Thursday 30 July 2015

2015 review so far

1) the boat electrics got fixed after 3 long years, umpteen battles with Stensen's/MCC and at additional expense to us ( to be recovered via legal action, hopefully ).
2) The Grand Union Canal/ River Trent sampled. The Trent proved to be exciting, the GUC rewarding.
3) Surviving accidents. I managed to fall in twice with minimal injuries ( pride excepted ).
4) discovering Johno at Union Canal Carriers Ltd, Braunston who made sense of our boat electrics, fixed it and eased our stresses.
5) health.I'm still here !!!!!!!!!

1) the weather. Global warming/climate change. Don't make me laugh. The first year I can remember wearing thermal clothing and using central heating in July.
2) the losses of both Phoebe ( stomach cancer ) and Sadie ( blindness and cancer ). Sister cats now reunited in our garden. 
3) my health.  Apart from being still here ,  inevitably both physically and mentally a gradual downward slope.

Friday 24 July 2015

Racing winter

Back in the marina we woke to a very cold morning in late July. Don't talk to me about global warming.
Scientists? What the hell do they know? I accept that our recent winters have been milder but are we expected to accept that global warming is selectively seasonal? My wounded leg resembles a United Nations war zone but is relatively painless. I will need to be very careful transferring our worldly possessions from the boat to the car and then to the house, although we have some vague plans to cruise again this year, once our obligations have been fulfilled.

Thursday 23 July 2015

Homeward bound

I had an out of this world experience last night when I awoke at 21.15 with the boat deserted, a sort of narrow Marie  Celest. My low blood sugar combined with my still-to-be reorganised remains of a brain combined to confuse myself still further. Had I missed 2 injections and my tea and slept all night?. Luckily Lynne returned from Karen and Steve's boat to reassure me I was not going nuts, remind me I had taken my afternoon insulin and eaten a fish pie for tea plus assure me I had not slept all night, but it was time for bed.
It took her a while to increase my blood sugar levels and try to convince me I was at least half sane, before redressing my leg and getting me back to bed. I seem to spend half my life asleep between impromptu swimming lessons and more sleep, on top of which my forthcoming NHS counselling session has been delayed a further week. I suppose I'm too old to bother with in NHS terms.
We are close to home now so aim for 1final day's push today.
Back on familiar territory in almost wintery temperatures we made "fast" progress and we're back in the marina for dinner,having rescued the cooking process when one of the gas bottles ran out, so to speak.
It has been a true revelation living on a narrowboat without electrical problems,so even not being able to connect to the marina electrics tonight caused us no panic ( we are temporarily on someone else's supply tower pending the office opening in the morning).
We have been "out and about" for 3 months this year already but need to address a few things like MCC, counselling etc before hanging up our wellingtons finally for the winter.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Aquatic spectator

EThe forecast was for a warm, dry morning with rain threatened for the afternoon, so we made another early start and made very good progress to Tamworth, only stopping to purchase butter at a canal side Tesco Express in Amington, the shop being it's only redeeming feature. At Glascote locks the Water tap is on the lay- by for lock one, where we stopped for a re-fill. I went to fill the lock whilst Lynne dealt with the water. Another boat queued behind us mistaking us for the lock queue but the tap was very slow so Lynne waved him through, whilst I opened and closed the lock gate  for him. Lynne then left Tardis Two and went to assist the other boat by emptying the lock for his exit, without telling me. Thus on my return to our boat I found the water tank overflowing but no one aboard or in sight, so I turned off the tap and started to replace the boat tank plug, only to topple off the stern, canal-side , and my life jacket sprang into life allowing me to swim to the bank where a boater managed to literally drag me ashore, taking care to avoid further damage to my bad leg, by which time Lynne had reappeared and it had started raining, not that I had noticed, of course. Having assessed my condition I  jumped aboard, thanked my rescuer, stripped off and leapt into a hot shower, having first removed my wound bandage. Later inspection revealed no further physical damage, although pride scars will remain for a while. I felt such a twit. 
Lynne then got us through the two locks with generous help from other boaters, one of whom later fell in himself !  Dry, warmed and sustained by coffee and a sandwich we moored later to watch it rain  for the afternoon and were met by Karen and Steve doing the Leicester ring in an attempt to avoid a collapsed lock at Gallow.

