeks), looking at places where access to public transit was readily available from a variety of different places on the cut in a timely and affordable manner, I realized I could not spend the winter up here. Bereavement Benefits run out on January 24th 2018 and I have to have a job to support myself by then or soon after.
     After nearly a month here I will be leaving the sanctuary of the marina and cruising once more, this time on a mission: I need to move down the Bosley Lock Flight, off the Macclesfield Canal and onto the Trent & Mersey Canal, through Heartbreak Hill as the Cheshire locks are known, and down to Hassell Green before December 25th to avoid being trapped up here by winter lock closures. I will be leaving here next week, and cruising each day beginning December 4th, until I am down on the Trent & Mersey. I should be able to make it to Nantwich on or before December 20th, taking weather into consideration.
     Why Nantwich you ask?
     This lovely town of 17,0000 is located on the Shropshire Union Canal. There are excellent services and amenities in the town, and good services for boaters on the cut. I can cruise from Nantwich to the winding hole at the bottom of the Audlem locks, cruise back northward into Chester, cruise the nearby Middlewich Arm which connects the Shroppie with the Trent & Mersey, cruise onto the T & M and up to Northwich, back down and across the Middlewich arm to the Shroppie and then up the Llangollen as far as Whitchurch and still access brilliant bus service at various good points along the canals into Nantwich. It isn't hundreds of miles but if I move every two weeks (and I usually move every week to top up water and dump my rubbish) I should be able to stay in the good graces of Canal and River Trust with whom our boat is licensed. I have been in  contact with CRT's national Welfare Officer about my situation and he is working with me and the local Cheshire East enforcement officer to gauge my situation. Once I am employed, if I find it necessary to take a  marina mooring or a CRT permanent mooring then I will do so.
  Besides being favorably located near various canals, Nantwich holds many wonderful memories for me of Les. We spent over a month in the area in late spring of 2011while Les had dental work completed. I wrote my blog post titled Bliss! about our time there. I was  going to link that post to this one but I found as I reviewed it that most of my pictures have disappeared from it! I've no idea what I might have done to cause this, but it certainly ruins the flow of the post which is tragic because it its a really good one. Ah well, it is what it is, as is life without Les. I can only go forward now so, on I go....Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American family and friends. This is my favorite holiday. I can celebrate a gathering of beloved family and friends, good food, and giving thanks. Wherever you all are, please know I am with each of you in spirit! Blessed Be! Jaq/Momma/Mim xxx

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Seesawing Through Congleton

"You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear." ~Sammy Davis Jr., American actor, singer, and dancer  

I have edited this post to try and remedy some issues with Bloger but per usual, Blooger has done whatever it wanted. I apologize in advance for the different sized fonts. I've spent three hours trying to tidy this all up and I now concede defeat!! 

     Once again it has taken me weeks to write a blog post. This isn't due to living such a fascinating life that I am too busy to post; 'nor does it stem from having too little time to write or lack of ideas, or Internet signal. I am simply too depressed to write. Everything seems like a huge effort, even breathing. Just dealing with the activities of daily living or as David MacDonald (NB Waka Huia) calls them, The Administration of Life Duties, leaves me gasping for breath metaphorically. Les was my joy and now he is gone--nine months last week--and my joy has flown with his soul. The only time I have any peace of mind or feeling of serenity is when I am on the back of the boat and it is moving. All else is a long held breath, waiting for a signal to exhale and inhale once more in the hope this time it won't feel like a knife cutting me in two.
     I reached Congleton and moored up just past the Biddulph aqueduct on the straight open stretch of embankment with spectacular views of the railway viaduct across Dane Meadow below. When Les and I were here back in 2012 there were no houses stretching to the edge of the aqueduct on the off side and no houses down in the valley or above on the ridge to the east either; just a small farm that didn't mar the view. In the five years since we last visited, progress has marched onward leaving housing estates lapping at the edge of the canal and a HUGE house down in the valley that lights up like Fort Knox at night. The other fly in my ointment is dogs. Dozens of them!
