Monday, 16 October 2017


As we left before 9 this morning, Ophelia was beginning to make her presence felt.

However, travelling north from Stone up the Meaford flight was generally sheltered and pretty calm. All very enjoyable, apart from the 3rd of the four locks, which appears to be damaged and took about half an hour to fill.

We had thought about mooring up just south of Trentham lock, but we found a good space a little before, by the bridge that leads over to the Wedgwood works and exhibition rooms (well worth a visit). Since there's been more traffic than expected, and there is limited space by the lock, we stopped here, looking out west towards the eye of the storm.

What you can't see from the photo is how the wind had developed. Under these conditions, it seems there a balance to be struck between exposure to the elements and making sure that you're not susceptible to a tree collapsing on you. So we opted for the more open choice – it looks good in the sun, and feeds us electrons via the solar panel.

Meanwhile, Ophelia has been having some fun dragging dust up from the Sahara, with some extraordinary effects.

I did nothing manually with the exposure for this photo – just let my little Panasonic do it all by itself.  We're used to the moon occasionally appearing unusual – a harvest moon or that eclipse – but I can't remember seeing the sun looking quite like this before. When the clouds swirling in front, the effect was different again.

All very wonderful, but we're hoping Ophelia doesn't have too many surprises left in store.

Sunday, 15 October 2017


As we travel. we try to link up with local churches for Sunday morning worship. What would you google in Stone? "Stone Church" gives you a range of results that are not exactly relevant!

Stone also offers an opportunity to lay in supplies. With plans for turning right in Stoke and going up the Caldon Canal, this is the last chance for a decent supermarket shop before Leek. We'd planned on eating some Shropshire oatcakes with family on Friday, but unfortunately have found that they have a life expectancy of about three days (the oatcakes, that is, not the family!). Unless we can find an en-route supplier (suggestions, anyone?), we may have to push on to Leek for an oatcake shop before coming back to the Hollybush Inn where we're meeting on Friday. Not the end of the world.

The Star in Stone has been doing good trade on this fine day, which is getting hotter by the minute as hurricane Ophelia drags all that air up from the south. Tomorrow's forecast still looks good for our trip to Trentham – perhaps a bit gusty around the time we expect to arrive. My best beloved's Donegal family, however, looks likely to cop rather more of the wind, and we'll be thinking of them and others we know over there.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

North by North-West

Our brief trip home was highly successful in its primary purpose – getting my best beloved's dental emergency unemergencified. Yesterday we drove back north to Erin Mae, wondering from time to time what on earth had induced us to do so on a Friday afternoon, when the world and her husband are going places. But we have plans! Our big question is whether the weather will allow us to fulfil them. Everybody's talking about a hurricane for Monday – and boaters, generally speaking, don't like the wind. But if you look at the Met Office website, the forecast for our neck of the woods seems at most a little breezy and for the most part quite balmy.

So (intrepid adventurers that we are) out we set, following the Trent and Mersey on its North-West passage to Stone. And very nice it was, too, with the autumn colours around on a sunny afternoon.

It was a bit of a long haul (over 4½ hours) and we'd started late, so we were slightly concerned about finding a mooring spot. A boater who helped us up the first lock in Stone indicated that there was a place above the second lock, just behind his boat, where we could squeeze in and no one would mind us staying over the weekend. The first part of his assurance was correct. We'll report back some other time on the the second part was as accurate!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

A tale of two hirers

The first hirer we met today was a Black Prince boat coming through a bridge hole. There were two people sitting at the front enjoying the scenery, and two guys at the back doing the steering. Now this section of the Staffs and Worcs, though much better than it used to be, is still pretty shallow in places, and they clearly were finding this a challenge. They were being very careful and going very slowly, but as a result found it difficult to get their boat pointed in the right direction. There was much yanking on the tiller to try and pull the stern round. Another boater followed them under the bridge, and looked as though he was having to go slower than tickover most of the time. Since the name of his boat was "As It Comes" we exchanged a few pleasantries as we passed on needing to take that seriously!

A little later we found ourselves behind an older couple in an Anglo-Welsh boat, also going slowly. When we were 50 yards behind, they turned to wave us past and, to facilitate this, decided to stop and hold their boat on the line. Bringing a boat neatly to the bank on the curves of this section is challenging even for experienced boaters, and they found themselves with one on the towpath trying to control the boat with the line, and boat with a mind of its own pushing out into mid-stream. We took our time and chose the moment to glide by, and he called out a question, which I stopped to answer. He basically wanted to know what was the rule about waving another boat by – which side should it be? I replied to the effect that it was such a rare occurrence there probably wasn't a rule – you do whatever seems right in the conditions, and what he'd done seemed quite appropriate. I don't think I've ever seen this discussed.

At the time we were more concerned about them getting started again with both on board, ready for the corner just ahead where you go aground if you cut it too fine. As it happens, they came by a little later as we were tied up in Tixall Wide for a spot of lunch. It's always nice to stop there when on our way back to the marina – delays the inevitable just a little bit.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Recapitulation, Part the Third

There were going to be only two parts, but today we came past the garden at Acton Trussell that I reported two weeks ago but had failed to capture in photo.

I realised we were approaching it, so had the camera out super-early.

The blooms were not quite what they were a fortnight ago, but still worth recording.

Now I capitulate – I promise that's the end of recapitulating. Until the next time.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Recapitulation, Part the Second

One of the things about having music in the head is that you (or, at least I) nearly always have music in the head. Sometimes you get something which just won't go away. However good it is, it gets a bit tiring when it seems to be on auto-loop and you can't get rid of it.

I've found this happening a lot recently. The first reason is that I discovered (via Spotify) a series of tunes by Phil Cunningham which seemed perfectly suited to learning on my accordion. I transcribed four or five of them using my scoring app MuseScore, and have been practising them when I get the chance. So, at the moment, they are always around in the head, waiting to be conjured up. The second reason is that steering Erin Mae down a long lock-less section of the Shroppie or the Staffs and Worcs is a classic cause of the mind emptying. The void is immediately filled by the first candidate to come knocking – which at the moment is bound to be one of Phil's little gems. They are wonderful, but they've been getting a bit wearing when I suddenly find that, unbidden, one of them is playing itself yet again.

When, at work, this sort of thing used to happen while I was trying to concentrate on something else in my study, I found two musical items that I could play in the background, which would (a) take the place of whatever was trying to get itself on my internal CD player, and (b) not insist on requiring all my attention (the reason why I have never been able to have music on while studying). They are Górecki's 3rd symphony and Fauré's choral music – wonderful material in their own right, but here used for a less than lofty purpose. They would drive out what else was attempting a takeover. At the tiller, these are impractical, but I have found a substitute. For last Sunday's folk session in Audlem I practised both "Autumn Leaves" and the Incredible String Band's "October Song". Now I find that singing through one of those (almost inaudibly – don't want to give the wrong impression!) has the required effect of eliminating all competing items from my mental sound space.

So if Erin Mae should pass you, and you observe the strange person at the tiller mouthing things with a slightly distant look on his face, don't think he's out of his mind (necessarily). He's merely exorcising yet another recapitulation of Loch Katrine's Lady.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Recapitulation, Part the First

Returning, over the last week, by the way we came, I haven't felt at all the necessity I blogged about earlier, of photographing every item of interest along the way, including those I might have snapped often enough before. Passing such things, the camera has mostly stayed in its case. However, stopping for water at Gailey today, I felt compelled to take a couple of shots.

What had struck me was that both the tower with its shop, and the yard with its boats for hire…

showed very few signs of life. The boats were all arranged in serried ranks, looking as though they were packed away for the winter. Some people must surely take boating holidays in October, but none of them seemed to be starting from here. So Gailey merited a repeat photo.

Recapitulation, Part the Second tomorrow, probably.