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Moving on…

18 Sep

Comes a time when the right thing to do is to move on. And that’s where I found myself earlier this year. Not only had I been at my mooring for eight years – a long, long time for a dedicated liveaboard water gypsy – but I felt I needed a physical move to take me to a better place.

In April, I was at rock bottom. I don’t want to get into all that here, but suffice to say that four months of hospital/rehab/care home all took their toll. I had a lot of time to think during this period and set the wheels in motion to find a new home for Hobo, Foxy and me.

I’ve always thought I’d return to the Great Ouse system at some point. I love the Fens, the big skies, big rivers and good people. Some years back, I’d visited a friend at a super marina on the River Lark where he had a wonderful river mooring. This came to mind again now and I knew that this was where I wanted to be.

You got to get lucky sometimes, and a quick phone call confirmed a similar spot was available. And, by all accounts, this is rare. People tend to stay put and spare berths are like rocking horse shit.

After a visit to confirm all was as I remembered, it was affordable for me, and agreement from the management to take me on, I verbally agreed the terms and had transferred the required deposit by the end of the day.

Now I had something to plan for and look forward to. But could I really make this happen? Whilst my health has improved considerably, I’m still not 100% nor ever so strong, and no way could I take on this cruise by myself. I needed someone to take over when I was flagging, possibly doing the bulk of the driving and certainly working the locks.

There really was only one candidate of course – John. I can count the people who I’d trust to skipper Hobo on the fingers of one thumb. Would he be willing/able?

I’m delighted to say he was.

So, on the late August bank holiday weekend, we embarked on this cruise of 233 miles, 2 furlongs and 170 locks. Some of which we shared with the locals…IMG-20190915-WA0010.jpgIMG_20190829_141452.jpgHere is how they work. In you go…

Close the gates, wind the paddles and fill/empty…IMG-20190917-WA0002.jpgIMG-20190917-WA0004.jpgAnd up comes Hobo…IMG-20190917-WA0003.jpgLock keepers take pride in their gardens…IMG-20190917-WA0024.jpg

But out on the river it’s also delightful…

With foraging aplenty.

There was the odd swing bridge…IMG-20190915-WA0017.jpgAnd tunnel…IMG-20190917-WA0007.jpgIMG-20190917-WA0006.jpgIMG-20190917-WA0008.jpgAnd yes, there really is light at the end.

Locks on the Nene and Ouse have guillotine gates, usually electrified but some…IMG-20190915-WA0013.jpgStill aren’t, meaning that wheel has to be turned around and around and around forever, to raise or lower the gate. And that’s why I drive the boat!

Our route took us down the rivers Stort and Lea, along the Hertford Union and Regents Canal through London and up the Grand Union to the Northampton arm. Then it’s on to the River Nene, through the Middle Levels, the tidal crossing from Salter’s Lode to Denver Sluice, onto the Great Ouse and finally the Lark.

Hobo loves the big rivers…IMG-20190915-WA0003.jpgIMG_20190910_123524~2.jpg As do we. You can almost feel her joy at being in deep water…IMG-20190915-WA0006.jpgNot to say she didn’t perform well when ditch crawling…IMG-20190915-WA0001.jpgShe most certainly did – but couldn’t really get up a head of steam, so progress feels slow.

But clearly it wasn’t. It took us just twelve days, which is no mean feat. Dawn to dusk cruising largely, often not mooring up till last light…IMG-20190915-WA0008.jpg IMG-20190915-WA0009.jpgHobo’s engine never missed a beat…IMG-20190915-WA0018.jpg With no mechanical issues/stoppages/disasters. Extraordinary really, as she doesn’t get a lot of attention – apart from when John is around. He checks the levels and tightens/dresses the belts as necessary, as well as all the other tasks like greasing etc. One day I’ll have her shone up/painted to look like those engines that belong to the real enthusiasts.

We managed 27 locks in one day! Luckily, we often managed to lock through with another boat…IMG-20190915-WA0020.jpg Really lightens the load – me on the tiller holding her in the lock, while John and at least one other set of muscles set to; winding the paddles and pushing the balance beams. It’s also a great opportunity for the drivers to have a natter – I learned of a choice mooring on the Nene this way, one we’d never have found. It was up a little cut, which opened into a basin and (you guessed it) was next to a pub.

We fed the swans there…IMG-20190915-WA0005.jpgJohn and I both hugely enjoyed the journey. As each day passed, I was improving physically and emotionally as I mentally moved on from the bad place I was in during the first half of the year. The cruise itself was doing me good.

We did take a break for a couple of days, conveniently moored at the Ship Inn on Brandon Creek…IMG-20190915-WA0000.jpg John had managed to hurt his back and needed to rest it. Ironically, it was doing a good deed by helping out a 70 footer when its inexperienced crew got themselves into a bit of a pickle.

Some random pics along the way.

Little Venice I think…IMG-20190917-WA0015.jpgHorrors of duckweed on the London canals…IMG-20190917-WA0011.jpgLooks so walkable on.

Moored on a towpath somewhere…IMG-20190915-WA0019.jpgHobo nose in as we manoeuvre her to tie to that tree for a brief stop on the Nene…IMG-20190915-WA0002.jpgThe beautiful church at Fotheringhay…IMG-20190915-WA0012.jpgWhere we moored for the night and met a dear friend for a pie and a pint at the village pub. Has to be done.

Come Tuesday, we pushed on, making it to my new home a little before sunset…IMG_20190914_193537.jpgSo, here we are in situ…

Where Foxy walked the plank…IMG_20190915_121606.jpgThe views are to die for…IMG_20190913_180735.jpgIMG_20190913_180726.jpgHow’s that..!

My garden is private, perfect and full of potential…IMG_20190915_140316.jpgIMG_20190915_140309.jpgIMG_20190915_140135.jpgThough it needs a little work – I’ve much I want to do here but all in good time. Boarding by plank isn’t ideal but there’s a maintenance man here, who I’m told will build me a platform/small jetty.

I’m full of ideas and inspiration and can see how I want it in my mind’s eye. I’ll update you as it all comes together. But it already feels like home (Foxy thinks so too) and I shall enjoy adding those little touches that will make it truly mine.

First step is to collect all my shoreside paraphernalia from the old mooring. My brother, who is now a lot closer geographically, plus his mate with a van,  helped me with this on Monday.

I love new beginnings. And I love my new home.

Cruising with a cat certainly added another dimension, Foxy delighting in his new-found boat cat status…IMG_20190825_133730.jpgWorrying us at times with his innate curiosity and exploring spirit, but always entertaining and returning to his boat home.

But I think that’s another post…

PS: I didn’t get to say goodbye to all my old friends and neighbours, so if you’re among those I missed…goodbye and good luck!

Also huge thanks to those who were there for me during my darkest hours this year. It meant a lot xx

 

Foxtrot Oscar..

11 Aug

No, not the slang for a rather rude form of go away, but the full name of my new companion.

As a regular reader, you’ll know (and if not you soon will) that I’ve been hankering after a cat. Not just any old cat you understand, but a ship’s cat. One that cruises with me and Hobo, and one that is good for a cuddle.

So here he is…

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What a cutie!

Better known as Foxy, he is all of the above. Well he’s shaping up that way, jumping from the bow of my boat to the stern of my neighbour’s. He is fearless. He runs along Hobo’s gunnels, jumps on the roof and, as yet, has avoided a dunking.

But don’t be fooled by his furry loveliness. He is also responsible for decimating the local vermin population, his oh so sharp claws making short work of it. And that’s a good thing, I just wish he wouldn’t bring me the evidence by way of little gifts.

But Boatbird deals with this, as she does with the cat’s hairs everywhere, the constant ‘need’ for food, stamping on my keyboard, wrecking my furniture and the irresistible urge to destroy my sleep patterns.

He seems to come to life at silly o’clock and wants to play. He will headbutt my chin, rub his wet little nose on my face and mew relentlessly for attention. Not to mention messing up my duvet with muddy footprints…

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But he makes me smile, and comes a time when you have to weigh up what is important and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all worth it for the comfort, companionship and affection he gives. Who wants to live in a show home anyway? Not that that’s an option when you live aboard on the riverbank.

Naturally, being a cat, he is curious and dives inside whenever I open the fridge or a cupboard door…

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He can also be pretty chilled…

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Usually finding a spot where my feet or my bum want to be. We fight for my chair, he getting cosy the minute I stand up and complaining bitterly when I sit on him.

I’ve modified the vent in the door by way of a cat-flap…

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Works well. I like that he can come and go. And by that I mean go in the great outdoors, so I don’t have to provide a litter tray. There’s precious little space on board for such, and besides, I hate them.

He is shortly going to be tested, me about to throw him a curved ball. Boatbird is planning a little jaunt downriver to see how he copes with cruising. A little acclimatisation exercise. I fear he’ll wander off and get lost or be totally freaked by the moving boat and fall in – or worse.

In truth, I think he’ll love it and turn out to be a natural, probably tying the ropes, manning the tiller and working the locks before too long.

How cool would that be?

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Hmmm. Not looking likely.

Talking Toilets..

4 Mar

By that I don’t mean  a chatty carzy that natters to you while you do the business. Mind you, in this day and age,  there’s probably a smart loo available, amassing statistics and analysing your waste. Perhaps even an Alexis-type voice advising you to take it steady on the beans/brussels etc. What a dreadful thought..!

