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15. Aug, 2018

We travel the waterways with our 2 feline companions Bubble and Sam, and they had very different experience during our stay in Nottingham.

In the last instalment I told you that Bubbles was a ‘poorly pussy’, well this turned out to be a bit of an understatement.

We got to Nottingham just after lunch and moored up. I had managed to get an appointment for him with the vet at 4pm, and it couldn’t come quick enough. He made no protest when we manhandled him into the cat carrier for the short walk to the vets. Even at the vets he couldn’t get any strength up to meow or anything.

The vet was great, he took his temperature up the bum and not a sound from Bubbles, it was very high and examined his mouth and round his eye, poor Bubbles had no strength to fight him off. Bubbles had lost nearly a kilo in weight too.

The vet then explained that Bubbles had an abscess somewhere behind his eye, which was pushing his eye forward meaning it couldn’t close, and was drying out, which is not good for cats eyes. What had caused the abscess he couldn’t say for sure, might be a foreign body that had pierced his gums, or something to do with his teeth.  But the main thing was to get his temperature down and stop the infection. Also because he eye had dried out there was an ulcer now forming on his eye which would need an ointment.

Then poor Bubbles got jabbed twice with antibiotics and pain killers, but he really didn’t have the strength to object.

So £70 lighter, and with instruction to come back tomorrow, we took the poorly pussy back to the boat and made him comfortable, and being the caring owners we are we decided to go the pub, well there wasn’t a lot more we could do for him, just let the drugs work their magic.

So we potted off to the Olde Trip to Jerusalem, our favourite pub in Nottingham for a couple, and a bit of people watching. It is such a well known tourist attraction in Nottingham that you get all nationalities in there.

Next day and an early start off to the vets, Bubbles had perked up a little, but was still very sorry for himself.

The vet was happy to see some improvement, but Bubbles temperature was still very high, so he got jabbed again. The discussion turned to what further treatment might be required. The vet said if things didn’t improve drastically then an operation would be required, a) to find out the cause of the abscess, and b) to drain it to relieve the pressure on the eye. But he would wait another day before recommending the operation, as it was not guaranteed to do either.

So back we went, and to our relief Bubbles started eating again, and had a good drink of water and seemed easier in his self.

Next day and back to the vets early once again. A different vet this time and a quote for the operation he might need. Over £500, well when I had picked the Captain off the floor we went in to see the vet, and luckily for us she was happy with his improvement since yesterday, and was willing to give him another couple of days to see how he got on. She was more concerned about the flea infestation he had, and advised us to treat him and Sam using something stronger than shop bought treatments. So £146 later and laden down with antibiotics painkillers flea treatment and more eye anointment we went home.

Then the Captain left me, not as bad as it sounds. He went back up north to see his new grandson Stanley, I was supposed to go but what with Bubbles, and finding somewhere safe to leave the boat, it wasn’t really doable.

So I had the joy of taking Bubbles to the vets on Friday on my own. I got him in the cat carry no problem, but getting him out again when we were in the treatment room was another thing, he really didn’t want to come out, but come out he did, with a bit of persuasion.

I was very happy when they weighed him and he had gained half a kilo, and even happier when the vet said he didn’t need the operation, and if we were moving off at the weekend she would furnish me with a letter outlining his treatment, and more antibiotics to make sure the infection was completely gone. He is now nearly back to his normal self but still needs drops in his eyes, and to finish the antibiotics, but then hopefully that will be that.

And now on to the tale of Sams visit to Nottingham.

Sam as you know has found it very hot on the boat, and she is always trying to get off to find somewhere cool to sleep. Well were we moored was a bench which was just perfect for Sam, and she soon took up residence, only coming in now and again for food and bits. This wasn’t a problem as we could see her.

The towpath were we were moored is very busy with walkers, cyclists and other boats. This was nearly the undoing of Sam.

People in the main are always intrigued to see a cat on the towpath, so lots of people stopped to look and stroke her, which she lapped up. Some people were more interested than others, and don’t seem able to associate cats with boats. One particular gentleman was most worried that she was lost or a stray, and nearly got to the point of taking her home with him. I was listening to the conversations he was having with others on the towpath, and on his phone, and eventually I had to get up and stick my head out of the side hatch and call Sam, who of course came thinking she was getting fed. Then started what became a very regular conversation, ‘is she yours’... ‘yes’..... does she live on the boat’ ......’yes’ ..........’oh that’s unusual how interesting’

He was most apologetic, and explained because she looks so skinny he had actually been and bought her a tin of tuna, (we were moored outside Sainsburies) and that he had some treats and cat food at home. I said thank you so much for taking the time to care about our old lady and off he went.

He left the treats and tin of cat food on the back of the boat next morning, well I think it was him.

Then the Captain had a bright idea and wrote a note,

My name is Sam, I live on the boat opposite,

I am not lost or a stray

I am an old lady of 17yrs and that’s why I am so skinny.

I am well fed and just enjoy sleeping on the bench.

He pinned this to the bench, and over the time we spent there it caused much amusement to passersby and to ourselves. Sam made many friends in those few days, and many of them stopped off for a chat with us.

I posted about it on the Facebook page ‘Cats on the Cut’, and had visits from fellow boaters who just had to come along and say hi to Sam.

I would think she is now the most photographed cat in Nottingham, and its lovely that she bought so much joy and amusement to peoples lives.

Oh and her attitude towards dogs has not improved, and she stood her ground with more than a couple whilst sitting on her bench. I think she forgets how small she is. Luckily most dogs gave her a wide berth or just a passing sniff.

And how did us humans get on in Nottingham? well we had a great time, and my daughter came to visit and took me out for lunch which was lovely. I didn’t like spending the night alone on the boat when the Captain headed north, but needs must at times and I was fine.

Saturday and time for the off, we are heading on to the Trent and to Newark, then off up the Chesterfield canal, but that’s for next time folks.

PS Bubbles is fine now xx

9. Aug, 2018

So here we are at Langley Mill basin, and of course we had to have a pint in The Bunny Hop, a great micropub round the corner and The Great Northern next door to the basin. The Captain wasn’t disappointed in either. Plummeth the Hour, a plum porter by Old Sawley Brewing Company, and Vixien stout by Abstract Jungle brewery, both very quaffable.

Friday and a quiet day, we watched a few boats come up the last lock and into the basin, but no one seemed to want to stay, and they winded and went back the way they had come. Very strange. Langley Mill basin is lovely, with shops, pubs and right on the bus route to Derby and Nottingham. Nowt as strange as folk.

Saturday, and our reason for being in Langley Mill this particular weekend, the Elvaston Steam Rally. We caught the bus to Ripley and were chauffeured to the event by my son Adam, with daughter Jess not far behind. A proper family day out.

It was another very hot day and there was little or no shade on the field, but the rally was great, with a good number of traction engines both full size and miniature in attendance. I managed to catch up with a couple of old friends whilst there. My daughter in law Julie was fascinated by the whole experience (she is from the Philippines so it was all new to her). We had a wonderful time and got back to Ripley just in time to join my sister Di, and hubby Mick to watch the football in the pub, and England did us proud.  After a couple more pints in Ripley we caught the bus back to the basin with Di and Mick, and continued the party back at the boat.

Sunday and it was much too hot cook breakfast on the boat, so we decided to give the Great Northern a try. The last time we had been in for a meal it had been an unmitigated disaster so had given it a miss for a couple of years. But now it was under new management, and lo and behold it was someone Di knew (she knows everyone). We had a carvery which was lovely, with plenty of meat and good value at £7.99.

We said our goodbyes and we headed back to the boat, and Di and Mick went off to the Bunny Hop for a pint before catching the train home. We just had a quiet afternoon and a visit from Adam and Julie.

