Tuesday, February 28, 2017

To return or not to return...?

It's March 1st tomorrow. Theoretically, we ought to be going back to Kantara. Well, actually we are, but not to stay. We need to collect post from the office, and a few things from the boat, but we'll drive straight back to the house afterwards. The thing is that we're enjoying the greater space of the house, and the opportunity to tidy up Grace's study and various other rooms, cupboards and cabinets whose chaos has been ignored for over five years. She's making herself some clothes, too, and that's not an easy task on the boat. And she's doing the artwork for The Company of Players' debut album. So, what with the very unwelcoming weather as well, we're not yet feeling compelled to move back. It's all very odd, though, because last year we said that we'd make our winter visit to St Albans briefer than in previous years. There's no point in planning, is there!?

We do wish we'd been on board to experience the 60 mph winds Yelvertoft was said to have had on Doris Day. It distressed a lot of boaters - it distressed a lot of people, full stop! - but there's a certain fun to be had when the water's rough. Naomi's just told me that Storm Ewan's on the way now. There seems to be something of a pattern emerging in this new, damaged climate of ours.

I love strolling around the garden here. Or simply looking out the window at it if the weather's rubbish. It's one of the things I miss when we're on Kantara. Naomi took these photos just a few days ago. The flowers at least think that winter's over. We're not so sure any more.

I was thrilled by this review of "Life with our feet under water" the other day. It's posted on amazon.com by an American reader. I keep forgetting that different countries have their own Amazon site. This has to be one of my top three favourite reviews.
He reviewed "Hints and tips..." too.
Short, but very sweet!

I think I've said before that Said the Maiden are releasing their second full album in November, and doing a nationwide tour to promote it. It would seem, though, that Whitby Pavilion think they're hosting an Iron Maiden tribute band!

Now I'll go and look at the weather forecast...

Oh! Storm Ewan's been and gone already! It was the fifth named storm to visit our shores in two months. Aren't we doing well?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A whiter shade of surreal?

Grace was tidying her study yesterday, and came across this.

I walk gingerly in the park
where a man with a metal head
eats candle wax.
He gazes up at the iodine sky,
and disappears in a puff of pink.
All that is left is a polystyrene dog
made of cast iron.
Sniffing the air (pungent with
the smell of halibut),
I walk on to better things.

(Steve Distill, aged 11)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Faring and sharing

Three months ago, I wrote in the blog,
"Several friends and family members have asked us recently what our cruising plans are for next year, and answer has been, "not to have any plans". Basically, we'll go to the gate and turn left, then see what happens."
Already, it's looking as though that might not be the case this year after all. We still have no idea where we might go, once we get moving, but we have already made plans around friends and family which are bound to restrict our movements.

In May, we'll have three friends with us - Frankie and Andy, and Colin - all old friends from years ago when Grace was designing knitting patterns with Frankie, and with Elaine, Colin's wife, who, very sadly, died last year. Having five on board, albeit only for three nights, is going to be... erm... challenging! But it'll certainly be fun, too. The three of them have no previous canal experience, apart from Frankie and Andy's one day with us at Foxton Locks.
Andy, Frankie, Grace and Colin
Probably before then, we'll have Jacqui visit us for a day, and Trevor another day. These two were students of mine in the late 70s and early 80s, two of the many I've recently been reconnected with through Facebook. It was Jacqui's jewellery fair we went to see in December.
Grace's eldest sister, Dorothy, has a 70th birthday celebration at the end of June - she shares it with her youngest sister, Madeline. Michelle's booked her break from work to spend the first week in July with us - Fradley Junction and back via Nottingham. A few days after that, we need to be back in the house for a week.
Fradley Junction
Some time in August or September, it'll be the turn of Christine and Mike, who've not holidayed with us for a couple of years now. They'll be with us for a week, but we'll be looking to find somewhere for them to meet us while we're already out on the cut, away from the marina.

Now, me being something of a grumpy git at the moment, that looks at first sight to be very fragmented, and not very good for faring (bargee writer and blogger Val Poore's word for travelling - as in wayfaring, seafaring). However, when I do the counting, we do actually get three decent stretches of time that amount to a total of 24 weeks, which would do us nicely. It'll be more if October turns out to be as good as it was in 2014, when we had a brilliant trip to Stratford-upon-Avon.

