How to Leave a Comment on Our Blog

HOW TO LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG
1. Scroll to the end of the post.
2. Click on the phrase "0 comments" or, if there are comments it will indicate how many, for example, "8 comments." Clicking on this will open the comment option for you.
3. Type in your note.
4. Choose your Profile. If you don't understand the choices under Profile then choose Anonymous but PLEASE type your name and location at the bottom of your comment so I know who you are!

Friday, April 06, 2018

The Beast From the East Has Arrived!!

"The snow doesn't give a soft white damn whom it touches." ~E.E. Cummings, American poet, painter, essayist, author and playwright; 1894-1962.

 (Many, many thanks to blog reader Steve Hicks  who found my blog at Feedly and there it was--the missing post which I accidentally deleted! Steve emailed it to me and here it is, restored!!) 
  
     Where shall I begin? With the weather I suppose. For those not living through it here in Britain, here is a synopsis of what has occurred: a disturbance in the upper atmosphere caused the Jet Stream, which flows west to east, to change direction and flow east to west, carrying bitter cold weather and high winds out of Siberia, across Finland, Denmark, Northern Germany and onward to the UK. It struck the East coast of Scotland and England on Tuesday, February 27th, bringing snow and plunging temperatures with amber and red warnings by the weather service. An amber warning over here is a weather caution: pay attention and be prepared. A red warning means loss of life can occur; stay home if at all possible. A warm, wet front named Emma, coming up from the coast of Africa and sweeping up over Western Europe was set to shake hands and dance with The Beast over Southwestern England and Southeastern Wales Thursday or Friday last, dumping loads of snow, drifted dangerously by high winds of up to 75 MPH. And so it has come to pass. People have been stuck in tailbacks as they are called over here, on the motorways for eighteen hours in blinding snow and ferocious winds.The entire train service in this country ground to a halt s it is electric and ice on the lines means the trains cannot run. Snow piles up on the tracks as well and impedes the journey. Folks were stranded in trains for days in some parts of the country.
    Up here in east Cheshire on the border with west Shropshire we had several inches of snow on Tuesday which was blown away by a bitter cold, scouring wind roaring on continually four four and a half days. Day four (Friday, March 2nd), and the high was 34F/1C degrees; the low according to my outdoor thermometer was 17F/-8C. The constant wind and the wet cold make this a far more bone chilling experience than similar temperatures in Alaska or Eastern Washington where I have lived previously. Dry cold does not penetrate all three layers of clothing and all five layers of skin to sink into one's bones like this wet cold does.
Two drakes fighting outside the boat.
A man in a Nantwich street with a Penny Farthing bicycle!
The snowy scene on my walk to the bus station the first morning of the storm, on my way to a job interview in Chester.

     I had to brave the first day of the storm to attend a job interview in Chester. The appointment time was 11:45 am but I left home at 8:30 am. I know how gnarly transportation becomes in poor weather over here so early is always best. It took me thirty minutes to walk to the center of town and the bus station. Two buses failed to show and were delayed by over forty minutes. I caught an alternative bus at 10:00 am. It stopped in Chester after wending its way through every small village and hamlet between Chester and Nantwich. Eventually we made it and I was fifteen minutes early for my interview. By the time the return bus dropped me at Welsh Row at 3:00 pm and I began the forward and left leaning walk along the embankment to the boat, I was tired and cold. The canal embankment sits high up above the town with no protection from the weather. The snow was blowing sideways in flurries and the wind was like an animal gnashing at my face and plucking at my outdoor clothing. I was never so grateful to get back to NB Valerie--warm as toast, dry, and home sweet home.
    Wednesday morning Tesco delivered groceries to me while they still could so that was sorted. Thursday in weather not fit for man 'nor beast, fuel boat Halsall came through after braving the twenty one locks on the Audlem flight and breaking ice in the less exposed sections of the cut, to load ten bags of coal on the roof and fill the diesel tank. I take my hat off to Roberta and Lee, along with Amy and James, Ann Marie and Brian on NB Alton, and all the other fuel boat women and men like Jules and Richard on their boat Towcester and Ryan Dimmock on his boat Southern Star down on the Grand Union and North Oxford. They along with the dozen or so other boats and owners plying their trade in all weathers across 2000 miles of canal system are my heroes, to quote Pip who said it on her blog first! Many thanks for your hard graft.
     I had a half tank of water and I was using it frugally to make it last as this winter storm wasn't set to blow itself out until sometime after last weekend. In the meantime there is nothing for it but to hunker down and wait it out, which I did but it does wear me down and make me feel blue and antsy. I took my first ever sponge bath using nappy wipes. Better than the alternative which was nothing. Before the storm hit I had been moored up for nearly a week at Henhull, north of Nantwich. I was sussing out whether or not it was a good place to access the bus down to Chester when the weather warnings started rolling in and I decided to turn and head back into Nantwich to moor up where I was surrounded by other boaters, could walk to the shops and town and moor up safely. It was a good move. While moored here I got to know some of my fellow boaters.    
    
Moored  up at Henhull Bridge.
There is Bob on NB Leopard. He is eighty-something years old and has had his permanent mooring near the playground in Nantwich for nineteen years! I called on him during the storm to check that he was okay. He has a car and offered to drive me anywhere I might need to go. Bob also has a generator which he offered to loan me should I need it. This is what boaters are like.  I went out for a walk on Sunday when the winds died down but the temperature was still pretty frosty.  I met John on NB Serenity. He was walking to the shop with his hand truck in tow for coal. A Brit born and raised, John is employed by Holland tractors and is based most of the year in Pennsylvania, USA. He has a home and a family there and has lived there for over twenty five years. John bought his narrow boat for a place to live when his company brought him back to Britain to work for three months each year. He is retired now but kept the boat and spends six months of the year here on the cut and the other six months in the States. I also met Julia on NB Shamwarna. She and her family live aboard on a permanent online mooring. We had a towpath chat about the permanent moorings in Nantwich. Harder to get then Hen's teeth, and fairly pricey. She pays £140.00 a month for the privilege of mooring on the embankment with no electric, water or rubbish. this means they have to go for services every two weeks which takes about three hours each time as they have to turn the boat around at the nearest winding hole to arrive back at their mooring again. I have been toying with the idea of taking a permanent online mooring if I could get one. It would make traveling for work a lot easier, but then, but then I would be place bound even more than I currently am so I am still mulling it over.
   On a separate theme of visitors I must catch up.  First a hello to the folks on NB Bessie Surtees whom I don't know by name but who have passed me twice. the lovely woman on board called out to me that she reads this blog and she wished me well. Thank you for following along and for your good wishes. I hope you and your man are moored up somewhere safe and staying warm.
    Ken and Sue Deveson of NB Cleddau stopped in two weeks ago on their way from Aqueduct Marina where they checked on the progress of their boat being painted. As always it was lovely to see you both. I was so looking forward to a nice lunch and a good natter to catch up with you two; I am so sorry our visit was cut short by my feeling ill.
   Several days later Angela And Steve of NB Tumbleweed came over for lunch and we had a lovely afternoon visit. It was great to see you both and share an afternoon together.
Pip and Mick from NB Oleanna.

Finally Pip and Mick on NB Oleanna were moored up back near the canal centre and they walked up to say hello. We met briefly at Westport Lake in October, but know we had several hours to have a good chinwag and get to know each other. Then I walked down to visit on their boat on Sunday and to meet the lovely boat cat Tilly.  Mick and Pip are typical boaters if there is such a person; down to earth, wonderful sense of humor, and great stories of another life before they moved aboard their first boat Lilianne.  Pip writes a wonderful blog. How I wish Les were alive. He would have so enjoyed meeting new friends, catching up with old ones, and waiting for the arrival of the fuel boat. He loved our life on the cut and was never bored or unhappy even in the worst of the weather. I would have enjoyed seeing his reaction to this storm. I have to say life is not much fun without him.
    Anyway NB Valerie is full of water again, I dumped four coal bags of rubbish, and cruised back to Henhull to catch up on five loads of laundry, and take on a Tesco order tomorrow. Then I plan to cruise to Hurleston Junction to moor up. I want to walk up the lock flight there which starts the Llangollen canal and see if it is easy to catch the Arriva 84 bus which travels between Crewe and Chester with a stop at Nantwich. Slowly, slowly I am girding my loins for the trip into Chester. The locks become bigger double locks at Bunbury with the staircase locks there. I plan to stop at the Calvely services for water, etc. and then moor up on the offside back behind the permanent moorings as Bunbury and wait for another boat heading down the locks. It would be helpful indeed to share the locks down to Chester with another boat.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Springtime Posy: Flowers, Friends and Libraries


"Most things will be okay eventually but not everything will be. Sometimes you will put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you'll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room." ~ Cheryl Strayed, American author
     Spring I do believe has come at last to Cheshire anyway. Daffodils are in full bloom, small wild
flowers have popped their heads above the cold, wet soil and unfolded their tender petals. It is daylight until after 6:30 in the evening and I've been able to let the fire go out in the daytime and keep it banked quite low overnight. I've also re-potted and organized my garden on the bow. It gives me immense pleasure to look out the front doors and see flowers blooming with messages of love from dear friends; a pot of several different types of flowers and Ivy from Debbie Davies, a porcelain pot of dainty bijou Daffodils from Sue and Ken Deveson, Lavender plants that overwintered under the bow gunwales, and a newly planted pot of Double white scented Daffodils in a porcelain pot with some of Les' ashes in it. My bow garden is filled with love given and received.

    It is an interesting week to be moored up at Nantwich. There is a convocation of working boats at Ellesmere Port for Easter weekend. Due to the Middlewich breach many boats have had to reroute themselves and come all the way from Middlewich up the Chester locks of Heartbreak Hill on the Trent & Mersey, through Stone, and then right onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal (Staff & Worcs) at Great Haywood Junction, along the Staff and Worcs to Authorley Junction, onto the Shropshire Union (the Shroppie) and down through Nantwich and on down to Ellesmere Port. This weekend there is also a Jazz Festival in Nantwich. The cut has become a frenzy of huge working boats gliding by, sucking the water out from underneath the moored boats as they pass, brasses shining, and livery aglow, and a raucous mix of hire boats, continuous cruisers and leisure boaters out for toddle in the milder weather. Among this bracing mix two boats stand out: Tumbleweed No. 5, Angela and Steve's abode moored up five boats in front of me, and NB Serena moored up directly behind me with Judith and John Emery at home.
Steve and Angela took me to the store with them yesterday and afterward they came over and we introduced one another to a couple of good games. They brought Continuo which is an abstract strategy and small tile placement game. After the initial setup of four tiles, players take turns adding tiles onto the edges of previously laid tiles, scoring points for creating aligned paths of colors. One point is awarded for each smaller square in a new path giving a score of 2 to 30 or more depending upon the length of the path. Play continues until all tiles have been used. The highest score wins. It only takes about a half an hour to play with 1-5 players. One can play alone like Solitaire and it is a good way to keep the gray matter working so I hope to purchase this game soon. I introduced Angela and Steve to the "railroad game" as Les call his favorite board game; properly known as the Great Game of Britain. I had a great time hanging out with Steve and Angela, both of whom are great fun to be around. 
     Ken and Sue Deveson popped in this morning for a visit while in the area to check on their boat NB Cleddau which is being painted at Aqueduct Marina on the Middlewich Branch--not the par with the breach but this near end of the branch--than goodness! As always happens with the Deveson's we were following the threads of several fascinating conversations when sue looked out the window at a passing narrow boat and exclaimed, Jaq that's NB Serena--aren't she owned by the woman who comments on your blog?" Up I jumped, threw open a window and hollered "NB Valerie!!!" to the bloke on the tiller which happened to be Judith Emory's husband John. He nodded and pulled in behind me in what surely must be the only  mooring spot left in Nantwich! It was meant to be. Soon the Emory's came to NBV and with mugs of coffee and tea all around, our chins were wagging about all kinds of boaty things from mooring pins to who fell in the cut where, and how many times. We were amazed to discover that John and Judith have a home in Pembroke and know the river Cleddau well. Sue and Ken were born in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock and their boat is named after the river Cleddau. Small world!It was lovely to meet up with John and Judith at long last. for the past year we have been near but not close enough for our bows to meet--or our sterns as is now the case. Imagine our amazement when Sue realize we had been chatting for two hours and toilets were not mentioned once!! this must surely be a first for any group of boaters!
     This next item is just an odds 'n' sods kind of thing: usually when I purchase raw prawns or large shrimp at the store, I look for cold water prawns and I eschew buying any farmed shrimp or anything caught in warm waters off the coast of Bangladesh, Thailand or Viet Nam for example. Why??? I read a book some years ago called The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. In it he chooses six locations around the world and details exactly what would happen if all human life disappeared from our planet over night. Then he points out the degradation our planet is suffering under the relentless human greed that rules our world and our careless throw-away mentality especially with regard to plastics, that is killing other life and destroying our ecosystems. It is one of the most important books ever written and one of the most insightful books I've ever read. In its pages I learned about the floating masses of human sewage miles and miles wide just off the coasts of several countries in the Indian and Pacific oceans, the bacteria and viruses which live in them, and how these miles wide mats of untreated sewage affect marine life. It was all I needed to know to make educated choices about what I eat and where it comes from.     That said, I wanted to make a prawn fettuccine and Aldi only had warm water shrimp, already cooked, from Viet Nam. I sighed and gave in, buying 500 grams of cooked prawns. I took them home, refrigerated them for the next night's dinner and thought no more of it. It was late when I decided to fix dinner--about eight O'clock which is very late indeed for an American. We usually eat dinner between 5:00 and 6:00 PM. The lights were off in the boat except for a wall light in the saloon above Les' recliner. I opened the fridge, removed the bag of shrimp, shut the door and lo and behold--the bag of shrimp in my hand was glowing--I kid you not!! I tried to take a picture of it in the dark but I couldn't capture the glow. The entire bag was fluorescing and it creeped me out. I couldn't being myself to eat the glow-in-the-dark prawns so I tore open the bag and tipped the shrimp into the cut where they continued to glow as they slowly sunk to the bottom. The bag, filled with shrimp juice, glowed eerily in my hand. I put it in the trash and decided to forgo dinner all together. Several hours later I opened the galley rubbish bin to throw away a Kleenex and found myself shocked to see the empty shrimp bag still glowing away, nestled down in the depths of the bin. I've eaten seafood all my life and I've never come across fluorescing prawns before. I am back to looking for cold water prawns. If I want fluorescing seafood I'll buy some glow-in-the-dark Crayons and draw my own.     Libraries: Many thanks to a member of the Wednesday Women and dear friend Rhea Giffin in Coeur 'd' Alene, Idaho for sharing her discovery of the Gladstone Library. Located in Hawarden, North Wales, about eight miles outside of the city of Chester, this is the UK's only residential and prime ministerial library, begin by Gladstone himself to share his collection of over 150,000 books with the public. 
     Sleeping with books!! Gladstone's Library with twenty-six en-suite rooms. If you ever had a fantasy about sleeping overnight in the library you can book a room here, visit the library and bring your books back to your room to read! This is the UK's only residential library and its only Prime Ministerial library, founded by Gladstone himself to provide access by the public to more than 150,000 books. Residents staying on the grounds have access to the library form 9 AM-10 PM. There is a bistro on site, Food For Thought which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are reading rooms available and ongoing events and courses throughout the year such as, Blue Sky God: the Evolution of Science and Christianity, Making the Personal Political: An Evening With Writer in Residence Cal Flynn, Taming Shakespeare, Democracy and Its Crisis with A.C. Grayling, Greek, Hebrew, Latin or Welsh in a Week: learn to carry on a conversation in one of these languages by studying for one week. It is assumed attendees will have no prior abilities in their chosen language; Brexit, Trump and the Common Good. Gladstone's Library seeks to offer safe, open meeting space for ideological conversations to occur about many of the larger themes with which our world finds itself grappling.
     The next library on my list to visit is located at Dunham Massey on the Bridgewater canal and is a National Trust property of 3000 acres with a spectacular manor house and others buildings as well as a substantial garden and a Deer Park. Les took me there in 2012. We didn't go in to the house which cost money, but one can wander around the grounds for free and it took most of the day to do just that. Currently there is a tour focusing on the women of the estate titled, "Dunham Massey: A Woman's Place?" The tour begins with the library because it was the room of utmost importance to Lady Mary Booth.      Written history notes that there has been a dwelling of some kind here since before 1066 when it was owned by Aelfward, a Saxon thegn. After the Norman Conquest the land was given to Hamo d Masci. His family owned it until 1409 when the male line died out. The property was then inherited by the Booth family. Mary Booth, born in 1704 was the first woman to inherit and manage the estate. She was taught at home in the library and many of the books reflect her father's desires for her education, with dedications written inside books from him to Mary who was fluent in French by age eight and a competent translator by age thirteen. She was educated in languages, natural philosophy, morality, fine writing and conduct, estate management, account keeping, and business arithmetics in which she was proficient by age fifteen. Mary's personal handwritten notebooks survive, filled with her thoughts on the literature she had just perused. Married at age thirty-two Mary inherited this vast estate when she was fifty-four and managed it until her death at age seventy-seven. 
     Dunham Massey is an accredited museum with 30,000 objects--the second largest collection in the National Trust. There are a number of scientific implements in the library including an Orerry made by Thomas Wright, instrument maker to King George II which is designed to illustrate the relative positions and movement of the planets around our sun. At the far end of the library, above the fireplace, is a painting of the crucifixion by Tintoretto. There are 119 shelves of books in Dunham Massey's library. Mary has a strong interest in medicine and medical procedures as evidenced by books in the collection and historical evidence bears out the fact that Mary's mother underwent a mastectomy on the premises in 1729. She personally negotiated with the Duke of Bridgewater's agents to ensure the canal brought it advantages to her and her tenants.
     One final odd bit: I saw a conversational strand on a FaceBook page recently about outdoor laundry facilities having been installed near the cut in Leighton Buzzard! Looking into it further I found the company that owns the machines is called Kis Wash and they have installed what we Americans call laundromats out of doors across Britain! Several boaters have used them with great success and found them to be very handy so I thought I would share this on the blog for any boaters who may be interested. Their web site needs a bit of work: the Find a location near you map does not actually do what it it should--instead it takes one to a page to fill in information for contacting them about installing the machines or receiving service assistance. Hopefully they will get that sorted soon.
Post Script: I have had to take this post down and re-write it as Blogger did weird things when it posted and some pictures were missing. when I opened it up and chose revert to draft Blogger changes all my fonts, lost some of text, pictures were jumping around, and even now I can only place the pictures in the middle of the page and I cannot add captions! Blinkin' Blogger!!  