     I thought it was odd that I remembered the stop lock at Scholar Green, and Ramsdell Hall and then the woods at Bridge 71 but had little memory of Congleton and now I remember why: the local dog owners, not happy to have a huge meadow and woods nearby in which to walk their animals; they bring them out to the towpath to set them free to run--and shit everywhere. In 2012 we cleaned dog poo off our shoes no less than five times in a week of mooring in this beauty spot. I conveniently blanked it all from my memory. This time I stepped in three piles of dog poo while mooring up, swearing a bloody blue streak while scrubbing my shoes in the cut.
     There were only two boats moored up on this section which can easily hold six boats. Virgin trains came and went across the viaduct, scores of dog walkers gathered in clutches on the towpath to discuss local news and admire each others' dogs. The thin sun shone through the clouds and before mid day another boat hove into view: NB Cleddau! Ken and Sue Deveson were taking their boat down onto the Middlewich Arm. NB Cleddau is gone for the winter to be painted at Aqueduct Marina and we knew our boats would be passing one another so we planned to meet and here they were at last!
NB Cleddau and NB Valerie moored up just as they were five years ago in July. A fabulous evening of good food, delightful conversation and shared camaraderie was such a lovely gift between friends.
Sue says hello from the side hatch of NB Cleddau.
        We shared a lovely dinner that left me groaning in pleasure followed by hours of good conversation about a wide variety of things as we always do. The next morning I brought my Nicholson's guide number 5: Northwest & the Pennines, and I picked their brains about every good mooring place the length of the Macclesfield and the Upper Peak Forest canals. Since they have a mooring on this canal Ken and Sue know it well and they were a blessing indeed. After morning coffee it was time for us both to move; they were continuing westward for the Trent & Mersey, and me? Well I needed diesel and coal.
     It was Sunday, October 8th and hurricane Ophelia was making her way northward from off the coast of West Africa. By the time it was due to make landfall in Ireland and Western Wales the next day, Ophelia would be downgraded from a hurricane to a Tropical Storm, nonetheless 65 MPH winds were forecast for the northern region of the country, with torrential rain so it was time to make sure NB Valerie and I were ready to ride it out. 
     I went on to the next winding hole and turned the boat back to the West. The nearest diesel to be found was at Heritage Wharf just to the west of the Ramsdell Railings. I meant to stop there on my way Northward but my mind was distracted by memories of Les and I cruised on past before I realized it. Never mind as my Best Beloved would say, while the water and service points are few and far between on the Macclesfield canal there are enough Boat yards and wharves to take care of things. I played leap frog with Ken and Sue who had cruised a short distance to tie up near the Queens Head pub moorings in the Congleton cutting, taking the stairs up the steep bank side to the street above with a short walk to the very well stocked Premier shop for a grocery top up. I waved to Sue as I passed and carried on, enjoying being on the move again even if I was cruising waters I had just passed through several days previously. Needs must.
     Soon enough NB Cleddau was behind me, cruising along past the Congleton golf course, the winding holes, farm fields, moored boats, canal side pubs, and the Ramsdell Railings until I reached Heritage Wharf and pulled in to moor up. Ken and Sue hailed me one last time and off they went, disappearing ever westward. The folks at Heritage Wharf were a lovely bunch and very helpful. Soon enough the diesel tank was full and four bags of coal were lying on the roof. Although a sign over the marina entrance states NO TURNING, I was allowed to turn around in the entrance to their marina, saving me hours of traipsing along back to the stop lock at Scholar Green, over the aqueducts at Kidsgrove to turn again at Red Bull aqueduct and make my way north-eastward again all the way back to Congleton.
Ken at the tiller of NB Cleddau as they pass me at Heritage Wharf.
     By the time I was approaching Congleton golf course and Billy Tights footbridge (I love that name!) the wind was picking up and I was chilled to the bone. I came through Bridge 77--Lamberts Lane Bridge, passed Congleton Wharf which is no longer a working wharf but an upscale office building with a wide winding hole in front of it and two day moorings across the way on the towpath side. I slowed down to creep over Dog Lane aqueduct and pulled in to the only spot deep enough for a boat to moor. I was just across from an open section of canal with a deep reed bed but no tall trees. When a wind storm is on the way one looks for a sheltered spot with no trees nearby to up root and crush the boat. This spot would do me and it had the added benefit of easy access to the adjacent housing estate which allowed me to schedule an Ocado grocery delivery! After mooring up I took a scalding hot shower, and drank a hot cup of tea while I ordered my groceries and scheduled the delivery for 9 am the next morning, just eking it in before Storm Ophelia arrived. 