Tuesday 21 July 2015


We awoke to discover we were moored opposite a canal "service station", so made use of the facilities, water,rubbish disposal, oblutions emptying etc before heading off on a long, sunny, lock-less cruise along the Coventry canal and moored for lunch at Polesworth where we made a trip into the large,pretty village for more wound dressings and to view the river Anker, wide, shallow, crystal clear and full of large fish. The colliery at Pooley Hall closed in 1965 and the spoil tip has been transformed into a grassy hill, whilst Pooley Hall,dating from 1509, still overlooks the canal and, until recently was owned and lived in by the soul singer Edwin Starr. Nearby is the Pooley Fields Heritage Centre, celebrating the area's coal mining history.

Atherton locks. Coventry canal

The 11 locks in the Atherton flight were completed with minimal fuss as travel both ways was busy, halving the workload. Overall the flight raises or lowers the canal by 80 feet, but I am still getting used to the relatively small lock gates and the slow fill, fast empty chambers compared to the Grand Union.
My injured leg is clearly healing nicely as I suffered no discomfort throughout the day and even my index finger has returned to a "normal" colour and is virtually pain free.
We met Derek for a very pleasant lunch at the Kings Head pub in Atherstone, before travelling on to overnight mooring at Bradley Green.
The weather is best described as "changeable", but distinctly cooler than previous days.

Sunday 19 July 2015

Hawkesbury junction on Oxford,Nuneaton on Coventry

Lynne had an idea to get through the gongoozler's paradise of Hawksbury Junction very early to avoid very difficult manoeuvres in front of a crowd and to find a water point without a queue. Both idea's worked perfectly.  I did a bow thruster salute as we passed Edward's boat (our knight in shining armour from yesterday), who repaid the compliment later when he passed us in Nuneaton. Lynne changed the dressing on my leg wound which, whilst not pretty, looks to be healing ok. It is still very sore. My black finger now looks a reddish-grey but is no longer sore. No one to blame but myself so I am not seeking, nor expect any sympathy.
It is a beautiful summers day and evening so we aim to move on before mooring for the night beyond Nuneaton where we consider it a safer environment, rightly or wrongly. But be warned, Nuneaton and it's allotments go on for ever and ever and ever alongside the canal.
The Oxford is a windingly beautiful canal but very short of mooring places and really terrible towpaths, whilst the Coventry is more suburban with ample mooring and good towpaths, but avoid the military training grounds, well signposted.

Saturday 18 July 2015

Accident assessment

The morning after the night before. 
I was unable to get in or out of bed due to the mattress height and awkwardness of dragging myself on to it, so Lynne made up the"spare" bed for me which was much more practical. To add to my woes two boats moored either side of us ( the honeypot syndrome ) containing supervised hooligan boys and girls aged from early to late teens, who proceeded to rampage along the tow path using foul language until Lynne complained to the"supervisor", which had very limited affect until another boater did the same, followed by yet another, but far more aggressively. The hooligans left very quietly early this morning.
In the circumstances I slept quite well although the top of my right index finger and nail resembled a licorice all-sort and throbbed accordingly.
I still cannot recall what happened on the lock, other than attempting to help a little old lady with her parallel lock and landing in the water, for which she thanked me profusely as she helped the lock keeper haul me out, bless her. My leg graze was painful this morning but a painkiller tablet sorted that out, otherwise all is well, particularly with the boat electrics. The paramedic left enough dressings for a few days with strict instructions to relax with my injured leg up and no walking around. Hence Lynne cruised a lock-less stretch of the Oxford canal for a couple of hours and has now disappeared to Tesco's for some "essential" supplies.
Once the essential supplies were loaded we continued our planned trip, encountering heavy traffic congestion in the vicinity of Tesco's, double mooring and some boating abuse to name but two,added to which our  bow thrusters packed up. A quick call to Johno and we were directed to an engineer at Rose narrowboats,just a little ahead of our position at the time. Rose narrowboats have a small swing bridge across the canal which Lynne offered to open given my temporary incapacity with my leg injury.
However, it took me some time to locate a suitable mooring spot by which time Lynne appeared on another narrowboat, whose bow thrusters had blown a fuse on there boat.The boat owner had offered to check our fuses for us as he had a spare, and within minutes our bow thrusters were working again.

Thursday 16 July 2015

GUC/Oxford/Coventry canals

It rained most of last night and the ducks constantly pecked the algae off the boat hull, sounding like a cross between a rivet gun and the old western telegraph system. To add insult to injury one spent several minutes this morning running (waddling) up and down the roof, but we didn't care.
The good news is our new batteries performed brilliantly. If we had one we would have cracked a bottle of champagne for breakfast. The relief is palpably evident, verging on the ecstatic. Johno spent last night working out our bill and comparing notes with another electrics expert which resulted in a recommendation to increase our batteries by one, which has still to arrive,as has the bill,but nothing can spoil the moment, believe me. So we have finally settled on 4 domestic batteries instead of 5 or 3, but quite frankly I Couldn't give a damn so long as everything works as it should.
Once the bill is dealt with we are off on familiar territory heading "home", which should take a week or so,depending on how much we enjoy using a boat with full performance.
After the Grand Union the Oxford seems at least 60% smaller,including the locks which are strangely single but in parallel, if that makes any sense? Effectively a boat can go up whilst another goes down an adjacent lock. Saves water and time I guess. The lock gates are the size and weight of Lego. The last of the Hillmorton locks I managed to fall in whilst helping a little old lady with her parallel lock as Lynne cruised out of the adjoining one going the other way. Ironically the little old lady helped the lock keeper fish me out !  I emerged somewhat wet and fully clothed, including keeping my hat fully dry. I was helped to our boat, where I stripped and showered. A quick inspection revealed a badly grazed right shin, a black and bruised right index finger and a bruised right elbow. The lock keeper called a para-medic, who arrived very quickly and patched me up as you can see. The bruised finger is the most painful but I'll survive.


STardis Two's check over continues today following an unusual hypo during a short walk into Braunston village at round 20.00 last night, necessitating some emergency onsite action by Lynne and some assistance  by boaters getting me back to the boat safely, but scarey all the same. I have no idea why it happened as the day had not been excessively energetic and I ate a substantial roast lamb dinner prior to the walk. Perhaps I should get Johno to give me the once over? I feel OK today,as I did yesterday. The remaining boat batteries went down quite low this morning causing Lynne to run the engine in an attempt to save the freezer contents, only recently re-stocked.Johno was equally disappointed and has asked for reinforcements, or at least a second opinion, but suspects the dodgy battery has been dodgy long enough to drag the others down with it, which is not good news. While we await reinforcements 2 more new batteries have been fitted and we'll run the engine for a couple of hours or so and check the readings, so our elation was short lived and dived to sheer disappointment all within the space of a day. Quite honestly we are both wondering if the dream is shattered beyond repair and we settle for life ashore while we enjoy several long holidays abroad annually based on selling the boat. But today is not the time to decide.
To summarise, we have replaced five x 3 year old batteries with three x new batteries and replaced 3 partially worn alternator belts ( as a precaution) Johno will check things out again in the morning and, all being well, we can continue our journey home in the knowledge we have enough financial information to challenge MCC in the small claims court, given the apparent failure of Trading Standards to do so.
3 long years.  3 long years.
He who laughs last, laughs longest.
This blog will be published 1 day late due to Braunston apparently lying in a time warp with no internet and no mobile phone connection,so let's see what happens when we move tomorrow.

Wednesday 15 July 2015

Braunston tunnel,loads of locks and a duff battery.

An overcast morning while we waited for a companion boat to go through the tunnel  and locks with.
We accompanied a delightful couple through the tunnel from which we exited as dry as when we entered. There were lots of boats travelling up and down the locks which made traversing them so much easier and almost enjoyable, as the sun came out and the temperature rose.
After Braunston lock we made contact with Johno of Union Canal Carriers who had been recommended to fix our electrical problems, which he did within minutes, isolating a duff battery.
We got moved further away from the lock while Johno carried on checking things, including replacing worn alternator belts and refitting an alternator incorrectly fitted originally.

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Weedon Bec to Braunston. GUC

An overcast morning with drizzly rain. According to the milepost we're moored next to, Braunston is nine miles further up the Grand Union although with a long tunnel and several double locks along the way, but something to aim for I suppose. After an excellent night's sleep I feel refreshed and "ready to go", so that is what we'll do, weather permitting.
And that is what we did, eventually mooring in a wooded cutting to the north of Braunston tunnel, having traversed 7 double locks and 1 moron,who blatantly "stole" our lock already set for us with the lower gates open and then had the cheek to blame me for doing the same thing, but I  was fully supported by a following boater. Yet again the moron refused to adjust his stance and became quite abusive in front of "ladies" on his boat and Lynne, but hey-ho, the canal and river trust do not discriminate against morons so even I have to give the very few that unfortunately get to abuse these national assets the benefit of the doubt and attempt to ignore them on behalf of the vast majority of canal users with more than one brain cell each.
The joy with canals is that a moron like that is rarely encountered more than once or twice in a lifetime.
Mid-evening and it's raining again. If it rains tomorrow morning we can hide in the tunnel, but whether ,(excuse the inevitable and irresistible pun) it will be drier in there remains to be seen.

Sunday 12 July 2015

Rainy Bugbrooke

Rain overnight and it's threatening to continue well into the morning. Constant heavy stuff. The only plus point is the canals need it, all complaining of severe water shortages. Even the back-up reservoirs are obviously low, but if this rain continues we will quickly switch to having flood warnings, mark my words.
By midday my patience deserted me and I donned full waterproofs and set off for Weedon Bec where we filled with water, grabbed milk and other essentials just as the rain stopped.
Today was not one of my better days, healthwise, for reasons unknown. I felt constantly tired and was not the best company for Lynne, falling asleep again and again, at very short notice. Late afternoon and early evening remained overcast, dry and cool.

Lazy Sunday

Rain overnight, slept through by me. The last few nights have been restful, although Lynne claims I shouted "Sadie's gone" at one point during the night ! The morning is overcast and breezy, but apparently warm. My right leg is giving me some gyp this morning which Lynne has promised to massage sometime soon, having diagnosed cramp. We are moored in one of our preferred "middle of nowhere" spots, but very scenic. We aim to have a pub Sunday lunch today once we have dragged ourselves up.
We ended up a couple of miles further up the Grand Union canal at an unromanticly named village  called Bugbrooke where we had an excellent Sunday dinner at The Wharf during a very heavy shower and then settled back aboard  to watch the Wimbledon men's final between Federa and Djokovitch which was won by the latter in a breathtaking way, but first we had to move our mooring a few yards further up the canal to ensure a good TV picture. Having achieved that we opted to stay overnight.

Saturday 11 July 2015

Gulliver's Land to blisworth on GUS

Milton Keynes to Blisworth on the Grand Union is difficult to judge where the city ends and the countryside begins, so well blended they have become. At Stoke Bruerne locks we joined forces with another boat crewed by Roger, Kim, Tara and Richard, who,with the help of CART volunteers made the 5 locks a doddle and a real laugh a minute, from where we headed to the nearest pub and then off towards  blisworth  tunnel  where I somehow ended up onTardis Two with three giggling women and the four guys on the other boat for the half hour tunnel trip,much wetter than our last one, but far more enjoyable. We re-jiggled the crews to their original configuration once we hit daylight and parted company soon after when we moored at Blisworth and they continued onwards to Northampton.
The day had been comfortably warm and quite enjoyable.

