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Friday, May 19, 2017

Serendipity

Serendipity: finding something good without looking for it.

     Back in early March I set off on a trip back to the States. I needed to answer the question, "Where is home?" I hate to travel by plane. I develop motion sickness easily. I suffered from it as a kid in automobiles, on escalators, elevators, Ferris Wheel, merry-go-rounds and even swings. So you can imagine my horror of traveling by plane. Add to this my need to maintain control over me and my immediate space, and the appalling manner in which airlines treat paying customers and it really is a recipe for acute tension and anxiety at the very least. Finally, I used to clean airplanes for a living and at one point I was trained to search for bombs on board planes. I know way too much about what goes on behind the scenes to be comfortable with current airport safety procedures.
     Add to this the fact that I am an emotional empath. I have been able to pick up and read the emotions of people around me since I was very small. This is the main reason I hate crowds; too much energy swirling around--a lot of it negative and ungoverned by the people generating it.  Airports are vortices of human energy. If  I have to go out to a crowded place I have to shield myself and this takes an immense of amount of energy to maintain for any lengthy amount of time.
     This trip back to America required I fly out of Heathrow--Europe's busiest airport and one that is huge and spread out. I was terrified I would not be able to find the actual gate, given that I am dyslexic and the more stressed I am, the more pronounced my symptoms become. Numbers and letters transpose themselves. I lose my peripheral vision and my hearing drops in and out. Les had been dead six weeks and I was a stew of overwhelming emotions, sleeping two to four hours a night maximum, and my new right knee was only four months along in the healing process. I made sure to get to Terminal 5 early--about three hours early. I checked in, checked my bags through with assistance from airport personnel, and made my way to a restaurant to put some decent food in my stomach far enough out from the actual flight that it would have no chance of coming back up again.
     As I sat waiting for my meal to arrive, a woman was escorted to the table next to me.  We began to chat and I discovered her name is Marie and she is a retired teacher. She travels a fair bit, lives in London and has an amazing bucket list blog. Her blog title says it all very succinctly: After60--thenext10: The bucket lists have been written. How much can be achieved in the next 10 years - from the mundane (baking an edible cake) to the ridiculous (kayaking through the rain forest).
     Marie's company during lunch helped me to forget my anxiety and focus on something and someone else. She is interesting and funny, and I like how she divides her list up by tabs labeled, "Around London," "Around the UK," "Around the World," "Around Home." Within each tab are Marie's lists and those she has accomplished are indicated in red print and some have links to her posts about her experiences. She has visited the London Bank of England museum and lifted a gold bar worth £144,000, taken a tour of Lloyd's of London, gone fossil hunting on the Jurassic coast in Dorset, and visited the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.
     Marie's blog is a great resource if one is looking for new things to find, do, and experience. For example her visit to the Hunterian Museum provides a link to the London Museums of Health and Medicine site offering links to twenty four different museums in London all having to do with health and medicine. Marie visited the old Roman Baths in the town of Bath and then went one better; she booked in for the Twilight Package at Thermae Bath Spa which uses the same waters as the Roman baths. I checked out their web site and WOW! The prices are amazingly reasonable and you get a lot for your money. I have now added this item to my bucket list!
Marie enjoying a cocktail at Raffles in Singapore, China
     Marie has climbed a volcano in the Galapagos Islands, traveled through the rain forest canopy along a zip wire in Costa Rica, visited the top of the Empire State Building in New York, and climbed to the to of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia, visited Uluru (Ayers Rock), and sat on the back of an alligator in the Florida Everglades! 
     Closer to home his intrepid explorer has conquered more mundane goals: worked as a volunteer at the London Olympics, swam a Km doing the front crawl, tried Zumba and baked an edible cake! Marie still has loads of goals left to complete on her bucket lists and I look forward with great relish to reading about them as she does.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Two Weeks Filled with Gifts

"May no gift be too small to give, nor too simple to receive, which is wrapped in thoughtfulness and tied with love." ~ L. O. Baird

     Earlier the first week of May I met with fellow boat woman and herbalist Kit Acott. She came aboard and we talked over tea. It was such a blessing to share time with another herbalist. I haven't done that in over twenty years. Kit shared some great ideas with me and her presence filled my soul with peace. Thank you Kit!! Gift number one.

