We left London on Thursday 25th July 2018 and floated out onto the Thames on a blazing hot day via Brentford. Toastie was just ahead of us, his first time on the Thames and Ali had already gone ahead, a few days earlier with Caroline. We were very sad to part ways with Jan and The Art Boat at Bulls Bridge after 3 months of travelling and trading together on the GU and in London. We had a fantastic last day together in the West End watching the superb 42nd Street, meeting up with Franky Tanner, enjoying our first experience of Bubble Tea and getting quite lost trying to get to Oxford Street, courtesy of my terrible sense of direction! Still, we wouldnt have found the Bubble Tea shop if we had gone in the right direction! The Thames didnt disapoint and was as stunning as ever; even more so I think in the glorious sunshine and the cooler air on the wide water was a welcome relief after the stifling stillness of London. Our first stop was Kingston and that meant that I got to meet up with Lucy and Sarah, both of whom I was at school with and Lucy's lovely girls, two of whom are my God Daughters! I got a sneak peak of middle daughter's amazing dress that she will be wearing in just over a months time at her wedding in Devon, met eldest daughters fiance and had timed it just right to be able to celebrate youngest dauhter's 21st Birthday. Next Stop was Hampton Court and an evening out at The Mute Swan with Sarah, Lucy and our O.H.'s. which involved much reminiscing, catching up and do you remember!
We stopped a night in busy Windsor in the shadow of the castle and then cruised on for a weekend of trading at Marlow. It was so lovely to be able to allow the doggies and ourselves to cool down in the river in the evenings, something that was not possible on the rubbish strewn and weed covered canals in London. The other plus point of cruising the Thames - wide paths that are far more suited to supporting shared space use and seperate cycle paths where they narrow - it all feels so much less stressful and more relaxing.... here, definitely #lifeisbetterbywater !
On the River Lea to be exact, where we have enjoyed a lovely peaceful few days cruising to Hertford which is as far as the Lea goes. We have travelled under blue skies and have enjoyed wall to wall sunshine; it is the Summer of our dreams and we can't think of anywhere we would rather be than cruising the waterways on Molly with our furry crew. We do feel as if we are on Holiday, but of course we are not. The Hippie Boat has a busy trading schedule to fulfill and there is a purpose as well as pleasure involved in heading up The Lea.
We are now in place for our next event, The Ware Festival 6th - 8th July. I have never been to Hertford or Ware before and I have been absolutely charmed by both of these gorgeous towns. The trip has also been a welcome breather from the madness of London, where we had been trading for most of June.
Our London adventure started with Towpath trading in Westbourne Green, following a fantastic Bank Holiday Weekend at the Boxmoor festival, Hosted by The Fishery Wharf Cafe
where the HippieBoat starred in a This NarrowBoat Adventure Youtube video
and featured in a Moored Like a Muppet youtube video with maggie & Jim
At Little Venice, we all celebrated Toastie's Birthday, met up with Sandra from The Doggie Boat and Toastie, Pete and Jan from The Art Boat got haircuts on the towpathfrom my good friend and mobile hairdresser Sharon
At Angel, Islington we enjoyed a visit from family and went to a fully Vegan pub www.theblacksmithandthetoffeemaker.co.uk/! It has been wonderful having so many attractions such as theatres, exhibitions, Galleries & Museums on our doorstep as well as so many famous landmarks and of course it is vegan heaven! The only downside......? Having to share a narrow stretch of towpath, not designed to accomodate hundreds of cycling commuters, joggers and pedestrians, the majority of whom are not interested in relaxing and enjoying time by the canal, as they just want to get from A-B as quickly as possible, often at the expense of those people who are attempting to find a calm environment to enjoy time away from the busy city streets. Anyway, watch this space for a dedicated blog about my views on the #sharethespace campaign coming soon!
After Ware, we are back into the city for the Mile End Fete & Floating Market
may the sun keep on shining and the cyclists slow down ☺️
At last the vacuum bags with our summer clothes have been dug out from the storage area under our sofa and flip flops and sandals have been retrieved from the back of the wardrobe and dusted off. We basked in the sunshine of the the Bank Holiday weekend in Berkhamsted, greedily soaking up every moment after such a long cold, wet and bleak winter; what a pleasure to be trading at a floating market on such a weekend and at the end of a busy day, to be sitting out on the towpath a long cool drink in hand, listening to the talented musicians jamming outside The Village Butty. It sound idyllic and it was.
Pete is ill again......I don't think that he was actually fully recovered from the last episode! I saw a post this morning about a study that found that husbands stress women out more than children - yes they do, especially when they answer 'I'm fine' in response to daily enquiries about how they feel, because you have a suspicion they are not quite right!! I realised that he had a fever at 4am, which spurred me to get up and fetch ibuprofen, put the kettle on, stoke the fire and crush a Garlic clove for his consumption, which he didn't dare refuse as he knew that I was cross that he stayed out all afternoon chopping wood with Toastie yesterday.
We left the services by Blisworth Marina early on Saturday morning and were moored up in lovely Stoke Bruerne by 8.15am, our first visit in 2 years. The sky was grey and it was clear that the fine rain was set in for the day. Pete was all for trading, but a quick scan of the towpath led to my assessing, that there was unlikely to be much footfall today and it was probably more sensible to catch up on some jobs and admin. In hindsight, I wish that I had made himself stay indoors and relax after a busy week of cruising in the cold and a couple of days spent with Toastie, helping a boater friend out, by replacing a dangerous wood burner and flue with fist sized holes - goodness knows how Dave had not succumbed to CO2 poisoning!! He did say that the morning after his replacement burner was fitted, that it was the first time that he had not woken up with a banging headache .
Anyway, himself is in bed coughing and sneezing well and that is where I would prefer him to stay. I have a large pot of bean & vegetable Fasolia Soup on the stove bubbling away, the birds are already singing and the forecast predicts a lovely day with prolonged spells of sunshine, so I am looking forward to setting up and trading today. It is still dark at 06.15am due to the clocks going back, which is strange, but this evening will see the first lighter evening of official Summertime. The weather does still have a bit of catching up to do, stubbornly refusing to yield to the expectations of the seasonal Calendar, but it is good to think of Warm Summer evenings, sitting out on the towpath with friends old and new, getting closer and the long dark, cold winter and hopefully illness, soon to be behind us.
After finally escaping the BCN (Birmingham Canal Network) yesterday and setting forth on our 2018 scheduled adventures, we had planned to make an early start down the Lapworth Flight this morning, but the pitter patter on the roof prompting a reccy out of the porthole, confirmed that it was raining hard!
We were awoken early, 6.05am to be precise, by Sparta chasing up and down the corridor after whatever poor little creature he had brought in to play with. Armed with my trusty sniffer dog Ruby, we located said small terrified furry behind the bedroom door, I picked him up, popped him into a suitable receptacle and then released the poor little thing back onto the towpath.
By that time I was wide awake, so popped the kettle on for coffee and picked up my iPad to check what is going on in everyone else’s world.
My fb was filled with the successes of children from the performing arts school that I used to teach at, who yesterday walked away from the Woodley Festival with a haul of individual and group medals for Acting & Musical Theatre. Woodley was my final festival with them last year and so it was a bit of a landmark day. It made my heart swell to look at their happy smiling faces in the photos, posted by proud parents and their proud teacher, to whom they are a credit and to whom so much credit is due, for her outstanding work with them this weekend and over the past year. I remain proud of and a keen supporter of every student I have ever taught, but I am especially proud of this teacher, whom I first met when she started at Sixth Sense Theatre aged just 5. We reconnected about 4 years ago, when I started teaching her own 5 year old daughter. She was on a career path, but it was clear that it was not a career in which she was utilising her immense creative talents and abilities or a path which was making her particularly happy. Skip forward 4 years and she is now in a job that she loves, lives and breathes and is brilliant at, and I have experienced first hand, how seeing potential in others can literally change their life, which is probably the most rewarding experience for any teacher. Looking at those photos, I did feel a pang of nostalgia, for something that was so much a part of me for so many years, but it was time and “All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on”(Havelock Ellis). so I hold on to my memories and the friendships that I have made, but let go of what it is now someone else’s turn to take forward, whilst we fully embrace our floating trading life and write new life chapters.
It still hasn't stopped raining, but we do need to get the boat to where the car has been moved on to by tomorrow night as it is an Isabel (Isabel is Pete’s elderly second cousin) week, so it is time to do some locks.
4 locks to be precise after which the sogginess of the day was given into and we and the dogs retired indoors to dry off - there is no rain forecast for tomorrow .... so far!
So, on the first Sunday of March we are due to attend the Parkhead Lock Open Day organised by CRT in conjunction with the Dudley Canal Trust.
Parkhead Locks is a flight on the Brimingham Canal Navigations, Dudley Canal Number 1 through route. The first short section was connected to Stourbridge in 1779, making it one of the oldest canals and the Parkhead Locks, connecting it to the BCN, some of the first to be built.
With news of the imminent arrival of 'The Beast From the East', bringing freezing weather conditions to the Midlands, we decided to beat the Beast and leave Birmingham, yesterday.
Less than a mile out of Brimingham, we hit the ice. Now the blacking recently applied to Molly at great expense and effort is intended to protect her bottom from rusting for at least 2 years..........unless she comes into contact with ice, which is liable to strip that blacking without mercy. The grinding, scraping, thumping sound of the ice moving against the hull, punctuated by occassional cracks echoing ominously throughout the boat thankfully sounded much worse (we hoped) than the actual impact of the quarter inch thick ice. We deliberated about proceeding, but decided that, hopefully this was the worst it would be, plus we had been assured that there was no ice at Netherton, our destination for the rest of the week.
Wrong! Half a mile further and the ice was half an inch thick. You wouldn't think that there could be much difference between a quarter of an inch of ice and half an inch, but there is - you dont just hear the ice breaking, you also feel it as the boat mounts the ice, slides to one side and then lunges violently downwards, often listing before the next rise and slide. If you should find yourself in this situation, the secret is to go very slowly so as to minimise potential impact and damage. Thankfully, we did not pass any moored boats on the icy sections as obviously, our movement and the breaking ice would scrape their blacking off like a razor blade!
As assured, there was no ice in Netherton and we arrived and moored up easily at the Beautiful Bumble Hole. Molly, however, is sporting an ice line, indelibly stamped on her new shiny blacking all around her water line! So when it is a bit warmer and the water tank is empty, she will be getting a touch up.
This week we have been in the dry dock at Hawne basin having the bottom of the boat painted with black bitumen paint, which helps to protect it in the water.
So in the early hours of this morning, I finally managed to trap and got to meet Ratty McRatface, before I said a goodbye of mixed emotions and released him back to the Rat population of Birmingham.
We have spent 7 weeks living alongside one another on Molly and except for the moment I discovered him clinging spread eagled to a wall behind a door, having escaped the eager claws & jaws of #boatcatsparta , he has not once shown his face! But, I have heard him ..... a lot!
Over the past 7 weeks, during which we have cruised to Netherton & back and spent 10 days away over Christmas & New Year, I have lived with the knowledge that Ratty McRatface was settling in nicely. I left food out over Christmas - it seemed the sensible thing to do if I was to minimise the possible carnage he might cause in his search for food. I have learnt a lot about rats (and mice) over the past 7 weeks and I know that they need to eat 10% of their body weight each day. Anyway, we arrived back to our boat on the 2nd January armed with a shiny new humane rat trap (those of you that know me personally, will know that I will always prefer to preserve a life, no matter how small) full of hope that we now had the means to evict our freeloading lodger.
Wrong, it took another documentary and further research well into the night to learn, that rats are much cleverer than we think and once they have seen a device in action, they will NEVER RETURN to it! I should have left the trap around filled with food but unset, in order to build our neophobic rat's confidence. I didn't and the trap went off and caught a mouse! Second night, another mouse! So, we are now 2 mice down, that we didn't know we were accommodating and I am very pleased about that, but Ratty still at large and our JRT Ruby In a nightly state of high excitement on duty in various places. The cat, sleeping soundly on the bed or sofa, not the least bit interested!
We cleared the food cupboard and put it all in a washing basket up high, we did the same with dog food - take away all possible food sources they said, the desperate rat will then have to go for the food in the trap! He didn't. So, admitting defeat, 2 different devices were ordered from Amazon and delivered to the CRT offices. I duly filled them with an array of tempting morsels, but didn't set them. With bated breath, I checked them on Thursday morning & Friday morning & the food was gone - I was elated, suddenly I felt as I was in with a chance of winning. Saturday morning food still there 🙄 but, Ruby was on duty all day by the hearth, so I figured Ratty may have got trapped under there overnight and was unable to return to his bed under the cratch due to dangerous obstacles, 3 dogs and 1 cat obstructing his path.
He was under there, we heard him Saturday evening! So, we took all dogs to bed with us and I set the trap! I woke about 4am, with a feeling, an intuition and armed with a torch I checked the trap nearest to the cratch and there was a little face looking up at me, I could hardly believe it, he was caught! So, we had a moment, me more than him if the truth be told and then I took him outside and released him from whence he had been brought in the jaws of our cat. Today we move on, the question is, do we take the cat?