Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Out of Brum & on to Stratford-On-Avon Canal

After doing the necessary at the BW point at Cambrian Wharf, (that's filling and emptying) we were on our way.  Through the middle of Birmingham City Centre, through Gas Street Basin and the lovely old working boats, under Broad Street and a sharp right turn at The Cube.  We passed Barrie Johnson NB White Locks of the BCNS, who had also been at the Stourbridge Rally.  Which reminds me:- Dave bumped into John Dunn off NB Druid in the middle of the Bull Ring Market the other day.  He wasn't at the Stourbridge Rally this year, or last year, and people were getting quite concerned about him.  His boat is now moored at Dadford's on the Delph.  He is no longer on the water and the boat has been passed to "a member of the family".  So, after much speculation - he is alive! - but not that well, arthritis having caught up with him & he can't do single handed boating any more.  Can still talk for England tho!

We've cooked our cheap chicken, bought with a fight from the indoor market on Saturday. I've never been shouted at by a butcher before for not buying his meat. It was a real eye opener. I didn't understand why customers for each meat stand were congregating at one end of each counter, until the butcher stall holder started bellowing "LISTEN! £10 FOR THIS TRAY". It slowly dawned on us that as it was 4pm on a Saturday, the butchers were selling their stock off cheaply. Talk about country bumpkins in the city! We stood our ground and said meekly "but we only want £5 worth, very sorry but we havent got the room for all that chicken". Loud Butcher shouted at us some more, but then gave us half a tray worth, for £5. We then ran away, leaving the masses glued to the display cabinets of the meat counters, ready to pounce on their bargains.   That's our city visiting done for another year!
The debris/litter from the Great Birmingham Run the day before was still in evidence, despite the litter pickers from Brindley Place.  We encountered a few silver 'blankets' in the canal and lots of discarded plastic water bottles.  Shame about the competitors making such a mess around the place - after running for such noble causes. Brindley Place was quite a different scene this Monday morning - all black suits and briefcases - rather than the lycra clad mobs of yesterday.

New Aqueduct and new overpass - though the grafitti artists have found a lovely new surface to deface....

Onto the Stratford on Avon Canal, and past that strange place that is Dickens Heath.  A huge conglomeration of flats and houses in the middle of nowhere!

We've caught up with NB Matilta Rose, strangely enough at the Blue Bell Cider House, and we may or may not be moving on tomorrow - depending on the weather.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Birmingham Markets and The Great Run

I've returned to Dave, the boat and Nemo pusss in Birmingham, and we decided to stay a couple more days so we could do a bit of shopping and exploring.  Nemo is not as neurotic as I thought he would be in the city, and has found sanctuary behind the gates of the closed Fiddle & Bone.  Stourbridge's busy towpath seems to have hardened him up abit.  Saturday night was busy for boats, with 3 separate operators running boat trips and party nights, with the usual hen parties belting out "I will survive" as they trundle past. 

Work on the construction of the new library continues...
A bit more to the structure than our last visit to Brum, 12 months ago, when work had not long started..
Stop Press!!!  We have found the Andean pipe music man! Horah!  He's alive and well, busking outside the Rag Market, it's been a while since we last saw him in Nuneaton, but I am pleased to report that he sounds just the same.
We had a good mooch round the indoor meat market and found some goat in a Halal butchers - yes - the curry was lovely.  We also came accross a butchers (if you can call it that) selling offal, including chicken feet (as per pic below) all sorts of bits of stomach (whole and bits), pig snouts, yep just the snout, and sheep heads (I refrained from taking a picture as it was enough to put you off your dinner).  What do you cook with chicken feet?  Chicken foot pie? Chicken foot omlette? The mind boggles.... (Dave suggested chicken fajitas) We've stocked up on all the curry ingredients we can think of, so hopefully the stocks will last till we visit again. 
There's a heron perched on the top of the Sea Life Centre - no doubt sussing out if he can get into the open otter enclosure below him.

Today Sunday, was extremely busy round the NIA area due to the Birmingham Great Run.  We watched the start on the telly, then went to see the finish line on Broad Street.  There were thousands of people milling around between Brindley Place & Broad Street.  Glad to see Batman & Robin completed the course (saw them on tv, they're centre picture with the black capes).  Unfortunately the silver blankets were discarded by some & stuffed into plant pots and left lying around.  No doubt the council will have everything cleaned up by morning.

Looking towards Broad Street and the finish line..

The atmosphere round the finish line was fantastic, with thousands of people cheering on the competitors.  The commentry from radio BRMB was spot on, enthusiastic and encouraging people over the finish line.  Quite emotional really.  All the bars around the canal side were heaving with competitors and their supporters tucking into chips and lager!  It was great to be able to sit around outside at the end of October and watch the throngs, that's throngs not thongs.  All in all a brilliant couple of days, we've been back to The Wellington & sampled a couple of their 40 beers on offer.  Dave was disappointed that he couldn't get into the Prince of Wales today, due to the number of people, you physically couldn't get through the door - good for the pub tho!
  Tomorrow we move on, and catch up with NB Matilda Rose.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Power problems solved - that's 4 new batteries then!

On our way to Brum:  Well it's bye bye Stourbridge for another year.  We have solved the power problems - it wasn't the inverter (after buying a new one), and it wasn't the fridge.  No - we didn't buy a new one.  Despite the Numax batteries showing "green" for good, on the indicators, and despite them being less than 2 years old, the batteries were shot.  We have now bought 4 new batteries and (touch wood) all is functioning as it should.  Thank you Martin Brookes at Stourton for the testing equipment.  Dave did try and sort it out at the dry dock at Stourbridge, but the new guy there was disinterested & couldn't be bothered in such a trivial thing as no power on a narrowboat.

Pic below - Albert is waving goodbye - he's one of the three (yes 3) employed to move Tenacious & Temeraire with the owner, the 7 miles & 7 locks back to their base.  Albert tends to pop up unexpectedly at locks and start lockwheeling - we've known him for many years round Stourbridge and the BCN, but also at Audlem, Tyreley and bizzarly in Llangollen of all places (no locks there tho).

It was another lovely couple of days for cruising.  Up the Stourbridge locks and past the Red House |Glass Cone. 

Up and up the Stourbridge and Delph locks
To Merry Hill where we moored for the night

Netherton Hill in the distance, which we'll be skirting round on the way to join the Main Line

Through the waterfront at Merry Hill.  There was a boat moored here, can't remember the name, only the owners (as signwritten in big letters)  "Norfolk and Chance".  Charming!  We stopped for a meal at Wetherspoons, we thought cheap and cheerful would be the order of the day after forking out so much on batteries and an inverter - we had 4 drinks and two main meals for less than £20!

Getting closer to Netherton Hill, with the church spires poking through the trees.
Lots of wonderful new sculptures and mile posts on the Dudley Canal...

Still without graffitti

Windmill End

And into the Netherton Tunnel, where there was a workboat moored in the right in the middle of the tunnel.  Luckily we did see workmen walking around with torches on their helmets, but the boat wasn't clearly distinguishable.  There's light at the end of the tunnel....

And eventually - after 40 minutes and 3058 yards - out the other end
and onto the Main Line, with it's toll islands

Under the M5 and the old line canal

And into Birmingham City Centre, where we'll stay for a few days, giving me time to visit Mum, for what would have been Dad's birthday. 

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Power problems, delays & another dunking for Nemo

Well, that's Stourbridge done for another year.  The weather over the weekend was fantastic, which brought the crowds out - not so many boats this year - only 58.  Never mind, next year is the Staffs & Worcs 50th anniversary for The Battle of Stourbridge  so hopefully, the number of boats attending the rally will be over the 100 mark.  Dave will miss visiting his favourite pub (The Royal Exchange on Enville Street)  He'll probably have to wait another 12 months for his next pint of Bathams!  
We met up with lots of friends over the weekend - and made some new ones too.  But time to move on and start cruising - now i've (finally) picked up my new glasses from Specsavers.  They look like and feel like safety visors.  I'm sure they're not the ones I picked!
Here we are at the Exchange on a lovely sunny afternoon:  Frank & Gill (NB Fragil), Me, Ken & Judy (NB Flying Fox) & Sandra (NB Iapetus) & Ken & Judy's dog - who's name I can't remember I'm afraid.  Ken, Judy, Sandra & Brian (not in picture) have just returned from 2 weeks on the Caledonian Canal - they hired a boat & didn't take their own!  They managed to pick the 2 weeks in September when the sun came out for their trip, and highly recommended it.  Oh - and that's the BCN committee having a meeting on the table behind us (they weren't there just for the beer)

We've been having trouble with our power over the last few weeks.  We thought it was the inverter, so changed the fan, which made things worse and it packed up, so we bought a new 1800w inverter.  We still have problems, so it wasn't the inverter after all.  Which left batteries or fridge - either way it was going to cost money.  After testing and re-testing, isolating, & recharging, we have discovered it's the batteries - initially ruled out as 3 of them are less than 2 years old.  So it's 4 new batteries, which we are hoping will be delivered tomorrow (Wed), fingers crossed as we want to get into Birmingham on Thursday so I can go home & visit mum for a few days.  This will leave Dave free to visit is 2nd favourite pub - The Wellington, which i've raved about before.   16 hand pull ales plus more for cider.  No food served, but if you'd like to bring your own in, they will provide knives, forks, plates and condiments, and clear away afterwards - how good is that!  Unfortunately we're a week too early for the Birmingham Beer Festival from 27th - 29th October, but depending on where we are, we'll try and get back by bus (cat permitting).

Whilst waiting for this to upload, Nemo cat has taken another dive into the canal.  He's been dodging bikes at 40mph on the towpath, drunks, dogs and hoards of people whilst moored at Stourbridge.  We get into the countryside & he takes a dive off the wrong side of the boat.  We've been moored right side to towpath for almost 2 weeks now & he still jumped off the wrong side.  As I've said before.. not the brightest button on your shirt that cat.....

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Stourbridge Open Weekend / Boat Gathering

The open weekend is in full swing, with boats everywhere!  Lots of beautiful working boats here, all with brasses shining & engines popping.  What a wonderful day for it!

Beefur & Fragil competing for the "who's got the tallest aerial" competition.
You know you're getting old ... when the car you learned to drive in is now a "vintage"!

At least it wasn't one of these though....

Ah - police cars when they were round and friendley (Ken Smith had one of these)

Back to boats - this should solve any arguments about being "under propped"

The always immaculately turned out boat & butty Tenacious & Temeraire

Lord Mayor's parade & cavelcade returning to the Stourbridge Arm to the noise of boat horns and bugles.

Of course there's always one ...  This boat decided to go for a jaunt just as the Lord Mayor's procession was rounding the bend heading through the line of working boats, thus sending all the boat in the flotilla into reverse and subsequently sideways.  Ah well, all adds to the spectacle I suppose.


We've been in Stourbridge for a week now, while Dave has been doing bits and bobs around the area, such as painting out the grafitti & clearing up dog poo etc, just to tidy things up ready for the boat rally - or "Open Weekend" as it's called. Boats have been arriving thick and fast over the last couple of days, and the organisers are hoping for anything up to 80 boats. On the day we arrived last week, there happened to be a jazz night in the bonded warehouse so we went along - it was great. Packed out & very entertaining.

Old arms & buildings on the way into the Stourbridge Arm.

Stourbridge Town Hall (opened 1887)

Unfortunately, Stourbridge town in plagued with charity shops.  There's a shop for every charity you could think of - from the usual Oxfam & various children's charities - to "Happy Staffie Rescue".  I haven't counted them, but there must be more than 25!  Sadly, the indoor market area is deserted, but there are plans for it's redevelopment - by Tesco.  There's a beautiful clock there, which gives a lovely display at 12 noon, when the figures go round....

We'll be here till at least Tuesday, which will give us time to visit the laundrette, collect my new glasses (eyes that is - not the chink chink cheers variety - although with all these glass works around here.....)