Sunday, March 25, 2018

What's Going On?

"Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away." ~Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor, 161-180 ACE

     What can I say? First of all many gracious thanks to everyone--boaters and land lovers--who contacted me after the Middlewich breach occurred, to ascertain whether or not I was affected and if I was all right. I am on the Shropshire Union and have been for the past month so I am okay in that respect. 
     Some of you may have noticed the absence of my last post. I was attempting to clean up some Blogger stuff and accidentally deleted my last post titled "The Beast From the East." Sorry Pip and Mick, Steve and Angela, Phil and Mike and the others who left comments for me. If I could ge it back I would but I don't think that is possible. 
     Time is strange in its passing for me. Each day seems to drag by so slowly and yet all of a sudden four weeks have passed and I have yet to post anything. I still have to talk myself into getting out of bed and facing a new day. Those slow passing days are consumed minute by minute by me attempting to figure out how to move forward into a life I did not ask for and don't want; a life without Les in it. March 19th was his seventy-first birthday and March 24th he will have been dead fifteen months. From mid December on to mid March I have felt as though the world was tilted on its axis and I was sliding into a major depression from which nothing could rescue me. Buffeted by doubts about getting on my feet and moving forward--not just here but in two countries, I've suffered profound regrets at choices made and changes embraced without any real worry about my future. I gambled on trusting the universe with my fate--and I've lost. I am frustrated at how hard it has been to find a job. Actually I've found quite a few and applied for eight, interviewed for a couple but not gotten a single one of them. Back in the States I have always gotten every single job I've ever applied for and wanted but the last time I applied for employment in America was seventeen years ago. I think being a sixty year old woman is counting against me. Employers want fresh school leavers (high school graduates), or young people with newly minted degrees. I am now a part of the invisible generation. I don't feel old, and I don't think of myself as old, but when I look in the mirror without my personal preconceived ideas about who I am, I see an older women staring back at me. I guess this is what employers see as well. All of my education and experience doesn't count for much over here. The other trend counting against me is that applications and all the rest are on-line now and some mathematical algorithm determines whether or not I am worth bothering to interview. I miss the days when one actually went to the place seeking to hire, spoke with a live person face-to-face, filled out an application by hand, turned it in, and then hopefully interviewed and got the job.   
     I seriously considered selling the boat and moving back to the States despite the fact life would be only marginally easier there as it is my country of birth. But I would have to start all over from the ground floor literally as I walked away from my home in Pullman in 2011, losing $40, 000.00 in a crappy market economy in which houses were not selling. Returning now I would have to buy a car, pay a premium on insurance because I have not been insured in the last two years, find a place to live, and find a job--hopefully one that offered decent health care insurance and one which would not count being a cancer survivor as a pre-existing condition which was the case when I moved over here. Yes, I know this issue is supposed to have gone away with Obama Care but I also know many people who are still without insurance due to this issue. Companies find their way around all the laws they can when it means making a profit. I would be giving up a life I love, one I dreamed of before ever meeting Les, and one filled with so many wonderful memories of Les and I together. One thing I do know about rebuilding life (Yes, I've done it more than once; in fact I've done it four times) is that nothing much happens until one chooses a path and stakes a commitment to it. I am my own worse enemy in this respect, and I need to make a decision and come to an acceptance of life as it is. This is how I've been feeling since December. Now with the actual arrival of spring, the longer days splashed with a bit of sunshine and visitors galore, my spirits are lifted.  Having neighbors like Elsie and Eric nearby makes me feel at home here in Cheshire.   
     Elsie and Eric Fletcher on NB Bendigedig called me a couple of weeks ago to ask if they could come and visit. Of course! One partly sunny day they showed up when I was moored at Hurleston Junction. After a cup of tea we walked back up the flight together and they were kind enough to take me to lunch at a lovely place, Alderford Lake, near Whitchurch. The cafe overlooks a lovely lake where one can swim, canoe, or saunter along the edges. Inside the cafe building is also a bijou gift shop with some really pretty items and outside plants of all kinds are for sale. After lunch we drove to Whixall Marina where Eric and Elsie live aboard their boat. It is a truly lovely spot on the Prees Arm of the Llangollen Canal. Thank you both for your fine company and for a lovely day out seeing the beautiful Borders countryside. 
     About four days later I had two more visitors and of course in true Biggs' style I forgot to take their picture. Ah well, it was Robert Rogers and his sister-in-law Sharon. Robert used to own wide beam Wind in the Willows. He is one of the many lovely souls we met on the cut and he became a steadfast friend--and really more like family to me and Les. After grappling with the difficulty of staying in England and living aboard his lovely boat or giving up his life here and becoming a British ex-pat in Brazil, he chose a new life in South America, marrying his lovely Roseni and living a stone's throw from the Pacific Ocean. Robert's work brings him back to England several times a year and he was kind enough to come find me and to bring his lovely sister-in-law with him. Time spent with Robert is always deeply spiritual and satisfyingly soulful and I hit it off with Sharon as well. Thank you both for blessing me with your company, and for removing the old chimney and putting the new one in place. And thanks Robert for the figurine. It means more than words can say. 
     Last Friday Debbie Davies of NB Tickety Boo drove down from Liverpool to spend the day with me. Debbie followed Les' blog prior to his meeting me. Then she followed my blog "So This is Love" avidly. She continued to tag along with us as Les and I blogged together. I discovered her blog in 2009 and followed it closely from the States, waiting eagerly for each new post and enjoying her writing and beautiful pictures. Les and I always hoped to get up to Liverpool to meet her. Now that I am based in Cheshire, I was close enough for Deb to come and find me. What a a wonderful day we had together! The two of us are kindred spirits. We have shared experiences in common, and as I sat listening to Debbie talk about nearly giving up her boat  and then deciding that she loved her life aboard too much to sell up, as we chatted about what living on a boat is like as women who live on our boats alone, and all the things that need doing, and all the amazing things Debbie has done to her boat to make it the lovely home it is, I began to compare our conversation with one I had with Robert, talking about the logistics of selling up and moving back to the States. I knew suddenly that I am where I belong no matter how difficult life may seem at present. As soon as I get a job I will be all right. I will even be able to move forward on my own without Les. I may not like it, but I will find joy in life once more and part of that is staying on NB Valerie and making the best of the situation I have been dealt. So I offer soul deep thanks to Robert and Debbie for reaching out to me, and listening with their hearts while I poured out my own, and thanks to Eric and Elsie for ttheir welcome company and cwtchs. That's Welsh for hugs.
     Part of my dissatisfaction with life has been the realization that I am having to become one of those boaters who cruises a short distance in a local area. I am not a bridge hopper and I am not a continuous moorer but I am no longer a continuous cruise cruiser in the sense of the meaning Les and I enjoyed.  I have no choice but to cruise a specific patch of cut in order to access buses to Chester, Nantwich and Crewe to look for work and then hopefully to go to work. I cannot afford to take a marina or on-line mooring. I have considered both and neither are anywhere in range of my pocketbook.  I have been in touch with CRT and I have been assured that as long as I cruise a minimum of 21 miles in a year and don't overstay anywhere without legitimate permission, I will be okay. My circumstances cannot be helped and it is what it is. But I don't like it and I feel guilty for having to do it and for judging others harshly in the past without having any understanding for what their circumstances might have been. So I am working on letting this go as well. 
     At present I am moored up back in Nantwich after having been down as far as Bunbury. I came back up here for doctor's appointments. I am scheduled for a colonoscopy in six weeks which is the soonest Leighton hospital could fit me in. In the meantime I will cruise slowly down to Chester, staying two weeks anywhere I can access the bus. Where I am currently offers a morning alarm clock provided by the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker which wakes me with both its drumming and its call.  At night I am serenaded to sleep by owls calling to each other amidst the canopy of trees along the cut, under the sparkling stars and the waxing crescent moon. Life is all right--for now.  
     
Moored up at Hurelston Junction. the gap is caused by the infamous "Shroppie Shelf," a concrete lip that sticks out about eight inches below the waterline It was originally intended to keep working boats from causing damage to the canal. Now days it is a trial for boaters mooring up because we cannot actually pull in flush to the side of the towpath. This requires the purchase of tire fenders which fill the gap. It also requires me to make a jump to board the boat or risk doing the splits!
Two of mine and Les' favorite boaters: Eric and Elsie who live on board their boat NB Bendigedig which is Welsh for Fantastic. 

Looking down the four locks from the top of the Hurleston flight which starts the Llangollen canal. It is a nice half mile walk from where I moored on the Shroppie at the Junction, up along the locks, across the field and along a very dangerous busy roadway to the bus stop which takes one wither to Nantwich and Crewe or to Chester. The saving grace: Snugbury's Ice Cream farm is just up the road and makes the walk worth it with fifty flavours to choose from!
Standing with the lock flight behind me, looking across the farmer's field towards NB Valerie moored on the Shrophire Union canal, on the right of this picture. 
Looking back at the first lock at the bottom of the Hurleston lock flight.
Standing by the bottom lock on the Hurleston flight and looking at the Junction where the LLangollen meets the Shropshire Union canal. To reach NBV I walked along to the right, over the footbridge and down onto the towpath. 
The footbridge over the Shropshire Union at Hurleston Junction. 
The CRT barge heads off for Calvely in the early morning. 
Robert Rogers gave me this lovely figurine of two swans titled "Together Forever." I cherish it as every time I look at it I see Les in the larger male swan and the way he always tried to look after me. 
The lovely Debbie Davies at lunch--without her glasses!! 
Ruth on NB Mountbatten, breasted up with their butty Jellicoe. She is holding the boats steady while Richard fills my tank with diesel. This is Chamberlain Carrying Company who usually ply their trade on the Llangollen canal. They were headed for the working boat convocation in Chester next weekend and blessed me with an appearance at just the right time. The breach of the Middlewich branch cut off Lee and Roberta on NB Halsall, from their usual carrying route and means they will have to take the long way around each time they run their route now.  
Richard in the process of stacking nine bags of coal on my roof. 
This is how the clothes get dry in winter...
and my first load of clothes hung out to dry in today's lovely sunny, warm spring air!!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Thirty Five Liters of Blue Water!

"Flutter your wings frail bird and rise an inch above the impossible." ~Anonymous

     After spending four days writing this post Blogger hiccuped and it was gone--lost in virtual reality somewhere beyond my reach. Already fighting a daily battle with depression and anxiety and all the other vicissitudes of life, it was like a lash across my writer's heart. I gave up on the blog to concentrate on other stuff. Staying moored up in one place for too long is anathema to me. I find myself sinking into a morass of unwelcome thoughts and feelings. Obviously it was time to move.
     Having done so, I am moored up--not in a beauty spot--but at towpath moorings in a place called Henhull, just north of Nantwich. There is a very busy road bridge and a roundabout nearby. It doesn't exactly feel safe either but I know that has more to do with me than with the mooring spot. I can stay here for two weeks but I will only be here for five days and then I will head back into Nantwich, top up the water tank, dump the rubbish and moor up in town for 48 hours while I attend to two appointments on Thursday and Friday. Then I'm off again towards Hack Green for five or six days.
     I will attempt to bring you all up to date on the past three weeks in a briefer format than I had originally written. I realize this sounds uncharacteristically like me, but I haven't the heart to reproduce the long, detailed blog originally written.
This is a shot of the Shropshire Union Canal at the bottom, winding through Nantwich. The lime green trail on the left is the way into town most boaters know: down the steps to Welsh Row and up Welsh Row to town. The pink trail on the right is a far more pleasant rout I discovered when moored beyond the aqueduct, towards Audlem. Leave the towpath at the children's playground. Turn left on Marsh Lane and just opposite the sign on your left saying Canal Close there is an unmarked footpath between two fenced yards with hedges. (Note: Images on Google maps were taken in 2011 and the new houses on Canal Close were not built yet but they are there now just next to the playground) Turn right onto the footpath. Cross Gerard Street and walk through the lot with all the storage garages on your left. You will come out on Meeanee Drive. Turn left and a McColls shop will be just up the street on your right. This is an easy walk for a weekend paper or a pint of milk. 
Here is the trail from the towpath past the playground, down the footpath, across Gerard St. through the lot with the storage garages and left on to Meeanee Drive. the red dot is the McColls shop. If you continue past the shop on Meeanee Drive you will come to Queens Drive and across the street is Mill Fields park.  If you follow the right hand path marked in pink above, it will take you over the river Weaver and curve to th left into town. If you take the aqua path on the left it will provide you with a pleasant walk along the river and over a foot bridge to the old town center. 
Left: the lime green trail up Welsh Row and into old town centre which is the red circle. If you continue past there and left around to Beam Street you reach the Bus stop and the Library. The alternative routes pick up across Queens drive in the park. The aqua path leads you along the river weaver, over a foot bridge, through the alleyway between the Crown Hotel and several shops and out to the old town center.  The pink path crosses the river, curves left and around to a driveway which leads out to Shrewbridge Rd. Turn left and walk up to the intersection. Follow the path to the right along Water Lode Street. Cross to the other side just before the roundabout. There will be a Laura Ashley store directly across from you. Cross Pilbury St. and Morrisons grocers is just ahead on your left. Across the street is an Aldi's.  This shot provides you with the relationship of the trails and roads to one another and the Nantwich town.
   I moored up in Nantwich three weeks ago, weak from having had the flu. I'd come out of Aqueduct Marina after some large boat repairs and ten days of illness. As I slowly regained my energy, I found short cuts depending on which end of town I wanted to reach. I walked twice a week for groceries (one weekly shop and a Saturday paper with a small top up of fresh fruit and veg.). I walked into town to catch the bus to Crewe for appointments and job searches. I was feeling better physically and emotionally although I had another big hurdle in front of me: Valentines Day Les' body was cremated last year on Valentines Day, forever marking it as a sad anniversary for me. The best thing to do I reckoned was keep busy and I am fortunate to have loving friends who planned to do just that.
     Back in November Jennie Gash (NB Tentatrice) called me and she and Chris invited me to come and stay at their home on Bromsgrove for three days beginning on February 4th. I was excited about seeing them both again and looking forward to the trip away. Jennie was giving a talk to the Worcester Birmingham & Droitwich Canal Society highlighting their trip in 2016 on the Canal du Midi in France. I was chuffed to bits to attend and I will write another post shortly which covers my visit with pictures; there is so much to cover and I cannot do it justice here. I had a lovely time with Jennie and Chris and really appreciate the opportunity to get to know you both better. Thanks for spoiling me!
     I am pleased to say NB Valerie weathered three days without me just fine. I've never left her moored up on the towpath for an extended length of time so I was a bit nervous about it. I chose a mooring spot at the end of a line of permanently moored boats with a brand new Braidbar boat NB All Right Now moored up for a week in front of me on the visitor's moorings. The weather turned frigid the day I was set to head south with the Jennie and Chris. Temperatures dropped below freeing at night every day I was gone. This also worried me. Would the solar panels keep the batteries charged?
Me stepping out of NB Valerie to greet Chris, Jennie and Monty. The new Braidbar boat All Right Now moored up in front of me. 
     Before I left I pulled the front stairs out, shut off water to the water pump, slid the stairs back in place, opened all the water taps on board and laid the shower hose and head down in the bottom of the bathtub so it would drain. I walked to the rear of NBV and flipped the water pump off and on about four times to push the remaining water out of the pipes and then I turned off all the electrics except the toilet fan.  I reasoned that I could leave the refrigerator shut off as it would keep things cold for eight hours and once the fire died down the interior of the boat would only be three of four degrees warmer than outside. I locked up stern and bow and walked away with Jennie and Chris, my heart in my throat.
     When I returned the canal had a thin rime of ice on the surface, it had been as cold as 26F/-3C for the nights I was gone and even when I returned it was just below 32F/0C. It didn't take me long start a fire, restore the water and check the battery levels. All batteries were fully charged. Brilliant!! But it did take twelve hours to fully reheat the boat and nearly everything in it because when one is not here to keep the fire going and the boat goes cold, EVERYTHING in the boat reaches the same temperature of a few degrees warmer than outside: clothes, pots and pans, books, upholstery, glassware, dishes, cutlery, tinned foods--everything. By now some of you boaters may be asking, "Well Jaq why didn't you put the Ebispacher radiator interior heating system on?"
     February 1st was a chilly evening and I turned on the Ebi as I had done on many cold evenings previously. As the pump started its thump-thump-thumping, I strolled back towards the front of the boat. When I reached the galley I realized I could hear the faint sound (over the running engine and the thumping Ebispacher) of water trickling. I froze as I thought, "Wait a minute--there are no open taps in the boat; where is the water coming from and OH! Where is it going?!!!"
     I raced to the stern, threw open the wardrobe and pulled my clothes out of the way. The header tank for our Ebispacher is attached to the bulkhead inside the wardrobe. It was empty! Merde, merde, merde!! I switched off the Ebi and the trickling sound died away. Now there could be more than one reason why this was happening. When NB Valerie was pulled out of the water at Aqueduct Marina, her bow was higher then her stern and it was possible that the fluid in the radiators (a combination of water and antifreeze) had traveled back from the front radiators, pooling in the rear rads and causing an airlock, but I didn't think so.
     The next morning I called George Palin (WB Still Rockin') to ask his opinion about this turn of events. It turns out George has a Webasto heating system not an Ebi but he talked me out of jumping off the back of the boat and inhaling a large amount of canal water on the way down! George said he would call Geoff  (NB Seyella) about it. Geoff has had his Ebi apart many times over the years and knows them inside and out. George would ask Geoff to call me. Meanwhile I called Jennie and Chris to tell them as I was worried this turn of events meant I could not leave the boat. I didn't want my internal radiators to freeze and burst while I was gone. Unbeknown to me, the Gash's were with Ken and Sue Deveson (NB Cleddau) and Ken soon called me to hear about it all direct. Geoff called me and we talked for a good while. He was so helpful in teaching me about the rads, the Ebi and how the system works generally. Thanks everyone for your advice and common sense. I owe you all a Golden Ginger Cake or a batch of the World's Greatest Brownies at the very least. Just put in your order via phone and let me know when you want it!
     Les didn't use the Ebi unless ice was forming on the inside of his eyelids. I had to beg him to turn it on when I was cold. Of course, Les was the most hot blooded person I've ever known. They say each human body generates approximately 700 watts of heat. Les no doubt kindled about 900 watts and I do notice the difference on the boat without him. I determined that I could put this issue aside until I returned from my visit with Jennie and Chris and that is exactly what I did. Once back on board, unpacked and settled in, I retrieved the Pela Pump from the engine hold and set about emptying the bottom stern step. All of the steps--front and back/bow and stern--have lift up tops and all of them are filled with stuff Les and I stored away.
     For those who are not familiar with narrow boats, underneath the floor is the metal hull and some kind of ballast. Every boat should also have an access hatch or hole somewhere near the stern to check this area which is called the interior bilge. It is not unusual for water to build up under there. Where does it come from you ask? It is condensation. The average human being exhales three gallons of water daily. Add all that moist exhalation to steam from showers, dishes, cooking, and wet clothes drying by the fire and very quickly you can see it has to go somewhere. How the water transforms from steam to water and makes its way below the floor to the interior bilge is one of those great mysteries of life--at least to me! I am happy for it to stay that way. Suffice to say, one checks the level of moisture in the interior bilge throughout the year and pumps it out occasionally. This had not been done on NB Val since before Les died. I wasn't looking forward to it. The boat builder had cut a small round hole in the floor inside the bottom step which is fine for looking for water in the bilge but not so great for trying to get something down there to pump it out. I have very small hands and my fist barely cleared the parameters of the bilge hole.
     I emptied the stair, pulled up the bottom board, and was amazed to find that Les had made the hole considerably larger. When he did this I will never know. Like so much else on this boat, he addressed what he could with his ebbing strength, bless him. There was water in there all right--a whole lot!! It was nearly up to the floor board!! I set a six liter pail to one side, put the Pela pump together and started pumping. I would know quickly if the water in the bilge came from the heating system if it was bright blue and slick feeling from the anti freeze mixed with it. The pump filled up with six liters and I poured it into the pail. Yep--bright blue. Thirty five liters of bright blue water and three pails later, and the interior bilge had very little in it. What was left would soak up in the rolled up newspapers I laid down and summer's warm temperatures would do the rest. Time to call heating specialist Ed Shiers of Four Counties Marine Services to come and sort things out.
The inner bilge hole in the floor of the stern bottom stair. The Pela makes short work of any issue like this and I am so grateful to friend and fellow boater Ray Oakfield (NB Stronghold) for putting  me onto it. 
Each band measures one liter. 
The first of three buckets of bright blue water. 
     Ed arrived and within minutes of pouring six cups of water in the header tank we identified the location of the leak: just a tad to the bathroom side of the wall which divides the head from the galley, just to the left of the washing machine and refrigerator.  After moving the washing machine out of the way, taking the toilet out of the bathroom (thank the Goddess for an Airhead marine composting loo! I undid the fly screws on each side and lifted it right out of the way and no smell even with a full solids compartment and without being hooked up to the fan.) and taking the false lower wall apart where the cassette toilet used to hook up with a labyrinth of pipes that snaked behind the sink, the tub and under the bed. Les had covered the hole with a board and then glued oak look floor planks over the top. Ed found the broken pipe, replaced it, joined the pipes up tightly with a collar which he crimped in place while lying on his side with most of his left arm contorted around behind the sink. Once the breach was repaired Ed refilled the radiators, burped or bled them repeatedly as well as the water pipes leading from the Ebi to the main heating system, and the Ebispacher itself. Then Ed refilled the header tank to the proper level, and he turned on the Ebi. Sighhhhh...it worked! Ed was kind enough to give me a radiator key so I could burp them again as he said it would be necessary for the next week while the system worked the air upwards. Three hours and it was sorted....sort of. Since the initial repair the Ebi has been failing to pump and throwing fault codes the first time I started it up. Ed talked me through identifying the fault code (054--failure to burn) and clearing them from the system. Once I did this, the Ebi fired up and the radiators got hot. This has happened several more times however so Ed may have to make a return trip to try and sort it if it doesn't go away on its own.
     So here I am, out in the relative countryside, moored up and filling out on-line employment applications, doing a bit of interior boat cleaning, catching up the laundry, and making Tzatziki for tonight's dinner of roasted lamb wraps. I enjoyed watching Nigel Slater's Middle East and  I am using his recipe for this evening's meal which is a departure from many months of bags of crisps and gummy bears, sandwiches, uninspiring salads, and half baked attempts at cooking regular meals which either burned or simply did not taste good for whatever reason. It has occurred to me with stunning force that I have actually survived a year in this country without Les. I am still alive though a bit more frayed around the edges. NB Valerie is still afloat and I have managed to catch up years of overdue work on her and stay just ahead of repair work not unusual for a boat just over a decade in age. She is all I own in this world and while I have finally reconciled myself to the fact that Les is no longer here on the boat in any form except ash, I take what comfort I can from the knowledge Les loved me and NB Valerie, and his memory lives on.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Major Repairs!

"The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to fix." ~ Douglas Adams, British author, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; 1952-2001

     As some of you know from past blog posts, I have been doing a lot of baling of the bilge in the engine hold over the last year. Lately it was not uncommon to bale five liters every morning with the Peela Pump on top of the amount removed by the bilge pump throughout the day. I knew NBV needed a new stern gland but on inspection out of the water there turned out to be a hell of a lot more in need of immediate repair. In fact all of the following had to be undertaken: 
  •    Cutting out stern tube boss and cutlass bearing as it was found in a bad state of repair. The cutlass bearing was extremely worn.
  • Removal of prop shaft. This had been previously cut down quite crudely probably to try and offer a new section of the shaft to the seal and get a few more year out of the stern gear. Because the prop shaft had been shortened, it was rubbing on the back side of the cutlass bearing.
  •  Renewing of the water lubricated seal.
  •  Re- aligning the engine.
  •  Fitting of new split half coupling. This had previously worked loose and had no doubt damaged the prop shaft.
  •  Fitting of a bigger prop. (I had been warned by two ME's previously that the NB Val was under-propped i.e. the prop was too small for the Vetus 33 HP engine and consequently I should not take her on any rivers.) Now she was a properly sized and fitted prop and this is no longer an issue.
  •  Straightening of rudder blade.
  •  Repairing the uxter plate where the rudder blade catches. 
  •  Renewing the lower skeg bearing. Previously the wrong size bearing had been fitted. We have machined one specially to fit the stock.
NB Valerie being steered towards the trailer waiting under water which is attached to the large tractor.
Watching the crew at Aqueduct marina move boats is like watching a water ballet. They back them up, spin them around and bring them into turns as smooth as butter.

A close up of the trailer on which NB Valerie is rising up out of the water and being towed to a workshop.

Away she goes!
Part of the damaged bit.
Worn stern gland tube.
The weld to the uxter plate.
New larger prop.
Newly machined rudder cup. The previous rudder cup was 2.5 inches in diameter but the rudder stem was only 1.5 inches in diameter.
Inside the engine bay: new cutlass bearing, crankshaft and stern gland.
I was completely amazed while backing NBV out of the mooring at Aqueduct Marina after all this work. For the very first time since I stepped foot on the boat in 2011, the tiller didn't jiggle loosely in my grasp and require over steering to move in a particular direction. The boat went wherever I pointed the tiller, cleanly and smoothly. I steered over to the main dock to fill up with diesel and take on some coal. As I stood waiting, tears gathered in my eyes and spilled down my cheeks. Just then Chris Moran, the chief ME for the marina, came down the stairs to say hello. He took one look at my face and said, "Oh no what's wrong?"
     "Oh Chris, nothing is wrong. I feel like I just stepped onto a new boat. For the first time ever the boat goes where I point her and I am not struggling to steer. Thank you so much!" Chris put his arm around me and gave me a big hug. The folks at Aqueduct Marina have been the soul of kindness to me over the two days the boat was worked on and the ten days I was flat on my back ill with flu and unable to do more than nearly crawl to the stove or the bow deck for coal and keep the stove going.  Many thanks to Chris and his crew; Julie, Maggs, Philip.Alex, and Robert and everyone involved in helping to get NB Valerie sorted. Once out on the cut again, the boat traveled faster with less RPM's with the result the engine was not working as hard as previously. She really does steer like a brand new boat and I have the piece of mind of knowing she's watertight and a good investment was made in our baby as Les called the boat.
     Moored now at Nantwich, looking for work, and applying for jobs online, I was walking back from Aldi's with a carrier bag of groceries when I passed by the small McColl's shop in a local housing estate. This was parked out front:
You might well ask yourself, "What is it?"  It is a mobility scooter believe it or not, loaded down with a stove, tins of oil and tons of other stuff! I've no idea how its owner manages to drive it bit there it was parked outside a local shop while the owner was inside picking up a few more bits and bobs!
      On a final note, I would like to say thank you to Anne Marie of Four Counties Fuels, Renaissance Canal Carrying Company and Bollington Wharf. Everyone else was busy today delivering to customers on boats Halsall and Alton. due to unforeseen issues the fuel boat had to cruise on through Nantwich without stopping and so Anne Marie drove over from Macclesfield in the company van by herself, loaded three 20 K bags of coal and a 13 K bottle full of Calor into a wheel barrel and delivered it all to NB Valerie which is moored up an 1/8th of a mile from where she parked! Never underestimate the power of womanhood! And many thanks to you Anne Marie for service above and beyond. (I Have no pictures as we were both too busy hoiking coal onto the roof and working to disconnect the gas bottle!)
     It is raining now as a grey dusk falls over this string of boats rocking gently as the wind blows. I've been down to the little neighborhood shop for a Saturday paper and up to the Nantwich Canal Centre chandlers for a five litre bottle of anti-freeze. That is another story which will wait for next week to be told. Cheers!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

One Year Without Him

"I will never forget the moment your heart stopped and mine kept beating." ~Angela Miller, grief advocate

     It was one year on the 24th of January as of 9:09 am since Les took his final breath as I held his hand in mine and felt my own heart lurch onward as his heart ceased forever. The terrible irrevocable finality of such a thing never leaves one. It is antithetical to everything else we experience in life. Relationships, jobs, and other outward signifiers end, but the other half of a broken relationship continues on with their life; the employer is still there even if we are working elsewhere; Nearly all of the other endings we experience in life have some thread of continued existence in the world albeit perhaps without a direct connection to us, but the death of someone we love is so shocking in its finality that our minds cannot really grasp it even as it is happening, much less afterwards. Time numbs us, but never strips the pain of loss from our hearts. As our daughter Sparky said to me, "It is weird how on the one hand it is hard to believe a year has passed since Da's death; it still seems like he just died yesterday and yet it amazes me how much has happened in this past year without him." Les was so much more than my best friend, my soul mate, my spouse; he was my interpreter for all the things about this country which make absolutely no sense to the American mind. Les was also my shield and protector, something I never fully appreciated while he was alive, having never really had anyone who stood for me in that way before. 
   I am eternally grateful Les began to write a blog as it has been my saving grace. There are days when I look at the pictures of our brief, happy life together framed on the wall and it feels as though those golden moments happened to someone else and I have come to consciousness in a nightmare from which there seems to be no escape. I simply have no desire to go on without Les and yet I wake up each day anyway. Opening the blog and reading through Les' posts helps to ground me again in the knowledge that it was not all a dream. We really did find each other and fall deeply, madly, and truly in love with each other. I have read this blog through from the very first post more than a dozen times now. Each time I find something new and different that catches my heart. I love seeing his rough tentative early posts full of mistakes and follies gradually giving way to smoother more polished writing as Les found his voice and began carrying his blog readers along for his journey as his confidence in being both a boater and a blogger grew. I cherish each funny bit that makes me laugh out loud--and for just that fragile moment Les comes back to me alive once more.
    I am walking a road I never expected to follow (yes of course I knew he was dying but our minds still shield us from that reality until the moment it happens and then we find our minds wrapped in a cotton of denial afterwards)--and if we are honest about it, no one does. We don't look ahead to the death of our spouse or partner and ask ourselves out of curiosity, "Gosh I wonder what my life will be like when they are dead?" No one wants to go there, but life may take us there anyway, and so I hope in sharing my feelings and experiences they will be of some help to those who find themselves on this road sooner than they expected. I can only offer my deepest gratitude to our friends who have stood by me over this most difficult year. I won't mention names--you all know who you are; each of you have my love and thanks which will never be enough to repay your kindness. I can't imagine I would have made it this far on my own without any of you.
     My thanks as well to those of you have Instant Messaged me and emailed me to thank me for sharing my inner most thoughts and feelings honestly. It is not to bang the "Poor me "drum as I need no one's pity. If that is what you take away from my posts then you need to move on and read someone else's blog. I know how isolating and terrible this journey can feel and if my writing validates even one person's experience and helps others to feel connected and less alone then it is worth sharing. Your messages to me are precious and while you choose not to comment publicly on the blog I appreciate those who have reached out to me in other formats to thank me for sharing honestly.
     Right so on to other things now. The boat has been out of the water for repairs, more of which I will cover in a later blog once I get pictures from the ME who undertook the work. The diesel tank was cleaned and the fuel polished with the result that there was indeed diesel bug in the tank waiting for an opportune moment to clog up the engine. Since the cleaning I have noticed the Ebispacher diesel hot water heater runs more smoothly and lot quieter as does the Vetus engine. It also isn't exhaling huge clouds of smoke when I start the engine anymore.
This is the equipment used to clean and polish the diesel. It took just over two hours and was fascinating to watch.


When the process was complete this is what was pulled from NB Valerie's diesel tank: water and a thick layer of contaminant loaded with dead diesel bug and bits of rust.
The dark gloopy stuff is diesel bug.
Image result for sambucol anti viral
    It has been awhile since I posted. I was stricken with the dreaded flu and I have been so ill as to be useless. It was all I could do to keep the fire going. I have had all the symptoms bar vomiting; nausea bad enough to stop any thoughts of eating. I went five days with nothing but water and a bite of toast here and there. My eyeballs felt like mashed grapes and I hurt everywhere--even my teeth and eyelashes ached and throbbed. This particular strain of flue brings a bronchial infection along for the ride and I have also been fighting that off, laying propped upright in bed hacking up Phlegm but feeling like I might just cough up a lung along the way, desperate for sleep but to no avail thanks to the constant wet whistling of my lungs. Last Wednesday was the first day in six that I could stand up without feeling dizzy. My lungs are beginning to dry up but I still feel desperately weak which is extremely frustrating. Even when I was recuperating from knee surgery I didn't feel weak and incapable of dealing with life's necessaries. One of the good things about living on an 18 ton boat alone is that I am not tempted to do fool hardy things like moving in extremely high winds. Given that people are dying from this strain of flue and many folks are waylaid for two weeks or longer before beginning to recover, I feel grateful I can say that I have turned a corner and I can feel myself gaining ground. I believe I owe the short duration to Sambucol so I share this with you dear reader, in the hopes like so much else, that it might offer you aid should you need it. Sambucol is an anti-viral developed by the Israeli's decades ago to combat the flu virus. It is made from black Elderberries. I have read that for some patients who are most at risk of dying from the flu (the young, the elderly and the immune compromised), their physicians may prescribe an anti-viral of pharmaceutical manufacture. Now you know there is another alternative available at your local health food store.
     Over the past two weeks I have had several visitors. Ken and Sue Deveson (NB Cleddau) came over with an 80 liter bag of cocoa shell from their latest consignment. I shan't need another for at least two years! We had a wander over to view their boat which is out on the hard standing at Aqueduct marina awaiting blacking and painting. We had lunch in the marina cafe and too soon Ken and Sue were off back to Bedfordshire having satisfied their boaty needs for a while. Many thanks for the compost delivery and the delicious Welsh Cakes! The UK has been buffeted in the past two weeks with very high winds from a series of storms off the Atlantic. Two nights running the winds were in excess of 70 mph here and I took a "video" at two o'clock in the morning to share with you. It is pitch black in the boat so you will not actually see anything but you should be able to hear the sound of the wind--from inside the boat which will give you a good idea of what it is like to lie in bed as the storm surges around the boat.

Love in a tub: Ken Deveson's homemade Welsh Cakes!

I am not sure what kind of bird this is but it appears to be a bird of prey. It has staked out a territory along the cut where the picnic tables and BBQ frames sit about 500 feet before the entry to Aqueduct Marina. This was taken right outside my window.
     A few days later I had a knock on the side of my boat and there stood Angela and Steve from NB Tumbleweed No. 5, currently moored in Overwater marina at the bottom of the Audlem flight. They no longer blog but when they did Les and I enjoyed their posts and we picked up a lot of good tips; they read our blog and decided to install an Airhead Marine composting toilet. So it was with great pleasure I welcomed them both aboard NBV. We had a lovely long natter which brought sunshine to my day. They picked me up and we drove to Overwater to see their boat which is very sweet and homey in its layout. I do love seeing other boats. Every single one of them has some great idea incorporated. We walked around Overwater which is a very large, well laid out marina. They are on a linear mooring which can take two boats--one in front of the other. The marina is very spacious. It is about a twenty minute walk to the bottom of the Audlem flight. The three of us lunched at the cafe and had a natter with one of the locals who has been a boater for many years. Many thanks to you both for a fun day out and a chance to get to know you both further. And thank you for welcoming me to the area. I look forward to getting together again soon. Of course in typical fashion I forgot to take pictures of Steve and Angela on their visit so I shall have to try and remember next time. I forget to pick up the camera when the conversation is good!
     After ten days in Aqueduct marina in which I did not set foot outside the boat, I looked at the weather last Thursday night and realized I would only have a one day window of sunshine and no wind in which to cruise and I needed to get to Nantwich, so on the 27th I made my move. I've pinched a nerve in my left shoulder and the three fingers on my left hand have been numb for days. I need to see the chiropractor, check the mail, and get a few groceries in. Still weak and shaky, I thought to moor up before each of the two locks in front of me, suss them out, set them and then slowly bow haul the boat into each one. As I approached the bollards at the first lock landing a couple was out walking in the sun and he waved me on saying, "The gates are open in your favor."
     "I know but I cannot climb lock ladders. I need to get off and bow haul the boat in."
     "Toss me a windless Hen, and we will do the lock for you." With a smile and a wave of thanks I tossed him a windlass and cruised gently into the lock. They are boaters too, living on their baot which was moored up above the lock about a half mile. I thanked them for blessing me with their help and continued onward. At the bottom Chalmondsten lock, adjacent too Venetian marina I pulled over with a windlass in hand and was tying up when a bloke came along walking his dog on a lead.
     "Are you on your own?"
     "Yes I am," I smiled. "It's a lovely day to be out and about isn't it?"
     "Lend me your windlass and I'll do the lock for you."
     "Oh thank you very much. That's very kind of you. Are you a boater?"
     "Yes that's my boat over there," and he pointed towards the marina. Soon enough I was at the top of the lock where a boat was waiting to go in. He handed me my windlass.
     "Thank you very much for your help. You really blessed me today." We smiled at one another and I was on my way once more. It took me five hours to cruise six miles owing to the long lines of permanently moored boats along the upper end of the Middlewich Arm. I don't remember there being so many when Les and I were here in 2012 but I supposed like everywhere else along the cut, it is filling up here in Cheshire too.
     Eventually I made it slowly past the long lines of boats approaching Barbridge Junction. I sounded the horn and slowly made the turn left onto the Shropshire Union Canal and my heart leaped and lifted at the sight of the Welsh hills in the distance. My spirit felt the rightness of this place and I knew I was where I should be. I moored up at 4 pm about a fourth of a mile past the Nantwich aqueduct and the stairs down to the town, knackered and spent. I knew my larder was empty so I switched coats--I wear Les' green down jacket for cruising and my black down coat for town--grabbed my grocery bags and backpack and set off for town. It took me three hours to walk the round trip of two and half miles there and back with shopping in between. I stopped in the darkened square to rest and listen to a busker with guitar sing his last song as it echoed against the wet stones of the empty square. Back aboard NBV I slept well that night.
     I have taken a mail box at the laundrette in the Nantwich Canal Centre and they texted me last Wednesday to say, "You've got mail," so yesteray I waited for the rain to lift and walked in to pick up my mail--a letter from the States and a card from someone over here! What a lovely surprise to open it a find a beautiful card with a Daffodil on it from dear friends, remembering me and Les.
     A walk in the other direction up Welsh Row and into the town square for a Saturday paper brought me up short against a massive, milling crowd of people rammed tightly packed all around the edge of the square. Behind them, lined up in regiment formation were soldiers dressed in both Parliamentary and Royalist regalia. Some held long sharp pikes and others muskets. Horses with riders astride led the procession. I was only about fifty feet from the W.H. Smith news agent's shop across the square but there was simply no quick and easy way to make it across so I waited with the milling throng. Soon drums began to sound, the assembled men and  horses began to move at a marching pace and both armies wended their way through the narrow cobbled lanes of Nantwich, out to the battlefield just at the edge of town. I nipped in for my paper, accompanied on the walk back home to the reports of musket fire and the booming sound of cannon.
Cavalry-led parade of several hundred Sealed Knot troops along Welsh Row
The battlefield reenactment is undertaken by a group called The Sealed Knot. It commemorates a battle to the break the siege of Nantwich which took place on January 25th, 1644.
Pictures courtesy of Eric Price.
Image result for pickled pigs feet     One of the lovely things about being up here is the Freeview television stations I can tune into with the antennae. One of them is a Welsh station. It airs programs I've seen on the BBC and ITV but they are all voiced in Welsh! I cannot understand a word of it, but the sound of it is a song of balm to my heart. I stretch out in Les' recliner in the evening, close my eyes and listen to the lilting cadence, and I am taken back to my childhood when my mother's mother Grandma Lilly used to come for a visit and stay for months at a time. I loved it when Grandma would come and stay with us. For the duration of her visit my parents were on best behavior--even my step father would not come home drunk or engage in any abuse while she was in the house. Grandma's visits were a hiatus from chaos and terror. She was Welsh and I loved the sound of her accent. When I was very small, she would watch me while my mother was at work. At nap time Lilly would fold a large blanket into a triangle and place it across her shoulders. She gathered me into her lap and pulled the blanket around us both--a makeshift Welsh nursing shawl. We used to sit together at the breakfast table sipping tea Grandma Lilly made strong and dark, sweetened with milk and sugar. She would pour a bit of her scalding tea into a saucer and give to me to sip. We also used to enjoy a shared breakfast of pickled pig's feet! At age four I had no idea what I was eating but it was vinegary which I loved and Grandma Lilly loved them so I did too but I did draw the line at tripe and boiled cabbage.   
     I have begun to establish myself in Nantwich and I am applying for jobs in the area. The entire employment thing is completely different over here to the States and there has been a steep learning curve for me. I had to research the definition of GCSE's, NVQ's, and ECDL's. I was ready to beat my head against the table in frustration at being asked to enroll in a six month course to earn national qualifications for something I've done to a very high degree for over a decade. This is when local knowledge comes in valuable. Angela was a teacher in her pre-boat life and she told me to apply for positions I am obviously qualified for due to experience. Once hired if the employer still wants me to earn an NVQ they will likely be willing to help make that happen. Carol Palin (NB Still Rockin') has also been a wonderful sounding board offering great practical advice. Many thanks to both of you lovely women for your help.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs