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Sunday, 28 August 2011

One of my favourite spots

I’m still not sure how far I will be cruising next week but I will definitely be stopping at Great Haywood. This is where the Trent and Mersey meets the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal. It is the most beautiful spot and so although I haven’t started my holiday yet, I thought I would share some of my photos of the area with you…
great hayward trip 002This is the much photographed bridge at the canal junction. Fortunately it is pedestrian only so it won’t be shaken apart by traffic it was never built for, unlike some of our other canal bridges.

great hayward trip 001
This is the River Trent and the rather grand foot bridge leads to the Shugborough Estate which is open to the public. This is a great swimming hole with crystal clear water and is where I taught Bonny to swim!

shugborough hall mooring
This is the aforementioned Shugborough Hall. They have staff dressed up in Victorian garb and it is good for a visit. They also hold concerts and other events in the grounds. It is a well  watered area as the Rivers Trent and Soar run through the estate and the two canals run around the boundaries.

Gatehouse TixallThis is the gatehouse to the long disappeared Tixall Hall. It is taken from Tixall Wide, which is a beautiful spot where the Staffs and Worcester canal widens out into a lake and where kingfishers are regularly seen. Apparently, when the canal was built, the landowners would only consent to the canal being built across their land if it looked beautiful – hence the widening!

great haywood
Mooring in Tixall Wide is lovely but there is no shade, so when it is very hot (not this year!!) I moor around the corner on the Trent and Mersey with a view across to the Hall and welcome shade from a wooded area on the other side, with a pretty path running through it.

great hayward trip 001 (2)
So this will be us next week! I just hope this picture of my boat in the sunshine is prophetic, but even if it tips down every day, we will still have fun.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Excitement mounting!

This time next week I will finally be on holiday and able to cruise with just Bonny for company - Bliss! So far I have had two cruises this year and both were with friends. It's nice to share the experience with people, but I am aware that lately I have started to feel claustophobic with a prickly sensation of irritation with those around me, which is a sure sign that I have been around people too much and need to retreat for a while.

I have two whole weeks of freedom. I have been very indecisive as to where to cruise and have changed my mind on almost a daily basis. I am currently favouring going up the Trent and Mersey to Stone and then to Tixall Wide on the Staffs and Worcester, before possibly going to the Shropshire Union for a few days. Alternatively I may carry on past Stone and go up the Caldon Canal. Wherever I go, it will be slowly with plenty of stops. I have never been one to try and do a whole ring in a week which entails long days of constant cruising. I much prefer to get an earlyish start and cruise till 1 or 2pm and then stop, have lunch and then explore wherever I have ended up mooring or flop and watch the world go by.
The advantages of this approach is that I actually feel I have had a holiday, rather than to come home exhausted and aching. It also means I can usually moor where I want as most of the cruising public aren't looking to stop till later and so there are plenty of vacant moorings. The disadvantage is that I don't get to travel very far and so, thanks to work only allowing me little bite sized chunks of time, I tend to cover the same territory. Still, when my ship comes in (no pun intended) I will be able to cruise for months and years and go everywhere! Meanwhile both Stone and the Caldon will be new places for me - if I get there!

I know I regularly bemoan the fact that I have to work and would much rather be a full time idler, but recent rumblings at work have made me grateful to still have a job - I just hope that situation continues as being a 50 something female does not make for plentiful job opportunities!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Solar panel experiments

It is over a month since I fitted a solar panel to the roof of my boat and in all that time there has only been two fully sunny days!! However, in the last couple of weeks I have been recording how much sun we have had, what the percentage charge of my batteries are at the lowest point – in the morning after using power the previous evening, no sun overnight and the fridge running. Then I record what it is when I return from work, how long I then run the engine for to top the batteries up and what it shows after TV time when I go to bed.

It all sounds a touch anal, but my discoveries will hopefully ensure I only run the engine for as long as I need to in order to keep my batteries happy and thereby save money on diesel and engine wear. It will also ensure I don’t over estimate what the panel is doing and then run my batteries down too low.