     Morning arrived with a deep gray brooding sky. Ocado texted me that my delivery was running late and it would delayed by an hour. I waited until I heard a van sized engine on the other side of the hedgerow and the sound of a huge metallic sliding door opening and I knew my groceries had arrived. I walked down the towpath, turned off onto the grassy area across the street from number 6 Derwent Drive and my order was waiting for me. Five minutes later the delivery man was gone and I was ready to ride out the storm. As the day progressed the winds climbed quickly, blowing through the reed bed which made a susurrating hollow sound as the grasses bent over, rubbing against one another. Trees in back yards were tossing their branches like wild dancers without rhythm. The boat, while very securely moored up on chains, pitched and shuddered as the sky darkened and the sun turned a dirty orange color. Street lights turned on, and leaves scattered with the wind gusts, whipped into a frenzy. Rain lashed the world around me, pebbling the surface of the canal, tapping loudly at the windows and the roof. Inside NBV, I sat with my feet up in front of the stove, the fire glowing warmly as I read. No sleep was had that night as the winds whistled and howled and rain poured from a coal black sky. Below are two short videos of the storm taken from our boat.
     When Les was alive I used to love nights like this; burrowed into each other, held close in his embrace, I felt safe and secure under the down comforter, warm in the nest we made together, the wild windswept world held at bay by our love. Now the world feels desolate and the bed is empty--even when I am in it. I try to write but my thoughts flutter around and suddenly disperse like gray origami birds flying away to melt and disappear before I can clarify any meaning. When I finally do sleep, I wake six hours later to the near minute and no more, with the instantaneous realization that I am alone and Les is still dead. It hits me each time like a fist to my guts, bending me in two, knocking the wind from my lungs, stealing my breath, and breaking my heart again, again. Somewhere along the way on my journey I have moved from the frozen feeling of shock over Les' death, through numb half awareness, to the ever present knowledge of my loss which follows me throughout my waking days and nights. Grief is a living thing--a feral animal shredding my heart with its nails, begging to be let back in again, as if I had any power to keep it shut outside me. 
     On Tuesday morning the world was bright and sunny, blue skies shined above the cut, and I was ready to move again but first I had some cleaning up to do. These winter storms traveling up from the coast of Africa bring orange Sahara dust with them. In spite of the rain, a fine orangy grit coated the boat. Both the stern and bow were filled nearly up to my knees with wet leaves sticking to everything. I swept the leaves off the roof, out of the stern and the bow. I wiped down the sides of the boat and washed the windows while a batch of Brownies baked in the oven and a load of laundry washed.
     A boat appeared slowly crossing Dog Lane aqueduct behind me. It was Teresa Tunnicliffe on NB Rainbow Chaser, towing their purple butty and its tender--a small row boat. I was just preparing to cast off and now I walked to the aqueduct and shouted hello. At last! At last we meet after months of exchanging posts on FaceBook. Teresa's daughter Chez graduated from WSU in Pullman, and worked for awhile as a scientist at Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Tri-Cities where she met her husband Dustin. The world is such a small, small place sometimes.
     Teresa and her partner Carl were stopping in Congleton to top up groceries. I passed them just as I had passed NB Cleddau days earlier, headed back out to moor up on the straight embankment again. We would catch up with one another farther up the cut. I had one last thing to do before meeting friends Amy and James Tidy at the bottom of the Bosley lock flight on Wednesday. As I passed through Congleton cutting I met a hire boat coming in the other direction. I pulled way over as far as I could and slowed down to a stop. The canal is extremely narrow and shallow at this point, with reeds creeping out towards the middle, floating islands of grasses which had broken away from the shore and mats of fallen leaves choking the cut. After they passed I put NBV in gear and started forward the tiller began to shudder in my hand. I had picked up something around my prop. Damn!!! I managed to travel very slowly back out to the embankment and moor up. I had a load of clothes to hang out to dry, and I thought I would change the oil before tackling the weed hatch and clearing the prop. A dry, sunny day requires making the most of it by tackling a list of chores best accomplished without rain, winds, and storms.
