How to Leave a Comment on Our Blog

1. Scroll to the end of the post.
2. Click on the phrase "0 comments" or, if there are comments it will indicate how many, for example, "8 comments." Clicking on this will open the comment option for you.
3. Type in your note.
4. Choose your Profile. If you don't understand the choices under Profile then choose Anonymous but PLEASE type your name and location at the bottom of your comment so I know who you are!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Springtime Posy: Flowers, Friends and Libraries

"Most things will be okay eventually but not everything will be. Sometimes you will put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you'll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room." ~ Cheryl Strayed, American author
     Spring I do believe has come at last to Cheshire anyway. Daffodils are in full bloom, small wild
flowers have popped their heads above the cold, wet soil and unfolded their tender petals. It is daylight until after 6:30 in the evening and I've been able to let the fire go out in the daytime and keep it banked quite low overnight. I've also re-potted and organized my garden on the bow. It gives me immense pleasure to look out the front doors and see flowers blooming with messages of love from dear friends; a pot of several different types of flowers and Ivy from Debbie Davies, a porcelain pot of dainty bijou Daffodils from Sue and Ken Deveson, Lavender plants that overwintered under the bow gunwales, and a newly planted pot of Double white scented Daffodils in a porcelain pot with some of Les' ashes in it. My bow garden is filled with love given and received.