     Saturday, May 6th brought a visit from friends Sue and Ken Deveson of NB Cleddau. They came bearing beautiful flowers and amazing cookies! We had a wonderful visit as always, sharing our mutual love of the waterways. I was deeply blessed by their love, encouragement and assistance in the days and weeks after Les died and I so appreciate their still looking out for me now. Gift number two.
     Later that evening our friend Angela Walsh of Berkhamsted and NB Bright Eyes texted me to say she was moving up to Fenny Stratford. I locked her through Fenny stop lock and the pedestrian bridge and she moored up behind me. Then she swept me away to Soulbury Three Locks pub and treated me to a fabulous steak dinner, several hours of deep, wonderful and funny conversation, and finally we returned to our boats to sleep. Sunday morning before I cruised off, Ang and I shared breakfast aboard NB Valerie. Gift number three.
     I cruised up to Pear Tree bridge and waited for forty minutes while a boat filled up with water. I could have been filling as well but a wide beam was sitting on the water point moorings. They filled their tank and two water butties installed in the bow on either side of the bow doors after which they took off in their car and left the boat moored up in everyone's way all day. I was desperate for water having been moored up and broken down at Fenny for two weeks with a non-functioning water point. I filled my tank and washed two loads as I went along in the Sunday afternoon warmth. 
     I fetched up at Campbell Park in Milton Keynes and managed to score a mooring spot on the offside near the park parking lot. The link above is to a blog post for May 29th 2015 when Les and I met our daughter-in-law and grand kids Kiera and Kiernan at the park and spent the day cruising. It is one of those beauty spots with great access to buses, Central Milton Keynes (CMK) shopping, the rail station and post office; gift number four.
     I had business to conduct in CMK to whit, I needed to have Les' name removed from our bank accounts and it is no easy thing to accomplish over here. Most banks require an appointment with a bereavement advisor and they are apparently as rare as hen's teeth. I had to cancel the appointments booked before I left for the States in March, because they ended up being on the same day the River Canal Rescue marine engineer showed up last week to make repairs. I tried to reschedule with the banks over the phone and broke down sobbing and hung up.
     So off I went Monday, May 8th to beard the lions in their dens. Nationwide was fabulous. I explained the situation and simply said I was not leaving until I had this sorted. Within ten minutes a lovely young woman called me and shortly afterward the deed was done. It felt so strange taking Les' name off of an account that was his to begin with. It was necessary to keep our account from being vulnerable to hacking through his log-in and it is also a legal necessity but it feels like I requested that my Best Beloved be erased from our finances. It was tough to do...so I moved on to Halifax and they were asses to be plain. I waited at the information desk for twenty minutes before anyone came to see what I wanted. I was told that I quite simply HAD to speak with a bereavement advisor and one was not available until the following Tuesday afternoon. I left and went back to Nationwide and spoke with the young woman who kindly assisted me earlier. It turns out she could help me close out the Halifax account and switch all of our standing orders and monthly debits and payments to the Nationwide account. Sorted! It was Halifax that required six different visits and six months before we managed to get my name added to Les' account and then they still screwed it up, froze the account, and we had to go back in again to get it sorted out although it was their error, leading to my calling it Halif**ked up much to Les' amusement. What a relief to never have to do business with them again. Gift number five.
     Back on the boat I started fixing dinner and turned the engine on for hot water and a woman on the boat behind me waved and called out to me. It was Fran and her husband Vic on Wide Beam (WB) Moonstone. We had never met but we knew each other from boater's forums.  Lovely to meet at last! Gift number six.
Tea Junction © NB Celtic Kiwi, 2017
     When I cruised in to Campbell Park I passed the trading boat Tea Junction owned by Tracey and Ray Arbon, and their residential boat Billy Whizz. Tracey was out and about on her bike and she stopped in on Tuesday afternoon for a cup of tea and a natter. Les and I first met Tracey up on the Bridgewater canal back in 2012. We had a good long chat and reminisced about Les with tears and smiles. I am so appreciative of those who do this with me as it helps to keep Les' memory alive. Later Tracey stopped by again while out walking her dogs and dropped off a luscious parcel of Victoria sponge cake! Yumm!! Gift number seven.
     The moorings at Campbell Park are only for two days, so Wednesday morning I cruised off at 8:30 am. It was cold and overcast until the clouds parted an hour later and the sun finally made its appearance. After catching up seven loads of laundry and cleaning the boat I needed water again so I pulled in to Gifford Park where I waited while NB Daedalus filled up. I chatted with her owners Pat and Simon. Lovely folks they are, who have lived aboard for eleven years. We exchanged email addresses before parting. Gift number eight.
     There was no room at Linford Park so I cruised on and moored up at one of the most breathtakingly lovely places around--Stanton Low. Les first brought  me here in 2011. We moored here for three days and saw not another soul. I wrote an historical post about this spot which you can read here: at that time the estate of Princess Diana's family, the Spencers, owned the land on either side of the canal. Interest in saving the the nearby 12th century church ruins generated interest in my blog post which led a local group in turn to contact the Spencer family about the land. Diana's brother, Lord Althorp, looked into it and agreed to sell both parcels to the Milton Keynes County Council with the proviso the land was left as a park and not built on. Now there is a park on both sides of the cut with a nature sanctuary behind the church ruins.
Les' daffodil plant (no flowers-just four leaves) in the foreground left. I planted it near the bridge on the towpath side. there are five large rocks to the right which block the bridge from automobile traffic.
The views panning to the right from Les' daffodil across the field towards the 12th century church ruins at Stanton Low.


Beyond the tree line is a lake with an island. It is part of the wildlife sanctuary. Herons, Egrets, and Comorants all nest there in the spring.
The path leading from the bridge near Les' Daffodil. Turn left at the bottom and it leads out to the towpath.
The fields are enclosed now to keep motorbikes and ATV's from riding across them. In the dusk one can watch Barn Owls hunting the fields.
The church ruins used to be inaccessible. Now one can walk through them and there are information boards telling about the history of the village of Stantone/Stantonebury/Stanton Lowe. The village appears in the Domesday Book of 1066. There was a mill and four cottages here at the time. The church and the footprint of a manor house are all that remain now.
I heard cuckoos calling out across the meadow! The clocks really do sound just like these birds. It is a tad strange to hear their call from the woods when one is used to hearing it from a clock on the wall!
My first kissing gate without Les there to kiss me through...
Five Greylag Geese and nineteen babies!
NB Valerie moored up at Stanton Low. The church ruins are just out of site to the right across the fields. The canal bridge is behind me and the park leading up to the Oakridge Park housing estate is across the bridge and  off the right.
On the off side over the old hump-backed canal bridge and up through the park on that side is one of the best designed and built housing estates I've ever seen in this country. A pea gravel path takes one from the canal, through the park and in between the houses on the estate. A right turn on Selkirk Lane brings one around to a new ASDA store and a bus stop. The bus comes every fifteen minutes going into Central Milton Keynes or five minutes down the road to Wolverton Tesco. Despite the close proximity of the housing estate, it is fairly quiet here but no longer empty most times so I was lucky to get a spot. Gift number nine.
Curved knife with wrist lasso
    Wednesday, May 10th brought warmer weather with blustery winds moving the clouds along quickly. It also brought a short visit from Sue an Ken Deveson again. After hearing of my travails down the weed hatch with a bread knife back at Grove lock, Ken thoughtfully went online and ordered a curved knife with a locking blade for me and they stopped by to drop it off! Gift number ten.
    Thursday evening brought a lovely sunset and a knock on the boat. It was our dear friends Robert Rogers and his sister Maria! Robert used to own WB Wind in the Willows. He sold his boat and followed his heart to another country as did I, to marry his Best Beloved Roseni and make a new home in Brazil. Robert returns to the U.K. a couple times a year and he always finds us wherever we are moored.
They came aboard with so many lovely things for me: a beautiful gray scarf covered in butterflies, a loaf of freshly bake Irish soda bread direct from Ireland, a box of ginger cookies and a lovely planter with miniature yellow roses. We drank tea, reminisced about Les through tears and laughter, and walked out to the canal bridge to enjoy the beauty of this favored spot. It was such a joy to spend time with you both. Gift number eleven.

