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Reflections..

27 Dec

100_0886Good name for a boatie blog.

But this isn’t that; it’s just what I do at this time of year – me and millions of others I suspect – reflect on the year that’s passing.

I hate to be negative but 2016 hasn’t been a great year, one way or another.

I lost a brother.

Countless celebrities lives ended – we lost such a lot of talent in 2016, many of whom were great inspirations of mine. I suppose we tend to see them as immortal.

Several of my friend’s husbands have been unwell, some having received that diagnosis we all dread. Another friend has suffered throughout the year with infections that the antibiotics struggled to kill. They eventually manage this and now he has to face surgery for renoval of lumps from his chest. And a very dear friend of mine is sruggling with hairloss – most distressing.

I wish them all well for 2017 and good luck with their treatment

And I received a dodgy diagnosis of my own: something called Scleroderma or Systemic Sclerosis – a rare auto-immune disease – which is incurable and needs careful monitoring and management. At least it’s nothing common! Rare = interesting to the medical profession, so at least I’m getting plenty of attention.

It probably won’t kill me but then again it might.

Then there was the trip to South Africa, which saw me in hospital for three days on intravenous antibiotics to treat a nasty chest infection – picked up on the aeroplane I suspect. Not quite what I had hoped for and competely putting the mockers on the holiday. That said, I haven’t smoked since so some good came out of it.

And on coming home, to add insult to injury, the wheels really fell off…

100_2930

The wheels bloody well fell off my carzy carrying trolley. Bugger. However, I should soon take delivery of a new, improved and generally much butcher version. Pics on next post.

Then, the chimney I’d ordered (partly to cheer me up and partly as a Christmas present for Hobo) didn’t bloody fit…100_2935

Double bugger. My fault of course – being a girl misinterpreted the measuring instructions. Easy mistake-a-to-make-a.

Still, the lovely man I ordered it from will replace it (even thought I’ve used it) with the right size for just a small fee and the cost of postage. It’s a company called Smokie Joe’s up in Derbyshire and they produce some pretty spectacular chimneys and cowls – IMHO. First seen on another boatie blog – thanks Steve.

Will post pics of the correct chimney and cowl, once received and fitted… you’ll be impressed, promise.

2016 has been a funny old year, politics in particular: Brexit. Trump. Corbyn. Strikes.

But my friends, be happy and look to the skies…100_2928

Keep the faith.

Things can only get better..

6 Nov

While I do my time – three days and nights – at the Plett Mediclinic, John continues with a much-modified plan and sees our friends onto their aeroplane bound for Blighty. He then returns as far as Knysna (about a half hour away from the hospital at Plett) and stays over at friend Rudi’s place, just outside the town on the road to Rheenendal.

I’m due to be discharged the following day around noon so John duly pitches up to collect me. John settles the bills I’ve racked up (because I’ve managed to get my cards frozen due to consistently entering the wrong pin no – I really wasn’t well) and then I’m free to go. Free is not the best word to use here mind; my stay was actually extremely expensive. But of course I am worth it and, not wishing to critisize our wonderful NHS, I wonder if they could have cared for me so well and in such a timely manner. Besides, I am hoping the insurance will cough up (how very fitting) once I get the claim in.

So, I’m out, feeling much, much better, though perhaps a little more mortal than normal. Final diagnosis was a chest infection and not pneumonia so am thankful for small mercies.

We head once again for Rudi’s, via a pharmacy at nearby Sedgefield to collect my mega amounts of muti, which should keep me going.

Rudi is a very talented chap. He made these…100_2779100_2781

Such workmanship. Stunning.

It’s all in the detail…

As these insets show. Love ’em.

But his first love is sculpting and he’s really churning it out now. His current favourite subject being his Great Dane Ziggy…

Incredible. As ever, click on image to enlarge.

And here’s the real thing…100_2886

Ziggy, in the flesh, more a small horse than a dog.

We overnight and spend the next morning here, a great visit, then it’s off again to PE.

The ever-so-special Evelyn takes it upon herself to look after me…img_20160923_093734431_hdr

All part of the recovery programme. Also making my breakfast, coffee and biscuits and anything else I need. I want to take her home with me.

John reads about solar powered cars that are travelling from Jo’berg to Cape Town via Port Elizabeth so this we have to see. We assemble ourselves at the beachfront car park where they’re due to pitch and wait. It’s blowing an absolute hooley (typical of PE – AKA windy city) so our walk on the beach was a little worrying – I’m well wrapped up but afraid I might be blown away!

