Well we have just finished our 19th week aboard Captain Hastings. This week we have reverted back to ‘taking our time’ mode, which means we have been able to relax more and charge up our batteries from the river Thames period. We have had some gorgeous boating weather which has helped us enjoy the last week a great deal.
So how did this week go ......??
On Tuesday we awoke to another lovely sunny day with a slight breeze which helped keep the heat down as we left Milton Keynes Marina. We had a lazy start and it wasn’t until after 12.00pm that we manoeuvred the boat steadily out of quite a difficult mooring spot. We were pleased we had use of bow thrusters which meant we could almost turnaround on the spot. Leaving the marina we past the pub which had been such a disappointment. Soon we were back on our journey, a sausage sandwich in hand as we meandered on the canal through Milton Keynes. We had heard negative comments about this place and even our cousin had commented the previous night when he joined us that we must be mad wanting to stay around Milton Keynes. In fact everyone was wrong, we found the place very pleasant indeed, the waters were clear and the amount of greenery, parks and woodlands around are unbelievable. Some were particularly beautiful, such as around Stantonbury Park Farm. We passed with ease through many of the suburbs, Great Woolstone, Willen Park, Great Linford and New Bradwell before mooring up at Wolverton. An unusual spot, with posh waterside apartment’s one side and an industrial railway building the opposite, now converted into business units. We ‘googled’ what was around and realised that a 15 minute walk away there was a Tesco and Asda close by. We set off with a shopping trolley, Sandra in control of this as I still find it an embarrassment to be pulling one. We ended up nipping in for essentials at Asda. Afterwards to our delight we found an Indian store close by. We love these stores, the smells of the herbs and spices. We have a good selection already on board, so we purchased some garlic and ginger paste and some chapattis for use with one of Sandra’s authentic Indian curries. Soon we were back on board, although a nice mooring spot, we felt it was too closed in, so around 4.00pm we moved off and were lucky to find a semi-rural spot about 20 minutes further along. Opposite our boat was an Antique warehouse called ‘G Daddy’, so we thought we would visit this the following day. We settled down for the evening, a nice meal and no wine. We had both decided earlier in the day that we should resist all temptation of alcohol and have a few days without any!
Wednesday was another sunny and warm day at Old Wolverton. We walked over to the bridge to visit ‘G Daddy’ and thoroughly enjoyed routing around the bric a brac. Sandra trying to hunt something down appropriate for our forthcoming grandchild. Afterwards we were eager to visit the cider factory a little further along and were disappointed that it was closed on this day. We returned to the boat and headed off, not before noting that the solar panels were pumping 20+amps into the batteries. It looks as though the £1200 spent on this system was worth it – well in sunny weather! We were soon passing through Cosgrove where we stopped for a little lunch, beautiful place made even more special by the wonderful weather. After an hour or so, we moved onwards through the countryside and finally stopping around 4.00pm near to Yardley Gobian, a super mooring just past Yardley Wharf Marina. Sandra using the pressure cooker cooked a brilliant Indian curry and we just had to enjoy a glass of wine! Both of us commenting that we have zero will power!
Thursday was a wet and damp day, first one of these sorts of day for ages. Sandra awoke in one of her ‘can’t be bothered’ moods. However, we headed off around 10.30pm appropriately dressed for the cooler climate. We arrived at Stoke Bruerne locks around lunchtime. We locked upwards with a hire boat family who were very nice indeed, in fact as we moored up in the pound before the last two locks, he shouted out that if he saw us in the pub later he would buy us a drink! Both of us on this day were clearly not our normal jovial selves. We seemed to have to push ourselves to do the simplest of tasks. We still managed to visit the museum we had heard so much about and barring the ridiculous fee (nearly £5 each) to go around the two floors of artefacts it was worth the visit. We walked past the two pubs, both realising that today they were not going to have our custom. We returned back to the boat and enjoyed a salad with a savoury omelette, with no alcohol. By nine we were both tucked up in bed.
Friday we both woke up to a lovely warm and sunny day, we had made the decision to stay another couple of days at Stoke Bruerne, our daughter Emily and Elliott, her husband, were joining us on Saturday and we were going to drive to the Blisworth Boat Festival, which seemed an easy option than trying to fight for moorings there. However, today we decided to have a chill out day and enjoy the weather. Our battery banks were almost full, going from 78% up to 83% in a short time via solar energy. Sandra decided to do some sewing, which she loves and is very good at and I decided to find a good insurance deal for our car, as the insurance was running out on the Sunday. As usual I used ‘Compare the Market’, they search for best deals and you get free cinema entry (2 for 1 ) during the week and, more importantly Sandra would be able to get another cuddly toy to add to the ten or more she already has. I sorted the insurance out quite quickly and also managed to get a free MOT thrown in – bargain! I then went down into the engine bay, pretending I knew what everything did – in fact I was cleaning and tidying, checking oil and grease etc. But I came up with dirty hands and felt a man! We decided around 5.00pm that we would get showered and ‘poshed’ up and go out for the evening. We ended up going for a few beers at The Boat Inn, a lovely canalside pub. We watched the meals come out and the fish and chips looked amazing – massive fish that hung over the plates. However, there was a smell in the air that we knew only too well – a curry smell!!, opposite we could see an Indian Restaurant and Take-away, we decided in unison that we were both going to have one of them. We started our second beer – mine was an IPA at 5.7% and Sandra was on pints of Stella, when a couple joined us called Dave and Dawn. These were two Londoners – Dave being a retired black cab driver and now a published author of books and Dawn who still worked in a call centre role after leaving her previous stressful job. They weren’t boaters and before long the usual questions came our way, do you have running water? Do you have a shower? What about the toilet situation? Etc etc. We answered them all and told them how wonderful the lifestyle was – but I don’t think we convinced them. Around 9.00pm, we said our goodbyes, they were clearly into a session, and headed to the Indian. Our dog had been left on the boat, so we thought it wise we get a take-away rather than a restaurant meal. When we got back to the boat, and started to eat our meal, we soon realised that it was one of the best Indian Meals we had had in a long time.
Saturday started off as a dull but warm day. Both of us were excited as we were seeing Emily and Elliott in the afternoon. We hadn’t seen them for nearly a month and being a really close family – this had been a long four weeks. We both busied ourselves, I painted the black on the side of the boat as it had rubbed off in places and then gave the sides a really good wash and polish – it took me hours, but it looked like brand new paint when I had finished. After the trauma of Emily getting lost in the car trying to find us, we finally met up at the pub around 1.30pm. We were soon off to the Blisworth Boat Festival. This was the first time we had visited this and some of the trading boats via Facebook had told me to say hi. It’s always good to meet up in ‘real’ time now and then. All of us enjoyed the afternoon, I managed to meet up with the ‘pen’ boat and ‘dog’ boat trader boaters who were so nice and both said they were trading really well. This was good to hear. At around five we headed back to Stoke Bruerne and decided on eating at The Boat Inn. Sandra and I had our eyes on the lovely fish and chips. When our meal arrived we were very disappointed. Our fish was four fingers wide, not hanging off our plate and the chips were not chucky. Emily decided to complain and we were told they had run out of fish so they had cut it in two!! We were not happy and soon the manager was there who agreed for us to pay for small fish and chips – how kind! We never let it ruin the evening, and we carried on laughing and enjoying each other’s company, the sad part was saying goodbye. We got back to the boat around 7.30pm and ended up watching a good film before getting to bed around 10.00pm.
On Sunday we woke up a little later than usual and behind us were neighbours. Neither of us could remember them being there the night before – but soon we were chatting and they had indeed moored up the night before. Our neighbours were Graham and Indie and we immediately knew we had lots in common. Indie whose family originated from India was a keen cook, especially Indian foods – which is the same as Sandra, and before long Indie had given Sandra some extra hot chillies and some herbs to try in one of her recipes. As we chatted we realised we had more in common. Twenty five years ago we owned a Café and two restaurants and funnily enough we found that our neighbours also own a catering business. They own a cake company in London supplying cakes, and cupcakes to many restaurants and business clientele – they told us about an order where they had to produce 10,000 cup cakes for an International Company in London. We all got on really well and agreed to meet up again – they have friends in Market Harborough near to where we live – so we said our goodbyes knowing it would happen, not long afterwards I received a text message reminding me to keep in touch. This is the magic of the inland waterways, you meet such a diverse range of lovely like minded people. We love it. Later we were heading through the Blisworth tunnel, one of the longer tunnels on the canal system measuring over 3000 yards. Exiting the tunnel we were soon passing through the festival which was still going running on the Sunday. People were waiving to us and a couple of the trader boaters shouted out to us – jesting about the colour of our boat (as usual). We were soon at Gayton Junction where the Northampton Arm joins the Grand Union Canal. Just a little further along, just after Bugbrooke we moored up – just before Nether Heyford where we found a lovely rural mooring spot, plenty of space for the dog to run. We settled down and had a cosy night on the boat.
Monday was another warm and sunny day. Today was Emily and Elliotts 1st wedding anniversary. We had already arranged a Moonpig card to be sent to them and when we met up with them on Saturday we had given them a ‘paper’ gift for them. We both reminisced over coffee how much has changed in the year just gone. This time last year Sandra and I were still working as a teacher and school Principal, Emily worked in London as senior teacher in an inner city school and Elliott worked as a chartered accountant in the film industry enjoying the high life attending premieres and going off to the Cannes in France for the Film festival and both living in London. Now, Sandra and I have retired and mainly reside on our floating home – Captain Hastings, Emily is now Assistant Director in a Northampton School and Elliott is a Financial Executive in a growing midlands company, and both now living in Northamptonshire – wow, all within the first year of their marriage! Oh yes, and Emily is having a baby, if you didn’t already know. Before leaving our mooring I decided to give the canopy a good clean with Milton and soapy water, this usually did the trick of killing off the green mould which seems to be attracted to these covers, Sandra did one of her spring cleans of the boat – we showered and soon we were on route. We were pleased to pass Bob and Jennie Reeves who shouted hello as we passed them, lots of people recognise the colour of our boat and many people read our blog, so it’s great to meet up – even for a few seconds. We finally moored up for the day, just past the aqueduct opposite Weedon Wharf, a short distance walk into the village. Nice mooring spot, but noisy due to the railway line. We decided to nip out for a couple of beers, the last few days had been quite ‘dry’! We ended up at the Heart of England pub where we were going to eat – however a pleasant group of lads had complained about their steak meal – and had not been treated very well by the staff. We hate this, clearly their steaks had been over cooked. So we decided not to bother – and thank goodness we didn’t, because we were fortunate to find one of the top Indian Restaurants we have had joy to sample their food, since starting our boating adventure. The Brinjol served the most beautiful food Indian food, lots of it and such a reasonable price. We finished the food off with a couple of beers and soon we were off to bed, full and contented with life.
So another week over, heading for Long Bucky flight and the Watford flight of locks next week as we get nearer to our permanent moorings – although this could change!