Loo views

Loo views

Friday, 15 September 2017

Hello


I have not written this blog since I finished my cruise back in August and have been told off for it! But being that it is a cruising blog, I don't tend to have much to say when I'm on my mooring.
However I am out on a mini cruise to prepare for Autumn. I have gone to Kings Bromley Marina to fill my boat and diesel cans with fuel, pumped my poo tank out and got a spare gas cylinder.

I usually go up monthly even in the winter, but last year I very nearly hurt myself very badly from slipping on wet leaves and putting one leg down between boat and concrete.  It is also not particularly pleasurable cruising through leaves while they are lying thick on the surface of the canal. I have to constantly stop and reverse in order to empty my weedhatch and it is slow going. Add to that wind and rain and it just turns in to a chore.

So I am experimenting this winter. I am going to see how hard it is to stay put and bring what I need to the boat. I have a manual pump out kit (no, I don't pump out into the cut, I have barrels for the purpose!) I have my diesel cans which hold 40 litres and can be refilled at the marina. And I have enough gas to last till Spring. The coal boat should start coming past the mooring fairly soon but I need to add to my wood store.

When I was working full time, my 2 days cruising to fill and empty were a treat that I would risk injury for. But now I am lucky enough to cruise the season, the thrill has rather worn off!

Talking of the darker seasons, I always try to last till October before I have my first fire of the season. Today though was wet until I moored up and chilly too so I gave in.


All dried out and toasty warm. Non boaters often ask me how I cope with a cold winter on a boat. I tend to tell them that I cope by opening all my windows and by wearing a tea shirt! It is such a small area to heat that once the woodburner is going the problem tends to be getting too hot, rather than too cold!

We are moored in the woods for the night. The picture above shows a flicker of sunshine but that only appeared briefly at around 4pm. Tomorrow we return down the flight and cruise to Alrewas to turn so I am facing the right way on my mooring, so just the 10 locks to do!

Friday, 4 August 2017

What is home?


This is now my view from the loo for the foreseeable future. I have to admit to really enjoying being back on my mooring. As you can see I am half way through reclaiming my hedge. The grass needs another go over, the bushes are entirely out of control and my pots are full of weeds, but I love pottering round my patch of paradise.

I have also been welcomed back by my friends and neighbours. They have stopped for a chat. They have cut my grass. They have lent me petrol in a can as the petrol in my car mysteriously disappeared while I was away. It is a wonderful yet diverse community of people who are brought together by mooring in this location and all do their best to make it a lovely place to live.

Bonny has also really enjoyed reclaiming her territory. She has been peeing around the place so much that she has had to suck up half the canal to keep going! After four months she is loving going on familiar walks once again, but so far has been really good at staying with me while we explore!

But part of me feels a bit guilty about my enjoyment. I say to myself that if I was a 'real' boater, a real explorer, then my boat would be all the home I needed. I wouldn't need a place, a community to return to. If I was a 'real' boater I wouldn't have a mooring at all but would endlessly travel the waterways and call each patch of towpath I tie up to home.

Also although I call it my mooring, I don't own it. I rent the space from CRT who could ask me to move on at any time. So how do we define what home is? Surely it is more than the roof over our heads? Is it where our loved ones are? But then what about those of us who are alone or who are separated from those we love?

Perhaps for me it is the place I feel I most belong. Yes, I belong first and foremost on my boat, but Hunts Lock mooring is the place I come back to. It shelters me in the winter, it allows me to pretend I have a garden and it allows me to belong to a community. When I am here I don't have to worry about moving on every two weeks (or less). I know each night who will be mooring next to me and I know I am safe here.

I admire those hardy souls among the boating community who have cast off their need for a place and travel free of attachments. Perhaps I will do the same one day but I know I am not ready for that yet. Meanwhile I click my heels and say..."There is no place like home."

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Home!

Well, we made it back to our home mooring after nearly four months away.
It is a bit of a jungle but it would have been a lot worse if my wonderful neighbour Nev Wells hadn't cut the grass for me. This is a picture of further up the mooring where it hasn't been cut for only 6 weeks..

But this, thanks to Nev is what mine looks like:


I have found a new and strange growth and wondered if anyone can identify it?


Happy and sad to be back. It's been an incredible adventure and endings are almost always tinged with sadness. But I also feel really good that after such a long cruise I have brought Bonny, the boat and myself back safely.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Lessons learned.


I have been reflecting on my cruise as I approach the end of this particular adventure. I have learned some lessons and thought I would record them here, mostly to remind myself of them when memories of the wisdom gained begins to fade.

1. Don't set targets.
On previous cruises, I decided each day where I wanted to get to, by what time and would record the locks and miles done. The problem with deciding in advance where I would stop was that I would become increasingly anxious as my chosen spot grew closer, in case something would prevent me mooring there. I sometimes spoilt the journeying by worrying about the destination. The recording of times, miles and locks tempted me to become impatient if anybody held me up and occasionally I would take silly risks at locks as I had put myself under a time pressure. Giving up wearing a watch really helped with this one.

2. Be an explorer.
Connected with the point above, I have learnt not to pass by somewhere that I fancied stopping at. I have found unexpectedly beautiful walks and met unexpectedly friendly people when stopping on a whim. Of course you have to have enough time to be able to do this. So I deliberately allowed masses of time to travel a relatively short distance.

3. Embrace the unexpected.
Again linked with the above point, I found things happening on my cruise that threw what plans I had made into dissaray. I was delayed at Newbold for a while because of a stoppage at Hawksbury. It allowed me to rest. I also found a wonderful walk (from behind the Church if you are ever there). I was tempted to fret about the delay but largely managed to relax about it as fretting would not have encouraged CRT to mend the lock gate any quicker!

Even a very sad occurance can have a silver lining. My friends Roger and Shirleyann joined me for a cruise on the Thames. However Shirleyann's mother was taken very seriously ill, forcing Shirleyann to jump ship and fly immediately to Canada. Roger stayed behind and cruised back to Banbury with me so he could take all their stuff off the boat when he had fetched his car. Last year Roger and I had had a falling out during another cruise and I felt that it had coloured our relationship since. This time, with the two of us thrown together without Shirleyann to mediate, meant that we had a chance to mend and deepen our friendship.

4. Let snugglers be.
This is still a work in progress! Snugglers is a term I coined for boaters who find me moored out in the middle of nowhere, miles from anything and decide that what I really want is company and so moor right by me - they snuggle up to me. I don't mind this when there is limited mooring or I am moored at a recognised site. But I found it certainly intrusive and sometimes even an aggressive act to invade what I saw as my personal space when there were plenty of other spots to moor. What this cruise has taught me is that my personal space is my boat and not the outside world. I actually have all the privacy and solitude anyone could ever need. If another boater has the need to moor close by for their own sense of security, then who am I to object?

5. Don't underestimate myself.
I have discovered through cruising that I can achieve more and be more than I ever imagined I could. I can cope physically and emotionally with tough challenges and the only limits were the ones I placed on myself. There was an advert that had the tag line "Don't let your fear stand in the way of your dreams". Well amen to that!

It occurs to me as I write this that these cruising lessons aren't bad ones for life in general!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Vindicated!!


I shall be grinning like a loon all afternoon and I can't resist telling you why!

I tackled the 11 Atherstone Locks this morning. Being the time of year it is and with the Atherstone locks notoriously slow to fill, I decided on an early start. So after a woodland walk with Bonny, I cruised to the top of the flight, reaching it at about 7.40am. On the way I had passed a working boat and butty moored with the crew of five having breakfast.

As I was waiting for the top lock to fill a man came hurrying up to me and with no introduction said "Are you going down the flight?" I bit back any comment about it being bleeding obvious as my boat was here and I was working the lock! I just smiled and said yes. "And are you single handed?" Again I said yes. "Oh for heaven sake. Well I suppose we will have to help you then", he huffed. Since he didn't even have a boat with him and he was cross examining me with no explanation, my patience was starting to wear a little thin but I just said, "Well, you will have to catch me first!"
"That's not funny, we are in a hurry, we have to get a boat and butty down the flight".

I worked out from the last comment that he was from the working boat I had passed. Had he approached me in a different way I may well have offered to let them go first. But since he was huffing and puffing and assuming that I was going to hold them up, I merely said "Probably should have got up earlier then" and steered my boat into the lock.

