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To risk is to live!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Happy New Year

A happy 2013 to you all.

I am well on my way to having a great New Year thanks yet again to the kindness of friends. Yesterday, with the help of Stan and Colin – another moorer at Hunts Lock, I finally completed my three month journey back to my mooring! It was accomplished in the pouring rain but I rewarded the men with a bacon and egg butty on arrival.

It is hard to believe that it was all the way back on 1st October when I was last here on the mooring. It was a little nerve wracking to get off the boat and walk around. I had forgotten how lumpy and how much on a slope my particular mooring is. I stood on the precise spot where I had broken my leg and remembered how it had been.

Bonny is delighted to be back and has been busy re-acquainting herself with all the smells and sights and revelling in at last being able to spend time outside. So far she has been brilliantly behaved – even off the lead.

Meanwhile, my next door neighbour Fitzy told me that he was moving off the mooring as they are going to start living on their boat and are planning to moor in a more convenient place for them. His mooring is much flatter than mine and so that much safer. I asked him if I could move on to his mooring when his notice period was up (you have to give a month’s notice to quit a mooring) He came to see me today and said I could move on immediately! He even gave me some wood for free and sold me his very nice garden bench for a pittance and a bottle of wine! I have written to the moorings officer to tell her what is occurring but she won’t mind as she was concerned about the safety of my mooring anyway, and CaRT lives in fear and trembling that someone will sue them when hurt on one of their moorings.

Finally Harry – yet another of my lovely neighbours -  came along just as I was starting to move the boat forward on to Fitzy’s mooring. He dropped his shopping and not only moved the boat for me, but then moved my coal and other bits and pieces from my old mooring to the new. He said if I needed any other help, I was to call on him any time. Can you believe it? People are just so kind and helpful and I have really noticed that since I injured myself.

So I am sitting here on my new mooring – only a few feet from my old mooring but it still feels like a whole new start. There are less trees here and so my solar panel will work better, but the main advantage is that I can safely walk around the mooring and that is brilliant. It’s going to take a while for Bonny to get used to her garden having moved, but she will adjust. It has helped Neville too as his new boat Percy is longer than Waterlily and he has had to moor partially under trees. He is planning to move up a bit, now there is space and we will both work on the moorings officer to persuade her not to re-auction the remaining space as it is very lumpy and bumpy and someone else might fall on it!

Photos to follow when it finally stops raining – if it ever does!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

A Very Happy Christmas to my Readers

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This is actually my neighbour Neville’s boat but I thought it made a nice Christmassy picture. Neville is actually selling Waterlily so if you are looking for a really nice boat – here you are and it’s on brokerage at Great Haywood!

I was due to go to my brother’s house for Christmas but my leg is not sufficiently mended to be able to drive to Sevenoaks. Instead I shall be endeavouring to be festive here at Fradley. I shall be having Christmas lunch with my lovely friends Graham and Jan, together with Bon’s partner, Bernie!

I shall be having a Boxing Day lunch with a more recent friend, but a good one - Stan. He is a boater, but also has a house at Fradley Junction. He was the man kind enough to take me to the hospital to have my cast removed and has been helping me ever since. He also enjoys visiting canal side pubs on a regular basis, so my social life has suddenly lurched into life!

My Christmas wish is to be able to, at last, return to my mooring before the New Year. I really miss the peace of fields rather than road and seeing my neighbours. My leg is improving every day and I am ready to practice pushing a wheel barrow. As soon as I can successfully transport rubbish and shopping, I will return. Meanwhile I have had my first little cruise, with Stan’s help. We took ‘Don’t Panic’ to Streethay to pump out and diesel up. I spent a sleepless night worrying about it, but for no good reason as it went fine. I reversed into a lock for the first time! I did all the manoeuvring and Stan did most of the steering as I couldn’t stay upright for the time required. I’m really glad to have been out on the boat again, as was Bonny who immediately took up her accustomed position on the roof.

I hope you all have a lovely and dry Christmas! I particularly wish that for my poor, flooded Devonian friends. I hope for you and for myself an accident free and hope filled 2013!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Another year passes…

It is my birthday today and so I have been spending a little time reflecting on the past year. It has been full of highs and lows; the highest high being my cruise in the summer, the highest bit of that was crossing the Pontcysllyte Aqueduct…

boat crossing pont

The low points include losing my job and breaking my leg…

disastrous end!

