13 April 2010

Is there anyone there?

Okay, okay, so 11 months between entries is a bit poor I’ll admit…and worse, I don’t even have a very good excuse. Or any excuse for that matter, save laziness. If I were to scratch about for a possible get-out, I could proffer the fact that – not by design, just because of life getting in the way – we left the good ship unloved and untended for NINE WHOLE MONTHS, and thus had little to report. (No, actually, it was laziness as we did do a fair bit in my 'off season', including getting stuck up an Alp, discovering pain au chocolats the size of bolsters - the so called Maxi-Pain, maxi pain being what you suffered after scoffing the bloody thing - and pushing the boundaries of cheese fondue consumption).

When we finally drove up to be reunited, we discovered where all the snow that had fallen in Yorkshire had gone – inside the flippin’ boat, along with most of the Pennine rain that had been doing a double St Swithins by my reckoning. However, one week in residence with the Squirrel peaking at 90 degrees and she soon sloughed off her winter blues. And maybe unloved and untended is a bit harsh…she was under the watchful eye of Shire Cruisers the whole time, who also administered to her various needs and wants like bum blacking….oh, and a rather spanking new prop that has turned us from egg whisk to Moulinex in one fell swoop. It’s only taken seven years for someone to take me seriously about our pisspoor performance…thank you Nigel and team!

The week aboard just in the run up to Easter was of course all the sweeter for our long absence. Actually, having been thwarted from setting off the previous weekend by an ‘oops, we should have really ensured all the water was out of the system before the harshest winter in years decided to burst our pipes’ incident, it was very sweet. Very, very sweet in fact as the sun was shining (the town had broken out the party streamers to celebrate this rare occurrence) and we set sail with a couple of rather fine lattes fresh from the handily placed Gabriel’s coffee shop. I think cookies were involved too which may explain why my figure, while still very creditable, is more hourglass than pencil…

You won’t be surprised to find that coffee featured prominently on the cruise. I say cruise…a pootle down to Brighouse where we dropped anchor for the next four days hardly constitutes a cruise but at least we had moved off our moorings. It was a working week you see and we weren’t quite at leisure…besides the river was up and down and we couldn’t afford to get stuck the wrong side of Anchor Flood Lock. So the tenor of the week was set by Monday’s excursion into Brighouse to reacquaint ourselves with possibly the best coffee shop this side of Dewsbury – no, make that Milan! I kid you not, the coffee served at Blakeley’s 43 is some of the best I have ever tasted, and as you know, I have been around the coffee block a few times. Every day A and I would install ourselves in the prime window seat with our laptops like a couple of saddos, pushing the limits of latte consumption to the max – and raising the eyebrows of the serving staff into the bargain. Personally, I don’t think three large lattes in the space of a couple of hours is that excessive…indeed, there are certain boaters who I won’t name but who have two greyhounds called Bum Biter 1 and Bum Biter 2 (oops, no, make that Lou and Blue) who would probably agree that that is a fairly moderate intake. And besides, we had the odd scone and teacake and bacon sandwich to mop it all up with so I reckon that dilutes the effect….(says she as she pogos down the towpath).

So an inactive, indulgent, rather excellent week all told. The actual cruising bits were fun too, mainly because the boaters up this way are very content to take things slowly and to let others too go at their own pace. Coming up the locks, for example, we choose to take it quite carefully as there is always the risk of trapping your tiller under the walkways that on the C&H are sited inside the lock. We also tend to only work one side particularly if the other side is handspike operated. And us being 58’, any vigorous gate paddle opening results in the dogs getting an unexpected shower in the saloon. So it’s slowly does it and everyone respects that – there’s no harrumphing, tapping of toes, wiggling of windlasses or swinging of spikes, just a helpful push on the gate there, a handy closing of the paddle there. Very civilized, very friendly and for anyone like me who’s been chastened by a locking incident, very reassuring.

At the moment, the plan is to leave Sowerby Bridge for good in May (well, we will definitely be back at some point but we are moving on for the foreseeable) and head Skipton-wards via Leeds. It looks a great trip, lots of variety and a bit of a challenge. Skipton is an old stomping ground for me and I’ve promised to introduce A to the world famous pie-shop there. I suspect that a few doggy snouts may be interested in any purchases and I lay odds of 2-1 that Monty can demolish his first.

And what of the dogs you ask? All still here, I’m pleased to say. Poor Arthur resembles a patchwork quilt following lots of investigatory work on his excessive drinking and whizzing antics. If any reservoir runs dry this summer, check Arthur hasn’t been helping himself, that’s all I say. Seems the old boy has got dodgy kidneys and despite medication, the drink/wee cycle is unbreakable (I say that but interestingly, while he always wakes me in the middle of the night to go out when at home, he sleeps right through on the boat. Mind you, his first morning wee lasts so long that I can get a cuppa brewed and drunk while I’m waiting….) Apart from broken nights, the only real inconvenience is the odd accident indoors – we’ve become quite adept at finding a ‘potty’ to help stop localized flooding but if you’re with us just don’t go round picking up stray glasses of light ale, okay?

Susie is still Miss Bossy Knickers, Ranger is still Mr Loved Up Pup, Monty is still big, nervous and sticking his nose in my tea cup and Miffy is well…just Miffy really. We found her trying to climb into the Squirrel one night and the relief was palpable when she saw mummy return with some more coal when stocks had run out…mummy being stupid enough to think we couldn’t possibly need more coal in April.

Of course, we could not have survived our accidental sabbatical from our own narrowboat without getting some cruising in elsewhere. And for that we are eternally grateful to our good friends Richard and Sue on the Indigo Dream, who have extended what is basically an open invitation to us to join them whenever we fancy.

As they’ve watched their Nespresso stocks dwindle over the winter they’ve no doubt repented many a time of their generous offer made in haste but we love them all the more for never refusing passage and welcoming us as though they mean it! Seriously, these two have been real crackers and so generous with their time and their hospitality – we’ve had great days out in London and just this weekend, had a diamond day in the company not just of the Indigo Dream but old muckers Caxton and Matilda Rose. And having rather turned my back on blogs for one reason or another, I was given a timely reminder by Lesley that this four way friendship would never have come about without blogs. That the diamond day would never have sparkled in the afternoon sunshine….So this blog rebirth is for Lesley…and for Joe, Jill and Graham, and of course, for my greyhound-loving southern boat caretakers, Sue and Richard. Until the Fens, friends.


Nev Wells said...

Welcome back, I have missed your entertaining blog.... but don't leave it 9 months again, I was giving you a year then was going to take you off the blog roll ;-)

NB Waterlily

life afloat on nb tickety boo said...

Welcome Back to Blog world, its good to have you back!


Dogsontour by Greygal said...

It's nice to be back - and to see familiar faces and plenty of new ones too!

Jill and Graham said...

Welcome home-see you on the Fens.
Matilda Rose

Anonymous said...

Hurrah! So good to have you back - see how you've been missed!

Sue, Indigo Dream

Amy said...

Welcome back! We've missed you!

Nb Caxton said...

Welcome back to the blogosphere where you have been sorely missed!!!!