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Friday, October 26, 2018

Seeking Clients!!!

Let the Beauty of what you love be what you do. ~ Rumi, 13th century Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic originally from Greater Khorasan; 1207-1273.
I am a medicinal herbalist and I have openings for clients right now. If you have a chronic illness or health issue and you would like some research undertaken about what, if any alternative medicine or treatments may work for you then please email me at I charge £25/$35 (difference in price is the exchange rate) for an initial consultation, research, and health profile with one six week post consultation check in.

I am also registered on Tutorful which is a legitimate academic web site offering tutors for a wide range of academic services. If you or anyone you may know seeks tutoring to improve their written communication skills I am available. You can read my profile on the site. I also tutor those in need of conversational English language skills. I can connect with students on-line in the Tutorful website where meetings may be booked and payment is arranged or in person if you live in the Nantwich, Cheshire area. 

I tutor the following subjects:

A Level and Degree:
Conversational English Language Skills
English grammar and writing Skills
Essay Writing

A Level: 
English Literature
Humanities & Arts

I am also available as a manuscript editor. Just email me with your manuscript. I charge £25/$35 an hour. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Life's Cherished Gifts

"Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future but today is a gift. That's why its called the present." ~Bill Keane, American cartoonist, 1922-2011

   It's been a busy two weeks here in my world. I've been writing every day with punctuations for a walk to stretch my body. I've cleaned out a ton of old paperwork, said goodbye to Les' three ring binder from the visiting nurses with all of their notes on the last six months of his care, and organized several drawers. I've also dug out file folders of family documents, pictures, and items I used to have pinned to my bulletin board at Cloudhouse. I bought a clear polyvinyl desk protector to lay on the dinette table and I slipped pictures and mementos underneath to help me with my writing.
My new memorabilia collage which lives under a desk protector on the dinette table. Each item represents some aspect of the things I am writing about now in my book rough drafts. 
My favorite oldest daughter Jesse, left with her favorite oldest son Micheal as a baby. The cartoon below is one I found over three decades ago and saved because it encapsulates my Jesse girl as a child in terms of her relationship with her sister. My favorite youngest daughter Sparky on the right as a teenager and far right a few years ago. Her cartoon also encapsulates a little of what she was like as a child too.  
The card top left came with a dozen roses from Les the day my spouse visa was accepted. I've had the Pinups on Writing for over thirty years. The picture of Les was taken in 2011 and is one of my favorites of my Best Beloved. I bought the post card of the Bison and the bird when I was thirty. Many times I've reminded myself to be like the Bison: develop a tough hide and call on persistence while turning my back to the wind. Some days all one can do is stand knee deep in the snow and wait...for spring.

This is one of my favorite poems, The Bus of Questions. It was written by my dear friend and member of The Wednesday Women,  Lisa Conger. 
The other poem which I couldn't get a clean picture of, is one I found years ago somewhere and it is so evocative of my life I have held on to it as a reminder of where I came from and how far I've traveled.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters--Anon.

I walk down the street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I pretend I don't see it. 
I fall in.
I am lost...I am helpless.
It isn't my fault. 

I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it. 
I fall in again. 
I can't believe I am in this same place.
But it isn't my fault. 
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there. 
I still fall's a habit...but
My eyes are open.
I know where I am. 
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

    A week ago Britain caught the tale end of the hurricane that ravaged the Southeast coast of America. Over here is was named Callum. As it swept in from the west, passing over North Wales and into the borders I hunkered down for three days and nights and wind gusts up to 65 mph. Moored at Hurleston Junction just before the bridge, I had a front row seat watching boats coming off the Llangollen canal and out of Hurleston bottom lock where they have to turn right and cruise through the bridge towards Nantwich and NBV, or turn left and head towards Barbridge, Calveley and Chester. While the canal is wide enough to comfortably turn a boat at the junction, the towpath curves around to the right and the winds sweep down the lock flight, pinning boats to the side. Even on a mildly windy day the winds swoop down the hill across from the moorings before the bridge. More than once I have helped boaters who come slowly through the bridge to pick up a partner who was working the locks, only to find their boat pinned to the side. I am grateful to Ken Deveson for showing me how to pin the boat using spring lines. What a difference this makes in a storm! Yes the boat did rock side to side with the wind generated waves but she stayed secure and didn't slide vertically back and forth. Passing boats had no choice but to give their engine some welly to keep the high winds from shoving them into moored boats, but the spring lines kept NB Val secure and stable. Below are two videos from the wind storm.
   After the winds let up it was time to head back in to Nantwich. I had a leisurely cruise in lush and lovely afternoon sunshine. It took just under an hour to fill the 144 gallon water tank which was pretty low, dump the rubbish, and pick up three packages from the Laundrette. When I arrived at the Nantwich service point there was one boat moored on the 48 hour visitor moorings. I had hopes I might actually be able to moor up at the end of the moorings just up from the service point. By the time I finished filling up there were only two spaces left! Fifteen boats had come from both directions, quickly filling the empty mooring spots but I was lucky to get in where I wanted, just behind NB Bessie Surtees.
   We've passed each other throughout the past nine months, coming and going on the Middlewich arm and the Shroppie. She called to me once that she followed my blog so it was a pleasure to finally have an opportunity to stop and meet Phil and Barb and have a chin wag. They've been boating for years, and have lived aboard NB Bessie Surtees for four years now, cruising. Phil followed the blog from the beginning when Les first started it. Did I take a picture of them and their boat??? By the time I remembered the camera they had been to town and the chandlers and cruised off. Next time!!
   Yesterday my phone rang and Elsie Fletcher's lovely Welsh accent said, "Hi Jaq it's Elsie. We thought we would come for a visit this afternoon." Lovely!! It's always a treat to spend time with Elsie and Eric (NB Bendigedig). I cleaned up, popped a Betty Crocker gluten free Devil's Food Cake in the oven and finished putting together a Venison stew for dinner later. They came bearing flowers and cwtches (special Welsh hugs) and we spent several lovely hours setting the world to rights. Thank you Eric and Elsie for blessing me with your company.
The bijou Aloha Island Grill hut on Monroe Street in Spokane,Washington. There is just enough room inside for five people to stand and order at the counter. I've eaten many a Hawaiian plate lunch at the outside tables or in my car.
   I have been searching for recipes that are gluten free and still tasty. I find I still cannot fix most of the things I used to cook for Les. As everyone knows food is a potent means of stirring memories. I take no joy in cooking food for myself that Les and I enjoyed, without him here to share it, and most of those recipes need tweaking and substitutions to remove gluten, lactose, etc. For some reason I found myself thinking about one of my favorite Spokane take-aways from Aloha Island Grill on Monroe Street. 
Their Hawaiian plate lunches of Teriyaki chicken, macaroni salad, and sticky rice with Katsu sauce is food for the weary soul. This set me on an Internet search for recipes that might be close and I am happy to say I've found several I am going to test out soon.
   The other cuisine that has grabbed me by the gut is Middle Eastern--I finally found a Tzaziki sauce recipe I like and I cannot get enough of Chicken Souvlaki in gluten free pita bread. I am also jonesing for (craving) Dolmathes which are stuffed grape leaves.
   As a kid my parents hung out a couple they met through work. The Schei's had a daughter named Jeri who was close to my age and we hung out quite a bit. Her parents had been world travelers before settling in Anchorage and having children. They had ties to Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Lowell was a fabulous cook. I still remember everyone gathered around their table filling and rolling grape leaves. I wish I would've had the presence of mind to ask for some of his recipes but of course when one young, that isn't what is on one's mind. I've searched off and on for decades for a Dolmathe recipe close to Schei's and I've finally found one that I have adapted. I made a batch last week and they were so good! Now if I could just get Schei's recipe for salad dressing life would be darned near fabulous!
These Dolmathes are stuffed with a mixture of rice, organic lamb mince, finely diced onion, finely diced fresh mint and parsley, ground cumin and dash of Tobasco sauce, fresh lemon zest, olive oil, salt & pepper. Layered in an enamel cast iron pan, six cloves of peeled garlic are tucked down in between the layers which are topped with tomato passata (tomato sauce), olive oil and water, then cooked for 40 minutes after which the juice from a fresh lemon is squeezed over the top. These little rolls of love are addictive!
   My cold nose woke me this morning at 4:40 am. The coals had gone out in the stove and the boat was COLD.  I had planned to back up to the service point yesterday to top up the water tank but I woke to such thick fog and it didn't dissipate until noon, so I decided today was the day. At 8:00 am I started the engine, pulled the fenders up, folded down the TV antenna, slipped the tiller in place, untied the mooring lines and pushed NB Valerie out stern first, backing her up beyond the boat moored right behind me, past the permanent moored boats and over on to the service point landing. I topped up the tank, cleaned out the loo and the bathroom, dumped the rubbish, picked up the mail, and cruised slowly in the sunny chill of the morning wearing Les' green down Jacket for warmth.
Yellow roses from Elsie and Eric Fletcher, pink flowers and the birthday card from Ken and Sue Deveson, and pictures of loved ones. On the far left is Jesse with her favorite oldest son (and my favorite oldest grandson) who is now nineteen!
   Moored up now by the playground at the other end of Nantwich, I have a grocery order sorted for delivery tomorrow. The rest of today is one of leisure as it is my 61st birthday. I splurged and bought three books to read: two are Man Booker award winners and one is a BBC 4 book of the week: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017 winner), Milkman by Anna Burns (2018 winner), and Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History. I am filled with a fine sense of satisfaction today as I completed all those chores and moored up again by 10 am, and I've received a lovely birthday card in the mail from friends, emails and e-cards from friends, and cell phone texts from friends and family. Today Life is good. xxx 

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Ordinary Life

"Even the most ordinary life is a mystery if you look close enough. " ~Ingrid Bengis, American author, Fullbright Scholar, University Professor, Seafood purveyor to America's greatest chefs, and creator of the Island culinary and Ecological Center in Maine, USA, 1945-2017.