I think the most significant part of the year though is the changes it has brought about in me. I thought solitude and ploughing my own furrow was everything and that anybody who ‘invaded my space’ was to be resisted. I indulged in that solitude to the full on my cruise and absolutely loved it. I came back dreaming of finding a solitary mooring, away from all the stresses and strains of living alongside other people.

Then I broke my leg, and in one stroke was totally dependent on the kindness and care of others. And how my friends rose to the challenge!! Despite me pushing people away and being generally unsociable, they looked after me and enabled me to move back onto my boat and survive on it. This has changed me at a profound level. I feel that I can really trust people for the first time in my life. Now I am seeing my friend Jan every day when she helps walk Bon and it’s lovely. If for any reason she can’t stay for a cuppa afterwards, I miss her! If anyone had told me that I had to see someone every day, be accompanied to go shopping, laundry, walks etc. I would have said ‘just shoot me in the head! But now I’m just grateful every day that I am moored in a community of such lovely people.

Here is Jan walking her dog and mine…

jan the dog walker

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Good out of bad?

I had a visit from the moorings officer yesterday. She was lovely and very sympathetic. The forecast is that things are going to get very much colder over the next month and I was worried about getting in and out of my boat in the ice as the concrete edge on visitors gets extremely slippery. It is also a bit of a trek to get to the rubbish disposal or the loos. I also feel very uncomfortable being on visitors moorings now the canal is open. Although there are very few boats coming through, I still feel that I may be stopping someone else mooring just for the night because I am staying there.

As mentioned in my previous entries, I had been confident that I would be able to get back to my own mooring in a matter of a week or so after the cast was removed. I wasn’t basing that on anything except wishful thinking really. It is now two weeks since the cast was removed and I am still on two crutches and recovery is proving to be an awful lot slower than I had hoped. The moorings officer has therefore let me go on a vacant long term mooring opposite the visitors moorings. It is better for several reasons: The edge is a lot safer for me to get in and out of the boat. It is right next to my car which means I can drive to the rubbish or the showers (if I get short of water and need to shower at the public ones). I am away from the road that leads to the pub which is great as cars do race up there in the evening, their lights shining into my boat and so close that I couldn’t let Bon out for a wee without going with her. There is a patch of grass outside the boat now so she can mooch on her lead without getting run over. I also get to chat to my fellow Hunts Lock moorers as they all park their cars next to this mooring.

Apart from getting across the lock on crutches, the other problem with my return is the state of the path through the mooring. We have had so much rain this year that the earth has been washed away, exposing loads of tree roots. People are tripping over them even with two good legs! The slope leading down to our gate from the lock is also very tricky in icy conditions. The moorings officer has apparently been trying to lever some money out of CaRT to improve the Hunts Lock moorings but with no success. She got me to fill out an accident form regarding how my leg got broken, emphasising the tree roots and uneven ground. She thinks she can use the report to frighten them into action. As she said, it would be good if something positive came out of my accident that benefited everyone on the mooring.

The other good thing, as I have previously mentioned, is the effect all this has had on Bonny. That was put to the test yesterday. As the moorings officer came on board, the door and cratch cover was open for just a bit too long and Bonny, who had been watching a squirrel playing in the tree opposite the boat, took the opportunity to jump out and cross the road to get a closer view of the squirrel. This was the first time she had been outside off her lead in nearly 8 weeks. The moorings lady went to catch her which of course made Bonny run off towards the entrance to the park. I managed to stifle my panic and called her from the boat very firmly. She immediately turned back towards us, but then stopped near the boat looking for all the world like old Bonny and new Bonny were fighting it out in her head. I called her into the boat again and after a short hesitation, she jumped straight in and went to her bed, looking very pleased with herself. I was so relieved and so impressed with her. If ever she was going to take advantage of her unaccustomed freedom, this was it, especially as the squirrels were calling to her.

