Sunday, 25 September 2016

Not the antiques roadshow

You never know what you'll find as you travel and stop, travel and stop. In Middlewich for the weekend, we found that Fiona Bruce (the MP) was speaking at an inter-church event tonight, and we decided to go along. It was neither a political speech nor a sermon, but a talk about her life and work as a Christian in Parliament. Now I'm not a natural Tory voter, but I have to say she was very impressive in her understated way, especially when talking about cross-party activity over social justice issues.

She spoke about her four guiding "Cs" – Conscience, Constituents, Country, Conservative. And she spoke out of a verse in Psalm 84 in the Bible, focussing on the symbiosis between working hard to make the differences that you yourself can and, as a Christian, trusting God to use it, amplify it and, at times, amaze you with what actually happens.

The other Fiona Bruce is presenting AR as I write – with far better people behind the camera! But I don't think (should we turn it on) that it will give me quite as much to reflect on.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Middlewich dog

It's one of those heart-sinking moments. Busy in the cruiser stern shortly after tying up for the day, your eye is drawn to a brown, sticky disgusting blob of something on the gunnel, just where you come on board. What's more, it carries the imprint of a trainer sole, and you know you've just been in and out of the boat in the last few minutes, doing stuff.

A quick call down to my best beloved inside confirmed the worst – it had been tramped at least half way through Erin Mae's interior. And a quick check confirmed that I had also walked it all down the gunnel on the right-hand side, when I had gone down to set the TV aerial for this new location.

Dog poo presents one of the more severe challenges to my faith. I can understand that it's all part of a fallen world, but I wonder what's going to happen with it in the new heaven / new earth scenario (I'm not one of those disembodied, harp-playing, sitting-on-a-cloud types, you see). Rabbits, of course, aren't disgusted by their poo. They eat it. But dog mess somehow seems to belong in a different category. As far as I can see, there's going to have to be serious redemption, either of the stuff itself, or of our approach to it. In the meantime, there's the other, more immediate challenge of managing my extreme anger at the people who allow their dogs to pollute the Middlewich towpath in this way, when there's a bin for it just 30 yards away.

My best beloved, being more holy than me, just donned a couple of plastic gloves and washed Erin Mae's floor from front to back. She said it needed doing anyway. I got the mop off the roof and swabbed all exterior surfaces and mats. Then I knelt by the canal, dealing with the trainers with a stiff brush and a screwdriver. I discovered that Vibram's latest trainer sole has all sorts of unexpected nooks and crannies, and a definite unwillingness to see all its crevices washed completely clean.

Apart from this it's been a very pleasant day!

Friday, 23 September 2016


We met one or two people at the locks today, including a German man who lived in West Berlin before the wall came down. He was admiring my windlass holster, but it was far more interesting to talk about the days when he and his wife were wondering if, within their lifetimes, they might have the opportunity of walking over the bridge into a different sector. That was 1987, and everything changed just two years later.

There was hardly any other traffic at all as we meandered towards Middlewich,

on yet another fine morning.

At the first place we had thought to moor up we couldn't get near the bank because of the "Shroppie shelf" – a concrete ledge just over a foot below the waterline. So we pushed on to the second spot we'd earmarked, overlooking Winford Flash. We were just finishing tying up when who should arrive but Adrian and Dawn in NB Chalico, our next-door neighbours at Great Haywood marina.

We all sat out in the sunshine, reading books, playing guitar (yours truly) or getting a haircut (one of them)! A chance for a natter. But, meanwhile, Adrian had his camera out because he'd spied a special visitor on the front of Erin Mae.

It had never struck me before that kingfisher colouring and Erin Mae's paintwork might complement each other. Nice one, Adrian!.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Sunny days, chilly evenings

We've had the fire lit the last couple of evenings. Clear skies in the day have been great, but have led to chilly evenings. As I first got the fire going I found that the sealing rope round the lower (ash-tray) door was no longer doing its job.

The chandlery at Nantwich marina was able to sell me a length of fire-door rope and the glue to stick it in. The last time I did this job it was on the actual fire-door, and a very helpful guy at Penkridge sold me the right rope and gave me some tips on how to do it. I’m hoping that what I’ve bought today is going to be right size. We shall see!

North from Nantwich is the start of the Llangollen canal.

We debated turning up towards Wales, but decided to leave it for another year. On to the junction at Barbridge and another decision – straight on to Chester or right to Middlewich? We stopped just before the junction and considered the options while eating some of my best beloved’s excellent soup, taking on water and chatting with the volunteers painting bits and pieces around the CRT station.

By the time the water-tank was full, the decision was finalised to turn down the Middlewich branch, and we’ve tied up just before the first lock.

Now I shall have to see if I can do the job with the fire-door rope in time to get us warm tonight!

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Stepping into Nantwich

Nantwich has become one of our favourite stopping-off places, but we've never before had a convivial evening here with other boaters as we did with Rex and Margaret from NB Amy Em last night. That was good. Then this morning we walked down into the town to do some shopping. The buildings never fail to please, even on this rather cloudy day.

Malthouse cottage wouldn't look out of place in a country village, whereas the Savings Bank building, dating from 1846, looks solid and very Victorian urban.

We headed first for the bookshop / café where you can sit upstairs in overstuffed chairs, enjoying the coffee and reading the papers, or a book you might or might not purchase later.

They've managed to keep the floor reasonably horizontal, but I'm sure it's the only bit of the architecture that is. After coffee it was down to Morrison's by a slightly different route, with glimpses of St Mary's as we went.

We saw notices of an event in the church tonight with a well-known speaker, so we might just walk in again when we've eaten, if our legs tell us they can stand the exercise. What's that they say about 10,000 steps a day? I'm sure most steerers don't get that. But we haven't yet decided…

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Launderette and muffins

It was another nice, sunny day for cruising to Nantwich. An internet search had revealed there was a launderette in the marina there, and my best beloved was wanting to do the bedding and the towels. So that's where we spent the afternoon. Fortunately the marina also has a really nice café which catered for us while the machines were spinning. And it has WiFi, so I was able to download Sunday's episode of Poldark, which we'd missed by going to the folk session in Audlem.

When we got back to the boat, we found BCF members Rex and Margaret moored just in front of Erin Mae. A debate as to where we might meet up after tea was quickly resolved when my best beloved revealed she had home-made chocolate muffins on board! So in a little while they'll come round and we'll no doubt have a very pleasant evening.

Another day in the life…

Monday, 19 September 2016


The Shroppie Fly had a makeover two or three years ago, but it still retains its unique narrowboat bar.

Sunday night's folk session was totally different to our other experiences of it. A couple were already there to listen when we arrived. Another couple who sing together to his guitar and one other guitarist were the only regulars to turn up.

A lady who works for the pub chain, I think, and was staying in it over the weekend also contributed a couple of songs.

And that was it. No one else in the pub at all, apart from the landlord. So each of us sang or played more than usual, and we all tended to join in, no matter who started the song. I gave my accordion an airing as well as the guitar. It was an enjoyable evening, but I hope they get back to normal quickly – they normally have about 15 to 20 musicians.

Leaving Audlem this morning, we thought we'd get to Nantwich, but decided to pause at Hack Green and walk up to the "secret bunker". This is a former site to house government activity in the event of  nuclear attack, and is now a visitor attraction.

I can't think of any other "attraction" that would get away with leaving its exterior so plain and unattractive, but that's all part of the deal, I suppose. In the entrance you get a taster of what might await you inside.

They promote themselves as a thoroughly entertaining day out for the family, but at nearly £9 each for seniors' tickets (special Monday offer) this was a pleasure we felt we could forego. We had lunch at the mooring and then decided to stay. It was a sunny afternoon, a pleasant enough place and perhaps I could do some varnishing…

Nothing too strenuous, mind – I put a coat on the front and back doorsteps. While I was in full flow, Ken and Sue came by on NB Cleddau. Nice to greet you in passing, folks. I am glad that someone is a witness to the fact that I really was practising my paintbrush grip this afternoon.