Wednesday 28 February 2018

Dodge the Snow

We drove up from home today. As history will assess, this may or may not have been an exceptional weather experience, but the media have captioned it The Best from the East. Some extremely cold Siberian weather had gradually been approaching and yesterday it brought chaos to the east of the country. However,. in Cornwall, whilst very cold, the past few days have been very sunny. Wrapped up well, short walks out, even just up the road to Tesco, could be a useful diversion from permanent attachment to a desk and computer.

But: the forecast last night was that heavy snow falls were likely in Cornwall from around 11 am today and by mid afternoon in the Midlands. As a result, we set the alarm for 7 having loaded up much of what needed to go into the car. In the end were were away by 8.45 on remarkably clear roads. The gritters had been out but we did take it just a tad slower than usual until well north of Exeter on the M5.

We made good time and it was just before 11 that we pulled into Sedgemoor Services for a comfort break. As we were so early we treated ourselves to a slightly longer break and a cup of coffee! The next stretch was slightly busier but still comparatively light.

We arrived at Droitwich Spa Marina just before 1 and quickly unloaded the car and set about setting up inside the boat. We quickly checked that the water tap was not frozen and immediately fill the tank, just in case the temperature dropped very quickly.

Within half an hour, the first blizzard arrived but, whilst quite fierce, it did not last long so only a thin covering on the boats. During the afternoon, as we tucked ourselves inside the boat and stoked up the fire, further snow fell but nothing like the amounts need to bring traffic to a standstill. nevertheless, we opted not to venture out for a trip to the shops as we had brought with us all that we need for today. We will need to go soon as our plan was to do most of the stocking up after we arrived. (Of course, we did bring our usual order from Gary Dutton, our great local butcher)

It was beginning to look definitely wintry when, around 5.30. Mike poked his head out through the front door to set up the tv dish. The dusting of snow meant that the magnetic mount was quite slippery so  we may have to adjust it later if the wind gets up. An extra rope around the base just in case it tips over.

Last trip, Christine became quite keen on the idea of having one of the so-called eco-fans which distribute warm air around the cabin. In the time back home we ordered one on-line (sorry to hear that Maplins has collapsed but no so sorry about ToysRus - both putting their demise to the prevalence of on-line shopping)

Still, the fan started up almost immediately it was out of the box and, whilst not magic, it does help to warm parts that sometimes feel a bit left out in the cold! (The fan is spinning so fast that it is almost invisible in the picture, just a grey shadow) For those who have not come across these fans before, they use an effect that generates electricity from just standing on a hot surface - enough to turn the fan at some speed.

Wednesday 14 February 2018

London and Back

We left the boat last Wednesday to travel by train to central London where we were to stay in the Travelodge at Waterloo. The principal reason for the trip was so that Mike could attend meetings from Thursday through to Saturday afternoon. We opted for the laid back schedule and stayed that night as well - if we had been returning to Cornwall it would have been a tight schedule and late return as the meeting was originally not expected to end until 5pm. In fact it concluded an hour earlier but plans were already made.

On the Friday evening we met up with daughter and grand daughter for a meal at the South Bank which was most enjoyable. Christine spent time during the day exploring various parts of London and took in the new special exhibition at the Royal Academy that has brought together many of the paintings that once belonged to Charles II but which were dispersed following his execution.

On Saturday evening we went to a concert at the Royal Festival Hall given by the London Philharmonic and featured Petrushka by Stravinsky as well as a violin concerto by Prokofiev. Most enjoyable - it was Christine's first visit to the RFH and probably the last time Mike was here was when he was about 17!

A return to the boat was made on Sunday afternoon - it is remarkably quick by train via Birmingham New Street and there is useful low cost car park adjacent to Droitwich station.

We stayed just overnight and packed up the boat against the cold the following morning, ready for the drive back to Cornwall which was, fortunately, most uneventful (the following day there was a long delay after a serious accident on the M5).

We are now beginning to plan our trips for the first part for the year, making sure that we keep suitable clear space in the diary although we both have a number of fixed commitments to work around. We have taken out a Gold Licence as we hope to get across to the Middle Levels as well as the Nene and Great Ouse which we last visited in 2010. OK, so there are long, flat stretches but that might just suit us for a limited period! However, our schedule probably will keep us clear of the IWA event at St Neots on August Bank Holiday. Additionally, we have to contend with the fact that the Worcester and Birmingham is closed at Tardebigge until near the end of March.

Monday 5 February 2018

The Chocolate Quarter

A couple of friends who lived in a small coastal village near to Wadebridge decided to move up country a few weeks ago. He now has quite advanced dementia and they and their family were getting a bit concerned at the impact of living in such a small place (their house was quite substantial and the garden - their pride and joy - even more so!)

She has connections with Bristol and had looked at a St Monica's place a while ago but it was not suitable. However, their family spotted that the same housing charity was developing the former Fry's factory in Keynsham - now called The Chocolate Quarter. After much debate they eventually sold up their Cornish home and have taken up residence in one of the apartments with a great view onto the River Avon and the Lockkeeper's Pub in the distance.

We took the opportunity to visit them - it was just over an hour's drive from Droitwich and we arrived as expected just before 11:30.

This is an amazing development - the site as a whole is still not finished as a swathe of 'affordable' housing is no also under construction. The ground floor of the development is a public space with a range of facilities not just for the residents. We began with coffee in Block B, a pleasant space that serves snacks and light meals - even has its own 'proper' clay pizza oven.

This was a good opportunity to catch up - Christine especially had quite a lot of contact with them in Wadebridge as they were keen members of the Memory Cafe and the Memory Friendly (church) Service. A while back, he had also sang with Mike in Wadebridge Choral Society.

We had expected to go out for lunch but Ian was not up to it today (noisy spaces are not too kind to him - nor to Mike either, but for different hearing reasons) so she had prepared a really tasty chicken casserole followed by apple cake - this was the first time she had really tried out the oven in the new apartment. Both were extremely delicious!

We set off on the return trip around 3:30 and arrived back in Droitwich as darkness fell. Again, it was a smooth journey with no delays although the Ring Road around the north of Bristol needs some concentration as it has what must be the largest collection of roundabouts anywhere in the country, all very close together! Just to make sure drivers pay attention, the layout of each one is different . . .

Before making it to the marina we called at Waitrose for a few items. Unfortunately we had left the newspaper token on the boat this morning so Mike went back again after taking Christine to the boat. At least by the time he returned the second time the stove was well alight and the cabin warming well.

After our good lunch we only needed a snack type meal - we bought some sausages at Waitrose along with some rolls - but we did succumb to a Raspberry Tart from the freezer section!

We have spotted that the fuel level in the boat has dropped quite substantially since the end of the previous trip, no doubt a result of leaving the heating on more than planned. We will probably need to take a trip across the marina tomorrow to fill up. Hopefully, when we return from London on Sunday (just staying overnight before driving back home on Monday) we will work out a better setting for the next month that balances out keeping the boat safe and dry but not using quiet so much diesel!

Sunday 4 February 2018

Short Boat Visit

We went to the early church service and, back home, we loaded up the car whilst having coffee and set off around 10:30. Apart from a short fuel top-up at Adsa in Bodmin and a comfort break at Sedgemoor Services we ran straight through without any stopping. There were no delays and very little freight traffic on the move.

This is only a brief visit to the boat on the way to London where Mike has a meeting of General Synod to attend from Thursday to Saturday. We have train tickets to travel in on Wednesday and the hotel where Mike would stay in Waterloo (a Travelodge - not much else comes within the allowance!) charges by the room not the person so Christine will come across as well. So long as the weather is not a problem there is plenty to do! We also plan to meet with daughter (who now works on the Embankment several days a week) and eldest grand daughter (who has started at QMC) on Friday.

The heating had been accidentally left on at the end of the last trip (rather than turned to the frost setting) so that it heats both morning and late evening which meant that the boat was not too old and not damp. We unloaded the small amount of belongings that we had brought with us, filled with water and put the chimney on so that the stove could be lit and soon making the cabin feel cosy.

We had brought pre-prepared main course with us (shepherd's pie) but Mike made a cherry egg custard by special request as a pudding.