     I apologize for being absent for so long. I've been ill with a wretched cold. sore throat, and fighting the virus' attempt to colonize my lungs. I am over the worst of it now but I still feel a bit weak and wonky. I also damaged my left upper arm tendons and elbow tendons about six and a half weeks ago and this injury is healing very slowly, making things like typing, picking up the tea kettle and carrying a bag of groceries rather painful.
     I have a bit of catching up to do! First of all Irene and Ian on NB Free Spirit were in the area a few weeks back and they were kind enough to stop for a couple of hours to share a rainy morning nattering with me. their boat is aptly named, as this couple really embody the free spirit of cruising on the canals. Irene is known for her amazing and breathtaking wild life pictures which she shares on their blog and Ian is a stalwart cancer survivor and man with enough life experience and wisdom to laugh at life's absurdities while plundering it for the choice bits. A visit with them is always a joy; my only sadness comes from the fact that Les never had a chance to meet them.
Irene and Ian--two truly lovely souls, and our boats below, bow-to-bow. 

     I have been dawdling along between Audlem and Calveley, mooring up 10 days at a time, enjoying the end of the cruising season at last.  I was moored up at Hurleston Junction on double mooring pins fore and aft when I injured my arm. A count by Canal & river Trust (CRT) indicated that 100 boats made use of the Hurleston Lock flight over three days on one weekend. That gives you dear reader, an idea of just how many boats were passing by each day and sadly too many of them don't give a fig about observing good manners and slowing down while passing moored boats. The main offenders are Chas Hardern hire boaters, Midway Boats day boat hires, and private boat owners coming off long term moorings and out of marinas.  Day boats for those unfamiliar with the hire companies, are small boats of about 22-34 feet long with a lot of windows and seats. Groups hire them for a few hours or one day to cruise the canals and have a birthday or anniversary party.  For some reason day boat hirers seem to think the objective is crack on at the speed of light to get to wherever they are going and they are unaware of the wash they make. I even had a day boat attempt to cut around my bow when I was half way through turning around at a winding hole.  I had to warn him off. Then he decided he would go around the stern and had to yell at him to wait his turn as the fuel boat was breasted up to a moored boat just off the winding hole. This guy road my stern button past a long line of permanent moored boats until I found a place I could pull over and let him pass. Cheshire Cat hire boats seem to receive instructions on the issue and they almost always slow down.
     One old git on a private boat kept in a marina and visited throughout the summer, delights in passing moored boats at absolutely top speed, ignoring shouts and rude hand signs. He has passed me many times this summer and always left NB Valerie rocking heavily from side to side in his wake. Anyway, a boater passing to fast pulled my double mooring pins out and I had to quickly jump the fifteen inch gap caused by the Shroppie Shelf, and hammer them back in place. I was so angry I hammered the living daylights out of the pins and injured my arm. Act in anger (and haste) and repent in leisure. Since then I've also had a lovely visit from Ken and Sue Deveson (NB Cleddau), and Ken showed me exactly how to moor using spring lines on my boat. What a difference! While she still rocks from side to side when a boat passes at top speed and creates a large, frothy wake due mainly to the fifteen inch side gap caused by the Shroppie shelf, my boat isn't sliding vertically back and forth anymore. In the six years Les and I cruised he never once used a spring line, but he also had far more upper body strength than I do so perhaps he was better able to hammer the pins to China!
     It is true that if one hangs out on the canals long enough, one will see just about everything.  I was amazed one overcast and drizzly morning several weeks back to see a man walk by my windows leading a donkey! By the time I dug out Les' camera and slipped on some shoes the donkey-ish duo had passed NBV and the boat moored behind me, but I still managed to catch them as they headed for the bridge near Barbridge Junction. This still left me with puzzling questions, such as why walk along the canals with a donkey in the rain? The answer to my questions arrived a week later with the Towpath Talk newspaper.
     Adam Less is walking the length of Western Britain from Cape Wrath Lighthouse on Scotland's Northwest coast to Isle of Portland Lighthouse on the south coast of England. Less has undertaken this journey on foot to raise money for Centrepoint Charity which serving the needs of homeless young people in Liverpool where Adam lives. This is not Adam's first footloose trek. On his crowd funding site he says:
     "I am an experienced traveller and walker. Since 2004 I have completed long
term, rough travels in South East Asia; travelled overland from New York to
Tierra del Fuego and back again and in 2016 I walked 600 miles along the
Pamir Highway from Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan. Most recently, in 2017, I
walked 200 miles from Liverpool to Stranraer. From these journeys I have
been developing a philosophy of slow and rough travel, using these as ways to
experience places more deeply and have chance encounters with people I
meet along the way. I have been documenting these journeys, through writing
and photography, on my blog Adam Walks."
Adam Lee and his sidekick Martin the Donkey. 
     While I was filling up with water and dumping my rubbish at the Calvely service point, fuel boat Halsall was loading up with coal.  I had caught them on their way down to Ellesmere Port a few day previously and topped up the diesel, bought four bags of coal and three bags of kindling. I have twelve bags of coal on the roof now, ready for winter. Of course as the following pictures show, we've had a few cold nights recently. I've cleaned the chimney, checked the fire bricks for cracks, and re-pointed the fire concrete around the outside of the chimney where it joins the stove. I've also replaced the battery in the carbon monoxide alarm.  A warm, glowing fire on a cold night is a simple and deeply satisfying blessing.
Brrrr! A sign of things to come: ground frost.
Lee and Roberta fill the hold of Fuel boat Halsall with bags of coal for delivery to the likes of me and other boaters who live along the cut. It always lifts my heart to see them both as they bring their big working boat alongside NB Valerie. 
     As the seasons change the canals change too. Not just the foliage of the plants and the wildlife but the actual water in the cut. In the evenings when it cools suddenly, the water is warmer than the air and mist rises in columns, water souls rising into the evening air. Early morning on the cut sees the same phenomena repeat itself with misty clouds obscuring the crisp lines of the canal, towpath, and the hedges, lending a mysterious quality to the start of the day.
Evening mist forming on the Shropshire Union canal at Calveley. 
Morning mist near Barbridge after a very chilly night.
The full moon on a cold evening recently with the bow garden still growing in the short Autumn days and cooler nights.  
     I am moored in the basin at Nantwich Canal Centre. I've been having some issues with the engine and I couldn't put things off anymore so I arrived yesterday. Back in February after changing the oil, I noticed a black drip of oil from the back of the engine about half way down. I kept an eye on it and the absorbent pads I placed under the engine were soaked with dirty oil after about a month. I've been religious about changing the oil and filter every 350 hours.  In April a good local engineer gave the entire engine a good service, replacing fuel filters, etc. He commented at the time that engine oil was quite low before he changed it, so I became obsessed with worry about this issue. A couple of changes back I noticed a great deal of clean engine oil had totally soaked two absorbent pads, and it seemed to me there had to be an oil leak somewhere!
     The engine was smoking quite badly with blue-gray smoke upon starting as well so with some moral support from dear ones, I bit the bullet and brought NBV in for a look-see. The engineer found a cracked and leaking diesel return hose which had been leaking quite a bit into the engine bay. The good news is there is no engine oil leak as I had thought. The engine was full of carbon and coke and he blew it all out with a good run on high revs for some time. Black grit coated the surface of the water. He shut off the engine, let it cool down, looked for leaks again and then started it up and let it run for three or so hours repeatedly over a 24 hour period. She barely smokes at all now on a cold start, and there is no oil leak! the relief I feel is HUGE. My deepest thanks to Margaret, Linda, Mike and the rest of the Nantwich Canal Centre/Chandlers crew for looking after me and NB Valerie.
The view, starting from the right, inside Nantwich canal basin, of the back side of the businesses at Nantwich Canal Centre. The Chandlers is in the middle and the cafe is on the far left.  Below, the view continues on across the basin to the tunnel on the left where boats are painted.  

     Since Les always serviced our engine and dealt with the mechanics, or called River Canal Rescue (RCR) when something like a drove plate went, the learning curve on the bits and bobs which live in the engine bay has been steep. I am not the least bit mechanically inclined and Les didn't have time to teach me anything about the engine before he died. I've had to absorb things as I've gone along and friends like Any Elford, Ken Deveson and Bryce Lee have counseled, consoled, and offered me the wisdom of their own experience with boat engines. I am pleased to say when I changed the oil and filter two weeks ago, it was the first time I didn't have to think the entire process through and then refer line by line to my notes. I simply grabbed a pair of latex gloves, an empty bin bag for rubbish, and a new oil filter, climbed down in the engine hole and thirty minutes later--job done! It hit me as I climbed back up out of the engine bay;  I am comfortable and knowledgeable enough now to remember the sequence of events for an oil change and clean up, and I have confidence in my abilities. Les would be proud of me. I can hear his voice telling me so.
Me and Les in 2012 on the nearby Llangollen canal.  

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs