Sunday, 8 December 2013

Moored in Mill Hill

Hello folks
A number of fellow bloggers, boaters, pals and family have been in touch recently, fearful that we had drifted off the radar, as all has been quite from the world of the Cat’s Whiskers, which is not typical, as I like to blog around once a week.
It would be good to report that we have been living a quiet life here at Mercia Marina, but the last two weeks have been anything but, as we have been down south, staying in a friend’s home in Mill Hill, which is near Finchley, in North London. Our pals Penny and Bob are swanning around the world at present and asked if we fancied a couple of weeks of super-fast internet and wall to wall running water at their place. With careful planning we managed to visit 16 different addresses during the 12 days we were there, with a day off to do our washing, and even got to see our son and heir, Kevin, on Saturday morning, who was in good spirits. He even bought me a drink in The Chieftain. Now there is progress.
But more of that later. We have quickly settled into life here in Willington and my bus pass is still warm from all the activity it’s been receiving as we whizz around the county. We are also slowly getting to know odd people around the marina. Not “odd people”, you understand, but odd people!
Most are very friendly and there are a number of musicians around, so there might be some scope for some impromptu playing  on the run-up to the festive season.  Merica is not a residential marina, but there are a large number of winter moorers here, some who come back year after year, and there is a residential feel to the place. We are very happy here, and I am glad I put my foot down and insisted we came here, rather than a marina down south. I don’t get my way that often.
 At the monthly quiz a couple of weeks back the marina announced they are erecting a large marquee in the grounds on the run-up to Christmas and hope to  have a party for all the resident boaters there, the Saturday before Christmas, as well as a carol concert of the Sunday.  Evidently the last couple of years has seen a poor response to any mention of a party, but we are hopeful that that might change this year.
We have had our first visitors. Dave and Caroline came on board around three weekends ago, all the way from Gloucester, with two of their dogs, including Twix the puppy, and we took TCW out on the Sunday, for its last cruise of 2013. It was good to see them, though they have got me into “Monopoly Hotels” on my tablet now, which is becoming a bit of an obsession.
The Saturday before we travelled down south, we caught the train into Central Birmingham to see the German Market and meet up with Fred and Lisa, another “Kingfisher Couple”, who were moored close by. We hadn’t seen them for months and it was good to catch up. Fred is very practical, and I am clearly not, so it was good to ask all sorts of technical questions, while we enjoyed lunch and a couple of pints in the Wetherspoons in Broad Street.
Pat outside the new Birmingham Library and German Market in Broad Street
Our time in Mill Hill is the first time we have been away from the boat this year, and as Pat said, it was a bit like going on holiday. We rented a car from Enterprise, but they messed up our booking,  and we had a car not much bigger than a Smart Car that I had to shoehorn myself into. It was OK, but we needed to bring back stuff, especially wood, so it was a very cramped journey back.
I shudder to think how much weight I must have put on with all the meals out, and the big spreads we enjoyed. I just counted up and we visited 16 different addresses and met up with over 40 old pals and family. I also managed to squeeze in the John Lewis Retired Partners Christmas Lunch, at the hotel where I used to be resident DJ up to three years ago, so it was a double reunion.
We certainly found it a bit strange swapping our very limited living conditions with the facilities of a large, modern home, and like all good boaters we were very economical with running taps, diligently turned off all unnecessary lights and found the facility of a central heating system a bit of a novelty. In case some of you think we live in the dark ages on the boat, we do have a central heating system, as do a lot of boats, but not many of us use them as our wood or coal burning stove gives us more than enough heat throughout the boat.

Our new low-power heating solution when off the boat
And speaking of heat, we went out and purchased a couple of low-power heaters from Argos, before we set off. These were recommended to us by our neighbour Kev across the pontoon, who had used them successfully on a number of occasions. They are like greenhouse heaters and cut-in when the temperature dips under five degrees. I think we used around £7.50 in electricity running them over the period we were away and it was quite pleasantly warm when we arrived back on Saturday evening, so that’s a success and a load off our mind for when we go away to New Zealand at the end of January.
Our neighbours get into the Festive spirit
During our absence several neighbouring boats have been getting into the Christmas spirit. The two beside us, are the stars of the marina at the moment, and I have tried to get a decent photo of what they have done to get them into the festive spirit. I expect we will make a token effort, even if it’s just a mini Christmas tree.
We visited out tenants a couple of times while we away and I was glad, and somewhat relieved, to find all was well, though there are still on-going shower issues, which we are working on together. They asked if they could get an estate agent in to value the property, as they may be in a position to get a mortgage if the price is right, and are interested in buying the place. I think both Pat and I are curious to see what the property is worth so we told them to go ahead. I think of the two of them Simon is quite keen, but Liz seemed a bit reluctant. Time will tell. We are in no hurry to dispose of the property and it will only increase in value. It’s clear that prices in and around London are climbing steadily again, so we are in a strong position.
Sue & Geoff's Pod in their front garden
Lunch in "The Pod"

Malc looks somewhat surprised as the Duck is carved.
The Big Chins Xmas Reunion

So thanks to all of you who welcomed us into your homes over the last two weeks. Memorable was the “Pod” we had lunch in last Sunday in a pal’s front garden, and on Friday night all the old narrowboating team (The Big Chins) met up for a Chinese meal for the first time in ages. The ladies (The Chinettes) had a rival event at a restaurant close by. The Cat’s Whiskers is heading north next year and I think it will be difficult to sort out a long weekend away for us all, with the distances involved, but I expect we will see a few of them for a weekend or two during the season. In the photos we took last night we look like extras from “The Last Of The Summer Wine”.

Toodaloo chums

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