Thursday, 24 December 2015

A Winter's Tale

Well, tis the season to be jolly, and all that stuff. It’s Christmas Eve morning here in Derbyshire, and as Pat is off to treat the local birds to a Christmas scoff at the feeders at the end of our pontoon, I though it time I extended my digits and brought our blog up to date.
Living with surrounding woodland we get lots of chaffinches, long tailed tits, nuthatches, and water fowl, of course

After three months down in Hertfordshire, I think we both thought we might struggle a bit on the boat when we returned to it in October. We’ve done winters on board before but as the days draw in, and the weather becomes unpredictable, your options in a long, thin, boat become somewhat limited. Well, that’s what we thought, but things have panned out very differently. For we are having a great time. The social scene here is now in full swing and Louise, our neighbour, who fronts the committee, and lives on a boat opposite, has co-opted me to be involved.
Great to meet up with some of  our boating pals for a Christmas lunch in Nottingham
Unfortunately I have lots of ideas, many of them gleaned when I did this sort of thing for a living, but our lifestyle means we do not have the time to see them through, which is frustrating for Louise and for me, but I fitted in a quick trip to Marston’s Brewery last month with a few of the moorers who like a drink and we both try to support as many of the social events as possible. Clubs now exist for photography, crafts, books and music on a regular basis and we have a traditional skittles night following in early January at a cracking old pub in Burton-Upon-Trent which I am really looking forward to. We’ve made a number of new friendships since we arrived back, several from down `Sawf`, and it’s been great to see all our old pontoon pals again. We are both now convinced we took the right decision to come back to the marina and make it our home, whether it be on “The Cat’s Whiskers” or in our new waterside lodge. But more of that later.
The Cathedral Quarter of Derby looked very festive as I made my way to
the Ukulele Club last week.
Our Canadian pal Vaughn, who has been here on and off throughout the year, finally returned home a few weeks back and we had a bit of a reunion before he left. It was 1975 all over again, just for one evening. Loads of old pals came along and we had a great night. Then, when we were half way up the M1, we heard the awful news that one of my oldest and dearest pals Roy had passed away. Vaughn, Dave and I were going to see him the weekend before, but his wife Geraldine had told us he was too poorly to see any visitors and we all feared the worst. Pat and I did get to see him a few times during the summer and I am so glad now that we made that effort to travel down into North London whenever we went back to Hertfordshire to do so. Roy had been valiantly battling prostate cancer for nearly 10 years. We had known him over 40 years and we really were `joined at the hip` during the 1970s. He was a big part of both of our lives and we both miss him dearly.
Our boating group, the BIG CHINS pledges allegiance to our mascot on our 2012 outing. Roy is third from left.
Happy days
We now have a firm date for when our own lodge will be delivered. It’s 13th January. As we fly off on the 22nd and it takes them around a week to finish off inside and connect all the services, we have around a week to get the place furnished and ready to hand over to the marina for letting before we depart for New Zealand. Well, that’s the plan, anyway.
We went up to Bakewell on Tuesday where it’s nearing completion. Most of the inside has been completed. All looks well and Pat particularly likes the kitchen area. It looks a bit smaller than we were expecting, but it was all cluttered up with wood, trestles and workmen.
Our new lodge. The wood burner is going in the corner that they have started tiling
Pat discusses if the roller blinds she has bought in John Lewis will fit in one of the bathroom

I’m back playing with the Derby Uke Club on alternate Wednesdays and play in a smaller group in one of the village pubs (we have three!) on Monday nights. Then, once a month, on a Tuesday evening, the Marina’s own music group meets. There are some good players there which makes keeping up with them challenging and very enjoyable. We had our first live outing last Saturday at a Marina `do` and went down well.
The Mercia Music Group `rock around the Christmas tree`

Kev joins us later today and will be staying a few days over Christmas. We have football at Derby County on Boxing Day (Come on Fulham) and are going with our pontoon pals Ian and Sarah from `Popsey Bell` a few boats up. We are looking forward to the experience. I can’t see Fulham winning, but as long as it’s entertaining I won’t mind. We are hiring out one of the lodges for the duration, so should be a good Christmas.
Toodaloo folks and we hope you all have a happy and healthy Christmas

Roger & Pat

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Roger & Pat move on

Sold up and ready to go
Living on a narrowboat was a three-year project for Pat and myself, but as it turned into four years, I started to get a bit restless. Not that I didn’t still enjoy life on the waterways, the places we visited, and the countless experiences we enjoyed and endured, but it didn’t have quite the appeal it had when we cast off from Trent Lock in April 2012.

The first mate though, is still keen as mustard, so a compromise had to be reached. We have found one, and this weekend we move into a new phase of our life, which we are both excited about .

It’s meant us selling our home of the last 27 years, but after nearly four years of it being rented out it was not the wrench I thought it might be. When we walked out of the door on Friday and shook the new owner’s hands, I felt none of the emotion I thought I would, and I can be very emotional at times.

Pat wraps our wooden cats up to go into storage

And supervises `Johno`, the removal man

That's the conservatory cleared
We’d been back in Welwyn Garden City on and off since mid-August, and I really enjoyed  pottering around my workshop/garage, the luxury of cooking in a large kitchen, of `hot and cold` running electricity, and being able to blast out any music I wanted without bothering Pat. She set a time-line for the move and by and large we have stuck to it. It has been a tight schedule though. Part of the sale has gone to help finance our new home in New Zealand, which we are buying with our daughter and her family. They move into the leafy, three-storey house, quite close to where they are now, on 1 December, and that date was fixed. I won’t go into the ins and outs of it all, but it lead to many sleepless night as we attempted to get the house decorated, viewed, get the price we needed, and get it completed in time. We’ve made it by the skin of our teeth, and we will be living from January to June on the ground floor of the house in Karori.

The New Zealand home we are buying with our daughter and her family

We've got the ground floor. See you there!
Being back in Welwyn Garden City also meant we saw a lot of our son Kevin, who is in digs in another part of the town. Since we took to the canal, Kev has shown a strong disinterest in our aquatic life. I think he still thinks we chucked him out when we left Welwyn Garden in 2012.

But in the last three months his life has completely changed, and, in part, we have been able to help. A new job which he loves, a new car, and in the next week or so, a new flat, up the road in Stevenage. He is a lot happier with his life, and in turn, so are we.

Son Kev and his new Seat
We had a good clear out when we left the house  in 2012, and stored a limited amount of our furniture, clothes, books, etc, that we wanted to keep, in the garage at the end of the garden. I had a week before we left brutally throwing stuff away, which included hundreds of photos and slides that dated back to the early Seventies. I found the ones below in a plastic box. They are when I finished my printing apprenticeship in central London in 1972, when in line with tradition, I was `banged out` and covered in printers ink and urine, though not dragged through the city streets on a sack barrow as some of predecessors enjoyed.

Up on the room at The Furnival Press, Holborn, May 1972.
(Wish I still had that waistline)

It’s been great to meet up with all our pals and my old work colleagues over the last two months and apologies to those we missed. If I had stayed working until 65 I would be retiring in a few weeks time (birthday alert) and that seems unimaginable now.

So we are now back on `The Cat’s Whiskers`, in our adopted Mercia Marina, and we are looking forward to getting back into marina life and meeting all our pals. We’ll be onboard until early January, when our lodge gets delivered. It will be called `Hazel Lodge` and will sit on the other side of the marina. All being well we will have two or three weeks to fit it out before we hand it over to the marina. They will rent it out as a holiday let while we are away. Once back from NZ we will cruise on `The Cat’s Whiskers` for three months and then move into the lodge for the autumn and early winter, before the cycle starts again.

Pat gets a little carried away after we decide to name our new place `Hazel Lodge`

And I thought this retirement lark was supposed to be relaxing.


