A New Years drink

December 31, 2010

It’s a misty murky New Year’s Eve: at the same time it’s good to see flashes of colour and the River Gade rushing along laden with snow melt. You can have a bit too much of this snow business. We remain frozen in and wonder if we get down to the pound below by the time the boatyard opens again on Tuesday.

We started the day with our normal grandchild fix and then went for a walk through the park. We met up with our South African friend and his two Jack Russells and had a good chat. He hadn’t heard that the green fields next to his house were one of the possible sites for a new 1600 pupil school. Then we went across the Ironbridge and along to NB Blackbird. Carrie and Simon had left a bottle of blackberry wine, made by Carrie and the label illustrated with one of her drawings, in our cockpit a couple of days ago. A lovely surprise to come back to. They were “at home” and we had another happy couple of hours of good conversation in the cosy cabin drinking Carrie’s sloe gin. Alan always says that he prefers our diesel fire but the blazing solid fuel fire of Blackbird was throwing out a lot more heat than our diesel Bubble stove. We have what we have and won’t be changing but I was a bit envious, especially as our fire had been off since last night and we came back to a cold boat. Alan is cooking a stir fry and he just held up the nut oil that is frozen to a cold thickness.

There are just over five hours to go until the New Year but it has already been celebrated in New Zealand and Australia. (New Zealand is the first place in the world to see in each New Year.) My sister who lives in the Blue Mountains in Australia tells me that the huge firework display there cost $5 million this year which seems a rather scandalous amount!

We will watch Jools Holland Hootenanny, always a treat and we have often found new favourites like Betty Laverne from the show. Tomorrow will be a busy day with the other grandparents coming over to meet Maggie and a big family meal planned, so we wish all our friends through the blog a very Happy New Year and good health and happiness in 2011.

Statistics so far:-

2141.60 Miles, 1209 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels

Computer problems

December 30, 2010

Our computer has stopped running from the mains and will only work from the internal battery so I have stripped the computer down to the motherboard and hopefully it is nothing more than the socket, fingers crossed. Fortunately we have a spare computer but with limited performance, so no pictures until the computer is sorted.

On a boating front we are still iced in despite the thaw and if the ice is still here in the next couple of days we are expecting another cold spell. We are only about 200 metres away from the lock and an ice free pound leading to a marina and in a much needed pumpout, we are eking out the capacity by frequent home visits.

Foot note: The DVD player has stopped working, is it the cold weather I wonder.

Statistics so far:-

2141.60 Miles, 1209 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels

Cooking on the stove

December 28, 2010

We see in the blogs that lots of boaters are using their stoves for cooking, and are going to start using our stove for soups and stews now that Christmas is over. In the meantime we have found that it is the perfect way to heat up Christmas pudding now that we don’t have a microwave. I put the right size amount of Christmas pudding for two into a pyrex bowl and cover it with clingfilm, then put the bowl into a saucepan containing about three inches of water, put the lid on and sit it on the stove for about an hour. Its perfectly warmed through. We love Christmas pudding and usually end up buying a second one because there is brandy butter and cream left over. That probably explains why we look very Christmas pudding shaped in January.

We have spent most of the day up at home as we had a SOS call about the broadband modem and wifi box which were giving problems. We had lunch there and Alan spent most of the day working on it, going backwards and forwards to the boat to collect various things needed for the repair. He managed to solve the problem but on the way the power supply for our computer packed up: it was a cheap Ebay replacement so obviously not a great bargain. Now we need to get a replacement and I am using a botched up temporary fix that Alan has sorted out. Its amazing how hard it is to manage without a computer!

The thaw is under way. There is still ice across the canal but there is a layer of water and pools on the towpath and the road above where the snow has melted. We were very warm yesterday evening and turned the fire off for the first night in ages. It didn’t go on again until we returned this evening so that’s a saving in diesel costs. We will turn the fire off every night while its milder.

Statistics so far:-

2141.60 Miles, 1209 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels

Canal vandalism

December 27, 2010

It was immediately obvious this morning that a thaw had started. There was a light sheen of water on the ice and considerable melt under the bridge behind us. The ice is still far too thick to take the boat through but it is much warmer today and forecasted to remain so. We are hoping that either the pump out boat will come through in the next couple of days or that we will be able to take Lazydays down to the marina pump out on the two days it is open this week. In the meantime we stagger on with frequent trips home to eke out capacity! The boater ahead of us had been away for some days after Christmas and had returned to find pipes split and his boiler damaged.

As we walked to the car we discovered the source of the banging that had reverberated through the ice yesterday evening. The bridge is covered with scaffolding because new railings were fitted before the snow started. The scaffolding was left with ladders and planks propped up but not chained or otherwise protected and over the past few days several planks have ended up on the ice, along with a barricade. The banging last night had been caused by one of the ladders being hammered through the ice (my view had been obscured by the bridge when I looked out to see what was causing it) and the ladder was now standing up at the canal edge considerably bent midway. There was also a substantial chunk of concrete with a wooden marker pole on the ice. Alan got the boat hook and rescued the planks and ladder which he put high on the scaffolding hopefully out of the way of mischief makers. With the help of the man from a passing family the concrete was also removed and placed far up the bank. The scaffolders or BW maintenance people might be a bit bemused when they eventually return but its strange that they didn’t think to leave things safe. After all this isn’t an area where we have actually seen any vandalism taking place and yet there has still been a fair bit of mayhem caused.


Statistics so far:-

2141.60 Miles, 1209 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels

A walk around the lake

December 26, 2010

What a bright, sunny Boxing Day, a day made for walking. However, true to form, we saved our walk till the grey dregs of the day.

Alan spent the greater part of the morning photographing Ralph’s car collection, car by car, using his portable studio (a Christmas present). I’m not sure why: when I looked at them I thought they could be printed to make Ralph’s own little book but he says he didn’t process them to print quality.

It was good to be back on the boat after two nights at home. The ice on the canal seems even thicker. Apparently there will be rain in a couple of days and hopefully there will be some thaw.

We finally set off on our walk round 3.30 and went up past Ironbridge Lock and then round through the park. I was wearing the old pair of suede pull up boots that are much safer on the ice than my walking boots for some reason and using the Nordic walking poles pulled out of the loft. It feels as if the exercise is far more effective when using them so I might do so in future. I have been watching with interest people striding along the towpath using poles which they look as if they could well do without: now I understand why.

Just before we got back to the boat we met up with the South African who had been distributing log largesse the other day. He was taking his dogs for a walk and asked if we wanted to walk around the fishing lake: he is a member and key holder. He had a dead squirrel in a bag. One of his Jack Russells had killed it in the garden and it was frozen. He was going to give it back to the dog but not in a public area! We have walked past this lake for over thirty years and this was the first time we had passed through the gate. The lake was frozen over but it was possible to break the ice at the edge: the South African planned to fish through the hole the following day. There were traps all round the lake to catch crayfish and he was furious to discover one that had been pulled out of the water and full of dead frozen crayfish. He usually gives them to friends to eat and these had been wasted. He tipped them on the ground for foxes. As we went on the dog that had been running round with the squirrel in its jaws like a soft toy buried it in the ice. It might be there when it goes back tomorrow or a fox might find it. Then again, how does a fox defrost a squirrel?

Statistics so far:-

2141.60 Miles, 1209 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels

Happy Christmas, Ho Ho Ho!

December 25, 2010

We’ve had a lovely Christmas dinner at home, cooked with great precision of timing by our son in law, who followed a Jamie Oliver recipe and marinated the turkey in cranberry juice overnight. We ate by 1.00 to fit in with toddler’s naps, and I was ready for it by then as I had been up since 6.00 with the aforesaid toddler. He has had a wonderful Christmas day with presents, including a scooter from his parents and a road mat for him to play with his cars on from us, that he can’t be dragged away from. He loved his dinner as well.

The paths are even more treacherous so there aren’t many people out but it seems there will be thaw for a couple of days this week, thank goodness. A good evening to settle down to Dr Who and Poiriot!

Statistics so far:-

2141.60 Miles, 1209 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels

Merry Christmas everyone

December 24, 2010

ust one sleep till Santa comes! We are heading home to be there first thing in the morning for the present unwrapping, traditionally done in the Riley household first thing in the morning. Ralph slept well on the boat last night, in fact until 8.00. When we walked up to the car mid morning we discovered the towpath was so slippery we were sliding around everywhere and it was incredibly dangerous getting up the slope to the road. We decided to take a look at the back hill when we came back to the boat for the afternoon and found it was possible to drive over with no problems though I don’t think I’d like to do that first thing in the morning. There are further -7 temperatures forecast for tonight and the ice is solid on the water.

We are glad we don’t have to travel far for our Christmas celebrations, and hope that all our friends and loved ones have safely reached their Christmas destinations, especially my nephew Ben hoping his flight to Geneva departs.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Statistics so far:-

2141.60 Miles, 1209 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels

Double glazed windows

December 23, 2010

We have been reading about other boater’s experiences in the big freeze and it has made us relise how lucky we are that we have double glazed windows. I didn’t realise that this is fairly uncommon until another boater came up to me in Alrewas and said that he had been trying to discover where he could get double glazed windows for his boat and though he had been looking for ages ours were the first he had seen. All we could do was suggest he ring Stowe Hill to ask who had supplied our windows. Anyway, what with the insulation and the windows we stay pretty warm. The eco fan whizzes the heat down the boat and I always have a blanket over my knee when I am sitting in the saloon. Elderly I know but I am sitting nearest to the ventilation vents in the door and get the draughts. Its a very snuggly buggly thing (oops – we have Ralphy on the boat again tonight) to cuddle up in a blanket while you are reading or watching the telly. We always had blankets in the livingroom at home when I was a kid. It might of course be something to do with New Zealanders being notoriously bad at heating their houses in the winter.

When we went along the towpath this morning we found that there is a lethal coating of ice on the snow and the going is very dangerous, especially on the slope up to the road. I went up in the loft at home and dug out our Nordic walking poles because my walking boots have no grip at all. We met a chap who lives in the houses next to where we are moored, a very friendly South African. He was knocking on boats with two bags of beautifully cut up logs for anyone who could use them. Unfortunately we are diesel and couldn’t but we knew that most of the boaters around us would be delighted to receive this Christmas gift. And even though we couldn’t use them we got the warmth of the Christmas goodwill.

Paddington is playing on the CD in the saloon as we get Ralphy off to sleep – his parents are certainly asleep long ago at home. Maggie is awake most of the night and at least tomorrow morning they won’t be woken after a couple of hour’s sleep when Ralph gets up.

I took this picture this morning but now that I look at it I am not sure that it gives a clear impression of double glazing. – Alan.

Double glazed window

Statistics so far:-

2141.60 Miles, 1209 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels

Waiting for the Thaw

December 22, 2010

The snow and ice linger but there is a softening and a hope that the thaw will come… eventually!

We found a much more lively household at home this morning. A precious few hours of sleep, insignificant in the past but seeming a good ten hours after days of deprivation, meant that our daughter and son-in-law were up and able to go to the supermarket rather than handing Ralphy over to us on their way back to bed. So finally Christmas presents were wrapped and the Christmas cake marzipaned.

We received a great card from Alan’s cousin today. Its a double size spread of a most detailed and quirky narrowboat drawn by an artist called Amanda Loverseed. We would love to get a print of it to frame for the boat but we might be able to do something with the card. If you Google her you can see a lot of her work but the actual work we received is through the artists’ site Pheonix Trading. Alan’s cousin Pauline lives near the Leeds and Liverpool at Burscough so it might have been on sale at a gift shop in the area.

Cut Thru Narrowboat by Amanda Loverseed

Statistics so far:-

2141.60 Miles, 1209 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels

Santa’s Grotto

December 21, 2010

The snow remains thick and white on the towpath, and its becoming quite slippery, especially the slope leading down from Baldwins Lane. As we passed the Cassio Lock cottage we saw that the car parked outside was being fitted with wheel chains so that is how it gets along the towpath and over the steep hill to Rousebarn Lane. Driving is fine and there seemed to be less cars on the road today.

Ralphy was collected from home and we made another sortie to the Harlequin. This is definitely the last! We booked our slot for Santa’s Grotto at 11.00, and went on a search for a replacement for our faithful shopping trolley whose wheels have given up the fight after being dragged through the snow yesterday. They have been wobbling in a most alarming fashion for months so it has done us well. It seemed to me that anything we looked at wasn’t as strong as the one we have (given to me by a French girl I was working with when she left the UK and obviously very good quality). On return to the boat I see that replacement wheels can be bought on Ebay so I feel that might be the best thing to do.

To get back to Santa, we went back to wait in line at 10.50 not sure that Ralph would agree to see Santa when it came to our turn. But he went in and clambered up next to Santa. When asked what he wanted for Christmas he replied “A Lamborghini”. “We’d all like to be able to afford one of those!” said Santa. He got a present of an alphabet book.

The Harlquin was so hot we were passing out by the time we left and grateful to get out into the cooler air. Ralph was taken back to the boat for his lunch and another viewing of Happy Feet, a huge success. It takes quite a time to walk from the parking places in Baldwins Lane to the boat and back so he was finally returned home to his exhausted parents at 2.00. His similarly exhausted grandparents staggered back to the boat for a nap.

Statistics so far:-

2141.60 Miles, 1209 Locks, 120 Swing Bridges, 82 Lift Bridges, 36 Tunnels