Thursday, 20 December 2012

Kurt Elling

Recently I heard on Jazz FM one of the tracks of ‘1619 Broadway’ performed by the above gentleman and it made such an exciting impression on me that I just had to go out and purchase the album, which I did do while visiting my brother at Stratford-upon-Avon on Tuesday.

I have just finished playing the CD through now and am so moved by the slick expertise of the whole album that I have had to sit down straightaway to talk about it.

I am quite blown away by the way Kurt manoeuvres his voice, to swing his melodious way through eleven old favourites with such ease and panache. The jazz arrangements are very modern but the harmonies and rhythms are so sublimely eloquent that it has brought a wetness to my eye and a lump in my throat, which I haven’t experienced for some time. Kurt Elling’s voice is wonderful and  he weaves his way through numerous improvised phrases with such ease and style, while his voice, breath control and range is magnificent. The CD will remain a favourite of mine for a long time and I shall keep my eyes open for other albums.

To quote one of the tracks in the album, written by Sam Cooke;

‘You Send Me’ Mr Elling.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Frosty Fotos

 

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Wintery webs

 

 

 

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Freezing Face  (but my klaxon bracket still shows a happy one)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Granddaughter and Godunov

The days at Warwick pass by swiftly but quietly, as the year hurtles towards its Solstice. The weather remains variable, alternating between periods of wet but mild spells and clear cold snaps, slipping easily from one to the other as if the system was navigating a chequerboard. At the moment there is freezing fog outside and a severe frost is forecast for tonight, making both the ‘Squirrel’ Stove in the Saloon and the ‘Epping’ Range, aft in the Boatman’s Cabin, work hard to keep us comfortably warm inside.

It’s not the sort of evening to encourage one to venture out.

I am glad therefore that it was last weekend that I travelled to Malmesbury instead to see my son Alex and family. He and Catherine have a daughter Penny who is now six months old and I met the little lady for the first time on Saturday.

And she’s lovely too; a very bright happy little girl who looks just like her Mummy. But then I suppose every doting grandfather tends to have exactly the same feelings at this time.

I arrived on Saturday and Alex collected me from the train station at Swindon and then on Monday morning I travelled with him on his way to work and caught the train back to Warwick from Bath. It was a long and tedious journey involving three changes but it was a wonderful weekend which I had been looking forward to for some months.

 

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Grandfather and granddaughter with the same silly grin

 

But mostly my time here at Kate Boats has been quiet, and so I’ve had a chance to get a myriad of small jobs completed. I have made the most of the 240 volt hook-up from ashore in as much as I think everything aboard has been washed thoroughly in the machine and of course it’s a pleasure to have the decadent use again of the electric kettle and toaster.

And you know? I’ve even cleaned ship on occasions.

Life is wonderful.

But frequently too I have been travelling to Stratford-upon-Avon, where my brother David lives out his bachelor existence. It’s good always to see him as we get on very well together.

Of course living so close to the Royal Shakespeare Company he visits the theatre regularly and though it is always well booked up and I normally have to make do with his description of the different productions that he has seen, he managed recently to get a ticket for me as well. This was a thorough, though unexpected treat for me.

It wasn’t a Shakespeare play that we went to see but Alexander Pushkin’s ‘Boris Godunov’. I had never seen it before, either as a play or the operatic version by Modest Mussorgsky and as in the past I had struggled to follow other Russian contemporary literature, by Chekov and Tolstoy, I was rather anxious that I might even let myself down by nodding off in the middle somewhere.

However this production adapted by Sir Michael Boyd and directed by Adrian Mitchell was performed beautifully with great spirit and understanding by the understudy members of the cast and it just shows how versatile and professional these RSC players are. I didn’t even feel like dropping off to sleep once and was gripped totally the whole way through by the vibrant production.

Well done the RSC.

Monday, 3 December 2012

The Winter Skipper

Well! I think it’s a disgrace! Don’t you?

All he managed for November was two postings! He should feel ashamed of himself.

As usual, it’s left to me to extrapolate his credentials from the mire again.

……. Well you know what I mean.

It’s just not good enough though. It’s a good job he has me around I think.

The Old Man’s not been aboard at all very much actually. He’s been going off regularly to Stratford-upon-Avon and places to see his brother and other friends as well. He does seem to make the most of this time of the year to catch up with things like that. It’s a ten minute walk to the railway station and then he travels everywhere from there.

I’ll bet he gets into the ‘Old Railway Tavern’ too with their big TV screen. I’m sure he loves watching the live football the sneaky old so and so. But he don’t tell me much and I have to use my common sense a lot.

I don’t know why he doesn’t have TV on board. I know he’d like it. All normal people watch TV so why doesn’t he?  All I know is that his little face lit up like a Halloween pumpkin the other night when Janis appeared on the computer screen very clearly, all the way from New Zealand, with the help of Skype, which is the same as telly really……. I’ll tell you he's definitely an odd ‘un ….. as well as being ockard. I have an awful job to work him out sometimes.

But I’m happy, sat quietly here on my own waiting with great patience till the end of February when we can cruise again. But for the last month we’ve had lovely weather in a November-y sort of way. No ice anyway and we could have cruised beautifully for all that time. I don’t even mind ploughing my way through the ice. It’s so exciting ….. But I know the Skipper’s worried about ripping all the paint off my bottom and having to get me re-blacked afterwards. And as he loves his country overnight moorings, I also think he worries about getting iced in somewhere during the night, miles from a fresh water tap and a shop.