    After taking advantage of the lovely mild weather to hang what will no doubt be my last load of laundry dried out in the sun, I went down into the engine bay, drained the old oil out, replaced it with clean oil, mopped and cleaned my engine bay and turned my attention to the weed hatch. I opened it up, sat the hulking, heavy weed hatch cover to one side along with the big metal belt that keeps it in place, and began groping around in the water, feeling my way to the prop. Yep, there certainly was something wrapped tightly around it. I pulled my arms out of the cold, dirty water, reached for the knife Ken Deveson had gifted me precisely for this purpose, and set about hacking at the obstruction. I managed to loosen some of it and pull up a long wad of thick blue plastic rope, tied in knots, and part of a thin plastic line with cloth prayer flags attached at intervals. I worked for an hour up to my armpits in the water but my arms are too short to reach under the prop and the tangled wad refused to come loose.
This phot was taken by the lovely boaters on NB Holderness. Their engine bay is exactly like mine. That green box just above the v point of the engine hole is the weed hatch. The lid is on very tight because a loose weed hatch cover will sink a boat. Removal of the weed hatch cover allows access to the prop which is in the water, down under the tiller.
Now this picture was taken by Halfie on NB Jubilee. This is exactly what it looks like when one goes down the engine bay, removes the weed hatch cover, and straddles parts of the engine while rooting around in a small square opening, up to one's arm pits in canal water, feeling for stuff caught and wrapped around the prop. I had to use someone else's picture of this type of event since I cannot simultaneously root around in the weed hatch and take pictures of myself doing it!
This is only a small part of what was caught around my prop. the rest was cut away and has sunk back down to the bottom of the canal--hopefully to stay there.
     Suddenly I felt the boat dip and I knew that someone or something had just stepped on board at the other end! A standard poodle off its leash, its owner nattering away with several other women all surrounded by loose dogs, had smelled the freshly baked Brownies and leaped aboard NBV to swagger through my boat and place its paws on my galley counter, sniffing eagerly at my pan of cooling Brownies. Needless to say I was livid!!! 
     "Whose bloody dog is this eh???" I call out loudly glaring at the pack of women and their canines.
     "Oh my dog is shaming me," says his owner as she laughs with her friends. She begins to call her dog, as though it is perfectly proficient in the English language and just being difficult in ignoring her exasperated entreaties to "Come! Comer here!! Come right now!!!"
     "You should have your dog under control in public and the best way of doing this is to keep it on a leash!!!"
     "May I come aboard your boat to get my dog?"
     "Well I bloody well guess you'll have to won't you?!!" 
     NB Valerie rocks as the woman and her Poodle wrestle each other in the narrow confines of the boat. She swears at the dog and finally manages to drag it back off the boat by is collar--still not on a lead. No apology, no responsibility, she just walked off up the towpath with her friends, shrugging her shoulders as though I was at fault for the misbehavior of her animal. I found myself wishing for a gun or a whiskey. Either would have done me fine. 
     In my hurry to exit the engine bay, I turned away from the open weed hatch to dry my hands and knocked loose the wires to the fuel pump. Now I had loose wires I didn't know how to repair and something stuck around the prop. I started to cry in frustration. If Les were alive he would have had both things sorted in fifteen minutes. I hate, hate, hate feeling helpless. Time to call River Canal Rescue (RCR). Abi answered the phone, managed to understand me through my angry tears, said an engineer was twenty minutes away and told me to calm down and make myself a cup of tea--it would all soon be sorted. And bless her it was. Jake from RCR showed up shortly after I called, cleared the prop and fixed the loose fuel pump wire, admiring my sparkling clean engine bay. He started the engine and tested the gears to make sure everything was working. I thanked Jake and sent him on his way with a foil wrapped parcel of freshly baked Brownies and went to turn off the engine. It wouldn't shut off! I hailed Jake and he turned around and came back. He found the kill switch on the engine and then spent twenty minutes following the ignition wiring from the panel down in to the engine bay. Every engineer builds boats differently and each boat is wired the way each individual engineer does it so there is no quick and easy way to determine which wire is causing the issue except to start at the ignition and work one's way to the other end, checking with a voltmeter for electrical charge on the line. Eventually Jake found it, repaired it and the engine turned on and off as it should. Job done!!

