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.