Loo views

Loo views

Saturday 30 April 2016

Tightrope walking

I suffered a wave of anxiety yesterday evening that kept me awake for a fair proportion of the night. I was still churned up this morning so, despite being on a pretty idyllic mooring, after Bonny's walk, we moved on. I couldn't sit still for the day feeling as I was.

There was no one cause for my anxious feelings. The worries in the night included fear of the unknown canal ahead, what if I can't find food, what if Bonny runs off or gets sick, what if I can't manage the obstacles ahead. Deeper fears were about should I be doing this at all? What if I hurt myself, what if I run out of money, what if I am late meeting my friends near Napton, so maybe I shouldn't attempt Oxford?

None of these anxieties are particularly logical as there are fairly easy solutions to all of them. The real problem was I started looking down. Being a single handed boater (and liver) feels a bit like walking the tightrope. As long as I don't look down at the chasm of possible dangers, but keep my eyes ahead, then I'm fine. But just sometimes I take a quick look at the drop and then I am assailed by fears and 'what ifs'.

I felt fairly cowardly moving on as I had no proper reason to, but I am glad I did. The very action of cruising calmed me down. I got through the gathering at Braunston with no difficulty and then turned on to an entirely new canal for me... The Grand Union, stretching from London to Birmingham. I moored up between there and Napton and took a deep breath. Feeling better now.

Thursday 28 April 2016

Feeling like part of a communuty

I had an early start today as there were a whole pile of boats moored near me, all pointing towards the Hillmorten Locks and I didn't fancy being at the back of the queue. As it was, a hire boat had got there just before me and it turned out it was their first flight of locks ever and they weren't sure what to do. I obviously offered to help and very quickly they worked out what to do - stop on the boat and let me work them through! By the third lock I had managed to get Mr Hirer involved but Mrs Hirer was having none of it!

Once clear of them and the locks, I mooched down towards Braunston, looking for somewhere pretty to moor. Well I certainly fell on my feet. Approaching bridge 81 I saw the welcome gleam of Armco and space near the handful of boats moored there. As I drew up two heads popped out of two different boats and greeted me by name! One knew me from Facebook, the other from this blog. 

It really warmed the cockles of my heart to have such a friendly greeting and to be invited in for a cuppa (thanks Sue!) I already feel I belong to a community of boaters online thanks to belonging to a couple of groups, but it's different when it's in the flesh! 

It is a popular mooring here and I can certainly see why. There are no roads nearby, the towpath is grassy, the view pastoral and there are walks in every direction. Bonny and my idea of a perfect place to stop. Sue's two collies made Bonny feel welcome and she has been outside for hours, although rain has recently stopped play.

There is a boat gathering at Braunston this weekend so that gives me the perfect excuse to stay out of the way and have the weekend here! We are only 3 miles away, so Bon and I may walk down to have a look at some point.

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Learning from my dog

As you can see from today's view from the loo, Bonny has found her spot in the hedgerow and will happily sit there waiting for passing wildlife for hours. There are lessons I can learn from her.

She lives entirely in the present moment. She doesn't miss the last mooring or our home mooring. She doesn't worry about when or where we are going next. She is utterly here, in this place, at this moment.

She is also amazingly patient. If she thinks there is a possibility of a rabbit or squirrel appearing then she can remain still for an hour or more. She doesn't lose heart. She doesn't think 'well maybe there is a better spot just further along', like I constantly do when I'm looking for a place to moor. She knows the value and contentment of 'good enough'.

She is also entirely aware. Her nose, her ears, her eyes are all working all the time. She is not only aware of the task she is engaged in, but also of where I am, if anyone else is here, of any possible threats and opportunities. She sucks the marrow out of every moment.

And when she finally settles down to rest, she lets herself go and surrenders to tiredness without fighting against it. She feels no guilt in lazing about!

Sunday 24 April 2016

Travelling on

A rather different mooring today. That blue sign at top left of the photo is on the M6! I am pretending the roar is the sea. We are moored on the Oxford Canal about a mile from Hawksbury Junction, or Sutton Stop as boaters know it (named after the first lock keeper back in the working boat days). I intended to stop at the junction but no luck on visitors moorings. We walked back for a mooch round though. Here is what we just went through:

We have just spent an idyllic 3 days moored by bridge 13 on the Ashby. It was safe enough to let Bon (carefully) off the lead. The walks were just brilliant and the towpath was dry and wide. Here we are watching the washing dry!

Bonny has settled really well into our cruising life. She is so good on the roof and will put up with hours of cruising with no complaints.

These are her 3 favourite positions, right up the front when she thinks she is in charge, right in front of me when she is relaxed or patrolling the roof when something is happening!

The difference between the shallow Ashby and the wider, deeper Coventry Canal is marked and it didn't take us long to reach the junction. Now we are on the Oxford, a canal I am not familiar with so it feels like an even bigger adventure!

Friday 22 April 2016

Slowing to a halt

I have been cruising for nearly 3 weeks now and I am still struggling to accept that this is not just a holiday, where I need to keep going because I have a finite time before I need to be back. That means I have covered more distance so far than I intended to. There is also a fear in stopping for long, as who knows what thoughts may come when I have nothing to occupy (distract) myself with.

Yesterday we found a perfect mooring for Bon and I. The towpath is wide, dry and grassy. There are fields both sides with waymarked walks in every direction. There is even a good signal here for my phone and TV. So I am going to try and stay put for a few days. I know that today and perhaps even tomorrow will feel great, but then the itchy feet will set in and the need to be doing something will grow. Gosh, the puritan guilt regarding idleness is deeply ingrained!

The picture above is not of snow (although apparently a possibility this weekend) but of hawthorn blossom. I hope it doesn't turn cold for too long as I have run my supply of coal and wood right down. Ah well, there are always blankets.

Here is a view of our mooring in the only sunshine we are likely to see...

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Good luck and great community

Cheating really as this is a view from the saloon rather than the loo! The picture is of the Bosworth Marina services building and I would like to say that they give great service!

I got in with a lot of praying just after 9am. Fortunately the praying worked as my belt was just hanging on by a thread. I had even dug out a pair of tights just in case I had to do a bodge job just to make it here.

The lovely marina staff had already found an equally lovely boater to take my belt to Hinckley and source a new one. While he was doing that I got dieseled up and was given a mooring for the day. I then got two loads of washing going in their spotless laundry. By that time my hero had returned with the right size belt. And it cost half what my wrong sized one did! (Plus a fiver for his trouble. He would not take it, so I gave it to the marina staff and they are going to buy him some beer!)

I went to fit it but couldnt quite get it on so another boater immediately came over and did it for me! All fixed and working! I spent the rest of the day watering up, getting rid of rubbish, finishing the laundry and walking a bemused Bon. Oh and the 24 hour mooring with unlimited electric cost just £12.

I am so glad I belong to such a wonderful, helpful community as the boating fraternity. Someone on Facebook wondered if it is the only truly supportive and accepting community left. I hope not. So luxury of this warm and welcoming marina tonight. Back on the cut in the morning.

Monday 18 April 2016

Good luck or bad?

Having moored up early to relax, I thought I better just do my weekly engine checks.

I don't know if to be cursing or thanking Providence. I found 2  very deep cracks in my alternator belt. 'Never mind' thinks I, being an organised boater I carry a spare. Would have helped if it was the right size!! So, super glued cracks in existing belt and phone nearby marina who think they may be able to source me a new one.

 Fortunately I am moored just past a winding hole so I'll reverse into it in the morning (if my belt holds) and retreat to the new marina at Market Bosworth. I think it will cost me a days mooring at least, but then hopefully I can get my laundry done. It's a hell of a lot better finding out this way, than have my belt snap mid manoeuvre! So on balance, I guess it's good luck I checked, good luck there is a marina nearby and good luck I stopped near a winding hole. On the other side, I wish my belt wasn't cracked and I wish the £21 I spent was not wasted on the wrong sized belt!

Would you be proud?

We moored on the 'battlefield moorings' yesterday, near Bosworth field where Richard lost to Henry Tudor and 1000 men died during this fight for power and the future direction of England. It was an amazingly peaceful place, considering the blood soaked ground. At least it was until Bonny spotted her first (of many) horse riders. She has no problem with horses, but put a human on their back and she becomes hysterical with terror.

She barked off and on all afternoon and then topped it off by escaping from the boat, running down the embankment and onto the road to front up to a horse and rider. Fortunately both were forgiving and she didn't get squashed by a car or kicked by the mare! I, as usual, felt so embarrassed to be such a rubbish dog owner.

However, that is not the reason for the title of today's driveling. Radio 4 this morning asked an interesting question: If you when you were a 17 year old could meet you as you are now, would your 17 year old self be proud of who you are now?

I thought about it on my morning walk. At 17 I had little confidence in myself and no belief in my value as a human being. I believed that I was unloveable and that the only way of obtaining some self esteem was by doing well at college and then in a job and above all, in finding a man who would marry me.

I am now 55 years old and I believe my 17 year old self would be delighted by who I have become. I no longer have to work for self esteem, I know who I am and what my value is and I like myself. I no longer have to prove myself or compare myself to others. As far as being unloveable, well that's a work in progress. I have never found anyone to marry me or give me children and my family aren't close. I struggle to make deep relationships with more than a handful of friends. But I am coming to terms with that and I can say now that I love myself and that will do.

I do love my dog very much and so, since she wasn't happy on the battlefield mooring, we moved just an hour and a half up the canal to a horse free area, where we can rest and recover.

Saturday 16 April 2016

Is it me or the Ashby?

I only moved one bridge today (no, not with my bare hands, I mean I only cruised for half a mile). I only did that a) to get a mobile phone signal and b) so I didn't have to walk far to the farm shop (where I spoilt myself by buying a steak).

I seem to be cruising more slowly, walking more slowly, even thinking more slowly! Is it because the Ashby is such a sleepy canal or am I starting to adjust to cruising life? It is two weeks since I started my journey and it still feels very much like a holiday rather than a new life. But my sleeping is improving, I am starting to find that having nothing to do is a blessing rather than a curse (except when the demon of puritan guilt rears its ugly head).

Is it possible that I shall slow down so much that I will just stop? I wouldn't like that, I don't think and Bonny certainly wouldn't.

I took this photo of my view from the loo just after the cute herd of Shetland ponies who had been peering at us, suddenly galloped off. I swear animals know when you pick up a camera!

Thursday 14 April 2016

Ashby Peace

This is today's view from my loo. We are in the farmland of the Ashby Canal area and the sheep are mooching about. It's a lovely, quiet canal with few boats passing, few walkers, no cyclists and in fact very little happening at all!

It's a bit of a relief after some exciting times at Mancetter. I love that area and in particular the choice of wonderful walks. This is where we were moored...

And the woods looked like this mostly!

However, I had been lulled into a false sense of security by Bonny, who had been angelically behaved since we started our cruise. So, on our third walk I thought I'd let her have a little play in the woods and let her off the lead. Big mistake! I won't bore you with the whole story but suffice to say, having run off through the woods, across several fields, through a junkyard and onto a golf course, she was caught two and a half hours later by a young man walking his Staffie.

I can't tell you how relieved I was to get her back!

So after collapsing for the rest of Tuesday, we set off for the Ashby Canal the next morning. I managed to water up and do some shopping in Nuneaton on the way through. Now we are moored on a scrap of Armco near Burton Hastings. Bonny is lead bound for the foreseeable future, but as there are brilliant new walks to explore every day, it's not as bad as all that!

Saturday 9 April 2016

Hard work rewarded

I did the Atherstone flight of locks the hard way today. A boat in front of me (who never once thought of just lifting a paddle before leaving) and not one boat coming towards me. So for every one of the 11 locks I had to empty it first then take the boat in and fill it (very slow fillers the Atherstone locks are). Then go ahead to the next lock and set it before walking back and bringing the boat in.

There was a boat behind me after a bit, so after closing the top gate I nipped back and opened a paddle so the lock would be ready for him. After a couple of locks he left his wife with the boat and came and helped me so that was nice.
Still, after 8 miles and 11 locks I was more than ready to stop!

There is a lovely spot near Mancetter bridge that fortunately was empty, so with huge relief I got tied up. It's very quiet here and there are brilliant walks through the woods and on the golf course. Here is my view from the loo!
A couple of days R and R is in order I think, especially as it is due to blow tomorrow.

Friday 8 April 2016

Over confident energy?

I planned to do a lot today and although I managed to do all the things I wanted to, I think I rather overestimated what I could cope with!

We started off with an hours walk to the beautiful Middleton Hall in only mild drizzle. Then, after a quick cuppa and a check on the forecast (dry for the rest of the day), I set off down to Fazeley Junction. We watered up and then popped into Fazeley Mill Marina for diesel and gas. This marina is staffed by one of the friendliest and most cheerful women it has been my pleasure to meet.

It is fortunate my 13kg gas bottle lasts me around 6 months because they are very heavy and my gas locker hatch very small and I could feel my back and legs protesting as I swapped empty for full. Then off again just a wee way before mooring up and nipping to the nearby Tesco Express for essential supplies. I wish I had known that just above Glascote Locks there is a Co op right by the cut. Ah well, never mind, I'll know next time.

Another cuppa made and off we went again, cruising through Tamworth and struggling a bit with a heavy gate at the aforementioned locks. By this time the forecasted 'dry day' had gone from mild drizzle to full on downpour. On we went, hoping to moor at an excellent little spot just before Alvecote Priory, unfortunately someone else had spotted it first and there is only room on the arnco for one boat. However, just before Alvecote Marina I found a spot to stop. Just as well as Bonny had been on the roof for the best part of 5 hours, refusing to go inside, even though she was just about drowning in the rain! (I believe she doesn't think the boat can move unless she is on station!)

Inside for a late lunch and ready to collapse but Bonny had other ideas and she had been so very patient. So off we went around Pooley nature reserve. It didn't look like a very long round walk on the map but it ended up being over an hour. By the time I got back I had cramp in one leg, my back was aching and even Bonny was ready to stop.

Ah well only a few miles and the 11 locks of the Atherstone flight tomorrow. As I write this, Bonny is back on duty as she spotted a rabbit in the bank opposite our mooring and now has to watch until I force her in...

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Making our mark on the world

What is it about human nature that makes us want to be noticed; to say 'I was here'? Is it just ego that drives us to leave a legacy so that future generations will know that we existed, even if it is just through graffiti on a wall?

Or is it perhaps our fear of death that makes us carve our names on a tree or on a park bench? If something of me is left behind then I am never entirely dead.

Some people devote their whole lives to making their mark upon the world, whether it be through the accumulation of wealth, the raising of children (a sure way of guaranteeing a form of immortality?) Or perhaps through spreading their religion or devoting themselves to charity or to setting some sort of record. There is the darker side too, those who will do anything for their moment in the spotlight, their claim to fame.

But what about those who glide silently through life? Who leave no clear footprint? They leave behind no children, no business, no group of converts, no wealth. They may do good for others but without fanfare, or they may just keep themselves to themselves. Are these people of less value? Perhaps by leaving no mark they are doing less harm to our planet or to their neighbour?

These were my ponderings today as I glide invisibly through the world.

Tuesday 5 April 2016

Ideal mooring

We have cruised from Hopwas on the Coventry Canal to Fishers Mill Bridge on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal. It is our perfect sort of mooring. There is a dry towpath, we are in the middle of a beautiful wetland nature reserve and there are walks in every direction. The only sound is a whole orchestra of bird song. You would never guess that Drayton Manor theme park and the M42 are so close!

Here is a view of the mooring:
We were the only ones here when we arrived, but not for long. Still I can't expect to have such a beautiful spot all to myself!
I feel so very fortunate to be here. I am still not sleeping right through the night, but things are improving. A couple of days here should sort me out!

Monday 4 April 2016

Circles? Collections?

I'm new to this type of blog. It has asked me if I want to create a circle or a collection of people. I have no idea what it is talking about. Can anyone explain in simple terms?

Sunday 3 April 2016

At last we have begun

We have at last started our cruise which has been in the planning for 18 months.

 Bonny and I left Fradley Junction bright and early this morning. This time the locks were right for us and we turned left onto the Coventry Canal after only 45 minutes. Then it was fairly slow going for the next 3 hours as we were dragging our bum through silt most of the time.

We arrived at Hopwas at lunch time. This is one of our favourite places. It is full of bird song and empty of traffic. The woods are fantastic to walk through and Bonny is in her element.

There is another, newer reason to love it here. A darstadly gravel company made plans to dig up the woods and turn the hill into a quarry. They put fences and threatening notices up. But the good people of Hopwas were having none of it. They tore the fences down, stamped on the notices and fought the planning application every step of the way. And they won! Months on, the remains of the fences and gates are still there and when Bonny and I stepped over them to enter the beloved woods, it felt really good!

The view from my loo shows the woods on the other side of the field. A lovely, sunny mooring, today at least. I have been so busy for the last few weeks and slept so badly that I know, when the adrenlin wears off, I shall feel shattered. So we will be staying in this little slice of paradise for a few days while I rest and recuperate.

It is a wonderful feeling not to be under any time pressure whatsoever!

Saturday 2 April 2016

Last night before cruise

This is my last evening on the mooring at Fradley Junction until at least August. It has been a brilliant mooring. We are largely left alone by CaRT and so can have storage boxes etc. It is beautifully peaceful and I have planted various bulbs etc over the 6 years I have been here. It also feels very safe as I know all my neighbours and we have a locked gate to the mooring. I have made some really good friends here and although I am frothing at the mouth with excitement on the eve of my cruise, there is some sadness too.

There is a Taoist saying: Every end is a beginning. And that's true but it is also true to say that every beginning is also an end. So I shall cruise away with maybe just one backward glance but then my next new life begins!