A picture of the Cloud from the moorings on the Aqueduct near Congleton.
A picture of the Railroad viaduct over the Biddulph valley, taken from the aqueduct where I was moored. This one is for my dear cousin Bryce in Canada!!!      
The beauty of the evening sky in October.
A morning moon! This was taken at 7:20 am.
A boat moored in front of me in the silence of a morning mist.
     Wednesday morning was partly sunny and still milder than usual for autumn. I was up early, dressed for cruising but first I gathered a glass bottle filled with Les' ashes, a trowel, and a Daffodil bulb and I walked up the towpath, over the railroad aqueduct and onward to Bridge 71--the pedestrian footbridge across the canal. On the offside a foot path dips down into a wood before sloping up to a meadow which carries the path off towards The Cloud--an escarpment which stands out for miles above the lower landscape.
      When Les and I were here in July/August of 2012 we walked over the footbridge and as we entered the woods we found a HUGE downed Beech tree blocking the path! It had actually fallen in a winter storm in 2011 and local hikers and bikers had cut away just enough small branches to barely squeeze by on one side. Bicyclists had to lift their bikes over the massive trunk which stretched parallel to the path for at least the length of our boat--58 feet. Les was in Nirvana, dancing around excitedly. Nothing stirred his blood quicker than the thought of wood for the winter! We hiked back to NB Valerie and cruised around to moor up just past the footbridge on the offside. Despite the shallowness of the Macclesfield canal we managed to just pull her in and moor up. We slipped and slid down the muddy foot path--Les with the chainsaw and me with the ax. We spent the entire day cutting up as much of the tree as possible. First we sawed away any lengths we could cut up for wood and set them aside. Then we worked to cut the main trunk into manageable sections which we rolled down the embankment or rolled up to one side out of the way of the foot path, Finally Les sawed sections of the old Beech into rounds and then used the ax to split them into manageable hunks. We each made twenty one trips back to NBV, our arms laden with firewood. Nine hours later the path was cleared, the mud carpeted in a thick layer of sawdust, and our roof was covered in firewood, neatly stacked to dry for winter. We felt blessed to have found such a treasure in such a lovely spot. I loved working with Les to bring in wood. He commented once on our first foray into gathering firewood in 2011, 
     "Jaq I don't know any other woman who would work beside me as hard as I do, and not complain. You really love this don't you?"
     "Yes I do. I like the satisfaction of hard work that pays off. I love the idea that our winter warmth is taken care of, sitting on the roof ready to go when we need it and most of all I love you Les, and I love every minute spent together doing things that make you happy. It pleases me to please you." 
     "I am such a lucky man Jaq. The longer I know you, the more I know how lucky I am and the more I love you. It would have been enough for me that you like living on a boat. You never blink when there is work to be done. You just pitch in and help, even though I would happily do it all for us both." I recall this conversation as I climb up the stairs to the footbridge, tears stinging my eyes as I stand looking at the empty spot where we moored five years before on a sunny, July day, thinking we had decades ahead of us to enjoy life together.
This is bridge 71. We moored just through it on the offside and filled the roof with wood.

Looking behind me at the path leading to the bridge from the canal.
The footbridge across the canal. The woods are on the far side.
The path through the woods; looking back at the footbridge. It is still as muddy as ever!
Part of the large Beech trunk we cut up in 2012 sits beside the footpath to the Cloud in the distance.
The broken trunk of a once majestic Beech tree. It really gives one an idea of the fury of the wind storms that lash this country.
Les and I rolled these two sections of trunk off the path. My blue back pack marks the spot where these two trunks create a safe space...
...and this is where I scattered Les' ashes and planted a Daffodil in his memory.
