Wednesday, December 12, 2012

An Update

We have been a bit quiet over the past week while we made our way back to Loughborough for Christmas, New Year and to wait out the worst of winter. Our intention was to get to Loughborough via the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union Canal, part of which also includes the River Soar. The day before we were due to turn onto the Leicester Arm we were reminded to check the winter stoppages, when Canal and River Trust close locks and sections of the canals for maintenance. Naturally we then proceeded to do so and discovered that we would be unable to get through the Foxton Locks until after the 21st December.  Plan B meant taking the longer route around, about 2 1/2 times further. So now instead of moving 4 hours a day, we needed to do more to try and beat the winter freeze. 
Beautiful sunrise on the Coventry Canal

Lucky for us the following days were clear but very cold. Andrew was up before sunrise and we were off by 8 - 8:30 in the morning. We rushed through the rather beautiful Northern Oxford Canal and on to the Coventry Canal over the next few days. Frosty clear mornings and iced canals, Andrew was having a ball. Me I was keeping warm inside and only popping out to manoeuvre into and out of the locks. 

Waiting for Andrew to open the lock gates 

An unusual 'haystack' near the canal 

We planned to only stop for water and groceries at the end of each day, mooring up at 3 - 3:30pm allowing time to go and get groceries after this.It is an odd feeling going grocery shopping in the dark but still only 4pm in the afternoon.
We were making good time and the weather was being reasonably kind and we were on track to arrive in Loughborough on Wednesday evening or Thursday, UNTIL we arrived at the Barton Turns Lock on Tuesday morning, just an hour and a half after starting out. 
In our haste to change route we missed another stoppage on the longer Plan B route, Barton Turns Lock was closed until the 14th December, but only the day before we arrived, the stoppage was extended to the 19th and we are now having to wait !  Luckily for us there is a very large marina right here, the Barton Turns Marina. For now we are marina based, not very pleasant I must admit. On the plus side I have managed to get the laundry done and there is a very nice butcher and grocer in a waterside development. Along with a cafe and a bar, so we will not be short of the essentials. For a place to be stuck not to bad from that angle but bloody boring in every other way. It has not helped that the fog rolled in early Tuesday afternoon and has not moved since. Crappy photography weather !

We also had to change plans to see some friends we have not seen for a very long time. Another stroke of luck there is a small Travellodge across the canal, our friends have changed their night stop from Loughborough to Barton under Needwood, so we still get to see them on Friday after all.

Other than that we wait to complete the last 2 days of travel to Loughborough. We are hoping the locks might open before the 19th and we will be the first boat through I would suspect. We can only hope that the weather holds out and we do not find ourselves frozen in here for the rest of winter.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Extra as promised

It is a few days back now but due to my insistence on getting my cast replaced and a necessary stop for laundry, we were running a day behind schedule to be in Leighton Buzzard on the Sunday for an engine service. With Andrew going solo we needed to travel as much as possible each day. Late Friday afternoon, coming out of the Dudswell Lock, Andrew was delighted to inform me that we had just broken some ice, not a huge amount but enough to make him happy. :)  Luckily that was where we were stopping for the night.

Saturday was the day we had to go back down the Marsworth Flight, 6 locks, plus a further 2 a bit further on. Andrew stopped for a quick loo break once we were in the top lock.  Luckily in this short wait another boat arrived at the lock going in the same direction making life a bit easier for Andrew but possibly not as much of a delight for our fellow travellers. We carried on for a few locks after the other boat, nb 4 Fun, moored up. It turned out to be a very pleasant day both for weather and travel.

A Kestrel

Sunday morning arrived and we still had 6 locks and about 5 miles to go. As we also needed to allow the engine time to cool down, Andrew set the alarm for an early start at 8:30am.  Low and behold we woke to a very frosty morning, the coldest we had felt. The canal was iced over but we needed to move !  So icebreaking it was. The ice was about 5mm thick although in the more exposed areas it looked like more 1cm. Andrew was loving it but I was just a little apprehensive, especially as the locks would also be icy.

Our Ice Trail

Ice Edge

In comparison today's trail in the much softer ice

Moorhen trails today

The sound of the boat breaking the ice though was quite enthralling and watching the broken sheets of ice slide over each other was mesmerising. After exiting the first lock the ice was much thicker and Andrew decided to have a cuppa before continuing. With the engine still running the ice was shifting and vibrating and it almost sounded like a chorus of small frogs. Not long after making the coffee, the ice started shifting announcing the arrival of another boat, so once again Andrew was lucky to have some extra help through the locks.  I was surprised at the number of boats out that day as the canal was iced over for most of the trip into Leighton Buzzard.  We made it with plenty of time to spare and the engine has had its service and Andrew has picked up a bit more knowledge on engines.


A Goldfinch feeding while we were waiting at the lock.

Baby it's cold out there.....

We moored up yesterday on the outskirts of Milton Keynes to a beautiful sunny, but cool, afternoon near the  remains of a Norman church. So naturally I grabbed my camera and trotted over to take some photos -

I did a bit of further research on the net after speaking to a man out walking his dogs and discovered that this church was still in use in the late 1920's. Once it was no longer used it seems that the church deteriorated rapidly and this is all that remains today, just 70 years later after it has been standing since about 1175.
( http://www.savestpeterschurch.com/index.php/history/ )

 So from a gorgeous sunset to waking to this, snow and slushy ice on the canal !!

We need to get moving as the food needs restocking. The sun is out again and the snow and slushy ice is already melting, so off to Tescos and then on to Cosgrove for the night.

I will put up a new post tonight with some photo's from Saturday and Sunday, cold and very cold !!!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Big 'Ups' NHS

As you will have read on a previous post, Michele broke her wrist falling lockside.

What she did not cover in great detail was her experience with the National Health Service and how it compares with our New Zealand experiences.

Having made the decision that we needed to get to Accident and Emergency to have her wrist looked at, we researched on the internet, to see what was involved, as ,although British Citizens, we are not registered with any General Practice, nor with the NHS.

It was clear, that, as it was an accident, we did not need to take anything with us, but we took passports and proof of address (cough, cough, we actually don't have an address, but we have very occasional mail sent to two addresses, so picked one).

Michele was seen within an hour, admittedly it was early in the morning, but in NZ, we would have had several hours wait!

All was fixed, X-Rays done, a temporary cast fitted, and an appointment made for 28th November for the fitting of a permanent cast once the swelling had gone down.

Yesterday, Michele caught the train from Apsley back into London to have the permanent cast fitted, and duly arrived back with a pink fibreglass cast, but a bit of a frown! Apparently the cast was causing some pressure on the ball of her thumb.

Thinking it would go away with time, we ignored it and settled in for the evening, with teh masterchef cooking a roast :)

Michele had a really bad night, the pressure did not go away, and she barely slept (and you know what hat means, neither did I!)
At 7 am this morning, Michele was out of bed, with no let up in the pressure. Knowing that she does not get up at this hour for ANY reason, I knew we had to do something! The decision was very quickly made to head back to London, as it was either that or she was going to get me to cut the cast off.

We did not phone first for an appointment, as the Fracure clinic at St Mary's Hospital did not open until 9 am.

Michele phoned them at 9 am, they could not fit her in until 2 pm! Michele advised them that was fine, but we were on the train, 30 minutes away and the cast was coming off!

We duly arrived just after 10 am, and Michele approached the reception counter with some trepidation, expecting to be told to sit down and wait. We were both amazed to be waved straight through! not only that, but as we approached the head nurse, Michele was immediately greeted by name, and sent straight through to the ward, where the Plaster Technicians were waiting. They removed teh old cast, much to Michele's relief! and fitted a new one there and then. The wrist was X-Rayed again, to insure it had not moved, and we were on our way.

Stunned and Amazed is the only description that fits! The Fracture Clinic were fantastic! In NZ, this would have taken most of the day!

All in all a very impressive service.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bugger, Blast and "%@£&*!"$%&$@

After an uncomfortable and relatively painful evening on Tuesday and having turned down a visit to A&E, I changed my mind. With the persuasion of a qualified friend on Facebook and ragging from family, Andrew did a u-turn on the canal (lucky for me there was a turning hole, correct term: winding hole, close by) Andrew set course for Paddington Basin. St Mary's hospital overlooks the basin and I had happened to see an A&E sign while we were there. Also checked on internet to be absolutely certain. We made good time and at 9:45 am, I had filled in my form and was sitting in the waiting room. Quick chat with the triage nurse and I was off to x-ray. Back to waiting room and then the bad news. I had fractured the radius (larger long bone in forearm) right by the wrist. They had to cut off my wedding rings (not good) and then slap on a'back slab' plaster. This is plaster along the top of the forearm, to keep wrist relatively immobile but allows for swelling, which it did even more.All done and completed and I was back at the boat by 11:15am. I now have an appointment for 28th for the more permanent wrapper, which I have been told will be fibreglass.

In the meantime we have re-turned to our move north. We do not move that fast so I will still be just a short train ride from London. Andrew though is now doing all the work himself. I think that secretly he is really enjoying it, I just feel like an unnecessary spare part (idiot), maybe I can sit back and relax for the remainder of this year (which has not yet started by the way)

Even photography is difficult, I can't use my left hand to change the zoom! I have discovered though that because the lens has a ridged rubber surface, I can use my plaster to move it. Just takes a bit longer to get the right distance. I have at least managed a number of shots of Andrew locking for a change! Only because I let him mind you, although he does have an excuse now, it is a bit difficult for me to wind paddles one handed. In some cases I had to use more than just arm power!

And to finish off. a picture taken today at 3:20pm!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Goodbye London...till next time

Our 5 days in London have been fun and interesting, From the noisy 24 hour building site that is the new Hammersmith & Central & Circle line entrance at Paddington Basin, to the ride on the London Eye on an overcast and misty day.

Cabaret, the show on Friday night was great. Andrew and I both really enjoy live theatre. Awkward times though as the show starts at 7:30pm and finishes around 10pm. To early to eat before and couldn't be bothered afterwards. Not only that but on getting back to the boat, or should say trying, the steps up from the new entrance were closed and from within 10 meters of the boat we had to turn around and walk all the way back to the main Paddington station entrance and back past the hospital, a 15 minute walk all up. Not great when you are already tired. Still was a great evening.

Saturday was breakfast out, to get away from construction noise ( I was ready to wallop the first technicolour builder who walked past after a terribly noisy night), and then on to the Victoria and Albert museum. I enjoyed the displays but after spending a lot of time checking out all the jewellery, I think Andrew was getting a bit bored. I dragged him round anyway. ( I was bored - A)

Back to the boat to give it a good clean and tidy before Jody and Gina's visit on Sunday.

Sunday was  lovely relaxing day spent with family. Lots of laughter, drinks and food made for a fantastic day.  Looking forward to seeing them again in the next few weeks if that can be arranged. Their weekends are full, ours are pretty much empty :) but hopefully something can be arranged.

I missed this photo opportunity last year when we were here, so made absolutely certain I got it  this time. Helped that we were through here every day!

A view down the train - the Metropolitan Line

Silly me did not take any photos in Baker Street Station, one of the original stations for the Metrolpolitan Railway, the world's first underground railway, opened in 1863 (to quote Wikipedia) A beautiful station indeed.

Once I get myself and Andrew better organised we will do the National Archives at Kew and fill in some of those family tree blank spots. For now though we were both getting itchy feet and so today we started the trip back up north.

We, or probably more me, wanted to cruise up the Regent's canal for a bit before turning back.  Interesting canal with some very different views on living along here. A quick view of the London Zoo and then on to Camden, Locks and market. We were heading to go through the Islington tunnel before our turn around but I managed to put a halt to that after I slipped on some wet, mossy wood at the bottom of St Pancras lock. My left wrist is now quite swollen and very painful. Was concerned for  while that I had broken it but all fingers and thumb all moving okay, just bloody sore. We turned around in Battlebridge Basin and headed back. Unfortunately with my left hand out of action Andrew had to get us back through all the locks single handed as I cannot even use the throttle to help out. Thankfully there were only 4 but Camden Locks is very busy after lunch it seems. Andrew had quite an audience (and loved it !) ( True - A)

We are now moored up at Kensal Green and with tomorrows weather report looking pretty poor, we will probably stay put.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Paddington Arm to London

We have made it to London. Not going to see the Queen though. Thought we might give her a rest :)

We made an early start from Cowley Peachy Junction where we had spent the night in a marina again to get some washing done again. Well the washing machine coped with a short 30minute wash but spat the dummy with the drying cycle. It is a now a complete no-go. Andrew tried replacing the fuse in the plug but still nothing. So now we have to get a repair man out. So how do you explain to a washing machine service person how to find us. It is going to have to wait and it is back to saving the pound coins and searching out laundrettes!

Some pictures of the fauna viewed along the way. We did see quite a few Green Parrots but never close enough to get a decent photo.
Grey Squirrel

Mandarin Duck

And some views from the back of the boat coming in to Central London

Little Venice

More Little Venice

Looking back to the entrance to Paddington Basin

We arrived in Paddington Basin 5 1/2 hours later and rejoiced. There were some empty mooring spots, until we got closer and discovered WINTER MOORINGS!  Now British Waterways auctions off half (supposedly) of the visitor moorings from 1st November to 31st March to boaters as permanent winter moorings but not all of them get taken up. So we saw  spot with no winter moorings sign and thought fantastic. Not a great spot but at least we were still in Paddington Basin, where we wanted to be. Only this morning a BW employee turns up and tells Andrew that we were on a winter mooring, even though this spot was not been used, so we cannot stay there. It is a winter mooring! So it would seem rather than allowing visiting boaters to use the UN-SOLD and therefor UN-USED winter moorings, it is basically get lost visitor! Unless you can find a spot in the only 6 visitor moorings which are available over winter and there are at least 20 visitor mooring spots now designated Winter Moorings.

Well we moved rather than cop some sort of fine or whatever. We walked back to the true visitor moorings and someone had left this morning leaving us with a less than desirable spot but at least still where we would like to be. The builders will not be here over the weekend and at night so should be fine.

After resettling, we opted to hop on the underground and made our way to Covent Garden to get some same day tickets to a West End show. Unfortunately did not think that it is Friday and turns out some of the shows don't do discount tickets for Friday and Saturday, but we are off to see Cabaret tonight. Looking forward to it :)

Lunch (@ BK) and then even though it was not the best of weather I wanted to do the London Eye. Well let me tell you, you cannot see much when the mist rolls in :(

Anyway, time now to start getting ready for the show tonight, we don't want to be late !