Saturday 31 August 2013

Rode Heath,gazzumping and harmony.

We stopped here at Rode Heath for lunch but it got windier and windier so we stayed overnight. The village is small with a hairdresser, pub and an off-licence , which says it all I suppose. We sat and reviewed life afloat to date. Lynne is missing the gossip and natters with friends and work colleagues,made worse by my long sleepy periods leaving her on her own. We can change the latter by playing with my drug regime but even the offer of an evening down the pub failed to compensate for the former. Life aboard with a sick and senile old git is taking its toll, I guess. We agreed a strategy to improve things and will monitor it as we travel on.
Where we moored was a salt mine,now nicely landscaped into a country park. Opposite was an old, arched, unique canal warehouse with a preservation order on it, meaning it could not be legally demolished, which it was in 1981. Apparently the owner knew people in high places. Guess what stands there now? You are right, a housing estate. It just proves, it is not what you know but who you know necessarily to get on in the World.
The day was very harmonious, after a not brilliant start. I walked round the canal corner to prepare the lock whilst Lynne cast-off, only to be barged out of the way ( excuse the pun) by some old fogeys on a green boat, who promptly claimed "our" lock. No apologies offered but one of my infamous glares made my point. We followed them through the next 13 locks just to embellish their embarrassment, before mooring near Middlewich opposite where the Bisto factory once stood,but now demolished ( all together now, Ah ) We walked to a nearby pub for dinner (according to 
Pearson's guide)but it had shut down, so we continued to Middlewich and ate in the Narrowboat pub ( highly recommended ). The walk back was interesting after one or two shandies. 

Friday 30 August 2013

Harecastle tunnel

We are in pole position for the rush to be first through the tunnel today. Blue sky and sunshine outside, black inside I suppose. The tunnel we will use was closed in the 1970's to repair subsidence, but it is OK now we are assured, although haunted by "The Boggit". Maybe more on that later ? (Several men died during construction).There are1rail and 2canal tunnels, all interconnected by smaller service tunnels, which tend to give surprising visions as you pass. We are moored at the south tunnel entrance next to the UK's most Eco-friendly office building, built by Google seven years ago but never occupied. JCB ( of digger fame) aim to move -in soon apparently. 
The White House was built for the tunnel-keeper but is now a holiday-let

The one and a quarter miles of tunnel passed without incident, although it varies in height considerably and boy, is it cold in there. The damp cold gets through to your bones and the cold showers every once in a while do not help matters. It is also noisy when you consider there are three huge extractor fans and several boat engines running at the same time. The canal at this point resembles oxtail soup, because of the soil chemicals in this area apparently. 11 closely packed locks warmed us up somewhat, fortunately with the welcome help of two other boat crews. We stopped for lunch before tackling a similar number this afternoon. Who said boating is relaxing?

Thursday 29 August 2013

R.I.P. Sid

And the news here from Stoke is not good. Sid the sick cygnet passed away quietly in his sleep last night. Sorry. We all did our best but sometimes the odds are stacked against us, I suppose. The staff and vet at Burton wildlife rescue deserve the highest praise for their speed of response and their dedication over several days, plus regularly updating us on progress. We cannot praise them enough. It is great these organisations exist. If you ever have to choose between donations to the RSPCA or Wildlife rescue organisations go for the latter every time. They go for it as volunteers because they love the idea of helping animals rather than the flash uniforms, name and vans. The weather here matches the mood. Overcast and grey. We have yet to go through Stoke but from our vantage point it looks OK and both cats are aboard, which is as it should be. Once again we aim to gently cruise with no destination target in mind, which again is as it should be. Our only target is to be in the vicinity of Leicester for my appointments, but we have ample time. The new drugs are working OK if you consider no fits a success, but as ever there are unpleasant side -affects which I have yet to decide if I can live with.
Tonight we are moored in pole position for going through Harecastle tunnel in the morning. The one we are going through was completed in1897 and has ventilation fans for powered craft use, whereas the older one alongside was smaller and narrowboats had to be "walked"through by the bargee's using their feet on the walls. When you consider the working barges could weigh 70 tons it says a lot about the strength and resilience of the working men and women in those days.the old tunnel has collapsed in several places and is no longer in use. The newer tunnel takes 45minutes to get through and boats are allowed through in armada's of up to 8, one  way at a time as it is the same width as a boat.
We were greatly impressed with Stoke, which retains much of our industrial heritage intact and takes good care of its canal, which only lacks dog poo bins and thus the footpaths need to be used carefully.
In the centre of Stoke is Etruria basin where many of the first emigrants to America set off from. Work was short in Stoke so they set-off on narrowboats to Liverpool before changing to something larger for the sea crossing to North America where a township named Pottersville was established.
We got stuck for ages in a particularly deep lock adjacent to a Canal and River Trust maintenance yard. The deep-end gates leaked badly and as a consequence water was leaving one end faster than it was going in at the other. We had to empty it twice before we could get enough water in to get out. The CRT guys were having their lunch and declined to help
The weather was hot and sunny again.

Written in stone

A peaceful night on the edge of Stone, a small brewery town near Stoke On Trent. Or at least it was a brewery town until both closed down many years ago. Seems a pleasant place though. Once again Sadie has thwarted our early departure plans by disappearing, having stayed in all night. We have made a mental note to lock the cat flap when we get up each morning. No cat means no departure and a later start than planned, but hey- ho. The news on Sid the cygnet was not good late yesterday afternoon. Despite the best efforts of the wildlife rescue team and vet he was making very slow progress. Heat lamps are being used to keep him warm and the anti-biotic treatment continues. We'll phone again this afternoon.
The canal has followed the river Trent for many miles now. Why? Once again it seems crazy going to all the time and expense of building a canal when there is a perfectly good alternative adjacent. It must have made sense at the time. Until recently the Trent was the most polluted river in the UK, worse than the Thames, but things are much better now apparently.

Sadie returned by lunchtime, delaying our departure somewhat. Four tough locks and 32ft later I was glad about the delay as I was knackered by the last one and appreciated a gentle cruise past the now demolished Meaford power station, the site now covered in scrub and trees. From there we passed through Barlaston, now home of Wedgewood pottery. The old village church and Barlaston hall were rebuilt by British coal when they both threatened to disappear into a disused coal mine. Trentham lock is quite intimidating on first sight, being over 11 ft deep. Having survived that and removal of a carrier bag from the propeller we have moored near Stoke On Trent, Britains 14th biggest city,overlooking a huge Sainsburys distribution warehouse and the Britannia Stadium, not the most scenic views of our trip. Once again the weather has been hot and sunny (not that I'm complaining). 

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Gayton Brook more perfection

Got up at 10.30 am .peaceful night. Walked back to the village for fresh eggs. (No one in or hens on strike. 2nd visit necessary).Gatton Brook is a beautiful village. Picture postcard stuff? This perfection lark is quite enjoyable even if it took its time to arrive. Overcast today but we need to top-up with water and sort out the ablutions, with facilities a few hours away according to our Pearson's guide. a project for the afternoon?
The pm project was completed successfully, as was a blissfully relaxing cruise and several locks. We moored for tonight at Stone in bright sunshine. We never did get our fresh eggs. The chickens had, indeed gone on strike. Typical of our luck. Pudding tonight will be blackberries( from thr canal bank) apples ( from Morrisons) and strawberries ( from M&S). We know how to live,us oldies.
The further north it goes, the more beautiful the Trent and Mersey canal gets, although it pains me to say so.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Cannock Chase perfect day

We moored close to Cannock Chase, an infamous area of Staffordshire where 3 schoolgirls were murdered during the late 1960's, their killer now spending life in prison. The countryside here is beautiful, as is the weather, warm and sunny. We are devising a cunning plan to incorporate cruising and attending various hospital appointments. The former seemingly helping my current health, the latter essential for the future. A combination of the two offers hope, something sadly lacking previously. It is always essential to have hope, whatever the situation. I am now being blinded by the light at the end of the tunnel  !   We have had more professional advice regarding our boat electrics which again confirms our builders have been talking crap, which we have always suspected.

It turned into a perfect day. The perfect start and it still got better. breakfast and lunch in glorious sunshine on the back of Tardis Two. Brilliantly relaxing cruising and helpful fellow-boaters at all the locks. A good mooring tonight and I have felt good all day. Just as things should have been since our boating days first started. Perfection. Long may it last. Sid the cygnet is doing well apparently but they are trying to build him up as he is underweight for his age. He is in a good place and will be returned to home territory once considered fully recovered .

Monday 26 August 2013

Cygnet,camels and monkeys

We moored in the middle of nowhere. Quiet night (more on that later) Quiet night, busy morning.late afternoon we had a rare difference of opinion, mainly caused by a sudden drop in blood sugar levels (mine) and shear frustration ( Lynne) when we were searching for a mooring spot. I was on the canal bank being vacant and she was trying to keep control of 20 tons of steel. To cut a long story short it ended in raised voices and a long silence. We resembled camels, both with a major hump. This morning Lynne went out early checking on the whereabouts of Pheobe,who emerged from the undergrowth without a care in the world. Also on the canal bank was a sick cygnet, almost fully grown.
A call to the RSPCA indicated they could not give a monkeys for it's plight , but a call to the Burton wildlife rescue  got an immediate response.A young lady was on-site within minutes and the cygnet was on its way to a vet. We gave a donation for the charity, thanked her for her fast action and for finding us so fast miles from anywhere very early in the morning on a Bank Holiday. She has promised to keep us up to date with cygnet news. The camels have left and the silence broken.
The late afternoon news on Sid the cygnet was encouraging. They could find nothing wrong with him but he had eaten, taken on fluids and anti-biotics. They will report back tomorrow morning. We stopped for lunch at Rugely. Everyone there speaks a more rounded version of Birmingham, which is no bad thing. This evening we are moored near Great Haywood, having earlier crossed the river Trent via a fairly plain aquaduct. The further north we go on the Trent and Mersey canal the better it gets. The scenery improves and there are better mooring locations. The weather today has been sunny and hot ( not that I am complaining ).

Sunday 25 August 2013

Faults, what faults?

Moored on the River Trent, luckily next to a qualified boat electrician. He appeared from his  boat to help us moor ours like a vision from a hollywood movie, wearing nothing but a towel and a smile, Lynne noticed the former, I noticed the latter. Later, fully clothed, he explained the electrical workings of boats in language we both understood. Having accepted there remains a fault with our boat electrics ( The Stensen "electrician" ?) we must now learn to live with it until we can prove what it is and get someone to fix it. We are now well on the way to doing that.
The cats are already back in their old mousing routines.
Healthwise, things are on the up. No fits for a while now but a few new rashes to contend with, plus the tiredness. I am still struggling to manage my blood sugar levels but they remain a work in progress.
My leg bulletin wound looks much better but for some unknown reason ached all day, until joined by a new one a few inches higher up the same leg, attacked in an identical fashion by the same windlass. Lots of blood but much less swearing this time. My fault entirely. A decision on stitches will be made later.This disaster happened at Fradley Junction,a haven for gongoozlers but all missed it fortunately.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Colditz escape

Sadie returned home at 8.30 pm last night via the cat flap, wearing a "you called?" Look on her face, promptly ate a large meal and dumped herself on our bed, where she stayed all night. Having spent the previous day searching and calling her, we were mightily relieved. We had also distributed lost cat notes to all and sundry, together with phone numbers should she be spotted. Many marina residents assisted   our search and/or offered to keep an eye out for her. She seems none the worse for her adventure and has settled back on board as before.  Although this morning was dull and drizzly we took the opportunity to escape and quietly exited the marina very early, yet again heading up the Trent and Mersey canal to who knows where. 
By 16.30 we made it to Alrewas, although I have to admit I slept most of the way and left Lynne to steering duties, successfully as it turned out. We have moored before Alrewas because a friendly boater advised us of a boating rally there, so mooring space is at a premium. Being accused of opening our fridge more than once a day has spread like wildfire amongst the boating community. Boating is slow, the boating community is quicker. A passing boater spotted Tardis Two and shouted "I hope you have only opened the fridge once today". Good joke, though. We called into our favourite marina at Shobnall to buy a calor gas bottle. It is cheaper than Stensen and served with a smile for free. Our adventures gave them a laugh also.
Leaving Stensen was akin to having a concrete block lifted off our shoulders. Being back in the real boating world is brilliant and must be like getting let out of prison after serving a life sentence for something you were not guilty of.
We are unsure where we are heading, other than away from Stensen. We'll take each day as it comes and enjoy life a little, boat permitting.

Friday 23 August 2013

So near, but so far

A late change of escape plan meant an early morning start today. Everything was set, it was warm and sunny, but Sadie unusually had not returned from her night mousing hunt. Despite several desperate searches of the surrounding area we failed to locate her. Our escape foiled by a cat. 
By midday following many more fruitless searches we decided to stay one more night in the hope of the mousers return, having notified just about everyone on the marina of our loss. All now have our phone number and have promised to notify us immediately she is spotted. Although it will mean yet another return to Stensen at least this time a happy result is guaranteed.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Africa or bust

I am writing the start of this blog at 0730 hrs, up bright and early to ensure we're ready for our 0900 appointment with the bow-thruster engineer. Sitting here in anticipation is like waiting for the hospital porter to wheel you down to the operating theatre.
The "work" took all of half an hour and she was back in the water, but no engineer seen or heard. Equally no information received or offered, but photo's were taken of the empty bow -thruster tube prior and a new 5 blade prop after.
We went home to retrieve our mail and discovered confirmation of dates for my next brain scan and Neurology appointments, so things are starting to move in a positive direction at a fast rate. We need to carefully plot and plan our future movements to ensure we attend the appointments, although the cats (bless them) complicate things slightly as we cannot leave them unattended on the boat for any longer than a day and "cat sitters" are hard to come-by on the canals. I am in positive mode at the moment so expect things to fall into place in due course.
For reasons I do not need to explain I have two "stuck in my head" old songs today: "I'm free" ( The Who from Tommy) and "we've gotta get outta this place" ( Animals), a favourite of US troops in Vietnam. We will be singing both at full volume as we leave Stensen later this afternoon.
Swallows are already congregating on telephone wires ready for their winter retreat to Africa, indicating our summer is drawing to a close. Where did it go?

Wednesday 21 August 2013


Boiler fixed within 2 minutes of engineer arriving this morning. He was surprised we had not been told he could not make yesterday's appointment . The fault was in the electronic timer, which he replaced. We now have a hot water supply and central heating as and when required. But in addition we also have a direct phone link to a boat boiler expert who knows us and our boat should we ever need it.
We now need a similar bow-thruster expert. One was scheduled to arrive today but I suspect it will not happen as Tardis Two will need to be removed from the water and no arrangements appear to have been made yet. However, the boat is useable without bow- thrusters so we could move if necessary.
The boiler engineer gave lots of useful boating advice without b*lls**t, which we will take onboard (sorry) and was much appreciated. Our boating knowledge is growing by the day. Crossing the English Channel will be a doddle by the time we get round to it.
Healthwise today is much better, partly due to the light at the end of the marina getting brighter I suspect.
By late afternoon we were informed the bow-thruster engineer will be here 0900 hrs tomorrow, which again boosted our mood.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Ambience change

Following the success of yesterday's hospital visit ( not sure if that is the right way to describe it, but hey-ho ) this morning is bright and sunny with a more relaxed ambience. Yes, we still await boat repairs and the ability to cruise as originally intended, but these are the least important of our present problems and we are now better positioned to face them. Life goes on.
5days ago whilst Eddie and Paul were unsuccessfully fitting our new boiler we were told a boiler engineer would visit today to complete the job. We twiddled our thumbs until early afternoon with no sign of a boiler-man when Lynne walked all of 50 paces to the office to make "peaceful" enquiries, firstly being told they knew nothing about it, but then a phone call would be made to confirm the appointment and we would be told. Walking past the Stensen cafe at 15.45. With our "baby-sat" dog Wewere informed the boiler-man would be on-site 0900 tomorrow, but the bow thruster parts may not arrive until the weekend, although that engineer had previously been booked for tomorrow. Another wasted day, but at least we obtained some legal advice which we will keep up our sleeves for now. This saga could run and run. Imagine where the pram toys would end up on receipt of a solicitors letter.

Monday 19 August 2013


All this hanging around waiting for something to happen (anything to happen) is nerve-shattering  and doing nothing to improve my state of mind. A bright and sunny Monday morning, eerily quiet. I have a hospital appointment this afternoon which gives an excuse to escape. Remember the ending of "One flew over the cuckoo's nest" where the Native American Indian threw a sink through the window and all the inmates walked out? This afternoon could be like that. I was wondering what I could do with the anchor and chain purchased for the Thames trip,but fortunately unused to date.
We escaped early afternoon without using the anchor. My new tumour support nurse is everything the previous one should have been.....supportive and extremely positive. As a result I left our meeting feeling a million miles tall and with positive vibes literally forming a halo above me. I now have an appointment at a specialist neurology hospital in Nottingham where they will establish if my quality of life could be improved by an operation on a specific area of my brain. Present evidence suggests they know which lobe of my brain is worst affected by the tumour so with another scan or two they should know if anything can be done....all positive stuff. In the meantime I have yet another drug to try to hopefully eliminate my current mini-fits/vacant moments and overall sleepiness. I also have direct contact with my new support nurse 24/7.  We now consider we may have been short-changed by my London hospital, part of the post-code NHS lottery? 
A positive end to the day.

Sunday 18 August 2013

Let the sun shine in

A title for all you "hair" musical fans. When I was much younger and hairier I went to see the show 8 times as for everyone from outside the UK  it was always top of their must-see list whenever they visited me living in London, and I always enjoyed it. The cast recording sold for next to nothing in our vinyl record sale prior to buying the boat. This Sunday morning is sunny and bright, which helps lift our mood a little. On waking we were fooled into thinking summer had returned, but it appears the immersion heater also heats the radiators (?), which we have now switched off individually. The learning curve continues.
The pram toys remainedstrewn over the office floor apparently so some sympathetic tidying-up appeared  necessary, which Lynne  attempted this morning and her pram cleaning skills are renown.
Thanks to her good work peace and goodwill has broken out, but she was accused of draining the boat batteries by using the washing machine yesterday,despite us being connected to the mains electric supply. A joke we presume? It has kept us smiling all day and cheered-up anyone we told.
In addition, another presumed joke (?) was cracked whereby it was stated we should only open the fridge door once per day to maintain battery life, a statement so ludicrous it could be from the Tommy Cooper classic joke book, but again kept us smiling all day.

Saturday 17 August 2013

Now you see it........

A cool overcast morning in more ways than one. Lynne switched off our new immersion heater last night ( we are now obsessed with switching anything electrical off at night) but it blew the whole cabbush when switched-on this morning !!!!!!!! So it looks like running the engine for hot water in future.
Paul confirmed the trip switch had "tripped" on the dodgy ( in my view)marina land plug and therefore the inverter had overloaded and gone into "safety" mode. The engineer will check boat electrics Monday. During my walk round the sewer works boundary I noted a sign saying " Health and safety is no accident" which I consider apt in our current situation ( apologies for the same pun recurring ).
Healthwise a better day, no fits or vacancies.

Friday 16 August 2013

Breaking point

Continuous heavy rain overnight but no obvious signs of leakage ( on the boat, at least)it is still precipitating now as I write very early in the morning. Not a good night for sleeping- too much going on. Breaking point appears to have been reached. Over 4 months since launch Tardis Two remains an unfinished article, or rather an unliveable-on article, with seemingly little prospect of  being so within the foreseeable future, which now includes the winter. One beautiful summer wasted, so much frustration, heartache,stress, expense. Where to go from here? Legal action will only extend the issues and rectification period but would do little to restore confidence or financial losses and lift the mood, which at the moment is extremely low, so whatever I write now will need careful review and refining later. I have reached breaking point and can't put it any plainer than that. How that feeling will manifest itself remains to be seen but I need to be careful and a few things need to go my way today. 

Tardis Two has been out of the water yet again and it turns out the bow thruster propeller has gone, although the shear pin remains intact, which is mysterious, as that, by design, should have gone prior,a bit like an electrical fuse really. The bow thruster makers have told us they now make a stronger four bladed prop specially to cope with some of the notorious canal crap/debris, but when I told Eddie this gem of information it led to a "lets throw all the toys out of the pram"moment and the news was ignored, so I guess we're going to get the same replacement prop anyway. Incidentally the "new" prop is almost half the price. By mid afternoon the new boiler has been fitted but still fails to work, as previously. A "fitter"will give it a check-over next Tuesday apparently but in the meantime an immersion heater has been wired-in for a hot water supply whilst we are mains connected. Paul has promised to check-over the electrics this afternoon. It really is like watching paint dry.
We are off on another "clear head walk" in a minute.
Maisie, our adopted terrier must think all her birthdays have arrived at once, bless her, but she is always keen to go. The country air, ripe corn waving in the breeze and a bit of sunshine works like a Brillo pad on the brain but with less abrasion. I am in a better place now, as is Lynne. The anger and frustration is gradually being replaced with sheer determination to see this all through to a happier ending, come what may. Don't let the b*r*tar*s grind you down being the theme of the day. Whether the electrics have been checked we will not know till morning, I suspect.

Thursday 15 August 2013

Wasp season

An overcast, cool morning, which kinda reflects our mood. Lynne announced our return to Eddie on his arrival first thing who promised immediate  undefined action . On a more positive note Leicester hospital have moved  the appointment with my support nurse forward by more than a month, now scheduled for Monday 19th August, which is great news. In the fresh light of day Lynne's paintwork improvements have restored Tardis Two's appearance tremendously. Despite all her problems she remains a good looker. (Lynne and the boat) .Yesterday we had a spate of wasp incursions aboard requiring urgent and lethal use of a rolled-up magazine, indicating autumn is already creeping in. It is uncanny how wasps knowwhen the  picnic season arrives, even before humans do.
1300 hrs and, surprise, surprise, absolutely nothing has occurred, despite a "gentle reminder" a few minutes ago. At this rate we'll become marina residents by default.
1430 hrs Wabaco boiler unit removed and warranty replacement ordered. Bow thruster checked and broken safety pin suspected, but unfortunately not the easy one to get to. An "out of the water job". Lynne has gone for a pressure relief walk. The words Lynne and walk do not normally appear in same sentence so pressure must be severe. Where the hell does that leave me? I feel a pressure relief walk looming, but at least the sun is shining
1700 hrs. Pressure relief walk one completed long the canal towards Willington, round the nature reserve incorporating a small sewage works (good planning eh?) and back to the boat. It is now confirmed Tardis Two will be taken out of the water in the morning. Lynne and I then both went for a walk with a little terrier dog we are baby-sitting for friends on the marina, but this time along the canal in the opposite direction. On return we ran the engine to get hot water for our showers later.

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Rovers return

We moored near Willington last night about an hour from Stensen. We were both exhausted and I was on another planet so the plan was for an early start. The morning turned up warm and sunny, the canal looking stunningly beautiful and we made Stensen by 0845 hrs, moored just outside the marina and I announced our arrival to Dean. Apparently Eddie and Marion are off today so it should be just us and Paul to deal with our ongoing problems ( but not until tomorrow apparently as the latter was not expecting us and he is already fully booked for today). So as not to waste yet another day Lynne resorted to touching-up the boat paintwork and utilising the washing machine and the electric hook-up facilities available while I attempted to clear my head by sleeping for the afternoon, a seemingly regular occurrence these days, with little end result it has to be said. Apart from the non-welcome by MCC staff the warm welcome from other marina residents was very evident and greatly appreciated. From experience we have learned to link my stress levels with tumour activity so simple mathematics makes the  boat situation a factor in my current state, but where will the solution appear from? I wish I knew. Legal action is one possible way forward, but at increased stress? Being alive with a working boat is one thing but what is the worth of a working boat when dead? I think I already know the answer to that, although it does little to reduce the senses of frustration and anger suffered.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Trent and piracy report

A cool night but incident free. The cats came in at a reasonable time which enabled Lynne to get a decent worry-free sleep. The gas hob ignition worked this morning as it should, but the boiler has obviously given up the ghost, which suggests it has developed a fault since we first got Tardis Two as it certainly worked initially. One fault identified and acknowledged as such. Before we decide to cruise-on or return we will need to discuss repairs with MCC. My preferred option is to continue as planned whilst some of the summer remains and return to Stensen for repairs off-season. A downside to this plan is the rise of lock piracy , sheer bad manners and queue jumping suffered since the school holidays started. This time of year the canals are heavily utilised as hire-boat fleets set sail en-mass to maximise income, alongside family boats normally moored permanently in marinas. All hell breaks loose, which somewhat undermines our decision to cruise the UK's most popular canal now. We suffered lock piracy when a boat blatantly ignored Lynne waiting for me to prepare entry and barged through anyway (no pun intended). Most locks were built adjacent to bridges which unfortunately obscures boaters views of any lock activities and visa versa, and allows any unscrupulous users to cheat and gain time at busy periods. Another fully crewed boat moored- up as I was single-handedly preparing a lock and blatantly sat watching without a hint of offering to help. Lynne suggested I closed the gate as we left meaning it would force one of the lazy b.....des to get off and open it, but I invoked the old adage of "two wrongs do not make a right",  having since regretted it. Inthe event I profusely thanked each crew member for their help as we slowly cruised by. I was unsure if the sarcasm hit home.
A short cruise to Aylewas for food supplies and a discussion with Eddie resulted in him requesting we return to Stensen for Paul to fully reset the boiler controls, despite Lynne explaining she had already done so twice with no positive result.we even phoned an engineer from the boiler company who talked us both through the set-up procedure, again without success. His fault diagnosis was that the boiler had set itself into "safety mode", probably due to an earlier power supply failure (and we never mentioned our ongoing power problems), spooky eh ? Is it a case of Eddie putting us in the Sun reader category? Isn't it annoying when people do that? I realise I did that yesterday. Sorry if it caused offence to anyone.
With Lynne steering this morning I was able to watch a cormorant follow us along the canal, mainly underwater but occasionally appearing on the surface with a decent sized fish, which quickly disappeared down his/her throat.
During our return trip this afternoon I became a real liability, losing track of reality at locks or while steering the boat.It is a testament to Lynne's increasing confidence she was able to quickly take- over my duties without problem. At one point whilst steering I called her regarding what I perceived as a canal blockage ahead. She immediately confirmed it was not a blockage, but two boats moored on the same bank on a corner. A mirage on the Trent and Mersey canal? Am I going nuts? These drugs have a lot to answer for.  I was sent to the boat interior for the remainder of the afternoon for my own safety and that of others.
This latest interruption to our plans has done little for both our states of mind. Anger and frustration is surfacing in us both. Roll on Stensen  when Vesuvius is likely to erupt again. 

Monday 12 August 2013

Yet more vacancies

Following our departure from the marina, a short cruise and a night moored without access to electricity, the morning indicated our electrical problems continue. We could not get the boiler to ignite and therefore there was insufficient hot water for a shower, even though we had disconnected the bow thruster battery charger in the evening as instructed. I emailed Eddie with the news and received the expected reply that we had not used the boat power and equipment in the best available way ! The suggestion was we should shower whilst cruising to utilise the waste engine heat and thus avoid having to use the boiler. A sort of boat-user manual for Sun readers ( we get our on-board news via the BBC and iPad ) to say we are disappointed is a major understatement. Following receipt of the shower advice Lynne phoned MCC and talked Paul and Eddie through the issues and it was admitted there is little more we can do to improve electrical useage. In other words, it was as good as admitted the problems are not the fault of anything we are allegedly doing and the central heating/hot water boiler would be inspected/repaired on our return to MCC. We have opted to continue our travels as we can "live with" the problems during summer months, but obviously not in winter. We pencilled-in a mini victory and set a revised level of our boat competence for future possible disputes. My health has taken a distinct downward trend over the last two days, with frequent mini fits and prolonged periods of vacantness. So much so that I was ordered to bed for a rest shortly after lunch by Lynne who had managed to get us to the River Trent and moored near Alrewas without incident.
On a brighter note the cats have settled back on board really well, Best illustrated by the number of mice found on the stern this morning.

Sunday 11 August 2013

Surely not two forward and one back again?

Following our return aboard and our euphoria regarding finally having a boat that works the same electrical problem appears to remain, albeit in a different format. There was insufficient power to fire-up the diesel water heater this morning so Lynne has driven home for a shower and some left-behind items, returning again later. we'll give the whole shooting match another practical test before passing final judgement. An engineers report beckons I think. But , in fairness  I would prefer to avoid more hassle, expense And stress if at all possible, but the ball is once again firmly in their court and, as previously stated, I remain waiting for a winning shot.Today has started sunny with a cool breeze but we do not expect to leave the marina until at least early afternoon.
Lynne's early afternoon return signalled our departure from Stensen yet again. In the past I have slagged-off the Trent and Mersey canal as nothing special, but travelling along it for the umpteenth time has softened my heart ( or my head, but more on that later) as it was almost pretty in places. I had lots of mini-fits yesterday and lots more today, to the extent I had no recollection of us cruising through Willington or Burton. I was literally out of my head, or off the planet, you choose. Luckily Lynne was steering at the time. we have eventually moored somewhere between the Coors and Marstons breweries, not for the first time but it is a convenient 3 hours gentle cruising from Stensen, honest. I can live with fits ( I lie) but out-of-my-headednessI am unsure about
The Tardis Two throttle works well again and the alternator belt is no longer slipping, so the battery charging rate should have improved. All good news.

Saturday 10 August 2013


We were reunited with Tardis Two this afternoon. The escape hatches have been sealed, the mushrooms lowered and the electrics sorted. The fault turned out to be the bow thruster battery charger using heavy ampage at night. This has been cured by the fitting of an extra switch near the front escape hatch steps which we now need to switch off once we finish cruising for the day and remember to switch on again the next morning. Us switching the inverter off at night and back on in the morning inadvertently and temporarily cured the problem so we just have to change switches for the electrics to work as they should. It is good to be back aboard. Tomorrow we aim to set sail for Llangollen in North Wales where it generally rains, but we shall see. At least it will test the new seals. The cats almost seemed pleased to see the boat as mousing memories streamed back. The other noticeable improvement is the lack of a starboard lean. Eddie told me he had adjusted my ballast but I never felt a thing. We had one of our epic Sainsbury shopping sprees but it all somehow fitted somewhere on the boat, prior to yet another guided tour for two gongoozler children and parents.

Friday 9 August 2013

The two forward,one back scenario.

The car romped through it's service and MOT with only minor damage to my Bank balance, if only I could say the same for me. Having happily gone several weeks fit-free yesterday made up for the shortages in a big way. Checking the records a pattern seems to be emerging of clusters of fits approximately every 3 weeks, regardless of what drug I am on at the time, which should prove an interesting discussion with my new supportive support nurse once an appointment can be made. At present we are scheduled to meet late October, but hopefully an earlier one can be agreed. Having seen the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel I am keen to reach it sooner rather than later and avoid the two steps forward, one step back scenario, staggered through previously with much frustration.
On a brighter note we met our Falklands conflict veteran friend and his wife for a meal last night, during which I suffered two minor fits without incident. (I stayed above the table). We relayed our boat adventures to them and suddenly appreciated how many we have already had. Like all adventures they always seem amusing when reviewed later !  
Surprise, surprise,  Stensen have found nothing wrong with the electrics on Tardis Two and are once again insinuating it is something we do wrong, without being specific. We aim to re-board this afternoon and test the systems once again overnight after getting information on our alleged wrongdoings. I find this is best done personally rather than via email as body language often conveys much more than the written word can ever do
2 fits and some technicolor dreams in the night and 2 mini fits this morning collecting shopping from the village, so things are hotting up again?  


Our village has remained largely unchanged for decades. However, we move away for a few short weeks and all hell breaks loose. The Nisa store has morphed into Londis and the Co-0p supermarket opted for a major re-vamp, so my usual flying visits take longer as I stalk the shelves finding the new locations for essentials. Very frustrating. I visited my GP this morning to update my pills and potions list for future prescription orders. Having spoken to my new, very supportive epilepsy support nurse yesterday I have been told to space -out taking my anti-seizure pills 12 hourly and only after food, something my previous non-support nurse in London omitted to mention over several months. Kepra induces extreme tiredness, which again was news to me but not a surprise, given my condition over recent weeks. Attempting to put a positive spin on things to up my mood is showing positive results already and I have decided an early return to the boat will be a bonus so I'll let Eddie know the repairs need to be completed this weekend. Our car is in for a service and MOT today, which should ensure it is ok for another 6 months or so, depending on our boat useage regime.
One thing remains constant. My faithful old rhino is still here to greet me each morning. It is slightly more exotic, but quieter than the boat dawn chorus I have now grown accustomed to 
My positive regime continues apace and I have already fixed the continuously running downstairs cistern, but have made way for a more expert head regarding the similarly performing upstairs one as the design is more high-tech and from China apparently. I don't do high-tech.

Thursday 8 August 2013

Wardrobe malfunction.

Living with one foot on land and the other on water throws up wardrobe issues not previously considered. This morning whilst attempting to get dressed for my dental appointment finding the right clothes, or even socks, proved problematical. Half my limited wardrobe is on Tardis Two and the remainder in the house or cases, except each of matching halves seem to have parted company. Eventually we should get to the stage when virtually everything clothing -wise can be transferred en-mass without the risk of future wardrobe malfunctions. Roll on. The dentist confirmed replacing my crunchy filling will need a longer appointment to book cement mixers etc. and therefore Lynne has craftily booked another appointment on the same date, but different time, as my next brain scan to minimise time off Tardis Two and hopefully retain some wardrobe control.  Yesterday was not good health-wise, (mentally-not physically) but today is better so far. Coping with consultants I find very stressful. It is what they carefully avoid telling you that I think causes more stress than being honest would. I feel like a ping-pong ball and seem to be forever waiting for the winning shot which never looks like being struck. A bit like watching Arsenal really. Today is sunny and warm so I'm off for a walk, but doubt if I'll make Old John this trip.
As predicted I opted for the shorter and easier destination of Castle Hill Country Park, a kind of clear my head and sort out my thoughts route. Realising I am slipping back into depression and a change of mind-set is required I arrived home to be confronted by Lynne with a few home-truths about the same subject. We're both in this together, something easy to lose sight of in the dark and dingy depths of life. I have opted to attempt a more positive attitude by avoidance of relying on other factors to improve what is left of my life. We are all born and we all die. It is what we do with the bit in between that makes all the difference. No one else gives a ---- so why wait for them to make a decision for you?

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Hospital roundup

Having completed the tour of Leicester hospitals I can report once you have seen one you have seen them all. Old buildings, big expensive car parks and miles of anonymous corridors. Nothing dramatic to report healthwise, other than I have another brain scan booked together with a meeting with my new support nurse, who so far has been extremely supportive. I have also been asked to obtain copies of previous scans in London on disc so the new one can be reviewed against them. 
Whatever happened to electronic transfer? Otherwise nothing new to report.
Dentist tomorrow. Car MOT Friday. Busy, busy, busy.

Leicester General hospital

My tour of local hospitals continues today with a trip to see my consultant for a general check-up on my head, which should prove interesting. I'm having one of those loose brain in head days, not aching, but strange all the same. at present I am attempting to tame the garden by belatedly pruning forsythia, pyracantha and other shrubs threatening to replace the Brazilian rain forests. Luckily it is dustbin day so we should avoid a trip to the tip in addition to other duties planned. It is all rush and tear this retirement. How did we find time to work? Lynne's long-lost Dyson parts arrived today, thankfully. They have the world's first no loss of suction cleaner, the world's fastest hand driers and the world's most tortuous parts delivery system, but I suppose two out of three is a reasonable result overall. The sun and the garden are beckoning so it is back to the grindstone I suppose.

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Leicester Royal infirmary

By way of a welcome home I had my customary trip to hospital by ambulance. I spent the night in a very busy and large A&E Dept before being transferred to an urgent assessment unit for observation and breakfast.I went upstairs for an early night and within half an hour Lynne heard an almighty thump, rushed upstairs to find me on the bed clutching my head. Within minutes we were accompanied by two paramedics and a doctor. it Appeared I had somehow managed to thump my head on some immovable object, creating a mega-headache and a matching lump on the tumour side of my head. How still remains a mystery. The short ambulance trip made me realise how unsuitable these converted vans are for transporting sick people. With virtually no suspension they shake, rattle and roll along. It was bad enough with severe headache, never mind an injured spine. A shortish wait at Accident and emergency and I got seen by a beautiful young doctor who looked around 18. I was feeling better already.the A&E had their own ex Sumo-wrestler security force complete with stab jackets, apparently necessary for the usual late evening drunken flotsam and jetsam that drifts through, sadly.A decision was made I may have suffered a mini-fit and required further monitoring on the 15th floor assessment unit, which proved very busy with lots of patients coming and going through what little remained of the night. Lynne finally got a taxi home (again) at 0500 hrs and collected me, back to "normal", at 10.30hrs with the promise of an appointment with my consultant in two days time. I caught up on my missed sleep this afternoon and feel much better now, panic over.
All medical staff were intrigued by my panda feet and very impressed with my Origano oil bullet hole treatment, so expect it to be available on the NHS sometime soon.

Monday 5 August 2013

Electric and other problems update

Busy morning at Stensen. A day-boat booking had been "mislaid", the bunch of hiree's were ready and waiting but the boat was not cleaned or filled with diesel. The diesel pump has packed-up and the day boat roof leaks (sound familiar?) so all was in panic mode as I approached the office first thing Monday morning. Eddie was his usual laid-back self and explained the investigation procedures necessary to trace our electric "leak", which he acknowledges obviously does exist. However, the boat launched after ours is already back in the workshop and the owner insists he will be leaving Thursday so the space will be ours from Wednesday, which suits us and our hospital appointments. I have also asked Eddie to review Tardis Two original spec/price and detail any revisions agreed since,  in the hope of solving the on-going double glazing mystery. I also added to the  fault list the bilge pump does not appear to be working . The pit-bull was on tranquillisers I think but rude non-the-less.

Sunday 4 August 2013

Musings of an old boater

Having completed our first few months living aboard and my first night alone (with cats) it is time to reflect on outcomes. ( living aboard, not being on my own). To say it has far surpassed my expectations would be an understatement. I was always confident the lifestyle would suit and benefit me, but a little less sure about Lynne, who always puts my welfare and happiness far in advance of her own, something I have always had to reluctantly accept. It has always concerned me that someone is prepared to put their own ideals behind them for the sake of others. Mother Theresa springs to mind as a glowing example, but she had faith in her God to lean on. Lynne only has me, which I find hard to comprehend, but  for which I am eternally grateful. however, Lynne has launched herself (excuse the pun) into the venture 200% and has taken to it like a duck to water (sorry, two puns in one sentence), which makes me feel very pleased and less selfish, which are both positive results. Future trips we have vowed to make less date orientated and more relaxed, allowing time for those impromptu BBQ's and canal-side picnics we both dreamed of.
Neither of us have found boat space particularly restrictive and we both enjoy boater banter and interactions. Furthermore both cats have settled into nomadic life amazingly well, much to our relief, although I am sure hedgerow mice will fail to agree with our enthusiasm.

The last leg

Our first "long-term" trip sadly draws to a close as we near Burton On Trent again. A quick fill of diesel at Shobnall marina and we are ready for some "snagging" at MCC. We do not intend staying there longer than we have to before heading North on our adventures again, having sorted out my teeth, tumour treatment and hair (which one?) I hear you ask. My bullet hole is healing nicely, thanks to the Oregano oil treatment used over recent days, courtesy of  Tigon ltd.The fact you can't see daylight through it any more is a good sign I suppose. My skills with a windlass have also improved as my legs have remained damage-free for several weeks now, no doubt assisted by the lock-keepers on the Thames doing everything for us. Lynne's boat control skills have also improved considerably. Our entry onto the River Trent yesterday totally unphased her, unlike the first time when, by her own admission, she required bulk supplies of Tenna-Lady. In fact, Lynne commendably reversed Tardis Two out of Shobnall and moored her round the corner, giving us the opportunity of brunch at the cafe. The day started dry and sunny but gradually changed to cloudy with showers and high winds, par for the course on the Trent and Mersey I'm afraid.
Against our better judgement we opted to give it a go getting to MCC today despite the threat of rain and consequently got soaked. I don't want to leave this boat but I do want to get the faults rectified so I have to, unfortunately. If all had been ok we would not have vacated until October, but so be it.
Back at MCC 1800 hrs. No spare spaces so moored opposite marina, the plan being for Lynne to get back to dry-land home by taxi and return for me and cats by car tomorrow morning following her hospital breast cancer monitoring check-up, by which time I should have some idea of boat repair timetables etc. ??? Don't hold your breath.

Saturday 3 August 2013

Nuts and fruit cake day

Apart from the odd shower or two and the ferocious thunder and lightening storm yesterday was notable for the abundance of boating nutters and fruit cakes out and about. It was like open day at the asylum. Wrong side of the canal, mooring on corners, mooring on water points, full pelt through bridges...... You name it and it happened. Lots of ignoring protocol by not apologising for obvious errors or saying thanks for favours done. One of those days I suppose. Put it down to experience. Today is brighter in lots of respects. The sun is out again and already fellow boaters have been well behaved and courteous. Tardis Two has a dry interior again and is back to something like "normal" after her sieve-like escapade last night in the storm. Both hatches leaked badly, as did all the mushroom vents, causing us to abandon our bed to avoid drowning. Every towel, bucket and saucepan was fully utilised to good effect. Another snag list for Eddie tomorrow.
We are moored at Barton Turns on the Trent and Mersey canal. I think it is a small village with a pub named after it, or is it the other way round? We ate in the pub this evening. If you have ever watched the comedy "Early Doors" you'll have some idea of the place. The food and the music are rooted in the 1960's , Steak and ale pie with chips and gravy, plus Gerry and the Pacemakers , we found it quite amusing. To be fair, the food was good, if a little basic, but not worthy of a Brunoboat star this time around. Maybe next visit? 
Healthwise a good day. I have finally solved the insulin/Keppra balance problem and improved my overall "feel good factor". Apart from my general tiredness it appears most of the other problems,including the holograms, were diabetes induced.

Friday 2 August 2013

Hopwas jam

We made an early start to avoid forecast showers and hit.................forecast showers. Last night we ate out,mainly due to a lack of in- house supplies.Next to the canal in Polesworth is the Bull'sHead pub, which does not do food but has an Indian restaurant above called India Garden. The restaurant proved as inviting as the pub so we opted to sit outside on the "terrace", for the want of a better word. the food and service were brilliant so we awarded them a Brunoboat star without hesitation and Lynne left them with a few decoration hints, of which they promised to take heed before our next visit. The next village down the canal is Hopwas. Two prats uhad moored narrowboats on a blind bend which caused chaos as Tardis Two, a Tupperware boat and two narrowboats attempted to pass. Opting to reverse out of the way I slowly re-passed one of the aforementioned prats as he emerged, wearing only a pair of Cotton Traders XXXX pyjama shorts. His comment was "That's what you get when everyone leaves at the same time". My comment was "That's what you get when you moor on a blind bend". At which point he quietly disappeared again. Eventually all boats continued on their way and we moored for supplies and lunch at Whittington, I presume where Dick came from. As the village had a Co-Op (being refurbished) and a good pub we awarded it 8 out of 10 for liveability. the loss of two points being due to its proximity to Birmingham.
The Coventry canal construction varies considerably. it has no "soul". When it was built funding kept being a problem and a number of different companies and engineers became involved over the years,each incorporating their own ideas.
  Having started the day with light showers we finished it in a humdinger of a thunderstorm and, as has become traditional, mooring sites were suddenly at a premium, resulting in two very wet boaters. Overall good progress was made and my targeted appointments seem reachable.
Healthwise an average day with tiredness the main problem.

Thursday 1 August 2013

Cream crackered Atherstone

After yesterday's washout today started very warm and sunny, global warming I presume. A busy morning of locks and more locks with lengthy walks between, who said this boating lark is relaxing? Lunch-time and I'm already cream crackered (knackered for all non-cockneys) 
Atherstone flight contains 11 individual locks spread over a considerable distance of the Coventry canal, easier tackled with helpful crews from other boats passing through. A lazier,grumpier, more moronic bunch of boaters would be hard to find, believe me. All heron's in a previous life? Overlooking a Virgin train or two over lunch made me think how much more sensible it would be for the Government to spend their £billions on building tilting trains in Britain using British expertise and introducing them on the present London to Birmingham line, perhaps incorporating my idea of a few extra bends just for the fun of it. Alton Towers eat your heart out. More fun, no countryside desecration, faster journey times and lots of new engineering jobs in the UK. Talking of jobs, two Canal and River Trust painters were busy on a set of locks this morning but had only been supplied with white paint (locks are traditionally black and white).
In addition the paint they were using on metal was for wood only. CRT an improvement over British Waterways? I have serious doubts.
CORRECTION:   In the section above regarding tilting trains please replace "their £billions" with "our £billions".