No, today I will be blogging about bogs, so if you are at all squeamish/appalled by the thought, look away now.

When I bought Hobo, some thirteen years ago, she came complete with a Thetford Porta Pottie, which I vowed to replace with a pump-out as soon as possible. A wise old boater told me to live with it a while and let things evolve. So I did and, until a couple of weeks ago, I was still using the same method, albeit a more up to date version – the Qube.

It’s largely been satisfactory and, all this time I’ve lived aboard, I’ve heaved the full tank off the boat, lugged it to a suitable tipping out place, learned how to hold my breath for as long as it takes to empty, rinsed out and cleaned. And repeat. On average, it would probably take about 5 days to refill (less when I’ve had company) so multiply that up and I’ve probably performed this task the best part of a thousand times. Scary.

The emptying process is even more of a schlep when the yard here is muddy – like right now – and frankly I’d been struggling with it. (Three months living in a house in South Africa with the flush fairy probably spoiled me somewhat.) Then one day, my neighbour  invited me onto her boat to see her latest purchase… a composting loo made in the USA by C-head.

She’s often seen me trudge, grim-faced and with toilet in tow, in all weathers and when conditions underfoot guarantee a sense of humour failure – not that there’s ever a good time to undertake this dreaded task. She thought perhaps something similar would be a good idea for me too. I was given a no-holds-barred guided tour of her facility, with explicit explanations on its workings, cost and told how easy it was to empty. (I think she’s on commission.)

To non-boaters, this may seem a little strange but, trust me, it is quite the norm for boatie folk. And, as boaters will know only too well, when two or more of us get together, it is where the conversation ends up. Always. We do talk a lot of shite.

It’s something I’d been considering for a while, but more or less dismissing it, thinking it complicated and/or messy. Not so. Boatbird isn’t easily impressed but on this occasion I was. Very. I saw with my own eyes how simple yet stylish it was…

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Image courtesy of c-head website

and how it fitted into the confines of a boat bathroom. And there was no smell at all. This would be perfect for me: no more heavy lifting, costly chemicals or worrying, when out cruising, where the next usable Elsan disposal point is.

I was so sold on the idea, that when I got back to Hobo, I was straight on the wonderweb at http://www.c-head.com placing my order. OK, it’s not cheap and, given recent expense, I should have restrained myself but it was such a no-brainer. No more dates with gross and grotty tip-outs, resulting in a happier and more eco-friendly boatbird. Anyway, that’s what credit cards are for. And I am so worth it.

The actual cost was: 599.00 + 150.00 p&p = 749.00 USD. At the current exchange rate this equated to 594.31 GBP. What I hadn’t accounted for was the import duty of £161.62, which brought the total up to £755.93 and was only made aware of this when Parcelforce notified me they would be holding on to my new loo until I paid this to them. Bugger.

It did piss me off a bit. I still don’t think that going green should cost me but that’s greedy, grabbing governments for you.

Fast forward to now and I’ve been (very happily) living with the c-head composter for a couple of weeks. It is every bit as good as I’d hoped – and more. Its footprint is actually smaller than that of the old portaloo but a little taller, which is a good thing. It looks good, dead easy to clean, there’s no smell and it’s a doddle to empty. It does come complete with a venting kit which, as my neighbour said, is really not necessary.

It is also easy to move, which is vital for my set up as it sits in front of my washing machine…

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so needs shifting on wash days. A kit is supplied to fix to the floor/wall but this is not for me. Seems sturdy enough without anyway.

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It works so well because liquids and solids are directed to separate containers…

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because, apparently, it is when the two mix that the stink happens. Wee is funnelled to a plastic five litre bottle (easily disposed of under a hedge) or, if diluted 5 parts water to 1 part urine, can be used on the garden. It’s a high nitrogen fertiliser so very good for plants. I find this needs emptying every two or three days but will need to be more often for two or more users. Obviously.

Poo goes to a plastic bucket, into a measured amount of composting medium and then, with lid back down, churned by the handle supplied…

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Clever. I’m using sawdust (free and readily available) but many other types will work: animal bedding, cat litter etc.

Extra medium can be added if necessary – when diarrhoea strikes or wee is misaimed. It is recommended that men be seated to avoid the latter. You can put toilet paper into the compost but this will fill it far sooner, so it is suggested this be placed in a separate bin for later disposal. (Mine gets burned promptly on the wood stove so really not a problem.)

When this is used up (you know when because cranking becomes harder) it’s fine to double bag and dispose of with the rubbish. Or, line up a suitable place outdoors and start a heap – should be fully composted in a few months and ready to spread on the garden.

I’ve emptied it once now – simple enough – and pleasantly surprised by the scent of forest floor. Doesn’t look like what it is and not at all noxious. It really is clever.