We’ve no idea what to expect but are truly blown away when they start arriving…100_2808100_2806

They’re quick!

And on display in the ‘paddock’…

100_2813This one was our favourite…100_2810

More practical, with space for two seats and panels inside…100_2812

A Polish entry.

You got to love this one though…

An old Beetle with a random solar panel strapped onto a roof rack..hee hee.

Some team action…100_2799

Re-charging…

And the innards…100_2805

Not sure about the driving position…100_2804

And these things travel on the road!

Hell of an entourage though – horns, hooters, flashy lights – real African style.

Speaking of African style…100_2785

This epitomises Africa really.

We saw this on the way to Sundays River mouth, which turned out to be very special indeed. We were charged a nominal entry fee – enough to keep out the riff-raff – and after a bit of a drive…100_2829

There was this…100_2832100_2833100_2834

100_2825Almost otherworldly.

Easy to think you were at the seaside…

100_2827100_2826

But no, it’s a river mouth…100_2860Special eh?

It’s a huge site with walking trails, picnic/BBQ areas, pool, kids area, holiday cottages, fishing and so much more. Probably best to let the pictures do the talking for a while…

And I adore the Prickly Pear…100_2869

Look like big flat feet with lots of toes…100_2851

Toes that burst into flower…100_2876

Wish we’d been a bit later, when in full bloom.

But needed to be earlier for the Aloes…

Just past their best before date.

A heron before John drove at it…100_2835

And after…100_2836

And this is Kudu dung..100_2875

Apparently.

Sundays River…100_2874

A great place.

This has been our transport…100_2840

An ancient Toyota Venture.

And this…100_2879

Is where I want to live.

At the End of the Day…

14 Nov

The end of this day…100_2389

Looked a whole lot better than the beginning.

A beginning that saw me – wellies on and hood up – squelching through the mud down at dog-dirt. In the rain. It was that wet sort of rain, falling steadily, just as I was off to my little early morning job. Nice.

I have no picture of this morning. Not inspired to capture this particular element as I was being attacked by it. And it was before 07.30 and I’m really not at my best then.

To make up for that, here is another shot of last light tonight. Ever so slightly different view…100_2390

From my front door.

Nothing more than that really. Just wanted to share the moment.

Walking on Water

7 Jul

Hobo, the John and BB are now back on the riverbank and once again floating/walking on water. So to speak.

Marvellous. All is as it should be in boatbirdland and life carries on as (I almost hesitate to say) normal.

I may have told you that John is doing a little work on the farm here and, being multi-talented as he is, his daily tasks vary enormously. Just the way he likes it.

It could be anything from rowing dinner across the river…010 (2)

 

012013015To the Highlands that live over there…017

To pulling a boat out and up the slipway…IMG_20140628_103816

And parking it. Somewhere amongst all the other projects that live on the hard.

Or it might be building a donkey shelter…002

Very friendly donkeys who just love their new shelter…IMG_20140703_185331

Which doubles as a scratching post it seems.

Or dog kennel/run…025

This is his first; the second even sports a porthole. They just get better and there’s more to build. A career in canine architecture.

All made from old wood that has accumulated here over the years. John loves to work with old wood and is making good use of everything that can be found here – sometime he’s re-cycling parts of old wooden boats that came to rest here.

I like that thought – their lives to continue and remain useful, albeit in another guise.

And BB?

Just the usual and when I’m not out at work I’ve been sky gazing…001_stitch 002

009Been some interesting ones of late. Incredible.

Feeding Swannee River…017018015016

He will also take food from your hand, quite gently, but a little tricky to photograph.

Or practising Pilates. Or strumming my guitar – or trying to.

Or cutting the nails of my left hand in order to be able to hold down the strings. Yes, I’ve sacrificed a very handy set of (fast-growing) tools to this cause so I must be serious about it.

BB has also been tending the garden…004

Which has been a picture, with the flowering beans and marigolds.

Sadly, the radishes pretty much all bolted. Shame as they are my current obsession and I go through 9-10 supermarket packs a week! Will keep trying.

I’ve eaten the first of the courgettes…006

Yummy and more to follow.

And the broad beans look ready now…005

The colours have been glorious…009

Just waiting for the nasturtiums to do their thing…014

They’ve started…013

012Funny, I thought I bought red ones.

And Gerry, as ever, stands proud on the bow…015

And his brother…010

Trailing from the roof. Waiting for a neat John- style box to live in.

Red Hot Chilli Peppers…011

For John.

Loving the old clay pot (a slag-heap find) complete with moss.

I’ve also been watching the little birdies…017

Which of course do a disappearing act the minute I even think about thinking about switching on the camera. They have been here though – trust me, I’m a boatbird – now we’ve sussed out how to magpie-proof the fat balls by putting them behind bars.

Does anyone know what this is…?100_2226 100_2227

Not just an ordinary dandelion. Seen at the seaside.

Or this…?IMG_20140627_142334

A most unusual poppy, sprouting magnificently from the muck heaps.

All that AND I’ve managed to put in a few hours on the little boat – MAINSTAY/TITANIC/GYPSY/PHOEBE whatever, still can’t choose. Pics and progress report to follow in the next update. Suffice to say that she’s coming along and proving to be a super, comfy, functional space that is very… John.

Speaking of concrete boats…

A very good friend of mine informed me that there was a community of concrete boat liveaboards at Burnham-on-Crouch. So, always hankering after a visit to the Essex coast, off we trotted by way of research.

Never one to give a bum steer, my old mate came up trumps again.

Though they were all on a completely different scale to our own little version, there was something about them… 100_2222

Individual…100_2224

100_2217 100_2223 100_2220Rustic…100_2216

This one had gorgeous gardens…100_2221

Fore…100_2219

And aft…100_2218

And charming…

100_2215A work in progress with tricky boarding. From instantly hating it, this one has become my favourite. Don’t ask me why.

Take a closer look at that jetty…100_2215

The more observant ones among you may have noticed that not all these boats were concrete – the odd steel one having snuck in.

We had hoped to pick the brains of the occupants but saw no-one about. Must have all been passed out inside out at work. It was a Wednesday afternoon; I suppose most good folk would be.

We spotted another project…100_2225

Beached across the water.

We’d also wanted to see where the Chelmer/Blackwater joined the sea so, after a quick bit of smartphone googling, we headed off to Maldon. A lock-side pub called to us so we sat awhile there before strolling along the beautiful, clear river, taking in the different craft moored there, the wildlife and generally breathed it all in.

Aaaah! Lovely day out.

Back at the funny farm, I’ve made a fabulous new feline friend but more of that in the next post.

Oh alright then…

008

Just a taster.

 

 

Bottoms Up!

30 Jun

Hobo has a very nice bottom. It’s official.

Three weeks ago now, we had the old girl pulled out of the water to have her bottom re-blacked. The last time this was done was four years ago now (and four years before that, just before I bought her). This is probably twice as long as recommended but, I’m happy and relieved to say, that she has fared well – despite mental pictures of lace curtains that haunted me as the day approached.

But none of that – she is fine and in very good shape.

Her first two ‘outings’ were at Welford’s dry dock where I believe they did a splendid job. This time, Welford being so far to cruise to when you are constrained by having to go out to work, it seemed favourite to make use of the facilities here – ie the slipway with its bomb trolley, as John calls it, and the  excellent workmanship of Andy and Jess.

We’ve witnessed their handiwork on many occasions; business here picking up no end since they took on this service. No surprise really as they do a brilliant job.

I was at work when they decided to pull her out and couldn’t wait for me to get back – time and tide waiting for no man (or even boatbird it seems)  – other boats already lining up to take their turn. So I authorised John to skipper the operation to drive her up the slipway. Not that I had any fears on that score; just a bit miffed to miss the event.

Perhaps as well. I can turn into a real old woman when it comes to Hobo’s well-being. And driving into the yard to see her sitting safely atop the trolley on the slipway was a huge relief…003

As Jess made a start on scraping off the sludge…001

Andy pronounced Hobo a very well made boat and her hull in great condition. Music to my ears.

I always thought she was a good boat but there’s nothing like hearing it from someone that knows about these things and is totally unbiased.

They set about grinding her back to the metal, observing strict health and safety regs of course…011

Even the, now eight year old, anodes had stood up well…010

But I decided to add four new ones…008

As I didn’t think they’d go another four years.

On closer inspection, there was one place that caused concern, this being on the waterline where the red stripes around the stern…004 (2)

As much as I wanted to keep this traditional cream over red design, I conceded it would be prudent to lose this to further bitumen. Really quite nasty pitting so best get rid.

Protection over cosmetics every time.

And here it is gone…007 (2)

After all, I can always re-instate it at a later date if I feel so inclined.

Actually, I’m quite liking the green stripe that has been used for masking – called frog tape and apparently brilliant.

On the bow too…009 (2)

We shall see. More work to bring the superstructure up to scratch first though.

I’m getting more and more ideas for decoration and I reckon, by the time Hobo is tiddled up enough and ready for some artistry, I shall have a plan.

The truly marvellous thing when it comes to slipway versus dry dock is that boatbird can still live aboard while work is carried out, courtesy of some giant steps…002

The noise and dust is a bit of a pain but that stops in the evening so not all bad. I do struggle to walk half sharp when she’s not floating though. Feels so weird.

We were so lucky with the weather – the whole three days were glorious, sunny and, most importantly, dry. Well done, for once, to whoever arranges the weather. Just check out that sky…023

Not forgetting the good old digger that pulled her up and kept her there…024

My rudder and propeller. Before…009

And after…008 (2)

Minus the tangle of wire/weed/whatever.

The team in action…001 (2)

Supervised by the John…002 (2)

Looking good now the paint is going on.

Notice which gender isn’t standing around/watching/chatting?

That said, they both grafted furiously. Indeed, once we saw how hard they worked, any guilt at not having done it ourselves (and saving loadsamymoney) simply evaporated. We conceded we are just too old disinclined to undertake that level of physical effort.

A view from afar…

018

Because I can.

There’s even a short/boring/vaguely amusing video of Hobo as she comes off the slip – I was present for this – but I’m too mean to upgrade this site so it can’t be shown here. Maybe I’ll just post it on fishface instead.

There was a bonus too. My kitchen sink has been bloody useless decidedly inefficient since day 1. Any waste drained (or not) into the u-bend then into a thinner pipe, which actually went uphill – I may have mentioned this before – a right royal pain in the arse.

Being on the hard was the perfect time to work on her so we did just that. With Andy’s advice and a borrow of his tools, John drilled another hole (eek) in Hobo’s hull (lower and larger than the previous one) to take a 38mm skin fitting, this being provided by a kind neighbour who just happened to have one going spare. This then linked to a larger hose, pointing downhill, we did away with the u-bend altogether and BINGO – the water now actually drains away. Quickly.  Along with any gunk I happen to carelessly throw down it.

And John has plumbed it in such a way I even have more under-sink cupboard space, which on a narrowboat is back of the net.

All in all a pleasant experience. And you can’t always say that about routine maintenance.

 

 

Hills, Views, Caves, Stones, Bones and… a Space Turtle?

2 Mar

Our roving reporter is on the case again, sending more shots from his latest visit to the the west coast of South Africa.

They went walkabout into the wild and wide open spaces…100_2720_stitch

Around and about the area where Geoffrey currently lives and works.

They went up in the hills…Southern skies lodge from the hill opposite

And above the Rooibos tea fields…rooibos 1_stitch

They walked and climbed in the sweltering heat, which he said reached a staggering 47 degrees C on occasions, swimming in reservoirs to cool off.

John said he thought it was a bit hot!

They kept an eye open for caves, knowing the signs and getting a feel for finding them…100_2813

Large…bushman's cave

A bushman’s cave.

And small…caves, large and small

Complete with bones, this one. Click to enlarge and have a poke around.

They had a sleepover in one of them…100_2804

Cosy.

A room with a view…

100_2779Especially on a misty morning…cave 2_stitch

Wow.

But sadly no paintings to be found.

Been said John’s a bit of a caveman. Like father like son, I’d say.

Geoffrey douses the fire…

dousing the fire

Where they cooked up sausages and drank  beer. No stomach churning bush tucker trials here, though it’s hardly glamping.

There’s lots of these…100_2761

And these…100_2774

Not sure what either are called but some are found only in this area.

And here’s the space turtle…

Rocks eroded into wierd shapes, space turtle

Or, if your imagination is a little jaded, rocks that have eroded into weird and interesting shapes. 

I don’t expect there’s too many of these about. What do you see?

Speaking of rocks…100_2493

A rare collection of treasures…Nature table R

I imagine the bulk of these were collected by the boys but if I know John, he will have had a hand in a few of them.

He loves all that archaeological stuff. Hand axes, digging stones and so on. John just has a knack of stumbling on these relics and cannot go anywhere without bringing back nature’s souvenirs.

He will spend hours perusing these in museums. We have some fun days out.

We have some back at the bus too – spoils from previous years – obviously irresistible to the John.  

Even back in the UK, we’ll go for a walk and he’ll end up with a pocketful of bits and bobs. Sometimes he even picks up washers, nuts, bolts, rubber bands or other such useful items, which he hands to me like presents to be cherished. And I do,  of course.

Maybe it’s a condition with a name – like Tourette’s. But quieter.

Bless.

Unlike me, John is very much a morning person and captured this…Klipspringer at dawn

Klipspringer – a small African antelope – at dawn.

Some of the panoramas are 2/3/5 or more pics that I’ve stitched together. That really is such clever software.

Now John knows I can do this, he is taking snaps with stitching in mind and I look forward to the next batch.

This one has to be my current favourite…view 1_stitch

Stunning.

Don’t forget, you can click on any of these images to bring up to full size. A further click will enlarge that particular area of the photo, should you wish to see even more detail.

A Murder of Crows

23 Feb

A suitably sinister collective noun for that oh so evil harbinger of death and doom. The stuff of nightmares and horror stories…Crows reward

Ah. That’s another myth exploded then. Up a bit, right a bit – aaah, that’s it!

This is the Pied,  or white chested, crow found – you guessed it – in South Africa. Well that’s where John found it anyway or, to be more precise, that’s where the boys found it. You’ve had a glimpse of this one before, on the West Coast farm, where John is once again visiting; this time helping his youngest to shift his belongings, in readiness for the move to Amakhala where he will join his brother.

It’s an intelligent creature that makes phone calls and sends texts…Crow making a phone call

I think this one is  female…Crow trying on shoes

As has a taste for trying on shoes.

And likes a drink…Crow turning the tap on for a drink, pity he cannot turn it off aftterwards

Actually turning the tap on when thirsty but, sadly, hasn’t mastered the art of turning the tap off afterwards. Maybe it’s a male after all.

And for my next trick…Crow's has found a rand coin on the floor

You dropped this John, here it is…Crow offering me a Rand

Now put it somewhere safe. Please.

Speaking of the Rand, when I was last in SA I was getting around 10-12 of these to the pound. Now it’s more like 18-20. That’s just not fair. Usual bad timing on my part.

Of course, there’s plenty of less tame creatures around these parts, as this pile of poo indicates…Leopard droppings

Leopard droppings.

Snakes too…can you see the worm

See it? A Puff Adder.

Quite deadly and, because of its highly effective camouflage, is prone to being stepped on. Despite being a slow mover, the puffie strikes extremely quickly, its highly toxic venom inducing massive tissue necrosis. Prompt and proper treatment can prevent death but this snake is thought to kill and maim more than any other African snake each year.

A sobering thought.

Skin of the Black Spitting Cobra on the left and Puff  Adder on the right…100_2733

Do I detect a shudder?

Fortunately, the only casualty is Tikkie the Terrier…Tikki took on a rotweiler and a pitbull and was lucky to escape with so little damage, her tail was bitten too.

That’s what you get for pissing off a  Pit-bull and taking on a Rotweiller. Poor little wounded soldier.

I promise the next post will contain  fabulous flowers, panoramic landscapes – including my latest stitched masterpiece.

Coming soon..

Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain

10 Feb

Just to let you know that the river here is almost back to normal, thanks to a couple of dryish days and some pretty efficient draining onto the land.

I’m making the most though ’cause it’s not going to last – yet more Atlantic lows waiting in the wings, bringing a possible further two inches of rain or so and yet more windy wind.

But you know all that.

And my own personal ark will continue to protect me.

Anyway, I went out today in brilliant sunshine, without the usual bundles of warm layers and serious waterproof  gear. It was heaven. Gorgeous. Not even a breeze.

But every silver lining has a cloud and, just as I arrived back, it chucked it down: cats, dogs, stair rods – you name it. Terrific. A short sharp shower, just enough to make me nice and wet before I’d made it across dog-dirt and on to the boat.

By the time I’d changed out of my totally unsuitable clothing and slipped into something more comfortable – and dry – put the kettle on and made up the fire it had stopped. Typical. Should have waited in the car.

Anyway, good time to nip out and fill the coal scuttle.

And there it was… 001

003

Whoa, never mind  silver lining, how about that?

Had to be stitched…002_stitch (2)

Bugger, didn’t even see it at first.

That twirly drier taking centre stage. How could I possibly have missed that?

But, with careful cropping and more patience than a score of saints,  it was wiped…002_stitch

How good is that?

It’s a bit of a cheat, but hey, why not? We have the technology.