Wednesday, 17 May 2017
Bonny decided on this morning's walk to check yet again who is in charge of this partnership. Almost as soon as we set off towards Hopwas woods, she darted through the hedge and into a field. I carried on walking on the path, as these days she usually runs after me within a minute or so. Not this time.
After a good 15 minutes there was no sign of her so I retraced my steps to where she had disappeared, just as the rain started. There she was, dashing around by some rabbit holes. I knew better than to tell her off or order her to come to me as she was in full on wild mode. Instead I said calmly 'Come on then, let's go walkies' and went back down the path again with everything crossed that she would follow me this time. After a couple of minutes I could see her starting to come after me but hanging well back. So I decided it was time to take charge.
I picked a spot on the path which had bushes or nettles on either side and nowhere obvious to wriggle through and escape. I then stopped. I have been watching The Dog Whisperer and his methods have really helped Bon and I. He says that when you are with an anxious dog the rule is no talk, no touch, no eye contact. When Bonny has run off like this in the past she gets herself worked up into an hysterically anxious state. If I talk to her or wave treats at her, it just seems to make things worse.
So this time I turned side on to the path so I wasn't confronting her and then waited. She stopped well back from me and started her avoidance techniques of running at full speed back up the path, then running back again and pretending there is something really exciting in the hedge. When I didn't react, she walked slowly towards me and then stopped. I glanced at her and immediately she danced about and tried to force herself into the hedge.
I waited as the rain started to run down the back of my neck. It was crucial that she submitted to me. This is all about who is in charge. In the past I used to run after her which of course meant she was leading. More recently I would walk away until she chose to catch up and be caught, which meant she was still in charge. But she is 8 now and really it's time for her to know who is boss!
So I waited and waited as she got close several times and then danced away. She seemed puzzled that I wasn't reacting as she had trained me to. Eventually, after around half an hour since she first took off, she finally gave in and came and sat at my feet. I calmly put her lead on and then walked on as if nothing had happened. For the rest of the walk I made her follow behind me just to reinforce the lesson.
We were both dripping wet by the time we got back to the boat but I believe we were both pretty pleased with the way things turned out. Dogs are natural followers but they need a leader they respect and trust. Because of mistakes I made with Bonny when she was younger, she struggles to trust me when she under stress and feels that she has to take the position of leader. Today she recognised that I was in charge and that is very good for both of us!
Friday, 12 May 2017
A serene view from the loo did not reflect my emotional state last night. I went to bed chewing over the anxiety of not being able to find a space to moor at Shadehouse today. I need to stop there so I can retrieve my car and do a desperately needed laundry and shopping run. If I stop at the top of the flight I can get my car practically to my boat which really helps with the heavy lifting.
I went to sleep uselessly worrying and of course it translated into my dreams. I was with Bonny, intending to go into Lichfield to do the aforementioned chores, but somehow I got onto a bus instead of my car. I only realised my mistake 20 minutes into the bus ride. The driver agreed to drop me off where I could get a bus going back but I had to pay £6.50 extra (amazing what details you remember in a dream).
Next I was on a very large bus. Bonny kept disappearing off with customers, either at their seats or when they got off and on the bus. I had to keep retrieving her. Despite the outward journey only taking 20 minutes, the return one took several hours. I kept worrying about the chores I still had to fit in to the day. Then a large lady with a piano appeared and handed out sheets of paper. It was an opera score and each of us had to sing a verse. I didn't know the song and I can't sing opera so it was all very uncomfortable.
I was still travelling when I awoke with some relief at 5 am. Note to self: Don't waste time being anxious about events you can't control and particularly don't chew over them before bed or you just might end up in an opera karaoke on a bus to nowhere!
Thursday, 11 May 2017
Today (Thursday), we cruised out of this piece of paradise and through what feels like an endless town where Rugeley, Armitage and Handsacre all run into each other. There are a lot of moored boats along much of it, so slow cruising. But we are back in the countryside now, tied up between Handsacre and Kings Bromley.
The plan is to go to the top of the Fradley flight tomorrow (hopefully before the promised rain) and tie up at Shadehouse. From there it's a short walk to get my car and I can do a desperately needed laundry run. I'll also check my post for the first time in over a month and go shopping. I'll probably do all this over the weekend.
There is no point going to my mooring as I intend to just do two of the locks and then turn onto the Coventry Canal. If I went to the mooring I'd have to do all five and then four more to turn at Alrewas and then three to get onto the Coventry! I am not sure how to explain this to Bonny though. She will be expecting to go home and I don't know if she will be disappointed or excited when we don't!
It feels a bit like a two centre holiday. We have done the northern cruise, now it is time for the southern trip. I am not now meeting my friends in Oxford until 26th June so have plenty of time to stop and explore on our way.
Sunday, 7 May 2017
This is the sublime view from my loo this morning. I don't even have to draw the curtains as, for the first time in a week or so, nobody is walking by.
I have found a gorgeous spot near Burston to recharge my batteries after a tunnel and many locks. There was a spot of laundry this morning and then sitting and watching it dry:
Then Bonny and I strolled up to the Greyhound pub in the village to meet a friend of ours with his greyhounds who is moored at the next bridge. I had trout, salad and cider and good conversation. The dogs slept throughout.
Back to the boat now. We are sitting outside in the afternoon sunshine, watching the cows graze and listening to bird song. This really is the life!
Saturday, 6 May 2017
It is Bonny Lass's 8th birthday today. She has spent most of the day at her cruising post on my roof as we climbed down from Barleston to Burston.
All 9 locks were set against us and worse still, a boat ahead of us (later identified as a hire boat) left the paddles up and gates open on all the Stone locks. That meant I had to first close those gates and wind down the paddles before filling the lock so I could use it.
To add insult to injury I arrived at one lock to find two fishermen with all their clutter camped on the only lock bollards. They refused to move and so I had to get off among their clutter and tie to a bollard underneath one of their fishing chairs! They were older men but very stroppy. I pointed out what lock bollards were for but they just said they pay to use the canal the same as I do. I replied that they must have a very expensive fishing licence if they pay as much as I do! Then one of them said if I had a man then I wouldn't have to use the lock landing as he could have steered while I set the lock!!
At that point I was rather naughty and with a tragic look on my face I said "I did have a husband, but he died this year and that's why I have to cruise the boat alone'. I limped off to set the lock while the fisherman who hadn't said much spoke to the gobby one. I couldn't hear what was said but it looked like he was telling him off. Then he moved his stuff away from the bollards, leaving Gobby on his own! I thanked him politely when I fetched the boat and ignored Gobby who was looking a bit crestfallen but wasn't going to move an inch.
Finally we left the outskirts of town and moored up in the blessedly quiet meadows near Burston. It only took us four and a half hours. We will have a couple of days here as we will see our friend Ralph with his hounds for Sunday lunch.
Thursday, 4 May 2017
I cruised passed a housing estate this morning. Hundreds of roofs all lifting their faces to the sun and yet I only spotted two with solar panels. So here is an idea for the next government:
Scrap those two deathly schemes Trident and HS2 and instead use the billions saved to cover every available roof with solar panels (or tiles). This would achieve the following:
A. Make every person who lives in a house instantly better off as, if they were careful about their consumption, they could virtually free themselves from energy bills.
B. Make this country so much greener in its energy production, thereby helping the planet.
C. Free us from the stranglehold of the energy companies and their robber baron ways.
D. Provide huge employment opportunities throughout the country, whether urban or rural, in manufacturing, supplying, fitting and maintaining all those panels.
E. Make people feel happier, freer and more in control.
F. We as a country would no longer be able to willy wave our nuclear weapons and we would not be able to get to Birmingham 20 minutes quicker.
Points C, E and F are the reasons no government would do this. They want to increase the power they have over us, not let it go! They would much prefer spending our money on fear (nuclear weapons) and vanity projects (HS2) and keep us in hock to the energy companies, whilst pretending to help by offering 'smart meters' which don't save us anything.
For those who have money secreted away, earning virtually no interest, you can still take back power. Get that money out and buy solar panels. Just one on the roof of my boat has cut my diesel costs by half. And for those who are more concerned about how your roof looks with panels on I would say 'get a life'! (Or more appropriately, help your planet get a life!)
Wednesday, 3 May 2017
I spent the bank holiday weekend back in Congleton which Bonny and I both loved! Then on the Monday I moved down to opposite Mow Cop and this is the view from the top. Since I had to face the dreaded tunnel, I thought I would enjoy fresh air and big sky before tackling it! I left the Maccy with some regret. It might be a silty little ditch but I love it!
The tunnel of doom was much easier than on the way up. I arrived at the gateway to hell and found I was first in the queue. It feels so much better not to have anything between me and the other end. I did have to wait for nearly an hour before being allowed in so that gave an opportunity for a cuppa and a chat with the others waiting. The boater behind me said he hoped I wouldn't be too slow. I told him I didn't think he needed to worry.
Off we went with me leading the convoy. By the time we got to the other end and blessed daylight, the boat behind was at least 10 minutes back and I had got through in 35 minutes! I cruised to Westport Lake, tied up, let Bonny have a wee and was just putting the kettle on when they reached us. I smiled quietly to myself.
Then today I tackled the big Stoke locks. There were no other boaters about and so I had to climb back up at each one to close the gates. The top lock has a drop of 15 feet and it feels like climbing down into the pit of Hades when using the ladder. Bonny was her usual calm, best boater dog self and coped with the locks with aplomb.
Just as we were getting to the bottom lock, we met a boat and the rather smartly dressed couple greeted me and the man said that there were two disreputable looking men at the lock and that I should tie up on the non towpath side. Then they left. I was rather puzzled on reaching the lock to find a high concrete wall on the offside and certainly nowhere to tie up the boat. There was a man at the lock bollards and he was the worse for drink or drugs (at 10am) but he looked like a mild breeze would blow him over and he was certainly no trouble to me. Another example I think of the fear of crime being the problem rather than the reality!
I was glad to get moored outside Stoke. It's not the quietest spot but it's green and there is a walk for Bonny. I had thought about going on to Trentham Lock and mooring near the Wedgewood pottery but my foot is continuing to cause me pain and it had done enough locks for the day! Maybe tomorrow if I need to restore before the next 8 locks!