Monday, 7 January 2019

Now Back Home

With Christine still suffering from her cold we were not able to do too much today although Mike went to the supermarket and also completed the photos of one of the churchyards.

Despite suffering, Christine did manage her usual clean through and Mike removed most of the tar stain that had collected at the base of the chimney. It is not possible to remove it completely but best to keep on top of it.

Sunday morning, Mike went to St Peter's church for the morning worship service which was well attended. By the time he returned to the boat, Christine had completed the last of the packing.

Mike loaded up the car and then went through the usual final disposals and emptying of the water tank. Another quick clean around the chimney whilst packing it away and then we closed down all systems before setting of on the journey homeward.

The motorway was remarkably quiet with no delays at all so that we were back by half past three, still daylight.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Tempus Fugit

Not sure where the two days, Thursday and Friday, have gone! Thursday was quiet as we took time to recover from the four hours of driving the day before and by today, Christine awoke to find that she has developed quite a nasty cold which has left her feeling pretty listless.

We did manage a short trip out to the shops for a few items but quickly returned! The weather has turned very much colder since the New Year with overnight freezing conditions and the day time temperatures well down in single figures.

Mike did manage a couple of expeditions to St Peter's churchyard to take more pictures which will be processed and put up on the website after we return home.

We will have to raise our game a little, looking forward as we plan to return home on Sunday with a fairly busy time ahead, including another trip up to London at the end of the month, which may involve a diversion via the boat. So we will at least have to clean and pack up on Saturday as well as make another short trip to the supermarket.

There seem to be quite a few people staying aboard their boats in the marina at the moment but most restrict their social interaction to the routine dog walk around the perimeter path!

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Another trip to Windsor

There is not that much to write about for today - and we are not expecting much for the rest of this trip either, other than a chance to read and prepare for quite a busy couple of months into the first part of the year.

Back to today: a very slow start but a chance for the girls to make sure that they were packed and ready to leave after lunch. Jess is back to school on the 3rd so we had to return them both to Windsor today. However, with both parents it was a work day so we had agreed to get there by 4 o'clock which would allow Adrian plenty of time to make sure his office was back in functioning order after the break. Joanna was not expected back until early evening as she had plenty to catch up on.

We managed to find time in the morning for the usual chores but with the temperature having fallen to below freezing over night it meant everything was cold to touch. The hosepipe we leave on the roof when we are in a marina, especially when the tap is not at the end of the pontoon,  had managed to trap enough water in it (which is why we normally flush it through quite fully before filling the tank) had become solid. This meant having to lay out the second flexible hose to connect tap to tank. In the process Mike manage to spray very cold water over himself! However, with help from Alice and Jess, now working to a bit of a routine, we completed all the tasks in plenty of time for lunch.

First, however, Mike and Jess took the car into town to the Sainsbury Local and filling station so that we did not have to start off in the wrong direction this afternoon. As well as filling the car we picked up a paper and a little more bread for lunch.

It takes just on two hours to drive to Windsor so we were on the road a couple of minutes after 2. The journey was very uneventful but, in the rapidly disappearing twilight, driving on a reasonably busy motorway does take concentration! Arrival was only a few minutes over the scheduled time, mainly because there was a very slow section late in the trip.

After a brief chat and a chance for a mug of tea to refresh ourselves, it was back to the car and to retrace our steps (or tyre rotations) back to the boat, arriving just before 7.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

A Christmas Carol

Yesterday's blog only took us as far as the return to the boat, in time to carry out usual chores and prepare the evening meal. Of course, that was not the end of the day as this was New Year's Eve and after perhaps 5 or 6 years celebrating the festivity on the boat (one year in a cottage whilst we waited for Alchemy to be finished), Alice and Jess now have their tradition! (Jess says it is not a tradition but . . . )

The main element is to watch some of the comedy television before Jools Holland turns up with his amazingly eclectic selection of musical performances. This year was no exception and whilst most are close to the host's Rhythm and Blues background, there is a much wider choice which this time included Michael Buble.

After hearing the guests on the show counting down to the midnight hour (tricky for the producers to coordinate as the show is actually recorded earlier in the month, we understand) it was back over to BBC 1 for the fireworks at the London Eye. Even though we were watching them on a small screen the display was just amazing, only made possible by the use of very complex electronics. Because they were using the large structure to full effect. some fireworks not only went upwards but others downwards -  in fact in a ring towards the centre of the Eye. We were convinced that the design has moved on considerably even from last year's spectacular. No wonder the tickets to see the show live were sold out some time back.

After a toast to each other and to the New Year and a little more music we gradually wended our way to bed - reluctantly!

