Friday 31 October 2014


Here we are almost in November enjoying weather belonging to summer. It appears equally confusing for nature as breeding seasons arrive earlier and shrubs such as Magnolia are already in flower. However, the autumn/winter weather is forecast to arrive very shortly, catching everything by surprise, and we all like surprises don't we ?
I'm feeling tickety boo again but Lynne has returned to bed feeling distinctly under the summer-like weather for some unfathomed reason. Time will tell.

Thursday 30 October 2014

A step forwards again

Whilst the weather is grey and overcast today started much brighter for me. No fuddled head and a total lack of muscle twinges, despite 3 trips to the village. Haircut, making a doctors appointment ( not related to the aforementioned ailments) plus food for today. It could all have been done in one trip but the radiotherapy seems to have left what remains of my brain memory section as a colander.
On an even more positive note Lynne's few days working back at the wedding shop seems to have done her the world of good ( change of scenery/company and all that bumph? )Here's to the next time.
Spent the afternoon gardening and now have sufficient bags of rubbish for a trip to the dump. The only jobs left are to finish painting the fence and moving a Bay shrub/tree to a more appropriate place.
Thanks to a new Citroen car advert featuring Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane " White Rabbit" of 1965 vintage has been stuck in what remains of my brain all day, although I had to do some internet research this evening to remember the group's name and hit title.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

A step backwards?

Crawled out of bed feeling I hadn't slept and my hip/ thigh muscles had been knitted into a cardigan.
I know I slept and I don't wear cardigans, but maybe , just maybe, my recovery is progressing slower than I had hoped. If in doubt return to bed for a few hours. I feel fresher and more alive to the world now. In the meantime, whilst I slept Lynne has disappeared into the ether but I suspect she will materialise  sometime soon. Mobile phones form the last resort.
Lynne's mobile rings in the living room. I opt to stop the upstairs floorboards creaking on the landing , very successfully. Lynne appears from next door and it starts raining, wrecking any plans to paint the fence, although I still need to resolve the issue of getting materials as our village shop is closed this week but I'm not keen on transporting two tins of paint on a bus in my present state.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Homeward bound

Inspired by my favourite Simon and Garfunkel track we made tracks for Leicestershire today for a diabetic clinic  appointment. Arriving home at 2.00pm for what we thought was my 2.30pm appointment , things were a little rushed to say the least. Grabbing a sandwich for my en-route lunch we were already half way to the hospital when Lynne remembered to check the hospital letter and realised we were two weeks early ! A quick U turn and we were quickly home again. Lynne then remembered she had changed the appointment from today to avoid clashing with her London work schedule but had failed to change it on her iPad calendar. Oops. 
The "World's local Bank" has apparently redefined local and closed many branches, including the one in our village. Lynne wished to pay in her pay cheque but finding a functioning HSBC branch proved difficult and time consuming. So much for customer care and service ?
Job done, I retired to bed in the hope of clearing my head and easing my stiff joints, both issues having crept up on me overnight for some unexplained reason. A couple of hours sleep did the trick and I emerged refreshed,relaxed and ready to face the world again.
Arriving back brought home the long list of jobs outstanding. Tomorrow morning I will need to prioritise them and plan operations. The weather will dictate completion of fence painting ( once I obtain more paint ) , otherwise most tasks are internal. Querying the tax code allocated to me this year takes priority. 

Monday 27 October 2014

Reeling in.

My last day free was very warm and sunny enabling me to visit 2 old clients, who both gave me cups of tea and biscuits which they never did when I maintained their gardens for 8 years, strangely. The day passed very pleasantly and, once again, I did not get lost despite several bus changes.( lucky or what ?)

Still loose

Still on the loose and getting looser, I ended up in Hounslow yesterday, no mean feat, having walked to my old haunt, The North Star where I had lunch with Tom and Hayley before being joined by Chloe and some old friends. A quick lift to Tolworth and I was zooming over to Hounslow on the top deck,front seat, my preferred position.
I was a great Kinks fan, having seen them and/or Ray Davies several times in my earlier life, so I was pleased to hear Linda and Terry have agreed we should make the effort to see the new "Sunny Afternoon" musical in London until next January, based on the Kinks early years. For Lynne the Kinks are a definite no-no and I did not relish going on my own, plus fitting an ankle tag seemed a bit excessive."Last seen at...................."