Thursday 9 July 2015

Milton Keynes

A wonderfully sunny and warm morning heralded another fruitful "counselling" session prior to tackling a double lock without problem. We seem to have perfected our double lock routine, the two way radio's playing a significant part in avoiding frustration and anger. The day's locks were generally isolated and on their own, but also well spaced to allow physical recovery, with the exception of "three locks" ( the name says it all ) where we had the assistance of a whole posse of CART lock keepers to assist. The oddest lock ever encountered on British canal's can be found at Fenny Stratford, but having encountered it before posed no major problem. It is a strange combination of a very shallow lock and a swing bridge which both have to be operated simultaneously. Fortunately it is on a very quiet road so there is no pressure to operate it quickly. For first timers a CART lock keeper would be a useful addition. We were lucky meeting a seasoned boater on our first encounter, but having a pub terrace overlooking it must be a gongoozler's delight.
Attempting to avoid mooring in the less salubrious area of Milton Keynes we ended up at the same spot as last time, near a golf course and "Gullivers Land",where we had a very peaceful night.

Leighton Buzzard.

After filling with diesel at 20 pence per litre cheaper than we were quoted elsewhere, filling with water and swopping a gas bottle (empty for full) we had a leisurely cruise to Leyton Buzzard, dodging heavy showers on the way ( not that we cruised round them, you understand, but merely moored up and watched the rain from the shelter of the cabin ). Eventually we met Margaret and Bob at the Globe pub for a meal. Both pub and meals were past their best, my roast beetroot and aubergine curry resembled something the dog had sicked up but tasted ok, whilst the more traditional meals features cold chips and hot salads. Best avoided. We stayed overnight and woke to a sunny, warm morning. Lynne and I have commenced self- counselling sessions every morning as two fingers up to the pathetic , underfunded NHS service, with considerable success.

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Onwards from Church lock

The  church ,converted to a private residence in the 1970's, is for sale  so we looked it up on the estate agents web site. It is an amazing,3 bedroom house, available for £800,000, with double garage and extensive grounds without too many gravestones and right next to the canal overlooking the Chiltern hills. Inside it is spacious and modern. A real snip at that price but perhaps a little bleak in the winter ?
Reviewing yesterday it appears we completed 12 locks but due to the long gaps between them it was less stressful then the fewer tackled the day before, but I slept very well until woken by a nearby farm's resident cockerel this morning.

Warm and windy Chilterns

5 or 6 more double locks today but fairly spaced out so not so hectic as yesterday. The biggest problem was keeping the empty lock gates closed in the very high winds which developed during the day. No sooner were they closed than the wind opened them again, which was incredibly frustrating.
Both Ivanhoe locks and the ones at Horton, Slapton and Church were particularly windy, the latter named after the smallest chapel in Buckinghamshire adjacent, now converted to a beautiful private residence. We moored just below Church lock with splendid and spectacular views over the Chiltern hills but buffeted by ferocious winds.

GUC Wendover arm

A beautiful cruising day allowed us to make considerable progress North on the Grand Union and unexpectantly explore the recently restored Wendover Arm, all one and a half lock less miles of it. Overall it is a major achievement but is narrow and not particularly scenic At the time of our visit it was considerably low on water which severely limited mooring and the winding hole at the end was partially blocked by some mindless twit mooring his/her boat there. Fearing we may be stuck for an unknown length of time we attempted to turn, using the moored boat as a "bounce point" and with the help of a friendly boater pulling our bow rope from the canal bank.
We reported the ignorantly moored boat to the Canal and River Trust volunteer lock keeper on the Marsworth flight later, but understandably he showed little concern.
9 double locks and 4 hours later we moored near the "Bluebell's" cafe where I collapsed onto my bed and slept solidly for several hours, physically and mentally exhausted.
We awoke to heavy rain and fierce winds, delaying continuation of our journey.  Considering my efforts yesterday I feel pretty good, but plan a less boisterous day if and when the weather breaks.