Even more reluctant was next morning and, apart from a few household chores, little was really on the agenda until lunchtime. In fact, none of us made much show of life until it was time to get ready to drive over to Stratford.

It is only just over half an hour but we planned not only the theatre visit (tickets were booked way back in the summer) but also a meal out beforehand. The first task on arrival was to find a suitable car park. After being put off initially by the very high charges on the tariff board at the main car park by the shops we looked for another but, with it seeming to be a longer walk and just the same charges as the first we returned to the first one.

Luckily we went immediately to check out an eating place as the first one which Christine and Alice had used earlier in the year when they came to see Macbeth had no room for us. So we now had to look around - one which had been recommended was unfortunately shut this evening. In the end we took went into Ask Italian which did have spare tables although by the time we had ordered our food there were very few left! (Jess reports that the upper floor was entirely empty as it was not being used today)

(One picture included Christine but she has censored it)

Pasta dishes were ordered by three of us whilst Jess opted for a gigantic pizza which eventually disappeared in its entirety. There was no time for a pud but we were promised an ice cream in the interval at the theatre. Overall, the reaction to the meal was very positive!

We walked to the theatre, stopping briefly to buy a belated newspaper from Sainsbury. Along the way we admired the excellent street illuminations (not that a camera phone does them justice).

We arrived at the theatre and found the way to our seats. Two of us were familiar with the inside but for Mike and Jess it was a new experience. We were seated on the middle level (Circle) and in the front row to one side. We managed a quick shot (not very good) before turning off our phones just in case they were tempted to ring during the performance! The performance takes place principally on the large open thrust stage so that everyone can see. We were quite early - time to read the programme properly - but only a very small number of single seats were left empty by the time the first actors came onto the stage (just as well we booked early - even then there was no choice of which day we went)

The production was A Christmas Carol in which Charles Dickens and his friend discuss the circumstances in which the author was persuaded to tackle the very difficult political issues of child and family poverty in a time of considerable change and not a little personal greed.

Although the story was intertwined with the personal story of Dickens, whose own father spent time in a debtors prison when the writer was about 12, most of the action followed the famous story with the ghosts of the past, the present and the future all leading Scrooge from a complete lack of sympathy for the plight of his clerk and his family, including the sick and disabled Tiny Tim, to a greater understanding.

This is a performance with very high production values. Much of the time there were around 26 performers on stage and in the ensemble pieces the choreography was very complex. There was a small musical band to provide a little background music (but carefully chosen for when it was appropriate, not scattered around like unwanted confetti) and some singing from the cast, but the main emphasis was on the acting and the action. The props were amazing and very detailed - not many stage productions bother to make sure that a character actually has coins in pocket to hand over to someone else, instead of just pretending. It is so often the small things that help to bring stage action to life and a lot of time in design and rehearsal must have been spent to think through so much detail.

Of course, by the end, Scrooge had been redeemed but at some no little personal cost along the way, not just to his purse, but to his emotions as well. "You can only see if first you feel" was a theme throughout the script - there were many echoes of the current political agenda, especially how (or even whether) to tackle the serious inequalities in society (all the more poignant as we passed several people sleeping rough in Stratford, including just outside the theatre).

In the interval we had our promised ice cream - whilst not quite up to the standard of Churchfield, it was nevertheless distinctly above the norm at theatres with a significant choice of flavours.

Back for the second part and we continued to be enthralled by the production which built to its eventual climax. However, the script does not allow the watchers to wallow in good-feel at the end as, even though Scrooge dished out money fro the Cratchitt family, contributed to a new trust fund to help families in trouble as well as cancelling the debts of some of his poorest clients, we were not allowed to forget that many of the wider problems still remained. But after the main closing applause there was a short but complex dance routine which sent us all away into the night with some hope of a better future - but only if we all play our parts.

The drive back, albeit in the dark, was quite smooth (thanks to Sat Nav even if we did make one small mis-turn) and we were back on the boat once more.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Ice Cream

The morning was spent getting up (late), reading and then shopping.

After lunch we went out for a walk but first called at Churchfields Ice Cream Farm, near to Salwarpe - one of the places to visit that the marina office had recommended. They have around 36 different varieties and we were definitely spoilt for choice. Alice was quickest off the mark, followed by Jess. We all chose two different flavours - one of Mike's was Tonka Bean. We had not heard of this flavour before but it was definitely delicious - somewhere between coconut cream and vanilla, although in truth it is a flavour on its own. Altogether a place to recommend.

After a quick diversion to some climbing equipment we set off across the fields to Salwarpe village.

We crossed the bridge over the canal (which is being extensively repaired)- by water it is rather a challenge as it is on a tight bend and it is only possible to see an oncoming boat when you have committed to the bend. If there is something there it is a rather sharp reverse to avoid a collision. You can tell that we know!

We turned into the churchyard but could not look inside as it was, alas, locked. However, outside the gate was an early bunch of snowdrops.

Although there are but a few buildings in the village around the church, several have an interesting history.

What is now called Lychgate Cottage and Church Cottage has a plaque on it saying that it was once a school.

The large Salwarpe House and Grange (altogether was originally the Rectory) is hardly visible from the road.

The towpath was regained after a short distance and we continued along to the top lock  at Ladywood. A workboat just above the lock has sadly sunk - it looks as if some protection has been put around it to avoid pollution until it can be raised. Perhaps it was because they ignored the No Mooring sign!

The bridge below the lock took us onto the road back towards the farm where we had left the car. Part way we spotted several ponies in a field - they trotted over to greet us as soon as we stopped. They were happy to be fed with some wisps of hay that had been dropped just out of their range outside the gate,

A little later we arrived at the entrance to the farm and thus back to the car and then the boat. By then it was close to sunset.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Lido Park and Ice Skating

Slow start to the day and it was after 10.30 when we set off for Lido Park on the opposite side of town. The lido is still operational but, unsurprisingly, only in the warmer months! But it is set in a large park area and is popular with local people wanting to take some exercise.

Whilst Christine, Alice and Jess went to explore the park, finding a small play area, Mike visited the churchyard of the adjacent St Peter's Church. He made a useful start on photographing the memorials in an older part of the churchyard but it is quite extensive and will take some time and perhaps future visits to the boat to get anywhere near completing it! The older stones are sometimes now illegible - it is a shame if the record of individuals is lost forever, so sites like Find A Grave, so long as the data is preserved, offer an important opportunity to ensure the information is recorded before it finally disappears.

Back to the boat for lunch but we had to be off again by 2 o'clock as Christine last night booked online for the girls to have a session on the ice rink at Webbs Garden Centre starting at 3. We arrived early so were able to see the previous session in full swing.

We passed the time with a bit of a look around the extensive shopping in the garden centre before it was time to return and be fitted out with skates. And then it was onto the rink.

Round and round - it looked to Mike and Christine to be altogether exhausting so they adjourned to the cafe for a cup of tea!

Eventually the session came to an end and the staff began the task of ushering everyone off the ice - easier said than done it seemed. Alice and Jess retrieved their shoes and we returned to the car for the short trip back to the boat. By now it was past sunset and a roast dinner needed to be prepared!

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Windsor and Back

Not a long blog although it was a 'busy' day. We had to put the alarm on this morning to make sure that we could be away by 9 so that we could expect to be in Windsor for 11 as promised. We arrived 11:01, so not too bad timing-wise. The journey was as uninteresting as it was uneventful - the traffic was generally quite modest and no delays, although it is clear that, as far as possible, road works have been tidied away for the holiday break.

After a mug of coffee, a slice of the festive Christmas Cake and a dip into a box of chocolates it was time to load up Alice and Jess, along with their luggage and set off back.

Again, their was nothing of note as we returned along the same route as we came down. Luckily the only significant delays that we saw were on the opposite carriageway. (They had not been there earlier, fortunately)

Back at the boat it was well past the time for lunch which was quickly assembled. We had to make a visit to a shop, mainly to sort out Alice's breakfast menu which Mike had failed to find yesterday.

As we arrived, Jess spotted a small play area just outside the marina so she and Alice set off ahead to give it a test run. Christine decreed that exercise was needed and that we should walk into town - it is just over a mile with the better route alongside the canal rather than the main road.

The nearest supermarket is Waitrose but we quickly established that they did not have any copies of our newspaper left - even though there was an enormous supply of unsold Telegraph's, not sure what that means! So, leaving the other three to pick up what they could find in Waitrose, Mike was dispatched to track down a paper which he found in WHSmiths.

On the return walk we walked back thorough Vines Park, including a brief chat with St Richard.

Still trying to trace some of the more obscure parts of the original line of the Droitwich Junction Canal, Mike took a look at what he thought was Impney Way bridge, over the canal at the end of the motorway tunnel. In fact, a small sign indicated that this was the parapet of the original canal bridge and the new line passes under where the metal railings are, just beyond in the photo, following along Body Brook still at this point - the River Salwarpe joins a few metres later. When the original canal was in operation, the road to the right of the photo was just a narrow track to a nearby farmhouse, now underneath a large new housing estate.

We managed to reach the boat as darkness was really falling - but just enough to see to do the chores of emptying the ash pan and elsan as well as filling the water tank, all of which needed doing.