    It is an interesting week to be moored up at Nantwich. There is a convocation of working boats at Ellesmere Port for Easter weekend. Due to the Middlewich breach many boats have had to reroute themselves and come all the way from Middlewich up the Chester locks of Heartbreak Hill on the Trent & Mersey, through Stone, and then right onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal (Staff & Worcs) at Great Haywood Junction, along the Staff and Worcs to Authorley Junction, onto the Shropshire Union (the Shroppie) and down through Nantwich and on down to Ellesmere Port. This weekend there is also a Jazz Festival in Nantwich. The cut has become a frenzy of huge working boats gliding by, sucking the water out from underneath the moored boats as they pass, brasses shining, and livery aglow, and a raucous mix of hire boats, continuous cruisers and leisure boaters out for toddle in the milder weather. Among this bracing mix two boats stand out: Tumbleweed No. 5, Angela and Steve's abode moored up five boats in front of me, and NB Serena moored up directly behind me with Judith and John Emery at home.
Steve and Angela took me to the store with them yesterday and afterward they came over and we introduced one another to a couple of good games. They brought Continuo which is an abstract strategy and small tile placement game. After the initial setup of four tiles, players take turns adding tiles onto the edges of previously laid tiles, scoring points for creating aligned paths of colors. One point is awarded for each smaller square in a new path giving a score of 2 to 30 or more depending upon the length of the path. Play continues until all tiles have been used. The highest score wins. It only takes about a half an hour to play with 1-5 players. One can play alone like Solitaire and it is a good way to keep the gray matter working so I hope to purchase this game soon. I introduced Angela and Steve to the "railroad game" as Les call his favorite board game; properly known as the Great Game of Britain. I had a great time hanging out with Steve and Angela, both of whom are great fun to be around. 
     Ken and Sue Deveson popped in this morning for a visit while in the area to check on their boat NB Cleddau which is being painted at Aqueduct Marina on the Middlewich Branch--not the par with the breach but this near end of the branch--than goodness! As always happens with the Deveson's we were following the threads of several fascinating conversations when sue looked out the window at a passing narrow boat and exclaimed, Jaq that's NB Serena--aren't she owned by the woman who comments on your blog?" Up I jumped, threw open a window and hollered "NB Valerie!!!" to the bloke on the tiller which happened to be Judith Emory's husband John. He nodded and pulled in behind me in what surely must be the only  mooring spot left in Nantwich! It was meant to be. Soon the Emory's came to NBV and with mugs of coffee and tea all around, our chins were wagging about all kinds of boaty things from mooring pins to who fell in the cut where, and how many times. We were amazed to discover that John and Judith have a home in Pembroke and know the river Cleddau well. Sue and Ken were born in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock and their boat is named after the river Cleddau. Small world!It was lovely to meet up with John and Judith at long last. for the past year we have been near but not close enough for our bows to meet--or our sterns as is now the case. Imagine our amazement when Sue realize we had been chatting for two hours and toilets were not mentioned once!! this must surely be a first for any group of boaters!
     This next item is just an odds 'n' sods kind of thing: usually when I purchase raw prawns or large shrimp at the store, I look for cold water prawns and I eschew buying any farmed shrimp or anything caught in warm waters off the coast of Bangladesh, Thailand or Viet Nam for example. Why??? I read a book some years ago called The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. In it he chooses six locations around the world and details exactly what would happen if all human life disappeared from our planet over night. Then he points out the degradation our planet is suffering under the relentless human greed that rules our world and our careless throw-away mentality especially with regard to plastics, that is killing other life and destroying our ecosystems. It is one of the most important books ever written and one of the most insightful books I've ever read. In its pages I learned about the floating masses of human sewage miles and miles wide just off the coasts of several countries in the Indian and Pacific oceans, the bacteria and viruses which live in them, and how these miles wide mats of untreated sewage affect marine life. It was all I needed to know to make educated choices about what I eat and where it comes from.     That said, I wanted to make a prawn fettuccine and Aldi only had warm water shrimp, already cooked, from Viet Nam. I sighed and gave in, buying 500 grams of cooked prawns. I took them home, refrigerated them for the next night's dinner and thought no more of it. It was late when I decided to fix dinner--about eight O'clock which is very late indeed for an American. We usually eat dinner between 5:00 and 6:00 PM. The lights were off in the boat except for a wall light in the saloon above Les' recliner. I opened the fridge, removed the bag of shrimp, shut the door and lo and behold--the bag of shrimp in my hand was glowing--I kid you not!! I tried to take a picture of it in the dark but I couldn't capture the glow. The entire bag was fluorescing and it creeped me out. I couldn't being myself to eat the glow-in-the-dark prawns so I tore open the bag and tipped the shrimp into the cut where they continued to glow as they slowly sunk to the bottom. The bag, filled with shrimp juice, glowed eerily in my hand. I put it in the trash and decided to forgo dinner all together. Several hours later I opened the galley rubbish bin to throw away a Kleenex and found myself shocked to see the empty shrimp bag still glowing away, nestled down in the depths of the bin. I've eaten seafood all my life and I've never come across fluorescing prawns before. I am back to looking for cold water prawns. If I want fluorescing seafood I'll buy some glow-in-the-dark Crayons and draw my own.     Libraries: Many thanks to a member of the Wednesday Women and dear friend Rhea Giffin in Coeur 'd' Alene, Idaho for sharing her discovery of the Gladstone Library. Located in Hawarden, North Wales, about eight miles outside of the city of Chester, this is the UK's only residential and prime ministerial library, begin by Gladstone himself to share his collection of over 150,000 books with the public. 
     Sleeping with books!! Gladstone's Library with twenty-six en-suite rooms. If you ever had a fantasy about sleeping overnight in the library you can book a room here, visit the library and bring your books back to your room to read! This is the UK's only residential library and its only Prime Ministerial library, founded by Gladstone himself to provide access by the public to more than 150,000 books. Residents staying on the grounds have access to the library form 9 AM-10 PM. There is a bistro on site, Food For Thought which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are reading rooms available and ongoing events and courses throughout the year such as, Blue Sky God: the Evolution of Science and Christianity, Making the Personal Political: An Evening With Writer in Residence Cal Flynn, Taming Shakespeare, Democracy and Its Crisis with A.C. Grayling, Greek, Hebrew, Latin or Welsh in a Week: learn to carry on a conversation in one of these languages by studying for one week. It is assumed attendees will have no prior abilities in their chosen language; Brexit, Trump and the Common Good. Gladstone's Library seeks to offer safe, open meeting space for ideological conversations to occur about many of the larger themes with which our world finds itself grappling.
     The next library on my list to visit is located at Dunham Massey on the Bridgewater canal and is a National Trust property of 3000 acres with a spectacular manor house and others buildings as well as a substantial garden and a Deer Park. Les took me there in 2012. We didn't go in to the house which cost money, but one can wander around the grounds for free and it took most of the day to do just that. Currently there is a tour focusing on the women of the estate titled, "Dunham Massey: A Woman's Place?" The tour begins with the library because it was the room of utmost importance to Lady Mary Booth.      Written history notes that there has been a dwelling of some kind here since before 1066 when it was owned by Aelfward, a Saxon thegn. After the Norman Conquest the land was given to Hamo d Masci. His family owned it until 1409 when the male line died out. The property was then inherited by the Booth family. Mary Booth, born in 1704 was the first woman to inherit and manage the estate. She was taught at home in the library and many of the books reflect her father's desires for her education, with dedications written inside books from him to Mary who was fluent in French by age eight and a competent translator by age thirteen. She was educated in languages, natural philosophy, morality, fine writing and conduct, estate management, account keeping, and business arithmetics in which she was proficient by age fifteen. Mary's personal handwritten notebooks survive, filled with her thoughts on the literature she had just perused. Married at age thirty-two Mary inherited this vast estate when she was fifty-four and managed it until her death at age seventy-seven. 
     Dunham Massey is an accredited museum with 30,000 objects--the second largest collection in the National Trust. There are a number of scientific implements in the library including an Orerry made by Thomas Wright, instrument maker to King George II which is designed to illustrate the relative positions and movement of the planets around our sun. At the far end of the library, above the fireplace, is a painting of the crucifixion by Tintoretto. There are 119 shelves of books in Dunham Massey's library. Mary has a strong interest in medicine and medical procedures as evidenced by books in the collection and historical evidence bears out the fact that Mary's mother underwent a mastectomy on the premises in 1729. She personally negotiated with the Duke of Bridgewater's agents to ensure the canal brought it advantages to her and her tenants.
     One final odd bit: I saw a conversational strand on a FaceBook page recently about outdoor laundry facilities having been installed near the cut in Leighton Buzzard! Looking into it further I found the company that owns the machines is called Kis Wash and they have installed what we Americans call laundromats out of doors across Britain! Several boaters have used them with great success and found them to be very handy so I thought I would share this on the blog for any boaters who may be interested. Their web site needs a bit of work: the Find a location near you map does not actually do what it it should--instead it takes one to a page to fill in information for contacting them about installing the machines or receiving service assistance. Hopefully they will get that sorted soon.
Post Script: I have had to take this post down and re-write it as Blogger did weird things when it posted and some pictures were missing. when I opened it up and chose revert to draft Blogger changes all my fonts, lost some of text, pictures were jumping around, and even now I can only place the pictures in the middle of the page and I cannot add captions! Blinkin' Blogger!!  

Sunday, March 25, 2018

What's Going On?

"Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away." ~Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor, 161-180 ACE

     What can I say? First of all many gracious thanks to everyone--boaters and land lovers--who contacted me after the Middlewich breach occurred, to ascertain whether or not I was affected and if I was all right. I am on the Shropshire Union and have been for the past month so I am okay in that respect. 
     Some of you may have noticed the absence of my last post. I was attempting to clean up some Blogger stuff and accidentally deleted my last post titled "The Beast From the East." Sorry Pip and Mick, Steve and Angela, Phil and Mike and the others who left comments for me. If I could ge it back I would but I don't think that is possible. 
     Time is strange in its passing for me. Each day seems to drag by so slowly and yet all of a sudden four weeks have passed and I have yet to post anything. I still have to talk myself into getting out of bed and facing a new day. Those slow passing days are consumed minute by minute by me attempting to figure out how to move forward into a life I did not ask for and don't want; a life without Les in it. March 19th was his seventy-first birthday and March 24th he will have been dead fifteen months. From mid December on to mid March I have felt as though the world was tilted on its axis and I was sliding into a major depression from which nothing could rescue me. Buffeted by doubts about getting on my feet and moving forward--not just here but in two countries, I've suffered profound regrets at choices made and changes embraced without any real worry about my future. I gambled on trusting the universe with my fate--and I've lost. I am frustrated at how hard it has been to find a job. Actually I've found quite a few and applied for eight, interviewed for a couple but not gotten a single one of them. Back in the States I have always gotten every single job I've ever applied for and wanted but the last time I applied for employment in America was seventeen years ago. I think being a sixty year old woman is counting against me. Employers want fresh school leavers (high school graduates), or young people with newly minted degrees. I am now a part of the invisible generation. I don't feel old, and I don't think of myself as old, but when I look in the mirror without my personal preconceived ideas about who I am, I see an older women staring back at me. I guess this is what employers see as well. All of my education and experience doesn't count for much over here. The other trend counting against me is that applications and all the rest are on-line now and some mathematical algorithm determines whether or not I am worth bothering to interview. I miss the days when one actually went to the place seeking to hire, spoke with a live person face-to-face, filled out an application by hand, turned it in, and then hopefully interviewed and got the job.   
     I seriously considered selling the boat and moving back to the States despite the fact life would be only marginally easier there as it is my country of birth. But I would have to start all over from the ground floor literally as I walked away from my home in Pullman in 2011, losing $40, 000.00 in a crappy market economy in which houses were not selling. Returning now I would have to buy a car, pay a premium on insurance because I have not been insured in the last two years, find a place to live, and find a job--hopefully one that offered decent health care insurance and one which would not count being a cancer survivor as a pre-existing condition which was the case when I moved over here. Yes, I know this issue is supposed to have gone away with Obama Care but I also know many people who are still without insurance due to this issue. Companies find their way around all the laws they can when it means making a profit. I would be giving up a life I love, one I dreamed of before ever meeting Les, and one filled with so many wonderful memories of Les and I together. One thing I do know about rebuilding life (Yes, I've done it more than once; in fact I've done it four times) is that nothing much happens until one chooses a path and stakes a commitment to it. I am my own worse enemy in this respect, and I need to make a decision and come to an acceptance of life as it is. This is how I've been feeling since December. Now with the actual arrival of spring, the longer days splashed with a bit of sunshine and visitors galore, my spirits are lifted.  Having neighbors like Elsie and Eric nearby makes me feel at home here in Cheshire.   
     Elsie and Eric Fletcher on NB Bendigedig called me a couple of weeks ago to ask if they could come and visit. Of course! One partly sunny day they showed up when I was moored at Hurleston Junction. After a cup of tea we walked back up the flight together and they were kind enough to take me to lunch at a lovely place, Alderford Lake, near Whitchurch. The cafe overlooks a lovely lake where one can swim, canoe, or saunter along the edges. Inside the cafe building is also a bijou gift shop with some really pretty items and outside plants of all kinds are for sale. After lunch we drove to Whixall Marina where Eric and Elsie live aboard their boat. It is a truly lovely spot on the Prees Arm of the Llangollen Canal. Thank you both for your fine company and for a lovely day out seeing the beautiful Borders countryside. 
     About four days later I had two more visitors and of course in true Biggs' style I forgot to take their picture. Ah well, it was Robert Rogers and his sister-in-law Sharon. Robert used to own wide beam Wind in the Willows. He is one of the many lovely souls we met on the cut and he became a steadfast friend--and really more like family to me and Les. After grappling with the difficulty of staying in England and living aboard his lovely boat or giving up his life here and becoming a British ex-pat in Brazil, he chose a new life in South America, marrying his lovely Roseni and living a stone's throw from the Pacific Ocean. Robert's work brings him back to England several times a year and he was kind enough to come find me and to bring his lovely sister-in-law with him. Time spent with Robert is always deeply spiritual and satisfyingly soulful and I hit it off with Sharon as well. Thank you both for blessing me with your company, and for removing the old chimney and putting the new one in place. And thanks Robert for the figurine. It means more than words can say. 
     Last Friday Debbie Davies of NB Tickety Boo drove down from Liverpool to spend the day with me. Debbie followed Les' blog prior to his meeting me. Then she followed my blog "So This is Love" avidly. She continued to tag along with us as Les and I blogged together. I discovered her blog in 2009 and followed it closely from the States, waiting eagerly for each new post and enjoying her writing and beautiful pictures. Les and I always hoped to get up to Liverpool to meet her. Now that I am based in Cheshire, I was close enough for Deb to come and find me. What a a wonderful day we had together! The two of us are kindred spirits. We have shared experiences in common, and as I sat listening to Debbie talk about nearly giving up her boat  and then deciding that she loved her life aboard too much to sell up, as we chatted about what living on a boat is like as women who live on our boats alone, and all the things that need doing, and all the amazing things Debbie has done to her boat to make it the lovely home it is, I began to compare our conversation with one I had with Robert, talking about the logistics of selling up and moving back to the States. I knew suddenly that I am where I belong no matter how difficult life may seem at present. As soon as I get a job I will be all right. I will even be able to move forward on my own without Les. I may not like it, but I will find joy in life once more and part of that is staying on NB Valerie and making the best of the situation I have been dealt. So I offer soul deep thanks to Robert and Debbie for reaching out to me, and listening with their hearts while I poured out my own, and thanks to Eric and Elsie for ttheir welcome company and cwtchs. That's Welsh for hugs.
     Part of my dissatisfaction with life has been the realization that I am having to become one of those boaters who cruises a short distance in a local area. I am not a bridge hopper and I am not a continuous moorer but I am no longer a continuous cruise cruiser in the sense of the meaning Les and I enjoyed.  I have no choice but to cruise a specific patch of cut in order to access buses to Chester, Nantwich and Crewe to look for work and then hopefully to go to work. I cannot afford to take a marina or on-line mooring. I have considered both and neither are anywhere in range of my pocketbook.  I have been in touch with CRT and I have been assured that as long as I cruise a minimum of 21 miles in a year and don't overstay anywhere without legitimate permission, I will be okay. My circumstances cannot be helped and it is what it is. But I don't like it and I feel guilty for having to do it and for judging others harshly in the past without having any understanding for what their circumstances might have been. So I am working on letting this go as well. 
     At present I am moored up back in Nantwich after having been down as far as Bunbury. I came back up here for doctor's appointments. I am scheduled for a colonoscopy in six weeks which is the soonest Leighton hospital could fit me in. In the meantime I will cruise slowly down to Chester, staying two weeks anywhere I can access the bus. Where I am currently offers a morning alarm clock provided by the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker which wakes me with both its drumming and its call.  At night I am serenaded to sleep by owls calling to each other amidst the canopy of trees along the cut, under the sparkling stars and the waxing crescent moon. Life is all right--for now.  
Moored up at Hurelston Junction. the gap is caused by the infamous "Shroppie Shelf," a concrete lip that sticks out about eight inches below the waterline It was originally intended to keep working boats from causing damage to the canal. Now days it is a trial for boaters mooring up because we cannot actually pull in flush to the side of the towpath. This requires the purchase of tire fenders which fill the gap. It also requires me to make a jump to board the boat or risk doing the splits!
Two of mine and Les' favorite boaters: Eric and Elsie who live on board their boat NB Bendigedig which is Welsh for Fantastic. 

Looking down the four locks from the top of the Hurleston flight which starts the Llangollen canal. It is a nice half mile walk from where I moored on the Shroppie at the Junction, up along the locks, across the field and along a very dangerous busy roadway to the bus stop which takes one wither to Nantwich and Crewe or to Chester. The saving grace: Snugbury's Ice Cream farm is just up the road and makes the walk worth it with fifty flavours to choose from!
Standing with the lock flight behind me, looking across the farmer's field towards NB Valerie moored on the Shrophire Union canal, on the right of this picture. 
Looking back at the first lock at the bottom of the Hurleston lock flight.
Standing by the bottom lock on the Hurleston flight and looking at the Junction where the LLangollen meets the Shropshire Union canal. To reach NBV I walked along to the right, over the footbridge and down onto the towpath. 
The footbridge over the Shropshire Union at Hurleston Junction. 
The CRT barge heads off for Calvely in the early morning. 
Robert Rogers gave me this lovely figurine of two swans titled "Together Forever." I cherish it as every time I look at it I see Les in the larger male swan and the way he always tried to look after me. 
The lovely Debbie Davies at lunch--without her glasses!! 
Ruth on NB Mountbatten, breasted up with their butty Jellicoe. She is holding the boats steady while Richard fills my tank with diesel. This is Chamberlain Carrying Company who usually ply their trade on the Llangollen canal. They were headed for the working boat convocation in Chester next weekend and blessed me with an appearance at just the right time. The breach of the Middlewich branch cut off Lee and Roberta on NB Halsall, from their usual carrying route and means they will have to take the long way around each time they run their route now.  
Richard in the process of stacking nine bags of coal on my roof. 
This is how the clothes get dry in winter...
and my first load of clothes hung out to dry in today's lovely sunny, warm spring air!!

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs