Loo views

Loo views

Friday 14 September 2018

Working hard or living hard?

Society has always taught me that working hard was the highest moral good, both for myself, my family and the society itself. And so, logically enough, not working hard becomes a secular sin and anyone who does not make work a large part of their life is of less worth and should be scorned in polite society.

I went along with this mantra from when I left school (where this concept was first introduced at the age of five), until I turned 50. I climbed the greasy pole in two professions and worked very hard in the process. My rewards were a comfortable life where I had enough money for necessities and a few luxuries. I had a home where all the essential services were provided at the flick of a switch or the turn of a tap. My home made me feel safe and secure, as did the routine of my working day. I paid a good amount to the state in the form of various taxes and so could be described as a model citizen.

But that life did not come naturally to me and living against my nature took its toll. I never married, nor had children. This was not entirely down to my focus on my career but it certainly didn't help. The pressure at work meant my mental health suffered to such an extent that I not only anesthesed myself with alcohol and tobacco, but I reached the stage of seriously contemplating shuffling off this mortal coil by my own hand.

To avoid suicide I utterly changed my life. I stopped working full time. I abandoned my career, and with it my house and all the comforts of normal society. I moved on to a boat and worked only when I needed money to live.

Now, instead of working hard, I live hard. I source my own water, easy enough in the summer, but can involve searching for an unfrozen water source in winter and barrelling water back to my boat. I provide my own electricity, which relies on my boat engine and so learning to keep it healthy was a high priority (and this for someone who could hardly change a lightbulb without requiring assistance!) Instead of a turning the thermostat up to keep warm, I barrow coal and wood to my stove. Disposing of my rubbish is now a 30 minute round trip. I could go on, but you get the idea. The mere act of survival takes a lot of time and not a little hard work.

Since this type of work is unpaid, I have had to change my lifestyle. Rather than visits to the pub or restaurant, I shop in Lidl or Aldi. Foreign holidays are a distant memory and spending on any non essentials is hard thought through. Because I am alone, there are increased physical risks in a water based lifestyle and because I am living on a very tight budget, there is very little sense of security or safety.

But this life fits my nature so completely that I wonder if I wasn't a boat person in a past life! I am joyful deep in my soul for the first time in my life. My entertainment now is walking for miles with my constant companion Bonny the Cairn. Watching the trees change colour is a treat that is priceless. Holidays involve loosening my ropes and travelling in my home for new views from my loo. My company is mostly a large and diverse group of friends on Facebook. Letting my solitary nature take charge for the first time has improved my mental and emotional health no end.

And this life is not costing anyone else money. I do not trouble the state for any assistance. Recently I stopped paid work entirely and am borrowing what I need from a friend, against a lump sum I shall receive from one of my pensions. I still pay some tax when I buy things and so far the state has still received a lot more from me than I have taken from it. My carbon footprint has shrunk considerably too, which benefits the environment. Because I have time, I can think deeply and listen to others. I can stop and attend to the unexpected interruption in my day. And sometimes my sharing of fruits of this life benefits others.

Having a job is necessary for almost every one of us for periods of our life. It is also necessary for the smooth running of society. But is it the only route to salvation in our secular world? Do we really still believe in it as the highest form of living when the mental health of both our children and adults are buckling under the ever increasing pressure? Can our planet sustain us continuing to work ever harder and thereby producing more in the way of pollution, plastic and land grabbing? Do we really want to see 80 year olds working at the Tesco checkouts?

Perhaps more of us need to examine whether we can live closer to our true natures. If we buy less, we can work less. This is a truth hidden from us by a blizzard of advertising. For some, perhaps most, a career does suit their nature. Working hard may help people feel useful, worthwhile and gives a reason to get out of bed each morning. In order to spend a large proportion of their time working, most people need the services on which life depends provided for them at the flick of a switch. Having lots of possessions and being able to spend money may help us feel safe and secure.

My question is: do we really still believe that this 'working hard' life is morally superior to a 'living hard' life?

Friday 31 August 2018

Settling in

Not quite my view from the loo but it illustrates the priorities I have now I am settling in to my new mooring.

Five days in and I am feeling a lot more relaxed and much less tired. It's been busy though. The above picture illustrates how I get water. The tap is around 300 feet from my boat. Fortunately the farmer has strung a series of hoses along the fence. All I have to do is join my hose to the end and feed it to my boat. Then march down the mooring to the tap, turn it on and sprint back! The water pressure is surprisingly good, considering the distance it is travelling.

Since I took a while to cruise here, other priorities included finding a local launderette and supermarket. Both were satisfyingly close in the market town of Newport. I have discovered two claims to fame so far for Newport. It has won Britain in Bloom more times than any other town, and Jeremy Corbyn was born here.

I have made friends with the local post office at Woodseaves so I can now receive post. I have also found my way to Norbury Junction as this is the nearest place I can dispose of my rubbish. This last task has been made more of a challenge as the main road is closed till October while they install new water pipes. Instead I have been squeezing down roads that have more in common with footpaths than highways!

A more difficult task has been to try and shift some of the silt at my mooring. My rescuers did a wonderful job pulling my boat in the other day, but I discovered it was then stuck firmly on the silt. That's ok if I never intended to move again, but I don't like being stuck and so set to to free her.

It took me nearly an hour with much shoving, engine revving and poling but I eventually got Don't Panic back into clear water. I then blasted the side of the mooring with water from my prop for a while, before hauling her back into the side. I have left her on loose ropes, hoping that as other boats pass and cause her to move, it will help shift the silt. I have also poked at the silt with my pole, hoping to disturb it by letting air in. My body certainly knows about it now!

There are still many more jobs to do, but fun to be had too. Bonny and I are loving exploring new and exciting walks. We are really starting to feel at home here and I think this new home is going to suit us both so well as we both get a little older!

Monday 27 August 2018


This is my new view from my loo on my new mooring. Not pretty (yet) but having my car right here by my boat is a new experience. For nearly 10 years I have been carting everything in my barrow from the car, down the road, across the lock gate and down the towpath to my boat.

Arriving has been a difficult journey though. I had the breakdown at Woodend Lock on the day I left Fradley (see previous post). I broke down again at the junction of the Staffs and Worcester and the Shropshire Union. My throttle cable snapped, leaving me with no forward momentum! Having only broken down once whilst on the move in ten years, twice in two weeks felt like a sign! But perhaps it was a sign of good fortune, as it happened right beside a boatyard. They had me up and running again in less than an hour.

Arriving has been difficult emotionally too. I regard myself as a reasonably courageous woman, but I suffer from anxiety when it comes to meeting new people and particularly when joining a new community. I think the anxiety has got worse the older I get. I no longer have to attend parties or social events if I don't want to. I'm not working so I don't have to meet a lot of strangers. I fact I can go for fairly long periods where I don't have to mix with people at all. And as with most hangups, if you avoid it rather than confront it, you don't resolve it!

So knowing I was coming to a new mooring, with new neighbours and a new landlord has prevented me from sleeping soundly for weeks. The only thing that has kept me reasonably sane is practicing mindfulness. I downloaded the Headspace app and I take 30 minutes each day to meditate and that has really helped lessen my anxiety.

Today was the day of our arrival as I cruised from Gnosall to Shebdon. (Useless fact alert: the three nearest settlements along the canal from my mooring are Gnosall, Norbury and Knighton. All sound like they begin with N, only one does.)

I arrived on my mooring with a flourish. Because it hadn't been used for months it had silted up and I couldn't get my boat closer than a couple of feet from the bank. I grabbed my rope and jumped ashore to try and pull her in. Unfortunately, my foot landed on a greasy paving slab and I went down flat on my face....right in front of my new neighbour! He came rushing to my assistance, as did his son, on the boat moored at the other end of mine, and the three of us managed to pull 'Don't Panic' into the side, with only a bruised knee (and pride) to show for my tumble.

It certainly broke the ice with my neighbours; Colin and Viv on one side and their son Jason on the other. We had a lovely chat and Viv offered to fetch anything I needed as they were just off shopping. They seem very lovely and that is a massive weight off my mind.

Now I have finally arrived (having been travelling towards my new mooring since May!) I feel exhausted. The adrenaline has drained away and it was all I could do to secure the boat and take Bonny for her first Shebdon walk. I have time though. I have a list of things I need to do, but today I will sit and listen to the silence and thank the god of the canals that I am here.

Wednesday 15 August 2018


This was my last sunset at Hunts Lock; my home mooring for the last 9 years. Today I set off for my new adventure on the Shropshire Union Canal.

Leaving is an exhausting business. Practically I had a list of jobs as long as your arm and a lot of them involved humping heavy loads. Emotionally it has been hard too. Saying goodbye to favourite places, favourite people and favourite dogs drains me, and as Bonny and I did our last favourite walk, in a place she has spent all her life so far, I wondered whether I was doing the right thing. But my car and most of my essentials are already at Shebdon, notice has been given on my old mooring and it is too late for doubts.

We set off with the good wishes of our neighbours ringing in our ears and the good will of the lock keepers helping us up the flight. Once we were actually on our way, my heart lightened but that didn't last!

We reached Woodend Lock, the 6th lock that morning and without warning my engine suddenly started screaming at me. I immediately shut everything down and tied up. I cautiously restarted the engine, but as soon as I tried to put it in gear all hell broke loose. I called RCR, the AA of the canals. Amazingly two helpful and cheerful young men were with me within 30 minutes!

It took no time at all for them to diagnose the problem; a discarded Xmas tree had wrapped itself around my propeller and the screaming sound was my overstressed gearbox. The poor engineer had to don his dry suit and swim under my boat to free the offending item. Here it is...

(A plea to those who live on or near the canals: please don't use the waterways as a dustbin, you have no idea what trouble a little bit of rubbish can cause.)

Once the offending item had been removed and the propeller had been checked for damage, we started up my engine again and, with everything crossed, gently eased her into gear. Hallelujah, my gearbox was fine and in no time at all I was on my way again.

I staggered into Kings Bromley marina for diesel and a pump out, but the adrenaline was draining fast and with it the last of my energy. Once I left the marina I tied up as soon as I was able and collapsed into my armchair. It's a few hours on now. Bonny and I have had a walk and I have chatted to my friends. I shall sleep well tonight but apart from feeling unbelievably tired, I am back to normal.

Who knows what tomorrow may bring, but I'm ready for it!

Thursday 14 June 2018

Health and Safety versus risk and freedom

This is not the view from my loo today. Rather it is something I stumbled upon during this morning's walk in the woods near Deptmore Lock.

And what a wonderful site it was. Using only the natural earth a group of people had sculpted an adventure trail for cycles. It looked like an ancient burial mound created by some long dead race.

In my youth I was regularly sent off to play in the woods, where my only tools were my imagination and whatever I found to hand. I constructed some pretty serviceable dens, but nothing on this scale!  What fun must be had here. What thrills and spills and what a sense of comradship and adventure.

But already I hear those two headmasters Health and Safety barking their displeasure. There are no safety barriers, no soft mats to land on and probably no adult overseeing the sport. There are no opening and closing hours, no St John's Ambulance on standby. The potential for serious injury or even death boggle their minds.

And that's the thing. Do we value safety over adventure? Do we allow our children to grow by experimenting and taking risks, knowing there is a good chance they may come to harm? Or do we wrap them in cotton wool, sit them on the sofa and place some technological device in their hands so they can experience second hand adventure?

And what about ourselves? Do we view the world outside our window with fear and distrust or do we stride out there, heads held high, boldly greeting whatever comes across our path?

A woman recently questioned my wisdom of operating locks on my own. She pointed out what could go wrong. She advised me to wait for another boat, Oh and don't moor in the middle of nowhere as you never know what might lurk in the hedgerow.

I have my own store of fears and anxieties and I have to battle daily to keep them in perspective. But I will not let my fear stand in the way of my dreams. I will not let the 'what ifs' stop me from sucking the marrow out of life. I will not value my health and my safety over my freedom to experiment and experience.

There is a cartoon doing the rounds on social media. It depicts a worried Piglet talking to Winnie the Pooh. Piglet says "One day we will die Pooh". And the wise old bear replies "Yes Piglet, but on every other day we will live." Quite!

Meanwhile I have this lock in front of me. But it is blowing a gale today, so I shall do it tomorrow!

Friday 8 June 2018

I feel trees

Yes, my guilty secret is out, I feel trees.

I feel them literally. When I come across an old or huge or beautiful tree, like these in Chillington Woods, I lay my hand on the bark and just feel. I feel the texture of the wood. I try to guess how long this tree has been here to grow as tall as it is. I wonder at all the changes it has witnessed. I look at the leaves and realise that every single year this tree experiences death and resurrection. I stand with my feet firmly on the ground and imagine what it would be like to be so deeply rooted in one place. I look at the trees around this one and am aware of this tree being both separate and in a community. There is research that shows trees really do communicate with each other through their root system.

I also feel trees in that I sense the spirit of them. To me they feel utterly at peace. They are where they are. They may have seen hundreds of seasons come and go. They experience growth and death. They are sometimes naked and sometimes rich in foliage. Birds and animals and humans play in their branches. Some damage or even kill the tree. Meanwhile they stand.

I sense an almost maternal, or perhaps paternal feeling from certain trees. I have sat between the roots at the base of a tree and felt protected and held by it. They seem to possess an ancient wisdom that I long to hear, if only I could stay still long enough to listen.

Trees seem hugely patient to me. It takes so long for these massive trees to reach maturity. Every spring their sap rises and all their huge strength is poured into producing leaves. Gales blow, the sun burns and then with the first frosts, all that effort seems wasted as the leaves curl up and die. They stand, seemingly bereft of life through long winter nights, until the coming of the next spring when the light returns.

I feel trees and they feel so good.

Monday 4 June 2018

My new view to be

For once this is not my view from my loo, at least not yet!
After having a lovely time on the Llangollen, Bonny and I have pottered back down the Shroppie and yesterday moored very close to what will be our new home base.

The first photo is taken from the road bridge, looking down the mooring. I will be moored towards the far end which suits as it means very few cars will pass our boat. As you can see, the driveway is well kept and I can park right next to my boat - an entirely new experience in nearly 10 years of boating.

The little pink boat will be leaving and on 1st August that space will be officially mine! I won't actually be moored on it till around the end of August or perhaps into September. There are so many things I need to do at Fradley first, but there is no hurry.

There are plusses and minuses when I compare this new mooring at Shebdon with my current mooring at Fradley:

The biggest advantage is the location of the Shebdon mooring. It is on my favourite canal, the Shropshire Union. It is an area known for its peace and solitude. I love the look of the 'main' road..

Fradley has been wonderfully peaceful for me, despite being one of the busiest canal junctions on the network. All things change though and there are so many plans for development in our immediate area, including a gravel pit, a marina, houses and of course that gross vanity project, HS2. I have noticed too an increase in the number of visitors to the junction which can make it difficult to park sometimes.  I am at a stage of life now where I increasingly value peace and solitude and an absence of bustle!

The two practical advantages at Shebdon are being able to bring my boat to my car and having water taps on the mooring. My foot condition has been almost entirely healed by a steroid injection, but if I carry any weight, for any length of time, it can cause a flare up. So not having to barrow everything from a car park, down the road and across a lock and then down a path to my boat will be brilliant! The water tap is a bit of a distance but I met one of my new neighbours and he said I could attach to his long hose in order to get water to my boat. Thank you Jason!

There are things I will miss about Fradley though. I have been blessed with a mooring full of friends (both human and dog) and I shall miss them all terribly. Bonny and I had a multitude of different walks right on our doorstep at Fradley. Our new mooring, being set in a sheep farm, means our choices are more limited. Mind you, once we explore, who knows what we might discover, and I was pleased to notice a Bonny proof fence between the mooring and the sheep field! 

There is nowhere to dispose of rubbish at Shebdon, which means a car run to either Norbury or Tyrley. At least it will be very easy to diesel and pump out as Norbury Junction is less than an hour's lock free cruising away and boasts of providing the cheapest fuel on the canal system. There is also somewhere to turn my boat at either end of the mooring, which will be very different from Fradley. If I needed to reverse direction there, it meant cruising through locks to Alrewas and turning there, before cruising back, a journey of at least 90 minutes.

Change though is unsettling and I have suffered a fair few sleep disturbed nights since I said yes to Shebdon. To lessen my anxieties, I decided to keep my Fradley mooring till the end of August. This means I can complete things like my car service, blacking the boat and sorting out Bonny's jabs in the familiar places I have always used. Then I will have plenty of time to find new places for all these things before I need them.

Fradley gave me one essential thing that I'm not yet sure I can get from my new area and that is a postal address. My little post office at Fradley has been so wonderful. Ralph and Gaynor have received all my post for the past nine years and have never charged me a penny for the service! They even forward my mail for me whenever I am away cruising. I shall really miss them! I will be visiting the local post offices in the Shebdon area once I have access to my car again to see if I can find another angel!

Meanwhile it is time to cruise on as I am meeting my friends Roger and Shirleyann at Great Haywood on 17th June in order to cruise the Caldon. Once I have reunited them with their car it will be full steam back home to Fradley, for the last time.

Thursday 17 May 2018

Change is coming (again)

A huge thing just happened yesterday. I have loved mooring at Fradley Junction for the last 9 years, but recently the world has been closing in on this little patch of paradise. Houses are being built ever closer, HS2 will pass close by and now there are plans for gravel extraction right opposite the mooring.

I started to look at alternatives last year but only found one site that really drew me and there were no vacancies. I even considered going without a mooring at all and just travelling all year, but I'm not really brave enough for that.

Yesterday I got a message out of the blue from the mooring I really, really wanted. A vacancy has come up and it's mine! It's on my favourite canal, the Shropshire Union and the world is a very long way away from it. It is on an embankment with views towards the Wrekin (see above pic, but it's a lot further away than that). It is a farm mooring with water taps on the mooring (that will be better than having to reverse down the canal for it!). Even better, I can drive my car to the boat. No more carrying everything across a lock gate. Most attractive for me though is the peace and quiet. No main roads, no hustle and bustle, the loudest noises will probably be during lambing!

There are prices to pay though. I will have to drive my rubbish to Norbury or Tyrley for disposal. I will have to see if the local post office will be as helpful as Fradley has been regarding an address. I had brilliant reception for phone and internet at Fradley but it is a lot more patchy in the wilds of Shropshire (or is it still Staffordshire? Must check)

This has rather changed my plan for this cruise. I am still going to meet my friends at Great Haywood and cruise up the Caldon. But then, instead of wandering up the Maccy, I will hot foot it back to Fradley. I'll take a couple of weeks to clear my beloved mooring and say goodbye to my friends. Then, around mid July I'll cruise back to the Shropshire Union to start another new phase in my life. Wish me luck!

Sunday 13 May 2018

My counter cultural community

Todays view from my loo....

I joined a queue of seven boats this morning for my cruise up the Llangollen, (I was 5th). The lead boat was moving slightly slower than a crawl with plenty of stops at bridges, just in case. It gave me plenty of time for contemplation.

My boating community are a strange and diverse bunch but there are several attitudes of mind that most hold in common:

Going slowly is a virtue. In fact the slower you travel the more of a 'boater' you are held to be. Rushing or trying to be first or pushing to overtake is positively frowned on. If you are in a queue, as I was, then tail gating is definitely not approved of. Rather you should leave a respectable gap so as not to put any pressure on the boat in front. And never ever rush past a moored boat as you may disturb them.

Don't do too much. People who set goals to fit in as much as possible in a day are smiled on with pity. Doing the Four Counties Ring in a week might feel like an achievement, but in the boater's mind it's just doing too much, too quickly and you risk  missing the best bits by having to keep going. In fact, probably best not to set any goals at all. That way you won't put yourself under any pressure.

Live in the present moment. It is easy to spot an anxious boater. They will use binoculars to see as far into the distance as possible. They will send their crew ahead with radio communication so that they can know what is happening around the next bend or at the next lock. It is easier for us with no crew. We have no choice but to live in the moment and trust the future to fate.

Cooperation not competition. There is no point in trying to race a narrow boat. They move at around 2 to 3 mph and are frequently held up by lift bridges, locks and the like. And the obstructions we meet are opportunities to help each other out and exchange gossip. We tend to smile and chat to complete strangers. We hurry to help; "No, let me wind that paddle for you". "You stay on, I'll close your gate". Only this morning, the boat in front of me opened the lift bridge and then ushered me through as I was on my own and he had crew!

I say these are common attitudes among boaters, but I am sure someone will point out that increasingly it's not and that it isn't how it used to be. They could be right, but among the people I mix with, in real life or virtually, this is the mindset.

So very different from common culture that holds that being first and fastest is best. That looking after yourself and your own is all that is required and that mixing with strangers is to be avoided at all costs. That setting goals is the only way to improve yourself and mooching about, having a laugh and being lazy should be restricted to permitted holiday time and is certainly no way to live your life!

I wonder which philosophy is healthier? I wonder which brings more happiness, more community, less stress? I wonder which, in the long run, achieves more of what really matters? I can only answer that for myself. That is why I am a boater.

Friday 11 May 2018

Pride comes before...

I have reached the Llangollen Canal and it is as beautiful and as challenging as I remember. The moorings are remote and plentiful, the roads are few and far between and the walks are clearly marked and wonderful. I saw a sign this morning that rather sums up the area. It was on farmland at the start of a wooded area. Painted simply on a board: 'Please walk our woodland trail'. So different from other areas where footpaths are blocked and farmers do everything they can to keep you off their land! (Mind you, I understand why when irresponsible dog owners let their pets run riot amongst the livestock).

This canal has a noticeable flow, thanks to the Llangollen feeding the Hurleston Reservoir at the junction of the Shropshire Union Canal. At some bridge holes I am almost being brought to a standstill, thanks to the water funneling through. The bywashes at the locks are very lively and I almost came to grief at one this morning.

I had cruised through Wrenbury, which, for a small village, is overly blessed with lift bridges - three in quick succession. These are a particular challenge for us single handers as the bridge mechanism is almost always on the offside, opposite to where you are encouraged to tie up your boat. So where boats have crew, they would walk across the bridge, raise it and usher the skipper through. If I do it that way I would have to swim across the canal to fetch my boat! Instead I have to find something to tie up to on the same side as the mechanism. Then climb along my gunwales (usually through bushes and overhanging trees), wind the bridge up, climb back down to my stern, steer the boat through, tie the stern to anything I can find while I wind the bridge back down and then get back on board. It is very labour intensive!

I had managed all three bridges without any assistance and I was feeling very proud of myself. I had also done three locks and several miles. I had one more lock to do before mooring up for the rest of the day.

When I got to it, I found a hire boat just going in. I tied my boat up and wandered up to find they hadn't made much progress. Why? Because they had all four paddles open in the lock and was doing their best to drain the pound! I ran to drop the bottom paddles and instructed the boaters on the correct use of a lock and what might happen if they didn't do it right. They seemed entirely unconcerned and bumbled off, waving merrily and leaving me to close their gate. I sighed and felt that warm feeling of superiority as I reset the lock and easily cruised my boat in past the turbulent bywash.

I filled the lock and, as usual, I brought my boat out to the neck of the lock where I left her balanced while I popped off and closed the gate. I hadn't noticed an innocuos length of concrete with a gap running underneath just past the top of the lock. As I pulled the gate closed I saw my bow swing slowly round so the boat was lying against this concrete. I thought nothing of it until I tried to steer the boat forward. Nothing. No movement whatsoever. I tried reversing into the neck of the lock so I could straighten her up. No. It was as if she was sitting on top of the concrete slab for all the notice she was taking of the increasingly anxious revving of my engine.

I went and inspected the length of concrete and discovered that the flowing canal was disappearing under the shelf and appearing again beyond the bottom of the lock. The strength of the flow was such that my boat was sucked firmly against the side. No amount of pushing, pulling or revving was shifting her. I felt the panic rise (despite my boat's name).

I stood back, massaging my aching back, and tried to think it through. The only way of lessening the force of water was if there was less water flowing through. So I did what I had just sneered at when the hire boat did it, I opened all four paddles on the lock so that it was acting like the bywash. After a couple more minutes of pushing with all my strength, my boat starting grudgingly to move forward. I took a flying leap onto the stern and rammed the throttle open. I shot past the concrete bywash and on to the safety of the lock bollards beyond. I then ran back to drop all the paddles before I drained all the water out of the pound!

I moored up a few minutes further on. My neck, shoulders and back are aching from the effort and the anxiety and adrenalin have left me drained. I still love this canal though!

Friday 4 May 2018

The downside of boating

There are some tasks that test my commitment to boating to the limit. Operating a Canal and River Trust self operated pump out machine tops the list. A pump out machine, for the fortunate uninitiated, pumps a few weeks worth of human waste from the tank in my boat to their much bigger tank.
This morning the operation at Market Drayton went as follows:
Get up at silly o'clock to walk the dog so I have a chance of getting to the machine before anyone is around to point and laugh.
Tie my boat up as close as possible to the machine, which means pointing my boat's nose into the bridge hole.
Read the instructions for the infernal machine. Read them again.
Attach the pumping hose securely into the hole on my gunwales, making sure the handle is closed.
Have my hose ready for flushing.
Press the button to start the pump and, with much caution, bend over the hose to open the handle, allowing the poo to pump up.
Swear, stagger backwards and nearly retch as the imperfect fit between hole and hose means poo gushes up and squirts all over my hands, trousers and boots.
Look round wildly in all directions to see if anyone was watching, fortunately only seeing a smirk on Bonny's furry face.
Finish the pump out, hose down the side of the boat, the pavement and myself.
Change clothes and wash all over.
Reverse to the diesel dock to wait for them to open and sit down with a cup of tea. Shame it's a bit early for whisky.

Thursday 26 April 2018

Effort versus non-effort.

We met Jilly and her OH (other half) and her lovely Rumanian rescue dog at Great Haywood and they were lovely!
The next day we cruised off, heading for my favourite canal, the Shropshire Union. We reached it 5 days later and moored in the exceptionally beautiful Chillington Woods.

This photo is of those woods but the observant amongst you will notice there are too many leaves on the trees for this time of year! I cheated; this is a photo taken from the last time we were here.

We stayed for a couple of days and saw Jilly and family again so just had to spend some time together in the Bridge Inn in Brewood. I had another reason for being there. This enlightened pub has set up a laundry on site. Boaters can wash and dry their large items for a mere £4.50 and it is right beside the canal. I took full advantage! I also did some shopping in Brewood before cruising to Wheaton Aston for water filling and rubbish removal. Then cruised again for another two hours before giving up the ghost!

I decided to stop at a beautiful spot on an embankment. I had to use mooring pins and the wind was lively! It played the game of pushing my boat away from the bank every time I pulled it in. There are not many times I miss having crew, but trying to hammer a mooring pin in whilst holding a rope that is attached to a boat, determined to pull you off the bank and into the water, is a real challenge for a single handed lass.

It took just a little more than the strength I thought I had, not to mention a good 20 minutes, but I finally secured my frisky boat and collapsed in relief...for about ten minutes before Bonny reminded me that, having missed her lunchtime walk, it was really time for a wee and a poo!

I am now relaxing and reflecting on the day. I realise that I am not as tired as I expected to be. Yes, physically it has been full on, but the reason I feel ok is because I didn't waste any mental or emotional energy by stressing about it. 

Normally I would have worried about whether there will be somewhere to moor near the laundry. I would worry whether the machines will be already in use when I arrive. Then I would stress about whether I would find all I needed in the small shops in Brewood. Once I had shopped, I would normally get impatient, waiting for the washing to be done. Then, once we set off I would worry about Bonny not getting a walk at her usual time. Finally I would worry about getting moored up in the spot I had chosen.

The physical exertions are nothing compared to the energy drained by all that anxiety. But I have made a pledge that on this cruise I will do my best not to fret, but instead to limit my attention to the present moment and try not to imagine what might happen next. 

Today it worked. I focused on each task as it arrived and in between just enjoyed being alive and breathing. If a worry started to gnaw at the edge of my consciousness, I acknowledged it, smiled at it and then let it go. What a relief! Physically I feel like a wreck but otherwise I feel as fresh as a daisy! Long may I practice this successfully!

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Hurrah, the sun is back

We had a windy little cruise yesterday and having to pull the boat into the side, in what felt like a gale, has left me dragging my knuckles on the ground.

Today the sun finally came back from wherever it has been since about September. We tootled to the water point and had a lovely chat with two hire boaters from London. They were pleased I appeared as they couldn't work the tap!! They hadn't figured out that if you turn the handle one way, the water comes out of one side but then if you turn it the other way... they had their hose attached to the side the water wasn't appearing from, bless.

After sorting them out and watering up myself, I cruised the very short distance to Tixall Wide where my above view from the loo is pretty spectacular. We are just having a ten minute pause before walking back to Haywood to meet up with a friend in the Clifford. I say friend although I've never actually met Jilly. She is on the same Facebook group as me for woman on the canals. I very much like how she writes so I'm sure we will be friends in the flesh as well as virtually! Watch this space...

Monday 16 April 2018

Is idleness evil?

Today's view from my loo shows this Spring's lambs gambolling in the field opposite my boat. We too are beginning to gambol after a slightly delayed departure.

I left my mooring on Saturday but stopped near Kings Bromley in order to finish the de-rusting of my roof and so I could let Bonny run off her stress. Afterwards, I was sitting contemplating my roof when I realised it was emptier than it should have been. I had forgotten my hugely useful, small, whirley gig washing line. I spent the evening trying to decide whether it was worth the two hour round walk to return and collect it from my mooring, or whether I cope without it.

The next morning Bonny and I spent our morning walk collecting the washing line. By the time I returned, my foot was starting to object so I stayed put for the rest of the day. This is one of the many advantages of being out for months, I can spare the odd day!

Today we cruised through Handsacre, Armitage and Rugeley, before emerging into the green and pleasant Trent  Valley, bordered by Cannock Chase. I moored up near Taft Bridge on a single boat length stretch of Armco which ensures no close neighbours! This afternoon I sat in the sun, whilst Bonny hunted mice in the reeds. I watched as hundreds of trucks, cars and vans snaking past, on the main road that disturbs the peace of this happy valley.

I wondered, not for the first time, whether what those workers were doing was more worthwhile or morally better than what I was doing, or not doing, on that sunny afternoon. Does the devil really find work for idle hands? Does employment confer some sort of righteousness? Am I a less valuable person because I am sacrificing money and employment in order to cruise my boat and contemplate the universe?

If people didn't work then things would not get done, taxes would not be paid and public services would not be funded. Clearly some work is definitely needed. But does it have to be so much and by everyone of working age? Do people like me also contribute something to the world by modelling a different lifestyle and another view? Would all of us be healthier, both physically and mentally if we had more time to merely be? We work more hours in this country than most of the rest of the world, developed or not. If others get by with more days off, shorter working hours and longer holidays, why can't we? Is it worth being one of the richest economies in the world if we are sacrificing our health and wellbeing on the altar of economic growth?

Are these reasonable questions or am I just trying to quieten the residue of my puritan guilt, that says unless you are suffering, unless you are working your fingers to the bone, you are NOT A GOOD PERSON!

Saturday 14 April 2018

The Big Cruise 2018

After yet another week of wall to wall rain and mist, the sun has finally made an appearance. It couldn't have timed it's reappearance better, as Bonny and I set forth on our big cruise this morning.

We will be travelling for the next four months. I was originally planning to start by cruising around the Four Counties Ring, but thanks to the canal collapsing into the river on the Middlewich stretch, that's not going to happen. Instead we are travelling up my favourite canal, the Shropshire Union. Then I am braving the Llangollen for the second time. I say braving as there are some tricky lift bridges on this canal and last time I had a nasty accident
when I fell off one.

I suspect I cracked a bone on that occasion as a few months later I broke my leg and the two bones broke in opposite directions, which is very unusual. 

After retracing our steps we plan to meet our lovely friends, Roger and Shirleyann Andrews at Great Haywood, probably around the end of June. None of us have cruised the Caldon Canal and it is apparently very beautiful, so that's where we will go. After I have returned them to their car I will decide in which direction to go next.

Today's view from the loo is only a couple of hours from my home mooring. I stopped partly because Bonny was a bit stressed and needed to run off her excitement. Also because I needed to treat some rust on my roof and this is the first dry day to get the treatment on.

I travel with two welcome additions: a new mattress for my bed, replacing a 21 year old one. This is courtesy of my aforementioned friends as a reward for cat and house sitting in January. The second addition is a lower partial denture which gives me chewing teeth for the first time since November!

I will update this blog regularly with news and pictures and the odd musing. Mind you, it is harder to write this than Facebook posts. There I get loads of feedback but for some reason I get no comments at all posted on this blog. I have checked my settings and it seems to be set so that anyone can contribute, so maybe it's just not that interesting! Nemmind, I will write it for myself.

Sunday 11 March 2018

We are back out!

It has seemed an abnormally long winter. Rain most of the Autumn, snow in December and again in March but now Spring really is making an effort to burst forth and we have sallyed forth!

Our Winter wasn't as bad as for some, as Bonny and I left the boat on 16th December and didnt return until 4th February. We spent a while step-mother visiting and then went to Devon, to my friend's house for Christmas and then  for house and cat sitting duties. So we were luxuriating in bricks and mortar for 50 days.

I worried about my boat, particularly in the cold, and missed her a lot. So I was very happy to return and find her in one piece. She didn't punish me much for abandoning her; just a couple of small leaks, easily sorted. The engine started first time, albeit with a cough and a splutter and my batteries had been well fed by my solar panel. It was perishingly cold in the boat but nothing my trusty woodburner couldn't address. It was good to know that, although I enjoyed house sitting, my boat is still my preferred home, even during the blizzards to follow!

Only a week ago we had snow drifts at Fradley Junction, but in the last few days they have melted away and for the first time there is real warmth in the sun. So, since I was due a marina visit to pump out and diesel up, I decided to make a trip of it. This morning we cruised through the fog to one of our favourite mooring spots just outside Hopwas on the Coventry canal. Bonny particularly loves it here for the wild woodland walks. The view from our mooring is the first, view from my loo photo.

We will see out the forecasted rain tomorrow here and then mooch down to the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal where there is a lovely little marina that sells very reasonably priced diesel. A couple of days at the water park before going back to Hopwas and then back home. I'm only planning to be out for a week but it will shake off the winter cobwebs.

I have my fantastic friends Roger and Shirleyann visiting in Mid April and then Bonny and I will be off cruising till Autumn. My plan at present is to go north, having been south for the last couple of years. I didn't make it all the way up the Macclesfield Canal because of my sorely foot. This year I want to do that and the Peak Forest. Also the Shroppie and Staffs and Worcester.

It has been three months now since the steroid injection and my foot has responded brilliantly. I have to do stretching exercises every day and it tells me if I have lifted anything heavy or walked too far, but other than that, I am virtually pain free and I am so grateful.

The other reason for my route is that I may be looking for a new mooring. The world is finally closing in on Fradley Junction. HS2 is already starting to have an impact, there are plans for houses to be built on the agricultural land near us and on the other side of the canal rumours of gravel extraction to begin this year. I am very grateful for the 9 peaceful years on my current mooring but I couldn't stay to see it ruined. So I will be keeping my eyes open for a new mooring, particularly on my favourite canal, the Shropshire Union. Mind you, it will be hard to beat this as a mooring!