Wednesday, 14 February 2018

London and Back

We left the boat last Wednesday to travel by train to central London where we were to stay in the Travelodge at Waterloo. The principal reason for the trip was so that Mike could attend meetings from Thursday through to Saturday afternoon. We opted for the laid back schedule and stayed that night as well - if we had been returning to Cornwall it would have been a tight schedule and late return as the meeting was originally not expected to end until 5pm. In fact it concluded an hour earlier but plans were already made.

On the Friday evening we met up with daughter and grand daughter for a meal at the South Bank which was most enjoyable. Christine spent time during the day exploring various parts of London and took in the new special exhibition at the Royal Academy that has brought together many of the paintings that once belonged to Charles II but which were dispersed following his execution.

On Saturday evening we went to a concert at the Royal Festival Hall given by the London Philharmonic and featured Petrushka by Stravinsky as well as a violin concerto by Prokofiev. Most enjoyable - it was Christine's first visit to the RFH and probably the last time Mike was here was when he was about 17!

A return to the boat was made on Sunday afternoon - it is remarkably quick by train via Birmingham New Street and there is useful low cost car park adjacent to Droitwich station.

We stayed just overnight and packed up the boat against the cold the following morning, ready for the drive back to Cornwall which was, fortunately, most uneventful (the following day there was a long delay after a serious accident on the M5).

We are now beginning to plan our trips for the first part for the year, making sure that we keep suitable clear space in the diary although we both have a number of fixed commitments to work around. We have taken out a Gold Licence as we hope to get across to the Middle Levels as well as the Nene and Great Ouse which we last visited in 2010. OK, so there are long, flat stretches but that might just suit us for a limited period! However, our schedule probably will keep us clear of the IWA event at St Neots on August Bank Holiday. Additionally, we have to contend with the fact that the Worcester and Birmingham is closed at Tardebigge until near the end of March.

Monday, 5 February 2018

The Chocolate Quarter

A couple of friends who lived in a small coastal village near to Wadebridge decided to move up country a few weeks ago. He now has quite advanced dementia and they and their family were getting a bit concerned at the impact of living in such a small place (their house was quite substantial and the garden - their pride and joy - even more so!)

She has connections with Bristol and had looked at a St Monica's place a while ago but it was not suitable. However, their family spotted that the same housing charity was developing the former Fry's factory in Keynsham - now called The Chocolate Quarter. After much debate they eventually sold up their Cornish home and have taken up residence in one of the apartments with a great view onto the River Avon and the Lockkeeper's Pub in the distance.

We took the opportunity to visit them - it was just over an hour's drive from Droitwich and we arrived as expected just before 11:30.

This is an amazing development - the site as a whole is still not finished as a swathe of 'affordable' housing is no also under construction. The ground floor of the development is a public space with a range of facilities not just for the residents. We began with coffee in Block B, a pleasant space that serves snacks and light meals - even has its own 'proper' clay pizza oven.

This was a good opportunity to catch up - Christine especially had quite a lot of contact with them in Wadebridge as they were keen members of the Memory Cafe and the Memory Friendly (church) Service. A while back, he had also sang with Mike in Wadebridge Choral Society.

We had expected to go out for lunch but he was not up to it today (noisy spaces are not too kind to him - nor to Mike either, but for different hearing reasons) so she had prepared a really tasty chicken casserole followed by apple cake - this was the first time she had really tried out the oven in the new apartment. Both were extremely delicious!

We set off on the return trip around 3:30 and arrived back in Droitwich as darkness fell. Again, it was a smooth journey with no delays although the Ring Road around the north of Bristol needs some concentration as it has what must be the largest collection of roundabouts anywhere in the country, all very close together! Just to make sure drivers pay attention, the layout of each one is different . . .

Before making it to the marina we called at Waitrose for a few items. Unfortunately we had left the newspaper token on the boat this morning so Mike went back again after taking Christine to the boat. At least by the time he returned the second time the stove was well alight and the cabin warming well.

After our good lunch we only needed a snack type meal - we bought some sausages at Waitrose along with some rolls - but we did succumb to a Raspberry Tart from the freezer section!

We have spotted that the fuel level in the boat has dropped quite substantially since the end of the previous trip, no doubt a result of leaving the heating on more than planned. We will probably need to take a trip across the marina tomorrow to fill up. Hopefully, when we return from London on Sunday (just staying overnight before driving back home on Monday) we will work out a better setting for the next month that balances out keeping the boat safe and dry but not using quiet so much diesel!

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Short Boat Visit

We went to the early church service and, back home, we loaded up the car whilst having coffee and set off around 10:30. Apart from a short fuel top-up at Adsa in Bodmin and a comfort break at Sedgemoor Services we ran straight through without any stopping. There were no delays and very little freight traffic on the move.

This is only a brief visit to the boat on the way to London where Mike has a meeting of General Synod to attend from Thursday to Saturday. We have train tickets to travel in on Wednesday and the hotel where Mike would stay in Waterloo (a Travelodge - not much else comes within the allowance!) charges by the room not the person so Christine will come across as well. So long as the weather is not a problem there is plenty to do! We also plan to meet with daughter (who now works on the Embankment several days a week) and eldest grand daughter (who has started at QMC) on Friday.

The heating had been accidentally left on at the end of the last trip (rather than turned to the frost setting) so that it heats both morning and late evening which meant that the boat was not too old and not damp. We unloaded the small amount of belongings that we had brought with us, filled with water and put the chimney on so that the stove could be lit and soon making the cabin feel cosy.