Monday 6 July 2015

To infinity and beyond

The five double locks completed yesterday took their toll on me physically so inevitably I slept well until 0900, although somewhat worrying concerning future performance and stamina, particularly when we inevitably encounter staircase locks or long flights when mooring mid-term is impossible, but I guess we'll cope somehow ? Similarly, the boat electrics are still suffering with performance shortfalls but we have learned to overcome them to the point where running the engine for an hour or two before bed has become habitual. Still no response from Trading Standards, which is annoyingly frustrating but "patience is a virtue" lingers on the mind, but the hungry vulture's "sod patience, I'm going to kill something" statement  is looming ever closer.

Sunday 5 July 2015

Grand Union heading north

A canal side totem pole in Berkhamstead ?
With our two secret parties successfully completed we are heading home to sort out some counselling for me and perhaps Lynne if necessary, although we have both been on a better footing, mentally, of late. The lack of relevant counselling on the NHS forces self-help solutions, rightly or wrongly, but if they work, so be it. So far we seem to have got it right, I think, but ideally it would be reassuring for an expert to confirm it.
In a wide variety of weathers we progressed along the Grand Union from Berkhamsted to the Cow Roast, where we opted to moor for the night  ,very close to the marina entrance and a field of alpacas.

Another secret party

Our second "secret party" took place in Tadworth, near Epsom in Surrey yesterday, necessitating us getting a train from Berkhamsted to Euston station in London, the underground to Waterloo and a bus to Chessington, then a taxi to Paul's parents house in Tadworth where Paul had arranged a secret surprise BBQ for Chloe. Loads of people attended, including most of our family and lots of her friends.
It was fair to say she was suitably surprised and pleased, bless her. It makes a change for others to do something for her instead of visa-versa. A good time was had by all. We stayed in Chessington overnight with Tom and Hayley and returned to the boat this morning with nothing amiss. Lynne stocked up with essentials and we headed north for home, although the weather has taken a turn for the worse with cold temperatures requiring winter clothing again.

Friday 3 July 2015

Kings Langley/Port of Berkhamsted

By necessity we needed to revisit the canal services at Kings Langley, unfortunately in an even worse state than previously.still no water in the Elsan sluice and it was smellier than ever. Needless  to say the 4 locks involved in the journey had  deteriorated still further,each needing individual user notes pinned to the gates, which made life both entertaining and puzzling. In all, the short journey took over 8 hours
The welcoming sign on the town entrance, Grand Union style.

Thursday 2 July 2015

Cruising to Leicester. R.I.P Sue. R.I.P Sadie.

Another blisteringly hot day. Chloe ran us to Sue's funeral in Leicester, bless her, and we took the opportunity of returning Sadie's ashes home, where she will be reunited with her sister Phoebe in our back garden. In my frail mental state I was wisely forbidden from attending the funeral service but paid my respects afterwards. 
It was a very long, hot day and journey but we found time for an Italian meal before finally returning to the boat mid-evening.
Perhaps because of the occasion I had one of my fuzzy-head days. Tomorrow we are filling with water and emptying the oblutions, which involves 3 locks and a little cruising, which may help my mood.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

G.U. Berkhamsted still

A bright, warm morning and still in Berkhamsted, the reason soon to be revealed. We have Sue's funeral to attend tomorrow in Leicestershire, although a decision has yet to be made regarding my ability to actually attend the service, given my fragile mental state and the illness/treatment similarities, but I at least intend going home for the day. Chloe has kindly offered to drive Lynne and myself back to Anstey,bless her, rather than go by train, which was our original intention but discarded on the grounds of cost and convenience when Chloe's kind offer was made.
I am not sleeping well at present and, as is traditional with the NHS, I am having difficulty in getting the promised counselling session at hospital. It seems they promise one thing and then expect the patient to discover who the intended doctor is, where he is,and make arrangements accordingly with the minimum of basic information to hand.
Today is not a good day, even the canal seems ever more tempting as the outside temperatures reach in excess of 30 c. Even the geese appear to prefer the lower temperatures inside the boat
Fortunately they opted to stay outside, despite some scarey moments. Personally I could have swopped places at any time but cowardice dictated I would not, why when logic tells me I could be happier? Perhaps I'm destined to be a tortured soul.