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Back On Dry Land

Back in Great Ganett,  Welwyn Garden City. Please excuse work trousers and slippers
I don’t know when it is that you admit to yourself you are getting old. I’m reliably told it’s when you stop caring about who or what is `Top Of The Pops`, or these days I suppose it’s who is `Top of The Downloads`. Somebody else suggested that you are officially old when you get to top of the stairs and wonder what on earth you climbed them for, but I’ve been doing that for years!
I mention this, dear reader, as I have really felt my age this last week or so. It was not that long ago I could slave in the garden all day, knock a few shelves up in the garage, and finish with a hour or two of decorating, but those days are long gone, I am afraid.
My poor old back aches, as do all of my muscles. Pat seems to be fairing a bit better than me, but she is suffering too  with pains in her neck and shoulders. So I am having to pace myself, though most of the work requiring stretching and bending over for long periods is almost behind us now.
As you can see, our life has changed, yet again, and we are back in our house in Welwyn Garden City, preparing it for the `For Sale` sign, that is to be erected any day now. They have taken all the photos and it should be on ‘Zoopla’ and ‘Right Move’ in a day or two if you are interested.

Kev prepares the hose prior to jet washing the decking
 Our tenants moved out of the house a week before we arrived, and left it very tidy. They cleaned all the carpets and the kitchen was immaculate. There is damage, which needs to be resolved, but all in all we couldn’t really complain. One thing they weren’t was gardeners, though they had spent some time in the back garden attacking the climbers and pruning a couple of trees. I spent the first four days in the garden, while Pat started to attack each bedroom. She seems to have grown a paint roller out of the end of her hand.
It was a bit strange coming back home, and for several days we had no furniture to sit on, just a couple of garden chairs. We had a new TV delivered though – a real swish Smart jobbie, that connects to the internet, but no knives, ironing board or saucepans, though that has all been resolved now and Ikea delivered us a sofa to sit on, which was nice of them.
Not much in the living room except for new TV, sofa and a feather duster!
We do have a bed though. This was dis-assembled when we left three years ago and put in our garage, and I was a bit concerned that with no instructions I would struggle to put it back together, but with Martin, our neighbour from across the road, we had it back in place in an hour or so.
We hired a car for a week and that has gone back now, so it’s buses everywhere for the time being. I did visit St Albans Ukulele Club at `The Hare & Hounds’ last Sunday and there is a club in Welwyn Garden that I was planning to cycle to later this evening, though it is currently bucketing down, so I might have to revert to getting a taxi.
A very enjoyable Sunday evening spent with the 'Ver Players' at the Hare & Hounds, St Albans
Our son, Kev, had been to visit us regularly, and has been kept busy with a paintbrush. It’s been good to see a bit more of him, and I think he has enjoyed being back in the house, which was his home for as long as he can remember.
I've tried to keep away from John Lewis. There are still a lot of old pals there who want to stop and chat, but I never get any shopping done. I'm slowly getting round to seeing a few of them outside the branch and last Wednesday lunchtime I met three of my old work pals, Mike, Linda and Rachel in a restaurant in town for lunch.
Second-floor reunion with Rachel, Mike and Linda, my old John Lewis colleagues
So it’s now full steam ahead. Every room has been painted and the house is looking pretty good. The Estate Agent believes we will have no problem selling the house for what we want, and quickly, which is encouraging, as the builders want to get on with our lodge, and Erica and James in New Zealand want to move by 1 December and need our funds, so there are lots of balls in the air at the moment.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Now You See Us....

The ladies enjoy a leisurely Sunday afternoon drink at the Boardwalk, complete with new hats purchased that afternoon
I walked down our pontoon on Sunday morning. It was a bright, sunny start to the day: the ducks were quacking, the fish were rising and above me swallows were swooping across the water, searching for their breakfast. We are moored about half way down our pontoon and we pass about 20 moored boats before we step back on dry land. As I slowly meandered past, coming out of three of these boats was the unmistakable sound of `The Archers` on Radio 4. “My my,” I mumbled under my breath. “We really are back in middle England”. And we really are. Our marina can’t be far from the centre of England, which is near Leicester, I think, and it felt good to be back in familiar territory and catch up with all the news from our pontoon pals. It’s a bit strange as well, though. For this is the first time we have been here during `high summer`, so the place looks quite different from November and March, when we are normally in residence. And it’s only a fleeting visit this time.
Not one of mine, but a great picture of our new Boardwalk at the Marina
We hurried back to the marina a bit quicker than we really had to as A: the weather conditions were favourable, and B: there were a few days of wind and rain following these favourable conditions. After several long days we tootled back into Mercia last Saturday week, and slid back on to our usual mooring. Most of our pals, however, have now moved beyond the little island that lies in the centre of the pontoon. We are considering a move down there on our return from New Zealand next spring - if we pass the `vetting process`.
Lining up the boat to enter the marina from the Trent & Mersey Canal
It’s also nice to be back on shoreline power again. I thought our batteries might play up this year and we would be forced to replace them. It’s reckoned that the life of a bank of batteries is three to four years. Ours do get a good bashing, and I am conscious they are not particularly expensive ones. However, that may be the reason they are still charging well. Because we are constantly using them and keeping them topped up.
I must say that I am delighted with the Moonraker Digital aerial I bought in Milton Keynes at Maplins a few weeks back. It really works well in the marina (we got 162 channels when we re-tuned), but the phone signal is a nightmare. The 3 network is really good across the country, but bloody useless here in Willington. So it will have to be a change to Vodaphone next year. Pat’s already on that network. Sorry if you have tried to ring my mobile and its gone straight to voicemail, but that’s what seems to happen when the phone is on the boat. At least we are now getting a good 4G signal from our little Mi-Fi dongle, since I put a dedicated aerial on the roof. That was a good investment, especially when we want to Skype New Zealand.
Getting back last weekend also meant that I could go along to Derby Ukulele Club’s fortnightly meeting last Wednesday evening. I do enjoy going there – the repertoire is quite varied, the pub brews its own beer and they always make me very welcome.
Full house at last week's Derby Ukulele Club
An excellent pint of Salopian Hop Twister at our village local
For the first couple of days after arriving it was a merry-go-round of signing bits of paper and then signing a few more to secure the lodge we are having built at the marina. The concrete base is now down and the tails of the services are in. Pat thinks it looks very small, but it’s an illusion.  All the lodges have woodland names and we have decided to call ours Hazel Lodge. (Somebody joked we should consider Yew Tree**, but I don’t fancy midnight raids from the boys in blue!).
Pat inspects  the patch of wet concrete where our lodge will sit
I think we are now more or less committed to having an overall rustic theme. There will also be some tartan influence. On Tuesday we visited `PineLog`, the place where these lodges are made. It’s not that far away from us  – in Bakewell, to the north of us, deep in the Dales. We wanted to finalise where things were going, the finishes, taps, appliances etc. Pat’s been very busy with pencil and graph paper, and she knew exactly what she wanted and where everything is going, even down to getting her steel bath. We travelled there in the Marina’s newest acquisition. Mercia has signed up to `Co-Share`, a car-sharing organisation, and a small Toyota is now permanently on site for moorers who just need to use a car for an hour or two to hire. We signed up on-line over the weekend and were one of the first hirers, if not the first. The car was probably made just five miles from the marina, as we can see Toyota’s UK factory to the north of us.
Pat works on the latest plan of the lodge

The marina's new `share` car for moorers. I think we might have been the first to use it
Tomorrow, Wednesday, we pick up a big estate car from Enterprise, load it up with tons of stuff and on Thursday morning say goodbye to The Cat’s Whiskers for a while and head back down the M1 to Welwyn Garden and our house in Great Ganett. It will be a bit strange returning to live there after all this time. It’s getting on for three and half years since we left. Then it’s very much full steam ahead. Pat has got a schedule, and expects daily targets to be reached! We need to pull the garden round and re-decorate the rooms that need it before the end of the month, when it will go up for sale. This has become a bit more urgent since our family in New Zealand found the perfect house for us all and want to buy it with our help. They would like to be in by Christmas so we can’t hang about as they need our cash. We will be taking the ground floor and they will take the other two floors. Looks a great place in a super location, not far from where they live now. It might all fall through so we are keeping our fingers crossed.
Back in the spring when we moved back into the marina we got involved in creating a `Willow Spiral` in one of the meadows between the marina and the canal. I mentioned it on the blog at that time and put some pictures up of us digging and creating this feature.  All those who contributed were encouraged to write a poem or some verse to leave behind, and a new interpretive board has recently been erected beside the willow and our verse is featured, along with all our pals. We had no idea about this until we stumbled across it at the weekend.
Planting the Willow Spiral back in the spring
The new interpretive board
What it says.

So here we go again. More goodbyes, but we will be back before the year’s end and I am convinced that next year we will be spending a lot more time here in the marina then out on the canal next, especially once the lodge comes on line. Time will tell. Toodaloo

For those of you who occasionally read this blog overseas
*The Archers is a radio serial that has been going on the BBC since 1952

**Operation Yewtree is an ongoing investigation into Child Abuse in the UK, set up after the Jimmy Saville revelations.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Adventure, not Dementia

There was a programme about caravanning on TV last night. We watched it, as a lot of gadgets designed for the caravan market, can be useful on a narrowboat.
One enthusiast described his love of travelling around the country as `Adventure, not Dementia`, which we both thought rather summed up our approach to this gypsy lifestyle. But our itinerant, off-grid existence is almost over: for this year anyway. Our next blog will either be from our moorings at Mercia Marina or from our house in Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire.
It’s been a busy old week for us. We normally cruise for two to three hours a day, and travel just a few miles in the process. But since we left Banbury last week we have clocked up nearly 80 miles, with an average speed of 2.8mph. Now that might not sound very fast, but that includes waiting at locks as well, so we have not hung about. We even had a rest day on Sunday, when rain was forecast, but never materialised, and we stayed put in Rugby and re-provisioned.
The Greyhound at Hawkesbury Juncion, where the Oxford meets the Coventry Canal
The weather has been very mixed but we expected it to cool a little as we headed north. We’ve swapped `Look East` for `Midlands Today` on TV and we tune in every evening to see what `Shefali`, the local `Weather Girl` forecasts for us.
On Monday we saw another `Cat’s Whiskers` on the North Oxford Canal. We’d met the owner of this boat a couple of years back, and lo and behold, we swung round at Fazely Junction (Tamworth) this morning and there was another `Cat’s Whiskers` - one we had never seen before. The boat was much the same age as ours and the hull was also built at the same place as ours. David and Ann were very welcoming (they follow our blog) and we both clambered over each other’s boats while we had a coffee with them, in `Cat’s Whiskers` mugs. I hope we see them again. It would be fun to have a `Cat’s Whiskers` boat rally somewhere.
Ann models her  Cat's Whiskers limited mug
Pat with David and Ann on their Cat's Whiskers at Fazeley Junction

When we started cruising again, back in May, I decided to start re-writing my book on Welwyn Garden City where we lived for 35 years. The book was published in the mid-eighties and was written on an electric typewriter, so I have no digital copy. With the town’s centenary coming up in a few years, I thought the time might be right to bring it up to date and see if the original publisher of the hard back might be interested... I am still awaiting a reply. It’s been a big job – around 60,000 words and needs a lot of work updating it. We sold around 6,000 copies when it was in print and it went to two editions. I reckon there is scope for around the same number, but time will tell.
Rog finishes off the digital manuscript for his History of Welwyn Garden City
We are currently in the tiny village of Hopwas, near Lichfield. Not much here apart from two pubs opposite each other, on either side of the canal, where we are moored. So I’m not sure which pub to patronise this evening. What a decision.
Sitting between two pub gardens, The Cat's Whiskers, rests in Hopwas
It seems our daughter Erica and son-in-law James, have also got the moving bug. We are currently getting regular e mails with attachments showing suitable homes for us both to share in the Wellington area of New Zealand. So, it’s exciting times for both of us.
So we are now just two cruising days away from our marina. We then have to pack and say goodbye for several weeks while we move down south, re-decorate the house and prepare it for sale. But whatever happens, I have to return to Mercia during the last week of September to move TCW to Trent Lock, 10 miles down the canal, to have the bottom blacked and some other remedial work done.


Tuesday, 14 July 2015

About Turn in Banbury

Because Pat and I have now done so much of the canal network we are often asked which our favourite waterway is. I am rather reluctant to answer this as it really all depends on the weather when we do it. Hence I liked the Leeds and Liverpool as we had wall to wall sunshine most days and didn’t care for the Gloucester and Sharpness, where it rained every day and was grey and miserable.
A very rare picture of Pat helming up the Napton flight of locks on the South Oxford Canal
This was re-enforced this week when we cruised down the Southern Oxford canal for the first time in three years. Back then our climb up the nine locks at the Napton flight was made with water overlapping the lock chambers  flooding the towpath, as well as falling in great torrents from the sky. It was a thoroughly miserable day but this time it could not have been more different. A still, sunny day, with rolling fields in the distance and the bleating of sheep that seem to be omni-present on this waterway. Because the canal follows the contours of the valley it is very windy, swinging left and right and you are constantly seeing sights that you saw 10 minutes before but on the other bank as it loops around. 
Somewhere near Fenny Compton

You get to see all sorts of wildlife on the canal system
On Saturday we got to Cropredy. Some of you might know this `chocolate box` village, as it the site of the annual Cropredy festival that features` Fairport Convention` and loads of other guests, which has been going for donkeys years. It’s  generally folky, but I notice this year they have `Level 42` playing and last year `Chas n Dave` were on the bill so not that folky.

Cropredy Lock
There is also a new marina at Cropredy and we have two pals, Barrie and Helen, who moor their boat `Midnight` there, who we first met on the Kennet & Avon three years ago.  Last time we visited, the place was just muddy tracks and the basin was empty. Now it’s fully functioning, full of boats, and we were invited to an owners barbecue on Saturday night. It was a bit nippy, but they made us very welcome and we were able to repay the favour and took Barrie and Helen out for Sunday lunch in the `Brasenose Arms` in the village. Evidently Brasenose College in Oxford, owns a huge swath of land round here, as does the other major Oxford colleges, or so we are led to believe.

Barbecuing at Cropredy Marina with Barrie and Helen
Next stop, five miles down the cut is Banbury, and were planning to spend a few days there. We know the town quite well and it is very `boater friendly`. But in the last few days everything has changed and we now have to get back to our marina in Derbyshire in three weeks as our tenants in Welwyn Garden City are moving out and we need to move back in. I reckon the journey would take about two-three hours in a car, but three weeks is the reality in a narrowboat and that’s pushing it. It’s 92 cruising hours!  So we will have a day and a half in Banbury, then it’s back the way we came on this twisty, windy, beautiful canal to Braunston, then north to Nuneaton and Rugby, on to Tamworth and then back on the Trent & Mersey at Fradley Junction through Burton-On-Trent  to Willington.
Our mooring under the footbridge in Banbury Town Centre
(The two boats behind us are also moored at Mercia Marina)

Part of the very attractive Banbury Town Centre
Our tenants leaving early is actually good news for us as we want to get in as quickly as possible to take advantage of the weather and get the place looking spick and span, before we put it on the market in September, so we need to get a wiggle on.
It is going to be strange to be back in our house again. We have hardly any furniture and our living room will consist of a small 14inch TV, two camping chairs and not much else though we do have our bed in our garage. We might have guests though, for our pals Penny and Bob, who have also sold their home in Mill Hill, might be homeless for a bit and move in with us. They also have some furniture we could use to decorate the place.
We keep well, though one of the disadvantages on this canal is the horse flies. You don’t really notice them on your skin until they have bitten you, and they are not keen to let go. We just need the weather to stay settled for a bit to get some miles under our belt.


Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Back On The Main Line

Pat & I enjoy the Hertfordshire sunshine

There is an old Monty Python sketch where an actor called Arthur Jackson (played by Ian Idle, I think) is being interviewed about a new film he is appearing in but all the interviewer wants to know is why he has two sheds in his garden, and starts addressing him as Arthur `Two Sheds` Jackson, which slowly infuriates Mr Jackson. When we got married we had two sheds in our garden and a number of my pals would refer to me as `Roger Two Sheds`.

I was reminded of this last week when I realised that not only have we got three TV aerials on the boat but now we have three hose reels. It’s not that we are obsessive, but I do agree it’s a bit over the top, especially as I am always moaning about the lack of space we have on board TCW. I didn’t consciously go out to acquire said hoses (they were donated), but I guess deep down I am a bit of a hoarder.

Well, I suppose the big story of the last week or so has to be the weather, and summer has certainly arrived with a bang last week. Pat does not like cruising in extreme heat or going out during the heat of the day, and I do sympathise, but it doesn’t bother me too much. However, living in a steel tube is very different to bricks and mortar, and once the boat is hot, it retains that heat. At 10pm on Wednesday night, our thermometer in the saloon was still showing 32 degrees. By then we had decamped onto the tow path and sat chatting to our neighbours until around 11-ish when it got a little more bearable.

Some of the Aylesbury Ukulele Club at chucking out time. One of the best clubs I have visited
We left Aylesbury last Saturday morning and decided to share lock duties. Pat is a very capable helmsperson, but she doesn’t like passing moving boats, which are as rare as hen’s teeth on the Aylesbury arm, so she had an easy cruise. I managed about seven locks, and then ricked my back and I am still getting over it, a week later. Before we left I went to Aylesbury’s very good ukulele club in The Hop Poles – a great pub and some really good players. The picture shows the hardcare members still there at closing time.
Then we pushed on to Leighton Buzzard and got on to the Tesco mooring and did some shopping around the town and a couple of sirloin steaks in the local Wetherspoons, which were remarkably good as well.

This chap was doing a bit of `gongoozling` from a bridge on the Aylesbury Arm
The rest of the week we have spent creeping through Milton Keynes and  spent the weekend  moored at Cosgrove, right on MK’s northern  border. It’s a village we know well and enjoy visiting. I must have cruised through Milton Keynes, from Fenny Stratford in the south, through to Cosgrove a dozen times at least, both on TCW and on hire boats from Leighton Buzzard, so I know the eight-mile stretch well, but I am never disappointed, when we cruise through. The whole stretch is one huge  linear park; the planting is neat, and sympathetic to the waterway; the houses that border the canal for part of its length are interesting and varied, and while you often hear the traffic hurtling by, above you, as you pick your way under the myriad of road bridges you encounter, the canal has a very peaceful feeling.

The Great Ouse Aquaduct close to Cosgrove
View of the Great Ouse from the viaduct

These chaps normally fly off as you get close but this one stood his ground
We hired a car again over the weekend and visited my old pal Roy and his good wife Geraldine Saturday afternoon in North Finchley. Roy is pretty poorly, but is out of hospital now, and seemed pretty chipper, though the drugs he is on meant he often drifted off. Then we went to  St Albans for a barbecue with John and Lorraine, who not only monitor our post, but are really part of our family. John is the brother I never had.
Not quite Jamie Oliver, but it tasted OK
The following day we went to visit my step-family in Potters Bar. Gary had been awarded a BEM in the Queen’s birthday honours and was celebrating that, his birthday, and his retirement from working at the Palace of Westminster for nearly 40 years. We had not seen that side of the family for several years, and it was good to catch up.
Gary wears number 4 at his `investiture` party
An evening stroll through the countryside. The canal is behind the trees on the left.
This morning we took the car back and turned the boat north. We are a couple of days behind on our schedule, but will catch up by Thursday when we get back to Braunston and turn on to the South Oxford Canal. We plan to cruise down to Cropredy and Banbury and then `wind` and start the journey back to the marina. The forecast is for unsettled breezy weather. Looks like summer is here at last!