Another neighbour, into all things organic, wants to use it to grow mushrooms in. I’m thinking this could be marketed – extract of Annie – so the mushrooms are bound to be magic!

Tell you what was magic; that last time I tipped out the old camping loo, knowing it would be the last time – EVER!

So good, I did a little dance. Right there and then.

 

 

 

 

So long South Africa..

1 Feb

For now.

My three month stay is now a distant – yet not dim – memory…

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Glorious sunsets over the estuary

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Just as well because I need all the help I can get to blot out my return to the UK. I will elaborate in due course.

In case you were thinking it was all beer and skittles, and that I was having a wonderful time…

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The wild fires came way too close.

The aftermath…

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And I was bitten…

IMG-20181223-WA0000.jpgAgain. I always react badly.

The Mighty Uno showered me with rust…

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As we bumped up a mountain pass. It was in my hair too but the photographer saw fit to exclude this. I was not amused.

I should have known that something was amiss when I attempted to clear security at Cape Town airport. That moment we all dread when they take just a little too long in their scrutiny of your passport, escort you to a side room and then make you wait. And wait.

Turns out, in their estimation, I had overstayed by one day. This would result in a punishment of not being allowed to return for a year. And, upsettingly, declared an ‘undesirable person’. I may just frame the paperwork that indicates this…

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Form filling followed and I was sent on my way – reeling a little.

To me, the period between 17th October and 16th January represents three months. But, if you take a month as 31 days and times by three it makes 93 days. Count on your fingers from 17/10 to 16/01, it is 94 days, so technically one day over what is permitted. Seems harsh to me.

They gave me ten days to appeal, which I did – humbly and apologetically. Now I wait for the verdict.

Then there’s the weather. It’s bloody cold…

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In case you hadn’t noticed. Bad timing on my part but unavoidable.

Then there’s the hairbrush I lost on the plane – the one I bought to replace the one that I lost on the flight out. I’m really not suited to travel economy (who the hell is?) and find it impossible to keep myself and my belongings together.

My friend and neighbour, who kindly collected me from the airport, had to physically put me into his van. My ankles were swollen and my legs were constantly cramping, finally seizing up altogether.

He had lit the stove on Hobo though, so at least the boat was warm, allowing me some degree of comfort. Or, more accurately, I could collapse into the chair by the fire and begin my recovery, not needing to move further than the kettle, the loo, the drinks cupboard and eventually bed.

It takes a day or two for the boat to properly warm up, but an absolute eternity when the trusty Squirrel stove is, for some reason, not performing. It wasn’t. Struggling to draw, smoky and sluggish. Can only mean one thing: chimney needs sweeping, which means I have to let the fire go out.

Fortunately, this was before the current cold snap. Could have been so much worse.

I imposed on the good nature of another lovely neighbour to scrape the flue. Much easier for him to jump on the roof and wield the heavy metal tool designed to do this job, given that I was still in a state somewhere between semi-paralysis and total collapso.

Shame I forgot to close the door of the stove though, resulting in every surface inside my home being coated with filthy black soot.  Now I have to clean. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the fire box still wasn’t performing. We wrestle with the baffle plate, which did seem to improve things. A bit.

Several not-quite-warm-enough days later, I discover that the blanking plate had dropped off the back of the stove…

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The real culprit.

There was now a hole in the stove, possibly releasing potentially fatal carbon monoxide fumes!  I had no choice but to let it go out again, in the hope I wouldn’t wake up dead the following morning (even cooling embers will emit CO gas).

Again, my neighbours rallied and helped me out with an interim heat source…

IMG_20190124_151209~2.jpg Natty eh?

Clearly I survived, and was soon off in search of help in the form of an effective temporary fix, which was successful and still holding. Thank goodness. I will of course order a new one.

While all this was going on, my car spectacularly failed the MOT and some ******* had clouted one of the door mirrors and left it dangling.

Choose your favourite expletive here. I used several.

Need some cute animal pics..?

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Thought so.

Fast forward to now and all is well once more. Back to tropical temperature, warm and cosy. Car back on the road and I am returned to what passes as normal for me body-wise. Unpacking done, laundry sorted (not done) and order – more or less – restored.

Spot the driver…

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Spooky.

I’ll end the SA saga here for now, except for the occasional pics that pitch up periodically from our own correspondent.

My posts will be returning to more boatie things for a while and the next one will be on our favourite topic: toilets.

I have ordered a new one…

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It’s a composter!

No delivery date as yet but hope it’s soon. Can’t wait to tell you all about it.

One more thing… I want a boat cat. Anyone know of one that needs a lovely warm, cosy home/loving owner?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wind in the Willows..

22 Sep

You, as precious and perceptive readers of this blog, will have noticed how windy it’s been of late. You know only too well. That is, of course, if you are in the UK.

It has played havoc with my hairdo…

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Not that you’d notice.

Had a go at ripping my car door off its hinges and swung my TV aerial round a full 180 degrees. Considering this was held by three wire stays and numerous magnets, was no mean feat.

What you may not know is that four trees have fallen into my little river over the last few days, at least two of which have blocked the navigation. Fortunately, none has done damage to boats/people, not that I know of anyway.

Unlike this poor couple..

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What a nightmare. One that I have, yet again, escaped by the skin of my teeth.

In case you didn’t know, I moor beneath a very old, fragile looking willow. One that looks like it would fall over if I exhaled sharply in its vicinity. One that disintegrates when pushed against as Hobo leaves her mooring, and one that creaks in the wind at the best of times.

It’s more wobbly than whomping…

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But, against all the odds, it remains upright.

When I say upright…

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As upright as its ever been in all my years of living underneath it. We (that’s the royal variety) do what we can to keep it from being top-heavy, as you can see here.

One the whole, I don’t like the wind. Not if I’m outdoors. But if I’m all cosy inside, I love to watch its effects on the water, the plant life, wildlife and the clouds. I like that it rocks the boat, making windchimes out of my hanging utensils and the crystals in the window sway and sparkle. It reminds me of how safe I feel  (despite the threat of my feeble tree) and gently rocks me to sleep.

This year’s wonderful summer has come to an end and we’ve slipped into autumn, even though my diary tells me it doesn’t become official until the 23rd.

The autumn equinox…

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Nights are drawing in already, leaves are beginning to fall and it’s all downhill from here. There’s definitely a whiff of wood smoke in the air – there is around my boat anyway. I’m not one to tough it out till it’s ‘acceptable’ to light one’s fire. The first hint of a chill in the air and the old Morso gets fried up.

And yes…

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It’s blazing away now.

I’m mostly only burning those 99p a pop faux logs at the mo, usually more than enough to take the pain out of a chilly morning/evening. Last night though, I did add a proper chunky real log – one foraged by the John last year – and regretted it a couple of hours down the line, having to open doors/hatches to avoid overheating/paint blistering!

We’re not yet at that burning 24/7 stage and, hopefully, I’ll miss most of that.

Did I tell you I was going to overwinter in South Africa..?

Sure I did.

 

 

I do love a list..

12 Sep
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No, not that sort of list.

A list of what to do – must do, could do, should do. A list of what to take – must take, might take. And a list of what to get – most items here followed by a question mark at this stage. All growing by the minute…

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As a wannabe spontaneous person, I guess that’s a huge fail. But, in my defence, I am planning a three month excursion to the southern hemisphere and have to be prepared…

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Third world. Don’t you just love it?

I’d already started the process of renewing my passport, it expiring in September, not realising I’d need it so soon but knowing I couldn’t not have a current one. Turns out this was a good move as, whilst the online renewal process is agreeably simple and speedy, the courier designated to deliver the finished product wasn’t.

Living on a boat/being of no fixed abode has its challenges and getting one’s mail is one of them. No friendly postie for me. I collect my mail from the Post Office, which works wonderfully well. Usually. When it comes to ‘signed for’ items, life can get a little complicated and, depending on the individual tasked to unite you with your precious/ID sensitive package, can be fraught with frustration. And it was. Very.

After several abortive attempts to meet with this (non) delivery person, I did what I had to do and arranged to collect from the local DX depot. Simple. Well it was, if you don’t count the numerous phone calls to the passport office (@ 35p per minute on the mobile) and those to the courier.

Still, mission accomplished. I have my new passport…

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Shame it’s not the new British version as promised with the exit from the EU but hey, let’s not go there. And no, you’re not getting to see the photo!

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Another item on the list (must do) is to ensure my drug dependency medication needs are catered for, so a trip to the surgery and pharmacy required. Now sorted and another box ticked. Going well.

Well it was. Opposite the chemist shop in Sawbo central is a trendy little boutique with all sorts of desirable things in its window…

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It’s the kind of place that never displays the prices so I’ve always avoided it like the plague. Like they say, if you have to ask…

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But yesterday there was a couple of lovely, loose fitting, linen frocks hanging outside with big red sale tickets attached. End of season and just the job for my upcoming trip. My ‘what to get’ list includes ‘clothes?’ and, before you could say that now was the perfect time to bag a bargain, I’d been sucked in and handed over the plastic to pay for both of these. Plus a (not in the sale but just what I’d been looking for forever) top.

But, no guilt here. I am so worth it.

The ‘get Hobo ready for winter’ list has morphed into a ‘prepare Hobo for abandonment’ list. And I do feel guilty about that. But, willing neighbours/friends have offered to be there for her/care for her, so I am reassured on that front.

My immediate neighbour will take on the role of looking after of my feathered friends…

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Feed the birds, tuppence a bag. For the Disney fans among you.

