New Year Changes.
Instead of waiting until January 1st to make my ‘New Year Resolutions’ I am making plans to implement some changes in my behaviour/life right now! Why? Because I can and because I need to…
Take writing – something I love to do –for example. Over the last few months I have made many excuses as to why, ‘I can’t write’, or why I haven’t written as much as I want to.
Excuse no 1 – Time: this is completely in my control but I choose to do other things on a writing day – go shopping, pop and see someone, spend time cooking, take Martha for a decent walk etc. etc. Today is a planned writing day and I am going to use it as such.
Excuse no 2 – Lack of inspiration: again, in my control and simple to rectify. I take photo’s of ‘things’ that inspire me in my daily life – such as a door in cornflower blue with chips and scratches, which could open up a whole new story if I bothered to look at the photo’s in my phone. I’ve been asked to write a short story for an anthology so I will do so today for sure.
Excuse no 3 – I can’t write unless: ‘I have a tidy space’,’ I have enough room’,’ I have peace’,’ I’m in the mood’. Absolute poppycock; whilst travelling I wrote in the caravan (no space, very little room to spread out, and sometimes no peace so I used headphones to block out noise). Whilst studying for my degree we were travelling Europe so time to write assignments was tight to say the least, plus after a long day travelling I often wasn’t in the mood, but I had deadlines and I did it!
Another change is that I am actually starting to ‘plan’ in regards to my personal life. Before ‘retiring’ from a paid career (read ‘being made redundant’… and then deciding I would only ever work for myself again) my work life was planned to the nth degree – meetings here there and everywhere, travelling thousands of miles etc – which I detested. For the last five and a half years I have enjoyed being (mainly) spontaneous. However, realising that this often means I don’t meet my own needs (such as sitting and writing for a whole day) I am going to plan in certain personal activities and then stick to the plan.
Note: I have meetings and work days for my ‘other work’ (I support/train teams of direct sellers on a consultancy basis) planned for the whole of 2019 so if I can do this for business surely I can do it for pleasure?
So…can I make these changes? Yup.
Will I stick to them? As much as I can.
After all, life is for living and as much as I want to be more in control of my life I know that on occasion I’ll fall off the wagon!
Are you wanting to change anything for 2019? I would love to know!
Sunday 30 April
It’s been a while since I wrote; so long that I was beginning to question whether we would ever set off from Tardebigge again, thus I was becoming a little stir crazy and grumpy – as was Leigh, and I’ll tell you why in a minute.
We are on a small adventure just now, setting off last Friday just for four weeks or so. Friday was one of those days where time appears to fly by. Leigh started working the wonderful flight of locks at Tardebigge ( wonderful in appearance AND as an amazing feat of engineering) around ten-thirty a.m. By lunchtime she had worked twenty-one of the thirty locks so needed a quick break.
After lunch an old schoolfriend of hers – Cheryl – joined her. As they worked the remainder of the flight they realised that they had led parallel lives in some ways. Both had married sailors, both had lived in Plymouth in nineteen-seventy-six (Cheryl as a navy wife and Leigh as a Wren). As they chatted and reminisced it came to light that Leigh had enjoyed a bitofafling with Cheryl’s cousin, Alan, (a ‘tiffy’ [Artificer] in the Navy at that time)! This revelation came about as Leigh struggled to remember Alan’s surname, (she did have quite a lot of boyfriends in her teens). Cheryl asked, ‘Is it, XX?’ and a relieved Leigh (she hates not remembering names) said, ‘Yes, that’s it…’. Before she could ask how Cheryl had guessed the surname, Cheryl said, ‘That’s my cousin!’ Oh Lordy, they did laugh at this disclosure….
Now, these two chums hadn’t chatted since their schooldays some forty-three years back, so they had a great deal to talk about. Tom steered, Rosie and I enjoyed the beauty of the north Worcestershire countryside, and the ‘girls’ worked well together; Leigh told me that Cheryl made a great lock-labourer – it not only reduces travel time when two are working the locks, but Leigh enjoyed the company lots. I am sending a big kiss of appreciation to Cheryl, on Leighs behalf…mwah.
After Cheryl left, Leigh worked the six locks through Stoke Pound and Prior then we stopped off in Stoke Works for a well deserved dinner at the local pub – the ‘Boat and Railway’. ‘Good food, good prices’, is all Leigh wants to say. Rosie and I stayed homealone and we were ‘fairly happy’ to do so!
Yesterday was a great day, weather-wise, but Leigh felt the labour of the previous day was affecting her performance! Setting out for Worcester she worked the first five locks (with a couple of ‘whatamidoing’ moments – where she tried to push the gate the wrong way, or open paddles that ddin’t need opening as the lock was already set for us…Yelp!!) but late morning things went a bit downhill and she became a tad grumpy. Why? Read on…
After chatting, and putting the worldofcanals to rights, with the retired lock-keeper at Astwood Locks, my humans decided to divert through Droitwich – where a boat festival is in progress (this means a chance to shop for scrummy chutneys whilst supporting boat-traders). Turning right, at the junction of the Worcester and Birmingham/Droitwich canals, we came upon six or seven boaters and a jolly parrot.
The locks here have side-pools (there are very few working side-pools on the canal network of the U.K.) which Leigh hadn’t encountered before; luckyforher there were two volunteer lock-keepers, one of which would work with her and explain how to work side-pool locks.
Now, this was great in terms of learning something new -as in how to work these locks – and it was great to have help, but in labouring terms it means you have double the work as you empty, or fill, the lock to enable your boat to enter. That didn’t particularly phase Leigh, but the next ‘encounter’ did.
Staircase locks are the bane of Leigh’s life on the canals. I won’t explain how they work, but suffice to say they add to the work load and can be confusing. Between her own brain and Tom’s ‘direction’ (ouch) she got us through the staircase and the next normal lock safely and then we reached the ridiculously low M5 tunnel. At this tunnel is a ‘measuring device’; if your boat won’t go under the device then you can’t go through the tunnel. You can guess the rest…
Note: That is not our boat – possibly a ‘hire boat’ – hence no need to use the roof as storage!
Tom did a great job of reversing through the lock – his first experience of what is a rare thing to have to do! Reminded me of when I got stuck in a rabbit hole and had to back out – needs concentration eh Tom?
Leigh almost wept at the thought of having to go back and work those six locks that she had laboured in the last hour and a half but there was no alternative. There is a story here…
Pre-M5 the Droitwich – a spa town – canal had been used for carrying salt on working barges. When the motorway was being built, the canal fell into disrepair and it was thought that it would never be used again; the height of the tunnel was pretty much disregarded. Now that canals are back in fashion this tunnel is journey-limiting for live-aboards who need to use their roofs to carry bikes, buckets, coal, wood, etc. Tom took the chimney off, took the satellite dish down and took some of the stuff out of a roof-box, but even the tunnel light made the tunnel unnavigable so we cruised back up to the junction, explaining why we were back so soon to the lock-volunteers (who, in hindsight said they should have mentioned the low tunnel).
Feeling weary and grumpy Leigh did a spot of Internet shopping – via Fiona Joseph who sells Phoenix cards – during the lock-free cruise in the direction of Worcester. We moored last night in Tibberton, which is a pretty little village with two pubs – although the chef was on sick-leave in one and the other doesn’t offer food. Rosie and I enjoyed an early evening walk around the village with Leigh, which enabled her to feed/free her mind whilst admiring some lovely old cottages, pretty lanes and simple countryside.
For those who can’t quite understand why we don’t particulary plan ahead – and cannot always commit to precisely where we will be for a meet-up – maybe after reading this you will start to see the predicaments of a travelling boaters life? You simply can’t plan as you don’t know what you will come across. It’s a fun, frustrating, flexible life and it suits us…well it does as long as Leigh keeps the grumpiness at bay. Yelp!
PS Although chronologically ‘out of order’ I will blog later to tell you about Leigh’s ‘swim’ in the canal last week!
PPS I though this was a nice touch…a dedication to the man who played a big part in the restoration of the canal
Saturday 18 Februrary 2017
I’m going to sue the Captain! A two-day delay is just not acceptable. Rosie and I were looking forward to setting out on our Tardebigge-London adventure on Thursday morning – until our humans decided they had waytoomany jobs to do (such as purchasing and delivering birthday gifts/cards, due to us being away for the next three months). In addition they wanted to get ‘Very Pinook’ sorted out and ship-shape – which included purchasing a ‘matching’ grey cleaning cloth for our newly re-vamped and re-fitted bathroom, and purchasing a set of drawers to enable Leigh to tidy away her work at the end of each day; our humans like to eat at the table – well Leigh in particular.
Anyhow, here I am, back to my beloved keyboard after fartoomuch time away. Tom is steering, Leigh is de-scaling a tap and Rosie is dozing. We set out this morning around ten-o-clock in quite murky (but dry) weather, leaving Worcestershire behind and heading for our first stop on the journey which will be somewhere in Warwickshire I guess. Although the weather isn’t quite as forecast the snowdrops are out in force and lift the spirits!
Bizarrely, as we cruised past Alvechurch, Leigh realised the boat had come to a standstill. Nosing out of the window she saw our lovely canine-carers, Helen and Ian, waving in at her. Tom had spotted them as they spotted us so stopped to say hello.
Leigh popped outside to the stern and the four humans enjoyed a quick natter. Helen and Ian had their current charge with them – a lovely whippet who Leigh tells me, ‘Is much calmer than you, Martha!’
I barked right back at her, ‘Yes, but is she as affectionate?’
Helen and Ian love me jumping up on their laps and kissing them…even if I add in the odd growl to let them know who is boss’. Yelp!
For those of you who haven’t seen one before, I took a snap of a guillotine lock near Kings Norton. Sounds a bit fierce to me, but apparently it’s not a water level changing lock – simply a device to isolate some of the canal when necessary.
It’s evening now and we’ve enjoyed a good day. Tom has steered for around seven hours and we are at Hockley Heath – we found a super little mooring next to just one boat. As Rosie, Leigh and I have managed a few towpath walks throughout the day we are all morethanhappy to cosy down, eat dinner and watch a but of TV.
There’s a series called Taboo running currently which Leigh loves…albeit it’s a bit dark for me so I’ll just curl up and snooze!