Sunday 26 October 2014

Idiot on the loose

Another free day without restriction, other than where my bus pass is relevant. I half expect phone calls from Ricky Gervais or Steven Merchant with my next challenge (abseil down Tolworth Tower - An idiot abroad - series whatever).
 The Daily Mail has published the results of its Wildlife Phtography challenge. From a total of 10,000 entries guess what won the birds section ? Congratulations if you guessed "Bittern".  Obviously a golden opportunity missed. I have resolved to carry my trusty SLR on the back of the boat this year fully armed for action, because I reckon I could have won the birds section with ease, if only I had taken a photo of "my" Bittern in flight from above ( which I could ) and known there was a photography challenge in progress (which I didn't).  If only.  The story of my life.

Saturday 25 October 2014

Old man escape

I have been likened to a village idiot in recent times, so, left to my own devices this morning I escaped surveillance and toured much of SW London with the aid of my bus pass,taking in such exotica as Morden, Sutton, Surbiton and Kingston. Apart from two "check-up" phone calls all progressed well and I was home at Chloe's by late afternoon . Idiot or not, one good thing about the free bus pass is you cannot get lost. At worst you get chucked off at the end of the bus route, but you simply turn round and head back the way you came. But fortunately the little intelligence I retain allowed me to take a circular route, which included shopping in Morden and lunch in Sutton

Friday 24 October 2014

Old man watch

Chloe successfully completed the first morning's "old man watch", including a short incident free shopping trip to Epsom, and here I am writing my blog in mid afternoon to prove it. 
With a by-election due next week and a general election soon after, Conservative, Labour and Lib- Dem politicians are promising the earth. Some classic timing by the European Government has further livened the situation by levying an additional annual charge of £1.7 billion for UK membership, because our economy is "outperforming all others". UKIP must be laughing their socks off.
The better we do the more it costs us, it seems. The Germans have finally got their act together over European ruling. They have quietly taken over with no bloodshed or destruction, unlike their two earlier "bull in a china shop " failed attempts by force. However, even now they cannot resist the temptation of kicking us Brits in the face as they pass.

Thursday 23 October 2014


Don't panic. We have not sailed to Belgium. The title reflects how I wasted my evening watching a Sunday morning pub match between Anderlecht and Arsenal, the result being 1 - 2, thanks to a couple of last-gasp goals by the Gunners. It was the worst Arsenal performance I have ever had the misfortune to watch but it keeps them in Europe for a little longer and prolongs the frustration. But Hey-Ho, it's only a game of football.
We're off to Chloe's again today as Lynne has been invited to cover for a staff shortfall at the wedding shop over the next few days, an opportunity too good to miss. 

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Rowing's big loss

Now at home where I have received sad news. The man who had a tremendous influence on my rowing career over umpteen years sadly succumbed to cancer, having battled with it for many years without complaint . Martin was the heart and soul of Kingston Grammar School Vets Rowing club and the best /most effective coach I have ever encountered. A massive loss to club rowing. I owe him so much.
By way of diversion I spent the morning altering the garden to Lynne's specification whilst she was out, only to find on her return I had misunderstood her wishes ( ! ), but no harm done. The wonder of nature is it's ability to recover from "severe"pruning. Fingers crossed.
From a personal point of view the last few days have proved what a better place I am in. The poppies at The Tower of London obviously were very moving and the news of Martin is devastating, but I have held everything together really well, I think, by considering the positives and dismissing the negatives.
The positives include knowing and being influenced by  Martin, plus none of my known family were directly involved in the two World War Europe bloodbaths.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Hurricane tale-end USA

Strange weather today, apparently the tale end of a hurricane blown over from the USA. High winds and occasional very heavy short showers. Back at Ashridge monument for the afternoon as a half way house prior to trundling up the M1 home
The Bridgewater monument has canal links with the Duke of Bridgewater, who paid for the first GB canal to be built, which we cruised this year.

Monday 20 October 2014

Dry land Reading

Sunny and warm during a very lazy day in Reading, courtesy of Marlene and Brian, in-laws par excellence. Brian is an excellent cook so staying here for too long can seriously stretch your waist-line.
We are moving-on to my sister's and my birthplace tomorrow, 

Sunday 19 October 2014

Party Poppies

Everyone survived the party in various states of sobriety  and all enjoyed it. Superheroes Fancy dress was the theme and most guests contributed, some quite spectacularly( see photo's )

Our carefully planned trip to view the ceramic poppy 1st WW memorial display at The Tower of London did not go to plan. The local trains were all cancelled and replaced by buses, due to "engineering works" which complicated and truncated our return trips. The way into London was via 2 buses and an underground train. The return was via 3 buses. But at least the sun shone and it was warm. Each poppy represents a lost allied soldier/airman/sailer during World War One. Each one has been purchased, profits supporting the British Legion and other charities helping returning physically and mentally wounded troops,something the Governments over the years have criminally ignored.
Photo's by Chloe.

Saturday 18 October 2014

A learning curve.

Still in London visiting friends and family. It is one of those occasions  when we learned more than we could perhaps have wished for, but can't put the clock back. More questions than answers, but that is life, which I always relate to one of those 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles with a single piece missing which pops up when you least expect it from a surprising source. However, I have learned completing the puzzle is the goal and cannot be rushed or shortened. Patience is a virtue, but frustrating.
Looked up one of my old gardening customers,who seems to be thriving without me, although neither of us is getting any younger.  I'll report on the party tomorrow, condition allowing.

Friday 17 October 2014

Gossip catch-up day

A catch-up with gossip day in London, visiting old friends, workmates and family. No big surprises emerged, thankfully. We managed one of our traditional "Noodal Express" meals out but not as enjoyable as usual. The staff have changed, as has the standard of cooking, which is a pity. Our dreams of a branch opening in Leicestershire have been delivered a serious blow.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Fast route to London poppies

Today we begin our trip to London by car for Tom's 30th birthday, Lynne's reunion with old friends and our planned visit to the Tower of London to view the giant ( in every sense of the word ) poppy fields as homage to the thousands of lost lives in the  World war 1.   I expect the visit to be even more poignant and moving than seeing the flower memorials after the death of Princess Diana. Tissues at the ready.
The effect it has on me will help measure my current mental state. Depression, what depression?
Don't forget to to contribute towards the Royal British Legion and/or Help the Heroes, both organisations doing a wonderful job of covering the criminal shortfalls of successive government's financial or practical support for the 888,248 lad's and lasses killed or injured  on our behalf.

Monday 13 October 2014

Highs/lows and other stuff

The summer high for me, without a shadow of doubt, was the spotting of a Bittern on the   Staffordshire and Worcester Canal, followed by the repeated sightings of brand new, shiny Airbus "Guppies" in the Chester area ( later attributed to their production nearby ).
We had an excellent meal at Sutton Hall, on the Macclesfield canal, and another at  La Dolce Vita        (Italian)  in Stone on the Trent and Mersey.  Sutton hall, in addition to a large menu, offers tons of history and lovely gardens, whilst the Italian has lovely food and service to die for.
Whilst on the subject of food my return weight is the same as on my departure, whilst my body shape has changed for the better with a lot of my old muscle returned. Lynne has lost weight too and changed body shape, again for the better. Healthy living and healthy food, eh?

The lows have to be the loss of Sadie, (who remains unaccounted for) and Lynne Phoebe and myself falling in. (But we can laugh about it now)

Friday 10 October 2014

Marina, home and review

RWe have an unusual view from our windows this morning
We are on a pontoon space very close to the marina workshops. The boat pictured is waiting to enter the workshops and is tied to a tree, but will move soon apparently. It has stopped raining too.
The day turned out to be great for cruising, warm and sunny. Typical of our luck. In fact it was so warm I had my hair cut ( which one? I hear you say ) and spent the afternoon de-weeding the garden. Both hair and garden look much tidier, even though I do say so myself. As expected the car failed to start this morning ( flat battery ) but jump leads, the workshop battery and fitters quickly rectified the problem, allowing us to get most of our clothing and parafinalia home, including Phoebe, who seems to take absolutely everything in her stride.
As a result of our travels during the summer, which covered canals new to us and others re-visited after many years, I have changed my canal recommendations as follows;
1) Macclesfield
2) Peak Forest
3) Llangollen
4) Bridgewater
5) Monmouthshire & Brecon
6)Shropshire Union
7) Coventry
9) Birmingham and Fazeley

The above are personal choices by myself and Lynne, but obviously everyone has their own preferences.
Canals best avoided ;
1) Worcester and Birmingham ( unless you are a lock/fitness fanatic and appreciate that teenagers will be teenagers.
2) Birmingham ( as above ).

Thursday 9 October 2014

Coventry, Fradley and thermals

Following yesterday's debacle I prepared myself fully for cruising In freezing rain, fully encased in the thermal suit (old man Steptoe style) thoughtfully bought as an Xmas present by Lynne. I can confirm it works brilliantly, although toilet trips are something of an adventure to say the least, but at least I can feel my extremities at all times.
Today is warmer and windier than yesterday, but unfortunately just as wet. Making the most of dry spells we cruised to Fradley Junction and beyond for lunch in very windy sunshine on the Trent & Mersey, having received an uninvited lesson on lock use from one of those "I know everything about everything" people you occasionally meet when you least want to. I play deaf and nod a lot, which seems to boost their ego's, if not their intelligence.
We have decided to address our electrical problems head-on and taken on board (sorry) lots of advice and contact numbers for the end of our trip.
Talking of the end of our trip we are back in the marina and it is raining heavily. We intend eating in the Waterfront pub and sleeping aboard tonight.
It was noticeable on the way back the lock paddles on the Trent and Mersey work so much better than those on prevous canals travelled this summer, so congratulations where it is due, Canal and River Trust. Next target Tardebigge flight? Not that we intend repeating that exercise anytime soon.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

CC Huddlesford .

Light rain greeted us this morning so we opted to cruise towards Fradley Junction and, ultimately, home. Drizzle and monsoon downpours alternated until we capitulated near Hopwas. Once we had stopped the rain did also but we delayed responding to it's beckoning initially as we required more substantial evidence of it's intentions.
Once convinced we set off again and, of course, it rained again. I opted to continue but had to stop when I began suffering with severe cold and poor balance, making my being on the stern unsafe. A routine blood test confirmed I was on the verge of a hypo, stuffed with chocolate and dispatched to the warmth of my bed while Lynne continued our journey.
I awoke somewhat confused, expecting breakfast, but in fact it was late afternoon and still lightly raining. We are moored near Huddlesford. Bad light prevented moving on so we have opted for an early start, weather permitting. I am fine now I know I am in present time. I'll sort out my thermals for the morning.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Coventry canal. Fazeley

Cold, wet and windy, but enough of my troubles. The weather is identical. During a dry break we slunk away from Bodymoor Heath, our home for two days, and cruised to Fazeley Junction where we joined the Coventry canal in pouring rain. Bizarrely we waited for the rain to ease before filling with water , disposing of rubbish and emptying the cassettes before the mother of all heavy showers arrived to fully test our wet weather gear. I can confirm It all works well, but Wellington boots are not ideal for gripping boat metalwork. The last pit stop this trip? We moved on to more salubrious moorings during the next cloud break.
An unusual footbridge on the Coventry canal.

Monday 6 October 2014

Bodymoor Heath to Fazeley

A boaters nightmare, we were greeted with heavy rain and winds this morning. The forecast says it will brighten-up later this morning so we will need to be patient. Has my early night replenished my batteries? It is too soon to say. Mentally I am tickety- boo, it was my physical condition needing replenishment, but I have had little opportunity to test it yet.
By mid-afternoon there was little improvement so we have opted to stay put. I returned to bed after breakfast and got up for lunch, it's a tough life this retirement. Those Tardebigge locks and subsequent Birmingham locks obviously took their toll. Yesterday we cleared another 8 locks and have another 3 to get through before a long cruising section, maybe tomorrow? The Birmingham & Fazeley appears to be entering a pleasant countryside location from here on, which will make a pleasant change from suburbia and industrial units over recent days.
Our old electrical problems have mysteriously returned, with insufficient power left in the batteries to trigger the central heating boiler into life in the mornings, however long we have cruised for during the day. Where possible we try to run the engine for half an hour before retiring to bed at night, which seems to overcome the problem but this is not always convenient if moored close to another boat. Hence our preference to moor alone in the middle of nowhere ( very anti-social but at least we wake with warm extremities ) The logical conclusion is to let MCC investigate under warranty, but as their electrical knowledge you could fit on a post-it note we have little confidence in their conclusion, if any.  Frustrating and annoying are under- statements.

Saturday 4 October 2014

Birmingham & Fazeley

Birmingham had the last laugh (or two) before we made our escape. Firstly it chucked it down with rain. So keen were we to leave that we dressed in our waterproof gear for the first time this trip, but as soon as we hit spaghetti junction, dripping wet and cold, we were bathed in warm sunshine. Secondly we collected a black refuge sack, a shoppers carrier bag and contents around our propeller. Almost as if Birmingham was sticking two fingers up at us.
We are moored on the change between suburbia and countryside on the Birmingham and Fazeley canal, which has been an enjoyable experience so far, and only 3 locks, one of which I dragged 3 very worn car tyres from and a dead tree from another. A good Sunday lunch in the Dog and Doublet with two boaters met this morning, Pauline and Gary, which "lost" the afternoon with exchanged boating stories. Prior to lunch we had tackled 8 closely grouped locks, by which time I was physically drained. 
An early night is called for.

Friday 3 October 2014

Sleepless in Birmingham

I have always had an inbuilt dislike of Birmingham, even though my mother was a Brummie and proud of it.I loved and love her to bits, a lovelier lady would be impossible to find, but I still dislike Birmingham.  Against our will and the advice of many locals we are moored in the middle of Birmingham, having run out of daylight negotiating the umpteen locks taking us through the city centre.We avoided the yobbo and alcoholic sections, but are perilously close to the A38(M) which never sleeps.The city centre canal locks are all fitted with anti-vandal locks, which reinforces the image of lawlessness already achieved by vandalism and endless graffiti, badly spelt. Around midnight the inevitable happened. A group of teenage girls noisily released our moorings, but Lynne had heard them and we were able to re-engage with land fairly quickly. It seems the girl yobs in Birmingham do not carry knives as none of our ropes were cut, fortunately
We are now on the Birmingham and Fazeley canal heading for Fazeley Junction on our way home, and it's raining. A fitting end to our Birmingham stay.
We moored for breakfast once we completed the 11 Aston locks, but still in pouring rain. A local man told us we could celebrate escaping Birmingham once we caught sight of "spaghetti junction", the infamous aerial motorway knot. I found nothing of note for a photo but below is our bedroom window view this morning. The painting went on for hundreds of yards, which says it all.

Thursday 2 October 2014


All told we tackled 38 individual locks in the  Tardebigge flight today, non-stop for 5 hours rising over 200 ft, only passing 3 boats on the way down. Arriving at the top lock in late afternoon and topping-up with water, we then traversed 2 tunnels of 580 and 613 yards respectively, emerging from the second into a charming woodland scene at Cobley Hill where we moored for the night, exhausted. As if 38 locks are not bad enough they virtually all featured the toughest paddles I have ever encountered. I feel a letter to the Canal and River Trust coming on.
Weather-wise today was warm but overcast, although the forecast is not so good.

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Black Pig Dream

I have to admit, I'm having recurring lock syndrome. They never seem to end, one after the other after the other, not helped by our almost frantic search for diesel and gas finally involving a short detour and 3 extra locks on Droitwich Junction canal, only to discover the damn thing has been completed since our map and guides were printed, which had we have known, could have saved many miles cruising and more importantly, umpteen locks. Only recently completed It now joins the River Severn with the Worcester and Birmingham canal after the Dunhampstead tunnel. Another exhausting day ended at Stoke Works with an average meal in the Boat and Railway pub, after which we were speaking with a  broad Birmingham accent.
A new map and guides are being sought.
Have you ever had a dream where you wake to find there was some truth in it? I dreamt I was captain Pugwash on the Black Pig at the voyage start, steering the ship and making decisions, only to end up as Roger the cabin boy, making tea and coffee plus washing up and undertaking all the basic tasks. The only consolation is that Roger is far more intelligent than Pugwash and often saves the Black Pig from imminent danger and ensures the intended destination is reached.