Friday, 24 February 2017

My 70th celebrations have ended and I can relax with a cuppa (in a very fine thermos mug from neighbour Pat-thank you Pat)
My morning tea is very important to me as it is not until the first couple of sips have reached the still dormant core of my luscious form that the corpuscles start to move about and something approaching action takes place. It has to be Yorkshire tea. Nothing else.It has to be strong and it has to be savoured without interruption, distraction or any other activity. My first tea these days seems to last about 20 minutes which is strange in that there was a time in my life when 20 minutes was the time allowed to rise from the pit, wash, dress, grab some toast and be out the door. Sometimes,....ok often....I find the first cup does me so much good that I have to have a second though often I allow some of the surging energy resulting from the first tea to do something distracting other than stare at the cup. Sometimes,....ok often.....this means my second tea goes cold.
Not any more. Now I have my marvellous thermal mug my second cup stays hot and so in nearly an hour all I've done is consume two cups of tea. Bliss.

There are less constructive ways of spending your time. Or perhaps more destructive would be more accurate. Such as the bankers who put us in the financial mess in which we find ourselves. A bunch of crooks who defrauded millions and then got bailed out with my money. Yet for some reason that I forget the Labour Government got the blame and the the money that was made available to the banks  wasn't and still isn't available to sort out the essential services that are being completely dismantled by the current bunch of landed gentry who are behaving true to form. 

Why have I started banging on about this? 
Well, my mind was fully occupied by my first cuppa the other day when I heard a discussion on the radio about Lloyds Bank, in common with most, having issued an edict to staff about not drinking alcohol lunchtimes. One contributor said that in practice, the consumption of  midwork booze generally ceased over 20 years ago.
Now I don't know about you but as someone who regularly enjoyed a pint with his lunch and knew many others in all sorts of occupations who did too I don't recall the sort of balls-up of recent years  occurring when bankers, builders and bakers all went sur le piste at lunchtime. 
As I understand it Hitler was a teetotaller. Churchill wasn't. Nuff said.

 If Sir Fred Goodwin and chums had been too lethargic in the afternoon to work out who to shaft next we might not be treating granny on a bench in the corridor.

The only fault in my logic is the odious Nigel Garage although God knows what he'd do if he was sober all the time; UDI for Surrey I expect. Fair play to Nige though, at least they've discovered he is separated from his German missus and is shacked up with some French politician. The likes of the Sun and  Daily Fail of course didn't tell us this until after 23rd June. I wonder why. Now the Sun, the source of all truth, tells us that apart from the French interest Nige also has an English mistress just to maintain a balance I suppose.Anyway whilst it shows that Nige might not like being in Europe he does like being an internationalist when it comes to sharing his cocoa. I'm sure when he's living in America with his buddy Trumpet he'll have no qualms about finding a Mexican beauty with a ladder that wants to dip her tortilla .....I remember now Trump is TT as well. Fortunately Kim Yong Thingy looks like he has the odd tincture so nothing to worry about there then.

Whilst we are talking about foreigners I am very excited that the statistics on my blog reveal that there are now three Latvians following this nonsense. I was so pleased about this that I looked up to see where Latvia is. According to Wikithingy Latvia is a country on the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Estonia. Its landscape is marked by wide beaches as well as dense, sprawling forests. It's capital is Riga and its currency is the euro.

Latvia does have navigable canals

  • Jugla Canal 
  • Karosta Canal 
  • Perkones Canal 
  • Riga Canal 
  • Fortress Cana

so maybe somewhere on, say,  the Karosta canal there is a seventy year old alcoholic with shattered dreams and gout induced arthritis who is searching the blogworld for a kindred spirit on some other waterway in a distant land but still part of the European community.  No chance.Vlad. 
I did a search on Latvian forenames and was intrigued by the 5th entry under boys - surely nobody calls their son SwedishBoy!

see link if you don't believe me

To matters of much greater import.