So I'm not complaining. We get the best of both worlds - faring and sharing. We like it that way!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Repost/update - "Snow good"!

I had to withdraw this post just a matter of hours after posting it. I realised - in the middle of the night, of course. When else would it be? - that it contains a video, and information about a bigger video, that my big (well, older) sister wasn't to know about until the following Thursday. She reads the blog from time to time, and I would have spoiled a surprise for her. The whole video, explained below, is over 30 minutes long, and a great piece of work by nephew Dan.

So, the post that follows is actually dated 11th February. Read on...


On a much happier note than that of my last post (bring out the bugle!), my sister, Jill, celebrated her 70th birthday on Friday, and Grace and I went to join a group of 25 family and friends to honour the occasion in a restaurant near their home. There were great-nephews-and-nieces there whom we hadn't seen since they were toddlers, and one great-niece we'd never even met, so there was a lot of catching up to do. It was a lovely occasion. Jill had been kept in the dark about the event, and had a great surprise when husband Rod brought her into the restaurant. It was a buffet-style Chinese establishment, and the food was really very good.

Jill's youngest son, Dan, had asked lots of Jill's friends and family to make birthday greetings videos, out of which he's going to make a compilation. This was the Distill contribution - including out-takes! It was made at night, in inadequate lighting, so it's rather grainy, so don't watch full-screen! Click HERE to watch.
It was snowing quite heavily as we drove south on the M1 on Friday evening, but stopped very abruptly at Northampton. We were a bit concerned that the trip back to Kantara would involve snow-drifts, and it was even snowing in Bedford when we left the restaurant - we'd been told by the Bedfordians at the "do" that it never snows in Bedford. But all was fine, and the boat was only chilly when we got back, not thick with the white stuff.

The thing is, though, that we'd really love it to snow. Proper snow, inches deep. We think back to March 2013, when we were out on the canal in some very heavy snow, and it was wonderful.

This weekend's been cold and damp. Any attempt at snow has been thwarted by wet ground that won't let it settle. So it's grey, windy, bitingly cold. But that's outside, and we don't have to go outside. It's very comfortable right where we are!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Looking back

While we're not cruising, we love to look back at the blog and at our huge photo collection, and revisit past adventures on the canals and rivers. These photos are from our first cruise of more than a few days on Kantara - an abortive Leicester Ring.


Thursday, February 09, 2017

Back on board, and feeling stressed

We returned to Kantara on Saturday. The weather was chilly but glorious - a lovely welcome to us, we thought.

It must have been the smoothest after-Christmas return to the boat ever for us. We seem to have mastered at last the art of leaving the right things behind - on the boat as we leave in December, and in the house when we leave that a couple of months later - and packing the right stuff in anticipation of the year ahead.

The boat was chilly when we got aboard, understandably so in the light of the very low temperatures there have been here. But the little greenhouse heater we left on the whole time we were away had made a tangible difference, and the dehumidifier had done the job, too. We've continued to use both each night, and that works a treat for us. The boat's very quickly warm and cosy after I've lit the Bubble stove first thing.

I'm feeling a bit odd about myself at the moment - and who doesn't from time to time? I'm not usually a depressive type, but I've found myself becoming more and more stressed and depressed recently as I keep up with the news. Far too much about Brexit and about Trump has made me extremely angry, and put me on something of a downward slide emotionally.

So I've just read my last news on the internet, and I saw my last TV news two nights ago. I know there are lots of arguments to suggest that this isn't a good thing to do; that burying one's head in the sand isn't the responsible reaction, is too negative, cowardly even. I've been through all of that with myself, believe me. But I just don't want to be the depressive, irritable, grumpy old git I've been recently. It's not good for me, and it's not good for those I love, either. I'll be interested to see how I feel in a news-free month's time.

I've subscribed to a couple of news feeds that only post good news. Have you noticed that mainstream news media tend to ignore good news? There are lots of good news websites out there, though most of them seem to focus heavily on bunny-rabbits being rescued from drains by old ladies or young policemen - you know the kind of thing. I'll avoid those. I think they'd only add to my depression!

For the record, Colin visited yesterday, squeezing us into a busy schedule which already put him in this marina for a couple of other jobs. He came to adjust the accelerator cable, which wasn't letting the engine idle slowly enough. The job was done quickly, and the idle speed's just right. Now we can cruise!