We had brought pre-prepared main course with us (shepherd's pie) but Mike made a cherry egg custard by special request as a pudding.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Back Home

Over this break we had noticed that rain drips run down the outside of our multi fuel stove flue, originating from above the ceiling. Mike had taken a look from the outside but not worked out what was happening. As a result of new regulations, Morse have re-designed their kit and the way in which the flue is fixed to the roof etc. As a result it is rather different from what we have experienced hitherto. Directing a hosepipe at the base of the chimney also confirmed that this was the origin of the drips.

Yesterday we emailed Phil (Stem to Stern), our boat builder, in order to seek details of the assembly - this was not something we could find in the otherwise voluminous box of manufacturers' manuals that we were given at the outset. In particular, we needed to know just where to put any additional sealant.

Much to our surprise we had an email first thing today from Phil, who is based just up the motorway in Stafford, that he would like to pop down straightaway to take a look and see if he can fix it for us! Now we call that after sales support!

In fact, he arrived much quicker that he estimated and a quick inspection revealed that the seal had actually 'cracked' - not sure how best to describe it - although it was in a slightly different location from where we had imagined it to be. (It is on the outside of the upstand rather than, as before, on the inside) At least we now know if the problem occurs again.

Thinking about it, we suspect that the immediate cause was that we had left the chimney in place from when we arrived in the marina at the start of November. There have been some high winds, especially over the last few days, and this may well have created high strain levels at the base of the chimney, enough to cause the seal to fail. Of course, we were by now all packed up ready to set off back home so no time to allow the sealant to set properly and to give it a hosepipe test - that will have to wait until we next return but at least full marks to Phil for his assistance.

We were away around noon and the journey back home was remarkably uneventful. Given the strength of the wind when we left the marina we had wondered what we might encounter but we quickly passed out of the highest storm conditions - lorry traffic has still not picked up again after the Christmas and New Year break and there were no delays.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Cleaning Day

Not a lot to report today as we return home tomorrow and so we needed to clean and sport out a few things. Mike was at least able to spend a little time looking at the new ideas for CanalMap (our home built logging and mapping system). After lunch we went into town for a little shopping.

Monday, 1 January 2018


Again, don't be fooled by the blog title - we did not go by boat to Windsor! In any event, when we did see the Thames it looked in full flow and we did pick up from another blog a couple of days ago that it was then on Red Boards.

After the later night to see in the New Year, no-one was in any hurry once again but we did make it up an hour earlier than the day before (not that was much of a challenge!)

At 2 o'clock we set off by car to take the Alice and Jess back home  - hence the trip to Windsor. They start back at school in two days time so that left them just one day to get ready. The roads were quite clear - almost no freight traffic around and so we arrived just a few moments after four. We stayed to chat and have a cup of tea for an hour before setting off for our return trip. It was by now completely dark but the driving was not as difficult as we thought it might be. Once we had cleared the M5 and onto the A404(M) there was only one spot where there was any traffic at all and that was only a slowing down. No real congestion at the usual trouble spots.

We arrived back at the boat before 19:30 and set about preparing dinner - sausage and mash with a onion, pepper and mushroom sauce that made good use of the remainder of the jar of pizza topping that was not needed the night before!

Sunday, 31 December 2017

New Year's Eve

Don't be fooled by the date given for this post - it was, of course, actually written the next morning but it is easier for later use if the date of the post relates to the day described!

After the late night yesterday, no-one was in the mood for an early rise today. In fact, the last of the 'getting up' occurred just before high noon.

Eventually we managed to construct lunch after which we planned to walk into town for some milk. However, having kitted ourselves out for a walk along the damp (aka very muddy) towpath, and getting out of the boat, locking the doors etc, rain arrived and in the sky it looked  as if there would be heavy showers for some while.

So Mike was dispatched back to the boat for the car keys - which also meant changing from walking boots into shoes for driving - and we drove to Morrisons. Alice had just finished all of the books she had brought with her, both hard copies as well as a load on Kindle, so she and Christine went off to WH Smith whilst Mike and Jess collected the various items on our list. Yes, we know that we originally said that we only wanted milk but lists grow. This time, Jess had written out the list earlier and came prepared with a pen to tick each item off as we found it. Naturally, there were one or two extras along the way as well!

After driving back to the marina, leaving Alice to make a start on her new and substantial book, the others went for a walk along the towpath down to the new locks towards the motorway. You see, that rain never really materialised - that's British weather for you!

Along the way we showed Jess how the new stretch of canal had been built and how modern techniques (ie reinforced concrete) were used to make the locks, both the double lock staircase as well as the single Lock 6.

We walked as far as the footbridge just before the culvert under the motorway. Today the water level had receded and was well down into the green section of the measuring board below the last lock.

Back on the boat and later in the evening, Jess set about making a pizza for tonight's meal - using some of the extra ingredients (olives and pineapple) which she had bought earlier. It also gave us a chance to try out the new pizza tray and to see if it bakes the  dough better than a solid tray. (It did)

When it came to loading up the top of the pizza, we had to make a map of the four quarters as everyone had different preferences for what to put on. More accurately, each of us had views on what not to put on! Christine put together a salad and, with some heated up hash browns from the freezer,. we had a good meal. The pizza was followed by eating up some of the left over dessert items that were still taking up space in the fridge!

The evening television programming was not that brilliant but we did find a very interesting documentary on More Four about the present restoration works on Big Ben (or more correctly the tower in which the famous clock and bell are housed).

This took us close to midnight and we tuned to the fireworks display from central London. Even though we could only see it trough the small screen, we could tell that it was a really impressive display. Each year the technology seems to move on to enable the designers to surprise even the most seasoned firework watcher.

We had drinks at the ready and saluted the New Year, just as Big Ben chimed - it was allowed to ring out today even though we knew from the documentary that it is currently normally silenced for the protection of the workers on the restoration.

Eventually we all drifted off to bed . . . but not before some of us had to cope with a small glitch with the washing machine. Fortunately, all is now well!

Welcome to 2018, folks!