Pam has been making marmalade and has been making it very well. I offered to help but she declined-I guess it's what you'd regard as her preserve. boom boom.

Is it an operating theatre? No it's marmalade time.

After the marmalade is completed it's time to pack and head off to Kent where we are staying just outside Canterbury for the weekend.
We stayed in the village of Fordwich arriving latish on Friday night (getting out of London (Ealing) from where we had collected Florence was a slow process) not helped by a strange noise from my rear brakes.
We discovered the nearby Fordwich Arms served food till 9.30 so we slung the bags and baggage into our squat and enjoyed a very fine meal I opted for Cottage Pie and Pam had lamb cutlets. We were both very happy with our choices.

Snowdrops in Fordwich Churchyard
Down by the River Stour that runs alongside both Fordwich pubs

Next to the Fordwich Arms there is the Town Hall. Fordwich is the smallest town in Britain hence a hall that has a capacity for just 44

Our squat for the weekend-very nice

 Saturday morning and after a walk round the village we drove to Faversham to meet Caz, Philip and Florence and Ollie and Jessica for lunch at Posillipo's. It was a jolly gathering with much to celebrate (one expectant mother and one engagement-not the same people!) and an excellent pork tagliatelle with a mushroom sauce. Superb

Everybody was impressed by the size of the waiter's peppermill
After lunch Pam struts her stuff on the Faversham catwalk

On the Sunday morning Caz took Pam to the church where they are to be married in May-Caz and Philip that is not Caz and Pam-don't be silly

Top Totty off to Church

After that to Chilham where the Reception is to be held. We had Sunday Lunch in the George and Dragon and the checked out the Village Hall before returning to Fordwich via Faversham.It is a very fine hall, large, well kept, well equipped and not too far from where we will be staying for the wedding. Such fun,

To Canterbury on Monday for a flying visit, a quick glimpse of the cathedral and a coffee in Cafe Rouge before getting back on the M2 and heading for home with the car sounding like Hercules the horse had got loose in Steptoe's Yard every time I braked.

A good run back in time for putting the heat on the boat and a bus back to The Lamb where it was Quiz Night.
After our performance last time we were hopeful. Sadly last is where we came so more homework needed.

Whilst we are on depressing matters Fulham got stuffed by Spurs in the 5th Round of the Cup so that is 70 years of never seeing them win bugger all and the car cost just under 200 quid.

I am writing this by candlelight. Hurricane Doris has knocked the mains power out, it is tiddling down and the wind is swaying the boat most satisfactorily. I just returned from the Dentist-all sound thank you- and called in on Mum and Dad at Harrow Weald Cemetery. It was like anenactment of Danse Macabre with branches blowing around along with flowers from the graves, a couple of headstones looked like they'd been blown over as had most of the seating. Quite spooky. All I needed was Abel Magwitch to appear at my shoulder and my laundry bill would have soared.

I went to Sainsbury's in Stanmore after that. I lead such an exciting life. Stanmore was my old manor and on the way at Marsh Lane I passed what was a bit of wasteland   when I was a kid . It's now smartened up, fenced off and has a big sign saying Stanmore Marsh South. It had redundant air raid shelters there 60 years ago half heartedly shut off with bits of rusty corrugated iron sheets that were easily dealt with by the gangs of us kids that played unhindered and unchastened in the shelters for hours. I laughed out loud as I passed by wondering at the fuss such behaviour would cause nowadays.  On reaching Sainsbury's I was reminded of a time a few years back now when I overheard an elderly Jewish lady berating an assistant because they had no Kosher Hot Cross buns. She obviously failed to see the irony in such a request but I admired her persistence.
On the way out there was a girl of Middle Eastern appearance selling the Big Issue. I admired her spirit as Hurricane Doris was whipping round her stirring up bits of cardboard, shopping baskets and lighter pensioners while she, looking very cold, attempted to sell the Big Issue to a predominantly Jewish clientele. I'm sure they treated her kindly though I got a shock when she told me it was now £2. 50. I had committed myself by then and parted up reminding myself that it was only an accident of birth that I lived in a country where for under 50 quid I could have a check up,  clean up and a filling repaired not two hours previous; the price of 20 Big Issues.

As to life on board  there hasn't been such a need for lots of heating these last couple of weeks and the days are getting longer all of which makes life a bit easier and cheaper.
 I see we have our first fishermen fishing opposite despite notices to the contrary. No doubt this means a happy exchange of views with them pretending they don't speak English but in the meantime they are not getting very far as the swans and geese are taking an interest no doubt wondering why they aren't being fed.
 I have been training the swans to protect anywhere that anglers infest and it seems to be paying off with the geese-always handy in a punch up-for extra bonus.

Despite those pair of prats there is a Spring feeling after Hurricane Doris and whilst there can still be a sting in March's tail life is good.....and I figure I have enough coal, wood and diesel to see me through.
My highly trained SAS_Stop Angling Swans
I see the anglers are moving as the swans become more anxious about the absence of grub. Which way will they go. Ah heading North with the mercenaries in pursuit. Good riddance.

No joke to finish on today so you'll have to make do with this one liner..................................

Bye Bye or ardievas as we say in Latvia, SwedishBoy

Thursday, 2 February 2017

I found this in a pub toilet. The Magistrate said I must stop taking photos in toilets as it can lead to misunderstanding.

 It's a pub in Moorside, Oldham with one bar in 
Lancashire and another in Yorkshire. 
They don't have Happy Hour in either 
of them but it is only £2.90 for a pint of Landlord
All good things come to an end and so my birthday fortnight has run its course ending officially on 29th January. OK I know there aren't 16 days in a fortnight but what the hell.
After the jolly at the Akash (see last post) I was chuffed to join Pam and Natalie on Monday for lunch at Bill's in Berko for which Natalie kindly paid. It was very good lunch and it was good to see Nat happy with her recent triumph over the evil motor insurance bods.
On the Thursday I went to my sister's in Lancashire for a celebratory lunch with Tom and Moira and Valerie and Martin at the excellent Navigation Inn, Dobcross, adjacent to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal (

A fine lunch in good company which rendered me horizontal for the little that remained of the afternoon (the lunch that is, not the company)
Tom enjoys my birthday balloons...........and a small whisky

and another small whisky with his lunch

A faggot to start-different but very tasty

Tom has recently had cataract ops on his eyes (where else?!}  and after 50 years I now have to get used to him without glasses.....of the spectacle variety that is.

On the day of the lunch Tom and Moira had new reclining chairs delivered-just in time for a post lunch siesta; though Tom does look a bit like Stalin laid out for the proletariat to view.

Back to Hertfordshire on Saturday for a quiet weekend,,,,,,which culminated in a most enjoyable party at Pam's with Pat,Andrew,Matthew and Katy and Richard and Ally, all neighbours, and a few bottles of bubbles and nibbles. Very pleasant. I must have enjoyed it quite a bit because when Pam said on Monday that was the last leg of my birthday that was exactly how I felt in the morning-on my last legs. A sensible day beckoned and the celebrations officially closed.
Phew-great fun.

And then Pam got a call from Ollie in Sri Lanka to announce that he and Jessica were engaged. Just a small celebration then....hee hee.

Into February and the weather has warmed up and the rain has come down. A major delivery of diesel, coal and gas has wiped the best part of 200 quid off the account so I'm hoping that delivery will see me to the end of the winter. Calor gas has now gone up to £29 reflecting the world wide rise in oil prices. It did not of course go down below £27 last year thus not reflecting the world wide reduction in oil prices, The Fuel boats are a marvellous service to those along the cut working in all weathers to provide such an essential service. I ran it close this time as I was nearly out of gas and diesel because the fuel boats got trapped in the ice and delayed for nearly a fortnight. We had a rhyming exchange of texts which I publish below to show that if Jules ever gives up running the workboats there is a place for Canal Poet Laureate

I wrote:

If you crack the ice
That would be nice
And not pop a rivet
Would be trific
But if you've got some gas
Would be a blast
And 4 Homepride fuel
Really cool.
Plus a diesel tank filled
I would be thrilled


Jules replied:

We're stuck in the ice at Cook's wharf,
It's not where we wanted to be,
We'd rather be shifting our goods 
From the motor boat and the butty,
We'll bring you what you require 
As soon as the cut starts to flow,
So be spare with your gas & your fuel 
Until we can go Daddy go.

Splendid. Jules ought to call herself Coalridge

Life on the mooring continues to roll on despite being extremely soggy underfoot but the days are getting longer and Spring is not that far away, as the brave daffs here show.

I have a shed full of stuff left by nb June Rose when the mooring was vacated and June told me to help myself for our St George's Auction (22nd April). So now I have my shed(s) plus this one to sort but not before the rest of my mooring gets tidied. And that wont happen till it stops raining. Manana.
As I write the wind is blustering away and a proper storm is forecast so it might be the manana after manana.

Time to batten down the hatches and cook my curry. Until next time.....

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

One Lucky Birthday Boy and a Sad Loss

Where to begin? Such a fine time was had by your humble servant and continues to be had that it all starts to meld into one bundle of fun.

I hit 70 years last Friday 13th. I always make a fuss of my birthday. Matters are normally taken out of ones hands on the "big" birthdays and it only feels like 10 years ago that my 60th was celebrated in fine style by a surprise party attended by so many and organised by Pam.

Pam played a major hand in this one as well so that when last Friday arrived I had no idea what was planned. I  had been told to have a bag packed which could have meant I was being thrown out but I spotted no clues in the lead up and sat waiting for the next instruction. To add to the excitement such "instructions" came in the form of rhyming clues doled out by Pam when appropriate.

We set off in Pam's car and headed for the M25 with my little head full of ideas as to our destination. Last year we had a lovely couple of days at Windsor taking in dinner a play and an overnight stay in an hotel. so that was my favourite for a repeat.
However we turned left onto the M25 heading eastwards so I had to recalibrate. What lay hither?
Would we cross into Kent? I thought that probable because Pam, as far as I'm aware has never been anywhere meaningful in Essex so perhaps to Faversham to see Caz et al for a weekend.....or maybe to France?.....No that won't happen I don't have my passport. I decided to enjoy the ride until we crossed the Thames on the QE2 bridge before straining my 70 year old brain further.

Then we turned left for Chelmsford before the bridge so I was completely banjaxed. Then I saw a sign for Maldon and recalled that some time back my friend Roy, eccentric millionaire and music hall singer, had spent a birthday on a Thames barge thereat and so it came to pass.
We arrived at Maldon (Essex} and The Queens Head where we had a pint and I waited for the denouement. It arrived in the form of 8 of my oldest friends Adrian and Geoff, Mac and Carrie, Roy and Annie and Peter and Kay. (arranged in order of distance travelled)
After a couple more pints we left the pub and boarded the Thames Barge "Reminder", our accommodation for the weekend. Oh what a weekend it was .Two excellent dinners in nearby pubs a sing-song, vast amounts of whisky. Much laughter and banter, proper breakfasts to clog the finest arteries, a walk round Maldon and a splendid lunchtime session in the local Witherspoons

The undoubted stars of the show were the 4 ladies who coped magnificently with the vagaries of the plumbing and the constant stream of rubbish talked by the male of the species. Mind you they talked a fair amount of rubbish as well.themselves.

I was so smitten by the whole thing; the work that had gone into the weekend, the distances travelled by such good and kind people, the size and style of the barge, the whole kit and caboodle.
There were lots of pictures taken and I've published most of them so if you aint interested sweep by.

 Breakfasts of inordinate healthy content were managed by Roy and his able ex school dinner lady assistant Mandy Lifeboats Dodge.

A glass of bubbly to kick off

Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish

My birthday cake

The entry to the boat was another surprise with balloons and bunting (handmade by Annie and now resident on Independence) decorating the main saloon and a birthday cake of rainbow colours

I think the only time I got in the galley was to blow my candles out
One Big Puff!
A speech from Ady and Roy. 

Then it was all change and back to the Queens Head for dinner.

Ignore any thoughts that the photograph is fuzzy-it is the photographer and the subjects that are fuzzy

We returned aboard and awaited the "Great Surge" -Ooooh Matron-which had been suggested as a possibility resulting from seasonal high tides along the east coast. Fortunately the only great surge was in the consumption of fine whisky which meant some of the company felt below par when we assembled for breakfast.
After a fine breakfast we wandered round the town like a bunch of Romanians looking for a boot sale before meeting up in the local Witherspoons

Kay, me, Roy and Annie in Witherspoons

Carrie, Peter, Ady and Geoff in the same place
Ady clutching..???..well you work it out

A reading of events that occurred on previous Fridays 13th

That evening we went to somewhere else that I can't remember to the Jolly Sailor for dinner. 

We returned to Reminder for nightcaps, a lovely sing song and a group photo. Everybody looks much better than they are but they are all much better than they look. Lovely people.

A few photos to demonstrate I didn't spend the whole weekend in a restaurant, pub or boat.

The last day (Sunday) and the weather is foul. Cold and wet. We rejoice at the weather we have enjoyed for Friday and Saturday. We link arms and give thanks that we have survived the Great Surge. We prostrate ourselves in gratitude that we have dined so well yet not so wisely. We hurl ourselves into the foamy brine to cleanse our minds of the excesses of alcohol, food and laughter. And I take myself apart (a clever trick I learnt at Legoland) from the others and whilst resisting a tear thank God that I have such wonderful friends. I am such a lucky boy. And I'm over 70 you know. 

............and it's not over you know. In the highly unlikely event you have read this far you might want to have a cuppa now as this goes on a bit.
My birthdays do.

Pam drove us back to Berko in very unpleasant conditions-the driving conditions that is-Pam was as wonderful as ever.
We had Sunday lunch at The Highwayman to keep the party going. 

Monday and it's Quiz Night at the Lamb so we have a specially formed team for my birthday

The HippoBidet2U team. Mikaela,Pam,me, John, Janice, Matt, Karl
We did ever so well coming joint 2nd out of hundreds of teams....well 4 actually but I thought we were good and would have fared even better if I'd listened to Karl KleverKlogs. Great fun. Great people.

Thursday and the party continues. A train to Watford to meet with Geoff, Ady and Kevin for lunch in the White Something pub
Saturday and I find myself in Harlow lunching with brother, Jim, sister in law Mary and niece Sarah; a very fine lunch and whilst envious of Jims' ribs I thoroughly enjoyed my liver. Just another day in the life of a cannibal
and here they all are
Back to Berko and suddenly it's Sunday and I've invited a few friends to join me for a drink at the Lamb and a curry buffet at the Akash just 2 minutes walk away

More cake!

and balloons

another Big Puff

Where else would Peter put his serviette

Back in the Lamb afterwards for Pam to have a relaxing drink and me to pay the bar bill. ouch!

A wonderful birthday and there's still more to come with a trip to my sister's in Lancs on Thursday for another  celebration of which more anon.

Life goes on.Whilst I've been indulging myself, sadder events have come to pass.
. My friend Les, who, with his wife Jaq, has been mooring their boat at Cow Roast, died on Tuesday morning. Jaq and his family were with him at what was the end of a painful experience for all. Whilst he suffered greatly near the end he was one of the ballsiest people I've ever met facing what he knew with fortitude, humour and no little stubbornness,  I envy him his courage.

He died with his boat keys in his hand.

My condolences and all of those in the Cow Roast community go out to Jaq who over the last few years has striven tirelessly on his behalf.
Be assured, good lady, if there is practical help required we will be there.