The poor old chap….

So here we stay tied up snugly at Kate Boats with nothing better for me to do but count the ducks that pass by.

Hey Ho!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

November

The time is here again when the thin dawn light of winter begins to seep into the day at around seven every morning, with a persistent damp and dismal lethargy. Then later, as soon as all has arrived, it immediately starts to creep out again and is gone by five o’clock never to return for another long fourteen hours.

In fact I am reminded at this time of the year of a poem that I learned while at school many years ago. It’s called:-

 

November

By Thomas Hood

No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -
November!

 

On these dark mornings one is encouraged to remain within the cocoon of one’s bed indefinitely. But eventually, having finally shaken off the shackles of sleep, it is wonderful to rise and still be able to remain somewhat self indulgent by just  sitting within the cosy confines of the boat luxuriating in the warmth of the Squirrel fire, whilst reading a good book.

Let the rest of the World carry on with its busy hectic life outside. I have happily maintained my alternative here for a number of days now.

 

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However we do get the occasional morning without the cloud

 

I have just finished reading Terry Pratchett’s novel ‘Nation’. It was recommended to me by Janis before she left and I must admit that I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I have done. I’ve not read any of his books before and since the author’s note announced that the plot was set in a parallel universe to ours, I was expecting some kind of fantasy genre, which I have never enjoyed when I have tried to read them before; I must be the only person in the world for example who hasn’t enjoyed a Harry Potter book (yes I have tried one) or seen a Harry Potter film. But I did thoroughly enjoy ‘Nation’ with its simple profound  logic and witty prose that I found almost poetic in nature.

 

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‘Roots and Wings’ at her safe berth for the winter

 

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‘Futurest’ with that certain lived aboard look

 

Apart from a couple of visits to my brother in Stratford-upon-Avon and to the funeral of my friend Lyn in Banbury recently, after which, friend’s John and Maggie kindly put me up for the night, I have led a quiet life.

I’ve been for a number of walks around the district, for interest's sake trying to vary them as much as possible, and these have been very enjoyable. On Saturday 3rd September I was out in the evening for a stroll, watching the numerous and colourful firework displays around Warwick.

In turn briefly each would impress and flourish brightly and loudly for about twenty minutes before the normal traffic noise and the orange glow of the town took over once more. Furthermore on the following morning all over, like discarded skeletons was the anti-climactic debris of spent sky rockets, wet, soggy and forlorn in the morning dew.

The local pubs were hoping to be busy on that Saturday night too. Loud music from some and/or massive television screens blazed a bright path across the dark pavements, while outside the ‘Old Railway Tavern’, a board announced ecstatically the usual football matches ‘LIVE’ between teams I hadn’t even heard of.

Though damp and misty, recently the air temperature has been very mild and in conditions like this it is tempting to take ‘Futurest’ out for a cruise. But of course one cannot trust the weather and at any moment, within hours, icy conditions might descend leaving us stuck miles from anywhere without any sustenance.

We shall remain here safe and sound till the end of February as planned.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Back Safely at Our Home Port

Eight months ago ‘Futurest’ and I set off in excellent spirits from Kate Boats in Warwick for another exciting season of cruising, never quite knowing what adventure lay ahead for us. Now we’ve arrived safely back having travelled a total of 650.5 miles, through 408 locks and 10 tunnels since we left.

I know this is a modest amount to what some people manage to cover in the same period but then ‘Futurest’ and I were never designed for getting there-and-back-as-quickly-as-we-can and neither of us intended to go for any speed records. Having managed an average speed of 1.53 mph overall, which includes all locking time and other stoppages, I am certainly most happy with the result.

Our pattern has been slightly different this year in that we managed to join up with Janis and ‘Roots and Wings’ in Newark at the beginning of May. We’ve remained happily in tandem ever since and arrived at Kate Boats on Monday afternoon. Everything seems the same here; we are at our old berth, just beneath the bridge and the smiles of welcome we found unchanged.

I winterised ‘Roots and Wings this morning and she is moored snugly a little further away, adjacent to the paint shed. She should be fine for the coming winter months.

Her skipper Janis, far from relaxing after arrival, had to prepare herself for her forthcoming travels abroad and for a lot of the time was arranging flights, insurance, packing etc. that she would need for the next four months in Cambodia and New Zealand. She is looking forward to seeing home again particularly as she has not been back there for eight years or so.

However we did have some time to relax together and appreciate the wonderful atmosphere of Warwick.

 

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My little Shipmate

 

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Caesar’s Tower from Mill Street

 

007  Golden Glory

Golden Glory in St Nicholas Park

 

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Golden Sunset across the Avon

 

At this time of the year, forgetting the traffic and its noise, the town is an absolute delight with its medieval castle, its collegiate church and tall tower designed by Sir Christopher Wren and so many oak framed houses built during the Tudor period. They are all a pleasure to both eye and intellect. The park land too is wonderful with a myriad of golds and browns and carpeted with so many fallen leaves that in passing, one cannot help, like a child, swishing one’s feet noisily through them.