More of the Beech tree we rolled out of the path. This really give one an idea of just how huge the this tree was; we literally filled the roof of the boat with rounds of woods and stacked them three rounds high to be split later! And still there is so much of this tree left.
The woodland foot path as it passes Les' Daffodil planting, leading to the meadow and the Cloud in the distance.
     I climbed down the stairs on the other end of the bridge, slide down a short, muddy slope, cleared the overhanging branches and the shade of the wood enveloped me. The huge pieces of Beech trunk Les cut away are still there! Nature is slowly reclaiming them; fungus grows now on the exposed sides and animals and insects make their home in the long, thick logs. As I stand facing the split trunk, a couple of hikers and dog walkers slowly pass me, ambling along the path towards the meadow, The Cloud filling the distant vista. They are able to enjoy using this path because my Best Beloved and I spent a day in 2012 clearing away a downed Beech tree together. I climbed over the largest trunk, dropped to my knees, and used the trowel to dig a hole in the earth. Gently I unscrewed the lid from the jar of Les' ashes and poured them into the wet, dark hole, as tears ran down my face and dropped in on top of them. I placed the Daffodil among Les' ashes, scooped up earth and tamped it down around the flower bulb. When I was done, I stood and remembered Les and asked the wood to bless his ashes and watch over this small bit of his remains. I told Les that I love him, and I hope his spirit will visit the wood and rejoice in the memory of one perfect day in July...and then I turned to go.
      Within thirty minutes I was cruising past this very place, saying a sad goodbye, goodbye again. I stop just after bridge 68 to fill up with water and in two hours I am moored up at the bottom of the Bosley lock flight. It is 1:30 pm. I've baked Brownies, and a fresh loaf of Artisan bread for American toasted cheese and ham sandwiches and made a bowl of potato salad. Ten minutes later James Tidy knocked on the window, his sweet brown eyes smiling at me, his wife Amy standing next to him with a windlass. We sat down to eat before tackling the twelve lock flight. Cups of hot tea and a good lunch provided sustenance for the work ahead although I confess: I had the easy part; driving the boat in and out of locks and enjoying the breathtaking view of the countryside. In no time at all really...90 minutes...and we are at the top!! All but two of the locks are in our favor and we meet a CRT work crew bringing a working barge down the second lock. They helped us with the lock gates and I passed them a foil covered package of Brownies for later. At the top lock adjacent to the Service point, I dumped three weeks of rubbish piled in black plastic bags on the roof. It felt great to be rid of it.
Cows pause to consider sauntering over the canal bridge to see if the grass is greener on the other side.
Looking back at the previous lock. As one rises up, the view of The Cloud changes although it continues to dominate the view.
The Cloud seems to rise with the boat!
Amy and James Tidy--helpers extraordinaire, boat people and an all around lovely couple!
     I moored up just past the lock and we said goodbye. They blessed me with their help and their friendship and I am looking forward to seeing more of them over the coming months. Both are working at Bollington Wharf, having brought their boat MB Willow down from the Middle levels and the River Cam where they were based for over a decade as they earned their degrees while living aboard their first boat NB Lucky Duck. Eventually they sold her to buy Motor Boat Willow. I remember fondly the day Les and I visited them and they took us into Cambridge to go punting on the backs. James deftly handled the shallow boat, managing to evade scores of other boaters whose punts were behaving more like Bumper Cars than water craft, while Amy sat with Les and I, pointing out the sights. It was another high point in our lives and something Les never ever imagined doing. That day was a lovely gift and the beginning of our friendship.
     On my own again, I cruised through the next bridge, number 53, past a line of permanent moorings. The perfect space was available just past the very last boat. I would be hunkering down once more as another tropical storm--Brian--came bearing down on us over the weekend ahead. Once again I was moored up in a lovely spot with no tall trees nearby. The boat behind me was moored up for the winter but no one was actually on it. There was a gap of about fifty feet between me and the next boat in front of me. Cows roamed the fields on both sides of me, A small stream traveled quickly through the thicket below me on the towpath side, filling my ears with the sound of running water. The Cloud loomed up behind me. I've risen 118 feet in twelve locks, providing me with a completely different perspective of The Cloud.

