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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Master Herbalist Available for Consultations

"Most allopathic doctors think practitioners of alternative medicine are all quacks. They 're not. Often they are sharp people who think differently about disease." ~Mehmet Oz, MD, FACS; Turkish -American cardiothoracic surgeon, Columbia University professor, attending physician at NY Columbia Presbyterian medical center, television personality and author. 

     I began training with a master herbalist in Spokane, Washington in 1990. I studied under her tutelage for nine years and one day as is traditional for a Green Witch--one whose allies and familiars are plants and who is gifted with a drive and ability to help others heal. Since before I could read and write I have had a deep affinity for plants which told me their names. They have always communicated with me and I often knew as a very small child, which berries and plants I could eat and which should be avoided by simply holding a leaf or stem in my hand and listening for its message. I saw nothing remarkable in this for it is as natural to me as breathing. I stepped out onto this path for several reasons: I was fortunate to have been brought to the attention of a very gifted and knowledgeable elder in the Craft who was a master herbalist and upon meeting me, she was willing to accept me as a personal tutor, fitting my training into her already overburdened life for which I will always be grateful. Daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly I practiced side by side with her, learning as her apprentice how to identify healing plants, how to gather them from the wild or grow them in my garden. I memorized the dozens and dozens of general healing properties of plants, how to create teas, decoctions, capsules, pills, tinctures, poultices, and infusions. I also learned the magical properties of plants and their uses.
     The link between Witches and herbal healing is ancient. The village wise woman and midwife had an intrinsic understanding of herbal lore and the energies of the natural world. (If you wish to know more about this history then please follow this link.) I even learned the reason that Witches knew so much about poisonous plants and grew them in their gardens. It was not to use them on their neighbors or enemies; it was as a means to end their life during the four centuries of persecution by the Christian church which actively pursued mainly women for the crime of witchcraft. If one was taken prisoner there would be three degrees of "questioning" which involved ever greater degrees of inhumane torture. Therefore those persecuted for witchcraft would make use of the poisonous plants to end their own or a loved one's suffering.
     Before we go any further in this discussion--for yes I think of my blog posts as discussions: I write my ideas and thoughts and readers respond likewise--It is crucial we all share an understanding and definition of what witchcraft actually is. There are many different branches and sects of the Craft just as there are in any religion. For me it is a spiritual path that recognizes my deep ties to the earth and all nature. We evolved within its system and, try though mankind may to divorce ourselves from nature and seek dominion over it, we are all of a part and as ill or well as the whole. Witches recognize everything in nature has energy, and just as Einstein so elegantly phrased it, we too understand that energy never dies--it only changes form. Witches are often born gifted in working with nature energy although it takes training to bring this under a discipline that allows one to use this energy wisely and ethically. We have no dogma except this: An' it harm none, do what ye will, for whatever thee send out to the world will return to thee threefold."  Those who practice unethical twisted magic are called followers of the left hand path. There is no such thing as white and black witches. There is only energy and how it is used and to what end, bearing in mind the Wiccan Rede, above.
     Out of my studies and practice I realized I could keep myself and my children healthy and out of the doctor's office which was essential. I was a full time student at Eastern Washington University and I had no medical insurance. I was thirty three years old and I would not have medical insurance for myself until I was thirty eight and working for Spokane Public Radio. I still could not afford insurance coverage for my children. I was grateful they were finally eligible for coverage by the State of Washington for minors living in poverty which my $16,000.00 a year job classified us, as working class poor. In America we don't have social class distinctions as they exist in Britain. Our class system is economic: Indigent or poverty stricken (no income and no means of support), working class poor ($6,000.00 to $26,000.00 per annum), working class ($26,000.00-$34,000.00 per annum), lower middle class ($35,000.00-$75,000.00 per annum), upper middle class ($100,000-$350,000.00 per annum), and wealthy. Herbal medicine and other alternative complementary medicines allowed me to keep my children healthy in a manner I could afford, and which I believe is better for all of us in the long run. It also placed the empowerment and responsibility for good health in our hands. My youngest daughter broke her arm on a local playground about a month after we moved to Eastern Washington. It was Independence Day weekend. The break was sufficient to require surgery twice and three ambulance rides between three different hospitals for the closed site surgery, angiogram, and open site surgery with hospital recovery time of ten days. In 1989 that cost me $10,000.00 and it took me years of making payments as I fell behind and eventually had to go through bankruptcy courts because interest on the unpaid debt carried it to a total of over $20,000.00. That said I do want to underscore that while medical care in America is expensive, we at least know how much everything costs, we know nothing is free, and while a physician may set himself up in private practice, when a doctor takes on a patient he works for that patient which I believe more often than not produces much better outcomes now than doctors working for a large corporation be it private or government funded. Americans go into the doctor's office armed with knowledge and eyes wide open and we expect to develop a doctor/patient relationship for our benefit. I am not saying American medicine is perfect because no system created by humans ever is and I want to underscore this idea. Studying Marxism at University taught me that one may develop some really elegant theories but the minute they are put into practice there must be a recognition that the wild card in any theoretical system is always the human beings involved in it and we humans have a gift for f*****g up anything we touch!
     My studies began and were underpinned by my studies of the Craft of the Wise as it is known in some circles. I don't call it Wicca because that is a New Age label and what we practiced was very "old age," if you grasp my meaning. If others need to pin a label on what I am and how I practice then I am most comfortable with Hedge Witch, or Green Witch. I seek nature first and foremost in all I do in order to find answers, healing, and direction in life. This does not mean I scorn allopathic medicine. It means I recognize it has limits like everything else and in the 21st century too often modern medicine practitioners prescribe chemical pharmaceuticals to treat symptoms without taking time to really know and treat their patients and their actual illness. Allopathic medicine is brilliant at diagnostics and surgery. I believe modern medicine lost its way when it climbed into bed with the whore that is now Big Pharma. I've had friends and colleagues who were on as many as nine different drugs, with most of them counter indicative to one another, creating a perfect storm of illness that placed these individuals in hospital, required surgery for symptoms, and I've seen many loved ones mis-diagnosed and mis-treated and a fair few have died because of pharmaceutical drugs and their very potent side effects. As those of you who have followed this blog for years know, my lovely husband Les died not of Colo-rectal cancer from which his body was slowly healing; he died from a second line bone carcinoma which developed in his lower spine as a result of radiotherapy he was forced to undergo in order to have the cancer surgery he needed. I recognize these issues also occur with unscrupulous so called "snake oil salesmen", however allopathic medicine is the mainstream even going so far as to demonize alternative medicine and therefore it has a much larger responsibility for which to answer.
     It is important to understand one of the key distinctions between allopathic and natural or alternative medicine: herbalists recognize that nature/God/Goddess--call it what you will--in its wisdom allowed plants to evolve in every continent of this planet (save Antarctica in its present icy state) which heal a multitude of illnesses with which animals may heal themselves and yes, we humans are animals and a part of the chain of animals in nature.
     The healing efficacy of certain plants was recognized by apothecaries. Modern pharmaceuticals began in the mid 19th century when apothecaries moved into wholesale production of drugs such as morphine, quinine, and strychnine, and dye and chemical companies that established research labs and discovered medical applications for their products. Pharmaceutical labs find a promising medical use for a plant and it is taken into the lab to break down its components to identify the main active ingredient which is then developed into a drug, undergoing field tests in order to allow drug companies to manufacture the formula for profit. In doing so the pharmaceutical and chemical companies are attempting to create a miracle cure marketed as a magic bullet. Aspirin is a perfect example of this system in operation.
     Plants with analgesic power to reduce fever, pain, and inflammation have been recognized for many thousands of years. The Egyptians and Greeks used White Willow bark tea to treat their patients. By the 19th century chemists were tinkering with the active ingredient in Meadowsweet (Filipendula Ulmaria), a lovely honey scented plant growing everywhere along river banks and known for the same properties as White Willow Bark. In 1853 a chemist by the name of Gerhardt teased out the active ingredient and named it acetylsalicylic acid. In 1899 chemists working for the German drug and dye company Bayer developed a chemical means of synthesizing acetylsalicylic acid and Bayer named their synthetic chemical Aspirin. 
     Herbalists on the other hand recognize the healing power of the whole plant. We understand that all the constituents of a plant's chemistry work synergistically to produce healing. With the magic bullet Aspirin also comes the side effects of acid stomach and prolonged use causes leaky gut syndrome as the gut mucosa is destroyed by this acidic compound leading to other diseases such as IBS. Meadowsweet capsules or White Willow Bark tea on the other hand, having all parts of the plant included do not produce the same side effects so in my estimation as a master herbalist its healing power is much greater than synthetic Aspirin. To put it short and sweet all the chemicals in a plant are in there for a reason and all of them act upon one another to effect safe, effective healing. With herbal treatments time is the other piece of the antidote to healing. Herbs take longer to effect many cures because the entire plant is far more complex than an isolated active ingredient (magic bullet) and time is necessary for the human body to experience the full healing process without nasty side effects. Nature in its great wisdom understands that time is also a healer and natural bodies require time for healing to have a lasting effect. 
     Seventy four percent of all pharmaceuticals are derived from plants; eighteen percent from fungi, five percent from bacteria and three percent from vertebrate species like snakes and frogs (eye of newt and toe of frog; and they call us Witches!!)
     Okay that is the theory behind all of my knowledge and experience. Onward is crucial to recognize that I am not a physician. I do not diagnose illness or prescribe medications. If someone comes to me for a consultation and they have not seen a doctor, I can only point them in certain directions based on their symptoms but it is always best if folks go to see their GP and seek a professional medical diagnosis. It turns out that a lot of the time I am correct in my directions, but still, a formal diagnosis by a doctor is essential and I like to think the information I provide to my clients helps them have an intelligent and measured conversation with their physician which will hopefully move the diagnostic process forward.
     For those who decide for whatever reason, to pursue natural medicine alternatives as a means of addressing a disease or illness, and who ask me to consult for them, I first require the diagnosis and any suggestions or recommendations of their GP. Then I spend hours and hours, usually several days, researching alternative treatments backed up by nearly thirty years of experience as a university researcher and I also do a guided meditation on that person, asking for assistance in finding the most effective remedies for them. Each human being and their 30 trillion cells are as individual as a snow flake or a leaf, and what works for one person may not work for someone else. I write up my recommendations with links for places where any of the needed herbs or other items may be purchased. I also include straight forward directions on how to use everything I recommend and for how long. I always ask that clients let me know how they are doing and check back in with me.
     In the past I have always provided consultations for free as a part of service to my community as a priestess of The Goddess. Now what you may ask does that mean?  A Witch is always a Witch at his or her own altar; a Witch called to serve the community is a priest/priestess who offers themselves in service others. I was consecrated as a priestess called to serve my community in 1995 and I have designed and partaken in small group and large community rituals in my community. I gave my practice of herbalism to my community for free as a token of thanks to the Goddess for embracing me and showing me my path though this life. There is a saying in the Craft: Witches heal. But one must first heal one's self before truly being able to heal others. I did so when I researched and undertook a two and a half year alternative treatment for ovarian cancer. That was in 2009 and I am still cancer free. When I provide a consultation I never bring my spiritual background or beliefs into it. I have chosen to illustrate my beliefs in this post so that others may know how I came to be a master herbalist, why I chose to do so, and what informs my practice. Healing and herbal medicine as well as working with plants are part and parcel of the Craft. Not all who practice medicinal herbalism come to their practice in this way 'nor do they need to, but I did.
     Now that I am widowed and no longer have Les' support and loving care I find the need to develop a means of supporting myself. After a long and agonizing meditation about this, and with the support of dear friends like Marilyn McDonald on NB Waka Huia, who wrote an honest recommendation on my services under the comments in my last blog post,  herbalist Kit Alcott on NB Mudlark, and others who have suggested I undertake to use my knowledge to support myself. So my shingle is hanging out now and I am open for business. Please contact me for specifics as to fees and with any questions you may have. I wish you all good health, great love, deep joy, and peace.