Sally and Joe Horton, friends from Pullman, WA. USA
     Friday, May 12th arrived at last and brought with it a long anticipated visit from our friends Sally and Joe Horton who live in Pullman, Washington. Sally is Scottish and Joe is American. They have been married for forty years and we are blessed to call them friends. We have shared delicious meals and evenings filled with fascinating conversation accompanied by Joe's Grand Seville cocktails and home smoked Steelhead Trout. This is the third time they have visited our boat. More reminiscing took place over lunch after which we took a walk to the church ruins and along the path to view the birds nesting in the sanctuary. Gift number twelve.
     Finally yesterday in the last rays of the evening sun I scattered some of Les' ashes and planted a Daffodil near the canal bridge where we used to stand and survey the view across the fields toward the church ruins. The last time we were here we watched barn owls quartering the fields for food, gliding silently over the meadows in the gathering dusk. This led me to recite the poem by E.E. Cummings that I included in Les' eulogy which says, "I carry your heart with me (I carry it in mine)..."
     What does it mean to carry someone in one's heart?
     The word carry is a verb denoting action. So carrying someone in one's heart
This pendant has Les' ashes inside; a gift from daughter Sparky.
is an activity. No mere jargon or jingoistic words of grief to pause on and forget; carrying Les in my heart means I move through my life with a continued relationship with him. He may be dis-incarnate but he is not gone. Carrying him in my heart requires me to move through my grief and re-member our relationship. I had a statement engraved on Les' wedding ring: "You are my joy." He was, he is, and he will always be my joy. Yes I am sad Les is not here on an incarnate level to continue sharing life with me but without his diseased broken body, Les' soul can rise with joy, move at the speed of thought, create paradise and touch my soul--and my Beloved is no longer subject to the laws of gravity and physical being; no more illness, no more pain, no more slogging through this world wearing heavy clay boots. I am sad for myself but I can no longer be sad for Les. Our relationship continues re-framed: my heart is the sacred space where we come together again as one in a new method of engagement.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Les and Jaq Always

"know that I knew how much you loved me. When life was sweet
and when life was dark. When you told me, and even when you didn't.
When it was easy and when it was hard. I knew. Every minute of every day. I knew." — Mia Hollow, poet


     RCR have come and gone at last; ME Tom replaced the bilge pump hose and showed me how to grease the stern gland. It is an easy thing to do if you know how. I am not someone who can learn how to do manual things by watching a video or attempting to make sense of Chinese drawings without written instructions. Now I have one tube of the proper stern gland grease and two more ordered from RCR as back up. Now I know to grease the stern gland every 200-300 hours on the engine and I will attend to it zealously! Now I know I have a complete set of stern gland seals all ready to go on if need be. For now the boat is sorted.

On the left is the cracked, cheap plastic electrical conduit a certain Cowroast ME used to replace my bilge pump hose. It didn't even hold for a week! On the right, the proper sturdy hose required and fitted by the RCR Marine Engineer, similar to what was originally fitted on our boat. 
The package from RCR with the proper stern gland grease and a picture illustrating perfectly how and where to apply it.
The tip of the tube of stern gland grease...
and the opening of the tube of silicone grease Les had last  used for this job. I have no idea how he managed to pack the stern gland without the proper end on the tube, but he did.
The bag I now have of various tubes of silicone grease, not good for greasing the stern gland!
The prepared stern gland seals with a note to me from Les on how to replace them. I found it under the dinette seat among the dozens of other boxes of spare parts he squirreled away for me.

     I am still at Fenny Stratford and will stay through the weekend. The water point has been repaired but of course RCR didn't come until late this afternoon so I schlepped 15 gallons of water in three separate trips early this morning, adding them to what little water was still in the tank. Imagine my surprise to dip the tank and find it is now almost half full! I had more left than I thought. Of course I have not washed clothes in nearly two weeks and I have bathed in the sink and washed my hair with one pan of water heated on the stove. I washed my dishes in four inches of hot water and soap, and otherwise made 5 gallons stretch for nearly seven days!
     The last time we were here together was late last July. Les had went in to the Royal Free Hospital for one week in order for them to assess exactly where the cancer had metastasized and what could be done to control his pain. Many times in the three years we fought for his life, Les and I waited for trains at this stop. We have a long history with Fenny--long for us anyway. 
     The first time we moored here together it was late May, 2011. I had flown over for three weeks to make sure living on a boat was going to work for me and us, before we returned to Pullman, Washington to get married. Les had one very large, overstuffed leather recliner which took up most of the saloon (for non-boat folks this is what you would call a front room or living room). While big, it was not large enough to accommodate both of us together. We needed to go chair shopping and I thought IKEA might be a good place to start. There is an IKEA just a twenty minute walk from here. So we fetched up here at Fenny Stratford and the next morning--an unseasonably hot spring day with brilliant sun and temperatures up in the 70's F. we set off on foot for the Swedish superstore. 
     Les had his fixed route to the store. Of course he told me it was only a ten minute walk (anyone who knew Les well knows how he downplayed the actual length of any journey on Shank's pony! twenty minutes was always ten, and twenty five minutes was relayed as fifteen. Well this particular journey was my first on foot with Les and I had yet to learn...a lot of things. We strolled across the pedestrian bridge over Fenny Stratford lock and up Lock View Lane to Simpson Road and turned left. We crossed Simpson Road and walked over the Fenny Stratford rail station--an outdoor stop with a covered seat and a reader board. 
    We continued on the footpath past the rail stop and came up at the side of a very busy road--Watling Street--the road that began life as an ancient foot track across this land used by the Britons and paved by the Romans. We walked along the sidewalk for about fifteen minutes, the sun beating down on us until we came to a weird lozenge shaped divergence of Watling street heading North and the B4034 eastward. We needed to cross and the traffic came off Watling street around the curve heading east in thunderous fashion. I asked my Best Beloved,  
     "Les where is the cross walk?"
     "There isn't one. These roads were made to carry automobiles quickly and efficiently and pedestrians crossing them were not a consideration." My eyebrows raised to my hairline. 
     "Well then how are we ever going to get across?" Les grabbed my hand tightly, looked left and yelled,
     "RUN!" and we did...after I took a moment to catch my breath we walked around the side of a very large roundabout to where two widely separated lanes approached and left it, depending on which direction one was headed. These were Bletcham Way and Les took my hand once more and yelled,
     "RUN!" and we were off once more. I felt like Alice trying to keep up with the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass. When we finally survived the crossing of both lanes we stood with heaving chests while I surveyed a narrow footpath barely noticeable through a very overgrown lot--Bletchley's version of the forty acre wood! Les said that we needed to follow the path through the shrubs and we would come right out at IKEA. We stumbled through the overgrown greenery and actually did as he said. We popped out of the bushes at the back of a parking lot. I considered all we had endured to get here and asked, 
     "So, are we going to call a Taxi to take us and the chairs back to the boat?"
     "Of course not. There are no cabs large enough to carry us and two large boxes." Les started off across the parking lot towards the store entrance.
     "Well if we aren't taking a Taxi, how are we going to get our chairs home--assuming we find any here today?"
     "We'll take them back in a trolley the same way we came." Les smiled smugly. 
     "Are you out of your mind?!!  We will never make it across all those lanes of traffic with a loaded trolley and no crosswalks, never mind hoiking it through the forty acre wood back there." 
     "It'll be fine. Trust me." So off we went hand in hand and I had another first experience: discovering how indecisive Les was when faced with the need to choose something; to make up his mind and commit to something. I had no idea about the existence of this quirky facet of Les' personality since he was quite decisive in declaring his love for me and asking me to marry him!
     We were in IKEA's chair section for two and half hours while Les circled around, trying each chair multiple times--just like Goldilocks in the fairytale about the three bears. Les had quit smoking four days previously because he felt it was unfair to expect me to live in confined quarters inhaling his smoke. I could see him itching for a fag while mulling over his choices. I finally I sat down in a chair and said,
     "I'm done shopping Les. This is the chair I want. Please make up your mind and let's get this over with." I am one of those female anomalies. I hate shopping!
     Decision made, we went downstairs grabbed a large trolley, found the flat packed boxes with our chairs and paid for them at the register. Now the fun part was about to begin! We rolled the trolley across the parking lot, slowed long enough to be sure no one was watching us, and Les manhandled the trolley into the shrubbery! He managed to wrangle the bloody thing all way through the forty acre wood tipping it this way and that, lifting it over large plants, and out onto the grassy verge near Bletcham Way. He surveyed the traffic, and clutching the trolley with one hand and me with another he yelled, 
     "RUN!"
     Off we went careening across two lanes, a grassy median and another two lanes. By now I was hot, sweaty, tired and thoroughly unimpressed with this idea. Sweat was beading on Les' brow and he was out of breath too.
     "Never mind Jaq, we'll be back to the boat soon enough and it won't take me any time at all to put these chairs together. We'll sit side by side tonight!" Les turned on his thousand watt smile, my heart melted as laugh lines creased his face around his lovely bright brown eyes, and off we went once more to continue our journey homeward. After careening across one more set of lanes like drunken monkeys, we sidled along the sidewalk, back the way we had come until we turned off Watling Street and headed down the ramp to the Fenny Stratford rail stop. We both took one look at the cool, shaded railway shelter and made a beeline for the seats. Sitting quietly next to one another Les suddenly exclaimed, 
     "Crikey I could use a fag right now."
     "I could use a fag and I don't even smoke!" Les burst out laughing and in seconds we were both cracking up, sides heaving with mirth. 
The boat is back up the ramp, to the left along Simpson Road and down Lock View Lane to the cut.
The sheltered seat at the rail stop. I left a message in the upper right corner of the side wall above the last two holes on the top.

     There are so many memories along all these roads as we moored up time and again here and made our way up the streets to Tesco's for groceries, or to B & Q for varnish, or Halford's or Wickes for some bit or bob on Les' list. 
     While waiting for NBV to be repaired I took the train to Bletchley Park. It took all of five minutes to carry me from Fenny Stratford rail stop to Bletchley station. I walked two minutes up the road and entered Bletchley Park for an intriguing day that carried me back to WWII and the infamous Code Breakers; Alan Turing, the father of modern computers, and the Bombe he helped design and create which broke the German Enigma code--every day anew. My round trip train ticket cost me all of £2.70--cheaper than taking the bus!
     By late afternoon the weather turned fowl, with low black clouds spitting frigid rain and eventually snow! As I disembarked at Fenny Stratford rail stop I thought back to that lovely sunny day, six years ago and I could feel Les all around me. I did something I've never done before and will hopefully be forgiven; I defaced a piece of public property by gently scratching the paint off inside the rail shelter near where Les and I sat that day back at the beginning of our life together. I didn't carve it into the metal for all time. I only removed a layer of paint. The next time the Milton Keynes Council have the rail shelter painted my etching will disappear. But for now, there is a small reminder that we passed this way once upon a time and that we are soul mates forever. 

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

New Fire Bricks, New Neighbors

"Self Reliance: Trust your instincts; form your own opinions; make good choices." ~Anonymous

     Along with all the other "issues" I have been dealing with over the past two weeks, last week the throat plate or baffle on the wood stove started slipping down into the fire.  I used an Ikea silicone oven glove to reach in and set it back in place, thinking I would eventually get around to figuring out what was causing the throat plate to drop at some other time. I just wanted some room to breathe and not have to face yet one more thing.
     Alas, yesterday evening just after I got the fire going nice and hot, the bloody throat plate suddenly dropped again and I had simply had enough. I kicked the stairs, screamed at the sky and went to bed sobbing "Enough is f*****g well enough already!"
     I remember the last time Les replaced the fire bricks. He didn't want to use cheap vermiculite bricks so he walked into a stove shop in Leighton Buzzard and bought a set of ceramic bricks. These were not fit for purpose to our Valar Willow solid fuel stove, so Les had to measure the inside of the firebox, cut the bricks with a hand saw, cobble them together with fire cement and fit them into the stove box. This is a prime example of Les' love of tinkering and figuring out cheap, cheerful solutions and doing the work on his own. This is not even a possibility for me. I don't have the upper body strength to cut fired bricks with a hand saw. I don't have the mathematical skills to measure the inside of the firebox and extrapolate what angles to cut the brick to begin with! Crap! Crap!! Crap!!!
     This morning I woke at 6:25 am to a cool boat. The fire was obviously out. I opened the stove door and with flashlight (torch) in hand I poked around to discover that the fire bricks Les installed about three years ago had crumbled on the top edge. A large triangular piece was missing on the left side and the throat plate--which rests on the top edge of each brick--could not possible stay in place.
     As Les was well aware and other boaters have commented, I am a very driven person; however I am learning that drive without thought and good directions will NOT take one where one wants and needs to go. So I decided to let things percolate over several cups of morning coffee. I went online and downloaded the instruction manual for our stove, reviewing the directions for changing out the fire bricks. I knew Les had ordered a replacement set of fire bricks for me last August. He wrapped them in bubble wrap, labeled them and they were tucked away under the seat on his side of the dinette.
     I moved the upholstered cushions, pulled the heavy, ungainly lid up on the dinette seat storage and extracted the package labeled "fire bricks" in Les' familiar handwriting. I pulled the taped bubble wrap apart and found a complete set of vermiculite fire bricks made specifically for our stove with the order receipt inside detailing what they were, where Les purchased them from, and how much they cost. Goddess bless his precious soul!
     I proceeded to clean out the fire box with a wire brush from Les' man drawers set the brick in place and replaced the throat plate. It took me all of twenty minutes and was not difficult. I did have to look at the pictures of the throat plate in the instruction manual to get it in the right way up. It all fit together like a glove. I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face. My Best beloved is still looking after me in his way; his love for me made him think far ahead to the time I would have to cope on my own; he ordered extra parts which he labeled and stored under the dinette seats for me. With Les' help I will become self-reliant. He believed in me so I must believe in myself. 
New fire bricks in place with the throat plate resting properly on top.
The old ceramic fire bricks on the left, and the receipt for the new ones with all the information I need to order another replacement set.

     Yesterday I was blessed with a short visit by Adam and Adrian on NB Briar Rose. They were on their way back northward and pulled in behind me for a cuppa and a natter. Thanks guys! It was as always lovely to see you and spend a bit of time chatting. Thank you for your hugs and kindness.
     This morning a boat moored up behind me with two young women on it. They are partners and I was chuffed to bits to meet them. It is wonderful to see young women living aboard and cruising the cut, reaching for this lovely life and making it theirs.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs