Loo views

Loo views

Friday 29 July 2016

Almost Back

My home mooring

I am only a day away from my home mooring at Fradley. I don't expect it to look as neat as in the above picture as I haven't been there for four months!

I am experiencing a mix of emotions. I have loved the cruise. I love mooring in new places and finding unexpectedly brilliant walks. I have loved seeing Bonny transform from an anxious, disobedient dog to a pretty chilled and happy one who is (mostly) very obedient. I have loved feeling my confidence grow as I tackled new cruising challenges. Most of all I have loved the freedom of it all. I can choose when to move, how far to go and where to moor up. I can choose to stop for a week or move on the next day. I am free of a timetable, free of 'shoulds' and 'oughts', free of other people's expectations.

But I am also happy to be heading home. It is nearly August and the cut is getting really crowded. It will be a relief to be moored up and not have to move on every few days. It will be good to get my car back and not to have to carry my shopping for miles. It will be good to see friends I left behind on the mooring and also friends further afield.

I will be visiting my friends Graham and Jan Finch who went from boat to land based living in April. Also living in Yorkshire are my friends Brian and Cynthia so I will be killing two birds with one stone. Then I will be house sitting for Roger and Shirleyann while they are in Canada. Such a hardship, staying in a lovely house in Devon and catching up with friends I made when I used to live there. Bonny loves it there too, even though she gets bossed about a bit by Maisie the cat!

Before that I need to give my tough little boat a well deserved service. There is also a list of jobs on her that I will need paid help with. Then there is Bonny's service at the vets and the car to MOT. Between all that I shall be deciding what to do next!

Meanwhile I am moored near Handsacre where there is a terrific circular walk. In the morning I'll pop into Kings Bromley Marina for the first time since I worked there, for a pump out and diesel up.

Then I shall either have one more night moored in the woods or just go straight down my last lock flight in a while. I have been totting up and in my four month cruise I have worked 311 locks, various lift and swing bridges and cruised 422 miles. Time for a rest methinks!

Monday 25 July 2016

Proud of our boxes?

During this morning's cruise I passed by a small, prefab type bungalow with the biggest, most imposing entrance I have ever seen. Massive wrought iron gates with stone lions on either side, leading to a sweeping gravel driveway, leading to what was essentially a box and a pretty ugly one at that.

It set me to thinking about how proud most of us are with the boxes we live in and how much debt we are prepared to get into in order to be able to buy a box of our own. Some boxes are tiny and attached to other boxes. Some are beautifully decorated or very old. Some boxes are massive and incredibly expensive. Some are little bigger than a shoe box but because of their location they cost a fortune. But they are all basically the same; four walls and a roof that we live in.

Of course I also live in a box but mine has a huge advantage over the most imposing, expensive mansion of a box you can think of: my box isn't fastened to the ground and so I can see the world in it. So, whilst quietly sneering at the value other people place on their boxes, I am just as proud of my own!

Everybody needs somewhere to call home. Everybody needs a box of some sort. But it seems to me that the world is out of kilter when you can't buy even the smallest box without being in debt for the best part of 30 years. Worse still some people own more than one box and leave the spare empty for most of the year while there are people out there whose only box is made of cardboard. There must be a better way?

Sunday 24 July 2016

Almost home?

This is the view from my loo near Deptmore Lock on the Staffs and Worcester Canal. Tomorrow we will stop at Great Haywood for a few days and then, after a stop in at Kings Bromley Marina to pump and diesel, we will be home for the first time since 3rd April.

You will note the ? in the title of this post. That is because I am no longer sure what home means. If it is somewhere I spend most of my time then it is now the boat. And yet, returning to Fradley still feels like going home. But in another sense it doesn't, because Fradley no longer feels permanent to me.

It has been a wonderful place to live and work for nearly 7 years but whilst out on my travels I have seen other places and other choices regarding mooring. Being in new places with new walks and new people has made me wonder whether I will be content to settle back down in familiar surroundings.

My options currently are: a) stay on the mooring at Fradley for the winter and cruise the rest of the time. b) Let go of the mooring and continuously cruise all year round. c) Cruise during the season and go into a marina for the winter. d) Find another permanent mooring.

This cruising season has taught me that I am not yet ready for option b. Option c felt good for a while but I really do feel very claustrophobic in marinas, plus there are issues over what to do with my car while I am cruising. Option d has suddenly leapt to the top of the list as I have seen a mooring on the Shropshire Union which, I think, would suit me very well. It is more peaceful than Fradley but still has a large number of boats moored there, so there would be people around. It is around £100 cheaper a year and yet has a water supply actually on the mooring  and you can take your car all the way to your boat, two things Fradley doesn't offer. It would satisfy my need for change and novelty on a canal that I really love.

No decision yet though. I am planning to have a chat with the farmer who owns the mooring and a look round next month when I have my car back. I also want to spend time back at Fradley to see how that feels. Either of these options mean I still retain a base that I can call 'home' and for practical reasons are the easiest options. I rather hope that eventually I could let go of the need to have a base at all and be brave enough to be a continuous cruiser, but I'm not there yet.

Saturday 16 July 2016

How to defeat evil

Like everybody I have been shocked and deeply saddened by yet another example of man's brutality to man. The inevitable question is raised: what can we do in the face of such evil?

Some people have posted prayers, asking for their god to intervene. Others have pointed fingers at a particular group of people to say 'Its their fault'. Most I think just feel helpless and some perhaps don't think about it at all as it hasn't happened to them or theirs.

My own answer is that I think it starts with every single one of us. It starts when we think of ourselves as 'us' and another human being as 'them'. They might be people of a different religion, or no religion. They may be people who support different politics. They may have voted leave... or remain. They may have been born in this country or they aspire to come here to live the good life. They might have a posh house and aristocratic ancestors, they might be begging in the street or burgling your home. They might be black, white, female or male. They may call themselves freedom fighters while we call them terrorists. They might just be people who piss us off. We all, myself included, have people or groups of people we think of as 'them'.

But as soon as a person becomes 'them' to us, they become smaller. They are less important, less worthy of respect or even human rights. It gives us someone to blame when things go wrong or when we don't get our own way. It gives us someone to hate, or at least to feel superior to. In short, 'they' become the enemy. And the more people who agree with 'us' and gang up against 'them', the safer and more right we feel.

So I have decided today to do my very best to root out 'them' from my life and to see all people as 'us'. It is going to be hard as I am a very judgemental person. It is going to be hard because it bolsters my ego to be agreed with and to be part of 'us'. It will be particularly hard if I meet someone like the human being who used a lorry to mow down children. But I believe that, until we do this, evil will triumph and we will keep experiencing events like that which happened in France.

I know people will say that by taking this approach you condone evil people and evil acts. They may be right. But I think to confront evil at its source, we need to look into our own hearts, rather than others. Anyway, it's worth a try.

Wednesday 13 July 2016

Turning back

Bonny enjoying the natural cover on an embankment!

I have been cruising since April 3rd and have only turned back on myself twice. Once when I reached Thrupp on the South Oxford in May and again just the other day as I start back up the Shroppie, heading back to my home mooring at Fradley. Travelling at my usual pace, I should get there at the beginning of August.

I have absolutely no idea where the time has gone. I am in my fourth month of cruising and yet it feels like I've only been out a few weeks! The cruising and mooring, walking and sitting, intense activity followed by inaction all feels so natural to me. Yes there have been challenges, both physical and mental. There have been days (especially on yet another rainy day) where I have felt quite low and other days where I want to bellow out the Michael Buble song 'Feeling good'.

I can't tell yet what changes, if any, have been wrought in me by my solitary journey. I see more clearly the changes in Bonny. She is so much more relaxed and at peace with herself and with me. She is happy mostly to stay near the boat rather than constantly looking to be somewhere else and she is more trustworthy and trusting. Having said that, she disappeared out of the above embankment this afternoon. I went to look where she had gone, only to hear a pathetic little whimper. She had been hunting by the reeds for mice and had fallen in the water. There was so much silt she could stand up, but she couldn't jump back onto the bank. That will teach her!

Friday 8 July 2016

Contemplating the future

This is a lovely mooring just north of Audlem with the brilliant name of Coole Pilate! It is a good place to sit and contemplate my present situation and future direction.

I was at Overwater Marina yesterday. I was really impressed by its beauty, its environmental credentials and its friendly service. It occurred to me that, if I didn't have a permanent mooring, it would be a very pleasant place to spend the winter months. I made enquiries and if I was thinking of spending this winter there (which I am not) it would cost a little over £800 for 4 months, plus electric. My current mooring at Fradley costs around £1,350 for the full year. (I have paid for Fradley until March, that's why I'm not considering a change this winter.)

The advantages of the all year round mooring are that I have somewhere I can call home and somewhere always available to me to dump my boat if I need to be somewhere else. While Fradley Post Office is still operating I have an address and while I am out cruising I have somewhere to leave my car. All really important things to sustain me, living this life.

The disadvantages, while being on a very tight budget are that if I am out cruising up to 8 months of the year, I am paying for a mooring that I am not using. Also winter can be tough to get through when you have no shore power and limited access to water and when you have to carry provisions, coal etc across a lock gate to get them to the boat. Also I have been at Fradley for six years now and being out cruising this season makes me itch for somewhere new. I don't think, even with these disadvantages, that I would consider moving if it wasn't that our lovely little community there has mostly broken up. My best friends Graham and Jan Finch have moved off the water as has my lovely neighbour Kev Lote. There are rumours of stone quarrying being planned and, having found peace and quiet while cruising, Fradley is a very busy place.

The advantages of giving up the mooring are mostly financial. I wouldn't then be paying for something I am mostly not using. In the winter months I would be on shore power and so largely not running my engine, saving on diesel and engine hours. Having done the sums, weighing up the cost of the winter mooring and electricity over diesel, I would be about £450 better off, which is nearly 5% of my entire annual budget.

Another advantage is that I would be safe and secure during the winter months and could leave the boat to visit friends and relatives without worrying about ice and snow. It would generally make winter very much easier to cope with. It is also a new place to explore with lovely walks and peace and quiet in the Cheshire countryside.

The last advantage I can think of is that, only having a mooring for 4 months of the year would make me truly embrace the travelling life as I couldn't run home if the going got tough. The boat would be my only base.

But that leads into the disadvantages. Being truly of no fixed abode has its challenges both practically and emotionally. Practically, I wouldn't have a permanent address which makes dealing with the apparatus of the state difficult. There are ways round that though. Not having a base means doctors, vets and other assistance are also harder to access.

My car is another major issue. The reason I am so attracted to Overwater Marina is its peace and isolation. But that comes with a price. I couldn't live there without my car. But they won't let me leave my car there for the months I am out cruising unless I pay for a whole year's mooring which is out of the question. So I would either have to find somewhere to store it or take it with me while cruising. This means the pain of parking it somewhere ahead, travelling back to the boat, cruising up to it and then repeating the exercise time and time again. The only advantage to this is having it available for shopping, laundry and if I needed to go somewhere.

I think the real challenge though is more of an emotional / mental one. Am I really brave enough to let go of the safe and familiar to really commit wholeheartedly to the new and unknown? Do I really want to travel entirely off grid? A question people have asked already is don't I get bored with nothing to do but cruise and stop? The answer so far is no, but I've only been out for four months. It is purpose rather than boredom that could be an issue. These 4 months have felt like a holiday and then I will return to the mooring to resume 'real life.' But if this was my whole life then what purpose would I have?

Anyway, this has turned out to be a  much longer post than I intended but it has helped me to actually write down the pros and cons. I don't know what I will do but fortunately I have till next February to decide.

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Cut off

For the last week or so these are the sorts of views I have had from my loo. That is because the Shropshire Union Canal becomes increasingly remotely rural the further up you travel. That suits my craving for natural beauty and peace and quiet, but there is a downside. Since I left Market Drayton I have had little or no phone or tablet reception. I managed to make the odd phone call when I needed to so I didn't really miss having regular reception, but my tablet was a different matter.

I had not realised how much I rely on access to the internet and how many times a day I turn to it. I start each day with a look at the Met Office forecast. After our morning walk I check my emails and Facebook. I may also use my brain training app. After I have cruised or done my chores for the day, I'm back on Facebook and this blog. Being alone except for my dog 24 hours a day isn't a problem for me, but since I have had no access to social media, I realise that it is my substitute for company. How healthy this is I'm not sure, but it has probably been good for me to be off it for a while.

Since I left Chillington I have been mooching slowly north. I have been really enjoying my much slower pace. I might have stopped even more often than I have but mooring can sometimes be tricky due to silt and the infamous 'Shroppie Shelf'.  This is a ledge that sticks out several inches under the waterline along most of the canal and means that flying leaps are sometimes required to get on and off the boat when moored.

I tackled the Adderley and Audlem locks, 20 in all and had my first injury since starting this cruise at the beginning of April, so that's not bad. I was walking the gunwales after having climbed up to close the lock gates (11 locks in a row were all against me and not one boat coming the other way -hard work). I must have lost concentration for a second and walked straight into my little brass step, used for climbing onto the roof. It hit right on my shin where there is no padding!

Never mind, I'll survive!

Today I went into Overwater Marina in order to pump my poo tank out and I decided to take a visitors mooring for one night in order to use their laundry and access their Wi-Fi and it was just as well I did! The pump out was a self service type and the staff member who sold me the required token reassured me saying "Anyone who can take on the Audlem locks single-handed will have no problem operating our pump out machine." How wrong he was. I won't go into the technical details but basically you fit a large nozzle into a hole in your gunwales, turn a handle and turn the machine on and it sucks everything out of your tank - in my case nearly a months worth of wee and poo. Unfortunately I didn't know which way to turn the handle and when I realised nothing was being sucked, I turned the handle the other way and that caused the nozzle to pop out violently and sprayed me from top to toe with raw sewage.

I cannot describe how badly I stunk, even Bonny wouldn't come anywhere near me! I went straight into my shower and disrobed under a stream of water. Then everything went straight into the laundry. I have just about boiled my hands but I can still smell them! Still, their laundry facilities are excellent and at least I can fill up with water again!

This is the facilities block. Very nice, for one night!