Wednesday, 14 September 2016

23rd Week (W/e 12/9/2016)

Well we have settled into our permanent moorings quite well and getting used to a canal mooring and actually enjoying the passing boats, most being very considerate and passing at the right speed. We have decided not to go on any more long trips until after the winter. However, we still intend to make numerous shorter trips for 4 or 5 days as and when we feel like it. Both of us agree that this first year of our continuous cruising adventure has been a mammoth trip, some would say too long. Over the 23 weeks we have done 465 locks and 708 miles and we have clocked up over 450 engine hours doing it. We have travelled from Staffordshire to Burton on Trent from there up to Middlewich (four counties ring) onto the Langollen canal and over the Pontcysyllte aqueduct, then down to Penkridge, Fradley, Tamworth and Coventry and then onto the Oxford, down the Thames, Brentford and back up the Grand Union, to Foxton and then to our mooring at North Kilworth. We have also used 847 ltrs of diesel costing £547.00 and to make the journey even more pleasurable we have quaffed down 62 bottles of wine and also two 3ltr boxes, mainly full bodied red. Needless to say we are now taking it easy and resting up a little. We have really enjoyed our time meeting loads of new boating friends along the way, and we have certainly adopted this way of life well.

So how did this week go…….?

Tuesday was a cooler day to start with which we were happy with as today we were taking a drive to Northampton hospital. About eighteen months ago during a routine doctor’s appointment I was told my red blood cells were not right, I then spent around 2 months seeing various specialists and consultants and having a scan, they ruled out anything serious and put me on B12 injections which did not clear the matter up. During a meeting with one of the consultants I was asked whether I snore, to which Sandra replied for me. She explained I snored for England! I knew I snored, but it never bothers a snorer and over the 30+ years of marriage Sandra has found ways of coping. The consultant then arranged for me to attend a sleep clinic and also to visit an ear and throat specialist. A camera went down my nose (both sides) and then down my wind pipe. The result was that I had a generic inherited smaller, width wise, windpipe than I should have not helped by being overweight and that one of my nasal passages was completely blocked. This meant that when asleep the muscles relax and block my windpipe. The results from the sleep clinic confirmed this - I had severe sleep apnoea. The results quite shocked me as it meant that for years I had never reached ‘deep sleep’ status and that I was waking (subconsciously) 3 or 4 times a minute to keep breathing. There were two options available to me, invasive surgery to correct the thickness of the windpipe and nose passage or to sleep with the use of a respirator. I opted for the latter, a machine the size of a couple of paperbacks which blows air into a mask which forces the windpipe to remain open when my muscles relax during sleep. The first night it was difficult to get used to, until I fell asleep. In the morning I knew immediately something was different about me. I awoke feeling fully energised. It was the first time in decades that I had actually had a good night’s sleep. The doctor on a subsequent visit told me that I was now sleeping normally, and that he was amazed that I had managed to cope in a job such as mine (Principal of a school) when basically I was getting a couple of hours sleep a day and not quality sleep. Sandra noticed right away, she too had a good sleep for the first time with me not interrupting her – no more snoring. She also noticed that I no longer came home after work and insisted on having a nap before the evening meal, or falling asleep during Emmerdale (down side!). So, my appointment at the hospital in Northampton was Important, the SD card from the respirator was read by a computer and the diagnosis was that I was getting at least 6 hours of high quality sleep each night, above the average of 5.5. I was also given a newer machine with flashing lights and fancy chrome edges! I would suggest if you know anyone who is a heavy snorer, who gets lethargic or sleepy to visit the doctor immediately. After the trip to Northampton we returned to the boat which was like entering into an oven. The weather had become stifling hot with high humidity, we were both perspiring, we quickly undid all windows and doors front and back and soon there was a breeze, but it was still hot. We decided to relax, Sandra doing her needlework and I sat on the back reading. Whilst there I was so surprised when I saw a young boy of around 12 jump from his mothers boat moored a few boats away into the murky canal waters where he then spend half an hour or so messing around. I thought how dangerous and how stupid of the mother to let him do this. Later we sat down to a lovely meal Sandra had cooked a Mary Berry recipe of smoked haddock in a creamy mushroom sauce topped with cheddar mashed potatoes accompanied with peas and a glass of iced cold cider – lovely!

Wednesday, thankfully it was a cloudy day protecting us from the heat of the sun. The morning was spent organising dentist and optician appointments and also a yearly service for the Heritage cooker (like an AGA – but better!) we have it serviced every year as suggested by the maunal. We also visited the Wharf office to arrange a service for the engine, even though this had only been done in April. Due to the high engine hours since then we were overdue (every 300 hours). When Sandra had finished off her ironing we set off for a cruise. We filled up with water which we prefer to top up on a continuous basis, rather than run dangerously low. At around 1.00pm we headed off, through Husbands Bosworth tunnel, passing four boats coming the other way, fortunately all very considerate slowing down as we passed. We were both grateful for the coolness of the tunnel for the first time. We love the trip from North Kilworth Wharf to Foxton, no locks and lovely countryside. After a leisurely cruise, we arrived at the top of Foxton Locks around 3.30pm, we decided to moor at the top of the locks for a change so we turned the boat around in the turning hole. Fortunately there were a few mooring spots available, close to the slight bend in the canal. We tried the first space, but our front end was sticking out too far due to the bend and we couldn’t get a secure mooring line. So we reversed it a short distance and moored almost touching the day boat behind, knowing this would be moving on before nightfall. Later after the day boat had moved I was sitting on the back only to witness a husband shouting at his wife, she had tried to get into the spot behind but couldn’t get in. He jumped back onto the boat and when alongside me he asked in a very brisk manner, well in fact he told me to move my boat forward so he could get his boat in at the rear, I told him that I couldn’t do that as I had already tried that and it was not suitable, before I could offer to reverse slightly to see if he could get in front, he decided to berate me with his vile mouth! I ignored him and went into the cabin, pleased he couldn’t get his boat moored near to us - who would want a bullying neighbour. Sometimes the behaviour of the minority spoils our caring community. Around teatime Sandra cooked one of our favourite meals spicy beef with fresh chillies, yogurt, guacamole and nachos chips. We decided to put this in the fridge for later and go to the pub, Bridge 61 for a couple of drinks first. We walked down the lock towpath watching a couple of hire boaters and once as the Bridge sat outside. I decided to try the 7% alcohol cider and Sandra stuck to her red wine tipple. We then sat outside and watched the boats and people. We were really impressed with the driving skills of some the hire boaters. Later our two friends, Bev and Pete joined us along with their friend all liverboard boaters for a few drinks – too many in fact. Sandra and I meandered our way back up the towpath to our boat around 9.30pm we were both very merry and once on the boat somehow managed to get our supper sorted. We went to bed soon after.

Thursday we awoke a little later than normal and decided to head back to our permanent moorings, I was suffering particularly bad from a hangover. In fact it was so bad I felt quite giddy made worse being on a boat. Sandra wasn’t too far behind me and we both looked at each other saying we were too old to do this. The trip back was quite a blur to be honest. We got back to the service bay at the Wharf around 3.00pm, by this time I was just feeling rough and could communicate just. We had a pump out and chatted to Ben the resident boat engineer and Tristan the trainee. I felt happy for Ben to do our service and double checked that it was going to happen next week. It’s great to moor somewhere where you can tell they care about their moorers and it’s not just a money making business. We carried on to the Welford arm, turned the boat around and then returned to our mooring, connected the electricity. Once hooked up I switched on the boat Wifi and checked my emails which I was pleased I did as I had received an email telling me that another one of my short stories was being published in the ‘Canal Times’. All of my academic career I have been an avid writer, when I completed my dissertation for my Master Degree I was having to edit it down to the 30,000 words requested. Some may say not only do I like the sound of my own voice…., but seriously I enjoy being able to explore the more creative side of writing. In the past it’s always been academic and report writing, so when I received this email I was very pleased indeed. Later Sandra c cooked the evening meal a super quiche and salad. Soon after we crashed in front of the TV and we both went early bed.

Friday I was still not 100%, but at least there was a breeze on this sunny start to the day. We were both a little lethargic, so Sandra switched on the TV which is lethal in the morning as we soon got engrossed with the debate on the ‘The Wright Stuff’ which was all about whether the boundaries set regarding school uniforms by a headteacher were right. This was something very close to my heart as the three schools I had been headteacher/principal of previously, before early retirement had all suffered similar issues with the young people pushing the boundaries. What most of the panel failed to realise was that this was nothing to do with the uniform per se – it was to do with setting the scene, the rules and the boundaries for the forthcoming academic year. Had the new headteacher in this failing school not been strong from the outset then he and his team might as well given up the effort of turning it around. It troubles me a great deal that those parents do not support the school their children go to, time and time again I read of staff in schools all over the country being threatened and assaulted by parents. Our Daughter who is a senior teacher and assistant director of an Academy school had a chair thrown at her by one pupil and he still wasn't suspended! So sad and so different to when I was a child. My goodness if I had come home and told my parents I had been told off by a teacher – I would have been sent to bed early. Soon after our lazy morning the weather changed dramatically, high winds and strong rain – British weather, you can never say it’s boring. In the afternoon after cleaning the inside of the boat and having lunch we both dozed off, clearly blaming our alcoholic poisoning from the previous night. Around teatime we got showered and ready to go out. Tonight we were going out for a meal at a restaurant with family to celebrate the success of Sandra’s brother Jason beating his battle with cancer. A few months ago he had joined us on the boat, just before his last dose of chemotherapy and he had no hair and looked really pale as he had to keep out of the sun. When we arrived at the restaurant, we both couldn’t believe the transformation, he had a full head of cropped dark hair and a beard to match – in fact he looked like one of the ‘Action Men’ you used to be able to buy that had furry hair and beard whose eyes moved from left to right (a bloke thing!). We had a lovely time and my fish and chips were super! Neither of us even attempted to drink, which enabled me to be the designated driver, even though Emily wasn’t able to drink anyway being pregnant. All ten of us had a great family night something we should do more regularly. We didn’t return back to the boat but stayed at the house with Emily and Elliott, especially as we had an early start the next day.

Saturday we all awoke (except Elliott) around 7.00pm Emily, Sandra and I were off to Chelmsford to the ‘Friends Fest’. Years ago when Emily was in her early teens she became obsessed by an American TV series called Friends. One Christmas we spent a fortune and bought Emily the whole series, ten and tens of DVD disks of this series. She became obsessed with it and could have easily gone on Master Mind to answer specific questions related to the programmes – she even knows specific dialog from certain episodes. So when she found that the series makers were doing a road show of all of the scenery and props from the show along with a stage etc, she had to get tickets. Unfortunately, initially they were all sold out, but due to demand they arranged extra dates and Emily was able to secure three tickets. Quite valuable in fact as on the ‘black market’ they were re-selling for hundreds of pounds. We set off for the ‘fest’ and two hours later we were enjoying ourselves being on the various set stages. Emily was besides herself, chatting to other fans and enjoying being able to see and touch all of the props even though quite clearly in small writing it highlighted the fact that they were all reproduction! We had a great day out and when we returned exhausted we all crashed out in the sitting room at the house and all three of us fell asleep for an hour or so. We were shattered and possibly still suffering from too much alcohol from a few nights ago. Around teatime when we awoke we said our goodbyes and headed back to the boat, not before stopping at Waitrose and treating ourselves to their wonderful selection of pre-cooked meals, along with a super lemon cheesecake! Once on the boat we ate our meal which was superb and settled down to X Factor! Escapism!

Sunday we had another lazy start. The weather was lovely and sunny and not too hot, which was good as today we were going off for a few hours to the village of Lubenham, literally a couple of miles from Foxton Locks and Market Harborough. This village is very special to us both, it is here where we purchased our first house, a nice semi-detached three bedroom place with garage and driveway. It was in this house we had Emily and it was a very happy house, full of fun and laughter.
Today the village was holding the annual ‘Scarecrow’ fete. Many of the householders in the village had made an effort to make a scarecrow and on the village green there were lots of stall selling various items. Emily and Elliott joined us and we had a great time walking around the village and visiting the wonderful 12th Century church along the way. Our old dog Phoebe slowed us down a little due to her not being able to walk more than a couple of miles, but it was getting hot anyway, so around mid-afternoon we returned to the boat. Emily and Elliott had left us earlier , they were heading off to the cinema to watch a film called ‘Sausages’ – what next! By the time we got back and settled it was X Factor time!!!

Monday we had breakfast and then switched on the boat engine, Ben the Wharf’s boat engineer had told me to get the engine warm ass it’s easier to change the oil. He was scheduled for 10.00am, so at 9.30am the engine was up and running. At 10.00am I switched the engine off as I didn’t want it too hot, by 10.30am I called the office, to be told Ben was on his way. I can never understand how boatyards have different timescales and don’t mind a hoot if they are late. When Ben arrived he told me that he had picked up Shire Barrus filters etc, as he couldn’t find cheaper alternatives. This didn’t bother me, in fact I was pleased, our engine has only done just over a 1000 hours, so its practically new, the least it deserves if the best stuff! A couple of hours later the job was done, I asked him to check the fan belts which he told me he had already done this and they were fine. In the afternoon we went for a walk and when we returned we got on with our hobbies before settling down to a stunningly tasteful beef casserole cooked by Sandra, so tasty and busting with vegetables. We still did not fancy a drink, we had now restrained from drinking alcohol for FIVE days. We both went to bed very worried we were becoming T totals!!!!!!

Well another week over, although minimal cruising, we have still enjoyed ourselves on board Captain Hastings. Living close by to family and friends has clearly got its advantages and we both feel happy with our decision to find mooring close to them. The first time in many years we have been able to do this. As we are now settled and not moving far, writing a weekly ‘Adventure Blog’ seems a little daft, so we have decided from now, until we start cruising again next year to do a monthly update blog. I’m sure you don’t want to read about our weekly activities without the fun of boating. We both would like to say thank you for taking the time to read our blogs.

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