30 March 2009

Fudge it

A quick post tonight as it’s late and I’m cream crackered. A good day though, well at least until 7pm when A and I both turned our attention to the work that we should have done earlier. But it’s a reasonable trade off, cruising in the daytime, slogging away in the darkness, although shoehorning the dogs’ dinner and our dinner in as well has made it a long old night. Not helped much by the tin opener self-destructing and both of us losing our tempers trying to liberate some pilchards with a Swiss Army Knife.

But from the lowlight to the highlight of Monday – mooring behind the fudge boat in Middlewich. I only stopped because I saw them taking delivery of about 10 tonnes of caster sugar. I had mistakenly assumed that they bought in and resold their fudge but no, quite the contrary, they make all of it on board, in a single trusty pan on the stove top. Well that changed things completely – this was something definitely worth breaking the diet for so I willingly took up their invitation to go to the hatch for ‘samples’. I got a bit worried when the samples box emerged as there were 20 plus Tupperware boxes inside it each with a different flavour fudge in – I could see my diet being wrecked for about the next week as I was surely duty bound to taste them all. Thankfully, each sample was just a tiny taster rather than a big lump and I made my excuses after number four, moving to quell any insistence that I try the ‘rhubarb and custard’ or ‘cherry brandy’ with an order for four bags – choc mint, choc orange, choc banana and mocha, which I handed over to A as an early Easter gift. Judging from the alacrity with which he scoffed the stuff this afternoon, it was very fine fudge indeed.

We called it a day at about 5.30, mooring up at Marbury, but only just as we had a massive fight with our stakes and the concrete-bank-masquerading-as-grass, which the bank won of course. We shuffled a bit further on and got in okay, but a few more rings around here wouldn’t go amiss. But it would be wrong to end on a negative note as I absolutely love the run up here from Middlewich and today has been a real joy, recalcitrant tin openers not withstanding. Goodnight.

29 March 2009

Years roll back while clocks go forward

Definitely one of those days I’d happily have back at the end of my life – the first proper day’s cruising of the year and what a corker! Warm sunshine more redolent of May than March, chatty, happy boaters, uneventful locks, glorious scenery, a hysterical dog walk when Monty decided to race the boat with daddy at the helm, dragging us all in his wake, and here we are, tied up snug for the night just shy of Middlewich. Tomorrow, we’re aiming for an early start so that we can get up to Anderton while also making time for a conference call in the morning – fingers crossed, we’ll be down on the Weaver come Tuesday.

Such a contrast to yesterday, which was basically horrible weather-wise but was brightened up considerably by the arrival of Geoff and Mags off Seyella for a cuppa, chat and dog inspection. Two hours later we were still going strong but dogs’ walking needs broke up the party rather precipitately – we do hope we’ll catch up with them again later in the year as they are marvellously warm and genuine people, the sort you feel better for just being around.

One look out of the porthole this morning confirmed that the forecast was accurate and I didn’t hang about, walking the dogs and then pootling onto the service dock for fuel and a pump out. It was there that I had a very uplifting experience – I think. The boat tied up on the other side of the cut is one we’ve seen a lot of and we’ve talked to the owners quite a bit too – we’ve just never picked up on their names. Anyway, his head pops out of the sidehatch and recognizing the boat, says to me, ‘Where’s your mum?’. An odd question but maybe we’d talked about mum when we chatted in Llangollen last year so I said, ‘Hopefully in France where she should be.’ Then he says, ‘That’s your mum’s boat isn’t it?’, at which point I think he’s been on the port a tad early. I replied, ‘ No it’s our boat, the same one we were on when we saw you in Llangollen last December.’ He stops and stares and then blurts out, ‘Oh my god I thought you were your daughter ! You look so young! And half the size!’ Much merriment ensued and I felt elated until at least half past two when I realized that up to November I must have looked like some ancient fat old walloper. Now I’m mistaken for my own ‘daughter’…maybe he should get his eyes tested… come to think of it he was squinting into the sun…

I also discovered during the day that the GPS application on my iPhone has had loads of new features added to it, which I will have a play with over the next two weeks. Out of curiosity I set it running to record our speed, as I’ve always believed that we are the slowest boat EVER in the whole wide world of canals. I was surprised to see it register 3mph so maybe I’m imagining it but we are always being caught by other boats…it doesn’t bother me as you can’t be in a hurry on a narrowboat but it sometimes has me wondering whether we’d have enough oomph to punch a tide or cope with a strong stream.

Interested to see that the old canal stables house at Minshull Vernon is for sale – it’s been beautifully converted although it seems to be fenestrationally-challenged. Took a look earlier at the estate agent’s website to see what it’s on for - £610,000! Are you having a laugh? Yes, it’s got a great view but then so have I – and I’ll have another one tomorrow which will be just as nice. Bricks and mortar? Pah, you can keep them. I’m a confirmed water baby. No, make that a water daughter.

25 March 2009

Learning the ropes

Although we’re a few weeks away from leaving our long-term mooring, mentally we are already gone. Some people would argue that I’ve been mentally gone for a while but that’s another story…That’s perhaps why these few days pinned by the wind above Swanley locks have been so interesting, because, while not doing anything that we haven’t done a hundred times before, we are thinking differently. I am in ‘Greygal at large’ mode, looking at things from a liveaboard/continuous cruiser perspective. Now I know that we’re not actually going to be these things for some years to come, but cutting the umbilical chord from a ‘fixed marina berth in perpetuity’ situation has encouraged a quasi full-timing mindset.

For example, now I know why ccers are so organized and attentive: they plan when they’re going to shop or when the shop will come to them; they keep tanks topped up/emptied just in case; they keep a good eye on the weather and take advantage of weather windows; whereas we just sat back and enjoyed the lull in the storm when we should have been moving to tackle the ‘no milk ergo no coffee’ crisis that developed yesterday...and potentially the water one if himself decides to shower with his usual gay abandon.

As it was, because we’re still within reach of our car, that little crisis was soon solved with a shopping trip and a double lug down the towpath, once with shopping, the second time with coal. Who needs to diet when you get all this exercise for nowt? But soon we’ll be travelling/working and the car won’t be in reach; the weather may still be bad; we may still be a day’s cruise from a waterpoint; and the fortnight’s supplies that we brought with us may have been polished off within the week. So we need to get our act together a bit, I reckon. Although work/cruises tend to last only 1-2 weeks, I can envisage longer sojourns, particularly over the summer when things are quieter for us – and of course, there is the new dynamic in play of propelling ourselves around from A to B which may well demand extended stints on board. No hardship, but planning will be to the fore.

Despite the grim weather, we’re thoroughly enjoying our time out. Geoff and Mags on Seyella are still with us, our dogs disgracing themselves as we walked past this afternoon, kicking off at lovely Meg through the window. Susie went straight up to the glass, peered at Meg and let rip with a fusillade of bossy barking. Honestly, she is such a show up! After a close encounter with a dead fox (there’s an equation here: the more minging something is, the greater the attraction) we came back and set about lighting the fire, so we are now all toasty and contemplating dinner.

Earlier this morning, we had a visit from Mike of Dutchy Engineering to discuss a few bits and pieces we want doing to the boat before we leave the area in May. If you’re within an hour’s drive of Nantwich, I can thoroughly recommend Mike for all things boaty – he’s conscientious in his work, his rates are very reasonable and he is professional in his approach eg he actually rings you when you ask him to, which is more than a lot of canal-related traders seem to manage. Also to be mentioned in dispatches today are Snaygill Boats and Lemonroyd Marina, both of whom responded to my request for information about casual moorings.

Last but not least, my thanks to all those people who left comments last time round – it’s great to know that we’re not alone on this journey and that there’ll be a welcome in the hillside when we travel Pennines-wards.

23 March 2009

Plan C takes shape

I don't hang about me. A quick email exchange with the very helpful and obliging Nigel Stevens at Shire Cruisers and we've got ourselves a temporary billet on the Calder & Hebble sorted. So we'll go from Nantwich in late May, taking three weeks to go up the Macc, Peak Forest and Huddersfield canals and onto our summer residence at Sowerby Bridge. We'll probably shuttle between there and the Aire & Calder over the course of a week or two with the odd weekend thrown in, before moving on properly at the end of September. We'll use our autumn hols to tackle the Rochdale and then head as far south as we can before Christmas, the ultimate destination being Stenson, but with probable stop-offs at Preston Brook and Great Haywood along the way. We'll then use 2010 for a good old chug around the southern canals. Wow, this sounds exciting even on paper – what's it going to feel like actually doing it?

Wind of change

When we are in our bricks home, we tend to go to bed later than we should and get up at, well, a relaxed hour, shall we say. In our floating home, we go to bed earlier, not for the lack of things to do but because we always find ourselves absolutely plum tuckered out, and we rise earlier. Strange that our habits should change so effortlessly with our surroundings. Yesterday, we were clearing dogs off our bed at about 10pm, exhausted by the spring cleaning and pleasantly anesthetized by the chicken breasts and five veg that I cooked for supper. Being an enthusiastic amateur cook who is just finding her way, my lesson from yesterday was to put the stuffed chicken in a dish in future – that way, you have a much better chance of catching the brie that will make a headlong dash for freedom if given a baking tray to slide over. It was also the first outing for my little steamer and what a revelation – I have to confess I think it’s superior to my all singing, all dancing electronic one at home. It made short work of new potatoes, baby corn, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower and I just need to tweak the timings slightly so I’m on the right side (crunchy) of al dente.

Today it’s been blowing an absolute hooley, exactly the same as the last time we tried this work/cruise lark. However, this time we have a good mobile signal and it’s all quiet on the A front – so far, so good. He also reckons the boat makes him brainier as he is frequently struck with inspiration here, whereas at home he is more stuck in frustration. Don’t now why that should be, maybe just a more relaxing environment? At this rate, the house will be going on the market a few years earlier than planned…

Forgot to mention in my last post that just as we were about to walk the dogs yesterday morning, a fit, lithe chap came pounding down the towpath - aha, I spy Geoff off Seyella. Monty and Susie gave him a very vocal welcome but soon calmed down when they realised there was fussing to be had. We had a brief chat with promises to catch up over a cuppa when they come past us..which should have been today but in this wind, I don't blame him for staying put.

22 March 2009

A big decision

Do you remember The Littlest Hobo? It was a US kids' programme about a German Shepherd dog that made his own way in the world, stopping to help those in need a la Lassie. It had an annoyingly catchy theme tune, the only words of which I recall are 'must keep movin' on'. Okay, I know what you're thinking, she's been at the cooking sherry and she's rambling...But no, I'm sober and I mention it as it sort of sums up the Damascene revelation we had on Friday/Saturday after arriving at the boat Friday lunchtime. We were looking around us and it struck us very forcibly that we were getting stuck in a rut. You see, quite a few of our neighbours live on boats but don't choose to 'go boating'. They could but don't because they prefer to stay put within the residential community they've created - now we have no problem with that, that's their choice, but we want to be part of a boating community. And yet there we were, sitting tight, not bothering to unplug, untie and get out and about....what happened to seeing the canals? Our boat's got an engine for a reason but we appeared to have forgotten that. But no more and yesterday, after a breakfast pow-wow, we gave notice and will leave our permanent mooring for good in a few weeks' time - we will officially be footloose and fancy free! 

At this early stage, plans are a bit in flux but we anticipate moving the boat around the system as other 'must work but want to cruise' boaters/bloggers do very successfully, finding a pace and a way of doing things that suits both our work commitments and our doggy needs. With so many more marinas now open than there were even three years ago, casual moorings for a week, month or quarter would appear to be quite easy to come by, especially as boaters become more mobile and less wedded to a berth for fear of not being able to find another one. We are both very excited by the opportunities that lie ahead, of the greater freedom and adventure it will bring and the large dollop of 'living the dream' that it will inevitably give us. 

Although it's been a sudden decision, it's one that just feels instinctively right. My trip last week with Sue and Richard on Indigo Dream, where they relished even a short cruise and for whom a minute stuck in the marina is a minute wasted, may have played on my subconscious a little but I wouldn't have wanted to push the idea of 'must keep movin' on' to A, as the concept, while right up my street, would probably have unnerved him as it introduces a few too many unknowns. Just shows what I know...as long as I do the planning and we have every mobile dongle going, he's game. To be honest, I'm not sure how much more extra boating we'll actually end up doing, as we do both have 'full-time' freelance jobs to hold down, but if we can get even a few additional work/cruise weeks in, in different parts of the country, then that will be a real bonus.

As a result of this change, it looks like we'll be moving on to Plan C for our June holiday. Haven't done any detail yet but if we head roughly north via the Huddersfield Narrow, then we can strike out for a marina on the Leeds/Liverpool. We'll then use the rest of the summer to go east to west over the Pennines, maybe taking in Liverpool, before travelling down to the Gt Haywood area. We'll use that as a base for the autumn hols and hang around in the vicinity until November time when we'll hand the boat over to Midland Canal Centre for blacking and modifications. By then, we should know whether we were born to be Littlest Hobos or whether it was a completely crackpot decision - but I'm confident we'll never be in one place for long again.

Brimming with new found enthusiasm, we cast off on Saturday morning and found ourselves a lovely spot above the Swanley Two locks. Out came all the cleaning materials and the Brassmaster himself, A, and so began a weekend of top to bottoming. And how! The brass, which was truly disgusting, is now gleaming, as are the cabin sides, the cratch, the glass, even the dogs got a little buff in the sun. We're exhausted and stiff but we have a glorious view out of the sidehatch, it's beautifully tranquil and there's chicken breasts stuffed with brie wrapped in pancetta for supper. Oh, and a booming T-Mobile signal too, so everyone's happy!

P.S. My heartfelt thanks to those excellent people who donated money to greyhound rescue as a way of marking my recent weight loss achievement...you know who you are and you are stars.

P.P.S. In answer to Heth's comment, there'll be no before pictures posted if I can help it - I don't want to scare you. As for after pics, I'll see what I can do - I don't want my double size zero dogs making me look fat..

P.P.P.S If you have any recommendations re: helpful/accommodating marinas, safe 7/14 day moorings etc, indeed any advice for the soon to be 'at large' Greygal, please do post a comment

18 March 2009


Forgot to say earlier...my scales tell me it's game over, target reached, four and a half stone shifted. And that's with both feet firmly planted and no hanging from the shower rail. Now the hard work begins...keeping it off!

Counting down

This beautiful Spring weather and everyone coming out of hibernation has given me a real yearning to be back on board and out there asap. Touch wood, plans for the working week on the Weaver are still on schedule. In fact, it looks like we’ll be leaving home a day early, giving us the whole weekend for spring cleaning and maintenance. Cue the rain….I also hope to catch up with Geoff and Mags on Seyella – they’ve had a tough week with Geoff’s brother sadly losing his battle against cancer and it would be nice to see them before they head off to Ellesemere Port.

Next week, I have a meeting in Harrogate on Monday, A’s off to Manchester on Thursday and then we’ll take the day off on Friday to get moving. We need the full works before leaving – water, gas bottle, pump out, diesel, rubbish, but then there’ll be no stopping us. As the Middlewich branch has an excellent Vodafone signal along much of its length, I suspect we’ll stop short of the town to enable us to do a work catch-up in the evening. Then after a quick paper run in the morning, we’ll push on through the locks before it gets interesting with the hire boats coming up, with the aim to get up to the vicinity of Acton Bridge. This stretch is one of my absolute faves and we’ll probably stop there on Sunday before moving back down to Anderton first thing Monday for passage down. That leaves the weekenders on the Weaver to do their stuff without us getting in their way, although we may well walk the dogs down to the river from the cut and have a bit of a gongoozle.

First stop will probably be Barnton Cut and from then on, we’ll potter about as and when the fancy takes us. We do want to see both ends of the river this time but as we don’t have to be back at Nantwich until the 10th , I don’t suppose this will be a problem. Currently, neither of us have anything in the diary that necessitates being at home so we could conceivably extend our stay to after Easter – and if we take a taxi to our engagement on the 11th, we could stay out, rather than come back just for this one social obligation. We’ll have to see…I know from experience that it pays to keep plans fairly fluid but interestingly both of us are showing no particular inclination to rush home...

This trip is important because it’s once again testing the viability of the work/cruise concept. Our last serious trial of whether it’s possible for us to do both ended in a slight marital disagreement and male hissy fit, thanks in large part to storm force winds that pinned us to the bank just shy of Coole Pilate on the Shroppie – and well clear of any serviceable data signal for A’s work. If we’d only been able to get to the embankment at Nantwich, then he’d have had booming 3G and all would have been well. As it was, there was lots of ‘I can’t work like this’ chuntering and the week was a bit of a write-off. Thankfully, we know the T&M is pretty good signal-wise and as we have three mobile operators to play with, we should be okay. My default, as mentioned in a previous post, is to go and colonise McDonalds in Northwich and use their free wi-fi. I can see us building a nice collection of hamburgers to take back to the dogs, although this time I’ll take extra special care to make sure Arthur’s beef pattie doesn’t fall out into the mouth of a conveniently placed Ranger.

One footnote. As you’ll have seen from the sidebar on the blog, you can now follow our riveting adventures via Twitter as I’ve crawled into the 21st century and worked out – roughly – how to tweet. So for the next couple of weeks at least, consider me your roving canal correspondent for the north west. I’m the twit @greygaltweet.

16 March 2009

That was the weekend that was

Well, what a weekend! It kicked off in fine style with a long overdue rendezvous with my fellow bloggers, boaters and greyhound nuts Sue and Richard of Indigo Dream. For one of Sue’s characteristically brilliant reports of the day, I refer you to her blog post here. Although we’d never met, I felt as if we were old friends from the off, and as the coffee flowed generously and we cruised off into new waters (for me) the conversation flowed non-stop, with the occasional pause for breath as I rudely pointed at something and asked ‘What’s that?’. The dogs obviously got quite a bit of attention and they are a lovely pair with very distinctive personalities – it was strange for me as they reminded me so much of Monty and Susie in manner but had the wrong fur coats on!

I thoroughly enjoyed cruising a part of the GU that I’ve never even seen before, let alone boated on, and to pass through the famous Bull’s Bridge was quite a highlight. By a strange coincidence, later that night I was watching Narrowboat Afloat on Sky and he went over the very same ground that I’d been on just a few hours earlier. Our pub stop was remarkable for the sight of Lou and Blue happily and quietly settling down on their sheepskins by the table, eating their own sausages and behaving impeccably. Why remarkable? Well, if I took my lot into a boozer, there’d probably be a riot with them turning over tables as they hunted down people’s dinners, not to mention them muscling in on us, sticking their noses under our elbows to try and lick the gravy off a nice steak and ale pie. I mean, we just wouldn’t take them within sniffing distance of a pub, not if we didn’t want to be barred from every dog-friendly inn going. But Lou and Blue, you’re a credit to greyhound society – and it comes to something when dogs are better behaved than children.

Indigo Dream ate up the miles on the way back and all too soon Sue was performing an inch perfect manoeuvre back into what is a tricky marina berth. Sad to say goodbye, we promised one another that we could certainly meet up again soon, probably in the Midlands or further up north depending on the ID’s cruising plans. I had a fairly good idea from the blog that I’d be spending the day with a cracking human and canine crew and I wasn’t wrong – and while I made a terrible fuss of the dogs, what I appreciated most was meeting up with like-minded people who were warm and witty, interesting and interested, and just delightful cruising companions. Thanks again, Indigo Dreamers!

Sunday was never going to equal Saturday in terms of excitement but it ran it quite close as A and I went over for lunch with friends that we haven’t seen for over ten years. Mind you, it felt like about ten minutes after we’d done the reintroductions and we had a superb afternoon of food and conversation. By a happy coincidence, they were following a low GI diet so the potentially heavyweight lunch turned more into more of a light middleweight affair. Not that I stinted, stuffing down a big slice of chocolate and pecan pie after my watercress soup and poached lamb. Well, a girl has to treat herself occasionally and as the Indigo Dream had sensitively put a doughnut ban in place on Saturday (you really shouldn’t have!), I thought it wouldn’t hurt…and it didn’t because it tasted fab! One incident to report: the local cat – Hovis Brown, what a name! – took a fancy to my car and taking advantage of the lowered roof jumped in for a gander. We came out at the sound of the alarm to find him pacing the dash – just imagine if he’d stowed away until we’d got home. The gang would have considered that a doggy(catty)-bag beyond price….

So all in all a cracker of a weekend, and I was in a very chilled state. Then came this morning and an early walk with the dogs. As A had to be on site by 8.00am I took them on my own and as it was a lovely day I thought I’d let them have a run in the field. Now when in the field they never go near the road, never, ever, ever…cue heart in mouth moment as Susie, Ranger and Arthur hare off in the verboten direction, their attention taken with something or other. Thankfully they stop short of actually jumping down from the field edge into the lane but I could so do without that sort of pulse-quickening so early. A couple of strong lattes back home and equilibrium has been restored. Now I better get on with my work….ah, do you remember work, some of you? Yes, I’m sure you do miss it..

12 March 2009

It ain't Friday yet

I seem to be having Friday 13th one day early...I get home from a day in London really, really looking forward to my dinner: calves' liver with a balsamic glaze, mash, lots of veg, lovely. Open up the liver and despite having an 'eat by' date of the 12th, it had gone off. Well, it smelt like it had gone off but I cooked up a little morsel just in case I was being neurotic. I sampled it, swallowed it, didn't like it, gave some to A who promptly choked and spat it out. Sensible chap - I fear I may become reacquainted with that morsel later tonight. As all the veg was already prepared I had a quick rethink - slightly tricky when you don't really have much in but there were three eggs going spare so I convinced A that a ham and cheese omelette with mash and veg was going to be his best bet. I'd have a poached egg - poached in my smashing new poach pod - with veg, and cheer myself up with some strawberries for afters. Well, the omelette stuck to the pan; my egg fell out of the poach pod as it hit the water and self-destructed in a sea of raging albumen; the veg - bar the carrots - were decidedly yuk (even the dogs rejected them) and half the strawberries had gone off. And I can feel that bit of liver just waiting to strike...

11 March 2009

The story of the gluttonous five

An absolute stunner of an early Spring day so cue an extended lunch break for dog walking through the little valley that surrounds the village. It was really quite warm and if this continues then we may see a repeat of that fabulous Easter of 2003 when yours truly was sporting shorts, T-shirt and bare feet. I remember quite clearly polishing the brass…then polishing off about eight hot cross buns.

Talking of which, I was reading a woman’s mag yesterday and fell upon an article on dieting. The usual stuff, don’t deny yourself, have a balanced intake of food and increase your exercise blah blah blah but there was one little nugget I latched onto. It said forget a blanket ban on 'bad foods' - instead you should just try and do without your ‘gluttonous five’, those foods that you just love but that are your serious undoing. Just cut them out, whatever they are. Now what was a little bizarre was that they were insistent that you were specific rather than generic. For example, if your weakness was cheese and onion crisps, ban cheese and onion crisps…but it’s okay to have salt and vinegar apparently. Huh? Well, unless that was also on your gluttonous five list…I guess the logic behind it is that there are some foods more than others that we love to stuff and that bust our diets wide open – if we can at least cut those out, then it’s going to help us lose weight in the long run.

So out of curiosity I compiled my own G5 index, which shocked me with its infinite breadth and variety:

> Cinnamon whirl/Belgian bun

> Caramel shortbread/chocolate tiffin

> Pain au raisin/croissant

> Hot cross bun/Chelsea bun

> Doughnuts

Now you understand why I’ve had to lose that sack of coal….But the thought of going without...If there’s anyone who can supply me with a low-cal recipe for a doughy, tasty treat, please make yourself known to me. Grubby used fivers may be in the offing.

P.S. Someone is bound to suggest Soreen Malt Loaf as a low-fat alternative. Trouble is, I love Soreen and those loaves are...well, deceptively easy to get through. Especially when you've made free with the Lurpak. And don't get me started on the SnackPak version...at one stage you couldn't see the carpets in my car for little yellow plastic containers in the footwell. Oh the shame.

10 March 2009

Changing direction

The news that boaters will now be able to take their own craft through Standedge Tunnel, albeit with a BW man in attendance for when you chicken out at the pinch points, is a great fillip to our Pennine Ring cruise plans. I wouldn't have minded the 3 mile schlep over the top but it seemed such a shame not to be able to enjoy the full tunnel experience - not when you'd made all that effort to get there. Now we can get mucky aong with everyone else. Goody. However, it won't be this spring - it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind, so I've done a Mrs Slocombe and unanimously decided that the Pennine Ring will now feature as our autumn cruise. Which means that, at last, we get to go south!

My grand plan is to go into work/cruise mode during the last week of May (half-term) and so better position ourselves for a jaunt down to Stratford, returning up the cut to then dive down the Worcester & Birmingham. A quick river saunter to Stourport, a let's-get-a-move-on mosey up the Staffs and Worcester and a breakneck dash back up the Shroppie should see us pushing the holiday envelope to the max. But as we don't actually have to be back anywhere by any particular time, we could just flick over into work/cruise mode again and finish off at a more sedate pace - we'll just have to see how the mood takes us.

I have to confess that the Stratford/W&B thing is an itch that I've been needing to scratch for some time. I've never done the southern part of the Stratford canal and it's been well over twenty years since my dad and I did a couple of mega jaunts up and down Tardebigge. And yet it remains one of my favourite canals and repository of many happy memories. It's definitely overdue a revisit and despite previous plans to get down there, something or other has always put the kybosh on it. Fingers crossed that we pull it off this time. So that's June sorted. Now, can I squeeze in another week somewhere, she says, looking at her calendar? Mmm, Bugsworth in December maybe?

Working week on the Weaver

In ten days or so we should be back on the boat admiring our new carpets while simultaneously tutting at the state of our brasses. I've told A that we're not going anywhere while the exterior looks so unkempt so I'll be on wash and polish duty while he gets mean with whatever kick-ass brass cleaner comes to hand. The plan is to do some work-related visits that week while we still have access to the car and then to set sail in the general direction of the Weaver, on which we will pootle about in work/cruise mode and hope for decent dongle reception. If all else fails, we will go to Northwich and find a McDonalds to set up camp in - chips and free wifi? Wahey! The loose idea at present is to meander back slowly in time for Easter Sunday lunch with friends but we'll have to play it by ear, as ever. I can't wait until time is truly our own to do what we want with; work just gets in the way of having a great time. It's a stupid idea, whoever thought of it.

We were blessed with some absolutely delightful weather on our first Weaver trip, which of course helped make the experience all the sweeter, so I'm praying for another burst of Spring to see out March and welcome in April. There's not enough polish to go around for all the brass monkeys out there at the mo...

09 March 2009

Summoned the courage

I didn't so much summon the courage as let curiosity get the better of me but either way, I stood on the scales on Saturday morning and learnt my fate. First reaction, (inevitable) disappointment that I was not yet at target although realistically I'd have needed to lose a body part to have achieved that in the timeframe I'd given myself. But then after plonking myself down on the loo seat and using my fingers to work out what I'd actually lost over the last month, I realised that I was 12 pounds lighter than I was at the end of January...so not too shabby at all. Now all that stands between me and my target is four measley pounds but I know that they are going to be the most stubborn, intransigent, miserable pounds of the whole lot, the sort of hard to shift pounds that have you asking whether the game is indeed worth the candle and eating into your resolve when the girl at Costa asks 'any cakes or pastries with that?'. But shift them I will, shift them I must, and hopefully in advance of diet D-Day on 9th April. There's a huge Easter egg in Waitrose with my name on it...

05 March 2009

The weighting game

It has been brought to my attention that there has been no weight report of late. Well, that's partly down to the fact that we've been away (actually, that's just an excuse) - it is, in fact, purely down to the fact that I'm being a bit of a wimp and a coward. You see, I'm so close to target now that if I stand on the scales and it tells me that I'm still a few pounds short, I might (perversely, you may think) feel a bit crushed. What I want is to stand there one more time and for the right figures to flash up. Then it's job done, let's celebrate, don't bother cutting me a slice, I'll have the whole cake. So my thinking is, the longer I leave it, the more likely I'll get the right result when I do eventually brave the scales. Whatever happens, this all ends on April 9th, five months after it started. Whatever I am on that day, that'll be that and I'll move on to a maintenance style diet - in particular, maintaining my love of sweet doughy pastries and Indian takeaways. Which is a roundabout way of saying that you'll have a weight report no later than Good Friday and hopefully earlier if I can summon the courage to step on and let go of the wall....

04 March 2009

Midweek report

Flippin’ eck, dogs are worse than children aren’t they? Since the onset of canine plague last week, the gang have all been a bit off their food. Well, I say off… Ranger is not attacking his with the same gusto, Monty is leaving some of his, which is unheard of, Arthur can’t make up his mind to eat or not eat and the girls are just disinterested. However, because of the general queasiness that has been going on with the occasional exploding bottom, I haven’t been that surprised at this suppertime malaise…so how come last night, after they have reluctantly picked at the finest offering of pasta, chicken, cheese and pilchards on a kibble coulis, do they suddenly take a huge interest in the jam doughnuts I’m proferring and gobble each one down without a backward glance or indeed a wrinkled nose or cough and splutter? It’s like the kid who pulls a sickie to stay off school but is well enough to demolish four Shredded Wheat, a loaf of toast and play on his Wii all day. I think I’ve been had…

That aside, it’s been manic since we got back on Sunday hence the absence of a post. (I thought I’d better get one in before my legion of fans started begging for more…Oh, too late, she already has, although, in my defence, this was written before I saw the prod! ) It was with great reluctance that we set off for home, especially as it was gloriously sunny when we left and it got more depressingly foggy the further south we came . Having had a fortnight on board, we’d just got nicely into the swing of things and to come away was a fair old wrench, even for big bed loving A. However, we did achieve a fair bit in the old boat enhancement line, which was very satisfying even if a little damaging to the pocket. In no particular order:

- New cratch cover with plans afoot for a table and proper seating

- A new 2000w inverter which A successfully installed – well it didn’t catch fire and it powered the coffee machine long enough for me to get two lattes out of it

- A magnificent new fender arrangement on the stern with a double tipcat/button set-up, which is just the dog’s dangly bits. It gives me a better than evens chance of not smashing up the rudder now

- A freshly blacked stove, courtesy of yours truly. Next time, I’ll wear gloves – black fingernails at client meetings are so last year

- Replacement LEDs in the saloon that actually shed a decent amount of light. The last lot were less luminous that Arthur's white belly.

- New carpets for the saloon and bedroom selected with a fitting date for next week. I knew there was a reason why we kept 800 packets of blue plastic overshoes from the Huddersfield National. The dogs will be sporting a new line in canine footwear, secured by the red rubber bands that the Royal Mail so liberally sprinkle about the pavements these days. Maybe they’d make a profit if they weren’t so careless..

- A new TV that encouraged us to attack the dust cum cable spaghetti that lurked behind the old one. No-one had ventured there for some time and I think things were living in it…

- A bin for the kitchen, the first ever. A has always held that bins fill too quickly so we’ve coped hitherto with a black sack on the floor in the corner. But I was in homemaker mode so decided the time had come to get something a little more sleek and stylish. While walking round Dunelm Mill, I chanced upon a bin with a sensor – the lid automatically opens when you put your hand over it – and realized that this was my salvation. There’d be ructions if I came back with a normal pedal bin – but a bin with a sensor? That makes it a gadget! Obviously, within 24 hours I was regretting the decision as A suddenly became very tidy and the bloody lid was buzzing back and forth like a thing possessed. Unfortunately it also sounds like the electric hare that greyhounds chase so you can just picture the scene..

- I’m also indebted to my friends on Indigo Dream for introducing me to the potential of sheepskins as dog beds. We’ve always struggled to find beds that work as comfortable areas for the dogs AND as manageable obstacles on the floor. We now have about 8 brown sheepskins littering the place but the dogs love them and we don’t trip over them, so result!

I am now going to do some work so I can earn some money to pay the credit card bill which will come with – or probably without – a red elastic band, but either way, will make me wince and fill me with regret for about….well, two minutes should see me right.

P.S. My decision to bunk off last Friday and go blogger hunting was rewarded with a delightful hour in the company of Geoff and Mags off Seyella. Such lovely people, and Meg the dog is a real sweetie. Good to see you all again, guys. Unfortunately, my mission to track down Bruce and Sheila on Sanity foundered as conditions conspired to make Market Drayton a destination too far for them. They can’t escape me for ever…

P.P.S. Another blogger meet is on the cards as I’ve done the usual and invited myself round to see Sue and Richard and Lou and Blue off the aforementioned Indigo Dream. They’re keen for me to bring the gang – obvious gluttons for punishment – but I’d like our friendship to be long-lasting so my hounds will be left to the tender ministrations of himself while he guts another synthesizer. There’s talk of a mini-cruise – never having done any of the GU south of Maffers, I’m already buzzing like my bin lid!

P.P.P.S. Caxton Lesley, don't think you've escaped. Once you're back on board, I'll be coming to find you...