Saturday, 1 December 2012

Let the ‘Silly Season’ Begin ……

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I have a confession to make …………… I’m a bit of a ‘Bah Hum-Bug’ when it comes to Christmas!!  I think this is mostly because I don’t agree with the over-the-top excesses which surround it.

BUT ….. I love all the outside lights that decorate houses, trees, hedges etc.    AND, we boaters must not be left out!  Our lights are up and working and the reindeer now has lights on her antlers!   (I definitely think she’s pretty enough to be female!)

Other boaters have started to put up lights and this year we have at least one more new recruit!  Lynn and Paul n/b ‘Piston Broke’ are getting into the festive spirit.  Mind you, lights were not the only thing that was erected early this morning!  I can’t possibly publish a picture of the item of clothing I have in response!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Sunday, 25 November 2012

Deer, Deer or Two Heads are Better than One.

This weekend, for us, rain definitely stopped play.  We were all geared up for going to spend the weekend with our friends in their caravan on a site near Evesham.  Predictably, the site flooded so ……. they came to us on the boat instead.

Come rain …………………

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dogs need some exercise and so do we so, on Saturday, despite the rain, we drove to Foxton Locks.  Even on a cold, wet, November day Bridge 61 was packed.  Our friends insisted on supporting local businesses even more by purchasing some festive decorations from an entrepreneurial boater  ……

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and then presented one to us!

After consuming alcohol, sausage baps and hot chocolate we drove into the lovely town of Market Harborough just for a ‘mouche’.

On Sunday we went for yet another muddy walk around Crick in an attempt to walk off a rather large full English.

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A lovely time was had by all.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful …………

Graham’s funeral was a week ago today but, unlike today, the sun shone.  (It’s raining heavily here at the moment and is forecast to last all day.)  There were a couple of ‘hitches’ but, on the whole, things went well – I think he would have been pleased.  Many more people turned up than I had anticipated.  He had left detailed instructions regarding his funeral service and I included it all!  Those of you who knew him,  knew that he always liked to be the centre of attention and he definitely was last Monday!  He lived a life of excess and it caught up with him in the end.  He was such a handsome little boy.  He always referred to himself as “Blakey” so, I had no choice, it just had to be!! 

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YESTERDAY THE SUN SHONE!  We took the boat out just as far as Crack’s hill and it was a real tonic ……………

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Up here on the summit of the Leicester Line it’s very rural and very beautiful – especially when the sky is blue and the sun shines!  Maisie enjoyed the little ‘Autumnal jolly’ too.  She’s also a tonic -thank goodness we have her!  She even gets her own friends calling.  The face!! (She’s worried about Hookna inadvertently knocking her in!)  We have several good neighbours for the winter months.  Smile

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A new hot-spot aerial has been fitted in the marina Smile  I can now sit INSIDE the boat when on the computer instead of freezing my butt off in the cratch!

The new chairs we ordered at Kinver back in September have been delivered.  We like the colour and they are very comfortable. Smile

We’ve kept ourselves busy this week catching up with some of the smaller jobs that need doing especially having a bit of a chuck-out before we sink even deeper into the water!  Smile

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HONESTLY, THE THINGS MOTHERS KEEP!  I found the apron that I made at school when I was 12!  Examining it carefully I think my needlecraft skills were better then than they are now!! Smile  Looks like I was a large 12 year old too!  Perhaps I didn’t wear it much because it was too big!

Goodness only knows what else I’m going to find when I start the un-enviable task of emptying Graham’s house where he lived with my mum.  She began living there in 1939!  Actually, I think she’s still there!  I sense her following me around!

‘Gertie’, the little old ‘banger’ we have purchased for all this to-ing and fro-ing is, so far, serving us well.  Smile


I just need to take things a day at a time.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Ben’s Big Barg

A few years ago our son, Ben, arranged for a big old Tjalk to be brought over from Holland.  He then embarked upon the enormous task of fitting it out from scratch.  Whilst we have been here in Staines, dealing with the death of my brother and arranging his funeral, we have been staying on Ben’s barge – its been our refuge.  There have been like-minded boaters to talk to and a large assortment of waterfowl to watch.

I love living on our narrow boat and would not want to sacrifice the freedom of cruising around most of the system for more living space but ……………. living on a BIG boat is a totally different ‘ball game’!  There’s so much space!  So much storage!  So much comfort!   All very luxurious!

Other people do picture shows so, here comes one from me …….

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The saloon

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The kitchen


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The bathroom


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Main bedroom – there is another, smaller cabin but all our ‘stuff’ is in there cluttering it up at the moment!


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Roof-top garden!  Taken from the front ………..


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Taken from the back …………

I think that, in a way, she’s a bit wasted here on the Thames – she would be perfect for cruising the French canals and rivers.

Those kayaks do get used regularly:-

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Apparently, its a good way to arrive at the pub for lunch!

My brother’s funeral is on Monday.  When my dad died my brother and I sorted things together; when my mum died we did the same.  I’ve found it very hard making decisions on my own this time and, I have found the sorrow of losing a sibling very different from the sorrow of losing an elderly parent.  I can’t wait to get back to “Ellen” for some respite.

One last thing:-

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A friend sent us a picture of a boat that got into trouble on the swollen waters of the River Nene.

It’s a salutary reminder that boating can be dangerous and there is no room for complacency and taking unnecessary risks.  The boaters got off safely but what a terrible thing to happen.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

A few words…

My brother, my only sibling, – Graham Robert Blake who preferred to be known by one-and-all as “Blakey” died in hospital yesterday afternoon.  He was only 65.

I was with him.

For us, it really does seem that Life has stopped giving – it just keeps taking away.

I feel numb and can say no more.  This is just for those of you who might be wondering what’s going on! xxoo

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Back at Base

Seeing as our boat is our home, strictly speaking, ‘home’ is wherever the boat is but ………… if anywhere can be called Base Camp, it has to be Crick.

We zoomed through the Braunston Tunnel without meeting another boat (a 1st for us), were inundated with offers of cheerful help from volunteers at the Watford locks and then sped through the Crick Tunnel, again, all on our own!  We left Crick in mid March and have returned mid October having travelled 600 miles and gone through 324 locks.  This year we have visited lots of new-to-us waterways:-

  • The Erewash Canal
  • The River Trent downstream as far as West Stockwith
  • The Fossdyke
  • The River Witham
  • The Chesterfield Canal
  • The Stourbridge Canal and
  • Parts of the B. C. N.

There have, of course, been ‘incidents’ – things which were problematic at the time but in reality only needed patience, ££££ or both to solve.  The Big Black Cloud – Maggie’s premature death  could be prevented by neither and will take a long time for us to come to terms with.  After all, only 3/4 of our crew have arrived back safely.

BUT – overall, we have had a really good cruising year, spent happy times with friends old and new and been to some interesting places.

Back here in the marina, we have things to sort out and then, if the weather remains reasonable, I think we’ll go to Foxton and back – don’t want to get into Winter mode before we have to.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Rabbiting on ………….

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Any mention of rabbits will forever remind us of our lovely Maggie so, moving swiftly on ………………

After 7 months of cruising around we have arrived back in Braunston.  This morning we have been reminded of just how pretty the stretch between Napton and Braunston is – the majority of it having wide, open views of the surrounding farmland.  It’s clearly a very popular stretch for just that reason – there are so many boats on the move here!

Yesterday, moored up at one of our favourite spots, who should come along but June, Bob and Phoenix on “Autumn Myst”.  We were surprisedNearly back 006 (800x600) because we thought we had missed them!! (Ugh!!)  They moored up with us and we had morning coffee on “Ellen” and then afternoon tea (plus made-between-locks-coffee-cake) on “A.M.”.  I don’t know – between them Doug and June put me to shame!  Clearly I need to get my act together.  Now, let me see …….. chocolate cake?  coffee cake?  fruit cake?  cherry cake?  What to do?

“Hang on a minute”, says Maisie.  “What about my walk?  You always walk me between locks.”

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      I don’t know, she’s got me wrapped around her little paws!                


6 month old Phoenix.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Name Dropping!

John took advantage of the sunny weekend and successfully painted another section of the roof.  Just as well, because today there is no sign of sunshine – drizzle soon developed into ‘proper’ rain once again.

Yesterday afternoon, as we were still moored at Long Itchington, who should come along but Doug & James on n/b “Chance” with their friends Bob & June on n/b “Autumn Myst”.  June had her priorities for the day well sorted!  TV reception for “Downton Abbey” was all important!  How has this saga managed to captivate so many citizens of the nation?   Bob & June have nurtured puppy guide dogs for many years and, at the moment, have 6 month old Phoenix – gorgeous!  She certainly took a shine to Maisie but I’m not sure Maisie felt quite the same!

We all went on board “Chance” for pre-dinner drinks.  I think we laughed from the minute we got on board until the minute we left – such good company and just what we have been in need of.  I had got our roasties in the oven before we left the boat so that they would be ready on our return.  I suppose it goes without saying that we were all drinking much longer than originally intended so I thought we would be having crisps with the rest of our Sunday dinner.  Unzip the cratch cover, open the door – no smell of cooking!  What’s happening?  Why no enticing smell of roast potatoes and parsnips?  THE GAS HAD RUN OUT!!  Maybe this was just as well but, oh, the joys of living on a boat!  Sunday dinner did arrive – just a little later than anticipated!

Before our new-found friends left this morning we all had coffee and cake on board “Autumn Myst”.  Doug produced a delicious chocolate cake which he must have magicked  up between locks!!  Doug, James and Oscar (their dog) are heading for a winter mooring on The Kennet & Avon; Bob, June and Phoenix are heading back to Brinklow.  Safe travels everyone and I’m so glad we had the opportunity to meet you.