Yet another tropical storm was approaching: this time its name is Brian. below is a short video showing its power: 
     The next morning who should appear beside me, but NB Rainbow Chaser! Teresa and Carl moored up past me just around the bend in the cut. While we battened down our hatches in wait for Storm Brian, we visited each other and got to know one another. We have a lot in common; Teresa's husband Bern died of brain cancer six months after they moved to Spain to start a new life. She has walked her own grief road in a foreign country and she knows exactly how I feel. Carl was her neighbor in Spain--another British ex-pat. She is a retired nurse and he is a former RAF aircraft engineer. Eventually they discovered they were a good match and their lives brought them back home to Britain to live on a boat. Teresa is short like me, and Carl is tall and soft spoken with laughing eyes and a kind manner. Time spent with them has been a blessing.
Cows coming down for an early morning sip of canal water.
NB Rainbow Chaser with her smaller purple butty behind, followed by its tender, which is what a small boat tied to a larger boat is called.
Teresa and Carl getting ready to cruise.
     The 19th of October was my 60th birthday. It was a miserable, quiet day. I was not fit to be in anyone's company. It was my first birthday after Les' death, my first birthday without him. It was another "first" in a lifetime of such firsts stretching endlessly out in front me. 
     A grocery delivery at the top lock on Saturday morning brought my weekend paper and a top up of some heavy goods like long life juice and evaporated milk, fresh fruit and veg. I am too young to qualify for a free bus pass. so the cost of grocery delivery is equivalent to the cost of taking the bus into Congleton and back for groceries. We weathered Storm Brian and Teresa and Carl cruised away towards Marple and the Upper Peak Forest. They have relatives coming from the States and a time line that requires a quicker pace than mine. We will rendezvous again as they return to head back down to the Trent & Mersey. 
     I waited two days for good weather to cruise in and today was the day. I faced my first electric swing bridge at Oak Grove near the Fools Nook pub which for some reason makes me think of Tina and Andy Elford on NB Ytene and the time they spent cruising with Les. There is a story there that Les has shared with me, but I cannot pull it to the surface. Never mind...I moor up the boat, walk up the foot path to the lane, cross the bridge, read the instructions, insert my BW key, push the green button, wait an eternity and finally the beeping alarm sounds and the barriers drop at both ends of the bridge. Cars begin to queue at the left and a bicyclist becomes impatient to be on his way. He dismounts and carries his bike up the stairs, across the footbridge, down the stairs and pedals off while the rest of us wait what seems like forever for the bridge to slowly swing open and settle parallel to the offside of the canal, groaning to a stop. I crossed the foot bridge, un-moored the boat, climbed on, cruised slowly through the narrow gap past the open bridge, slowed down, brought in NBV to the side, jumped off with the midline and moored up again. Back down the towpath, across the lane in front of the waiting line of cars, up the stairs, across the bridge, down the stairs and then pushed the red button; waited an eternity while it seemed nothing was happening. Drivers sat ignoring the entire process, texting on their phones. The beeping alarm started up again, the bridge slowly swung back out across the canal and dropped into its place, stopping with a shudder. The barriers lifted and the beeping stopped as I removed my thumb from the red button, retrieved my BW key, crossed the lane behind the departing line of cars, walked back down the towpath, unwound the midline, pushed out the bow, jumped back on and cruised away. I heard Les' voice suddenly in my head: "Good job Jaq. I'm proud of you darling. I knew you could do it."
     Now I have to confess that this post is five weeks past due. The post before this one about The Narrow Junk Food Boat actually took place after everything in this post occurred but I didn't want to leave Bernadette hanging on, waiting for me to post about her enterprise.
     Besides moving through Macclesfield and Bollington, I have simply been overwhelmed with depression. Those who have experienced it know it can take every ounce of your personal determination to rise out of bed and make yourself eat. I have done that most days but there are a fair few days in my personal diary which are blank on the page and in my head; lost days I call them. I am nearing the end of my cruising for this year and the anniversary of Les' death is looming ahead of me. I have to rebuild my life on my own with all that entails and right now it feels so overwhelming sometimes I have trouble getting my breath. I will get this blog caught up to where I am now, and then...well we will see.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs