Tragic Tuesday

Memories and pipe dreams - maybe?The holiday is well and truly over and the crew are suffering. A week of not having to be anywhere at any time is a true luxury, but one to which one can quickly become accustomed.

Like a fool, I made the huge mistake, last night, of looking  at narrowboats for sale online, knowing full well that now was not the time. Sadly I found several that fitted the bill, beautiful, well equipped and (relatively) cheap.

So today I am busy getting my mind back into ‘sensible mode’ and dealing with the problems that every day life brings. Though I have to admit that I keep drifting back to last week, and an afternoon spent in the Cotton Arms in Wrenbury with Richard, a retired IT professional, now living full time on narrowboat Sarah Pay with his Welsh Collie Megan.

We all set ourselves goals and we are all guilty of looking over the fence to the greener fields, but we must use Wisdom when we navigate through these mental flights of fancy.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, at least for now, I have to concentrate on performing the role for which I am paid. The holiday is gone, albeit that the memories are still fresh in the mind. To make changes we must make causes, and to make causes we need to use our wisdom and courage. We will see, time will tell … again.

So Chilled

Bridge 43 on the Llangollen CanalThe holiday is over, the boat returned to its rightful owner intact and in good order and the crew are both back at work.

A week afloat, in beautiful countryside and always at walking pace or below is enough to slow even the most frantic heart rate. Of course there were a couple of issues, the most memorable being the deluge we encountered whilst trying to moor Kingfisher at Hurleston junction.

The rain was coming down by the bucketful and mooring spaces were at a premium, so the stress levels were raised just a little. To say it was wet would be an understatement. Everything, and I mean everything, was soaked through.

But these tiny bumps in the road we call life, are just opportunities to learn and improve, and although it was reported by First Officer Fogg, that I did use a few expletives at times, the task was accomplished and everything was dry, or drying, by the following morning.

So now I’m back in the office. Apart from the odd sensation of land sickness, where perfectly solid buildings appear to sway like a narrowboat, giving everyone the impression that one is a little intoxicated, it’s life as usual.

Whether life as usual is a good thing or not, is open to conjecture. Whether life as usual will remain life as usual was discussed on several occasions during the week afloat, so maybe watch this space for further developments.


TranquillityOfficially, today was Tuesday, but in computer speak it was actually Monday++. With the extra day off, the weekend just meant that the pile of work waiting for me when I got into the office this morning was 50% bigger than a normal Monday, and you know how I feel about them. So it was all hands on deck and the day passed without a break, ironically at break-neck speed.

So by the time five o’clock arrived I was in need of some peace and quiet. Fortunately, the stream behind the office is exactly the right place to find such an environment, so before diving into the car and setting off for MQ, I took several long minutes to just stand and chant in the evening sunshine, watch the quiet waters flow past, and let my mind find its equilibrium as the trials and tribulations of the day drifted away with the shining lazy current.

If we are to deal with the challenges of everyday life, it is important to take a deep breath, inhale the quieter side of life, and release the stress that builds up inside. Next time you find yourself feeling agitated, stressed out, or getting submerged beneath the everyday strains that life puts upon us, find a quiet spot, take time to stand still, breathe and just let the stress drift away.

Far from being a waste of time, they may be the most important minutes of your day.

A Proper British Bank Holiday

M51They do say that there is no such thing as bad weather, just a bad choice of clothing. But I do think it is a bit sad, that on the last public holiday before Christmas, the heavens decide to open in such a biblical fashion.

After yesterday’s ‘Hedge-gate’ incident, the weather made any further progress impossible. Records show that today was the second wettest day of a very, very wet August, and I can believe that. The rain actually woke us this morning.

So an enforced rest day, not that resting is in Bumble’s vocabulary, so she had to do some ironing. I finished reading ‘The End Of The Affair” by Graham Greene, a rather sad, if thought provoking book, recommended by my friend Jason Michael of Homophilosophicus.

We also managed to fit in a bit of educational telly, Horizon on mapping the universe, a very interesting subject. Whilst I talk about us all being part of the universe, it is difficult to get a mental grip on the astronomical (literally) distances involved.

Without meaning to overstate the obvious, the universe is a really, really big place. However, it does have an end, or rather a spherical outer limit, so what is on the other side of that limit. Well the answer, as far as we know today, is a whole set of other universes.

If you ever wanted a good example to show you just how insignificant, in astronomical terms, the Earth really is, I think we have found one here.

When Reality Bites

When Reality BitesAfter a wonderfully restful, not to say enjoyable week away, it was time to return to the coal face and get back to reality. But with fully recharged batteries, the usual Monday morning drive wasn’t so bad after all. The weather was kind, the traffic was light and the chanting along the way, more than effective.

Getting back behind my PC was not the trial it might have been, the team had done a good job of minding the shop, and the usual pile of emails was not as high as it might have been. I was straight out of holiday mood and had my business head on.

Routine, at work, in life in general and as my practice gives me a solid structure with which to take on the challenges that life presents. Whether that is something as trivial as getting over the first day back at work after a holiday, or some of the more important problems, my practice helps turn the poison into medicine.

Slightly Sad Sunday

Narrowboat Bumble - A Goal For The FutureSo that’s that, the holiday has been and gone. After all the planning, all the talking, packing, organising and travelling. After a really wonderful week afloat, during which we all got on like a house on fire, as expected. After all those fun times, going through locks, under lifting bridges, dodging all the other narrowboats and picking beautiful places for the evening mooring up. Even after all the sunshine and rain, it’s over.

I’ve always been of the opinion that it should be obligatory to have a week off after each holiday, just to give you time to get back into the swing of things. Sadly I doubt that any political party will ever table such a motion, even though it would be a great vote winner.

For me, the day started very slowly. Bumble managed to sneak out of bed without waking me, which is quite a feat as I am rather a light sleeper. By the time I got downstairs, she had already had her breakfast, started the washing and was cleaning and tidying, I felt rather ashamed that she was doing it all on her own.

I was keen to help, and did so by cracking on with the gardening jobs. The wet weather had done a great job of watering the runner beans and Steve and Andrew, the next door neighbours, had done the same with the tomatoes in the greenhouse.

Sadly, as I’m sure a few of you have also found, all these wet conditions have been perfect for our little slug and snail friends and they had munched a number of plants. The peas in the trough next to the front door hadn’t escaped attention, so I replaced the victims with the spares still growing in the greenhouse.

I also retrieved the hanging baskets from next door. They had been moved so that the boys could water them more easily, but with the weather being the way it has been, they admitted that the baskets hadn’t need watering at all.

Bumble’s bike needs some TLC after her son Sam had borrowed it recently. The crank bearings need replacing, but despite administering some gentle violence in trying to remove the pedals, I was unable to get to the guilty parts, so it will need a visit to the bike doctor to get repaired.

B had also been running out of steam early in the evenings last week, and we had discussed the possibility that she has an iron deficiency. So with time running out, we set off to the farm shop, to buy some liver, and see if that might help. En route we stopped off to buy some brioche which we had eaten toasted with paté at the Dusty Miller.

In all the rush, Bumble forgot to buy the liver, but we did have a lovely meal of toasted brioche and paté, with the obligatory salad, for dinner. After clearing up and taking a quick look through the photos on the PC, we decided that we were both pretty pooped so opted for an early night, after all, Monday mornings start pretty early when I have to drive back to Ringwood.

So a slightly sad Sunday, with both of us suffering a little from land-sickness after being on a moving boat for a week, and missing the tranquillity of canal life. But it’s nice to be home again, and as we all know, nothing lasts forever, does it?

I do have it in mind to buy our own narrowboat at some point and sail off into the sunset. So some sweet dreams to end the holiday, and a nice target to aim for in the future, now all we need to do is make the causes for the effects we want to see.

The Race Is On

St. Alkmund's Church - WhitchurchBy close of play tonight, we had to back within minutes of the marina, ready to hand our trusty craft back first thing in the morning. As though to amplify the sadness that we all felt as the week afloat came to an end, the heavens had opened and it remained that way pretty much all day.

Donning our wet weather gear, we made our soggy way back towards Ellesmere, leaving time to stop off for a walk into Whitchurch. Strangely, though we were getting soaked through, it really didn’t matter. So by the time we moored just outside the town, we were all, apart maybe from Steve, keen to make our way along the route of the closed Whitchurch spur.

It really was very wet. I was wearing my ever present shorts and a cagoule, but by the time we had walked down the high street and found a quaint little cafe, I even had puddles in my pockets and my wallet was soaked. An alternative meaning to money laundering.

The cafe, Percy’s Coffee and Curious, was a fantastic little place. The hot coffee and toasted teacakes went a long way to warming and reviving us, and the collection of interesting antique items soon made us forget the rain. We stayed long enough to dry out a fair bit, but Steve had had enough of traipsing around the town, so set off back to the boat.

After a focussed expedition to find sausages made from ‘happy’ pigs, and the procurement of some properly muddy organic potatoes, we stopped off at St. Alkmund’s Church. It is a truly magnificent building, both inside and out. The stained glass windows are stunning, and although I have no particular feelings for the religion it houses, it is hard to not be impressed with the architecture.

Bumble was absolutely in her element. Her love of architecture means that she spends more time looking up at buildings and not enough time looking where she is going, hence the extensive history of sprained ankles. But we were all happy to share her enthusiasm in such an atmospheric place. Even the cleaning lady’s vacuum cleaner couldn’t dampen our admiration.

The walk back proved a little too eventful for comfort too. Apart from the fact that we were, yet again, soaked through, down to our unmentionables, Sue failed to negotiate a rather rough section of the path. She tumbled, rather gracefully I thought, into the biggest, muddiest puddle you have ever seen, and had to be hosed down when we finally made in back on board.

Steve, all snug and dry in the cabin, made a fine job of turning our purchases into a magnificent meal of bangers and mash, more than welcome after the moistest of mornings. Then, after getting things all ship shape again, it was time to brave the elements again and get ourselves back to Ellesmere.

The day had been strangely pleasant, despite the rain. We were back close to the marina, so all set for handover in the morning. Once you are soaked through, you can’t get any wetter. If you can come to terms with the slight discomfort, it really isn’t bad at all. We had seen a beautiful church, explored a delightful market town, and because of the weather, we had the place almost to ourselves. A truly fitting last full day afloat.

Sleeping Beauty

Llangollen Station

After a communal breakfast, we set off towards Chirk just before 9:00. The canal was rather narrow and it was difficult to make much headway, having to stop and start to pass boats coming in the other direction. After a while, we came to the Chirk aqueduct, the smaller of the two we would cross today.

It is amazing to see the lengths that the engineers and navigators went to, to circumvent the natural obstacles, hills and valleys, to allow the canal to wend its way across the landscape. It’s also impressive to note that many of these structures predate even the early railways.

Following successful navigation of both the Chirk and Whitehouse tunnels, we took a sharp right turn and were confronted by the awe inspiring Pontcysyllte aqueduct. Crossing is just like flying, to the right there is the towpath and a stout railing, to the left there’s nothing but blue sky and the drop to the river below, amazing. Photographs really don’t do justice to this incredible piece of engineering.

Turning in the Trevor basin, we made our way up the, oft single file, spur towards Llangollen. Following a boating novice from New Zealand made progress a little slow, but hugely entertaining. We turned the boat in Llangollen basin, moored up, and after a lazy lunch made our way down from the towpath into the town.

What joy! A beautifully restored steam engine in full steam was shunting carriages ready to take visitors off to Carrog. After a quick photo session, we had a stroll around the town, including the obligatory ice cream, in beautiful, if slightly blustery, sunshine. While the SAS went to stock up on provisions, Bumble and I sat on the station in the sunshine and watched the trains. Does life get much better?

Coming back across the aqueduct we decided to moor up short of the Whitehouse tunnel, in a leafy clearing, tranquillity personified. Steve cooked diner, but after a rather exciting and slightly physical day, walking to and from the town, Bumble found her eyelids just too heavy to keep open and retired at 8:30. The rest of us didn’t do much better, so by 10:00 the crew were all sound asleep.

Croissants and Canal Boats

The Canal In The SkySunday morning, and the SAS arrive. No not that Army lot with their blacked-out faces and rubber dinghies, but Sue and Steve in their black Passat, all ready for a croissant laden breakfast and a canal holiday planning meeting. We’re off to Shropshire in a few days, to take charge of a narrow boat and cruise the Llangollen canal, come hell and high water.

Now Bumble, Sue and Steve are old hands at this sort of thing. To them a lock is a way of changing level along a canal, not two users trying to access the same data or the thing I put my front door key in, as it is in my world. Despite the water being only a few feet deep, I sense I’m out of my depth already.

Actually, I’m really looking forward to the challenge. Not the challenge of learning about locks and boats, knots and navigation and the like. The challenge of getting around a narrow boat with Steve around, who was never designed with narrow boats in mind. He’s a proper, old fashioned, jolly giant, so I’m sure we will get to know each other all too intimately during the seven days afloat.

I have to say, that I have been having a few reservations about the trip. For one, we will be going over the Pontcysyllte aqueduct at Trevor. When Thomas Telford and William Jessop opened the aqueduct a month after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, it was the tallest canal boat crossing in the world and at 126ft (over 38 metres) high it is still an impressive and buttock clenching structure.

I’m also going to be thrown in at the deep end, figuratively I hope, in terms of being out of my comfort zone, with no experience of canal navigation whatsoever. But as they say (whoever they are), feel the fear and do it anyway. We are hoping for at least a day or two of good weather, though North Wales is better know for its lush green valleys than its sun-soaked beaches, so a fair deal of chanting is required before we cast off.

Naturally, being immersed in the Welsh countryside, blogging may prove to be another challenge. But be assured that I will post as often as connectivity allows, and fill in any missing bits when we return to ‘civilisation’. With a maximum speed of 4mph, it going to be a great excuse to chill out and take things nice and slow.

Time will tell whether the natives, and my fellow crew members take kindly to me chanting from the bow (the pointy end apparently) first thing in the morning. So if you hear a loud splash and the blogging stops abruptly, you’ll know what’s happened. Please tell my kith and kin I loved them all dearly.

A Spiritual Day

The Glastonbury TorBuddhism is an inclusive faith, every other religion is accepted and respected. So on one of the most important days in the Christian calendar it was wonderful to make our way to Glastonbury and immerse ourselves in the very special spiritual atmosphere that always pervades that amazing place.

The weather was kind and, although it was no heat wave, the sun kept us company for most of the day. The drive to the Isle of Avalon was really nice. There is a lot of very beautiful countryside along the way, culminating with a first glimpse of the tor more than five miles from the town itself.

The Chalice WellWe parked the Yaris a couple of hundred yards from the Chalice Well and decided to visit the solitude of its gardens to eat our packed lunch. The Well really is a special place with lots of secluded little corners set aside for quiet contemplation. Although there were quite a number of visitors, the quiet calm was very much in evidence as always.

Glastonbury, outside the festival season, does seem to attract a certain type of person and today was no different. Everyone we met appeared to be there for the spiritual atmosphere and walking around the town was as interesting as ever. For those who appreciate the finer side of faith based artefacts, the place is bursting with shops of every kind.

At the summitHaving waited till late in the afternoon, so the crowds could start wending their way home, we set off to climb the tor. It’s a bit of a climb I can tell you, but with only a handful of people at the summit, it was worth every deep breath. The view over the landscape is just amazing and it’s obvious why it has been a site of spiritual importance for such a long time.

The stroll back down to the car was, understandably, much less strenuous, though the drive back home was equally picturesque. So a day full of Easter biscuits, hot cross buns, Christian imagery and spiritual ambiance was enjoyed with due deference to a most important religious day. I hope everyone also had a very special Easter day however you celebrated it.

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