Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Bottoms Up!

Mrs Tufted duck is having a lovely christmas day - Mr Tufted duck turned up this morning.

Friday, 24 December 2010

New arrivals to the oasis in the ice

Woke up this morning to the ice creaking and breaking, there was no chance of the noise being a boat, it was 2 swans who had arrived to our little haven for the ducks where we had melted the ice around the boats.  They too were very grateful for a bit of water, they are so ungainly out of it. 

A single female tufted duck also turned up, but she proved a tricky little devil to get a photo of, either diving, or going into turbo drive at the sight of a camera, but eventually I managed it..

(tail end of a tufted duck)

And this is Nemo cat, watching the ducks and swans through the drain holes in the front deck.

I've had my christmas haircut by the decendant of Hilda Baker, who talked about "audience survey maps" and criticised the airports for not having enough "avian fluid for de-icing aircraft".  I would have found it more funny if he stopped stabbing my ears with a comb - it's not as if they're in a different position on my head to everyone else. 
Not long to wait for father christmas now, just been tracking his where abouts on
He's actually in Denmark as I write this, but he's on his way....    I'm off now to start cooking the sprouts and get a hair dryer on the still frozen goose.  Good luck everyone with cooking the christmas dinner!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Trolly dolly dash

We were getting a bit low on diesel & so was the boat infront of us, and the boat infront of him.  It ended up with 3 blokes armed with their trolly dollies - sorry stack trucks - trundling down the towpath laden with empty diesel cans on a mission to load up from the local fuel oil depot.  One hour later, I heard the distinct rumble of the trucks returning - mission accomplished & we've topped up with the red stuff.  Very busy day today, Dave also did a few of water container runs.  After being stuck out in the wilds last winter for 6 weeks stuck in ice, we are very very lucky to be here with all amenities at our disposal.  We've been reading blogs, and there's a couple of boats who have already given up and left their boats.  If it wasn't for this new 2nd stove in the back of the boat, we'd have probably done the same.  We'll do a laundrette run tomorrow.  Log delivery due tomorrow, coal man delivered yesterday.  I just hope Piers Corbyn (a weather forecaster who specialises in astrophysics)  is wrong, he says it is the beginning of the next ice age - according to today's Telegraph.  We'd better start saving up for a set of skis to affix to the bottom of the boat.  The day of the horse towing the boat may over, but it could be the start of a new breed of raindeer........

Which brings me neatly on to the best xmas decoration I've seen this year so far - it's 10ft high and located at the front of the Barge & Bridge pub.

We're still keeping some water available for the ducks, boy were they grateful first thing this morning, they were really thirsty & just sat drinking water as soon as we had broken it up.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

We wont be seeing Gosty Hill this year!

Dave spoke to Iain today on Gosty Hill, he was struggling to break ice and reach Hillmorton.   He was making extremely slow progress and was regretting his decision to leave Braunston as the ice was still extremely thick in places.  Unfortunately he wont be able to reach Atherstone until the new year, and gave us his apologies - it's not his fault!  Poor Iain & Alison, they're losing alot of business.  We then resorted to plan B, as we needed fuel from somewhere, so Dave then trundled off with trolly dolly to buy some diesel in cans.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Christmas Shopping Sorted.

We took the bull by the horns today & went into Nuneaton to do some Christmas shopping.  I wasn't looking forward to it at all, after my Coventry shopping experience, in which I fled empty handed.  There were loads of market stalls up and down the main shopping area, mainly comprising of hat and woolly scarf stalls.  Unfortunately, everyone had a wooly hat and scarf last year for christmas, so I had to bypass them. Then - Lo! what music to my ears!  It was the Pan Pipe Music Man!  Ah, I'd forgotten the joys of city centre shopping.  With the echoing of 'I just called to say I love you' and 'O sole mio' Andean-style-ee and a new found spring in my step, I shopped like it was 4pm on christmas eve.  2 hours and back on the bus.  Job done.  Don't know what all the fuss is about.

Andean Pan Pipe Music man in full flow.

Recycling and Dog Poo (Grumpy old woman)

Some observations for Atherstone Council:  The glass bottle bank near the Atherstone council offices had finally been emptied - after over a week of the 'pods' being stuffed to the gunnels and empty bottles littered around it. So we have managed to clear some space on the front deck of empties (mostly of the red variety), it was getting quite embarrassing, and we had resorted to masking the recycling bag with some bin bags.  There's not alot of room on a boat to keep anything uncessary, but we try and recycle as much as we can.  After storing things for any length of time, then trying to dispose of it responsibly, it's extremely annoying when the recycling  bins aren't emptied regularly - especially outside the council offices.  Rant number one finished ...

And on to dog poo...  After being on the boat a few years now, and visiting many different towns up and down the country,  I think Atherstone has to be the worst I've come across for people not picking up their dog poo.  I'm not just talking about the towpath, which dog owners see as a linear toilet for their pets - even up and down the main street, dollops outside shops, enevitably with people's foot prints in it - disgraceful.  Lord knows there's enough dog poo bins here, but they obviously don't know what they're for.  I know councils are cutting back dramatically, but one thing this town is lacking is a Dog Warden.  A few £50 on-the-spot fines should do the trick.  Word soon gets around, and people then start picking up.  If people refuse to pay, then it goes to court, with a maximum fine of £1000.  A Dog Warden in Atherstone would certainly pay for itself very quickly! I'm running out of dog poo bags, after offering bags to those people who don't seem to carry any poo bags with them when dog walking - and I don't even have a dog.

That's it folks - rant over -  I'm off to clean the bottom of my shoes again.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

To there and back again

We've moved - 50 yards to the water point and back again!  We've been running the engine in gear for a few minutes each day, just to break up the ice around the boat and to give the ducks a chance.  There wasn't any ice under bridge 41, so backing up wasn't that bad till there,  the only problem was the ice the few yards between the bridge and the water point which was still solid, up to 5" in places.  After a few attempts of forward and reverse, and with Dave breaking the ice on the side with the pole, we managed to get in and attach ourselves to the one unfrozen tap.  I immediately jumped in the shower - and stayed there for quite some time.  Water tank now full.  Casettes empty.  Couple of clothes hand washes.  Job done! 

After spending time breaking ice, just to go a few yards, we've decided to stay put until either (a) the sun thaws all the ice, or (b) the sun thaws all the ice.  We were very pleased with our efforts and returned to 'our mooring'.  Ten minutes later, the boat infront of us was on the move, backwards to the water tap.  "Going to fill up with water" he said, "the ice seems to have melted and there's a path to the water point".  "Oh really!"  Obviously our ice crashing wasn't as loud as we thought.  We retired to the Market Tavern as we both smelled so sweet to discuss our next move - or non move. 

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Should we stay or should we go?

Dave has spent most of the day reading blog spots, to find out if anyone has taken the decision to move.  As far as we can tell, the answer to that is NO!  However, Dave Dare of Oxfordshire Narrowboats has been breaking ice today above Lower Heyford to meet Dusty the coal boat coming in the other direction.  So thats one bit of canal that'll be navigable. (Not that we're anywhere near!)

The ice here in Atherstone has thawed around the boats, but it still seems quite thick the further you go away from the town into the country.  We havent seen a boat move in over 2 weeks.  We are toying with the idea of moving to Valley Cruisers to get a bit of diesel, then as far as Sutton Stop in the hope of meeting Gosty Hill sometime next week.  However if we move from here, with all the services we need, we may get frozen in somewhere we don't want to be, and if it's for another fortnight, then that's Christmas scuppered.  We had hoped to get round to Warwick, then back up to Atherstone for christmas, but obviously havent moved for a fortnight, so that's that plan out of the window.  Of course, we could just stay here till Christmas as we know there's more ice on the way, but then we'd fall foul of BW.  Decisions, decisions.....

Dave and his little helper Nemo concentrating on the computer.

I've been doing my "Aunty Sue" duties, and went to Kenilworth for a couple of days to see Iona perform in her school nativity/carol service.  The story of the baby Jesus, 6 carols (without stopping for breath between verses & chorus)  all done & dusted in 45 minutes.  When you rejoin the 'real world' - even for a short time, you realise how hectic the world is out there!  Life at Rachel's is at 100mph.  Work, school, after school activities for the 3 girls, and a labrador to walk.  I don't know how she does it.  I'm now back on the boat, hiding away, all quiet.  Another revelation to me was that I seem to have lost the nack of shopping.  I had a pit stop in Coventry whilst changing buses, and thought I'd get some christmas presents there.  After walking glassy eyed round M & S, BHS, Debenhams, piped christmas musak and endless flashing decorations, there was just too much stuff to chose from, so I panicked and ran back to the bus empty handed.  Good timing on my part, as the Atherstone bus pulled up just as I arrived at the bus stop. Going to have to get a grip and steel myself into shopping mode once more - there just isnt enough time to knit everyone a scarf!

At least I had a couple of nice walks round Abbeyfields & Kenilworth castle while I was there.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Cold cold cold

Thawing nicely - but for how long?

Thought i'd post a couple of photos of the ice, before it all melts:

 Views from above Br41, top of Atherstone flight

 Befur frozen in - we are not alone!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Still iced in at Atherstone

Well we're still frozen in - day 6 now.  I can think of worse places to be stuck - tho' not sure about the ducks - here they are, going for a walk on the ice.  It's cold & the ice is now quite thick, but there's hardly any snow.

One boat made a break for it last Sunday morning, closely followed by a hire boat from Valley Cruises (a couple of miles further on, between Atherstone and Nuneaton).  We decided not to follow, as we had all the services here at the top of the locks.  So here we are, awaiting the coldest night of the year. We've topped up the water using our container, as luckily the water tap hasn't (yet) frozen.  We had hoped to chase Gosty Hill down the Coventry to get coal & diesel, we don't know where he'll turn up next - assuming they're frozen in too.  We had to buy coal from the garage which is an expensive way of doing it, but got a load of logs from 'a bloke in the pub' which were reasonably priced, and very good burners!  Next problem could be diesel, but we hope to get unlocked from the ice and make it to Valley Cruisers over the weekend - fingers crossed, but we'l find out where Gosty Hill is first.  Dave loves it here - the Market Tavern serves Lady Godiva.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Joining the 'wimped out' gang

We are definitely 'liveaboards' - see definitions of boaters on .  Ice on the water two days runnings means we run for cover!  We've learned our lesson from last year - 6 weeks frozen in up the top end of the Ashby, 2 miles from the nearest tap.  This time it's different!  We have sought refuge at the top of the Atherstone locks, within smelling distance of the elsan point - and here we will stay until Shifali the weather girl tells us it's ok to proceed.  We wimped out of going to see the 'Pantimime horse grand national' in Birmingham today - sorry Graham & Gill - if we'd known you were going we would have made more of an effort to attend, however, as we've 'wimped out' we were running out of wood, and as we were moored in the town, we couldn't forage for wood, so - to our shame - we had a load of logs delivered.  This added to the contentment - we were too comfortable in the warm on board to go out into minus seven temperature.  The reason .....  our new coal/wood burning stove we installed in the back (after last winter!)  HUGE barrel stove, on which we can also put the cast iron pot, and merrily stew away.  So we've got the diesel stove in the front and the log burner at the back, toasty.

In my defence, I had made a brief visit to mum's in Chirk so had spent quite alot of time on trains over the past couple of days - 5 trains one way, but only 3 trains return - after I paid a supplement of £8.  Train travel - I could write a whole page on different rates - don't worry - I won't!

Dickens night at Atherstone

We've been hanging about the Atherstone area so we could attend the Dicken's night (Sat 27th).  It was a fantastic night.  Lots of stalls along the street, with a brass band, a piper, a steel band, and a drum band.  I love this town, all the community gets together for such occasions.  I hope they made a bit of money.  Of course, none of my photos came out as the camera batteries died with the first photo I tried to take, and shots taken from the mobile were just a neon blur.  There was a firework display at 9pm which was spectacular.  We were standing on the canal towpath (what a surprise) when the first firework went off, followed by the howls and barks of all the dogs of Atherstone joining in, in protest. Did manage to take a couple of photos without the shaky hand syndrome.  It sure makes up for us missing the fireworks at Shugborough this year.

Nemo masters the breast-stroke

Yep, he's been in again.  Must have had some distance learning from Daisy  as he put in a marvellous performance in the breast stroke.  This time he was on the outside gunnel, in the dark, looking in through the window at us, tried to turn around, and didn't make it.  By the time I got outside to the front deck, he had swum halft the length of the boat, fortunately to the front, got to the bank, and I eventually managed to pull a black cat out of the darkness.  I couldnt see anything in the water, just followed the sound of something swimming.  How many lives is a cat supposed to have?  Again - no photos - as Dave is more embarrassed than the cat.

We were moored two locks up from Grendon in a lovely spot, as you can see, ice is already forming even in the sunshine.  Bird feeders on the tree which attracted a 'gang' of long tailed tits every day.  Lovely.

 Beautiful sunsets:
 and a full moon:

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Birmingham pantomime horse race - Sun 28th Nov 2010

If you're in the Birmingham area on Sunday, go to the Pantomime Horse Race.  It's the funniest thing you'll see this year - honestly! And it's FREE!  fantastic and hilarious.  Here's a couple of pics from previous years.

We're both fine, still near Atherstone, we're hanging around here due to funeral tomorrow and Dickens' night on Saturday.  When something happens, then I'll blog!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Birthday in Kenilworth

Had an invitation that I couldn't refuse .... birthday dinner at Rachel's in Kenilworth.  Not saying how old, but I'm still in my forties, despite there being 6 candles on the cake.  Mum was there already, as she's visiting this week, and picked me up from Coventry station yesterday, so I took the opportunity to do a load of washing there, cheeky I know, but what are sisters for!  There's nothing like a birthday cake made by your mum, and expertly decorated by my nieces.  Thank you all for a lovely birthday.
 Here's Coel the puppy, looking cute with his "unchewable" new toy, which is now in bits.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Just like being at sea!

We made it to Atherstone, Dave's been re-united with Lady Godiva at the Market Tavern (one of his favourite pubs) so he's a happy bunny.  The pub has recently been refurbished and looks great.

The weather over the last couple of days has been awful, so we chickened out & waited till the winds subsided before we moved on.  I was certainly rocked to sleep last night.  We could see yesterday evening that the road about 1/2 mile away had been closed by a fallen tree & the council workmen and police were clearing it from the road.  We lashed everything down on the roof and hoped it was still there in the morning.  I did take a picture of the waves, but it looks a bit tame ...
 We did moor near a tree, not the best idea in 80mph winds i know, but we wanted Nemo to get a bit of excersise, away from the water's edge.  He's decided he doesn't like going outside now considering his last few ventures. Ah well, we'll take him back into the country for a bit so he can run around, after we've got diesel & coal from Gosty Hill at top of Atherstone.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Nemo sheepishly accepts offer of swimming lessons from Daisy

Thank you Daisy for the offer of swimming lessons for Nemo (NB Matilda Rose).  Yes - he's been in again - yesterday, this time he jumped onto the bow between the button and the deck (the pointy bit), but missed - again - as i've said before, he's not the brightest button on your shirt.  I didn't take a photo as Dave said I would embarrass him even more (the cat or dave?!)  To his credit, he has mastered doggy paddle (Nemo, not Dave) but obviously needs to practice exit techniques.  He is yet to venture out unsupervised due to his less than adequate performance with boating in general.  He is far happier in his hammock watching the world go by....
he did have a lovely time, chasing leaves outside the Dog & Doublet, under supervision! 

Today we passed through the moorings and unique bridge for Drayton Manor Park & Zoo.

Well we survived bonfire night/weekend without too many traumas from Nemo cat.  Thankfully, due to the numerous RSPB pools in the area, the firework displays were kept to a minimum, the nearest one at Drayton Manor. We did see a vista of firework displays, but thankfully from a distance.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Dead bodies and leaves make for slow progress

Had a very noisy night last night outside the NIA with buses and kids due to the first night of 'Disney on Ice', rowdy lot those disney fans.  Progress out of Birmingham was very slow due to the leaves and rubbish debris in the canal.  We resorted to flushing the boat out of locks at Minworth the going was that slow, rubbish and leaves in abundance.  Got held up at Nechelles by the recovery of a dead body in the canal.  We were only held up for about half an hour but were then allowed through whilst they waited for the undertaker to remove the body from the side of the canal.  We were lucky - when we got through, there was a boat the other end who had been waiting for 3 hours & wasn't that chuffed that we had got through whilst he was still not allowed passage.  We left him 'discussing' the situation with the policeman.  So that was 30+ locks today & boy do I feel it!  Looking forward to seeing Mr Tesco delivery man tomorrow with supply of the red stuff.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


Dave was begnning to think that Banks' breweries had taken over, so a change of plan was called for, and we headed for Birmingham.  He's now had his "fix" at the Wellington, and all is well with the world.  16 real ales plus 3 ciders to chose from, with the added bonus that you can take in your own food if you want to.  Now that's what i call a great pub. .  Any pub with spotless toilets is worth a mention - with fresh flowers, sweeties, hand creams etc etc. There's also the added bonus of the beautiful building that is the old joint stock, just around the corner    where we met up with Frank & Gill (NB Fragil). 

The Cube building has been completed since our last visit, and the new library building is under construction, with two huge tower cranes dominating the skyline.

The good news is that Nemo cat has now managed 4 days without falling in!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


We came up past the Worcester Warriors rugby ground. we didnt realise it was so close to the canal.  Last week Dave came here by train to see the Cornish Pirates beat Worcester 23 - 21. Next time it'll be by boat!  He did enjoy wearing his Cornish Pirates hat round Worcester after this result.

We managed to find the only non-Banks' pub since we left Worcester.  Fantastic.  Looking forward to a nice Sunday tea in the pub.  Would you believe it - they were closing at 6.30pm due to a private function, just as well I suppose - they didn't do food on a Sunday evening.  Never mind, we had a lovely couple of pints before they kicked us out.  Just as well we prefer 'early doors'.

Are we nearly there yet?  Lock 57 on the Tardebigge flight.  Lovely set of locks, very well behaved, although the top paddle gear is extremely difficult to wind. It does help when it's a beautiful autumn day for boating.

Friday, 29 October 2010


Who's that peeping over the wall?

 Now that's what you call a visitor centre, gold encrusted statues included...
 Approaching Worcester & it started to rain so most of the pictures are hazy.  Beefur now in winter mode, all the flowers and pots have been taken off the roof.   We can actually see over the roof now, but it looks very bare.

Nice to see the African Queen is still afloat.

Stourport - Wed 27th Oct 2010

I must give a mention to a great find whilst in Stourport - The Hollybush Pub, 54 Mitton Street.  From Stourport basin, walk back up to Br5, then take a right into Mitton Street (away from the canal).  Friendliest pub we've been in in years.  6 real ales, plus proper cider, very well kept, and here's the bonus - everywhere was spotlessly clean - especially the loos.  Just brilliant.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Foraging for wood - part 2

Moored between Kidderminster & Stourport, wimped out today & took a "rest day" as it was raining.  Lit new stove in the back.  It was that hot in here that 4 hours after the fire has gone out, we're still in t-shirts with all the windows open.  Unfortunately, it got that hot in here that the inverter took exception to the heat in the back & gave up due to "over temp".  All ok now though i'm pleased to say.  At least we managed to cook the dinner on the stove before we had to let it go out!

Foraging for wood

We are novice foragers in the wood department, well, we haven't done it for at least 8 years since we converted from solid fuel to diesel when on Sans Souci.  After last winter, we've installed a second stove in the back of Beefur , which is fuelled by coal & wood, as well as the diesel fire in the front.  So we now have two different forms of heating, so in theory will be sorted for the cold winter ahead..........   Which brings us to our first log spotting foray heading down the Staffs & Worcs.

I was inside the boat pottering about when Dave puts the boat into reverse, nothing unusual with that at this time of year with all the leaves in the water, but the reverse continued, so I jumped out of the front doors to see what the problem was.  "What's wrong" I shout from the front.  Dave makes the sign of a "T" with his two hands. "Do you want a cup of tea" I shout back at him.  "No", and frantically make the "T" sign again.  "What do you want?"    "T"  "What?"  "T!!"  "What?"   Dave puts engine in neutral, "Don't you remember the new sign we discussed yesterday?"  He says.  No - I had no idea what he was talking about.  "Tree!  Tree!  Fuel for the Fire!   Tree!" he shouts.  Ah yes, T for Tree, I remember now, it seemed a good signal when we discussed it last night.  So we reversed to the spot where the wood was spotted & put the bow into the off side bank.  Dave then jumped off & collected the wood & dumped it onto the bow. I was holding the boat in forward into the bank.  Lesson one learned:-  the bow sinks further into the mud when held in forward & loaded down.  With the bow now stuck fast, we were completely stuck.  We repositioned the wood near the back, poled, reversed, pushed and rocked, but we were still stuck fast.  After about 30 mins, a boat came past & kindly pulled us off  (thank you 'Good Boy').  Thing is, we weren't as red faced as perhaps we should have been - ha ha - we had our first free fuel and how smug we were.  But we now know why it had been left there - TOO SHALLOW!    Next time it'll be different...........


As you've guessed from the uploaded photos, the computer problems have been fixed.  We stopped to shop at Sainsbury's Kidderminster & spotted a PC World.  I bundled all the defective/inadequate software and hardware into a bag and sauntered to said computer shop, expecting the "oh sorry, we havent got the staff in today, call back tomorrow", or the sharp intake of breath and "oh, nothing we can do, you'll just have to buy a new digital camera".  But no - the "tech guys" had a look at the computer & fixed the problem in 30 mins.  Apparently this new computer with windows 7 doesnt like old software like my 3month old mobile phone (eh!), or the digital camera - which is a few years old to be fair - but not as old as the response from the "Tech" person at PC World warranted - "Oh wow - it's a HP325! I used to have one of these years ago!" Thanks alot says I, I didnt realise I owned the first antique digital camera.  Anyway, problems seem to be solved with a download & running software with just about the capacity to copy photos and nothing else - anything better than nothing.
Photo of Beefur arriving in Kidderminster.