Friday, 19 July 2013

Baked in Berkhamsted

It’s been seven days of “firsts” on the Cat’s Whiskers this week. Our thermometer in the saloon topped 30 degrees for the first time on Saturday – it actually hit 32: we moored with pins for the first time this season (in fact I had a job finding them), and I was assailed by our first female topless boater on Sunday (topless male boaters are 10-a-penny, I should add).
A sunny day approaching Marsworth

The weather continues to dominate what we do and the speed we do it and the incessant heat has slowed us down considerably, both lethargically (is that a real word?) and in our progress in nautical miles, but we are enjoying this prolonged period of hot weather and the comings and goings of our pals keeps us very much on our toes, now we are less than an hour from our spiritual home in Herts.
It must be said though, a steel tube is not the most eco-friendly material around to live in. It retains the cold in the winter and absorbs the heat in the summer. Fried eggs cooked on the roof anybody?
While moored in Leighton Buzzard last Tuesday and Wednesday we entertained an old work pal, Sue, her husband Geoff, and her brother David, over from Oz. They have just bought a water-side property on the Ouse near St Neots, complete with a small cruiser on their own finger pontoon mooring. Great to see them and it looks like they will be in New Zealand when we are there next March, so we plan to meet up, if at all possible.
The following day, another work pal, Colin, my mentor and collaborator in all sorts of mischief in John Lewis, joined us for an overnight stay and was delivered and collected by his Partner Stuart.  I think Colin really enjoyed himself. He thought he would be claustrophobic in the boat but was fine. He spent a lot of the time sketching. He is a very good artist (Member of the Royal Academy) and we hope that eventually we will be able to put something on the wall of TCW with his name on it.
Colin looks for inspiration on a sunny evening (or is that perspiration!

Waiting for the potatoes to boil. Stuart and Colin with the First Mate

We’ve done a fair few miles since we left Trent Lock in March and the old gal was due for an oil change. That’s  the boat by the way! I was very reluctant to tackle this on my own. Last summer, while in Banbury, I had all sorts of problems unscrewing the oil filter which is in a difficult spot on the engine block. I am not at home around engines, but a know a man who is, and he is a keen boater as well, cruising a number of times on TCW, so we invited my pal Paul and his lovely wife Sharon up for the day on Sunday, and dangled the carrot of a Sunday roast, if he would help with the oil change.
It’s a good job he did. I would never have managed to twist myself into a position to turn the filter, which had to be done with a belt strap attached to a torque wrench. Poor old Paul. He was bent double and baking hot.  What a job. Thanks “Thomson”. We later had a “spiffing” lunch in the “chocolate box” village of Aldbury in The Greyhound. The engine sounds just that bit sweeter now.
In the queue to fill up with water near Marsworth.

For the next three days we  moored in Berkhamsted, so we are now firmly back in Hertfordshire. We were here last autumn and I know the town fairly well: well, I know the pubs pretty well. The Rising Sun, right on the lock, featured on last year’s cover of the” Good Beer Guide”, and there are several others I felt were worthy of my patronage. Berkhamsted also has its own totem pole, a throwback when the block of flats surrounding the statue, were once a wood yard and the owners commissioned the pole from British Columbia.
The "famous" Berkhamsted Totem Pole

We spent the best part of three days moored in the town, opposite a park with weeping willows brushing the water with ducks and swans swimming around. It was quiet (apart from the trains) and 100 metres away was a Waitrose, so it couldn’t be a better position.
This weekend is the big Inland Waterways Festival , being held this year in Cassiobury Park in Watford. We plan to go (I hope to get a replacement hat) so the plan is to go halfway to Watford, and moor at Apsley, just past Hemel Hempstead, and stay there for the weekend, if we can. From there we can get to Watford by bus or train, and another old Leisure pal from John Lewis, Claire, who works out of John Lewis in Watford lives close to the canal, so we hope to see her and her fella over the weekend as well.
But tonight I am off to a classic waterside pub, The Three Horseshoes at Winkwell, about 50 metres from where we are moored, where the local ukulele group are having a “thrash” tonight.
Roger prepares himself mentally for the Ukulele Thrash and the average Charles Wells beers

Toodaloo chums. Until next time.....

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