He went ahead and opened a paddle at the next lock so it would be full when I arrived. I thanked him but he was still irritable and said that 'as Captain, he will have to see me through as quickly as possible before getting his boats through.' I was very tempted to tell him he wasn't my captain! Anyway, I got down the first 2 locks and he had said he would be back to 'sort me out' for the next 2, but there was no sign of him so I carried on and set the locks (they were all against me and nothing coming up). When I got through I climbed back up, closed the gates and raised a paddle on the top gate so the lock would fill for them.

Captain Irritable caught me up on his bike and thanked me for setting the lock for them but told me not to bother as it will make me slower. So I carried on working down the flight and much to my relief I saw no more of the working boat crew. After lock 5 I decided to stop and visit the supermarket and then I wouldn't be in Captain Irritable's way any more. I was surprised that by the time I had moored, got my shopping list done and locked the boat up, they still hadn't passed me.

When I started again I met a boat coming up lock 7. We chatted about the flight and I mentioned my experience with the working boat. "Oh, it's you", said the other boater. He then told me that he had met the working boat with its butty and got chatting as you do. Captain Irritable (who wasn't any more) said that his heart had sunk when he found a single handed woman in front of him at the top of the flight. He thought he would be seeing 3 boats down the whole flight instead of 2. "But," he said, "She went like lightning and we never saw her again after lock 2. She even had time to set a couple of locks for us".

Ha, ha!! It just shows how dangerous it is to make assumptions when you know nothing! He just assumed that I couldn't possibly work a lock as fast as his crew, let alone faster. Well Captain Irritable, you met your match this morning!

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Some favourite mooring spots

Now I am safely the right side of Hawkesbury Lock and on the canal that will lead me home, I have been reviewing my 100 plus days cruising so far.

I thought I'd share some pictures of my favourite mooring spots found on this cruise and say why I liked them so much. So, in no particular order...


This was one of our first stopping points when we started our cruise in April. I loved Wolseley Bridge on the Trent and Mersey because Bonny could run free and chase squirrels. She was safe because we were on a narrow strip between river and canal and so she couldn't go too far.





This was the view from our mooring near Congleton on the Macclesfield Canal in April and Bonny loved the walks by the river in the valley.



I said in no particular order, but actually they are in month order. This was the Ashby Canal near Hinkley in May. We loved this mooring for the walks and the peace and quiet.



If I had to pick an absolute favourite mooring then this would probably be it - Barby on the North Oxford. Firstly because it was entirely 'snuggle proof'. In other words nobody could moor right in front or behind. It always amazes me how, when I find a really remote mooring, in the middle of nowhere, another boater will immediately think that what I lack is company and will moor uncomfortably close. But not here at Barby!

I also loved it for the variety of walks. The above is a view from the top of Barby Hill.



This mooring near Aynho Wharf was nothing special except for one huge advantage - when the temperature was over 30° on 1st July, it provided good shade almost all day. Bonny and I don't like being too hot so we were very grateful for the trees.


This is Somerton water meadows on the South Oxford and, apart from Barby, was the only other entirely snuggle proof mooring that I found, thanks to thick bushes either side of a strip of Armco just big enough for my boat!

Lastly I discovered a huge love for The Thames on this cruise. At least the part that we explored up to Lechlade. The locks were easy and beautifully kept, the river was mostly wide and easy to navigate and I discovered the concept of 'wild mooring'. Rather than being limited to the canal towpath, on this stretch of the river you could just pick a field and as long as you could get the boat in close enough, you could moor. Here was my first attempt at wild mooring:


This is not an exhaustive list of brilliant places to stop that I discovered on this cruise, but they show the sorts of moorings that fill my soul with joy!


Thursday, 20 July 2017

My luck couldn't last forever


Ho hum, what a difference a few days make. All was going swimmingly until a boat rammed the top gate of the Hawkesbury Junction lock. They hit it so hard they have broken part of the gate off!

The lock has been closed for repairs since Monday. I would have been using it today, to get onto the Coventry to continue my journey back to my mooring. Fortunately, thanks to a lovely ladies canal Facebook group I belong to, I was warned about the stoppage while I was still south of Rugby. I was particularly grateful because, although there is about 4 hours cruising between here and Hawkesbury, mooring is very sparse.