"Medicine’s a funny business. After all, dispensing chemicals is considered mainstream and diet and nutrition is considered alternative.” ~Charles F. Glassman MD, FACP, American Internal Medicine specialist, author, and MC coach 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Les and Jaq Mooring Spot

"Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, 103-1882. American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century.
     This is a bits and bobs post. Lots of disparate moments strung together in order to bring readers up to speed on life aboard NB Valerie. I've been moored up near the bottom of Audlem locks for a couple of weeks on fourteen day moorings. I spent a three day patch in Overwater marina week before last in order to give my batteries a good charge and use the dedicated water point on the jetty to wash the curtains, and the inside and out of the boat, as I mentioned in a previous post. Audlem is a sweet village without any of the canal pretentiousness and preciousness of other popular canal villages like Stoke Bruerne. Of course that is merely my humble opinion and since this is my blog I am allowed to say it. Les felt the same way about Stoke Bruerne especially once the mooring times changed from one week to 48 hours. As CC'rs we need three days somewhere maximum. One day to arrive, moor up, and catch up the chores aboard the boat. One day to catch a bus or walk in for groceries and pick up post restante mail, and ideally one more day to spend money in the area: eat out, check out local museums, have a walk around the village or town. With the shortened mooring times at Stoke Bruerne there was no reason for us to stop. Anyway, I digress...

Local crew of Greylag geese visiting the winding hole at the bottom of Audlem locks.

A Moor Hen gathering rushes across from my Audlem mooring. 
     Audlem is twee and doesn't take itself too seriously. There is just enough services for a boater like myself and the people both in the village and on the canal are down to earth friendly. There is only one snag. With cuts to the bus routes throughout Cheshire county, there is only one bus traveling through Audlem now: the D&G number 73. It travels from Whitchurch, Shropshire which is two miles east of the Welsh border, through a host of small villages on its way through Audlem, more small villages and finally into Nantwich. It only makes its route every two hours and it digresses in two spots for school days but the actual schedule makes no sense when one is trying to suss out which particular time the bus might do this.
     Audlem is right near the boundaries between two counties: Cheshire and Shropshire. Good luck to 'ya getting from Audlem to anywhere in Shropshire without a great deal of forbearance if you don't drive or own a car. 
Here is a perfect example:
Audlem and Market Drayton are both located on the Shropshire Union Canal. Audlem is located in Cheshire County. Market Drayton is located in Shropshire County. There is seven miles between them. One can drive from Audlem to M.D. in fourteen minutes or walk along the canal in two hours. Getting there by bus??? Phwaooarr!!! It will take three hours and forty minutes, a train and two buses: the 73 into Whitchurch where one gets the Arriva Train to Shrewsbury where one gets off, walks into the town to the bus station and waits for the Arriva number 64 to Market Drayton! Since April 2018 Cheshire East Council has axed 13 bus routes and diminished another 13 to MWF, or early morning and afternoon school run times.
     I want to give a shout out to Angie and Steve on their share boat NB Streamlines. Angie reads the blog and was kind enough to wave me down on their way through Audlem to say hello. Also a shout out to Allan/Alan??? whose boat name escapes me; I do remember it is a Celtic name. He introduced himself to me at the counter in Overwater Marina and told me he has read our blog for years. Many thanks to all of you for stopping to chat with me and let me know you follow the blog.
     When I left Overwater Marina on the 14th, I came out and moored up again near the bottom of Audlem locks as I had not used up my fourteen days however, the 2018 Transport Festival was scheduled for July 28/29th and I knew it would soon be rammed so I wanted to be well clear of Audlem before mid week. Monday last I turned at the winding hole and cruised back up the cut a half mile and into Overwater marina again!! Sudden repairs were required and I was grateful there was someone at Overwater Marine services who could do the work for me at an affordable rate. I had an engine belt squealing. It had started about a week previously and was intermittent. I didn't hear it when starting the engine. It waited until everything was warmed up and I was cruising along the cut before wailing like a bean sidhe which, besides being extremely worrying is also incredibly embarrassing. I had no idea what was causing it or how to fix it. I also lost a port hole window to the cut. Actually the window had been broken by Les back in 2011 when we were gathering wood on the cut. He was hoiking logs up on the roof, tossing them from the towpath and he miscalculated with one log. Instead of landing on the roof it went through the back cabin porthole window. It didn't take out the entire window, only the hopper at the top which opens. Instead of getting it replaced my sweet hubby found a piece of Perspex, cut it to fit the half moon of the upper window and glued it in place with gray plumber's mastic. The extremely high temperatures we've been exposed to this summer melted the plumber's mastic and the Perspex fell out into the cut. I managed to secure a piece of Saran wrap over the window opening, using what was left of the mastic and some masking tape for the short term, so back in to Overwater Marina I went. I spent one night there while measurements were taken and given to a glass cutter off the premises somewhere. The old drive belt was removed and it was then I was informed that it and the other two new belt Les had left for me didn't actually fit my alternator, which had been replaced at some point before Les and I met because the Vetus engine and all its parts are painted a bright Vetus yellow; the alternator is unpainted metal alloy. It was suggested that the smaller belts Les had picked up probably fit the old alternator. So a new drive belt of the proper size was ordered.