We had a couple of visitors during the week, Andrea came on Monday, we had worked together at Denby, and she was fascinated by the boating life. I t was lovely to see her and meet her partner Gary. Chris Groves also popped over, also from Denby, so I was well up on all the gossip by the time they had both been.

We spent the week in the basin, and the trend of boats coming up and not staying continued, very strange. We tried unsuccessfully to use the Captains Christmas present, the microlight flight over the Derbyshire dams, for although the weather was hot, the wind was strong and gusting. We will try another time. We also investigated Eastwood, famous for being the birthplace of DH Lawrence. It has 2 micropubs, Mellors Mews and the Dog and Parrot. Out of the 2 we preferred the Dog and Parrot, but I can’t really put my finger on why, both had a good selection of real ales and world lagers on, but it was just a feeling. Both worth a visit when next you are passing.

And how did the cats find the basin? they loved it. Sam took refuge from the heat under the lock beam, and I was surprised how many boaters never saw her there when they were doing the locks. There is a bench which various groups of people used, so Bubbles the tart had his audience most of the week. Even Sam took to visiting the bench when certain people took her fancy.

However towards the end of the week we started to realise that Bubbles wasn’t himself at all, and originally I thought he had an infection in his eye, so bathed it with cool boiled water, but it didn’t improve, and he seemed to be sleeping more and was off his food.  

The decision was taken to head off slightly earlier than planned, so on Friday we did the first half of the journey down to the Gallows, and then to Trent Lock on Saturday.

Moored at Trent lock and both cats decide to take up residence on the boat behind us, but it wasn’t a problem as the owners liked cats. For a change it was Sam who had to be evicted next morning before they left. The boat in front of us caused us a minor problem, as they decided to run their engine at just gone 8pm, for those that don’t know, the rule is that engines should only be run between 8am and 8pm. Being such a nice evening we had all our cratch covers and windows open, so the noise and to a degree the fumes were annoying. So off I went to enquire if they had a problem which meant they needed to run their engine. The gentleman was most apologetic, and maybe a little tipsy, and he didn’t realise what time it was and he would happily turn it off. We had a nice chat and I warned them about the cats. A great outcome to something that could have turned nasty.

Sunday and an unplanned visit by the kids, and we spent a lovely afternoon sitting in the sun at the Steam Boat. We tried the food and it was good for what it was.

As we were saying our goodbyes by the lock, a boat started to lock up and it was nearly a disaster. With everyone watching the boat came right forward in front of the offside gate, they had let a small inflatable dinghy join them in the lock and were obviously trying to give it plenty of room. This was fine until the crew from the narrowboat wacked both gate paddles up before opening the side paddles. Now some of you might not understand why this would be a problem, the problem is the gate paddles allow a strong flow of water, a bit like a mini waterfall into the lock, and can flood a boat easily if it is too far forward like this one was. By opening the side paddles first and letting the lock half fill this doesn’t happen.

There was a lot of shouting as the water poured onto the front of the boat, and even worse it had its front doors open, so the water went straight into the cabin, the Captain thinks it can take only 25 seconds to sink a boat in this way. I and others were shouting and gesturing to the woman on the offside to close her paddles, but she just looked vacantly at us. Luckily the steerer pulled the boat back before it got any worse. A heart stopping moment to finish our afternoon off.

Next morning and Bubbles was getting worse, he wouldn’t even contemplate cheese, his favourite treat. So up and off, but not before putting water in. As we did a small tug appeared at the lock which was great, and shared the lock with Pat Barleycorn on Ezra. As we set the lock a man and woman appeared and watched us, I recognised them as the couple operating the lock the previous afternoon. I got into conversation with the man, and it turned out they had only bought the boat that weekend, and were complete newbies to boating, that explained to a degree what had happened the day before. They are intending to head up to the Llangollen, and I pointed them in the direction of a CRT chugger who had turned up with a large map of the canal system for more advice. I wish them luck, and ask any of my boater friends who read this to give them good advice, and help should you see them. The boat is called Windsong, about 40ft long, dark blue gunnels with light blue sides.

