Monday, 24 February 2014

Towards the End at Warwick


Janis’s Hyacinth in Bloom


We begin what is always scheduled every year, by date anyway, to be the last week of our Winter stay in Warwick. At the beginning of November, after we arrive here, we inevitably say (every time) “We’re here now till the end of February when we hope to start our next cruise.”

But after four years of making this presumptuous preamble, we have yet to leave on, or even around the first day of March. There is always something that holds us up; like the weather being too bad (you can’t expect great things from us ‘fair weather’ sailors after all!) or Janis isn’t expected back from her travels abroad till March (These New Zealanders can’t cope at all well with our Northern Winters you know!) or the canal authorities have blocked us in at both ends by having lock gates out of commission; they are behind with their work schedule. In which case perhaps I should admit rather retrospectively that we in this country don’t appear to cope very well with our Northern Winters either.

But this year we have been very lucky with the elements so far; here in Warwick we have experienced none of the extreme weather that has plagued other parts of the country so dreadfully and in the four months, I have awoken in the morning to two mild frosts only.

With the air temperature now well up into double figures, there is no reason why this should hold us up at the weekend. Janis is due back from Sri Lanka on Friday and as far as we can tell there is no work going on along the Grand Union Canal to the immediate north of us. So it occurs to me that nothing can possibly hold us up this time and we should leave, with very little anxiety, at the weekend.


I have a visitor due to join me for the passage up through the Hatton Flight of twenty one locks and when I made the original arrangement with the lady, because of what I have mentioned above, I told her to be prepared to leave at very short notice. But it seems my notice was not long enough when I phoned recently to tell her we were off at the weekend.

“Oh dear!” she  said sadly. “ I’m scheduled to work then. Is there any chance of putting off the departure till sometime in the following week?”

So here we go again. The coincidence is uncanny isn’t it? Our departure is on 3rd March at the earliest. But actually the delay will give Janis, having only arrived back on Friday, time to get fully acclimatised to our UK Spring (bless her!)


Winter Pansy


On Thursday last I had a pleasant surprise in a phone call from my younger son Alex to ask if he could visit and stay the night aboard. It was only to be a fleeting visit as he had family commitments to attend to at home in Wiltshire the following day.

Of course I said yes and he arrived by train later in the afternoon. I took him out to a swish meal that evening at an equally swish place (well, some call Wetherspoons that anyway) where we enjoyed their ‘Curry Club’ menu, which as always was delicious. The following day, before he caught the train home in the afternoon, we walked around Warwick in the wonderful low but bright sunshine, and I showed him all the lively places of interest in and around the town (other than Wetherspoons!). It was a sheer pleasure to see him again.


Vivid Sunset in a rain shower behind Warwick Castle


Sunset over St Nicholas Park to tell us it’s all over


The next day, Saturday, dawned fine and sunny again as I set off to catch the train to Oxford and then the bus from the railway station to Abingdon. ‘Futurest’ and ‘Roots and Wings' had visited there last Summer so with time to spare till I was due to attend a recital at St Nicholas’s Church in the Market Place, I wandered down to the River Thames, across the medieval bridge with the ‘Nags Head’ pub on an island in the middle and noted that the waters were high and flowing fast around the bridge buttresses. It was so different from just a few months ago, when all had been quiet and somnolent.

The recital was one given by my elder son Rupert on the piano with two lady friends; one played the flute and the second was a professional opera singer.


St Nicholas Church, Abingdon


The Concert Flyer


Rupert began the proceedings by playing Debussy's First Arabesque without a flaw as far as I could tell, magnificently and then till the tea interval he accompanied Fleur on her well accomplished flute. This lady also played the piano afterwards for her friend Frances who sang with a strong and very lyrical Soprano voice. I was sad when it all had to end. 

All my family were there to give their brother support which was lovely. E-J  with her husband Steve and son George and I was most surprised to see Alex too with his wife Catherine and nearly two year old daughter Penny. It was the latter’s first ever concert experience and she behaved beautifully as if she was enjoying it all. On the Friday when he had visited me he thought he would not be able to make the journey as his car was in dock and he was doubtful whether he would have it back in time so it was wonderful to see him.

Afterwards the whole family went to the local branch of Ask and enjoyed a pizza each before setting off on our individual and yet lonely ways home after such a beautiful day.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Various Thoughts and Photos

We have just less than a month to go before we begin our 2014 cruise and because of the indifferent weather conditions that we have suffered over a long period now, my outings ashore have been curtailed more than usual.

Because of the gales and frequent wet conditions I have been far more easily  persuaded to remain cooped up on board than to undertake some precious exercise ashore. It is so easy to remain inside the beautifully warmed cabin with a good book  and a nice cup of tea. Even browsing the internet aimlessly to pass the time has not been beyond my scope too and it amazes me how much time can be wasted looking up the life stories of famous people on Wikipedia.

There is always lots of jobs to be performed aboard ship but lethargy, the greatest sin of the boater, can swiftly take hold if one is not careful. So when I feel this coming on I force myself to go ashore whatever the conditions and inevitably, it is uncanny the way it happens, the weather usually cheers up too and I have a very enjoyable long walk. Though limited for good safe rural walks in the Warwick area, It is surprising how a slight deviation of route can change the aspect of a walk completely.

For example my nearest superstore for provisions is Tesco, only half a mile down the towpath from the mooring but when I go there, I can always plan in a five mile round trip and make it slightly different each time I go. The other shop, which in fact I like the best is Morrison’s two miles away at Leamington. They have a better layout and an excellent cafĂ© also, where a good meal can be bought for less than a fiver. So weather permitting I go there mostly, managing a good round trip of seven or eight miles altogether, with good food and a cup of tea for sustenance halfway through.

However this last week because of the frequent rain and gales I have been somewhat restricted.

But I did get out over the weekend during a bright sunshiny break and managed to acquire a few photos, some of which I enclose.


DSCN0052  Guy's Tower, Warwick Castle Tower

Guy’s Tower, Warwick Castle








……and a host of white Snowdrops


Feeding time on the River Avon for the Black Headed Gull……












…..and sedately for the Swan


DSCN0085  Rainbow in Smith Street

Rainbow over Smith Street

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Winter Times

Unnoticed the year moves on apace.

We are into February and yet it seems so recently that we were celebrating Christmas and the New Year. And though many people in other parts of the country have not been as fortunate, my distraction here is that I still await the cold arrival of Winter with its accompanying frosts, snow and ice. Winter life has not been the same without it and at Warwick in the last three months we have been misled by the warm temperatures normally reserved for Autumn. Also in my vast experience of life, some Summers have been cooler even.

And yet in spite of this, Winter has been evident as usual. The bare sticks of the trees look cold and forlorn without their warm green Summer overcoats, as they swish feverishly in the stiff breeze and most wildlife has either emigrated or gone into hibernation.

Only the Robin throughout, has serenaded me so sweetly during these last months. He sings so enthusiastically, showing such an optimism in these short dark days of Winter, while the occasional Blackbird has clacked loudly at me as I pass by, letting me know in very certain terms of his discontent at the situation.

The Mallards as well have been reconciled just to huddle together quietly in little parties; no loud vociferous quacking there from the ladies as in the glorious Summertime. The whole group appears immoveable with their heads turned around and bills buried deep into the feathers of their backs.

Apart from the noise of the wind and the staccato rhythm of rain on the roof, Winter is certainly the quiet season of the year.

But things are on the change. This is evident from the Spring flowers bravely sticking their noses through the wet brown mulch of last year’s fallen leaves. In many places Snowdrops and Croci are already in bloom and turning their heads to seek warmth and strength from the rays of the low Sun. Furthermore the ‘bare sticks’ of Winter when inspected closely are festooned with rich buds just waiting for the moment to burst forth. They are filled with such latent energy.


Young Croci eager for the Sun


My travelling companion Janis returned home recently from her diving holiday in Egypt, stayed for just a couple of days and then shot off to Sri Lanka with friends to spend the rest of February there. She’s been emailing me with many photos of exotic beaches and mystical mountains; they are so beautiful and awaken long ago memories of places in the World that I was privileged to see as well. But I am content now to digest the beauties of this country even in Wintertime. There are so many that I haven’t seen yet as well as those to enjoy again.

That’ll keep me busy forever.