Monday 30 June 2014

Nervy times

Stayed overnight at our daughter's flat within a reasonable distance of the Royal Marsden (as opposed to 2 hrs from Leicester). Despite being "in town" we were woken by a dawn chorus . A lone blackbird I think.  And sunshine. Despite all this I woke with distinct butterflies in my stomach.  Yet again the results of today's tests can have a major effect on how I live the rest of my life. I' ve lost count of the number of times I've thought that, but now I' m in a better place  it seems to carry even more significance, strangely enough.
In the event all went well. The first PET scan involved adding a dose of radio active gunge to my bloodstream, sleeping for an hour then undertaking a whole body scan for an hour and a half. It was the most silent scanner I have ever been in and apparently it "picks out" lone, live cancer cells, if any. 
Lynne was allowed to sit with me but was requested not to speak ( for two and a half hours, remember ! )
The second scan after lunch was of the conventional type , but again totally silent. A bone marrow test tomorrow. Results of all will be reviewed Friday and relayed to me late next week. Fingers crossed.
An overcast, cool day but sub-tropical hot-spots promised over next weekend

Sunday 29 June 2014

Home again

We were welcomed home by this glorious clematis in our garden.
Otherwise we are preparing for our trip to two London hospitals Monday and Tuesday. We. are staying with my youngest daughter in her new flat, only twenty minutes from the Royal Marsden where I have a whole body scan on Monday and a bone marrow test (ouch) on Tuesday.
I managed the whole boat trip without accident or injury but gained myself a blood blister on my thumb whilst locking the marina residents car park gate on our way out. Typical. !  
Today is dull and cool, but who cares? 

Saturday 28 June 2014


A very cold day by recent standards plus some light showers and drizzle. We continued our trip "home" and stopped for lunch at our favourite spot on the Trent section, where we were "buzzed" by an unmarked Douglas Dakota and later by an unmarked helicopter. We were starting to feel jittery but finished lunch and completed the remainder of our trip.
Lynne did her normal trick of mooring in our slot without hassle.

Friday 27 June 2014


The butterfly below (cinnibar) was spotted by Lynne yesterday alongside the Coventry canal, but today is certainly not butterfly weather. Precipitating and cold, hence we have not moved far. However, a charming couple passed at a seriously fast rate ( for a narrowboat ) which caused Tardis Two to break stern mooring. My appearance on the stern brought a response from the charming driver along the lines of"what's the bleep problem? I'm on tickover".   I suggested he gets his engine checked. A few choice swear words followed as he disappeared into the rainy distance.
In fairness very few boaters are like that. Most have an education and manners. They slow down past moored boats and politely warn you if there is a mooring problem with your boat. This guy was the Suarez of the waterways, a moron and a Pratt, but it takes all types. 
We are not in a rush so are waiting for the rain to ease. Ironically we are short of water. The last waterways tap we stopped at was faulty and the one before was very congested. The next one is in Fradley, half an hour ahead, if and when the rain stops.    The rain stopped and we made it to Fradley, managing to fill with water and Empty rubbish bins and cassettes before a gigantic thunder storm arrived, so we completed our tasks without getting soaked.

Thursday 26 June 2014

Phylis May 2

Overcast day today, but warm out of a cool breeze, which makes life difficult in the clothing department. One minute you're warm and sweating,the next cool with goosebumps.
Yesterday afternoon we passed Phyllis May 2, a narrowboat owned by Terry Darlington , of          narrowboating novel fame;  Narrow dog to carcassone , when he took it over the channel to Southern France and Narrow dog to Indian River, when he took it down the west coast of America. Finally Narrow dog to Wigan pier, which does exist, honest. 3 very entertaining reads.
Our journey to a night mooring near Fradley Junction was largely uneventful, unless you call a visit to Tesco an event. We met a couple who we got on with like houses on fire, ending up with drinks and a meal in the local pub. The meal was not the best but a good time was had by all and Lynne ended up as p...ed as a newt, requiring assistance getting undressed and into bed.
Healthwise nothing to report other than my fitness continues to improve day by day.

One flew over the cuckoo's nest

Apologies, still having problems with internet connections, this time on the Coventry.
There seems to be a lot of loonies let loose this week, mainly in the 80 to 90 age bracket. Our first today was waiting behind us for the first Atherton lock and suddenly walked off along the towpath shouting. I asked his colleague if they had a problem with us. He told me to ignore him as he "is a penny short of a shilling".  We also followed two very old duffers through a series of locks, resulting in me having to help with lock gates and paddles.  Most old male boaters tend to look like rejects from   
Zee Zee Top, but all are friendly. It was sunny and warm again today but the locks seemed easier than on the way up, partly due to mainly walking downhill. We were both knackered so agreed to moor early for dinner.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Coventry reprise

No doubt you will have realised two blogs have appeared on the same day,entirely due to technical reasons. The Ashby is as short of mooring spaces as it is internet and mobile phone connections. Sorry.
So far on the return trip we have seen a huge Pike, obviously of sufficient size to have been living on duck and moorhen chicks for several months before his demise. Also a tufted duck (see photo). I assume it escaped from domesticity at some stage in the past but now shares the canal with Mallards.
There seems to be a natural pecking order (  sorry ) amongst canal waterfowl. Cygnets are well behaved and rarely cause problems for parents. (public schools.)Ducklings are fairly indisciplined and cause a few problems (state secondary schools) while moorhens are lousy parents and the chicks do what they want, causing chaos and frequently getting lost in the meantime ( borstal). They are all cute and good for a laugh.    We're having a gentle cruise home  so have moored above the Atherton locks to allow a fresh assault on them in the morning. At this rate England will be home before us. Apparently
Roy Hodgson has arranged a consolation match against Iceland. If we win that we play Asda and then Sainsbury's.

Monday 23 June 2014


Made it to the Ashby canal in time for lunch. Working out when we need to turn for home, bearing in mind my hospital commitments.  Less hot but equally sunny as yesterday. Nothing much to report other than an incident yesterday on the Coventry canal when we were assaulted by a Willow Wren hire boat, apparently driven by a very young Chinese schoolgirl . As you can see below canal bridges are only wide enough for 1 boat at a time. The rule on British canals is when 2 boats approach a bridge from opposite directions the nearest boat has right of way, but I guess the rules are different in China.
Lynne was three quarters through the bridge when the girl tee-boned Tardis Two at speed and with intent.The steel to steel contact did little damage to either boat, but Tardis Two was pushed into a bank of brambles and bushes which played havoc with the paintwork, which I spent the weekend T-cutting and polishing. I intend contacting Willow Wren tomorrow !  
The Ashby is a quiet,pretty canal, but shorter than previously as part of it recently disappeared into an old mine shaft beneath and is yet to be restored. Evidence of water voles was seen, but no actual voles, which was disappointing. However, we did see a  heron, the first on this trip.

Sunday 22 June 2014

Pooley hall

I must have been a good student on my boaters beginners course yesterday as I have yet to receive any criticism today. Hot sunny day and we're still cruising the Coventry canal as we somehow miscalculated our progress to the Ashby, perhaps due to our more leisurely approach. As I write this lunchtime report we are moored below the infamous Atherton locks, all 11 of them, changing the canal level by 80 feet.    Pooley hall is nearby, of early 1500 vintage and once owned by Edwin Starr and allegedly Robbie Williams.
Having completed the Atherton locks in blistering heat we are even further behind schedule. The locks are all in very,very poor condition and as a  consequence take forever to get through, filling slowly and emptying even slower. Apparently there are only two factories in England making locks and so demand outstrips supply and thus replacing dodgy locks is a slow process. We flaked-out for tea soon after the top lock and sought a pub in the hope of lowering tension. The guide book suggested a short walk to the Stag and Pheasant, but it was more like a mile, mostly uphill. The pub was as interesting as it's name. Apart from the effect of drink the return trip was easier as it was all downhill. 
On our way back We bumped into 3 guys who operate a "shop" boat selling soap and dog food. The 70ft boat front is packed with goods for sale while the 3 live in a tiny space at the rear. No mod-cons.
They were off to a boat event at Braunston.
The pub trip eased some tensions and gave some options for the remainder of our trip, which will prove interesting. We have opted to start early tomorrow morning, thus avoiding cruising in the midday debilitating heat.

Friday 20 June 2014

Coventry & Ashby canals

As usual on the Coventry I was pleasantly woken by the dawn chorus.  The forecast is for a sunny and warm day so the Ashby canal should be a good trip.Lynne discovered a lovely nature reserve in Fradley, based on the original Coventry canal reservoir. It is now very well managed by the canal and river trust and contains fishing platforms and a bird watching hut, plus lots of bird nest boxes and bug boxes. A large wooden dragonfly offers seating and a picnic table. 
For some reason I have yet to fathom Lynne chose to give me basic boating training  for the remainder of the morning. Has my driving deteriorated and hers improved that much? 
The, hot, sunny afternoon promised failed to materialise, but the beauty of the Coventry canal remains undiminished. It's appearance changes regularly, in line with the wild flower and agricultural crop seasons.

Where to ?

A sunny but decidedly chilly morning.  We had two options of where to go. Anderton lift or Ashby canal. Checking our canal maps and timetables the lift would have been a lot of cruising for long days, whilst the Ashby is more flexible and relaxing, giving us the option of how long to cruise and when to turn round in order to make my hospital appointments in early July. Having completed some important forms and posted them, done a little food shopping and filled the car with petrol and our worldly goods,we arrived back on board just as the weather changed for the better, causing me to dispense with my track suit trousers and rugby shirt. Don't panic, I replaced them with cooler shorts and a tee shirt. The afternoon was very hot and we made excellent progress, mooring for dinner on the Coventry canal just past Fradley. We should join the Ashby canal tomorrow, complete with several colonies of rare water voles.

Thursday 19 June 2014

The good and not so good news

Yesterday proved extremely long, not least due to hold-ups on the various motorways used.  We arrived for my appointment at St George's hospital, Tooting, on -time and left with the best result possible. The scan confirms my tumour has shrunk considerably. So much so that it is deemed necessary to review it 6 monthly. Next scan January 2015, which is good news indeed.
Next appointment at the famous  Royal Marsden cancer hospital in Sutton half an hour later, which proved less conclusive . Samples from my leg operation routinely sent for analysis revealed some lymphoma cancer cells floating around. I was treated for lymphoma at the royal Marsden 24 years ago, by the same cancer specialist seen yesterday, now a professor , who was baffled by the evidence presented. As a result he opted to undertake blood tests yesterday (virtually emptying my right arm in the process), plus body scans and a bone marrow test later.  Whilst he has considerable doubts the problem ( what problem? ) has any links to cancer, given how well the operation wound has healed, he is determined to eliminate any doubts. Hence the tests.
Overall a mixed day, but I remain confident the worst is over, reflecting my improved mental state.
My weight is virtually back to"normal"
England did little to add sparkle to the day by losing to Uruguay in the World Cup .
On a brighter note we hope to set sail again tomorrow.

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Oh, what a beautiful morning

Sunshine and blue sky, only airline vapour trails spoiling the perfect scene. Today is the last sector of our return to the marina where Tardis Two will relax for a day whilst we rush down to London for two hospital visits. The next boat trip will be longer-term ( hopefully ).
Our current mooring on the River Trent is one of our favourites, previously used several times. We pass this spot each time we come and go from the marina in Barton. It is isolated, extremely quiet and perfect for us.............heaven .
Arrived at marina in time for lunch with temperatures plummeting. Lynne sailed Tardis Two through the narrow marina entrance and reversed into our berth perfectly,despite it being windy. I think I may be redundant ?  
A day on dry land tomorrow , albeit in scanning machines, but we both feel seasoned boaters now.
Time to remove the L plates? They remain good conversation starters, so perhaps not.

Sunday 15 June 2014

Confused . Com

Back to sunshine this morning. I awoke to discover we are a day ahead of ourselves ( my fault entirely ) confused or what? However, our policy of slow cruising, stopping when and where and for as long as we want is paying dividends. No imposed deadlines to meet and no enforced cruising in wind or rain certainly generates an air of tranquility and relaxation aboard.  

Once the sun disappeared temperatures dropped considerably, so we stopped for water and to empty the cassettes at Fradley then moored for dinner and the night on the River Trent near Alrewas . At Fradley I ran ahead of the boat to open the lock ( my first run since breaking my leg ). I'll be jumping next, but don't hold your breath.

Tamworth turnaround

We arrived at Tamford after lunch and turned for the trip back to the marina and home. Tamford is a non-descript type of town with restaurants from every country in the world, which we ignored in favour of a boat-cooked pasta. Next stop Willington, a small town or village boasting a pub, a Co Op and not much else. 
The day was overcast and warm but cooled with light rain later.

Friday 13 June 2014

Iraqi rebels seek forgiveness

Rain overnight but a dry morning, although much cooler. The blog title is a cynical joke about the uselessness of the UN, of course.
Sadly, We will need to return to the marina for our Wednesday trip to London hospitals, but can mirror the leisurely pace of our outward journey (weather permitting). Those of you with good memories will recall our boat electrical problems in 2013, but I can happily report all is working well this year, most likely due to the skilled fitting staff at Barton marina. (The loose battery connection unexplained but quickly fixed ).
Like the boat, my health improvements continue apace. A few tweaks to my insulin regime and a few more days on the boat should return me to my pre-chemo condition, I think. Confidence is high.

Onwards and upwards

Today was pretty much the same as yesterday,but we managed a two and a half hour lunch beside the  Coventry canal , life is really slowing down, but getting richer.  
My sandal-clad feet are suffering in the sun and challenging my panda ones of last year. So much so that I was forced to hide them in trainers for the afternoon.

We moored in Fazely Junction for the night, having filled with water and emptied the cassettes. During the day Lynne had miraculously  managed to arrange my brain scan at St George's and my leg scan at  the Royal Marsden on the same day, saving us two trips to London and more time for cruising      (hopefully ). Perhaps she could run Leicester Royal Infirmary?


Yesterday was as perfect as life could get. Shorts, sandals, sunshine and no rush to get anywhere.
Apart from hitting another boat head-on in Alrewas, fender to fender and very slowly. No damage done and both "drivers" admitted mutual fault with a smile ( boaters are like that ). There was, of course, an expert witness, you know the sort, big head, equally big mouth and stomach,very small brain, who tried desperately to get involved but both parties had already decided he was a Pratt and cruised on regardless. In the centre of Alrewas there is a very long and narrow bend, exacerbated by exercise -phobic boaters mooring on the outer curve. Tardis Two is 62 ft and the other boat involved was also as long, hence each has a steering point with 31ft overhang front and back. A narrow, sharp bend is hard to negotiate at the best of times without the need to avoid moored boats, one of which happens to have Mr Pratt aboard.
Lunch on the River Trent,see below.
Relaxed or what?
Today started equally warm and sunny.

Thursday 12 June 2014

Ahoy there

A peaceful night and beautiful sunny morning, almost like being on holiday. I had a sense of euphoria when I heard the United Nations have condemned the terrorist attacks on cities in Iraq  ( the country hundreds of our troops lost their lives  bringing peace to ). If someone can tell me what usefull purpose the UN serves  please let me know. It costs all of us untold money..............for what?
We ate our lunch next to the River Trent and our dinner next to the Coventry canal, all in brilliant sunshine. Moored-up for the night on the Coventry amid woodland and continuous bird calls. Close your eyes and you could be in the Amazon Jungle.

Wednesday 11 June 2014


A bright and sunny day for our early departure to Stanmore hospital for, hopefully, my last leg inspection. Our sat-nav caused a problem by packing up entirely, leaving us helplessly driving in circles around Stanmore, but fortunately we still arrived on time and had an X ray prior to seeing my orthopaedic surgeon, who was very pleased with the healing process and pronounced me
Released from any further visits, but still with the need to check-out the possibility of cancer cells remaining in my leg, although his opinion remained this was very unlikely, but only an expert oncologist could decide, hence my scheduled visit to the Royal Marsden hospital in two weeks time.
I have often voiced my opinion that a lot of the NHS is crap and overloaded with unnecessary bureaucracy, but  one shining exception to this description has to be Stanmore hospital which was actually a pleasure to attend. All staff smile a lot and seem proud to work there. The whole place functions efficiently. It must be something they put in the water. I fully intend recommending the chief executive and his pathetic  entourage from Leicester Royal spend a day or two at Stanmore, where they will inevitably learn something.
A drink at the marina pub and a pizza rounded off a very good day.

Tuesday 10 June 2014


Bright and sunny. Ideal for fence painting. The rest of the week sounds great for cruising, so post- leg check-up tomorrow, we're ready and extremely keen to go, even if our "window" is "only" 6 days ( I'm not complaining ). We have the rest of the summer and I really need to see a dentist as I've lost half a filling where I previously had route-canal work several years ago. The half tooth causes me no problem at the moment but I would prefer to act before it does.
Completing first paint coats on both sheds  and the. Rear fence ( they look great, even if I do say so myself ), gave me lots of time to spin tunes round my head. Recent D day celebrations re-confirmed my sympathy with our troops returning from far-flung conflicts with physical and mental wounds only to be sent off to fend for themselves. My sympathies also extend to our historic bad treatment of Native American Indians, " the last resort" Eagles ,  South American Indians, " City of Dreams"  Talking Heads .

Monday 9 June 2014

Fence repairs again

Sunny and warm but thunderstorms forecast, so I finished repairing our rear  fence ready for painting, plus planted some freshly rooted Rosemary cuttings.  Physical challenges were overcome, but I was knackered by tea time.  I intend starting painting tomorrow, but how far I get depends on the frequency  and ferocity of forecast heavy showers. Watch this space.

Fence brainwave

More sunshine and showers . Our bottom garden fence has always had a damaged slat or two, not easy to replace. Whilst rummaging around I discovered a fence panel at the rear of our shed which, with minor adjustments, fits the bill perfectly. Thus my day is already allocated.

Hathurn, Castle Donnington, Beaumont Leas.

Sunshine and showers Sunday so we opted for dry land cruising with friends, starting at a farm near Loughborough that serves fabulous cream scones, from where we opted for lunch at a pub previously visited next to the Trent and Mersey canal, finally  stocking up with cheap reading glasses from Wilkinson's for me on the boat, finishing up with drinks in our friends garden ( by which time the sun was permanently up and very warm ) . The day confirmed the beauty  of the Leicestershire countryside and my improved health.

Saturday 7 June 2014

Logistics 2

Our late evening return to the house, aimed at avoiding rush hour traffic, went tragically wrong when neither of us remembered closing the boat roof hatch with heavy overnight rain forecast. So a late night return to the boat was undertaken. Unfortunately nighttime repairs to the M1 motorway had already commenced, causing considerable delays and chaos, hence our journey to the marina was equally frustrating and exciting. The hatch was closed and no rain transpired. We collapsed into bed after midnight but aim to deliver clothes to the boat this afternoon, remembering to close the roof hatch when we leave !

Thursday 5 June 2014

Back to the future

After yesterday's bombshell I slept early and awoke even earlier to consider my options. 
Having struggled long and hard to reach the place I'm at I do not intend retreating at this stage and have opted for a positive outlook.  Cancer cells are hardly likely to spring back into activity twenty-odd years later, surely? 
Anyway, I have little influence on the situation at this stage, preferring to leave the issue in the hands of people I trust implicently, Royal Marsden hospital. I can't hide the fact this is a setback but I'm able to deal with the situation much better than I could have a month or two ago, which indicates progress I suppose.
Today has started bright and sunny, supporting my positive attitude.

A warm,sunny day, most of which we spent on the boat. Having loaded our supplies we had ample time for relaxation and scoffing a pizza each before returning home. We have a lunch appointment tomorrow before returning to the boat with clothes in the afternoon.

Roller coaster

As we were preparing to load the boat with enough supplies to sustain us till Xmas our roller coaster ride continued with the arrival of a letter from Stanmore hospital requesting I get my damaged leg checked as some laboratory tests on tissue removed during the operation had belatedly indicated possible traces of cancer.  The cells could be dead and may relate to the lymphoma I had over twenty years ago which was cured by the Royal Marsden hospital at the time. Having got over the shock we are attempting to re-visit the hospital at the earliest opportunity and hope they can confirm there is no cause for concern. With luck we can continue with our boating plans and avoid unloading all those supplies again.
It was sunny and cool today, but the letter put a bigger dampener on the day than the weather ever could.

Loading boat in sunshine

Yes, sunshine. Today we're concentrating on tinned food and clothing , with perhaps the odd bottle or two of booze. In other words anything with a relatively long shelf life, which hopefully includes me?
We'll fill Tardis Two with diesel so we won't need to worry for a month or two.
Happy days.

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Drought end

It rained most of yesterday and has yet to stop. We have decided on a spot of retail therapy to get us out of the house for a while. Margaret's birthday present was money for a boating hat and I also need new sandals, so our mission is already defined.
By the way, Bette Midler does a wonderful version of "In my life" , which is my stuck in the head song for today so far. 
I'm still feeling good and would feel even better if it would only stop bloody raining !
Mission accomplished  plus new shades.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Prescription lottery

After several days of success in London it was almost reassuring to get back to Leicestershire NHS chaos, this time involving my insulin supply. I use two distinct types, both pork derivatives , one long-acting (overnight) and one short-acting (daytime) . Simple? Not according to my GP or my pharmacy who seem able to supply only one of them. As a result I have a fridge full of short-acting insulin but close to running out of the long-acting, which is obviously far from ideal. After several trips to the pharmacy and my GP it appears the problem may have been resolved, but I'm not holding my breath.
It is only a matter of life or death (mine) after all.

Monday 2 June 2014

Boiler kiss of life.

After many months of frustration, swearing and anger, our old boiler is back in working order again, albeit  temporarily. We now have hot water to all taps and the shower, plus central heating, all at the same time if desired. Through a combination of being skint  and my illness we had delayed repairs/replacement  for as long as possible, but a chance meeting with a boiler engineer at the marina finally convinced us to bite the bullet.
Should you require a good, reliable , honest central heating engineer based near Burton on Trent Google JC Plumbing and Heating and mention my name.
Life has changed from a long,steep staircase to an escalator or Stenna stairlift ( other makes are available ) .
The sun is shining  and Arsenal Ladies won the feminine version of the FA cup.
My "stuck in my head song" for today is "in my life" by The Beatles from "Rubber Soul". Give it a try.

Sunday 1 June 2014

This OAP lark is exhausting but great

Apologies for the weekend Blog break, but what a tremendous time it was. The surprise 60th birthday do for a long-term friend turned out brilliantly. It was held in a very modern rugby club venue in Cobham, far posher than you could ever imagine. Add good food and an endless bar tab, a good disco and lots of people we know, what more could you want or need?   I stayed awake till well past midnight and even managed a few dances, one fast and several slow.
The tables were turned on Sunday, my 65th birthday when I was shepherded to another surprise birthday party, only this time in Bookham and for me.
Virtually the whole family attended, plus friends and relatives, and a brilliant time was had by all. Another late night but I awoke bright and breezy (sort of) ready for a return home via a very busy M1. 
The sun shone the whole weekend and last night driving north we witnessed some classic cloud formations acting as filters for the pale yellow sun as it disappeared over the horizon.
I feel fantastic and cannot wait to set sail. 
Thanks to everyone who sent me birthday cards and/or emails and extra special heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed to the wonderful weekend. God bless you all.