Takes me back. In another life, when I had the pub, we hosted many impromptu jam sessions. All sorts of musicians would turn up, from far and wide, and strut their stuff…

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As time went by and sobriety went out the window, the local musos would progress from classic rock and blues and turn to Disney. They’d belt out tunes from the likes of Mary Poppins and Jungle Book and we’d all join in. We all knew the words. Let’s go fly a kite… I’m the king of the swingers... and many more. Good times.

Ha ha, got you! Bet you’re all singing now!

Back to the future, said neighbour will take me to the airport too – probably just to make sure I’m really gone. Seriously, I’m always blown away by the kindness of boatie folk, yet never surprised. Looking out for each other – it’s what we do. And I love that.

Something I must do, sooner rather than later, is to order some currency…

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Right now, I can get almost twice as many Rand to the Pound than when I last visited.

My trip may be a month away but, as you know, time waits for no man. Or Boatbird. Before we know it, I’ll be winging my way to sunny South Africa, ready or not for what is to come.

Get to it BB.

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Get those boxes ticked.

All Good Things..

25 May

Seven weeks of living out in the watery wilderness has come to an end…IMG-20180507-WA0000.jpg

We’ve chugged up and down this lovely little river, moored at various middle of nowhere locations, walked the towpath and discovered the footpaths through the adjacent park and got to know the regular dog walkers and runners.

We’ve heard and seen all sorts of wildlife, some – scarily – on board… IMG-20180426-WA0001-1.jpg

The web of a funnel web spider in Hobo’s engine room!

A more conventional outdoor web…IMG-20180507-WA0001.jpg

A toad on the towpath…IMG_20180510_103931.jpg

Mother and chicks…IMG-20180514-WA0000.jpg

Cows…IMG-20180418-WA0002-1.jpg

All of these will benefit from zooming in.

There was a snake on the towpath on one of my walks but it was far faster than me, slithering into the safety of the long grass before I could even think about grabbing the camera.

No amount of zooming will help here. Another of many of my marvellous pics that got away.

John calls this Queen Anne’s lace…IMG-20180513-WA0000-1.jpg

But has always been keck to me.

It (and the nettles) has grown madly while we’ve been out. Hobo was visible from way back at one spot but completely hidden a few weeks later – at first scaring the hell out of me, thinking she’d gone on without me!

We’ve even carried out some exterior boat maintenance.

Before…IMG-20180328-WA0000-1.jpg

After…IMG_20180525_150424.jpg

It’s far from finished but I’m happy with the story so far. Making a start, as always, was the hardest part. The rest I can do in bite-size pieces – as and when – starting with the hand rails I think.

Now I’m all for a bit of serendipity and synchronicity, and my next little tale is certainly a bit of both. John got chatting to a dog walker one day who introduced herself as a cat magnet. Knowing I was hankering after a feline friend, he called me to come talk to her. She’s involved with re-homing rescue dogs and cats and said she’d keep me in mind.

That very evening we had a visitor…IMG-20180510-WA0000.jpg

She was very hungry and, after wolfing down a can of tuna, became very affectionate and soon made herself at home…

Do click on any image to big it up.

She helped me with the writing…IMG-20180429-WA0007.jpg

Making the bed…IMG-20180429-WA0001.jpg

IMG-20180429-WA0002.jpgA bit twitchy at times…IMG_20180428_133325.jpg

But mostly quite content…IMG_20180428_220630.jpg

She slept at the bottom of the bed every night, waking me by pummelling my stomach and head-butting me at an ungodly hour each morning to be let out.

She spent the day playing in the woods…IMG-20180509-WA0002.jpgIMG-20180509-WA0001-1.jpg

Returning intermittently to feed – and I think to check we were still there. We speculated as to where she’d come from. She seemed very au fait with boat life – had she jumped ship? But surely her human would be looking for her – but no evidence of this: lost kitty posters, concerned person calling her name. Nothing.

I messaged the “cat magnet” but it was not her doing. A puzzle.

And a dilemma. It seemed wrong to leave her when we left and wrong to take her with us. Such a gorgeous creature…IMG-20180429-WA0006.jpg

The cat – just in case you were wondering!

As ever, doing nothing proved to be the best plan. One day, a chappie pitched up looking for her. He’d been moored nearby and noticed she was missing when he’d moved his boat further downstream. We told him we’d met her and said she’d be in the woods so he called her but to no avail.

I then called out “come on then”, she appeared from nowhere, avoided her human and jumped aboard Hobo! It was like she had made a choice. Well they do say cats choose their owners. Of course, I had to let her go. It was heart-breaking!

But that’s not the end to this story. John walked down the towpath that night and saw her on the roof of “her” boat…IMG-20180504-WA0001.jpg

It wasn’t until he arrived back at Hobo that we realised she had followed him. It was quite a way and in the dark. Unbelievable!

Kitty-cat moved in with us again. Double dilemma – now that we knew where she belonged. Again, any decisions were taken out of our hands, she was collected once more and her boat moved further away. I  am resigned to never seeing her again but live in hope that the “cat magnet” will come up trumps and find me one of my own. Till then though, I miss her. Every day.

And so, all good things have come to an end. John’s gone, cat’s gone, I am back on my mooring and looking forward to the next time. Maybe in the autumn.

But I have lovely memories of a lovely time, lovely little trip, lovely company and lots of lovely photos.

And a cupboardful of lovely cat food.

 

 

 

 

 

The Daily Grind..

24 Apr

The long overdue maintenance begins…IMG_20180418_172747.jpgIMG_20180418_172441.jpg

It’s horrifying to see how much rust is bubbling under the paintwork so just as well we’ve made a start.

We’ve established a system. I go first with the chisel and expose the problem areas, then John follows up with the noisy machinery and grinds it out. This is followed by painting on a rust treatment, which is wiped off the following day.

It was great when we started  and can’t think of a better place to be to do this job. But now looks cold and mis for the foreseeable. Typical.

I’ve now sourced the cream topcoat, so all we need now is the weather to behave again.

We chug up and down in the meantime; for fun, a break or to load fresh supplies and unload rubbish/waste.

Harlow Mill is a good spot…IMG_20180418_113517.jpgIMG_20180418_113627.jpg

With a water point too, which is handy.

There’s also a useful little road that gets the car right next to the boat…IMG_20180418_113637.jpg

Perfect.

But the main road is too close so we choose not to stay here. Easy peasy – swing her round and back upstream to somewhere quieter…IMG-20180419-WA0000.jpg

That’s more like it.

You’ll notice the chimney is smoking. Thought we’d moved into warmer times but, sadly, fire-free days didn’t last long. One day to be precise!

Still, at least the towpath has dried up nicely now – I’ve even shed the boots.

One woman and her dog…

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There’s also a lovely lady who comes by picking up litter. Good job that woman.

Also plenty of joggers/walkers and a cyclist or two. A few boats come by – but not many.

Sunrise…IMG-20180419-WA0001.jpg

Sunset…IMG-20180418-WA0000.jpg

It’s a hard life.

We nipped back upstream yesterday evening, through the lock to where we could turn her – I did a splendid job if I say so myself.

Back into the lock, which is the ideal place (close to where our cars are parked) to load new gas cylinder and offload a full carzy, which I shall drive to where my home mooring is and empty it in the appropriate place -just in case you thought it went in the river or down a lucky rabbit hole…

rabbit hole

I wouldn’t!

Very useful operation and a lovely little jaunt.

Bit short on pics this week but we have been busy. Hope to soon be able to update you with some impressive paint job type shots before too long. Will of course depend on the weather.

But here’s three John took early one morning for me to stitch together…

m. mist 2_stitch

Back soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Down River..

14 Apr

Sunset lock didn’t disappoint…IMG_20180403_194110.jpgIMG_20180403_193402.jpg

 

IMG_20180403_193524.jpgStunning.

So we had an extra night there.

Next morning saw us back on the mooring to top up, tip out and replenish supplies. More coal and gas was loaded aboard and I (reluctantly) shopped to fill the fridge and cupboards.

A couple of days later we were off again. You can’t beat that feeling when you slip the mooring – freedom. And a sense of not knowing where you’ll be at bedtime.

Through a couple of locks, stopping just below the second one. There’s great parking close by for the car but, sadly, poor phone signal and no WIFI.

We’re now moored further down at a lovely middle of nowhere spot…IMG-20180412-WA0000.jpg

Did you spot Hobo?

Ah, there she is. Such a welcome sight when you’ve trekked from the car…IMG-20180412-WA0002.jpg

Yep, there she is…IMG-20180412-WA0001.jpg

Home sweet home.

With good phone and WIFI but can’t tune the tele in. Still only a 15 minute stroll along the towpath to the same secure car parking. Who needs the TV anyway?

You might notice that we have had a go at the roof and side. Big improvement but more to do. Mostly John’s good work because I had to go and see a man about a car…

IMG-20180410-WA0000.jpg

Such a sad day.

Bye-bye Battlestar, my trusty steed for twelve years. Gone. She was still going strong but wouldn’t have gone through another MOT without costing me a small fortune, so I did what I had to do.

She fetched more than I thought she would – looking after me till the end. I now have an older smaller job that goes like a rocket, a mere 41k miles, showroom condition – a bargain at just £200, including 12 months ticket, new battery and full tank of petrol!

Brothers have their uses.

Back to Hobo, from the little bridge just downstream…IMG-20180410-WA0001.jpg

I’m liking it here.

I have good neighbours…IMG_20180414_153549.jpgIMG_20180414_153618.jpg

And the garden is great…IMG_20180414_153647.jpgIMG_20180414_154048.jpg

With extra water features.

Of course, the towpath is a bit muddy in places, but then so is my home mooring.

Being Lea Valley, there’s lots of walking roads…

IMG_20180414_153755.jpg

And the dog walkers are friendly.

Today the sun came out and it was really warm. What a treat. I even let the fire go out – first time for months!

It’s lovely to be able to roll up the canopy and open up all the doors and hatches. I was even moved to sweep up the mud, mop the floor and shake out the mats. It doesn’t seem worth the effort when it’s raining all the time. Try as much as you like, taking off the boots in the cratch, the mud and muck still sneaks indoors.

I’ll be spring cleaning next!

We are planning on doing some bodywork to the old girl while we are out. I’ll show you what we get up to when we get to it.

She’s done really well, considering her last proper paint job was twelve years ago. 2006 was a big year for me – new home and new car.

I want to get her gleaming again and have a cunning plan for some snazzy new signwriting. All will be revealed in due course.

But now seems like a good moment for a G&T…

pexels-photo-616836.jpeg

Cheers!

 

Making the Most..

3 Apr

Such a lovely spot…IMG-20180330-WA0002.jpg

Especially at silly o’clock with the mist. Needless to say, John took this one while I slumbered on.

We decided to stick around for a day or so. Can’t beat a bit of secluded riverbank. So quiet.

Apart from the odd train…IMG_20180330_153730.jpg

But that’s being in the south east for you. The railway is never far away.

Zoom in a bit…IMG_20180330_154728.jpg

A solar panel. The John, a firm fan of foraging, fancies harvesting this for Hobo’s roof. Bit naughty though.

I am planning to go solar this year – the bought and paid for variety of course. Be a great addition to Hobo’s equipment. Free power – why wouldn’t you?

This is Woody Woodpecker’s wood…IMG_20180330_153817.jpg

Just to complete the picture. See that rain bouncing off the river?

We studied the weather forecasts and decided that Sunday would be a good day to move on. No rain as such on the cards, so we headed upstream.

Just three locks and a steady tootle saw us in Bishop’s Stortford by early afternoon.

There’s a sanitary station there; not the nicest of places but handy if you have a full carzy and/or an empty water tank. Water was OK so I dealt with the former – get all the good jobs me!

To be fair though, John does do the carrying before he beats a hasty and leaves me to do the deed.

Not far from here is the end of the navigation, requiring the boat to be turned. There is a good winding place there, although you end up turning against the flow (quite strong after all the rain) so easier said than done.

There’s also mooring here and a waterside café so you are in the spotlight a bit – at the mercy of the dreaded gongoozlers who, no doubt, would all do a better job!

John drew the short straw but did a damn good job without incident, accident or damage – always a bonus!

Bishop’s Stortford is a nice little market town but, after being in the middle of nowhere for several days and nights, felt like the big city, so we skedaddled right out of there.

The Stort is a fairly unbusy river at the best of times but we’ve barely seen another boat on the move…IMG-20180401-WA0001.jpg

And that suits us fine.

Easter is traditionally the time for boats to start moving again but I think the weather has kept them away. Inclement weather has its uses.

Hobo is running well and we are having a lovely time. Believe it or not, the weather is dry as predicted and not too cold, providing you wrap up well.

The obligatory lock shot…IMG-20180401-WA0002.jpg

Well, Boatbloke has to do something while he waits!

The river must be quiet – we actually managed to tie up above Tednambury – aka sunset lock. A spot that’s previously always been taken…

IMG_20180403_141504.jpg

An old picture from a previous cruise, taken from inside the lock, illustrating the reason we call it sunset lock…

100_1594

So this is where Hobo has been sleeping.

And this is where the John has come to rest…IMG-20180330-WA0003.jpg

A tropical flower.

And me? Mixing the G&Ts of course!

John went off to work this morning and spotted this on the towpath…IMG-20180403-WA0000.jpg

Local wildlife.

My immediate neighbours are a little less delicate…IMG_20180402_153257.jpgIMG_20180402_153232.jpgBlimey, another boat…IMG-20180402-WA0000.jpg

Bloody bad timing! They are going to get very wet working that lock in this lot!

My aft view…IMG_20180403_141545.jpg

And portside…thumbnail_IMG_20180403_161032_stitch

Tomorrow we will slip through the lock and, providing we can still get under the very low railway bridge, be back on Hobo’s mooring in half an hour or so.

Supplies will be replenished – coal, gas, groceries etc – then we’ll be off again on Thursday/Friday.

See you then.