Tag Archives: outdoors

Moving Bella – Day 1

4 Jul

Into July already and the Hobo hasn’t moved an inch, not even the sniff of a cruise. Static R us. Whilst this was always the plan for this year, knuckle down, earn some money and tart the old girl up, I was definitely getting withdrawal symptoms and missing being on the move. So you can imagine that when asked to help move another boat we jumped at the chance.

Our good friend Reg has sold Bella, his 50 footer, to a very nice young man called Dave who has secured a mooring at Isleworth on the River Lark in Suffolk. He was going to cruise the boat there – a good two weeks from the River Stort (with ten-hour days, lots of luck and a following wind) but with limited boating experience, and none at all of locks, he was in the market for some assistance in the early days, until other friends could join him.

A mission in itself to get to his destination within his deadline but we also had to be clear of the ‘Olympic Zone’ before it was closed off at 8am on Tuesday. Originally we’d planned to get going on Sunday but decided this was cutting it a little too fine and brought it forward.

Reg suggested to him that John and I could share The Knowledge and provide some tuition/advice as well as being another couple of pairs of hands to speed Bella on her way. We were more than happy to do this and we all got cracking on Saturday.

It was warm and sunny as we tied up at the first lock, which Reg and Dave went to fill as we waited for John (who had gone to lose the car) to join us. He pitched up right on cue so I set about supervising as our new boater took Bella into the lock.


It’s a very open spot and the strong gusty wind did its worst… Suffice it to say that it took three of us and much reversing to keep Bella off the bank for long enough to motor her into the chamber.

Bella is a lovely boat, of which John and I are very fond  and have driven before. She responds beautifully but is a different animal to Hobo; being a cruiser stern for starters, meaning the driving position and technique is strange at first to that of Hobo’s trad, and the engine/gearing is all different. Well, that’s our excuse anyway..

Still, all good fun and an invaluable first lesson in narrowboat versus wind, which I would like to say was deliberate but, you know me – boat (honest) bird – I have to tell the truth. It wasn’t.

Next up is a very low rail bridge (mind your head), successfully navigated, followed by a stretch of moorings where Hobo lives. I am impressed by Dave slowing down on approach to these moorings with no prompting from me – something I still have to remind John about. Even now. We say hello to Hobo as we pass and trundle on.

As we chug along, we discuss boatie things, living aboard and, inevitably, embark on the great toilet debate: pump out v cassette. It is not humanly possible for any gathering of boaters not to get on to this subject sooner or later; new ones no exception.

Dave seemed to be a natural; his boat handling skills developing rapidly as we let him do the majority of the tiller work while we answered his questions and imparted our knowledge. It was great to be out on the river again and we were enjoying the ride and the company. It’s different somehow when it’s not your boat (I think that’s a responsibility thing) and also being four of us made the workload lighter and progress faster.

Our journey started at 3 o’clock (ish) and some seven miles, nine locks and four and a half hours later we tie up for the night at Hunsdon Mill. This is a lovely spot in the middle of nowhere, just the odd cottage or two, with the sound of rushing water from a mini weir to drown out the road noise from the A414, which runs parallel at this point.

We had a lovely time on the river and Dave is, I think, a happy bunny after his first (short) day of cruising as we leave him to his first night on board his new home.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           The lovely Bella.

Up on the Roof

24 Jun

While I beavered away at my ailing roof, there was plenty of opportunity to take five as my feathered friends put in an appearance to show off their new-born..As well as the duck chick eight there was the moorhen chick one..Cute or what..

I hope they all make it. So many times over the years I’ve watched this daily parade as they grow up; their numbers diminishing  each time I see them. One day there’s eight, then seven, six and so on – it’s sad. But that’s Mother Nature for you and I suppose the mink has to eat.

While I was attacking the chimney, down on the decking, I had another visitor..I first spotted it as it slithered out of the long grass towards me. I reckon it came to see what all the noise/vibration was about as I hammered away at the tarred chimney. I backed off, trying to do stealth and grab the camera but failed miserably and it disappeared back into the jungle – quick quick. A bit like when you suck spaghetti into your mouth – gone.

I did get lucky though, as you can see, and managed to catch it swimming.

After pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t in South Africa, I concluded it was probably a grass snake though I know there are adders here. They have been known to bite the horses and dogs and, depending where they have been bitten, sometimes fatally.

Speaking of jungle....this is how it was; the before shot if you like.

Since then there’s been a mowathon and a strimfest down at DDA. Normally, my little patch gets forgotten and is left to go wild but this time I smiled sweetly at the man in hard hat and goggles so now it looks like this..and this..Much better. Now just add table and chairs..

On John’s farm there’s some lovely big cable drums I fancy for the use of – just have to transport one here. Would make a natty little picnic area don’t you think? Together with the veggie/herb boxes that are planned, will make a regular little garden. We’ll get there. Probably just before I move on.

As predicted, work on the roof has come to a halt. Too wet, too windy and not to mention too bloody cold. Still, I’ve made a start and they say next week might be better. The next stage involves power tools, grinder and sander, so noisy and messy. It’s an essential part of the process but one I don’t look forward to and will be much happier when I get to the painting stage. That I don’t mind and find therapeutic even.

My internet threw a sickie, just as the weather took a turn for the worse, and stopped me in my tracks. Couldn’t work outdoors. Couldn’t work indoors. Bugger.

I went down the troubleshooting route and through the help menu but it wasn’t having any of it. Two days later I admit defeat and get in touch with 3 – my service provider. My Indian friend on the phone talks me through various ‘fixes’ but to no avail. He eventually lets on that there had been some ‘issues’ with the local mast and credits me for a full month’s usage. He reckoned all would be fixed by today (and hey presto it is) so not bad –  a full month refunded for 2/3 days down time.

Frankly though, I’d rather have the access. Being able to see that I have e-mails but unable to reply (or even unable to read them sometimes) is so frustrating. And, of course, it kept me away from here. All of a sudden, there’s 101 things I need to do on the internet and can’t.

Hell, I almost had to resort to doing some housework…

From the Treehouse Window

6 Jun

I am back at the treehouse again so I thought I’d show you some ‘window’ shots I’ve taken from here, by way of a change from the river.

This little beauty came and posed for me…

I tried to remain hidden and focus but he looked right at me…

 and was off like a shot…

I kept clicking, hoping to capture his flight but he was gone. It was all over in seconds.

He’s a regular here and we’ve seen him hunting along the dyke at the side of the runway – a beautiful sight. We think he lives in one of the barns (where else would a barn owl live) and I glimpsed him the other morning as he executed a perfect banking turn taking him inside. A super shot I failed to get. I think I must glue the camera to my hand in future….

Last year John spotted this one from the kitchen window…

Aren’t they gorgeous?

More from My Window

24 Apr

Starboard side, by way of a change….

Pretty aren’t they? I’m no expert on wild flowers but, if I am to believe the Collins Gem guide, it is the Cuckoo flower. AKA  Lady’s Smock, Milkmaids and Meadow Bitter-Cress, it is found in marshes and damp meadows. That was the clincher – it is that here for sure. It’s edible too. Hey, a new salad ingredient!

There’s much more photo opportunity portside, the towpath being across the river, and the people watching potential is brilliant. But I am loathe to point my camera in the face of the ‘innocent bystander’ and have been ever since my time in South Africa 2010.These women clearly did not want their picture taken, something of which I was blissfully unaware until John pointed out I was about to get stoned.  And not in a good way. See the one on the right, arming herself with a rock as the one on the left covers up?

I had no wish to offend or frighten these people; my actions borne out of ignorance of their culture. For that I am sorry.On the other hand, these boys positively relished being in focus and flashed gorgeous grins at my camera. There was a dead cow in the bakkie – see the blood running onto the road? A feast for the family.

Both shots were taken on approach to the Kei River bridge during the run up to Christmas, a particularly manic time on South African roads, as we returned from our epic road trip to visit John’s boys at their anti-poaching unit up near the Mozambique border.

Some towns were totally gridlocked.

So, it remains to be seen whether I brave the towpath people shots or not. I don’t want to upset anyone and you never never know do you?

From My Window

22 Apr

In a previous post I made reference to some of the things that gang up on me to tear me away from whatever it is I should be doing and it occured to me that perhaps I should show you what I am up against.Nice weather….…for ducks.Yesterday was all sunshine and showers here and gave way to the most stunning rainbow ever. I just had to leap up and go outside to see more…

…it was one of those perfect yet rare specimens that you can see both ends of, as well as the middle, and the light was incredible. A spectacular scene. Neither me nor my camera  was up to the job, sadly unable to capture its whole or to really do it justice. Hopefully the essence of the moment will come across in these pics.

This morning brought sunshine and white fluffly clouds that stood out against a beautiful blue sky; clumps of cotton wool suspended in the atmosphere like those in a child’s painting.…and Dobbins senior and junior came out to feed and frolic.It brought out the anglers too……and one man in his canoe.

I’d seen him coming through my cratch window at the front of the boat so went to position myself at the kitchen window, ready to take the shot as he passed. But he didn’t show up. I looked  forward again and he was taking a photo of Hobo!!We both had a jolly good laugh as he glided by. It really was a ‘snap’ moment and he did have a lovely laugh.

Notice how ‘de tren’ has snuck into shot too…?

So you see, in the last couple of days alone, there is much to take my mind from where it should be. And this is the norm. And minus the sound effects. Apart from jumping up to roll down the canopy each time it rains and again to open up when it stops, there’s always something afoot outside my window, albeit sometimes merely the elements showing off.

I can see that I have started something, which as well as whatever it is that distracts me in the first place, will now compel me to also photograph it for this spot. I feel it may become a regular feature of this blog.

I can also see that I shall have to keep my windows nice and clean….