Yesterday I moored in Rugby and did a much needed supermarket run. I could have stayed there but I hate the noise, smell and bustle of towns so I cruised to the suburb of Newbold. It's a good mooring in terms of rings, water and rubbish dumping but there is very little TV or internet reception which makes the day rather long and boring. Add to that the rains have finally caught up with us, it is becoming a frustrating delay.

But I am lucky. Had I not been forewarned I would have continued to Hawkesbury only to find over a 2 mile queue of boats waiting and nowhere to moor!

The latest news is that yesterday they were making a new part for the gate and hope to fit it by lunchtime today. I think it will then take at least another day to clear the backlog of boats through. I do hope CRT have thought of that and will send a lock keeper to help!

I haven't been that impressed with how they have managed this. It took the best part of 3 days just to drain the lock (and as it is only a stop lock the water only falls a foot or so). The communication via the website is very slow and also inaccurate. When I phoned for an update I spoke to a very pleasant woman who was sympathetic. However since they mostly use contractors these days, she couldn't tell me anything! CRT have to wait until the contractors choose to update them. Progress is slowed further by the fact that these workers down tools at 4pm sharp! There is no sense of urgency at all.

So a lesson in patience for me. I am fortunate in that I allowed plenty of time to get back to Fradley before I need to work. As long as the lock is opened in the next day or two I should be ok. Really feel for those hire boaters who paid over £1000 for a weeks cruise and spent most of it parked by a motorway! That's the boating life for you.

Friday, 14 July 2017

A brief Grand Union stop


This is my current view from my galley rather than the loo, so through the square window rather than the round one!

I travelled down the Napton Locks this morning. The first couple were against me but then I kept meeting lovely people who were happy to open gates and have a chat. All except one young man in his 20's who stood fiddling with his windlass (as they do) and took exception to me asking if he minded opening the gate he was standing next to so I could exit the lock. He said 'I'm not a hire boater'. I was a bit confused by this out of the blue comment until he made it clear he doesn't take advice from women - not like a hire boater would! So I gave him some more 'advice' about his attitude and did the gates myself!

I bade a fond farewell to the South Oxford and travelled onto a short stretch of the Grand Union canal, grateful to finally have some water under my hull again! I have moored near Flecknow, a lovely peaceful spot with gently rolling hills and a mown towpath. It feels like civilization again.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Summit beauty


I was tempted to hurry off the Oxford summit level after my traumatic day, described in my last post. But it is so very beautiful here. It is very quiet - no roads, buildings or trains where I am currently moored. Few walkers either. There is a pleasant breeze, missing at lower levels and plenty of walks.

I will not linger long though as, despite a day of rain yesterday, the water level is still very low. The problem is that at one end of this pound you have the Napton Flight of eleven locks and at the other end is the five locks at Claydon. Every time a boat uses the locks they are taking water from the summit stretch. With no significant rain for months the level in the canal gets lower and lower. There is a reservoir that is used to feed the canal but it too can get very low.

If the levels become critical CRT (The Canal and River Trust) will put restrictions on which means only a certain amount of boats will be able to use the locks, in order to conserve water. I don't want to get stuck so I shall tackle the Napton Flight in the morning. It will be really good to have some water under me again!

Meanwhile, here is my view from my chair as I write this.


Monday, 10 July 2017

The most challenging boating in 9 years!


Not the most inspiring view from the loo but boy I was glad to tie up here!

I started my most challenging day at the bottom of Claydon Locks on the South Oxford. These 5 locks would normally take me about 80 mins to climb, being single handed. However two of the pounds were entirely de-watered which meant I had to first climb to the top of the flight and let water down from the summit level, thereby slowly filling each pound. So instead of 80 mins I was there for a good 2 hours.

I then proceeded to the Fenny Compton tunnel. It's not actually a tunnel but a very long stretch of water which is only wide enough for one boat, with the odd passing place. I had four different boats coming towards me on that stretch. That would be difficult enough but I soon discovered why the lock pounds had been empty - the summit level of the canal hardly had any water in it! So I was trying to hold my boat still in a passing place but with no water under my stern which means the bow swings out and you have very little control. Not one of the four boats coming towards me pulled over for me so I spent most of my time tilted sideways on silt!