We managed to fit in a couple of urban walks, which took in both the castle and the nearby River Avon, high with rainwater and magnificent as usual but not currently in flood. The quaint little tearooms as well, where we shared a cream tea (or two), were full of their usual magical charm.

On one of these walks, which was taking us between the railway embankment and some allotments, behind which was an ordinary housing estate, we came upon a wonderful sight. We were walking along a narrow tarmac-ed path when suddenly from the hedge on the right, about ten yards ahead of us, jumped a brown animal which from its size, at first we thought was a dog. It looked at us briefly and decided to trot along the path in the direction away from us and it was then that we noticed that our dog had horns! We had spotted a Muntjac deer. I fumbled in my pocket quickly for my camera but in the excitement was not quick enough before the animal, spotting a man coming from the other direction towards us, skipped back nimbly through the hedge and into the allotment. Though Janis and I searched hard we never saw our little friend again. How brave wild animals are becoming these days, venturing so close to human habitation.

Janis left on Thursday to begin her World journey and I went with her as far as the railway station. The train was on time; I find generally that they are these days and at 6.41 pm she climbed aboard and disappeared from my life just as quickly as she had arrived.

The change will be nice but I shall miss her.

She has been a brilliant shipmate but very capable on her own anyway. Though we’ve remained in close convoy, she hasn’t needed my boating assistance in any way. She has been a good chum and I shall miss her laughter as well as her fine company and her advice.

Bon voyage Janis. I shall be thinking of you.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Leamington Spa

This week schools are on half term holiday. As a result Kate Boats are very busy sending out their hire boats. So when I phoned them to confirm our arrival at Warwick, Cheryl asked If we could possibly hold off till Monday, when it was anticipated all would be quieter to receive us. So we’re happily dawdling for a little longer before ending our voyage and settling down for the winter.

Currently the Sun is shining but for a few days earlier the cloud base was zero and we were enshrouded by a damp, drizzly mantle, which kept everything dripping wet and visibility to less than two hundred yards. It is cooler today but much brighter so it is no hardship for us to be contentedly moored for the time being on the visitor rings at Leamington Spa. We are at the bottom of the main Street and only fifteen minutes walk away from a large Sainsbury’s on the retail estate.

We filled our tanks at the last water point so what more could two contented boaters possibly want?

 

018

A muddy tow path at Leamington

 

It’s been a pleasure in fact to enjoy the delights of civilisation once more. We have visited the shopping malls and experienced all that the glossy expensive occupiers have to offer and we’ve walked around the town marvelling at the architecture of the grand town houses that were, with their big ornate porticos and steps down to the kitchens and servants quarters. Most of them are now occupied by firms of accountants or expensive estate agents….

And the prices of houses here….. Wow!

We’ve had lunch at the Pump rooms and though one can no longer ‘take the waters’, the ornate marbled Victorian fountain remains, albeit with flowers in its bowl. The building also houses a large library, the local museum and  a very fine art gallery.

After our lunch Janis and I sauntered around the Jephson Gardens filled now with the golden colours of autumn and watched little children, with their mothers, excitedly feeding ducks on the ornate lake. Grey squirrels, well accustomed here to lots of visitors, crept up on us soundlessly, sitting up perkily on their hind legs close to our feet and looking at us with alert and expectant little eyes. All we had was chocolate, but the offer was quickly accepted straight from Janis’ hand.

 

005  Janis in Jephson Gardens

Janis in Jephson Gardens

 

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An Autumn Scene

 

015-1  Hungry Squirrel

Hungry Squirrel

 

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Foraging Squirrel

Last night we went to the local municipal theatre called The Royal Spa Centre. It is really a most splendid place and Janis and I enjoyed ‘The Sound of Music’, performed very enthusiastically by a local amateur team called The Spa Opera Group. We have both seen the show many times but last night’s was as good as any of them I thought. We returned to the little ships afterwards, happily singing all the well known tunes.

 

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Leamington Old Town from the River Leam

 

Today we have one of our quiet days organised, when we both do our own thing. The towpath alongside is not the best, considering our proximity to the town so I shall go outside now to enjoy what remains of the Sun and wash off the starboard side of ‘Futurest’ which has been liberally splashed by bikes speeding through the muddy puddles.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Approaching Warwick at Radford Semele

The end of our voyage is close, as we moor near the small village of Radford Semele. It is just four miles to our destination at Kate Boats in Warwick. Our quota of locks, tunnels, swing and lift bridges for the year is accomplished and soon all of us will be able to wind down to rest for the winter.

Unlike last year’s tumult of major engine breakdown on the Chesterfield Canal, the resultant but nonetheless thrilling tow on the tidal River Trent and the necessary but very expensive replacement engine at Stretton Wharf on the Shropshire Union Canal, by comparison this year we have enjoyed a quiet excitement.

The season has been different to those in the past in that ‘Futurest’ and I have been accompanied for the whole period by Janis and ‘Roots and Wings’.

And such a success this has been too.

While being able to maintain my role as a single hander, this year there has been somebody else always close by to share every experience. To a limited degree this has happened in the past of course as in this travelling life one is always able to make new acquaintanceships by sharing locks and even moorings for a time. Many firm friends I have made in this manner. But our period together has been for a limited period only and always we have needed to separate after a few days, or a month maybe at the most, in order to accomplish our own personal plans. This year Janis and I set out from the beginning with the same cruising plan in mind and with the intention of staying in close convoy together for the whole time.