We shared the locks to Nottingham with Pat and Ezra, and whilst travelling I phoned a vets who was close to the canal and could see Bubbles that afternoon.

So we are now in Nottingham, moored up in a nice spot and only a few minutes walk from the vets, and Pat is moored in front of us.

An update on Bubbles in the next blog.

 

29. Jul, 2018

We have done 372 miles, 282 locks, 6 swing bridges and 8.2miles in tunnels since we left Coventry at the end of April, not bad going.

Right where were we, after our very enjoyable chinese at the Navigation, the following day we tackled the 12 locks and 7 miles into the centre of Leicester, and headed towards Castle Gardens pontoons with Linda and Martin on Dragonfly.

It is lovely to share locks with another like minded couple.

However when we reached Leicester, and after we had done much needed shop at Lidl, there was no room at the inn for us. The pontoon was full. We then went to the pontoon at Friars Mill and this was also full (sad face), but the Captain was not to be outdone and we returned to Castle Gardens,  he managed to moor us back end on the pontoon, and against the wall. This would suffice until someone left. After a very hot day, we decided to stay on the boat rather than walk into town for a pint.

There was a very friendly boater already there and we chatted for a while, I was a little concerned he had a dog, a little wire haired terrier called Ruff, but the dog just ignored the cats after a bit of sniffing round were they had been sat. The cats were not so sure and gave her a wide berth, but it was too hot for any shenanigans and all 3 soon settle down on the pontoon to sleep. Ruff did pay us a couple of visits on the boat, but not when the cats were on board.

Next day and we walked into Leicester, we needed a few bits and to post a birthday card. Of course we had to try the pub, and made for the High Cross, the main Wetherspoons, but did not stay as there was nothing on for the Captain. Luckily the pub opposite, the Wygston’s House, had a beer festival on so off we went. At first it seemed a poor do as there were only 4 real ales on the bar, but after a bit of investigating I discovered the stillage hidden away in the beer garden with a good choice of beers. There were a couple of darks for the Captain so we sat in the shade and had a couple.

The weather was still very hot, and the cats were finding it hard to get in the shade as the sun moved round during the day. When we returned we found Bubbles had taken up residence on the boat behind us, and had found a cool chair to doze in. Luckily the couple liked cats and he was able to stay put. Sam is not such a tart and rarely visits other boats.

Our reason for stopping in Leicester for a couple of days was to catch up with Heath and Jennifer, which we did after a quiet day Friday doing nothing. Being from Leicester they took us on a proper pub crawl round the city centre. I can’t or won’t go through all the pubs we went in, but we had a great time. I got to try my first flavoured gin, a Seville orange one and very nice it was to.

Saturday and time to set off for the Erewash Canal and Langley Mill basin, we planned to get there for Thursday. It was a beautiful journey, the River Soar is very pretty and rural, with beautiful houses with lovely gardens lining much of the route.

Here we spotted the neon blue and orange of our first kingfisher, we always love to see these beautiful birds, but they never stop long enough for us to get a proper view of them. Darting away in front of us down the canal, this one led us a merry dance for a good mile or so before disappearing into the bank. For such colourful birds they are extremely hard to spot once they go to ground.

Martin and Linda left Leicester before us and came to say goodbye, hopefully we will see them again soon.

So going out of Leicester, we were joined by 2 gentlemen single handers on NB Bethany Elise and NB Kingbere. Bethany Elise, I recognised the name but couldn’t place it until he said he moored at the Longford Engine pub just outside Coventry, then it made sense. We helped them out when we could, but neither where going as far as us, and soon we said goodbye to both of them. We moored up in the middle of nowhere for the night.

Sunday and the decision was taken to make for Barrow on Soar so the Captain could watch the F1 grand prix, but we struggled to get a tv signal and he had to make do with his laptop.

After the grand prix, and because it was Sunday, we decided to try the pubs in the village. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your interest in the football world cup, 3 of the pubs were full of noisy supporters and not conducive to having a quiet drink, plus there was no darks for the Captain, but then we hit jackpot. What looked like more of a gastro pub than a village pub, the Blacksmiths Arms was lovely, as was the owner. The Captain was one happy bunny when he found they had a bottled chocolate stout called Black Hen from Charnwood Brewery, and it was quiet and had a very nice ambience. I perused the menu and although not cheap it looked very interesting and not your usual pub grub. Well worth a visit.

Monday and back to the World Cup, England were playing Belgium, so we got to Zouch and moored up for the night, but not before we had helped a complete novice on a trip boat through a couple of the locks. He was having a whale of a time, but I am not sure his female companion was too. As we were going down the locks I did explain to him, that on his return journey he would be filling the locks, and to be careful of the gate paddles, which when opened produce a strong flow of water into the lock chamber. I hope he got what I was telling him. Oh and for those who don’t know, we lost 1-0 against Belgium, but we didn’t need to win so no problem.

So we continued up the beautiful River Soar in the wonderful sunshine, and boy was it hot. We made it to Trent Lock by early afternoon and moored up for the night. The Steam Boat usually has a dark on, but the Captain was disappointed this time as it had just run out, so he made do with Boddingtons.

It was here that Sam decided it was too hot to ignore dogs walking by, and much to the amusement of us, and the owner of a little black highland terrier, she stood her ground, hissed and took a couple of swipes at the poor dog before the Captain took charge, and placed her unceremoniously on the roof. We told her off soundly, but it made no difference, as later she picked on a collie, luckily for her the collie was used to cats and simply ignored her. Hopefully when it cools down so will her temper.

We were a little worried about the number of boats coming up the locks and heading up the canal. The basin at the top has moorings for about 5 boats, and we really needed to moor there for the weekend, but there was not a lot we could do apart from wait and see.

The Erewash is 12 miles long with 15 double and quite heavy locks, so we decided to split the journey in 2 and stop at Gallows Lock in Ilkeston overnight. The water is lovely and clear, and the sun was out so it was a lovely cruise. I had help at one of the locks, and the gentleman claimed to be a musician and one of Lulu’s backing group, The Luvvers. The Gallows pub had Theakstons mild on for the Captain so we had a couple before retiring for the night.

As we set off next morning we met another boat going up and offered to share the locks with them, they didn’t seem overly enthusiastic at the idea, but we paired up all the way to the basin.

Through the last lock and we leave the Erewash and join the Cromford canal, unfortunately the Cromford is no longer accessible to boats after this point, hopefully in the future it will be opened up allowing boats to travel through the beautiful Derbyshire countryside.

Also in the basin is the junction of the Nottingham canal, which is one of the lost canals.

Elvaston Steam Rally next, and more footy.  

17. Jul, 2018

Well we have arrived in Leicester to meet up with friends Heath and Jennifer.

How did we get here???

It all started at The Watford locks. This set of locks compromise of 2 single locks at the bottom, following by a staircase of 4 locks, and a single lock at the top. They have to be controlled by lockies as it is one way working, up or down. Opened in 1814 they lift the canal 16m to the ‘Leicester Summit’ which it maintains all the way to Foxton Locks.

Unfortunately for us, when we arrived they were bringing boats down, which meant we had to wait, but rather than just sit around on the boat waiting for our turn, we went to help those coming down. This is what boating is all about for me, everybody mucking in. Some of the other boat crews waiting to go up however didn’t share my ethos, and seemed happy to sit back and watch whilst others did the work.

Some of the boats coming down were old working boats, they were heading for Braunston and the annual Vintage Boat gathering there. When it was our turn to head up the locks the Captain found that these boats had blocked him in, and it took a bit shuffling about to get our boat out and into the lock. Once in it was an easy journey up the locks and on our way to Crick.

The Wheatsheaf at Crick is one of our go to pubs, as they have had a dark on tap for the Captain, London Stout, but not today. They said they couldn’t sell enough, so he had to make do with Gladiator from Dow Bridge brewery, it was a quaffable bitter but not his usual choice.

Then off through Crick tunnel, at 1,528yrds and built in the early 19C by Benjamin Bevan, it is wide enough to allow 2 boats to pass. It can be quite scary when another boat is in the tunnel coming towards you. The Captain is now an expert at passing safely in these situations.

We were heading down the Welford Arm for a couple of days, and to meet up with some old old friends of the Captain who he used to glide with. Yes the Captain has many feathers to his bow, and when younger was a gliding instructor, and used to take part in gliding competitions.

The Welford arm is 1.6km long, and built in 1814 as a navigable feeder to link Welford reservoir to the GU. It is a pretty rural piece of canal, and at is end is the Wharf pub, and lo and behold they had a beer festival on.

The main reason for going down the Welford arm was, not only for the Captain to meet his friends, but to attend an anniversary open day at the local gliding club. The Coventry Gliding club was founded in 1953 so is 65yrs old. It is based at the Gliding Centre at Husband Bosworth. One of the Captains old friends Phil Willsher, or known to his friends as Pooh Bear, had offered to be our chauffeur for the event. Originally we had only planned to go on the Saturday, but this changed when we found out that some of the people he wanted to see would only be there Friday night, so Pooh Bear came and picked us up and we had a lovely time, and even helped with the setting up of the event.

On returning to the basin we gave the beer festival a try, and it was great. The Captain tried Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby, Nene Valley Eygptian Cream Stout and from Blue Monkey a rather unusual Bluebard and Custard bitter. I was happy with Thornbridge Jaipur and Salopian Lemon Dream.

Next afternoon and Pooh Bear picked us up as promised. I have never seen how gliders get airborne and there are a couple of ways. They can get a tow from a light aircraft, or more breathtaking is a winch tow. Basically the winch is at the far end of the field, and the long long cable is attached to the front of the glider. The winch pulls the cable in and the glider suddenly takes flight, I was amazed how quickly the gliders got up in the air. At a certain height the cable is disconnected and the glider is as free as a bird to enjoy the ride on the thermals and ridges.

Sunday and we headed back down the arm and off to Foxton Locks. First we had to negotiate Husband Bosworth tunnel, at 1160yrds its not too long. Built in 1813 the actual village of Husband Bosworth sits on the top of the tunnel.

Of course we had to watch England destroy Panama 6-1, so a quick stop before moving on and mooring for the night at the top of the locks. We walked down the locks and had a chat with one of the Lockies, Annette, she said it hadn’t been too busy so it boded well for the next day. We tried a couple of pints in Bridge 61, no darks for the Captain, but he found Inclined Plane by Langton brewery drinkable, this beer is brewed especially for the pub, and named after the Foxton inclined plane which is no longer in operation. Bridge 61 is a funny little pub but does a great trade.

We tried the Foxton Lock Inn which is a huge pub opposite. A little more expensive, and not as quirky as Bridge 61, but they had Old Peculiar on so a very happy Captain.

Foxton locks were the first locks I ever did when we first hired a boat, which was a baptism of fire to be honest. A staircase of 10 single locks split in half with a passing pound in the centre, and like Watford passage, they are controlled by Lockies and you have to book in. On this occasion we were lucky and boats were going down with only one boat in the centre pound waiting to come up, we were told to follow NB Six Belles down. The lockies were helping a single hander down, so me and the crew off Six Belles were left to our own devices. There are 2 paddles on these locks, one red and one white, and you have to do them in the right order. Always red first. I remembered a little rhyme taught me by the first lockie I met

‘Red before white and you will be alright, white before red and you will wish you were dead.’

A little dramatic but it rhymes. The white paddle fills the lock from the lock above depending which way you’re going and the red empties or fills the water to the side pond. This is to conserve water and keep the correct levels in the locks.

At the bottom, and we moored up for the day, as later on we were meeting up with David and Sandra Biddle off NB Captain Hastings. They were coming by car not boat, but Bridge 61 is one of their favourite pubs and it was great to catch up. They let us into a little secret, and that’s all I am saying for now.

Next day and we didn’t get far at all, we had planned to do the 12 locks to Kilby Bridge and the Navigation pub, but after the 2nd lock we were stopped in our tracks by low water, and advised by a gentleman from CRT to moor up and wait for him to run water down to solve the problem. This took about 3 ½ hrs. There were a few boats ahead of us and we hoped to pair up with one of them and get as far as we felt like going. But this plan seemed to go out of the window when one decided to moor up for the night, then another winded (turned round), that just left one in front of us and we spotted it as we entered a lock, but had no way of attracting their attention. Then along came a walker and we asked him to pass a message on, and there at the next lock was NB Dragonfly and Linda and Martin waiting for us. Pairing up meant we made it to Kilby Bridge in good time.

We decided to eat at the pub, it had been a long hot day and the reviews looked good, Linda and Martin joined us. Disaster, it was the chefs night off so no food, at the bar we discussed what we had on the boat, and then the landlord very kindly offered us some takeaway menus, plates and cutlery, and said we could use the dining area to eat. Chinese was ordered which was excellent and a good price, and we enjoyed a couple of pints. Well done that man.

After a hot frustrating day it was a nice end to it.

That’s all folks

9. Jul, 2018

Right back to our journey.

We left Leighton Buzzard and were joined in the first lock by what I will describe as a lackadaisical family on their boat. They were just so laid back, so I will call them the hippy boat. As they were waiting for someone to come, we did not think we would see them at the next lock.

However our journey was slow, as we were entertained by a family of mandarin ducks, and then a spectacular low flying display by a beautiful Red Kite. The Captain took loads of pictures whilst the boat drove itself sedately along.

So the hippy boat caught us up and we shared the locks at Soulbury. This is where the 3 locks pub is, and the pub was busy with lots of gongoozlers to watch our progress down. The Captain was concerned to see some young children running across the lock gates, it’s quite a drop when the lock is empty, and a wet drop if it is full. I managed the engage the said children in helping me do the gates. I also chatted to people watching.

The hippy boat stopped for water at the bottom of the locks and we continued on our own, but not too far and we moored up for the night.

Next morning I was rudely awakened very early by voices, I had a look through the curtains, and 2 men were on the towpath at the back of the boat on the phone. It worried me to start with until I spotted the tub of fish food, and I realised they were preparing to fish.

What I didn’t realise it wasn’t just them, and when we got up at a civilised time we were surrounded by fishermen, the nearest was almost sitting on our bow, it was match. Luckily we hadn’t planned on moving, but we watched with amusement as boat after boat came through, and the fishermen raised their over long poles in a silent salute. The hire boat season had started.

Our next port of call was Fenny Stratford just outside Milton Keynes. The Captain had organised to collect his prescription and some new rope from there. It also meant we could catch with his sister Ann and hubby Chris again.

First we tried the Chequers pub, great real ale place with a very knowledgeable barman, but unfortunately for me as it turned out, no prices on the pumps. There were 3 dark ales for the Captain to try, a Cherry Stout by Magpie, Luna by Blackened Sun and Embrace the Daylight by Whiplash. He tried all 3 and on the last round (my round) it was the turn of Embrace the Daylight, ‘a pint please’..... ‘that will be £10.90’ I nearly died 2pints over a tenner. The Captains pint was £7.20. OUCH. But he said it was very nice. It better have been.

We met Ann and Chris next day at the Pear Tree bridge. A couple of years ago it was a Crown Carvery, which when we went had run out of meat. It has now been rebranded as Stonehouse, it still has a carvery but does pizza and other things. Just outside the pub is a boaters water point, and unfortunately someone had moored on it. I recognised the boat as a hire boat that we had seen early with a young family on board, but there was no sign of them. They turned up in a car as we waited for our guests arrived, and another boater tried to explain they shouldn’t be moored there but to no avail. (more on this boat later)

We had a lovely meal with Ann and Chris, the new menu is a big improvement on the previous one.

Next morning, and as usua,l we had to get our fix of facebook. The owner of the narrowboat that was on the water point was looking for it, as the hirers seemed to have lost their bearings, don’t ask me how, as there are only 2 ways to go on the canal, in this case north or south. We messaged her and let her know where we had seen it, and to inform her about their poor mooring. They also dumped some rubbish outside the pub which really isn’t the done thing either. She was very apologetic.

Then a wonderful surprise. Our friends Mr Kev and Lorraine from Portsmouth rung to say they were coming up north for a short break, and would it be possible to meet up somewhere. After consulting with the Captain it was decided Weedon Bec was the perfect place, and Sunday was the perfect day.

To get there we had to tackle the Stoke Bruene locks, as we managed to pair up with another boat for most of these its didn’t take that long, so the Captain decided to press on and go through the Blisworth tunnel. It was very very wet, but we soon dried off when we moored up.

We got to Weedon Bec a day early and decided to check the local pubs out, but it wasn’t a very successful expedition, and the Captain wasn’t impressed at all. We started in the Heart of England which is a Marstons pub, and usually has Hobgoblin on, but not today, it had been replaced by a pale ale especially brewed for the world cup. The Captain expressed his disappointment to the young lady serving us, but she had very little sympathy, which didn’t help his mood. Of the other 4 pubs we tried only The Plume of Feathers had a dark on, but there was a funny smell so only one in there. The Wheatsheaf did have John Smiths on so he was a little happier.

So the happy day arrived and we were reunited with our friends. It was the anniversary of our first fortunate meeting, and Lorraine’s birthday, so plenty to celebrate. They very kindly nipped us to Lidl to do some shopping, and on the way back we stopped off at the White Hart at Flore, they had John Smiths on, but what we didn’t spot was the bottles of Hobgoblin in the fridge. Then we tried the Narrowboat which didn’t really impress. We ended up back in the Heart of England for tea and the Captain went on soft drinks, yes it was that bad. We ended the night in the Wheatsheaf. It always lovely when we get together, and very sad when we have to say goodbye. They had a boat and sold it a couple of years ago, but are talking about possibly getting another, but for holidays rather than to live on. Hope they will join us back on the water at some point.

Next day and back to the reality of locks, and the Long Buckby Flight. Unfortunately there were boats going up ahead of us, but no one coming down, which meant I had to set the lock for us every time, but it also meant I got to help the boats in front of us, which is what boating for me is all about. Well that was until the last lock of the day, and my brain just gave up. I wacked the bottom paddle up with out looking, then realised the top gate was open, I closed this and walked away, I then turned and realised there was a boat coming who should have had the lock first, but it was too late. I apologised to the Captain and crew profusely and they were very good about it.

We moored up below the last lock where the New Inn is but did not go to the pub. We sat watching TV when a hire boat pulled up and tried to moor. The Captain being a kindly soul went out to help and advise. I popped out just to be nosey, as did Bubbles and Sam. The older couple were from Australia, he was English and she was Australian. Heather had broken her arm in a bad riding accident and we got chatting. She explained that they were hoping to sell up in Oz in a few years and buy a boat to live on for a while. I was happy to answer her questions and showed her round Avalon Two. In the meantime Bubbles was making himself comfortable on her daughters knee in the bow of their boat, and that’s where he stopped for the rest of the night, well until they went off to the pub for tea.

We have connected on facebook and I look forward to following their journey on to the canals of England.