Having survived that, I dragged my bottom through the silt at tick over speed until I got to Fenny Compton. I managed to water up but not moor so off I went again. I was just about to come to the end of a long line of moored boats when another boat came towards me. Since he was in clear water I assumed he would stop where there was room for us to pass each other. But he didn't. He headed straight for me, staring at me in a very unnerving way. With moored boats one side and the bank the other, I had absolutely nowhere to go. Right to the last second I thought he would stop and back off but he didn't. Instead he rammed straight into my bow causing a loud bang and a lot of ominous tinkling in my cabin as things were thrown to the floor. I said "Why the hell didn't you stop in the gap to let me through?" He stared right at me and just said "You should have got out of my way". At this moment one of the moored boaters stuck her head out and said 'Was that my boat getting hit?' I said 'No, mine. This idiot rammed me'. She told him to back off as I had nowhere to go. Instead he forced his way through between her boat and mine, scraping both and forcing me onto the bank. Needless to say his boat was neither displaying a name nor a licence.

On I went, getting tired now as it takes a lot of muscle power when you are steering in water that has the consistency of porridge. I was heading for a space I have moored at in the past and, oh joy, it was free. I soon found out why. The water levels were so low I couldn't get within 3 feet of the bank. On again with Bonny beginning to bark her displeasure as she was coming up to her 6th hour on the roof with only the odd lock wee to keep her going.

At last I found a boat moored on a length of Armco and I gratefully pulled in a respectful distance from it. I am still a foot or so from the bank but boats can get past and we are safe. I am so tired, my foot aches fiercely and the adrenlin is fast draining away. I found various of my belongings flung to the floor but mercifully nothing is broken. Now I have to take Bonny for a well deserved walk before collapsing.

Don't I just love the boating life?

Saturday, 8 July 2017

High season change of mood


This is a rare picture of me! Being single handed I never manage to get a photo of myself in action. Having my friend Roger with me meant he could snap a couple. As you can see I'm in a very good mood as I go with the flow on the Thames.

Having got Roger back to his car at Banbury and off to Devon, I am back on my own cruising again. It is now July and I have noticed a real change in mood on the canal.

Take this morning; I was moored near Slat Mill lock and so, on my way back from Bonny's morning walk, I opened the gate so I could cruise straight in (early so no other boats were about). As I pulled my mooring pins out and pushed the boat into cruising position, I could see the gate closing again, but no boat was above the lock. As I approached I saw a dog walker sitting on the bench by the lock. He was the only person about and so must have closed the gate. Fair enough if he thought it had been left open and was saving water, but you would think when I approached he would realise his error and open it again. But no, he just watched as I got closer and closer. Eventually I called to him that I had left the gate open on purpose and since he had shut it, could he open it again. He did, but never said a word to me, even though I chatted gaily to him as I worked the lock. He just sat and stared.

Up to the next lock and as I entered it, a boat came from the other direction and stopped at the bollards. There were a couple on board but even though it took me time to climb up, close the gates and start to fill the lock, they never left their boat. This is unusual in my experience as mostly people will come forward from a waiting boat and chat and sometimes help. But in the last few days I have had boats both behind me and coming towards me, bursting with crew and yet staying with their boat rather than coming to help or even to pass the time of day.

Onto the next lock and as I was setting it a boat came up behind me and tied to the lock bollards. A man came from the boat in an extremely grumpy mood. He complained about a hire boat moored too close to the lock. Then he moaned about lock queues. Then he whinged about boaters who don't know what they are doing. Mercifully the lock filled and I managed to escape his torrent of negativity.

I assume that, being the high season, there are people on the canals now who perhaps only spend a week or two a year on their boats. For the rest of the year they are living in a world where they don't make eye contact with strangers, let alone speak to them. Where they don't offer to help as they are afraid of the consequences and where as long as they are ok then there is no need to concern themselves with others. And always there are those who aren't happy unless they are unhappy!

I am so glad I no longer live in that world! Moaning over, here is a nice picture of my boat.



Saturday, 1 July 2017

I am in love


I have been on the river Thames for a few days now and I absolutely love it! This was my view from the loo this morning as we had taken a 'wild mooring' last night. This is where you just find a field or any bit of bank you can get into and moor up.


My best friends Roger and Shirleyann Andrews joined me last Monday at Lower Heyford on the Oxford canal to cruise on the Thames, a much anticipated trip. We cruised up to Lechlade through the prettiest scenery and most interesting cruising I have ever experienced. Here is our Lechlade mooring:


Unfortunately Shirleyann faced a family emergency which meant she had to jump ship near here and be driven by friends directly to Heathrow where less than 24 hours after cruising on the Thames, she landed in Canada. Such a sad time for her and for her husband who has to stay on board with me while we hot foot it back to Banbury so he can collect his car.

So for once I am cruising with a man on board! He is very useful. He can steer and work locks. He is also very handy so I have been taking advantage of that and several boat jobs have been completed. Here he is, I think I've used him up!


But as much as I like Roger, the title of this post is about my new love affair with the Upper Thames. It is followed wherever we go by the Thames Way and so Bonny and I have had some fantastic walks. The wildlife is amazing and it feels so much wilder and freer than the canals! I just wish so much that Shirleyann could have finished the trip with us. More pics to follow.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Beauty in the Cherwell Valley


This was my view from the loo yesterday. So peaceful after all the racket of my shady mooring near Aynho Wharf (where Don't Panic was born!) There we had 2 railway lines, the M40 and a very noisy neighbour. But the motorway has roared off to our right and the railway has sunk into a cutting.

This morning I tackled Somerton Deep Lock which has almost immovable paddles and a ridiculously heavy single bottom gate. It is also, as its name suggests, deep! I managed the difficult bits and when she had reached the bottom, I decided rather than climb down the greasy ladder, I would bowhaul Don't Panic out of the lock. She almost made it when a fender got jammed by the gate and she stopped just short of me being able to get back on. I didn't panic. I stood back and considered my options. There seemed to be two: keep hauling on the rope hoping I could drag her free or let water in from the top gate, hoping that would whoosh her out.

Sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something because when I took up the rope again, she had wiggled herself about and in doing so had freed the fender on her own! Simple then to pull her the rest of the way out. By then another boat had arrived behind me and closed the very heavy gate for me. This lock might be a bit of a challenge but it's very pretty...





As is the lock cottage!

I only travelled 15 minutes or so more before I reached Somerton water meadows. The cruising gods were still with me as there are very few mooring spots in this gloriously pretty spot and I got one which is just 50' long with large bushes either side, which means some rare privacy. 


Bonny loves it as there are no fences or hedges and so she has a view of the whole field and any rabbits that might be about!



Lastly a picture of yesterday's Oxfordshire sunset:




Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Summer Solstice


This is not the most picturesque view from the loo but the most important thing about it today is the shade! Having endured temperatures up to 29° since last Friday, it is forecast to be over 30° today.

I am not one of those people who revel in the heat and strip off at the drop of a hat. I much prefer the gentler caress of a spring or autumn sun. In fact if my only choice in life was to live in Africa or Alaska, it would be Alaska all the way! Bonny too struggles in the heat. She still expects her walks and still wants to ride on the roof when we are moving but I have had to restrict her to the back counter for her own safety. I also bought a table fan in Banbury, primarily for her, but every time I point it at her she moves! I have also put a wet towel on the floor but she won't lie on it. Instead she just looks at me pleadingly and pants herself into exhaustion.

Yesterday was particularly trying as I had only intended to water up and do a couple of miles and locks before finding more shade. I had forgotten that for fairly long stretches of the South Oxford the towpath resembles a rainforest and you can't get close to the bank for vegetation. I ended up doing one swing bridge, five locks and seven miles which took four and a half hours, all in searing heat.

I nearly cried at the last lock of the day which is a river lock (where the Cherwell joins with the canal briefly). The gate was so heavy and the lock so leaky that even sweating and straining with all my strength, I couldn't budge the top gate. Fortunately another boater came to my rescue and together we cranked it open. He then worked the lock for me so I could stay on board. I occasionally write about the awkward people I come across on the cut but they are still vastly outnumbered by helpful, friendly ones.

I was faced with yet more impenetrable growth along the towpath and was just about to really panic as the heat was overcoming me when through a mercifully open lift bridge I could see somewhere to moor. Not only clear of vegetation along the edge but also with an overhanging oak tree which provided shade for most of the afternoon. I nearly cried again, this time with relief.

It is still very hot but, unlike Banbury, there is a breeze here and we can find shade for most of the day. Today is the Summer Solstice which happily coincides with the last day of this heat wave, they say the hottest in 20 years. I would obviously be dancing naked around the nearest standing stone to celebrate. But it is just too hot. Roll on winter!!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Banbury Bliss


You may think that this view from the loo has nothing to do with Banbury but you would be wrong. I am moored only a 3 minute walk away to the centre of town and yet this is what I see from my window.

I am moored beside Spiceball Park and it is the best managed wildlife and park space within a town that I have ever encountered. It has open grassy areas for picnics and ball games and these are kept mowed short and amply supplied with bins (not that everybody chooses to use them!) Then there is an area of grass left long and unmowed so that wild flowers have a chance. All around there are wooded spaces crawling with squirrels, rabbits and birds. Bonny thinks she has died and gone to Heaven. In fact in the early morning it sounds like we are moored in a rain forest, such is the clamour of bird song. One bird has obviously lived in a town too long as it's call precisely mimics the alarm sound of a reversing lorry!

Banbury is bliss too for the shade the mooring offers. This weekend is the hottest of the year so far and despite having bought a table fan, the evenings and overnight are uncomfortably hot. We could not have coped without the shade.

Lastly Banbury is bliss because of the facilities here. My good friend Chris who lives here has already run me to the supermarket. I have walked to the launderette (friendliest one I have ever visited) and have finally managed to replace my dreadful Trespass walking boots with hopefully brilliant High Tech ones. I have even managed to find my receipt for the Trespass boots so I shall be demanding a refund as, in only three months, they have lost 3 eyelets, both boots leak and one has split.

We move on soon, heading towards Lower Heyford where we pick up passengers in the form of my best friends Roger and Shirleyann Andrews. Then we head to Oxford and The Thames!

Monday, 5 June 2017

How do we know when to quit


I have stopped half way up the Napton lock  flight and this is my lovely, if somewhat damp view from the loo. I stopped because I judged that it had become too windy for me to safely continue.

But that is not the reason for the title of this post. On the way up the flight I met an elderly man coming down. He was obviously struggling. He took ages to open the top gate and by the time I got tied up and went up to him he had only just got his boat into the lock and was fiddling about with the longest rope I have ever seen on a boat! As I approached he tripped over the rope and only just remained upright. I told him that, if he wanted to, he could get back on board and I'd work the lock for him. I opened one paddle but he was so busy explaining how difficult he was finding everything and how he had recently cilled his boat! that when he went to get on board he had to use the ladder. That was terrifying to watch and I was busy making a plan in my head should he fall!

Eventually I got his boat out of the lock, but was so concerned that I asked the boat behind me to see him through the next lock and in return I would set my lock for them once I had got through. As it was, another boat came towards me as I was ready to leave. The lady asked me if I had met the elderly man. I told her of my encounter. She told me that they had followed him down the flight so far and very nearly had to fish him out of the lock as he had slipped on the stone surround and had fallen over!

It made me wonder how can you tell when it is time to hang up your windlass? Do you stop when a) you become a danger to yourself or others? b) when you start to terrify yourself or c) when you are so slow that the whole lock flight grinds to a halt!

I don't think that b) or c) are good enough reasons to quit as I regularly terrify myself but I still love it and speed should not be a factor when boating. But a) is a harder one. If this man had injured himself (or worse) today it would not just have ruined his day, but would have disrupted everyone else on the flight. The emergency services would have had to come and looking at where we were, it almost certainly would have involved the air ambulance.

But then how can you tell when to quit? Not just boating but anything you really love to do? I don't know the answer to that and I may need to know one day. At present I can't imagine not cruising my boat whatever age I get to. And perhaps the chap I met today is the same. Does anyone have the right to stop him?

Answers on a postcard please!

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Where is courtesy?



I'm sorry but it is time for me to release my grumpy old woman on the world!

Yesterday a woman closed a swing bridge practically in my face because she didn't want to delay her dog walk by the 20 odd seconds it would have taken me to pass through.

Today I met a working boat and butty. I'm very tempted to name and shame but I won't. They were approaching on quite a narrow part of the canal. Since I know they need every bit of water they can get, I slowed to tick over and practically drove my boat up the side of the bank so they could get by easily. As the male skipper of the motor boat came alongside I said 'Good Morning' and smiled. Now I know what many working boatmen are like so I didn't expect warm gratitude or even a whole sentence. But I also didn't expect to be utterly ignored as if I didn't exist in the same universe as him! I mentioned this blanking to the woman steering the butty but she just said 'Oh he's always like that'. Why??? What does a nod to acknowledge someone's courtesy cost? Is saying good morning somehow lowering him to the grotty standard of your normal boater? I know those with vintage or working boats consider themselves to be the aristocracy of the canals and rather above the rest of us, but courtesy costs nothing and it's really horrible to be treated like you don't exist.

To complete my day, I was returning from the supermarket in Rugby. I was laden with shopping, in my back pack and with a full old ladies trolley. I was on a narrow pavement with a steep curb when I heard the repeated ringing of a cycle bell getting closer and closer behind me. I stopped and looked at the young man who was forced to slow down from racing speed. He waved me out of the way! I asked him where he expected me to go? He said 'into the road, I want to get by'. I said 'What with my full trolley? Why can't you ride into the road. You are a young man on a vehicle. You shouldn't be on the pavement in the first place!' He swerved round me onto the road and uttered an expletive I won't repeat here, before mounting the curb back onto the pavement.

What is happening to us as a society? Rudeness seems to be everywhere. Is it because we are fed incivility and rudeness by our media, our politicians, big business? Are we all just too much in a hurry to be courteous? Are we so driven to be first, fastest or best that we will trample over others to get our way?

Well not me! I shall continue to be courteous to working boatmen whether they choose to respond in kind or not. I will open lock gates or swing bridges for others when I am in the position to do so. I will doff my cap at passers by and say, 'Oh no, after you my dear fellow'.

Who is with me? Shall we start a quiet revolution? Shall we bring courtesy, chivalry and good manners back, even if we are met with ignorance? Let's make our corner of the world just a little more polite and a little bit more pleasant for us all.

Monday, 29 May 2017

And the opposite!


My last post was about a perfect mooring and what makes it ideal. One of the things was the feel of the place. Some moorings feel peaceful and welcoming and it doesn't really matter if there is road or rail nearby, it's not so much an absence of sound but a deeper sense of well-being.

Today we moored at All Oaks Wood on the Oxford Canal. Yes, it was raining and yes I had had to negotiate a fallen tree and an inconsiderate boater (closed a swing bridge even though my boat was close enough to touch it!) But I have moored here before and very quickly slipped into the same mood. It's quiet here and very pretty but almost immediately I started to feel scratchy and irritable. Bonny picked up on it too and was very difficult on her walk and, unusually for her, quite yappy too.

It's as if the place itself holds an atmosphere and those sensitive to these things pick up on it. Did a tragedy occur here that has left an echo? Is there something in the air that irritates? Or is it just me? Who knows but I shall be very glad to move on in the morning.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Perfect summertime mooring


It may not look very special but this is one of my favourite ever moorings. It is on the bottom end of the Ashby Canal and is just perfect, particularly in hot weather.

What makes a perfect mooring for Bonny and I?

It has to be in the countryside and this one is surrounded by fields - not a road in sight. It has to have good walks. This mooring not only had walks in every direction, there was also a stream just a few feet from the boat. That is why it is a perfect mooring for the hot days we have just had as Bonny spent a lot of time lying in the water. Add to that the shady trees and the position of the afternoon sun and it meant we were comfortable all day.

The mooring has Armco to tie to and there is only room for around three boats, although hardly anyone stopped for the four nights we were there. It has really good phone and tablet reception and TV as well. Not only all this, but some places have a real feeling of peace and safety about them and this one tops the list. Bonny was free of lead or tether most of the time and never once abused the privilege.

So from Wednesday to Sunday morning we lazed about, only moving to get water and turn round. We are both as relaxed as it is possible to get. This morning we moved on and are now moored at Hawkesbury Junction, ready to enjoy a new canal in the morning. Oxford, here we come!


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Who is in charge?



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

Night Terrors


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

Familiar territory

This is my view from the tiller rather than the loo today, only because it really captures the season. Everything is in new full leaf and the warm sun is filtering though the foliage. No wind so the reflections are perfect. This was taken at Wolseley Bridge, one of Bonny and my favourite spots.


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

Lovely Day


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

Birthday locks


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.