I opened our daily paper yesterday (the i - a fabulous buy for 20p). Anyway, I was flicking through it and came to a retirement and savings section, and bless my soul, there was an advert for one of those financial institutions we all know and love. The quarter page ad showed a dapper, silver-haired gent and his good lady, both holding a glass of bubbly, no doubt toasting the acquisition of the new narrow boat which sat slightly out of focus in the background. Above the picture the catch line said “Aspire and Realise Your Dreams”. The man was wearing beige linen chinos, and a dark blazer over a roll top sweater. He looked like Patrick McGoohan in that 60’s series “The Prisoner”.
The woman wore jaunty, flowery trousers, a stripy top and a huge grin, through whitened teeth. I tell you what: if this is what narrow boating is all about, we have been seriously misinformed.
I have a wardrobe full of light-coloured clothes which never see the light of day. I tend to wear the same blue or black jumper and jeans for as long as I can get away with it, and change my underwear when there is an “R” in the month. That’s a joke by the way. I know it’s a bit slobby but so what. We have a perfectly good shower to soak in and keep clean, but when you are poking a wood fire one minute and the next got your head down the weed hatch, I don’t think the blazer and slacks look really cuts it, do you? I have to say that Pat is a little more disciplined than me, but only just.
Well, that’s my rant for the week over with. We have both been feeling our age this week and both of us are getting over back issues. Mine rarely goes away, since I crashed through our conservatory roof four years ago. I just have to get on with it, and it’s been playing me up all week, but seems better now. As I said in our last blog, Pat slipped down our stern steps the day before her birthday and has had trouble sitting down for the last week, but she is at present, laid out on the settee, drinking tea, and looks quite comfortable.
|Pat gives the chrome on TCW some attention while in Compton|
We are making good progress as we head south and are exactly where I planned we would be when we left Trent Lock a little over three weeks ago. We are currently moored in the middle of Kidderminster, outside one of those huge 24-hour Tescos, and guess what, the local ukulele club meets in a pub just the road tonight. It’s either perfect planning or a stroke of good luck. I’ll leave you to decide which dear reader.
The Staffs and Worcester has been a lovely canal to cruise, through very bendy, a bit like the South Oxford in that respect. This is because when the canal was being planned a few land owners did not want the waterway coming across their land and James Brindley (God bless him) had to make several detours, hence the bends And that’s this week’s history lesson.
|Capt. Roger completes his daily log of miles, hours, weather and solar input|
We really liked Stafford. There are some great buildings in the town centre that span the centuries and the Wetherspoons, in the old Picture Palace, was a great find. More of that later, and Penkridge did not disappoint either. In fact all the little towns have been close to the cut and easy to get provisions. This end the sandstone cliffs pile up on one side, and several of the small towns have cliff houses or have let their homes into the cliffs.
|Inside of Wetherspoon's Picture Palace pub in Stafford|
I must say though, that the waterside pubs on this canal, are not in the “A” list and are a bit thin on the ground.
The weather still can’t make its mind up. I started writing this blog on Sunday morning. The sun was belting down and the solar panels on the roof were greedily gobbling it up. But the day before I had five layers on, plus gloves and hat, and it was cold and wet. I am getting a little tired of my soft southern pals telling me how warm it is in London and the Home Counties. However, the last two days have been glorious and sunny, so perhaps we have finally turned a corner now that May has arrived.
|Arctic conditions one day - shorts the next. What is going on?|
Despite the vagaries of the weather we have cruised most days and normally average 5-6 miles, seldom more, though Saturday we did 10 miles on a lock-free section from Gailey to Autherley Junction, where this canal meets the Shopshire Union and Tuesday was a 15-lock day - around six hours cruising from Wombourne to Kinver.
Our attitude to this boating lark is somewhat different this year to last and being more confident has meant we are more relaxed. Unwittingly we have adopted our own daily rituals and routines, on and off the boat. We both know what needs doing, and it just happens. I still can’t get Pat on the tiller though and it’s not for the want of trying.
At the weekend we had Sunday off, and stayed in Compton, which was a village, but is now a suburb of Wolverhampton, but retains a village feel. There was everything there we needed. Two pubs, a launderette, a supermarket, an off licence, a pizza place and a Chinese takeaway. Ohh, and a decent chandlers as well, so definitively a find, with good moorings.
They do find our “Estuary English” a bit hard to understand in the Black Country and I often to have to ask for things twice. It’s great though, to hear the subtle shifts in accents as you move around the country and this is slowly softening as we approach Kidderninster and Stourport - more Birmingham than Black Country.
One thing we have introduced is, whenever possible, we do not cook on a Sunday, especially if we can get to a Wetherspoons. The Sunday lunches are great value and I get a load of 50p off a pint vouchers with my CAMRA membership. We also do not travel much on Sundays. We leave that to others.
|Nosey lambs watch us drift by|
There has been a lot of awful pictures on the news over the last few weeks of dead lambs and ewes, dying in the snow, but around these parts there are lambs gamboling everywhere. Some of them are quite big now. We still haven’t seen any baby swans yet, but there have been a couple of families of tiny ducklings keeping close to their mum as we bounce past them.
Next week we will be on the River Seven. We would prefer to be on the canal system and
we are hoping there is not a lot of rain coming to raise the river levels. We will let you know next time when we will be in Worcester. Toodaloo.