The plan has worked well.

All the machinery on board ‘Futurest’ too has worked so well and using the new Russell Newbery has been a very definite pleasure. She has always answered my commands very faithfully and has never let me down while ‘Futurest’ herself (bless her) has been a tower of strength and reliability too. I have given her some very difficult tasks sometimes but she has always uncannily kept me out of trouble. She behaves very promptly and is wonderful.

It is sad that all this has to end soon.

But next year is another year that I am sure will be equally as memorable.

At Rugby Janis returned after her visit to Newark, and we set off eagerly to the south glad to be en route again. All the way the autumn weather remained perfect for our passage. Sunshine was with us all the time and we made good progress as far as Braunston Turn.

 

021  Braunston Turn

Our arrival at Braunston Turn

 

There was no need for us to moor at the village itself, which wasn’t on our direct route towards Napton Junction. Instead we decided to moor on the Oxford Canal somewhere just round the corner but within walking distance of the village shop, where we needed to buy bread and milk. However we soon realised that nothing was available along this route so in the end needed to reverse approximately a hundred yards back to the junction. Neither ship has a bow thruster but we didn’t need one anyway. We both accomplished the manoeuvre brilliantly and, with great satisfaction, were happy to tie up at the mooring outside the ‘Boathouse’ pub for the night.

Peter, a friend of Janis, having cycled from Long Eaton, joined us here during the day and later we all enjoyed a meal at the pub together. The following day, just prior to our departure, Peter left to cycle all the way back home.

 

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‘Roots and Wings’ Passing on the way to turn round at Braunston

 

On Friday afternoon, having descended the Stockton Locks, we moored for the night at Long Itchington, a small rural Warwickshire village sitting near the River Itchen,  in an area of pretty, criss-crossed footpaths and disused railway lines. On Saturday Janis and I went on a long walk to explore what we could. The weather was wonderful and the day was a great success.

 

037  Appr entrance to the Warwick Grand Union

Napton Junction

 

013  Autumn poplars

Autumn Poplars reflecting the sunset at Long Itchington

 

017  Entering the lower chamber of Bascote Staircase Lock

Entering the lower chamber of Bascote Staircase Lock

 

Though we could have travelled from Long Itchington to Warwick in a day, we have decided that while the weather remains so favourable we’ll make the season last for a few more days and arrive at our destination sometime towards the end of this week.

Janis has to leave for her planned flight to New Zealand a week on Thursday.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Rugby

The two little ships and myself are on our own at the moment. I’m quietly boat-sitting while Janis has returned to Newark to see old friends and to take part in what I can only call a physical test of endurance; but more specifically a 12000 metre run with some obstacles thrown in as well.

I’ve just received a phone call from her to say that the event happened today in Nottingham, that she’s okay and happy, though somewhat disabled as a result. She is on her way back to Newark to stay the night, and lick her wounds no doubt, at the house of her friend Lorna.

All being well she should be back here on Monday. Me and the two ‘girls’ will be most pleased to see her. Both ‘Futurest’ and ‘Roots and Wings’ must be feeling very put out and frustrated to be so stationary for so long.

 

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Statue to commemorate the founding of Rugby Football

 

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Unusual Sculpture in Caldecott Park

 

I’ve been fine and quietly enjoying the rest, while the weather, though being quite chilly with temperatures just above the frost level during the night to remind us that winter is not that far away, has  been quite remarkable during the daytime with plenty of sunshine to keep us cheered.

 Having spent six days here now, I have managed to do quite a bit of sightseeing so I know the town and its surroundings fairly well. I have shopped briefly everyday at the nearby large 24 hour Tesco, have found a footpath that runs into town (as straight as a dye and directly as the crow flies, for a real cliché bonanza) and managed to explore the old Brownsover waterway that was the original course of North Oxford canal when it looped flamboyantly in the beginning and in true Brindley style around the north of the town.

The canal had many of these meanders at one time along its whole length but in order to compete with the railway, in the eighteen hundreds all the loops were taken out and the canal benefitted briefly by being straightened and thus shortened. However I was surprised to find that the Brownsover course was still there and in water mostly. The whole surface was covered in a light green weed but both the Mallards and the Moorhens were making the most of it and seemed to cherish the quiet and lack of Human infringement.

 

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Weeded Canal……

 

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…… and overgrown towpath

 

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Bridge 56 on the Brownsover Loop

 

020  Green weed

Green weed

 

024  Rugby's Green Man

Rugby’s ‘Green Man’

 

Unfortunately I have found the town, in spite of being host to one of the top public schools, to be fairly uninspiring and apart from the usual run of pedestrianised streets and arcades for many of the nationally  known and used shops and pubs it seemed to have nothing more to offer me. There are numerous trading and industrial estates as well like many Midland towns but I found very little of historical interest including the buildings and churches.

I shall be glad to be on my way again.

Quite a strange thing happened this afternoon as I returned after doing my daily shopping. As I was climbing on board at the stern of ‘Futurest’, a short narrowboat came by. I couldn’t see any name but it was quite old with lots of roof clutter and it had a permanent port list. It looked a bit like an ancient ‘Springer’.

As it passed by the helmsman shouted across: “I enjoy reading your blog.”