For those of you who don’t know about leisure batteries and haven’t yet fallen asleep through boredom, I shall explain how to treat them nicely so they last as long as possible. This is important because a set of 5 good leisure batteries can cost around £350 to £400. Batteries have a limit of how many times you can charge and discharge them. It’s around 200 full charges and discharges. However if you don’t let the batteries discharge more than 50% of their power, you can double their life span. Ideally you want to keep them at between 60% and 80% although a friend who knows about these things told me yesterday that it’s OK to let them go to 50% but no lower. If they are consistently run down too low then they suffer sulphation and die quickly. for people living attached to shore power in marinas etc. their batteries could last for years and years. But for us hardy people who are permanently generating our own power, apparently we are doing well if our batteries last much over two years.

Right, end of technical stuff. I also wanted to mention again how close to Heaven Fradley Junction is for Bonny and I – particularly because of the plethora of walks there are on our doorstep. One of our favourites is around the grounds of a wedding and conference venue called Alrewas Hayes. It is a lovely old house surrounded by farmland. The whole atmosphere of the place is peaceful and welcoming. They don’t seem to mind us walking anywhere outside and I always get a friendly wave or thumbs up if I see the people who run it. The house signs show a motto which I assume has lasted since it was a family home. It is “To be rather than to seem”. I love it and think about the meaning of this for my own life while I walk. It’s not a cheap venue but if you are looking for somewhere beautiful, then check out their website.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Anger released

With the risk of drifting away from boating matters, I just wanted to follow up on the last post.

There has been a lot of anger floating around in the last weeks, for me personally and on a larger scale with the recent riots. Apart from the incidents related in my previous entry, I have also been really angry with the Church since I left it nearly 3 years ago. That anger, until recently, remained unexpressed and had festered inside me.

I have also been angry with my current employer. I work entirely unsupervised which is fine most of the time. However I am made to feel like a non person within the organisation. They do this by ignoring my emails and phone calls for stock or to resolve problems in the shop. They ignore requests for items we need like lights and tools etc. In two and a quarter years they have never once given me any feedback about the job I am doing. When I send suggestions about how we can improve, they might implement the suggestion but never acknowledge it has come from me. I haven’t seen anybody in a supervisory capacity since last Christmas! I could go on! The point of this is, until today this anger was unexpressed.

Two weeks ago I wrote to the head of the Church organisation I used to work for and expressed at great length how angry I was with the Church and where, in my opinion, it was going wrong. I certainly didn’t hold back and although I regret some of the more personal criticisms I levelled at the hapless boss, the relief I felt at finally expressing all my negative feelings was simply wonderful. It was like lancing a particularly badly infected boil. Today I repeated the exercise by writing to my current boss and expressing how I feel to be being treated with so little respect within his organisation. Again I feel like a coiled spring inside me has unwound, purely by expressing myself and letting the anger out.

Now I doubt either boss will take any real notice of what I have said, much less act on it, but I have said it and that’s what feels important. I wonder if the recent riots will do the same for an angry, fearful populace? Unfortunately I doubt it. You cannot keep people in a permanent state of fear and uncertainty without repercussions. Oh yes, I know most of the people involved were out to steal and damage without any thought of motive, but I also know that the messages coming from the state are that we should be financially terrified for the future, that many young people have little chance of securing good employment and that the planet itself is dying because of our lack of care. Follow that up with examples of the state machine acting with no sense of responsibility or morality (banking crisis, MP’s expenses, hacking etc.) and you have a perfect situation for the hope lacking populace to revolt.

I guess the question I am left with is – Is it healing enough to have expressed anger or do we also need the causes of our feelings to be addressed?

I promise, more boat related stuff next time!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Angry Episodes

In case it sounds like my life afloat is utterly idyllic, I thought I would share with you three episodes in one week where ‘real’ life broke in.

The first was a rare case of ‘canal rage’. I had been taking Bonny for her morning walk when I saw a boater friend by the lock and stopped for a chat. Another boater I know – a single hander - was using the lock. He had just got his boat in and was closing the gates, when a couple in a boat waiting in the other direction both went to the top paddles and, without even looking at my mate for permission, started to wind the paddles up as fast as they could. As I have mentioned in my previous entries, this is a BAD thing to do as it causes the boat to ram the front gates which not only empties all the cupboards on the boat, but can also damage the gates.