NB Valerie moored up in Overwater Marina. The local Greylag Geese gang swim into the marina, and glide underneath the dock to waddle up the bank to the lane.

It is quite a long queue! NB Sonoma moored behind them is a one of the new Finesse narrow boats. I had a chat with the owner who had her made just over a year ago. A Finesse boat comes with a 14 month guarantee. If anything should break or if the owner should be unhappy with anything the company comes out and sorts out the issues for no charge. A crew from Finesse was there earlier in the day to sort out several items for owners Gordon and Dawn Scott. 

After queuing up, gliding under the dock and crossing the puddle on the other side, the ducks waddle up the bank, linger along the lane and then waddle off to plop into the canal which is bordered by the hedge in this picture. Why they don't simply fly up and over it all to reach the cut is beyond me. It underscores that old saying "they don't have the sense god gave a goose." Never mind, I think Greylag geese are pretty even if they aren't geniuses.
     In the meantime I stopped in to The Cafe at Bridge 80 where I discovered they serve gluten free items. I ordered two gluten free cheese scones and a cheese quiche to take back to the boat and all of it was delicious!! What an amazing place to find food I could eat and good gluten free food at that. The next morning the drive belt was replaced as was my window and I went up to the office to pay. Many thanks to Carol and David in the office, and Simon and Ralph in the service shed for your kindness and assistance. As I left the office it began to rain!! WOOT!!! I rushed back to the boat, unwound my mooring lines and cruised off in the rain, happy as Larry, as they say over here. For the first time in more than two months I was cool and comfortable.
     While the rain lasted for over an hour and pelted down, soaking me to the skin, I knew the forecast for the rest of this week was dire. We were told to expect the highest temperatures yet this year with Amber heat warnings for today and tomorrow and then heavy rains on Saturday. I had just the perfect spot in mind to moor up and wait out the weather--a Les and Jaq spot. About a mile and a quarter from the marina is a bijou section between a canal bridge and an old railroad bridge hole where the actual structure has been removed. The canal dips into a cutting just there with adequate shrubbery and trees on both sides of the cut to provide shade for all but the hottest parts of the day. It is cool and green with just enough room for two boats to moor on metal siding and no Shroppie shelf! No one else ever moors there. Everyone continues through the bridge and moors up on the long, open stretch with no shade and a lousy view across a farmer's rubble strewn field or continues on towards Audlem to moor up.
The views from the bow looking at the old railroad bridge footings at the top, and from the stern to the bridge. these two features form a small cutting past a cluster of farm houses in Cool Pilate. Through the bridge hole the towpath leads out to a ramp up to the lane and the bridge.

The view of my Les and Jaq spot from the top of the bridge.

Looking back at the bridge hole. NB Valerie is moored on the other side. The ramp leads up to the lane which ends on the right in a gate to a farm field. There is a lovely wild cherry tree at the top of the ramp with tiny red cherries. 

View from the top: the gate, the ramp, the bridge and the cherry tree. 

The end of the road. 

Standing at the gate looking to the left the road disappears from view, intersecting with Cool Pilate Lane. This is a great spot to have a grocery delivery. Just use the address of the house with instructions that you are on a narrow boat moored just through the bridge. 

The uninspiring view through the bridge of a long slice of canal where most boats moor in the unrelenting sun. 
A spectacular sunset looking back to the bridge hole from NB Valerie. 
     The other sweet thing about this little slice of paradise which is about 120 feet long max is that boats must slow down when passing because they have just come through a narrow bridge hole and will be traveling through the very narrow bridge footings in the opposite direction. Finally, just through the bridge is a ramp up to the lane which is a perfect place to have a grocery order delivered--which I did at 6:30 AM Wednesday morning. With a full tank of water and all my laundry caught up, groceries delivered for two weeks, required health supplements for another month on board, rubbish and loo emptied I was sorted. I was in for a lovely surprise on Friday when NB Holderness cruised up with Tony and Helen hailing me. I saw them last when Les was still alive. It was such a joy to sit for a bit and catch up with them both. They were headed on up the Shroppie towards Authorley Junction. As we were saying goodbye NB Forget Me Knot hoved into view, AKA Baked on Board Pizza!

Two genuinely lovely people: Tony and Helen Porter and their boat NB Holderness. 

NB Forget Me Knot aka Baked On Board Pizza on their way to Audlem for the Transport Festival.

A close up of the wood oven pizza installed in the bow of NB Forget Me Knot. 
     I walked into Audlem yesterday for a Saturday paper: four miles round trip, but the towpath is even and fairly smooth all the way so I simply took my time. It took me an hour and thirty minutes to walk there and back with about twenty minutes in town to chat with a few known locals.
The Transport Festival was on this weekend and Audlem was rammed with old working boats and replicas. I stopped in at The Borders Cheese Carrying Company boat and bought a truckle of lovely Welsh Caws Cenarth Cheese Company's Caws Cryf.
     I stopped to say hello to Ruth Chamberlain, half of the Chamberlain Carrying Company. She and her husband Richard deliver fuels and goods to boats on the Llangollen on their boats Mountbatten and Jellicoe. Ruth also paints roses and castles on an array of goods for sale and she has beautiful style. I saw furl boat NB Halsall moored up on the offside but didn't have a chance to say hello to Lee and Roberta. In town I ran in to Samantha and John, two boaters whose acquaintance I made on the bus from Crewe back in March. They live on a replica working boat on Stoke Manor permanent moorings. They are both retired archaeologists and it is always a pleasure to stop for a chin wag with Sam and John.
     I was all in when I reached home. I preheated to the oven and started a chicken crown with baby carrots and potatoes to roast for dinner and gathered two cups of fresh blackberries from just outside the boat. I had a fresh batch on the go of Easiyo Greek yogurt with honey--my favorite flavor. When it was ready I refrigerated it for an hour while I cleaned the berries, drained them, placed the brambles in a small saucepan with 1 Tablespoon of water and four Tablespoons of Maple syrup. I grated the zest of one lemon over them with an half teaspoon of lemon juice and let the berries simmer on low.when they reached a low bubble I added in some corn starch to thicken the purple juices and turned the heat off to allow the berries to cool down. Then I stirred them into my fresh yogurt for the most delicious Blackberry yogurt I've ever eaten. I had a small bowl for dessert after dinner with a gluten free McVities Hob Nob. I napped while the chicken cooked; I fall asleep easily in the afternoons these days and at night now as well although I never sleep more than five hours a night.
     I am still researching Auto Immune (AI) diseases and Crohn's in particular for which I will write a long, detailed post regarding my findings. At this point I will only say that AI diseases while having some similar symptoms from person to person, have a lot of individual issues specific to one person. this is because AI diseases are systemic and so it is not just affecting me, it is also affecting the trillions of cells that make up my body. After meeting with the colorectal surgeon to go over my diagnostic results I have heard nothing more. I feel as though I have been cut lose to deal with this on my own. I have not received a referral to a gastroenterologist as I was told would happen. I have heard nothing from my GP and I am in the process of finding a new GP. Trial and error combined with unrelenting research have yielded a protocol that is working for now. Failure to follow this protocol means my digestive system shuts down and stops working.

