Category Archives: Gardens

Chilli Day

Standard
Chilli Day

Let’s talk all things spicy. Perhaps not all things, just those related to food. Specifically, let’s talk chillies. All kinds of chillies from everywhere. Whether you are a person who loves your food hot and spicy or as plain as boiled rice, sometime in your life one chilli or another has shown up in your food. If you’ve ever eaten chilli con carne, you’ll have had chillies in spades….unless you’re like my best friend who likes her chilli (not her favourite meal) mild as can be. Chilliless.

So, on the heels of the Sausage Sizzle, here we are in Eddie’s BMW, top down on a hot August afternoon, heading for Benington, a small village 4 miles east of Stevenage in Hertfordshire. We were going with Eddie, Mimz and two other friends, Sandy and Graham. Graham took his Porsche with its top down too. Regal travel and all. The destination was The 2017 Chilli Festival held at Benington Lordship Gardens, featuring 7 acres of gardens, a carp pond, an old Georgian Manor House and the ruins of a Norman motte and bailey castle. So very English wot?

20170828_133159

The Norman Gate.

20170828_134251

Castle wall ruins and gardens

I remember years ago in Canada, some Italian guy I worked with on the Eaton’s (like John Lewis in Britain) delivery trucks gave me a pepper from his lunch and dared me to eat it whole. Poor naive me did just that and paid the price. I can’t remember what variety it was but when it took hold, it nearly killed me. I have been wary ever since. But my interest was piqued during the finale of the Chilli festival when the annual chilli eating contest was held.

9 brave or reckless souls sat at a table with a beer and a bucket in front of each of them before the contest commenced. The MC had been running the show for years and educated us as the event wore on as to the name and effect each pepper would have on the contestants. Chillies are rated by their SHUs (Scoville Heat units). The New Mexico green Chilli, for example, can be anywhere from 0-70,000 SHUs. That seems quite a range, but most of us, except for my best friend, can handle them.

20170828_134751

Beware of the Chilli. Booth at the Chilli Festival.

20170828_133946

Chilli Festival and rolling hills of the Benington Lordship Gardens.

From there, we go up the scale until we get to a chilli known as Dragon’s Breath from Wales of all places. It has a SHU of 2.48 million. The chemical produced by the pod of chillies is capsaicin. If you swallowed a vial of that, you’d be ingesting 16 million SHU and you’d be dead. But then even eating a whole Dragon’s Breath can kill you. It was developed not to be eaten but to be put as an anaesthesia on the skin for people who can not have normal anaesthetic.

The competitors started with chillies at around 100,000 SHU and it went up from there. By the time they got to the Scotch Bonnets at around 500,000 SHUs, only half of the group remained. Then it was on to around 800,000 SHU and more dropped away, using the buckets provided to….well, you know. Red Cross folk were on hand to provide aid to contestants who were overcome by their chillies. They had milk and sugar cubes to counter the effects. Interesting.

20170828_141451

Some of the Gardens and the gardener’s house.

 

One young man who began foaming at the mouth and dribbling profusely hung in there despite his anguish. The audience began to chant ‘Dribbler, Dribbler….’ but Dribbler had enough and off he went. Two remained. They had to eat a whole pepper at 1.6 million SHU and did so. It looked for a moment like the contest would end in a draw, but one of the two decided he couldn’t go on and took a sip of the beer….which meant he capitulated. The winner got a case of Budweiser beer as his prize. No thanks.

Meanwhile, a Chilli Festival was going on….60 pitches (booths) with everything from chilli cheeses to chilli chocolate, fudge, chutney, sauces, pickles, seeds, plants and, naturally, booze. These were the top echelon of independent chilli traders. Very nice and all but a bit samey after a while. There was a carp pond and lovely gardens as well as views of rolling countryside. A very satisfying way to spend a holiday Monday. My life is full. But not of chilli. The only thing we ended up buying was a non-chilli  butterscotch, spicy liqueur. Hot enough on its own.

20170828_134210

Chilli stalls and Manor House.

We wandered about in the heat after arriving and getting something to eat first. The food vendors were from many cultures. There was Greek, Texan, Italian, British, of course, South American and South African. I had a South African steak sandwich with chakalaka….some spicy tomato, onion and pepper mix. Yummy. Then it was on to the Chilli festival and all that I described. What a treat. I must say I tried to sample at least the sweet stuff. Loved it. And I do like some chilli in my chocolate.

Started in 2006, the Festival has grown in size and popularity. It runs for 3 days over the Bank Holiday weekend. They even have entertainment for the whole family. This year it was the famous Bruce Airhead (never heard of him) and his big green balloon. But the hit of the show was the young lad Mr. Airhead picked from the audience who, much to the surprise of even the Airhead, actually entertained us with an array of gymnastic routines while the famous Bruce prepared his balloon. I think the lad was supposed to be a flop, but fooled us all. Even Bruce admitted that perhaps he ought to step aside and let the kid do the show.

20170828_142445

Bruce Airhead and his young assistant.

Just before the chilli eating contest, my best friend and I found a shaded spot beside the marquee where the contest was to be held. A man, dressed in those khaki shorts with millions of pockets, an unironed T-shirt and a pair of well-worn brown trainers (sneakers) sat in a chair just in front of us. A woman came from the audience and introduced herself to this chap as the wife of someone he knew. They spoke of food preparation or something. Turned out to be Richard Bott, owner of the place. Unassuming, charming and so very English, right down to the shoes.

Part way through the proceedings, I just happened to look up into the wide, blue yonder and there, flying right over head was the beautiful sight of a Second World War Spitfire. Made my day as the next contestant headed off behind the marquee to empty his insides into a bucket.

 

 

Sausage Sizzle

Standard
Sausage Sizzle

This is not a pornographic Blog. I don’t do those. I could, but I don’t. I know sex sells. But I’m not selling anything and at my age, I think it best that I stick to safe subjects. Like this one, a good old-fashioned Sausage Sizzle where the only sex involves males and females working together to raise money for a worthwhile organisation.

It all began, the charity stuff I mean, a year ago at Halloween. We decorated the boats and the marina perimeter wall behind the boats with scary things and put out a donation box for people to give generously to our charity of choice. It happened to be an End-of-Life Hospice where our neighbours Eddie and Mimz work and volunteer. Then at Christmastime the displays became Mega and the money raised greater still. Easter rolled around and eggs, bunnies and the rest became the theme and more money came in.

We were on a roll. Every season and celebration have become an opportunity to keep the donating going. Gardening season provided the needed impetus to keep the ball rolling. And it has. For over 4 months now. Things started slow but have evolved into the jungle madness I Blogged about not long ago and turned Mimz into the Bubble Lady of our marina. She was forever blowing bubbles. The locals, children and adults, loved it. Any time a child passed by the boats, Mimz was up to the wall, turning on the bubble machines we had purchased from hither and yon and waving the large wand to make monster bubbles.

Then a new shop came to town. Well, not so much just a shop as a Megashop, another Australian incursion into the British Isles, Bunnings Hardware, a DIY fanatic’s fantasy come true. They took over from Homebase and boast 20 locations by the end of the year. Brits don’t own anything anymore and don’t seem to want to run things or open new ventures (nothing big anyway), so they leave it to foreign investors to rescue the economy.

20170827_091608

Eddie and the Bunnings lady conferring before the event.

Be that as it may, Bunnings has done its best, so far, to fit into the local community. Apparently, they are nothing like that in Australia, just about money. I’m sure the same will happen here once the dust settles. Anyway, for the moment, all goes well. Every weekend, Bunnings runs a charity Sausage Sizzle outside its premises, one on Saturday and a different charity on Sunday. Bunnings was supposed to provide everything. That was the deal. All they asked was for volunteers from the sponsored charity to run the event.

That’s where we come in. We thought it would be a good idea to do one for the Hospice. After some strange negotiating with the Hospice and Bunnings, our day came. Bunnings provided nothing like they said they would. We had to buy all the goods. But we were determined to go ahead and do this thing. It was for a good cause and we had talked about doing it for a long time. The day came. We were loaded with bread, sausages, napkins and the rest and off to Bunnings we went on a fine, hot August morning.

20170827_094226

Three Amigos ready to work.

They had already set up the gazebos and the grill….at least. But the people running the charity the day before had used up all the oil and so we had to go back to the boat to get some. Hard to sizzle sausage without the oil. Kind of essential. The Bunnings person who supervised the event went through a bunch of rules, the dos and don’ts of sizzling sausage, most of which we ignored, and off we went. Eddie cooked, I served and the ladies ran the money side of things and the raffle table.

Good team work. It had to be. We were there for 8 hours in the heat, standing the whole time. Eddie was stalwart. He cooked in the heat, over the heat. He and Mimz had cut up the onions the day before and paid the price. Now Eddie was grilling them to perfection. By the half-way point of the day, he had those sausages sizzling like a master chef. Not one customer complained about the product and more than one gave us the thumbs-up after consuming the goods.

20170827_132859

Mimz and Andrea at the Raffle table.

20170827_132843

Team work at its best.

No matter what you do in public, especially for charity, there are those who are simply grumpy. We had our share. Rude people who react like children when spoken to by a stranger in public. My best friend simply asked if passersby were hungry and got all kinds of rude remarks and gestures thrown her way. I did too. To one couple I just happened to say, “Now then, you look like a hungry couple. Sausage Sizzle?” A harmless remark really. Except that my best friend pointed out that may have been construed as rude as they were persons of a certain girth that said, ‘do I look like I need another sausage?’ Well….

Generally, things went well. We survived the day and made a goodly sum of money for the Hospice. The womenfolks did a tremendous day’s work on the raffle table by selling lots of tickets The draw was at 3pm. Some good boat neighbours, who had come over during the day to support us, won a few of the prizes.

All in all, everything went well. Eddie’s OCD kicked in right at the end of the day. The Bunnings lady who was in charge of the event said of all the groups they had the pleasure to work with so far, we were the cleanest. That’s down to Eddie. The grill looked good as new, but Eddie insisted that every nook and cranny had to be spotless. The Bunnings lady tried her best to dismiss our Eddie from duty, but I knew better. He would leave when he was satisfied that everything was immaculate. Oh, and by the way, the Bubble Lady (Mimz) was there all day doing her thing. No event is complete without her bubbles.

20170827_132906

Eddie and me. The perfect team.

 

Southbank Strolls

Standard
Southbank Strolls

No point being in a rush. You miss all the salient points that go into making a place what it is. It’s the little things in amongst the larger bits that tell you where a place has been and what is going on now and in the near future. Some of the things are temporary and the next time you pass by this spot, they won’t be there. Such is the case along the south bank of the River Thames. It changes nearly daily. Some of the things are trendy. Others are fixtures, but only in the sense of a lifetime. So many changes over the centuries, that someone from the Elizabethan era, for example, would not recognise the place.

In my case, I have seen changes along this part of the Thames, some satisfying and others not so much. I have to laugh at some of the trendy changes, like the ubiquitous juice bars that are all along the Southbank. Someone said eat or drink lots of fruit and the hawksters spring up out of nowhere to sell you expensive fruit drinks that come from concentrated juice, not fresh fruit. If you get there early enough in the morning as they set up, you can see them making the stuff. Then they put pieces of fruit out to make it look like they’ve actually used fruit.

20170813_100142

The ubiquitous juice bar. Setting up in the morning.

Not to mention the wasps and flies all over the plastic cups. No thanks, and certainly not at those prices. But, as they say, a sucker is born every minute. Hawksters rely on it. Getting away from the hidden, there are all the other delights, many of which cost you nothing.  A leisurely stroll is all you need and observant eyes. My little stroll took me from London Bridge station, down to the Queen’s Jubilee Walk beside the Thames. Here we go. Can’t tell you about or show you everything in a thousand words and a few photos, but I’ll do me best.

Usually, the Southbank walk begins for me at Westminster Bridge, past the London Eye, the National Theatre, The ITV television studios, the OXO building, the new (old) Globe theatre, Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind ship, the Canon Street station, the Tate Modern in an old power station and the Wobbly Bridge (Millennium Bridge). Did I mention the Clink and the Anchor pub? Lots to see.

My walks begin at London Bridge and move along to Tower Bridge and slightly beyond to Butler’s Wharf (WareHouse At River Front).  The crowds are a little thinner along this stretch and yet there is so much going on. And not all on the surface. But on ground level, things are moving ahead at a frenetic pace. London Bridge station has gone through a complete overhaul for the last few years, in part due to the addition of the Shard, a large glass tower with a top that resembles a broken bottle.

20170813_101602

City Hall and the Shard in the background.

Roads are closed around the station and the noise from the work on the roads and in the station is deafening. Sneak through an alley between buildings and a whole new world of quiet along the Thames greets you. The first thing I encountered on the day I’m Blogging about was a painter. His easel was set for standing and the scene before him was a combination of old London and new London.

20170813_094937

An artist at work early in the morning before the crowds arrive.

The new seems to be taking over, but the painter was highlighting old London. Good man. Even the famous pickle shaped building, known as the Gerkin, was the landmark when I came here 12 years ago.  Now it has all but disappeared among the Walkie-Talkie and Cheese-Grater buildings. Other newer, taller buildings are going up too. Londoners love to give their office monstrosities pet names. Makes the new look ridiculous. Good on ’em.

Meanwhile on the Southbank, the buildings tend to be more residential than business with lots of new boutiques selling artisan quality products opening up in every space available. Clothing, unique shoes, graphic designers, pottery artists, art galleries and gadgets of all kinds just away from the Thames in the Hay’s Galleria. All very interesting and all very expensive. The amount of foreign investment especially in London and the number of those coming in from elsewhere have boosted an otherwise lethargic economy. Brits are funny that way. Love the money, not so sure about all the foreigners moving in who have the money to spend.

20170813_095114

Look Mum No Hands….stretching it just a bit for a BBQ pit.

20170813_095244

Entrance to the Thames Clipper at London Bridge. A fast commuter boat.

20170813_095400

Signs announcing the Summer Festival at the amphitheater near City Hall.

20170806_091402

Sculpture of family on a Thames beach. Weird.

Ignoring all what goes on behind the scenes, the old is still evident in the pubs along the Thames that still operate, attracting young people of every nation to imbibe. The HMS Belfast (two Blogs ago) still floats to the delight of some 300,000 visitors a year. Then you come to City Hall that looks like something from a Star Wars movie. Always something going on around here, an amphitheater that features plays and monologues, a bar and food stand that looks like something from the Caribbean Islands, last week a temporary beach and on this occasion, a Latin American food and goods market on the same piece of ground.

A large fountain that shoots sprays of water at various altitudes, seemingly randomly, attracting kids to run through, lined by restaurants offering various cuisines.  Then you walk through a short tunnel under the south end of Tower Bridge to Butler’s and other old Wharfs converted into million pound flats with restaurants selling such meals as Spaghetti Bolognese for £20 a plate. Pretty around there. Funny to think of all the spices and such that landed here years ago with men gathering ever day hoping to get a day’s work to feed the family.

20170813_100933

Caribbean Bar by City hall and the amphitheater.

20170813_100952

The Amphitheater.

 

20170813_100537

Early morning exercise before the mob jog.

20170813_100847

Egg sculpture. Groovy.

20170813_101452

Latin American Street Food Market. There was a beach there a week before.

I have walked this stretch a number of times over the years and have failed to notice some of the most meaningful sites. One in particular is by the old pub beside Hay’s Galleria. Ships used to sail right into the midst of the buildings to unload their cargo. It’s all filled in now. The Horniman Pub has been on this location since 1873. I’ve eaten there a few times. Good grub, reasonably priced for the location. Outside on the wall as you leave Hay’s Galleria is a brass plaque, a tribute to all those who worked around the wharf but lost their lives during the two Great Wars of the 20th Century. Glad I finally saw it.

20170813_095750

The Navigators sculpture in the Hay’s Galleria from 1987.

20170813_095857

Brass Plaque outside Horniman’s Pub at Hay’s Wharf.

Lots happening at every part of the Southbank. I noticed that at low tide, more and more people are going down along the sandy beaches to sit and sunbathe or build sand castles while treasure hunters comb the rocks for the next artifact that is going to make them millionaires. A sign over one of the drainage holes on the path has a sign politely asking people not to pollute. Some cheeky sod put his/her rubbish on the spot in a fit of rebellion. So, this is the Queen’s Walk, otherwise known as The Jubilee Walk. Bet the Queen has no idea what goes on down here. She might like it. At least she’d have no trouble paying for a plate of spaghetti.

20170813_101924

Looking north on Tower Bridge.

20170813_102043

The City on the north side of the river from Tower Bridge.

20170806_093646

From Butler’s Wharf looking back to Tower Bridge and the City….oh look, the Gerkin.

20170813_101803

Ground plaque near Tower Bridge announcing the Jubilee Walk.

 

 

 

 

Jungle Madness

Standard
Jungle Madness

I wrote last year about the garden we had along the pathway behind our narrowboat. This year, earlier, I talked about a Spring Clean and featured the beginnings of our new garden, complete with an added arch between our neighbours Eddie and Mimz’z boat. The arch was made possible because we moved our boat during the Spring to its present location, sharing a jetty with Eddie and Mimz.

Well, things have progressed to the point of complete madness. Everything from lilies to a flamingo have been added to the collection and plants grow alongside both of our boats, hiding nearly everything from view….the boats that is. We are nearly overgrown and the strange thing is, we keep adding to it.

DSCN2347

The garden in the early Spring

DSCN2348

The garden between the boats in early Spring.

DSCN2359

A narrowboat planter added to the mix as the garden evolves.

Don’t get me wrong, it all looks lush and lovely. The colours and smells are intoxicating. Everyone who walks by tells us how wonderful it is and the solar lights light up the night in what can only be described as magical. And, up until the end of July, we had lots of sunshine to keep the old solar lights lit long into the night.

Eddie and Mimz, my best friend and I have sat out many a long evening, surrounded by our jungle, sipping rum and cokes or drinking red wine and even getting trendy with Gin and mixers, discussing life and laughing at Eddie’s antics. Mimz tells a good story too. The weather had been unseasonably dry and hot through May, June and most of July, with the light lasting until after 10pm. Paradise some might say.

DSCN2378

Add an arch with a straw bird on top.

DSCN2384

Yours truly under the arch.

And well it was. Then came the end of July and into August. Cool, damp and terribly uninspiring as far as summer goes. So, what did my best friend and I do? We left the gardening to Mimz and took off to the city to look after the few plants at my best friend’s son’s place near the River Thames. Mimz, bless her, has been holding down the fort. I think Eddie leaves it to her anyway.

The assortment of plants has been overwhelming. Besides lilies, we have geraniums, honeysuckle, juniper, jasmine, lobelia, gladioli, Virginia Creeper (otherwise known as Parthenocissus Quinquefolia….but you knew that), marigolds, busy lizzies, crocosmia (Lucifer….scary plants), dahlias, passion flower, panzies, petunias, anemones, ivy, mixed wild flowers for the bees, mint and other herbs, french beans, tomatoes, strawberries and other things I can’t remember and neither can my best friend as I write this. Oh yeah, almost forgot the sweetpea. Unforgivable.

DSCN2558

Welcome to our jungle.

DSCN2562

Mimz’s garden. Spot the hidden hedgehog.

DSCN2572

A new addition.

So you see, welcome to our jungle. The marina warden says he loves it and it has inspired others around the marina to grow more flowers and plants this year. A lady just moved in to a mooring near us a couple of weeks ago and already has some huge ferns along the pathway that runs around the perimeter of the marina. Some other residential boaters said they were going to put in an arch, but we’ll see. Getting late in the season and, well, maybe it’s just wishful thinking at this point.

Meanwhile, our garden continues to take over everything.  I look out our portholes and all I see is plants and flowers….pretty but a little claustrophobic when we already live in a narrowboat. I suppose that may be construed as sour grapes, especially when winter comes and I’ll pine away for the days when I could see green outside instead of frost. Still, a little light would help. Who knows what it’s going to all look like when we go back to the boat tomorrow.

DSCN2578

And this is how it looks now

DSCN2576

Our side of the boat.

DSCN2581

Jungle madness along the jetty.

But, for the moment, we can all enjoy the jungle while it lasts. The bees are loving it. They leave us alone and we them as we sit among the floral madness. They buzz right past our ears and off they go to the hive. Bumblebees of every kind and, finally, the honey bees found their way to us. Just doing our bit. One of our neighbours, Jools (you can read about her a couple of Blogs ago), is rather skittish around the buzzy creatures. If one of them comes near her, she screams so loudly and piercingly, that even the bees scatter in fear.

The metal arch at the entrance to our jetty is now unrecognisable. Even the straw bird perched atop the arch, with the lobelia growing out of its butt, is nearly overgrown with Virginia Creeper and Honeysuckle. Wild. Earlier in the season, we found stone planters in the shape of a narrowboat at a local florist and each bought one. You can hardly see them anymore. Our old man of the woods looks out from the foliage as if about to be strangled by one of the plants. The rubber ducky sailors keep having to be moved to be seen and Mimz’s little hedgehog is outta sight….literally. Some of the windmills have ceased to turn because their blades are overrun with plant leaves and flowers. Madness.

Mimz has taken some of the plants and flowers down to the entrance to the marina and a kind of second garden has been growing there. To top it off, we decided to raise money for the hospice where Eddie used to work (until the other day) and Mimz volunteered, by rescuing plants from a nearby garden centre that was going to throw out a bunch of flowers that looked unhealthy. Mimz and my best friend nursed them back to life, put them on the wall along the perimeter path as giveaways to donors.

As if that weren’t enough, we started buying battery operated bubble blowers to entertain the young and old as they passed. All that has been missing are the clowns. Mimz and my best friend would probably tell you that would be me and Eddie. But I ain’t dressing like Bozo for nobody see. Anyway, all I can tell you from this moment is that the madness continues. Mimz texted us the other day. She went to the garden centre and rescued some more plants for our return. Will this summer never end?

DSCN2556

Mimz with plants for charity.

DSCN2553

Sitting in the jungle.

 

 

Canada at 150

Standard

Not sure how to go about this. Sitting on my boat in a marina, thousands of miles and an ocean away from my old home, thinking about its birthday. 150 years old is not old when it comes to the age of countries. Canada was populated long before Vikings and then European settlers came along, but only became a nation in 1867 when Upper Canada (Ontario) and Lower Canada (Quebec), known as the Canadas, joined with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to become a Confederation. After that, the other provinces and territories joined in. The last to become part of Canada was Newfoundland in 1949.

And that’s the history lesson for today. I wasn’t born in Canada. My birth took place near Hampton Court in the outer reaches of London in 1951. We emigrated to Canada in July of 1955. In 1967, Canada’s Centennial year, my dad, mum, brother and I became Canadian citizens. I had just assumed we were all citizens already. Nope. Had to join. I was 16 years old. And we went to Expo ’67 that same summer. As far as I was concerned, I would be Canadian and remain in Canada for the rest of my days.

Didn’t work out that way. In the 1980s I lived for 5 years in France and then in 2006, I moved lock, stock and barrel to England and have been here ever since. When people ask me why I moved from all that space in Canada to cramped England….the accent gives me away….I say, I love it here. Always been a dream to live again in the country of my birth. I love the history of the place too, the good, the bad and the ugly. I got a university degree in British history back in 1980….after a number of years studying at night. Every inch of this country is teeming in rich stories from history.

My first visit back to England from Canada was in 1973 when I was 22 years old. Met all my cousins and aunts and uncles and my nans, had my first drink (Newcastle Brown Ale), visited all the sites around London and ate lots of fish and chips. I loved it. So quaint. Small houses joined together in a row, large palaces, double-decker buses and home to most of my favourite bands. I went on a trip with one of my cousins to the south coast and up to York. I was sad to leave then, but vowed I’d be back.

Meanwhile, in Canada, my favourite sports teams were losing and I had to find a job. I got married, had kids and became a preacher like my dad. My favourite places to go in Canada were the mountains in the west and cottage country in Ontario, my home province. I’ve camped in the Rockies, travelled through them for business and skied at Whistler. In Ontario, I spent summers near the water at Sauble Beach on Lake Huron and at cottages on some of the lakes in Haliburton and the Muskokas, as well as the lake district in Eastern Ontario, especially around Bon Echo, along Lake Superior and always Algonquin Park. When I left the ministry, I enjoyed playing music with friends.

Canada has so much to offer if you love the outdoors, because there’s plenty of it. I have told some of my British friends when they ask me why I would leave Canada for here, I said that Canada is big, but it’s boring. Depends what you’re looking for. The grass, as they say, seems greener elsewhere than where you are. Canada was a great home for many years, 51 to be exact. So, for 1/3 of Canada’s history, I was a part of it. Not bad. If I’m honest, the best part of living there was raising my kids. I am proud of all of them.

You can look over the 150 years of Canadian history and pick holes in a lot of bad decisions made by its leaders. That’s the same everywhere. The treatment of its First Nation Peoples has been nothing short of atrocious. Federalism has worked to some extent, but if you travel around the country, there are discrepancies in how certain regions are treated by the Federal government. The folk in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, can be pretty stupid sometimes when it comes to fair play for all the provinces and the 3 territories. And often, Canadians, like Brits can be too focused on making money than living and caring about their neighbours. But, as I say, every nation still has those problems even after thousands of years of recorded history.

So, wherever I go, I try to be a part of what is going on in that place. It’s really all any of us can do. Fit in and care about those around you….unless they’re arseholes (assholes). You can find those everywhere in any country. I’ve met a few over here let me tell you. And I had my share of running into them in my old country. Come to think of it, I have probably been one at various times in my life in all 3 countries.

And so, here I am, far away, missing the party to celebrate Canada’s 150th. I just found out there is a party in Trafalgar Square today after it had been cancelled the last 2 years. I discovered it by chance when I was looking for information on 150th celebrations around the world. It was on the Canadian High Commissioner’s Blog. She said the theme this year was ‘Bring a Brit.’ My best friend is a Brit….but then so am I by definition. Anyway, she’s outside the boat doing some gardening with our neighbour Mimz. I went out and said, “Hey, guess what.” “What?” she replies. “I just read that they were having a party in Trafalgar Square after all. They say Bring a Brit. Wanna go?” It’s 3pm already. Catch a train at 3:40 to Euston station, Northern Line tube to Charing Cross and a short walk to the Square. The celebrations end at 8pm, so probably time at least for some poutine.

My best friend gives me a look, her hands deep in a pot of soil, ready to plant some needy flowers. “Uh, I don’t think so mate.” And that’s the end of that. I ain’t going alone. It says bring a Brit and last-minute doesn’t work around here. But, for all you in the Square, expat Canucks and your Brit guest, have a good one. I’ll raise a pint on my boat. Oh wait, I’m out of beer. What self-respecting Canadian would be out of beer on Canada day? That would be me.

 

 

Henge Madness

Standard

 

Related Entries Cheating On College Exam Women Drivers Microsoft Office Building_ Beautiful...

I was in Swindon not long ago. Not my favourite town. The people we visited are though. Nice couple. My best friend and the lady of the duo used to work together in London in the Civil Service. The male is a Doctor Who fanatic and has a collection of memorabilia that does the doctor proud. He also has other Super Hero stuff and a bunch of comic books. Shades of The Big Bang Theory (TV program for those less erudite among you).

No one goes to Swindon for a holiday or for cultural reasons. Even their football team was relegated to a lower division this year. And the Chinese restaurant we went to in town was closing that night after 14 years of trying to get Swindonians to eat more exotic dishes than Sunday roasts. Not a happening town. Unless you live there I guess. The last time we visited, the couple in question had moved from one new house to another, better built home, across the road from a farm and fields that were a protected property. Protected from greedy developers that is.

The protection comes from another source than it being a farm. You see, out there in that field lies what is commonly known as a Stone Circle, an ancient grouping of rocks that quite probably had astronomical and spiritual significance to people thousands of years ago. Their real purpose is lost in time, but some good guesses have been made over the centuries since. Mostly, many of these sites were abandoned for whatever reason eons ago and locals pilfered the stone for building and such and no one appears to have written anything we know about or have found that indicates their actual use.

But that doesn’t stop the theories or groups of wannabe druids, witches, pagans and the like adopting the various stone circles as the birthplace of their particular religious practices. Groups gather at significant astronomical times of the year….winter solstice, spring equinox, summer solstice and the autumn (fall) equinox….to sing, dance naked, wear other ancient garb or offer various sacrifices to whomever or whatever as a way of maintaining harmony and balance in the universe. Works for some.

Stonehenge, on the Salisbury Plain, has long been the ‘go to’ site for all and sundry, from pagans to Chinese tourists. Nearby is Avebury, not as spectacular but definitely worth the visit, a collection of  various sized stones and a big ditch around it. At other places all over Wiltshire, these stone circles abound. Some have completely disappeared. Henges are a little different because they involve earth works around them and sometimes they are wooden circles, but all these  circles and henges are understood to be linked together somehow. It is estimated that around 1300 stone circles exist in Britain. Many of them are dotted in and around Yorkshire. Some chappy estimates there are some 31 in the county of Wiltshire.

They missed one. Ours. Well, not ours, but I’m claiming it. It has a name and apparently it is now protected. Only 5 stones remain and they are fairly flat to the ground. It’s now known as The Coate Stone Circle. I didn’t name it (Googled it later). I just found it again when it had become lost. Out of sight, hidden from the masses and all but forgotten. Sit down and let me tell you a tale.

So, here we were, visiting our friends in Swindon…or just outside. They live in a very new housing development. As I said, bare fields lay across the street. We visited there once before, heard tell of said stone circle and carried on with the visit with the promise we would go to see it sometime. But this time, I said, ‘let’s go see this stone circle. I’m feeling quite nostalgic and stuff’. So, we put on our shoes and off we went.

It’s all so new that we had to gingerly walk across a patch of freshly laid and evened out soil over the road that led to the fields. They hadn’t even put down the sod yet. Our footprints were left all over the neatly groomed surface. Couldn’t be avoided. Our quest had to be fulfilled at any cost….or nearly any cost. We didn’t even know what to look for or where to find it. I guess that’s why it’s a quest.

We made it to the fields, the intrepid 4. A path lay before us. You needed a path because the grass and other weeds had grown as high as my waist in some places. And we were supposed to find a stone circle in this. Not a marker anywhere to be seen. No sign board with historical data….nothing. Very disappointing. But we were determined to find the stone circle if it took all day (it was 4pm and we had a dinner reservation for 5:30, so not that determined).

We waded through deep grass, sweeping aside huge swaths of the stuff to find some sign that the stone circle did, in fact, exist. Over this way, back that, crisscrossing the large field until, BINGO! there it was. A large rock, gnarled and worn. One of us stood on it while the others went searching for other stones. We found 2 more, smaller stones, buried deep in the grass. Progress. I stood on this one while our intrepid friend went wading off looking for more. So far, all we had was an arch of 3 stones.

Eureka! He found 2 in a row pointing west to where the summer solstice sun sets. That was our conclusion. 5 stones, which I was later to discover is the exact amount found by those experts who rate these places as the real stone circle deal or just another bunch of rocks in a farmer’s field. Were there other stones here? Probably. We may never know. What went on here? Like with the other stone circles and henges we may never know.  We have some good guesses (like ours), but no certainty. A mystery.

There shall probably never be a crowd of tourists in this field as at Stonehenge or Avebury or the like. But we intrepid 4 marked the place and wondered back through the ages as we stood on Coate Stone Circle what kind of folk stood here and what they were doing. And, I hear tell, a group gathers here at summer solstice to dance naked around the stones. They’ll have to cut the grass first….then I’m in.

MARINA BABIES

Standard
MARINA BABIES

Last year we had ducklings in the marina that I Blogged about in Duckingham Palace. They have all grown up and since moved on to greater things, I hope. It was a pleasure watching them grow week by week. The duck lady raised them as much as mother duck did. She has become the marina wildlife guardian and feeder….the good stuff, not bread and other things that are not supposed to be good for them.

Then an edict from above came over the ethernet to all residents of the marina not to feed the ducks in the marina because it caused them to poop on the pontoons. We didn’t think the demand went far enough. The ducks fed outside the marina ought to be told not to come into the marina for fear they would poop on the pontoons and we would be blamed. Not for us pooping on the pontoons, you understand, but those pesky ducks. Nonsense, all of it.

Feeding ducks, geese, swans and coots is a time-honoured tradition that goes back to prehistoric days when cavemen fed pterodactyl and such. You can dispute that fact all you like, but you weren’t there either. The point is, going to the park to feed the ducks and such is a given. Feed them better food than bread if you like, but feed them we must. I’ve read conflicting reports as to the efficacy of feeding swans bread. Some say it’s okay, others say they get some kind of wing disease. I also read that, unlike ducks, swans only eat what they need. Ducks are a bit like me. They eat anything put in front of them until they explode.

So this year a wrinkle has been thrown into the mix at our old marina. At first we thought there would be no ducklings. Duckingham Palace lay empty and no baby fowl of any description could be seen in the marina. The only babies we had were of the human species on our side of the marina. 2 of them to be precise, a male and a female. We made no attempt to feed them even without an edict from above (head office for those who have not yet caught on….no deity involved here).

At first it was 4 baby coots. Then it was three. They are so tiny that even a fish could swallow them. Apparently, we have a mean-spirited Pike in the marina who has a taste for cootlings and ducklings when they are very small. It may have been the Heron. We just don’t know. Anyway, 3 survive and took up residence in Duckingham Palace….a changing of the guard, so to speak. Cute little coots too. Tiny balls of black fluff cheeping away as they passed by.

DSCN2414

Cootlings head for their new home in the marina.

DSCN2421

Cootlings being fed in their new home.

Then in moved the swans with 5 cygnets. They are the ugly ducklings of Hans Christian Andersen fame. I remember Danny Kaye singing the song. But they are anything but ugly….the cutest big balls of fluff ever. Swan parents are not good at sharing space, so the Coots were driven out and the swans moved in to Duckinham Palace and what a scene that has been. Try moving 5 large fowl into a space built for tiny ducklings. Result? The roof was displaced slightly.

I suppose feeding them in the marina doesn’t count in the overlord’s dictate. They do not usually get onto the pontoons to poop and only eat a certain amount. The same goes for those very pesky Canadian Geese that are prolific and profligate. They give all Canadians a bad name. And they hiss a lot as you walk by, even when no goslings are involved. We don’t like feeding them, greedy buggers. Come to think of it, that’s what my best friend calls me….a greedy bugger….hmmm.

Anyway, the swans swim up to us when we are sitting at the end of our pontoon and pretty well demand being fed or they’ll start snapping at our legs and feet. And they do. They snap at them and hiss at us even when we feed them. They are protected by the Queen, so we can’t fight back. Canadians may be greedy, but these are nasty, vicious, English bastards I have to say. Still, we forgive them now because of the babies who don’t hiss or snap….yet.

DSCN2393

The coots, meanwhile, had to move into an old tyre (tire) tied to the back of a boat that came into the marina a week or so ago. It’s a temporary home that the mm or dad or both threw together when they were made homeless by the vicious swan parents. We all hope the boat owner doesn’t move out any time soon and leave the poor Coots completely homeless. That would be tragic.

And so into the mix come the ducklings. At last, the darlings of the marina. I don’t think it’s the same mum as last year, but who knows? They do tend to look the same to me. The duck lady will know. I’ll have to ask her when I see her next. They were 8 ducklings now down to six and are nested on an impromptu stand situated at the back of the duck lady’s boat. Problem” The duck lady has a cat who loves to torment the ducks by sneaking along the gunwale to the back of the boat and saying BOO! in cat speak, scattering the mum and ducklings out into the centre of the marina.

DSCN2447

Quite entertaining actually. Mum duck appears to have a certain quack for “Swim for it!” as they scatter wildly when she quacks it. As long as no one gets hurt….don’t judge me. And so it goes, day in, day out and we love it. What we don’t love is nature taking its course when some babies depart from this earth. Always a sad moment. I’ll update as time and situation permit. In the meantime, get out there, buy some fowl food and feed the little buggers wherever you are. Rise up and defy the Man. It is our right and our heritage.

DSCN2390

 

 

Crick 3 Rikky 2

Standard
Crick 3 Rikky 2

I am not in the habit of publishing football (soccer) scores in my Blogs….although Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 to win the FA Cup this year (naturally). So, don’t be misled by the title of this Blog. It’s no footy result. But there is a winner involved. And not a likely winner at that. I am referring to the 2 canal/boating events we have attended for the past few years leading to a decision to live aboard one of these fine narrowboat craft.

Both functions occur near the end of May. They basically kick-off the boating season as far as I’m concerned. The first is the Rickmansworth Canal Festival and the other is a week later, the Crick Boat Show. The first is affectionately known as Rikky. “Going to Rikky this year?” We all know what it means. A number of boats went from our marina as it’s only about a 6-7 hour journey by boat (10-15 minutes by car). Every January you have to apply to have your boat there. Only so many boats are selected. Your best chance is to own one of the Historic boats.

A chap we know, who moors his 4 boats near our marina, takes all 4 of his and his partner’s boats to Rikky because every one is a historic boat. The oldest is 134 years old. Lots of upkeep on that one. Another is a pump-out barge. It takes the poo and pee off your boat (if you have a poo tank under your boat….we don’t, we have a cassette and dump it ourselves) and transfers it to tanks on his boat. Where it goes from there I dare not ask. Then he has a boat for living and one for arts and crafts.

The rest of the boats at Rikky are regular boats like ours and some are artisan boats selling everything from cheese to jewellery. Boats are usually 3 abreast, leaving a narrow lane for boats that want to continue cruising. Then there are the artisans on land. The last 2 years we attended, the same bunch sold the same old stuff and the fairground (midway) catered to the young. The food was expensive, as it is where a captive audience is found, though a good variety was offered.

But we didn’t go this year. We had planned to. Just didn’t work out. The weather was dodgy and the rum on our boat tasted good. Besides, we’d been to Rikky the last 2 years, as I said, and the novelty had worn thin. Our good neighbours, Eddie and Mimz decided not to go. Other boat neighbours who had a spot for their boat at Rikky decided to forego the pleasure and so we all stayed put, looking at our gardens by the boat and drinking our rum.

We had tickets for the next Sunday at the Crick Boat Show. We had decided with Eddie and Mimz to go together and stay overnight, returning on Bank Holiday Monday. Crick’s boat show is a more practical event. You can get stuff for your boat, not just clothing, baubles and beads, jewellery and crafts. And you can get that frivolous stuff too. Boats to view and experts to talk to, a beer tent and entertainment all day. All of the acts were stirling. Very folky and very good.

DSCN2428

We had been for the past 2 years and had originally decided not to go this year, but we had questions for the stove man and other marina representatives there and a gripe with the Thetford cassette toilet guy. “Why,” I asked, “did you put plastic wheels on the cassettes (where the poop and pee go)?” Info brackets there dear reader….I didn’t actually say poop and pee.

He looked at me oddly. “Well,” he said, “it seems to be a practical solution to getting your cassette to the Elsan point.”

“To what?” I asked, “What solution? You’ve put on wheels that have to be cleaned off before you put the cassette back under the toilet.”

“Why would you have to do that?” he asks, as if bubbles were floating out of my ears from my brain.

“Because none of our marinas or towpaths have carpeted walkways. It’s all grit and shit and you can’t put that in the tray below the toilet.”

“Well, it can’t take that long to clean,” he said. “Just a quick wipe I’m sure.”

“That’s not the point.” I  retorted, clearly annoyed that he didn’t understand, as most English people working in retail or the public sector suffer from, and ready to punch the twit in the nose. “Look, we use trolleys with bungee cords to get the cassettes to the Elsan point and back. We don’t need wheels.”

“Is that the only complaint?” he asked, a little smugly I thought.

“As a matter of fact, no.” I said, oh so politely with an edge. “Because you put wheels on the damned thing, it cuts back capacity in the cassette.”

“Only by a half litre.” he replied.

Now I was getting riled up (North American for pissed off). “Look,” I began, “when you have to empty the damned things, that extra half litre gives you that extra time between cleanings! We don’t want wheels, we want capacity!!!”

All he said was, “Sorry.” and turned to the next customer. Useless twit.

DSCN2431

The rest of Crick went well. It was a very hot and humid day. Even the beer tent was more like entering a sauna than anything remotely comfortable. But my cold pale ale went down very well. And the music was good. All the marquees were hot. The poor folk working at the booths were wrung out. No fans in these large tents. Usually the weather during the boat show is miserable. Not today or the day before apparently.

DSCN2441

The thing I look forward to the most at the boat show is the giveaways. Cloth bags filled with boating trinkets and such. A little info sheet on the product offered….sure….but pens and sweets, water bottles, boater key fobs, even a small torch (flashlight). I have a collection of boating cloth bags I cherish. Never use them but I love them.

Just one snag. We were in the Canal and River Trust (CRT) members tent and CRT cloth bags with water bottles  were laying on a table. I took one for me and one for my best friend. No one was around to stop us. Then I saw them. Little gloss covered books on canal walking paths. I took one.

DSCN2439

“Sorry.” I heard a voice say as I was putting the book into one of my bags of freebies, “Those are for new members only.” I had to grudgingly return the stolen item. How was I to know? Officious little twit. I slunked away, tail between my legs. It was hot. We decided to leave. Never got back for the evening show featuring Fleetwood Bac, a Fleetwood Mac tribute band endorsed by Mick Fleetwood himself. Everyone was too tired. That I would never have allowed if the real Mac had been there.

DSCN2440

SPRING CLEAN!

Standard
SPRING CLEAN!

There is one thing you have to know about living in England. You cannot rely on the weather to cooperate with your outdoor plans. Hit and miss. Probably the same everywhere, but in England, weather forecasting is not only not a science, it is not worth the effort. Winds swing around and change here like…well….the wind. 0% chance of rain? It rains. High of 25? Might get to 15C. High of 15? Might reach 25C. Strange.

An English forecaster back in the late 1980s, Michael Fish, stated categorically that no hurricane was imminent. Scoffed on air at the heralders of the Cane. And, sure enough, it blew and soaked southern England to bits on the 15th October 1987. A few years ago, we were supposed to get a dusting of snow in Kent. We ended up with a foot of snow and chaos on the roads and at the airports around London. Business came to a virtual standstill except for one intrepid fellow who cross-country skied 26 miles to get to work. If all Brits were like this, things would be different.

Into this uncertainty wade two lots of narrowboat people waiting for the right weather to finally do some Spring cleaning  and gardening on the outside. Grit and grime build up significantly over the winter months. The wood/coal-burning stove adds to the nastiness that befalls the roof of the boats over 6 months of use. The gardens had gone to seed too, Dead flora everywhere and coal bags stacked for stove use. Not a pretty sight.

And we would have to commence cleaning activities on the hottest day of the year to date. You can’t win. Too cold, too wet, too hot. Take your pick. The next few days were going to get hotter, so it had to be this day. You never know when the opportunity will arise again. There’s a joke around here that says if we get a really hot week in April or May, that’s the English summer done. June, July and August will probably be cool and wet. We’ve had some crazy summer weather the last few years.

We were first out of the blocks. My best friend and I started with the roof. Just makes sense. We have a taller chimney for winter weather and a shorter one for summer and travel. Up onto the roof I went, pulling out the old chimney and doing my chimney sweep bit with brush, I cleaned the flue pipe, while singing ‘Shtep in toime….’ It added to the general mess on the roof and to the annoyance of my best friend. Dust pan and brush it away then down to get the short chimney and back up to put it in place. I cleaned the winter chimney when I got off the roof and stored it away.

Meanwhile, my best friend got up on the roof and began scrubbing it by hand. Because our roof is gritted to make it safer to walk on, her knuckles took quite a beating. Tough old thing she is. When I finished with the chimney I pitched in. Next door, Eddie (Gollum), sprung onto his roof and began power washing it. He has all the gear for anything. He got his nickname from the way he crouches and leaps, like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. That’s also why his boat is named ‘My Precious’.

DSCN2373

So we scrubbed and scoured, rinsed and scrubbed some more. Mimz took over with my best friend and the roof was done. Then the sides had to be washed. Most of us were soaked by then but it didn’t matter. It had become very hot and we were growing weary. Eddie gave up part way down the side of his boat not aligned with our jetty. And besides, Mimz had to leave to coach her Netball team. The cleaning frenzy ended. Mimz headed off and the rest of us sat at the end of the jetty and drank Pimms. How very English of us.

DSCN2363

DSCN2367

Then we began tackling the garden side of things. Eddie completely revamped and realigned their side. ‘He has a flare for it’, as my best friend said. And he does, watching him fuss about, putting this plant here and moving that one there, then standing back, surveying his mini kingdom only to return and rearrange things once again. In the end, he had created a masterpiece. The funny part of all this is Eddie protests vociferously when Mimz lays out her garden strategy. ‘No more plants,’ he says. ‘I said when I got the boat I wasn’t having all that tat around my boat.’ And here was the tat master working his magic. It is a sight to see.

Mimz comes back. We’re three sheets to the wind and she looks at the display. ‘Nice,’ she says. ‘Nice?’ Eddie retorts, ‘It’s fucking brilliant. You know it is!’ She relents and admits it is. Peace restored. My best friend is the one with flare in this duo. She always asks me if things look good. I always say yes. I have learned over the years not to engage in matters that require tact and a level of not caring enough to argue. That, and, in the end, it does look good. Every kind of plant imaginable and solar lights of every colour to liven up the night. The kids love all our windmills too.

DSCN2370

We get a lot of compliments for the efforts made with the clean boats and beautiful gardens. But one thing was missing. An arch, one of those all the gardens of quality possess. Now that we had moved our boat (see the previous Blog), to share the same jetty with Eddie and Mimz, we could get an arch and entwine our honeysuckle plants through the it. The girls went forth to get the arch and some more solar lights. When they got back, Eddie went to work putting the arch together.

Just one tiny problem. Our honeysuckle plant was wrapped around the wi-fi poll with some solar lights on our old jetty. I was tasked with unwinding all and bringing them back to wrap around the new arch. I’m not tall enough to reach the lights wrapped around the top. When I put them there, I had borrowed a step-ladder from our marine Warden, Dave. But he wasn’t around. Charlie, the Amazon, was doing some electrical work on Gary’s boat. Gary’s our old neighbour. I said, ‘I know we live on boats, but do either of you have a step-ladder?’ They looked at me like I had dropped out of kindergarten.

Charlie said, ‘Use my workbench. It holds 200 kilos. I way 109. So, I march over to her jetty, grab the workbench and set it up by the wi-fi pole. The jettys wobble at the end. I am ham-fisted. What could possibly go wrong? Well, I got onto the table just fine and stood up with no problems and began unwinding the lights. It suddenly all went wrong. One of the table legs gave way and I was left clinging to the pole. I was determined not to go into the water. As I was sliding down the poll, I scraped my legs and cut my hand while ripping out the solar lights. Eddie came to the rescue and helped me down to safety. Charlie apologised profusely, my best friend scolded me for even trying such a foolish thing and Mimz said it was the best and bravest pole dance she’d ever seen.

Eddie unwrapped the honey suckle and I brought it back to take its rightful place at the base of the arch while my best friend wove the branches through the archway lattice sides and she and Mimz generally tarted up the new arch. Looks great I must say and as we sipped our rums and cokes into the evening, the lights came on and we all cheered. Spring cleaning….check.

DSCN2384

The author under the arch. Ready to drink the night away.

Moving Day

Standard
Moving Day

How many times in your life have you moved? I’ve lost count myself. Between places in Canada, France and now England, the changes pile up. The bother of it all is not so much changing location as all the stuff you have to sort through and arrange to move. Packing up is the worst. Deciding what to keep and what to get rid of is a challenge. Sometimes you have no choice and have to leave it all behind….most of it anyway.

Moving from Canada to France back in the 1980s was particularly difficult. It took months for my stuff to get there and that was by air. I had to hire a van in Paris and pick up all the belongings at a customs depot in Charles DeGaulle Airport. There’s an experience, I’ll tell you. Especially when you are a Canadian in France and hardly speak any of the language. The French just expect you speak their language because you are in a bilingual country that includes both english and french.

Funny thing about that. When I had finally learned enough french to get by, I was working in Marseille. A French Canadian guy came from Quebec to work for us. The French employees came to me to translate what he said into french. Turns out the French Canadian dialect is stuck in old France and sounds like nonsense to French people in France. But I digress….as usual.

I hate moving. Let me rephrase that. I hate moving stuff. I don’t mind a change of location, but I don’t like having to sort through all the rubbish I’ve accumulated when it’s time to pack up. If that weren’t bad enough, you have to unpack when you reach your new destination. What to keep, what to get rid of, these are the causes of trauma, frustration and the feelings of loss. Especially when you wish you had kept that old pillow or book or chair. Not to mention the memories made in the old place….all the good ones.

I remember the first time I moved out of my parents’ house (home). Moving into a one bedroom flat at Jane and Wilson in North York (Toronto). The great feeling of independence that lasted all of a week or two, buying new furniture and putting on a new coat of paint. But then I had to cook for myself. A lot of take-outs (take-aways) let me tell you. And pizza deliveries. The stuff of a single man’s dreams. For a while.

Moving out of the old neighbourhood can be dismaying. Saying goodbye to old friends and neighbours, if you know them, is not easy. I’ve said my sayonaras a number of times. A few people I’ve gotten to know in a couple of those places are no longer with us. Life has so many twists and turns. I have never been able to keep up with them. The best I can do is hold on to the good memories of each place and the people who were at those moments of my journey.

Before I get too maudlin, and I do tend to get that way sometimes, let me just say that each move I’ve made tends to be the right one on hindsight. I wish there were not an ocean between myself and my children, but the move I made back to the land of my birth was the right one for me.I have done all the things I’ve wanted to do….except playing on stage with Eric Clapton. Moving to the boat from a house has been the best move yet. I love being on the water when I go to sleep and when I wake up.

And it is very comforting to have a permanent place in a marina with the facilities needed to live well. You know, a laundry, electric hook-up, water tap to fill our water tank, a pontoon and so on. It’s also a close-knit community where everyone helps everyone else and share their rum freely. Captain Morgan’s Spiced Gold please. One neighbour brought a Brazilian rum back from a recent trip and gave several of us small bottles of the elixir. Saving it for a special occasion.

The great thing about living on a boat is that when you do move, you take your home with you and everything in it. You can also choose a new permanent mooring in any of the many marinas dotted along the canals of Britain….provided they have a space. Most do at the moment. In the two years we’ve been on our narrowboat, we have been in one marina beside the same pontoon. Happy as clams.

DSCN0506

Before

DSCN2350

After

 

Then it happened. Time for a change and thus another move. Not sure how it began. Another neighbour, Kevin, he of Morris Dancing fame, took his boat up the cut to another marina to get his boat blacked. That’s the process by which the bottom of our boats are coated every few years with a black bitumen to prevent erosion of the steel haul under the boat. The idea came to mind….why not switch places?

But then came another question….why are we doing this? Because we can and mostly because Kev agreed to the switch. And also because we end up sharing Eddie’s and Mimz’s pontoon more than we used the one we were on. I’m sure my best friend has better answers than that but I haven’t the time or energy to ask, so there you go. We simply changed places.

DSCN2352

So, on a day that was breezier that I’d like, I untied where we had moored for nearly 2 years, move the boat out into the marina and manoeuvred the boat to the left of the old pontoon to back it into the new spot. Easy peasy? Not with the strong breeze it wasn’t. The wind kept trying to push me into the boats on the other side of the marina. But I gunned the engine toward the back wall then slammed into reverse and went hard toward the new pontoon. I gave it a glancing blow but Eddie was there to pull me out of trouble with my boat rope.

The boat glided back into the new slot, tied up, electric plugged in, engine off. A successful move. The shortest move too….but not the easiest. Wind is never a narrowboat’s friend. And the good thing is….no packing, no unpacking and no loss of friends and neighbours. Not a bad day’s work.

DSCN2348