My mate shouted at them to stop winding as he scrambled to get back on his boat to control it. The male of the couple – he looked around 60 and pretty inoffensive – went off like an absolute fire cracker. He strode towards my mate with his windlass (a heavy and useful weapon) held high, screaming at him not to … tell him what to … do! My mate was standing perilously close to the edge of the cut and is no spring chicken himself. He put his hand up to grab the windlass and was breathlessly trying to explain to the man why he had shouted. But the red mist had well and truly descended and I could see that any moment my mate was either going to be brained with the windlass or pushed into the canal or both.

Without really thinking, I leapt to his defence and thrust myself in between the two men so I had my mate pressed into my back and the mad stranger eyeball to eyeball. It did cross my mind that I’m really too old for this, but summoning my best ex-police officer voice I told the man in no uncertain terms to let go off the windlass and step back. No reaction and spittle was starting to spray rather unpleasantly from his mouth. I then told him that if he wanted to hit a 50 year old woman with a windlass in front of witnesses then he should do it now before I pushed him into the cut to cool him down! The light started to die in his eye and I felt his grip loosen. Just then, his wife decided this would be a really good moment to join in. She tried to grab the windlass and kept yelping that they were only helping and they always help and they are really very helpful people. I saw her husband was about to get his second wind, so I snarled at his wife ‘back off’. She took one look at my face and did so. The husband then dropped the windlass and stalked back to his boat. The wife kept a death grip on the lock gate and kept repeating that she was going to help! Danger over, I left them to it.

I didn’t feel any fear during the incident, instead I went into the same zone that I used to inhabit in the police – a sort of detached rationality where everything seems to slow down and I could think through the next move without being overcome with emotion. What did frighten me was how I felt during the incident – a savage joy as the adrenalin surged because I knew I could control this situation and if necessary I had no qualms about using violence myself! I enjoyed ‘acting the hero’ and as a ‘peace lover’ that made me take a hard look at myself.

The second episode was less dramatic but happened only 2 days later. This time I was the hapless boater who was waiting for a boat to clear the lock before entering it myself. A boat came up behind me and rammed straight into my rear! (the rear of my boat that is!) I looked round and waited for the boater to apologise and back off but he did neither. Instead he and his wife told me I should have moved quicker and that they had been boating 30 years and so it couldn’t possibly have been their fault. When I pointed out that I couldn’t have moved because there was still a boat in the lock they asked how could they have been expected to see that because they had only just come round the corner. I was angry. I pointed out that had they come round the corner a little slower they would have seen the other boat and would not have hit me. I then walked off to set the lock. The man followed me and although not aggressive, was determined to have the last word. I promptly sunk to his level and kept answering back so that I would have the last jab! This carried on until I had left the lock and we were still sniping at each other as I cruised out of ear shot. Not my proudest moment!

The last incident – all in the same week involved a woman driving towards me on a single track road when our wing mirrors just touched as we passed. Mine wasn’t even knocked out of position since it was such a light touch, so I carried on up the road and stopped where I normally park. She turned around and drove up behind me in a great puff of smoke. When I got out of my car she was spluttering about leaving the scene of an accident and that she was in shock because I hadn’t stopped. She said she had thought I was a ‘boy racer’ – (I refer you to the pictures of my car in my last entry!) When we looked at both cars it was obvious there was no damage to either (although she had a go at suggesting I had caused what was obviously old damage to her mirror edge, before admitting it had happened some time ago). I pointed out that since there was no damage and no injury, there was in fact and in law no accident, and so there was no reason for me to stop. She replied that I should have stopped because she had suffered shock because I hadn’t! I can’t reason with that sort of logic and I think she realised how silly she was being so she left, having said I was lucky she had decided not to take it any further.

So, three incidents in one week all involving conflict. Was that a coincidence? After all I can go months and months with no arguments at all. Have I upset the flow of the universe in some way and this is its way of telling me? am I just being picked on, or is it perhaps God’s revenge as I recently sent a seriously angry email to the head of Church Army pointing out where he, the Church Army and the Church in general were going wrong? I don’t know, but if nothing else it has been a useful if uncomfortable reminder of what I have inside me and what I am still capable of!