The supplements that allow me to digest food and heal from a Crohn's flare up. 

I've never been able to grow fingernails. Mine have always been brittle and paper thin. With all the supplements, nutrients, vitamins and minerals I am ingesting my nails are hard as concrete and have to be filed down twice a week!
     I eat as much homemade yogurt throughout the day as I desire, with gluten free cornflakes and lactose free milk for breakfast, accompanied by a probiotic capsule and a mega multi-vitamin. Cups of green tea throughout the day help keep me hydrated with large glasses of water to help swallow the huge Omega 3 wild fish oil capsules required to fight and heal the inflammation in my gut. I take two capsules daily of seven digestive enzymes: one about fifteen minutes before lunch and again just before dinner otherwise I don't digest most of my food. I have two Whey protein Isolate shakes every day. The Gluathione in the whey is essential for healing any digestive issue and we stop making it as we age. If I stop the whey shakes I find after about four days I can no longer digest any food. Before bed I take two Wild Oregano oil capsules to kill the pathogenic bacteria load in my guts. The process of healing from a Crohn's flare up can take as long as three years. During that time if one consumes gluten it sets the clock back to zero; AI disease shortens the average person's life by 26 years. Life without sugar, alcohol, or fried foods is not too difficult but no coffee, tea, or red meat is a hardship. I will miss my coffee every day of my life. I didn't eat a lot of red meat but I do love it and I am sick of chicken and cod. Sea bass is off the menu because of extremely high levels of mercury in it. I try to eat salmon but I only really like King Salmon and it isn't readily available over here.

Our beloved Easiyo yogurt maker full of freshly made Greek yogurt with honey, top; freshly picked blackberries transform this yogurt into a berry delicious dessert. 
     Gluten gives breads and baked goods that toothsome chewiness that we take for granted. Gluten free foods don't hold together well without Xanthan gum and even then they will never have the texture or rich flavor of wheat products. Once you begin to chew a gluten free item and saliva wets it down, it dissolves into either a mushy goo or a grainy, sand-like texture. These products are also VERY expensive. It is £1.05 for a 500 gram box of regular Corn Flakes. Gluten free Corn flakes cost £2.20 for the same amount and the only difference is the regular cereal is sprayed with barley syrup and the gluten free flakes are not. Six regular par-baked rolls cost £1.60 and gluten free pettit pain cost £2.40 for six.This price increase holds true for everything gluten and lactose free.The other issue with Crohn's is that gluten is in bloody everything! Lipstick, shampoo, medicines, skin care lotions, and all foods across the spectrum from frozen food to soy sauce.
     I find I run out of energy quickly and need to rest. I have no passion for life in general and I have to force myself out of bed in the morning, and make a list, then force myself to start on things. I am utterly drained and working diligently to keep moving forward, with one foot in front of the other. I thought it was grief that made me feel this way and it no doubt was for a long while. But I know now and the colorectal surgeon confirmed it for me, that this emotionless exhaustion is a hallmark of AI disease.
     I'll leave you now with a view of the moon from this sweet spot...

The waxing moon...

Monday, July 23, 2018

Boat and Trains

This is a Les post. It is something Les would have written and shared. This post comes out of an email to a friend who wondered about where one could catch a train near the canal. Obviously this list is not comprehensive and does not include all the canals. These are the places Les and I sussed out on our cruises in order for us to make our way back down to visit family or to attend medical appointments in London. I hope this will be helpful for some folks. Jaq xxx

Coventry Canal:
Coventry (Basin)
Bedworth (Bridge 13 or 14, 20 minute walk)
Atherstone (Bridge 43)
Polesworth (Bridge 54 15 minute walk)
Tamworth (Bonehill Rd. Bridge; walk into industrial estate and catch Arriva Bus 65 or 16 at Etchell Rd and Ventura Park by the Volkswagon dealer)

Grand Union:
Hemel Hempstead
Tring cutting, (Bridge 135)
Leighton Buzzard
Fenny Stratford
Milton Keynes (Campbell Park)
Long Buckby

G.U./Warwick line:
Leamington Spa (Bridge 41 or 42)
Warwick (There are 2 stations: Saltisford Arm. It is a 15 minute walk from the Arm; moor up by the pedestrian footbridge across from Warwick Hospital. Walk over the bridge and catch the X17 at Scar Bank across the street from the hospital. It runs every 15 minutes and drops off just adjacent to the RR station)
Hatton Lock Flight bottom, bridge 26; five minute walk to Norther Rail station)
Hatton village (Bridge 56)
Lapworth (Bridge 65 G.U. canal, five minute walk)

N. Oxford Canal:
Napton (Catch bus 665 in to Leamington Spa and walk five minutes to the rail station)
Clifton (Bridge 66. Walk up the lane to Butler's Leap bus stop. Catch the bus in to Rugby town and another one to the station))
Rugby (Bridge 58, walk down the Black path past the Tesco and catch a bus into town and another one to the Station)
Newbold (Bridge 58. Catch the 585 bus at the Crown pub in to Rugby town center. CAtch us 4 at Stand N to the Rugby RR station)
Brinklow (Bridge 35; walk in to the village, about 15 minutes. Catch the 585 bus to Rugby or catch the same bbus in the opposite direction to go to Coventry)
Ansty (Bridge ; Catch the 74 bus to Coventry at the Rose & Castle pub. Get off at the Coventry Grove Stand stop CU5; 15 minute walk to Coventry rail station)

Trent & Mersey (northern from Fradley):
Rugeley (Bridge 66; there are 2 stations but only one--on the same side of the cut as Morrisons, will take you south towards London)
Wolseley Bridge (Bridge 70. Moor up here and catch the 825 bus to Rugeley and walk five minutes to the rail station)
Stone (10 minute walk to Stone rail station from lock 29 at Newcastle Road)

Staff & Worcs (Eastern edge):
Penkridge (Bridges 84 to 86)

Stratford on Avon Canal (northern section beginning at Kingswood Junction):
Lapworth village (Bridge 35 moor in the pound between locks 19 and 19. Walk up Old Warwick Rd. left on Station Lane. Ten minute walk from the canal)
Dickens Heath (foot Bridge 13. Catch the S3 bus to Solihull Station. Take the Chiltern RR to London's MarleyBone Station)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

How to Hang Side Fenders on the Shropshire Union

If you associate enough with older people who do enjoy their lives, who are not stored away in any golden ghettos, you will gain a sense of continuity and of the possibility for a full life. ~Margaret Mead, American anthropologist, 1901-1978

     Les loved the Shroppie and so do I. There is still some countryside left up here in Cheshire, it borders Wales, and the people up here are friendly in the way country folk tend to be, even with strangers. Even the fishermen are friendly!!!
     I finally cruised to the bottom of Audlem locks and moored up on the two week moorings. It was a week ago on Friday about 10:15 am and the sun was already unforgivably hot. These moorings are just back from the winding hole at the bottom of the lock flight and since they are general two week moorings there are no rings and there is the infamous Shroppie Shelf with which to contend.  I pulled slowly adjacent to an old replica working boat, gently passed it, pointed my bow in to the towpath, slowed some more and felt the bow gently tap the concrete canal side before inching back out again. I steered the stern in to the shelf and jumped the gap with the mid-line in hand and began to pull NBV back in parallel to the towpath when a slim, elderly gent with long white hair, a long white beard and mustache, and twinkling blue eyes appeared and asked kindly if I would like him to hold my mid-line while I moored up. I was happy to take him up on his offer, and we chatted as I pulled out a hammer and steel pins, grabbed bow and then stern mooring ropes and hammered pins in the hard, unforgiving, drought cracked ground. He suggested I turn my pins so the steel loops were at the back to make the pin more secure in the ground, and demonstrated to me how to loop the mooring rope around the body of the pin instead of the metal loop which can eventually break from metal stress.
     We introduced ourselves. His name is Tony and his boat is NB Foxglove. He travels with his partner/ significant other/ friend named Suzy whose sweet little boat NB Juspidoreous was moored directly behind Foxglove. I had first passed Suzy's boat on the Maccie last autumn, I called out to her then and told her how much I loved her paint job. Later on when I came out of Aqueduct marina mid January and was readying to pull in and set Church Minshull lock, a couple of boaters ambling along the cut offered to set it for me. It was Tony and Suzy! Her boat does not sport a professional glossy paint job. It is obviously hand painted by her but I simply love the colors of light and darker green, the autumn leaves on the side, and the tatted lace panels at the window hung with crystals. Her bow garden is glorious with flowers and trailing leaves. It was a pleasure to chat with them and I was impressed by the gentlemanly behavior of Tony, reminiscent of Les. They would have gotten on well. From Tony I learned a new and useful way of hanging fenders to deal with the bloody Shroppie Shelf.

I would never have thought of this on my own but it works perfectly. 
The boat moored in front of me used this unusual claw type mooring pin. The double tined claw is buried in the ground. This is only the second set I have seen in seven years and both boat owners bought the boats from somewhere on the Broads and the unusual pins came with their boats. I wish I could find a set to buy. They are perfect for mooring when the bank is sandy or too loose to hold a regular straight mooring pin. I have searched for them on-line and found nought.
    I am sussing out life in and around Audlem which is a lovely little village seven miles south of Nantwich with a population just over 2000. The flight of fifteen locks on traveling through the edge of the village raise the Shropshire Union Canal 93 feet over a  mile and a half to the Shropshire plain. The river Weaver passes west of the village and the canal sports a short aqueduct over the river near where I am moored. There is one school in the village but ten local clubs to keep locals busy: tennis, badminton, football, cricket, golf, pigeon racing (or pigeon-fancying), caravanning, bell ringing, cycling and bowls. For those who are fond of boats  and water the Shroppie passes right by The Shroppie Fly Pub with a bar shaped like the prow of a narrow boat and the Audlem Mill, built in 1915-1916 to mill grain into animal feed. Now it sports canalia of all kinds: books, basic hardware like lock windlasses and mooring pins, tea towels puzzles, children's  toys, art, embroidery and loads more. There is a small Co-op Grocery store to top up a few bits and bobs such as lettuce, mushroom and garlic. Williams of Audlem is my favorite shop on the main street. It is over a hundred years old and features an intriguing mixture of bits and bobs: scarves, bags, aprons, collectibles, stationery, glues, tools, oil, solvents, newspapers, and a few food snack items. I purchase my Saturday paper from Williams instead of the Co-op. They have scarves I sigh over but will not buy as they are not practical for me, 'nor do I need to add another scarf to my burgeoning collection. 
     Last Tuesday I decided to head in to Overwater marina for two days. It had been six months since I was last in a marina and I try to do this quarterly to give my batteries a really good charge, and wash everything inside and out while I have unlimited dedicated access to water and electric. It was ten pounds a night and well worth it. The folks there are very nice. The marina has a laid back, friendly vibe and it is clear from its design that wildlife and the environment are very important to the owners. I also had the opportunity to pay a visit to Steve and Angela on NB Tumbleweed who moor here. The small cafe even serves gluten free scones and cakes! I didn't try them but it is nice to know I could actually go there and find something I could eat. The thing with Crohn's Disease I am discovering is that I can eat the same thing on consecutive days and on one day be fine, and the next everything pours out of me in diarrhea so profound I dare not leave the boat. Afterward I feel totally spent, reincarnated as a limp dish rag that has been drug through a knot hole backward.
     My first day in the marina I had no shore power despite being hooked up properly. I was too exhausted and ill to do more than moor up, wash up a few things inside, wash all the curtains, and then rest. The possible issues that could be plaguing my shoreline power caused me to worry through most of a sleepless night and then at 4 am someone's bloody car alarm went off, ran for ten minutes before they woke up and shut it off and then it started up again twenty minutes later. I was up then for the rest of the morning. I had groceries delivered at 8 am and sorted out a few things on board. At 10 AM a marine engineer from Overwater Marina Services came to suss out the problem which turned out to be a relatively minor issue in the scheme of boats. The shoreline plug on the boat had given up the ghost after twelve years. Forty minutes later it had been replaced with a new plug and power was happily humming into my batteries. I flipped on the immersion heater and an hour later had a gloriously hot shower which temporarily revived me. It could have been so much worse. It could have been the £3000.00 Sterling pure sine wave combi-invertor which would have been a disaster.
    I am moored up back on the cut now, on two week moorings close enough to walk in to Audlem to dispose of my rubbish at the service point, pick up a newspaper from Williams and Co. and enjoy the beauty of the countryside. 

Morning mist flows over and down the hillocks in the adjacent farmer's fields.
At 5:30 AM one can witness nature painting the landscape with breathtaking beauty!
This shot appears almost prehistoric in its atmosphere. All that is missing are some dinosaurs at the pond edge dipping their long necks down for a drink...
...something like this Hadrosaur perhaps!
Tony's boat NB Foxglove in the morning mist.
NB The Angry Bull on the private mooring at the winding hole beside the golden cottage. The bottom lock on the Audlem flight is off to the left through the bridge hole. Scuttlebutt from locals informs me that the farmer who owns the fields on both side of the cut here did not own the cottage. Apparently he is a perpetually angry, nasty old git who delights in going out of his way to make life miserable for others. He bid on this cottage when it came up for sale a few years back but the owners didn't want to sell to him. In retaliation he refuses to allow delivery trucks on any kind to use the private road that leads on to this home, and he stacks plastic covered rounds of hay and straw directly behind the cottage to ruin their view. It just illustrates that not all lovely pictures tell the full story!
Access to the village is generally had at lock 13 which is three locks up from where I was moored at the bottom beyond the winding hole. There is a water point below this lock and local boaters who moor at the bottom and don't want to continue on up the lock flight will come up the first two locks, fill up with water at the water point and then reverse back down past the moored boats, down through the two locks and turn in the winding hole to moor up on the two week moorings. I  fill up once a week although generally I am only down by half a tank by then. A full tank of water, diesel and coal on the roof are my security! It used to be a full larder but things change.
This lovely cottage is just to the right of the lock gates in the picture above. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Boaty Books for Summer Reading

"I am a reader, not because I don't have a life, but because I choose to have many." ~Anonymous

     Reading did not come easily to me. I have three learning disabilities and one of them is dyslexia. I had to repeat first grade and in the summer in between the end of the first time and the repeat of the year I attended remedial reading classes with other children struggling to learn how to read. We sat in a circle in our little wooden school chairs and take took turns reading sections of our primary reader Fun With Dick and Jane out loud. I vaguely remember a phonics workbook, and day after frustrating day being unable to make any sense of the puzzle on the pages in front of me. I couldn't connect what the sounds we were making had to do with the tangled mass of meaningless letters in our book and when it was my turn to read I simply sat mute with my eyes on my shoes, except the moment near the end of the summer when the words suddenly untangled themselves, literally rearranging characters on the page and suddenly--suddenly I could read. I could read!!
     My paternal grandmother read Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass to me when I was four. I had a brilliant imagination at a very early age. I thought the description of Alice shrinking down to fit through a door to a garden, was a little girl who was actually visiting my Gran's garden! At four years old I thought her garden was huge and it seemed to match the description in Carroll's book. Gran took me to the Loussac Library in Anchorage to get my first library card when I was five and by the time I turned eight she had the distinction of having read every single book in the library.
     My paternal grandfather was Norwegian and he had the most wonderful stories, tales, and myths of the "old country' to tell me with his thick Norwegian accent. My desire for stories was fed by my Gran and Papa.
     Once I learned how to read I lived in an alternate universe every time I opened a book. I checked out a book on speed reading from the local library and by the end of my thirteenth year I was devouring books at a pace that has never slowed down. I made a count of the books I downloaded to Les' Kindle Fire from February 2017 to June 2018: two hundred and forty seven books and I've read every one of them. I retrieved them via BookBub. The majority of them were free and some were no more than 99 pence. Reading has saved my life more times than I can count. I am pretty sure Paradise involves a library full of delicious books I have yet to read. Les will be there, sitting in the sun with a book, my empty chair beside him. We were cultural touchstones and dictionaries for one another. We often sat side by side in our chairs reading. If his author was American, Les would query me every now and then about puzzling Yankee words and phrases. Likewise I would question my Best Beloved in return about British-isms that left me baffled.
     I am working on a book list that I can upload to a tab on this blog so I can share all the lovely books I've discovered with my readers. I have kept a list of all the books I've read since June 1993 when I finished my university degree and I could finally read for pleasure again. Today though I am sharing two books only and both are about boats! Mary South is an American author and Ernle Bradford is British.


At forty, Mary South had a beautiful home, good friends, and a successful career in book publishing. But she couldn't help feeling that she was missing something intangible but essential. So she decided to go looking for it . . . at sea. Six months later she had quit her job, sold the house, and was living aboard a forty-foot, thirty-ton steel trawler she rechristened Bossanova. Despite her total lack of experience, South set out on her maiden voyage--a fifteen-hundred-mile odyssey from Florida to Maine--with her one-man, two-dog crew. But what began as the fulfillment of an idle wish became a crash course in navigating the complicated byways of the self. South's candid look at her life is bracing and laugh out loud funny. 
 Excerpt: "Not long ago,  I was probably a lot like you. I had a successful career, a pretty home, two dogs, and a fairly normal life. 
     All I kept were the dogs. 
     The one day in October 2003, I quit my good job and put my sweet house on the market. I packed a duffle bag of clothes and everything else I owned went in to storage. Within weeks I was the proud owner of an empty bank account and a 40-foot, 30-ton steel trawler that I had no idea who to run. I enrolled in nine weeks of seamanship school, and two weeks after my course ended, I pulled away from the dock on my very first trip: a 1500 mile journey through the Atlantic from Florida to Maine. 
     My transformation from normal person to unhinged mariner started casually enough..."  
     The author's candid and humorous insights into her life hit just the right spot for anyone who has ever taken stock of life and wondered if they were where they really wanted to be. The majority of us have experienced this but few have the courage to turn away from a conventional life and reach for a dream. Mary South did just this and she generously brings us along on her journey.

The Journeying Moon by Ernle Bradford

‘Life does not come again; if you have not lived during the days that were given to you, once only, then write it down as lost …’

Ernle Bradford was 21 years old when he read these words of Chekhov which were forever to haunt him. It was this simple truth that later prompted him and his wife to sell their flat and furniture, leave their jobs and, four months later, sail off to France in a ten-ton Dutch cutter, the Mother Goose. The Journeying Moon tells of their voyage through the French canals to Southern Italy and Greece and a peaceful existence off the beaten track. Ernle Bradford writes charmingly and evocatively of his Mediterranean adventures: of the people of Malta who were convinced he was from MI5; of his brushes with the Mafia on Sicily; of his experiences as ‘assistant naval adviser’ on a film unit in Palermo, and of the caves of Levanzo, which boast the southernmost examples of prehistoric European art.

Excerpt: "The first time you make a departure for a foreign coastline in your own boat is as unforgettable as first love...the rain had stopped and a soft mist sprawled over the river (The Seine) and the country. As we sat in the cockpit over breakfast MOTHER GOOSE seemed to float suspended in a gossamer world...the damp earth smelt rich with grass, trees, and flowers,the distilled essence of spring.  We were motoring through an innocent world--a morning such as one remembers from childhood."
     Bradford's prose is quite simply lush, full and rich with description that pulls in his readers. We cannot  help but sail along with Ernle; pick up this book and read the first few pages and you will be hooked.
     I include this message for one of my dearest friends, my heart and soul sister Karen Barron back in Pullman, Washington, USA: Although you were not aware of it, you travelled along with me through the pages of Bradford's boo; you and Charlie, sailing and living on Hana Maru. I could feel your presence sailing with me through Ernle's  exquisite prose as we were  kissed by the sun, the salted sea and the fragrant winds of the Mediterranean.
     Finally,  since this is a literary post I conclude with a poem for everyone suffering from the heat. I don't think anyone captures better how I feel in this miserable unremitting weather than one of my favorite poets, Marge Piercy, from her book Available Light, page 69.  

Dog Days Dogged Rag

The crickets rub their legs so fast they zizz
so I imagine their thin, dry legs sparking, 
starting a fire, except that nothing would catch

on this concave day when every piece of paper
feels like overcooked linguine. Wood
of table, chair exudes a tacky grease. 

This is not fire but only heat: life
in a slow pressure cooker. Steaming
preserves vitamins. Yet no predators

bound after prey. They are all sleeping
under bushes, bellies to the still cool
earth the compress of leaves has saved. 

Night comes as a clumsy lover pressing
you into clammy sheets; smothered
you gasp and loll, less a landed fish

than a drowning wombat who dreams
the thin dry air of mountaintops--not
its natural habitat, but is this steam table?

Surely I am cooked now. Turn me over,
sprinkle salt on me. Try me with garlic.
The other possibility is that god is a slug. 

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Coming Out of the Fog

"Behind my smile is a hurting heart, behind my laugh I'm falling apart, behind my smile is tears at night; now I'm a widow when once I was someone's wife." ~ Anonymous

     The fog that comes with grief is disorienting. It feels like a part of my mind is always on search mode somewhere out in the vast universe, seeking signs of Les, just as the giant antenna dishes at Aricibo sweep the universe looking for a signal from other intelligent life. This isn't something one can control; it is something that simply occurs like a computer program running silently in the back ground of your everyday desk top. It has taken me sixteen months to realize it is occurring covertly now instead of overtly as in the days, weeks and months after Les died when I searched for signs of him everywhere accompanied by a different kind of fog--viscous and impenetrable; it is one's soul wrapping our mind and heart in cotton wool for protection from the awful reality of a life unwanted--a loss too deep to bear that manifests itself every single day---forever.
     There is nothing like a serious illness to slap one around a bit and say, "Snap out of it!!"
     With a clear diagnosis I now look back and realize I have been ill with Crohn's Disease for a long time--at least since January of 2016 when Les' health began to fail. Malnutrition accompanies this illness. We in the developed world of the 21st century have no real idea what that is and what it feels like. We think of it as starving children in Bangladesh or skeletonized babies in Syria. The fact is there are hundreds of thousands of us in first world countries suffering from malnutrition,  especially the elderly, but we don't know it. Most people are never taught anything about actual nutrition. We eat the food we were taught to eat by our parents. Of course now I should append that to say a lot of folks eat the stuff they are taught to want by the telly.
     All through the spring and summer of 2016 I kept finding strands of my hair EVERYWHERE in the boat. It was beginning to feel like some drunken Christmas fairy was decorating early, pulling my hair while I slept and using it to festoon everything in site in lieu of Christmas tinsel. I used to jokingly say to Les, "Baby that silver haired bitch has found her way back in our boat. She is shedding all over the place. If you find her please put her outside." I know from being a schooled and licensed hair stylist that we all lose an average of 50-100 hairs a day. That seems like a lot but most of us never even notice it unless we find our hair in the drain or some other place we don't want it. I understand now that accelerated hair loss (we are not talking male pattern baldness here) can be a symptom of malnutrition, along with feeling cold all the time, lack of interest in eating, feeling tired all the time, poor concentration, and wounds taking a long time to heal. Severe lack of Protein and vitamin D with extreme stress causes excessive hair shedding.
© May 14, 1992; Jim Davis.
     My disinterest in food manifested with a loss of taste in tandem with a loss of interest in cooking. I still cannot bring myself to fix a lot of the foods Les loved.  I no longer have any passion for cooking so I fed myself for months on end with things requiring me to simply tear open a bag and eat, like gummy bears, and crisps. I  would cook one meal repeatedly: my childhood comfort meal of fried potatoes and eggs over easy with vinegar.  The loss of my sense of taste was caused by malnutrition and a severe lack of Vitamin B12 and Zinc. I also know that auto immune diseases can cause one to lose the sense of taste.
     My intestines and colon issues have been ongoing since 2008, when I was diagnosed with Diverticulitis. I learned about managing this disease and did fine until Les was diagnosed with cancer. Now I am learning how to manage Crohn's Disease.
Moored up before the bridge at Hurleston Junction, the end of April.
     I was shocked when I realized more than a month has passed without my blogging and I've fallen behind with so many things I wanted to write about so please bear with me while I play catch up.
With CRT's permission I spent a month moored up at the top of Hurleston locks just through the first bridge. It is a perfect place to fetch up if one is ill because there are rubbish bins and water points at the top of the lock flight and it is very easy to reverse back through the bridge hole to the services. There is also a generous layby up at the bridge for people to park if they visit or one needs to get a taxi and there is a bus stop very close by for the 84 bus from Chester through Nantwich and on to Crewe. There are two farmhouses there so it is an easy place to take possession of a grocery delivery. It is also a lovely bit of canal view wise although the sound of traffic is quite noisy. After having to take taxi's to the Premier Inn twice in a week, stay over night to take the dreaded bowel prep and then a taxi to the hospital and a taxi back home (due to cuts to the bus services in Cheshire in now takes two buses to get to Leighton hospital in Crewe and I was in no shape to attempt it). Deep and grateful thanks to Steve and Angela on NB Tumbleweed who stepped in on short notice to give me a lift to the hospital when I couldn't get a taxi.
Looking through the first bridge at the top of Hurleston locks towards the top lock and the water and rubbish point off to the right. The large tree in the distance is actually growing along the Shropshire Union at the bottom of the flight of the first four locks on the LLangollen Canal. 
NB Bendigedig sporting a fresh paint job, moored up bow-to-bow with NB Valerie, Hurleston in early May. 
     While I was moored there I was overjoyed to see NB Bendigedig pull up. I flagged Eric down and they moored up in front of me overnight and came aboard for a cuppa' and a good chin wag. Les thought the world of Eric and Elsie and so do I. It was early May and they were just starting off on their summer tour, headed for the Severn.
     One hot afternoon I heard a lot of loud shouting out by the bridge. I was expecting a grocery delivery between 5:30 an 6:30 pm. Just through the bridge hole by the stairs up to the bridge and the parking were eight children of various ages and three adults--two men and a woman. All of them had sea magnets on plastic line and they were dipping the cut for metal objects. For some reason there was something about them that made me feel uneasy. It seemed more like they were working rather than playing even though most of them were children. It bothered me that I couldn't put my finger on what was causing my unease. At 5:30 pm I walked up to the stairs to find they were blocked with loads of rusted bits from the cut and rubbish. I spoke to one of the men and asked him to please clear the stairs as I was having a grocery delivery come soon. He simply grunted and nodded once and then shoved everything into the grass by the stairs. I stood on the bridge facing the road so I could watch for the Ocado delivery van and keep an eye on NB Valerie. I noticed this seemed to make the group mining for metal a bit nervous. I stepped away from the bridge and stood out of site where I could see them but they couldn't see me. As soon as the adults noticed I wasn't standing there any more the older man signaled to the younger bloke to move down the canal towards the boats. I watched as this young fella cast his magnet in the cut repeatedly as he walked towards my boat.  Just before he reached the bow, he looked around to see if anyone was watching and I stepped back out to the edge of the bridge and stared at him. He was clearly scoping out my boat and I have no doubt he would  have gone aboard if I had not been watching. I had left the bow doors open because I knew I I could see it from the bridge. He did a weired pretend cast of the magnet by the tip of NBV's bow and quickly pulled up the magnet and walked quickly back to the bridge hole as my eyes bored into him, whispered something to the older man who looked up at me with a frown. Suddenly at some unseen signal the children all gathered around the the adults, gathered their buckets of found metal objects, left all their trash strewn around, and marched up the stairs to enter two brand new vehicles and drive off. It was then the penny dropped. I am certain they were Travelers which is fine, as is fishing the cut for lost metal items. It certainly makes a great front for scoping out boats to see if any of them have items of interest or have been left unattended. Another boater remarked to me a few days previously that he had moored there for four weeks over winter and his diesel tank had been drained dry one day when he went in to town for groceries. Now I understood my unease. The kids were not having fun playing; they were actually working.
     June 5th and I had survived a CT scan, a colonoscopy and I started a six week liquid diet to begin the healing process. I couldn't sit still any longer. I was so tired of not moving for weeks on end. Down the Hurleston Flight I went with help from a CRT employee and a CRT volunteer.  I cruised into Nantwich and checked my mail, had a grocery delivery, and knackered beyond belief I moored up again and rested for four days before winding and cruising out to the Middlewich Arm. I spent a week moored just through bridge 4. Due to the breach at the other end of the arm near Middlewich, traffic is almost non-existent. I noted five boats over four days. I checked out the new water point CRT installed near the top of Chalmondsten lock. It is possible to cruise to the water point, then reverse back to the winding hole and turn around, doing away with the need to go down through the lock, cruise to the next winding hole, turn and cruise back up through the lock. While I had no Wi-fi or phone signal there, and only a few TV stations, it was so quiet and peaceful I relished every moment. It was a good place to moor up for more recovery time. I sat out on the bow and watched the swallows taking turns diving to the surface of the canal for a sip of water and then shooting off up the cut, banking to the right and flying over the nearest field, like bombers on a sortie. I walked the towpath to Sykes Hill moorings just after the next winding hole and sat in the warm late spring sun chatting with a friend on the phone while butterflies and dragonflies darted around me.
A peaceful afternoon on the bow of NB Valerie, moored up on the near empty Middlewich Arm through bridge 4.
     As I cruised back into Nantwich for services, I passed a field with six horses, four of which had foals! I couldn't take a picture sadly, as it is on a bend and there was a boat coming from the other direction but the foals were lovely, dappled with white spots and patches on their Carmel coloured flanks. Two of them were lying down in the cool grass as their mothers grazed nearby. It was a Les moment. He would have been chuffed to bits and no doubt would have managed a good picture too.
Dual propane bottles with pigtails to each bottle.
    As the boat filled with water at the service point in Nantwich, I checked my mail and dumped my rubbish, then washed down the boat. I cruised up to the Nantwich Canal Centre service point and had the pigtails on my dual propane bottles replaced. One side had a leak and I thought it prudent to replace both hoses. It turns out they should be replaced every five years and ours were twelve years old!
     Job done, I moored up, took possession of a grocery delivery and picked up a Saturday paper. Sunday morning I cruised out headed south. It was time to cruise towards Audlem and find some good mooring spots in that direction. I found a lovely spot half way between bridges 89 and 88. There was metal siding and enough space for two 58 foot boats to moor. It was out in the middle of grassy fields, quiet and peaceful. I stood out on the bow as twilight slowly descended. Bats flitted by me and a barn owl flew along the bank on the offside, hunting. Venus, the morning and evening star shown brightly.  Had Les been alive he would have stood with his arms around my waist and I would have leaned back resting against him. Together we would have stood in awe of the magical beauty of the gloaming; instead it was me, the bats, the barn owl, and one solitary planet representing the Goddess of love, reflecting the sun's light in the night sky.
     Amazingly I picked up four bars of Wi-fi, and a great phone and TV signal--much better than I can get in Nantwich! After a week in this bucolic paradise,  I pulled my pins at 5:30 AM and headed for the nearest winding hole. Along the way I watched with delight as the world woke around me. I saw an ermine in his brown summer coat (also known as a Stoat) slip out of the hedge with something live and wriggling in its mouth. Much to my astonishment the bijou Mustelid plopped into the cut and disappeared!! A bit farther on I looked out to see a Fox sitting placidly in the middle of a field. It too was watching the world wake up. I turned and cruised back into Nantwich mooring up by the playground and walk in to town for a paper and a light grocery top up before the oppressive heat wiped me out.
It has been too hot to cook inside so the Cobb Oven has been a blessing. There isn't anything that cannot be prepared on a Cobb Oven. I prepared enough wild Alaskan Salmon marinated in soy sauce, honey, fresh grated ginger, minced fresh garlic and crushed red pepper flakes for three meals. Lovely!!
Dusk closes in at Nantwich.
     We've had nearly two months of unremitting hot weather here in Cheshire, interrupted on only three occasions with cloudy weather and one day and night of  rain. It is in the high 70's and mid to high 80's Fahrenheit every day. Living in a metal tube means the temperature inside the boat will be ten degree or more higher even with the doors, hatches and windows open and the curtains closed.  It is lightly humid and there is not a breath of wind to stir the cut. The heat makes me ill even after twenty two years of living in Eastern Washington's high desert country and dry, hot summers which can reach triple digits. I have had heat stroke four times--the first at age four on a road trip to Mexico. The last time was in 2007 when my GP diagnosed it. She told me that if I suffered another bout of heat stroke it could kill me so I do my utmost to stay out of the worst of the mid day heat, drink lots of liquids, and rest during the hottest part of the day. I am up at 5:00 AM every morning and I get all my daily chores out of the way before 10:30 AM.
     This past week kicked off with several appointments in Nantwich on Monday, and much anticipated visitors on Tuesday: Ken and Sue Deveson (NB Cleddau) with two of their American grandchildren in tow! The Deveson's and I often share anecdotes about our grandchildren and I feel as though I know theirs quite well. Ken and fifteen year old Rhys dropped Sue and eight year old Haydn by the boat. After a short visit, Grampy and Rhys set off by car to spend several hours in the cool depths of the Hack Green Nuclear bunker. Since Ken was a bomber pilot in the RAF he has first person insight into certain aspects of nuclear war which I am sure made the tour far more meaningful than usual. Meanwhile Granny, Haydn, and I played on the swings in the playground for a few minutes and then set off on NB Valerie and cruised up to Hack Green where we moored and had lunch. Ken and Rhys joined us later in the afternoon and we had a lovely visit. Thank you Ken and Sue for sharing your wonderful grandchildren with me for a day.  I miss my own grandchildren more than words can say...
Sue Deveson and her youngest grandson Haydn with windlasses in hand. Many thanks for cruising with me.
Sue, Rhys, Ken, and Haydn on the grass near the playground moorings in Nantwich.
      After the Deveson crew departed I stepped out on the bow to tighten my bow ropes and a woman stepped out of the boat moored in front of me to introduce herself. Her name is Anne, her husband's name is Paul and their boat is NB Bisbigliando which means very light and murmuring—used as a direction in music for a fingered tremolo on the harp. We chatted for a few minutes and I was very touched by Anne's words, "I follow your blog. I've read it for several years now. When you haven't posted for awhile I wonder if you are all right...I really enjoy your writing.You should write a book." It is always lovely when someone stops to let me know they read the blog--especially now that Les is no longer writing all those wonderful historical posts that his followers (including me) delighted in reading. Thank you Anne for coming out and chatting with me and for your lovely words of praise.
     Writing is a lonely business fraught with discouragement which can cause writer's block and stop us in our tracks so meeting you really lifted my spirits. It was just a shame it was so excruciatingly hot that afternoon. I would have loved to have sat out on the towpath and chatted with you longer--it was just too dang hot!!! It is always great to chat with other boaters along the way. I am actually working on two books at present. I am on the second draft of one, and just beginning the other. I need to research agents and publishers next. I am also still applying for jobs.
     I only stayed one night moored at the top of Hack Green locks as there was absolutely no shade to be had and there is a nearby manor house across the cut on the off side which offers clay pigeon shooting. After a morning and afternoon ruined with the continual shot gun blasts and bursting clay pigeons I determined it was time to move but before I could get organized a very familiar boat cruised slowly past and I heard a man's voice with a Welsh accent exclaim, " I recognize the aerial on that boat..."It was Eric on NB Bendigedig! I jumped up and looked out the side hatch to see Eric and a strange woman on the stern with him. Where was Elsie?? Did he trade her in for another model??!! I hailed Eric and he pulled in behind me, moored up and Elsie popped up out of the boat to introduce me to Paula--Eric's Fancy Woman--er no, his lovely sister! We sipped tea and had a good catch up.
Elsie and her sister-in-law Paula. The craic is good with these two!!
Eric and Bendigedig wait for the lock to fill at Hack Green.
     Too soon it was time for them to be on their way and me on mine, cruising in opposite directions.
 As the sun grew shorter in a sherbet colored sky, I cruised a short way forward and found a simply heavenly slice of cut between a road bridge and a bridge hole where a farmer's track had once crossed the canal. The bridge was gone now, but the footings and narrow bridge hole were still there in a bit of shady cutting with a high, shaded bank on the towpath side and clumps of trees and shrubs on the off side providing a cool tunnel of mostly shade and only room for exactly one boat to moor!! I spent two glorious days and nights there and was loath to move but cruise I must. 
My bijou mooring in the shade of a small cutting between this bridge...
...and the footing from the old farm bridge, now removed.
I dawdled along yesterday in  morning sunshine, soaking up vitamin D. I cruised slowly past Overwater Marina and sussed out where the diesel and water were located. I will be accessing their services occasionally when I am moored up nearby. As I cruised around the bend towards Audlem bottom lock, a woman was strolling along with a carrier bag of groceries. As I cruised up on her I realized it was Angela!! I slowed NBV to a stop and hovered as we exchanged greetings and had a short conversation to catch up. I've Spent the last six months cruising and mooring between Chester and Nantwich with forays up on the Llangollen and the Middlewich Arm but I was just now making my way past the two Hack Green locks and cruising to Audlem which will be the most southern point of my cruising since I have to stay within bus travel to Chester, Nantwich and Crewe. I had been putting off cruising up to Audlem because I wasn't sure if I was ready to deal with the memories there.
     Les and I moored up on the Aqueduct below the bottom of the Audlem flight on March 27th, 2012. We had five incredibly sunny and hot days in the mid-80's F overlooking the River Weaver. We were still newly weds and our unfolding life aboard NBV brought something amazing for me every day. Audlem was also the last time I saw and Spoke to Mo and Nessa on NB Balmaha. As some boaters will probably recall, Mo died too soon of cancer, a year before Les. Such lovely memories and too many losses...

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs