Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Significant Milestone

Yesterday I had a significant milestone in my life.....

....I came to the end of my bottle of gravy browning.

As you can see from the expired bottle, it has been around for quite a while.  So long in fact, that the use by date isn't even mentioned - for which I'm thankful for, as I'm sure it would be rather alarming.  It has reached the status I reserved for the bottle of Camp coffee in the back of my Nana's cupboard many many years ago, and saw the light of day on the odd occasion.  It's something you have lurking somewhere in the back, hiding behind the soy sauce and white wine vinegar, which you bought with the intention of concocting sophisticated meals, but you never actually get around to using up before the expiry date.  I can't even remember ever buying gravy browning, so I dread to think how long I've actually had it.  Ah well, the end of an era.... a new bottle beckons.

For those of you who thought I was going to talk about a 'significant' birthday.  How dare you!  I'll have you know that there's a whole 8 1/2 months before that happens!

We are almost back in the land of the mobile signal, after 10 days slowly coming up the Shroppie, which is a black hole as far as mobile phones go!  I say "almost", as there still isn't enough signal to post multiple photos, as we're at the top of the Audlem flight. Will try again tomorrow to load up the photos.  So, it's been 10 days without a blog, and I come back writing about gravy browning.  I think I should get out more.......

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Birmingham to Brewood

Having studied the forecast, we decided to make our escape from Birmingham, on what we thought would be the best day of the week.  So we were up and away early, as we had a long way to go, with 25 locks.  The day started out really nice, bright and sunny, but soon turned to heavy sleet by the time we reached Factory locks.  Looks like it's time to bring out the waterproof gear - we don't usually travel in the rain - and this was supposed to be the best day of the week, weather wise.  Ah well, onwards, and downwards (locks, that is!)  We did get out the GB road map, to find out if there were any rivers which may flood into the canal up the Shroppie (just in case....)  We were aware that we were leaving the safety of Birmingham, being quite high up above sea level, to descend into 'lowlands'.  Wet weather gear on, we descended Wolverhampton 21 locks.  We even saw a kingfisher at lock 12,  I didn't expect to see that!  The thing with wet weather gear, when doing things like locks, you tend to get wetter on the inside than you do on the outside.  Even my boots were leaking.  It was a relief to get to the bottom, and have another change of clothes & get dry.  We pressed on, and managed to get to the 'three mile mark' outside Brewood as it was getting dark.  We'll stay here for a few days, until the weather improves.

Here's a few pics of our trip along the Birmingham Main Line.  They're abit out of sync, as these ones of Coseley Tunnel were taken on our trip into Birmingham, hence the direction of the boat.  There's been a significant landslip on both sides of the tunnel, which will require quite a bit of clearing up.  I notice that there's a stoppage from the 18th February until the 31st March - another reason for leaving Birmingham and getting onto the Shroppie, where it's stoppage free.  I say stoppage free - for now - but with the amount of rain we've had, I wouldn't be surprised if there's another major landslip at Woodseaves.

Towpath blocked at the entrance to Coseley Tunnel

landslips on both sides now.

One of the many toll islands where a fee was collected from passing boats carrying cargo

Galton Tunnel

Here we've got all modes of transport on view:- the railway on the left of the picture runs parallel to the BNC main line , we pass under Stewart  Aqueduct, which carries the old main line canal, with the M5 on top of that.

View of the M5 piers, like huge concrete triffids emerging from the water

Spon Lane junction which takes you up onto the old main line (or Wolverhampton Level)

Toll island

one of the many now disused arms leading off the main line

... and another one

Junction off to the right onto the Walsall Canal (which we must do sometime)
Ah yes, the misleading sign posts along the way.  Near Bamford Stop, it's apparently 8 miles into Birmingham, when it is actually 5 miles.

Then a mile further on, it says 5 miles.  A mile later it's back up to 6 miles. 

Workers refurbishing the bridge at Albion Junction, leading to Brades locks.
The corner shop that is no more, at Lock 16 on the Wolverhampton flight.  It was very handy for a quick snack stop up or down the flight, whose home made samosas were particularly tasty.

Stone says it was laid 1862

The lovely row of cottages at Wolverhampton top lock
We heard about the imminent stoppage at Hampton Bank/Bettisfield.  Apparently, a breach has been averted, but the canal will be closed while emergency piling work is carried out.  We toyed with the idea of sprinting back up the Llangollen to be the other side of the planned stoppage on 17th Feb.  This would mean being back on our mooring 4-6 weeks earlier than planned, and having a such a short distance in which to cruise.  We decided to 'stuff it' and carry on cruising.  This means we won't be able to get back up the Llangollen till after the 4th April.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Transatlantic Sessions Concert & Family Visit

The Transatlantic Sessions concert was fantastic.  17 musicians on stage, which in monetary terms works out at £1.75 per artist each.  They started at 730pm and played till 1030pm, with just a 20 minute break. Brilliant value for money.  We were treated to gaelic songs from Julie Fowlis, we had fiddles, pipes, flutes, banjos, mandolins, guitars, piano, harpsichord, drums, Danny Thompson on double base, and dobro from Jerry Douglas, oh and singers Shawn Colvin, Sarah Jarosz, and more.  We both love our music, and can't go a day without listening to some of our varied selection from this, fiddly-eye-diddley-eye, to jazz, rock, and as far away as the Cocteau Twins.  I found myself with tears in my eyes as the concert kicked off, I was just bursting with joy at the wonderful sound entertaining us.  We were unable to get tickets last year for T.S's, and after this concert, we'll certainly be back next year.
Oh, and Series 6 of the Transatlantic Sessions is on BBC4 Friday nights at 730pm, although this series isn't as up beat as the last series, it's still worth a listen.

I know the photos are a bit ropey - but you're not supposed to take any photos, but we did at the start and the end of the gig, so there were annoying flashes for the performers.

We had a lovely meal in Carluccio's at Brindley Place before the do.  This time, we remembered to book a table, I'm glad we did, as the place was full.  Last time we were here for the Cerys Matthews Concert, we ended up trawling round the bars desperately trying to find a table, as everywhere was chock a block.  Speaking of Cerys, I'm going to take this opportunity to re-post Dave's favourite photo, taken in December.....
We stayed in Brum for a couple of days, as a family reunion had been planned for the Saturday afternoon.  Mum & Tony fancied a day in Birmingham as we were there, and to have a look round the new library, so arranged to take their car to Rachel's in Kenilworth, get the train to and from Brum, and stay in Rachels for a couple of days.  Rachel and co would be joining us in the evening for a meal.  When my other sister Bethan learned of the plans, she too said she would join us by train from Chester for the day, then travel back in the evening.  This plan seemed a little ambitious from the start - and so it was!  Firstly Mum & Tony were delayed when they shut the M6 due to a body being 'found' under a bridge.  They eventually got to Kenilworth, dumped the car, got a lift to Coventry station for the short train ride to Birmingham.  Unfortunately a tree had come down on the line, so all trains from Coventry to Brum were suspended.  By this time, Dave and I were sitting waiting for them in New Street Station - which was heaving, due to all manner of trains being cancelled and delayed due to bad weather.  They abandoned that idea, and returned to Rachels.  We then walked back to the boat in the pouring rain.  On the plus side, it meant we could watch the rugby six nations after all!  Bethan meanwhile had decided not to come, due to the weather.   It all turned out all right in the end though.   The Kenilworth contingent came by cars, unfortunately arriving at our rendezvous, Birmingham Library, just as the library was closing for the day!  Never mind, we had a walk around Brindley Place (in a howling gale) and had a lovely meal for 10 of us in Penny Blacks.  Thanks to everyone for making the effort.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Downgrading the blog format

I've been having trouble loading the blog onto  my phone.  It just didn't want to load up at all, and would just give up and revert to menu mode.  I thought at first that it was just a memory problem, i.e. not enough of it, but after dumping loads of photos, apps etc it still didn't improve.  So unfortunately I have had to get rid of the background colours, and change to simple text in the blog.  It doesn't look the fanciest blog now, (not that it did before),  but at least I can now view it from my phone.  It's not that I keep wanting to read about myself!  It's just handy to put my blog up, & then link onto the other blogs listed on my front page with just a click. 

Birmingham (Again)

After the saga of my tooth, we waited a week in Penkridge whilst I was taking anti biotics and penicillin, hoping that the swelling would go down, and the infection would clear up.  So that was me tee-total for a week.  Watching the six nations rugby without a beer was not something I've done for quite a few years. The Dentist was then happy to extract the tooth (for a handsome price).  He warned me that it was unlikely that the tooth would come out intact, and to prepare for incisions in the gum to get all the bits out, as the infection had been there for some time and the tooth was on the point of disintegrating.  Again, if the infection was that evident - even I could make it out on the x-ray - why didn't Chirk dentist pick this up!  Anyway, after pulling and heaving, the tooth finally came out whole, which was nice.  We then made a dash for Birmingham, as we had tickets for "Transatlantic Sessions" in the Symphony Hall in a few days time.  We have (so far) been lucky with the weather, and moving when the weather allows, sitting it out when it's raining.

We were lucky enough to moor in our preferred place - outside the old Fiddle & Bone, in the hope that Nemo can nip inside the closed gates and have the place to himself, rather than just on the very busy towpath.

We spent time wondering around the city, and round the markets (no sign of Pan Pipe Man though).
The pic above is of "Iron Man" by Antony Gormley outside the Town Hall - where we went to see Cerys Matthews perform in December.

Birmingham Council Offices in Victoria Square, and the fountain (a.k.a. The Floozie in the Jacuzzi)

Picture taken at the front of the Symphony Hall, with the Cube visible centre

Symphony Hall, with the reflection of Birmingham's new library. 

Work is progressing on the redevelopment of the NIA.  They are constructing a new entrance which will overlook the canal.

Views of the fancy apartment blocks in the city.

The Fiddle & Bone.  Once a thriving live music bar, with different types of music every night of the week.  Sadly now derelict, despite years of legal wrangling.  Apparently, Sherbourne Wharf are going to take over the buildings.  No sign of life yet though.

Looking back into Oozells Street Loop.
As I said previously, we did a tour of the markets.  I especially like looking round the meat market, looking at all the mysterious cuts of meat, and the vast array of shellfish on offer.  I wanted to buy a chicken, and approached one stall with this firmly in mind, as the shopkeepers can be very loud, and sharp - and persuasive.  Still no use - I came away with three small joints of lamb.  Ah well, lamb it is then for the next few days - which turned out to be a tasty change - especially nice to be back on solid foods now that the gaping hole that was a tooth has cleared up.