I acknowledged and said thank you, as I usually do. It is comforting always, to know that people do actually read it as well as gain pleasure from it.

But then he followed it up with something I didn’t quite understand. He was by this time moving away from me and I’m not too certain as to whether I heard him correctly even over the rattling and noisy sound of his engine.

But what I thought he said was:

“And tell that crew member of yours to mind their own flippin’ business.”

I didn’t answer as I’ve no idea what he expected to hear. I certainly don’t know what he was on about, so all I could do was to try to look intelligent and smile at him with a big frown.

 

 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

A Cold and an Army Assault Course

The Old Man’s been feeling a bit sorry for himself over the last few days as he’s suffering from a bad cold. Been sneezing and doing about something awful he has.

Come on you folk….  Altogether now…..

One, two, three….Aaaahhhhh! The poor old chap.  I don’t think he can take it bless him. It’s all been a bit too much for him.

I notice though he’s not doing it today as much, so perhaps he’s past the worst. Let’s hope so. I can’t stand him moping about all day the way he’s been doing.

He’s gone off ashore now……  to find some little tea shop I expect.

Janis hasn’t helped either. Maybe she’s fed up too as she’s left me with him and gone off to Newark for a couple of days to do an army assault course!

Well thank YOU very much.

Suppose it must be a desperate situation for her as well, ‘cos what else would make a lovely feminine female like her do an army assault course for goodness sake.

You can see the sort of people I have to look after though, can't you?

Weirdoes the lot I reckon!

Still ‘Roots and Wings’ seems a nice young lady. She’s tied up snugly just astern of me.

Doesn’t say a lot and has been very quiet all through the summer ever since she left Newark back at the beginning of May. But she seems quite happy to follow my example without question and that’s what I think is best for everyone.

She hasn’t ever travelled so far in all her young life so I expect she has to stay quiet to take it all in.

Still I wish she’d say a bit more as it makes me all nervous as to what she’s thinking.

Even though Janis has gone off to Newark, her and the Skipper do seem to be getting on very well together, as they have done all Summer.

I’m not sure, but there must be something going on there you know that they don't want us to know about. I’ve noticed when they go ashore they always walk close together ….

You know ….. close-like.

I’ve not actually seen them touching but they’re closer than normal people would be, when they went ashore. But I can’t forget that night in Cheshire when he kissed her.

Ahhh! You don’t kiss somebody for nothing without meaning it, do you? I’ll have to let you know what happens……. Ooooh isn’t it exciting!

 

 

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Coventry

On Monday afternoon we arrived at the end of the Coventry Canal from Hawkesbury Junction. The ‘Y’ shaped Basin that was originally designed to unload boats laden with coal for the growing industry of Coventry, fell into disuse over the years and has been tastefully restored for the use of leisure boats now. The mooring is conveniently close to the city with its numerous shops and monuments and is well worth visiting.

 

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At rest in Coventry Basin

 

Though the Basin is a delight I found the run down from Hawkesbury Junction rather depressing with its miles of derelict weed infested sites and graffiti over everything that doesn’t move. The waterway too has been used as a rubbish bin over the years and the whole area has the air of being badly neglected. However the sight of ‘Cash’s 100 Houses’ towards the end of the canal helped to restore my spirit. Though only 48 were ever built, for families of ribbon weavers with their looms on the top floor, they are a splendid monument to the industry.  The earlier sighting of the large ‘Tesco Extra. Open 24 hrs.’ sign nearby, did its best relieve my dejection a little as well.

 

005  Cash's 100 (48) houses

Cash’s 100 Houses

 

004  Autumn colours

Autumn Colours

 

It was good to see that Nature had not deserted the canal though. Autumn colours were beginning to flourish and a happy family of Swans, mum, dad and six near fully grown cygnets, followed us for much of the journey to Coventry.

Yesterday Janis and I visited the city to see the sights, as well as shop at Sainsbury's on the way back to the ships. It had changed much since I was last here many years ago, when my parents brought me by car from Banbury. Then the population were in the process of rebuilding their city after that dark November night in 1940 when a greater part of it was destroyed by enemy bombs. What has been accomplished now with the two cathedrals exemplifies the positive attitude that has guided the rebuilding of the city and though most of the ancient monuments are no longer the originals, they have been very tastefully restored to their former glory.

 

017  Poignant open eye sockets

Poignant open holes that were windows

 

019  The old and the adjacent new

The old and the adjacent new

 

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The restored Alms-houses

 

027  The Atrium of the Almshouses

The atrium of the Alms-houses

 

We spent a good day looking and contemplating quietly to ourselves what is obviously a tremendous recovery. A Phoenix from the ashes.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Arrival at Hawkesbury Junction

In contrast to the last few days the Sun has shone beautifully for our passage today from Nuneaton to Hawkesbury Junction which reflected itself in the happy smile of everybody we passed. Even the anglers, normally very glum and taciturn when addressed, were very pleased today not only to return my greeting with a smile but mostly with a witty quip as well. Wow!

 

002  The flat rural countryside of Warwickshire

The flat rural countryside of north Warwickshire

 

The Sun is so good for everybody. The feel good factor is enormous when it shines.