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We set off after lunch – just two locks further on and we have found ourselves moored up behind Bob on n/b “The Beez Neez” at the Blue Lias  pub.  Bob and his dog, Hookna, over-wintered with us in Crick last year so we have a lot to catch up on.  Don’t need gas tonight – eating in the pub!  Result! xxoo

Thursday, 4 October 2012


“Never again,” I said back in 1974 after giving birth to Ben.  Just 3 years later, there I was back in hospital, more moaning and groaning, more huffing and puffing  ….. again.  Nothing unusual there – most women ‘fall’ for it!

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BUT:  October 2012 – The Grand Union Canal from Hatton to Napton –

“Never again”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We did this stretch only 3 years ago in 2009.  WHY did I not remember just how tough it is?  WHY did I not remember the pain?  The agony?  The callouses?

We ‘only’ had 5 miles and 10 locks to cover today.  The initial plan was to do 5 locks and then stop for a break (for me!) and for lunch.  It was not to be because we could find nowhere decent to stop.  All the best places were already inhabited by ‘gatherings’.

By lock 10 ……………. I was knackered!!  Those paddles!  Each one takes 23 turns (I know it’s sad but counting helps to focus the mind!) to raise.  And, I swear that the locks neither begin to empty or fill until at least turn 19!

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Nobody else seems to find them so tough so I suppose the truth of it is I’m just a wimp, a woose, a namby-pamby, a pathetic cream puff!   

I would prefer to think that I’m just getting too old for this lark!!  Fortunately, with increased age comes increased short-term memory loss so, where might we cruise in 2015 I wonder? !!!!!!!!!

Something I failed to report:-  As we approached Birmingham on the B.C.N. we had to travel directly underneath part of the M5.  Scenic it may not have been but interesting it was.

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Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Be Not Down-Hearted

Why?  Because sometimes, just sometimes, a lucky break awaits!

Last night, moored all alone at the top of the Hatton Flight, today’s task seemed a somewhat daunting prospect.  21 double locks in 2 miles.  The guidebook said to allow 4 hours.  Now, is this based on two boats?  At least two lock wheelers?  Locks all being in one’s favour?  Well, I decided that if we were on our own, with just me doing the locks and all the locks against us I would need to allow at least 4 hours ….. if not 5!!  So, WE GOT UP EARLY!!  I know a lot of you will find that hard to believe but, we did!  A  “J.D.I.” day ahead of us – Just Do It!!

Two locks down and we were in a rhythm of operating just one side.  John was in charge of closing the top gates once he’d got the boat in the lock and then, if he could, lifting one of the bottom paddles.  I, in the meantime, was filling the next lock in readiness.  At one point he had to run!  I won’t go into details but – sorry John – it was impossible not to laugh!

THEN:  Along came Howard!  A gallant volunteer lock wheeler dressed in resplendent C&RT royal blue!  He committed to helping us down the entire flight!

THEN:  Along came Richard -  also voluntarily and dressed in identical royal blue attire.

God Bless the boys in royal blue!  Despite the rain and ‘donating’ one of them to a greater cause two thirds of the way down, we were in the Saltisford Arm by 11 am having a pump out and getting coal and gas.

We’re still here!  Frustrating admin to attend to.  AND …… lots of rain.  What a surprise!

I left John in charge of getting a couple of decent pictures but he said that he was far too busy, shutting all the gates, winding up all the paddles and …… running!! (not like ‘The Bolt’ I hasten to add!!!!!!!!!!!!)  xxoo

Saturday, 29 September 2012

On the 29th of September

To be sung to the tune of “The Big Ship sails on the Alley, Alley Oh” ………………

Narrowboat “Ellen” on the Lapworth flight of locks, Lapworth flight of locks, Lapworth flight of locks,

Narrowboat “Ellen” on the Lapwoth flight of locks,

On the 29th of September.

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A Lift Bridge?   Well, there must be a better way, be a better way, be a better way

A Lift Bridge?   Well, there must be a better way

On the 29th of September.

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Come on Granddad – you’re good at winding up, good at winding up, good at winding up

Now come on Granddad you’re good at winding up

On the 29th of September.

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Now think about this Grandad, are we meant to push or pull?  Meant to push or pull?  Meant to push or pull?

Now, think about this Granddad, are we meant to push or pull?

On the 29th of September.

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The Captain said, “Now, don’t you crash my boat, Don’t you crash my boat, Don’t you crash my boat”.

The captain said, “Now, don’t you crash my boat”

On the 29th of September.

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The First Mate said, “Please let me get off here, Let me get off here,  Let me get off here”,

The First Mate said, “Please let me get off here”,

On the 29th of September.

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“Come on, Mum, don’t leave it all to me, Leave it all to me, Leave it all to me.

Come on mum, don’t leave it all to me”,

On the 29th of September.

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“That’s more than enough – we’re going home for tea, going home for tea, going home for tea.

That’s more than enough we’re going home for tea.”

On the 29th of September.


We have been waiting to meet these two little lads all their lives – what a lovely afternoon we had. Thank you for coming to see us boys and Maisie sends her love.  xxoo