Though the view of Nuneaton from the canal is probably not its best the Sunlight on the water today and through the shrubbery behind the council houses sparkled, while well kept gardens glowed with the bright colour of late summer and autumn. Even the vast stretch of allotments to the west of the canal were heavy with produce. Weekend owners were busy harvesting their good supply of beans etc., trimming large cauliflowers and happily digging the ground ready for next year’s crop. The heavy fragrance of mowed wet autumnal grass wafted across the canal as ‘Futurest’ and I passed by to remind us that no summer is ever a bad summer.

 

005  Relic of a rustic bridge

The relic of a rustic bridge……

 

 006  Telegraph pole. Relic of a bygone age
…… and of days gone by

 

There was very little traffic on the canal this morning. ‘Futurest’ leading the little flotilla was probably the first to disturb the bright coloured Kingfisher who flew at a furious pace over our head towards ‘Roots and Wings’. Up until joining the Coventry Canal at Fradley Junction I had not had one sighting of this wonderful bird throughout the whole year’s journey. But in the short period since then I have seen four of them. It’s amazing as well as most pleasing.

Hawkesbury Junction has always been very busy at the times I’ve passed before and I expected nothing less this time. So imagine my surprise but extreme pleasure nonetheless to find the visitor moorings leading to the junction from the north, completely empty when we arrived.

 

016  The 'Greyhound' under the bridge

The ‘Greyhound’ under the bridge

The Sun makes me feel optimistic always, and when one is optimistic everything always goes right. So on this Sun laden day we were bound to find that we had a free choice of mooring on arrival at normally busy Hawkesbury Junction. The rule never fails.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Atherstone

We arrived at this little market town, steeped in history since Roman times yesterday afternoon with the persistent patter of rain on the roof.

It was only a shower but it was the remains of a day’s solid deluge, which had kept us tied firmly to the towpath on Monday, just to the north of Polesworth and round the bend out of earshot of the M42 Motorway rushing furiously across the canal. We had been caught and soaked on Sunday also and needed the next day to dry out. I had lit the fire to dry everything off.

 

003  'Roots and Wings' astern

‘Roots and Wings’ following astern

 

Unbeknown to our little convoy on Sunday when we arrived, our good friends Peter and Jeanne were moored only three hundred yards away around that same bend. On Monday, dodging the Monsoon conditions, we visited the two of them aboard their boat ‘Castellan’.

We had last seen them at Newark back in May so had some catching up to do. The coffee flowed well as did the chatter. Later Janis and I needed some vital provisions and had decided that come what may, we needed to brave the rain and shop in Polesworth. Jeanne decided to come with us so we three slopped into town to perform our various tasks.

It was good to see our friends again and ‘Castellan’ sparkled even in the wet conditions. They were heading north so the following day we left them and pushed off to continue our progress south.

 

004  Approaching Lock 3

Approaching Lock 3 on the Atherstone Flight

 

After a long pound we had the eleven Atherstone Locks to climb before arriving at our mooring near the BW Facilities and the town centre. So we were pleased to arrive after being battered by the rain and the strong westerly breeze for the last few days.

 

005  IN the basin above Top Lock (1)

In the Basin above Atherstone Top Lock

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Hopwas to Alvecote

Today the little fleet is very much back to normal routine in its endless odyssey, currently in a southerly direction after entertaining its many recent visitors over the last two weeks.

Though it is thoroughly enjoyable and great fun to have people aboard at any time, afterwards the return to the rigours of a normal working pattern is equally as pleasurable; because it is normal and the members of the team can relax into their everyday life. This is not to be complacent so much as to be able to unwind in a daily programme to which they are now very accustomed.

Yesterday this had been even easier for us as the Sun shone brightly all day. Even so there was the crispness of Autumn in the air and when we had tied up outside the ‘Tame Otter’ Pub in Hopwas I felt sufficiently cool enough to light the  Saloon fire for the first time. However I didn’t make it up before I went to bed otherwise it would have felt uncomfortably hot during the night, but the evening chill was just sufficient to warrant the brief glowing warmth of the ‘Squirrel’.

 

001  Dappled but bright sunshine

Dappled but bright sunshine during the morning

 

This morning we set off again with the Sun shining hazily through a thin layer of high cloud. The BBC weather forecast wasn’t good but we hoped to cover most of our day’s cruise with the Sun as our happy companion. The air was very calm and ‘Futurest’ was silent as she slid gracefully through the water. There was the steady throb only of the Russell Newberry to assist me in my reverie.

At Fazeley Junction the two little ships topped up fresh water tanks while their skippers enjoyed an early lunch before slipping their moorings once more and entering the Coventry Canal.

All through the morning we had enjoyed beautiful weather but just as we began to work the locks at Glascote, Sod’s Law took over and it began to rain in earnest. Everything was wide open on ‘Futurest’ so I had to abandon working the Bottom Lock and dash back aboard to batten down all the hatches.

 

003  Battling the weather

Battling through the rain in the afternoon

 

The rain’s been battering us ever since.

So by three o’clock we had all had enough and we have tied up near the ruins of Alvecote Priory.

It’s become cooler again as well so I have since re-lit the fire so that all is now warm and cosy.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

My last Skippers

It was marvellous to meet again my last skippers, Ian and Linda on Monday and they haven’t changed a bit since I last saw them…..

Still the happy friendly couple they always were in the old days. I’ve missed them at times, especially in the early days so it was lovely that they came by, just at the right moment to bring back lots of happy memories.

They were with me when I was born so I shall always have a special relationship with them.

I’ve since got used to the Old Salt though, or Ancient Mariner (giggle!), as some call him now. He’s learning slowly bless him.

He can't help it if he’s a bit slow, can he?

He’s a pretty good skipper and he does his best to look after me. But I shall always remember fondly those early days of my life.

They stayed for about half an hour just astern of where I was moored and luckily the Skipper invited them aboard. His son Rupert was there and he invited Janis and Raeleen on too so it was quite a big party that sat supping tea in my saloon for a little while.

It was lovely. Happiness was all around!

The new boat ‘Lillian’ was beautiful and they’d obviously looked after her well. It made me a bit sad really coz they gave me up for her.

She didn't have anything to say to me and looked rather smug I thought so I’m not too sure whether I like her or not. But I have to admit she looked pretty good.

The Skipper looks after me alright though. He’s different from Ian and Linda but I’m used to him and he’s okay.

All the guests have gone now and it’s as it used to be ….. Just me and the Skipper and Janis on ‘Roots and Wings’.

I had to laugh though when Ian noticed Janis’s washing hanging in her windows to dry and said that she should call her boat ‘Bras and Panties’ instead of ‘Roots and Wings’.

He! He! It tickled me it did!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Good Friends and Fradley Junction

Since leaving the Caldon Canal around a fortnight or so ago we’ve been busy entertaining and being entertained by various friends.

Soon, after the little convoy had re-joined the Trent and Mersey Canal,  at Stone in fact, we met Janis’ sister Raeleen at the railway station and since then she has crewed well on ‘Roots and Wings’. Though she’s a New Zealand girl she travels worldwide professionally, lives in Australia and has a home in Dallas Texas too. Consequently her accent is a bit mixed, though predominantly she speaks ‘NewZild’ still. She’s been great fun to be with.

Then on our way south, we had journeyed as far as Rugeley by Friday when I received a phone call from my elder son Rupert, who wanted to know whether he could join me aboard for a few days.

“Yes.” said I “When would you like to come?”

“Tonight.” he replied.

So that was it. I met him near Rugeley Trent Valley Railway Station just as it was getting dark and I led the way for the quarter of a mile along the towpath back to ‘Futurest’. So my little ship was not to be outdone, for she had a new crew member too.

Rupert stayed till yesterday and left the ship where we are at the moment, near Huddlesford Junction. All four of us walked the two miles into Lichfield, spent some time shopping and having lunch before seeing him off on the train to Bristol, where he is now about to study for a Master’s degree.

Raeleen has to be on her way tomorrow and is flying to Dallas.

Fradley Junction must be one of the top contenders for the the doubtful honour of being the busiest place on the waterway system and though there are visitor moorings nearby I have yet to find a vacant one whenever I am there.

On this occasion it was no different. When we arrived on Friday afternoon, boats were arriving from all directions as always, while the usual gale was howling fiercely across the actual junction, making the going even more difficult and trying on both experience and patience. No moorings were available and while I tried to get away with mooring near the shop, adjacent to the ‘Swan’, with ‘Roots and Wings’ breasted up to ‘Futurest’, I was soon told off by the lady inside the shop and asked to move on. We had to carry on down through the locks and on to Alrewas where we moored close to each other for the weekend.

As Rupert had to return home on Tuesday I had to have him near to a railway station by then and had decided to take him back up to Rugeley. So I would need to find a winding point for this. I had hoped to use Fradley Junction for the purpose but as this was not possible the nearest was either four miles with no locks down the Coventry Canal, where we wanted to go, at Huddlesford Junction, or a mile and five locks further along the Trent and Mersey to Alrewas. We plumped for the latter.

And jolly glad I was too that we did, for moored just below the Junction Top Lock were my good friends John and Diane on ‘Our One’.

In 2010 we had first met down south and subsequently cruised a long time together on the Kennet and Avon Canal becoming firm friends in the process. Though our paths had nearly crossed in the meantime on a couple of occasions, this was the first time we had met since then. They were headed in the opposite direction to us and as there were no moorings available and traffic was piling up behind, we only had a few moments to do little more than exchange greetings. But it was lovely to see them again and great to be able to chat for a minute or two as ‘Futurest’ drifted slowly past.

On Saturday after arriving at Alrewas, Janis, Raeleen and I were collected by Peter, one of Janis’ climbing friends and taken in his car to his home at Long Eaton where later in the evening  he took us along to the ceilidh, which he had organised as a charity bash for the Samaritans. The company was lovely, and the band and the dancing lively. We finally piled into our beds at one thirty in the morning and later on Sunday morning we breakfasted with delicious bacon and egg baps, the eggs having been newly laid by his own hens in the garden.

Wonderful!

He delivered us safely back on Sunday afternoon which was extremely kind of him and on Monday the ships returned to Fradley Junction. Here I had decided to travel on the Coventry Canal down to Huddlesford, close to Lichfield and its railway stations, instead of going back to Rugeley. We arrived at our mooring on Monday afternoon at the same time as my very good friends Ian and Linda were passing in the opposite direction in ‘Lillian’ on their way home to Doncaster.

Unlike Fradley there are plenty of moorings here and they were happy to tie up for a while and come aboard their old ship ‘JP2’ for a cup of tea and a natter.

Ian and Linda are my longest known friends on the waterways as they sold ‘Futurest’ to me back in 2009. They were very good then in waiting patiently for quite a while, as I awaited the sale of my house to raise the money for the transaction. We have met a couple of times since I sailed away from Great Haywood then and it is always such a pleasure to see them again.

On Monday evening the crews of the two little ships celebrated for the last time with a good meal at the local ‘Plough Inn’ at Huddlesford, before we began to return to our own ways once more. Raeleen is still here but she returns to the other life tomorrow. 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Railway Stations and Nostalgia

The Skipper and I are on our own today at the end of the Caldon Canal as Janis has taken ‘Roots and Wings’ out for an extra cruise with her friend Nigel on board, who has come to stay for the weekend.

So for a moment or two it’s been just like old times.

But no …. It wasn’t meant to be that way for very long, coz after cleaning my chimneys and other things this morning, the Skipper’s gone off exploring on his own. I heard him mention to Janis before she left that he was going for “afternoon tea and homemade Victoria Sponge at the Railway Station”. The two of them did go for a ride on the steam train when we were moored back at Cheddleton and enjoyed it very much.

I remember I had a job to pass under the overhanging station platform at Consall Forge as we went by, without it touching my roof. The railway line and the canal are within feet of each other at this point and almost at the same level.

I’ve just borrowed the two pictures below from his computer collection to show what I mean. He’ll never know I’ve done it so please, whatever you do, don’t tell him. He’d be so cross if he knew.

In fact I hope you’re not letting on to him that I’m writing this blog at all. I know he wouldn’t like it if he was to find out.

I’m only doing it now and again just to put a few things straight you know. ‘Coz he just makes it all up I think as he goes along and that’s not right is it?

 

020  The Platform and Waiting Room overhanging the Canal

The overhanging Platform at Consall Forge

 

021

The railway lines beneath the platform

 

But anyway; he’s got a thing about steam railway stations and afternoon tea and not necessarily in that order, or even together.

He enjoys them separately or together ….. It’s his age you know.

I’ve heard him say it so many times now, that it’s getting boring: “Nothing is like it used to be in the old days, when I was a lad.” he says. Cars aren’t the same; trains aren’t the same. Even people are different now to the nineteen fifties he reckons.

Well of course they are the stupid old dope. Thirty years have gone by since then.

Hang on that doesn’t sound quite right to me. Perhaps it’s fifty years is it? Yes fifty years have gone by.

But it’s nice that him and me are still together …… Coz I’m not perfect you know. I’ve taught him all I know by prompting ideas into his head and he’s not a bad boss really.

Could be far worse. Even though he does lots of things with Janis, I think he likes coming back to me the best.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Welcoming of Good Friends

Having provisioned at Morrison’s we remained at the Leek mooring overnight on Thursday 23rd August, returning to Bridge 3 lower down on the branch, where there was a turning point. Then we moored for the night facing back in the direction of Leek, just beyond the aqueduct and overlooking the ‘Hollybush Inn’ down on the towpath of the Froghall Branch.

In the car park of the pub on Saturday morning we had arranged to meet friends who were arriving to stay for the weekend. They were independent of each other and would be arriving in separate cars but they had both booked the bank holiday weekend to visit.

 

011

The reunion of old shipmates

 

Mel was a friend of Janis from Nottingham and would be staying on board with her while Alan was over here for a while from Geelong in Australia and had been a shipmate of mine way back in 1960, when we had served as cadets together on the ‘Ulster Star’.

We became firm friends during that voyage to South America and back but over the years had slowly lost touch during the course of our busy lives. He emigrated to Australia not long after that voyage but recently we had managed to reconnect  via the internet. About a month ago he had returned to the UK to visit family and friends so it became a good opportunity to renew our old friendship. After forty odd years I wondered whether we would recognise each other.

The reunion was no problem at all though and I think we both agreed that over the years, time had made us only greyer and a little bit thinner on top from those young and heady days in 1960.

 

016

Alan, Mel and myself

 

Mel I had met only once before very briefly, when Janis and I were invited to a barbeque in Long Eaton earlier in the year. On this occasion as the last she was lovely and great fun to be with for the whole weekend. All four of us seemed to get along well with each other.

The following day we fired up our engines and took our guests for a two hour cruise to the end of the branch at Leek and back again but this time returning as far as Hazelhurst Junction and descending the three locks down onto the Froghall Branch. We were able to moor for the night right outside the ‘Hollybush Inn’.

It had been a good day; the weather had been kind to us and later that evening Janis and I took Alan and Mel for a meal at the ‘Hollybush Inn’. It turned into a very happy little party, which I enjoyed enormously. The pub was very busy and our relaxed happiness was very evident.

 

013  Alan, myself & Janis

Alan, myself and Janis

The weather on the Sunday was not as kind so we stayed put on ‘Roots and Wings’ all morning drinking tea, coffee and later on wine. As the rain drummed incessantly on the roof, all four of us were happy to chat, yarn about old times and joke about the new until the noise began to ease by the afternoon.

We went for a short rather wet country walk and later Alan regretfully had to leave. Mel stayed for a further night but had to return to Nottingham on Monday afternoon.

Janis and I agreed that it had been a very happy weekend for us both.