I have also noticed significant and positive changes in me and how I relate to others thanks to this experience, but I’ll write about that another time, when I understand it better.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Frustration setting in

I was hoping to return to my mooring this weekend but it is not yet possible. I can’t even walk from the visitors mooring to my mooring yet. I went shopping with Graham and Jan today and we went to three shops. I had to leave them and go back to the car at the second shop as I was in such discomfort.

The bones of my leg feel fine, it’s the amount of swelling around my leg and ankle that makes it impossible to walk very far. When it gets bad – like this morning, it feels as though my leg will burst out through my skin like an overripe fruit! I am still on two crutches where I was sure I’d only be on one by now.

The worst thing is the lack of knowledge I have about how it should be by now and what I can do to help the healing. It’s nearly two weeks since Derby Hospital said the physios would be in touch to make an appointment for me but not a whisper from them yet, so I don’t know what exercises I should be doing. I am also unsure whether the amount of swelling I have is normal or not so I have made an appointment to see my GP on Tuesday and will hopefully get some answers. Mind you, I’m not holding my breath as the only other time I have visited a doctor at this surgery, he was worse than useless!

Yes, I know, I’m feeling sorry for myself and should snap out of it. I’ll allow myself this one whinge and no more. The weather doesn’t help as it never really got light here at all today. We started with thick fog and progressed to heavy rain and now it’s getting dark.

At least Bonny is happy – in fact happier than she has ever been. The experience of being treated like a dog rather than a baby has done her the world of good, as well as now being very firmly second in our pecking order of two. She behaves on all her walks and not just behaves but actively listens to whoever is walking her and is playful and content. She does whatever I ask her to and seems to be aware that she has to be careful around me and my leg. She even deliberately put herself between me and a lively dog on our stroll round the park yesterday, for all the world as if she was protecting me! Despite all the pain and frustration involved over the last two months (on Monday) I can say that the broken leg was worth it for the change it has brought about in Bonny.squirrel passing!Keeping an eye open for squirrels

Monday, 19 November 2012

Living on Visitors Moorings

I have been back on board for a week now and things are getting easier all the time. I can get on and off the boat with relative ease now – as long as there is no ice. It is just as well I am moored on visitors though because there is no way I can cross the lock at present and it is easier to take Bonny out, being moored near the entrance to the park. I got right round the lake for the first time yesterday with her. I am almost crutch free inside the boat; the only time I need support is first thing in the morning as my leg wakes up very stiff and sore. In fact it aches more now than it ever did in the cast, but that is because I’m really starting to use it now.

I still use both crutches outside the boat as I can only walk a short distance before the ache becomes a real pain. I also need them for balance as it can be slippery with lots of leaves underfoot. I can’t drive yet and am having to fork out for a taxi today to go to the dentist in Burton as I am still living with my broken tooth. However, I got in my car for the first time yesterday and I think that it won’t be long before I can do a quick, local drive. The main thing is that I need to be able to slam on the brakes if necessary and I’m not quite strong enough to do that yet.

People continue to be supportive and lovely. Bonny has had regular walks courtesy of my neighbours – in particular Jan who takes her with her boyfriend Bernie every morning…Bernie FinchIsn’t he a handsome boy? Chris and Stelle from Belle have taken Bonny on really good, long walks on several afternoons which is so good for her as well.

My temporary neighbours on the visitors moorings have also been offering help, and all in all I feel very safe and secure at present. Graham and Jan took me shopping for food last weekend and also filled me up with water again (or rather the boat!). My newest friend Stan took Jan and I to a Christmas fair just up the road which was fun, although it was packed and difficult to operate in crowds on crutches. He is the same one who took me to the hospital and is proving to be a good friend. I am helping him in return by teaching him how to use the internet.

I am really hoping that if I can keep up the rate of progress, I’ll be able to return at last to my mooring next weekend. I’m keeping my fingers crossed! If not, then the stoppages will end and boats will start to want to moor here again. That will make me feel bad for hogging a space for so long – even though I do have both permission and a really good excuse!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Normal service being resumed

I got home to my boat on Sunday evening and it was looking better than I had ever seen it! Graham and Jan had cleaned it both inside and out, bought flowers, candles and matching bathroom accessories and of course had left it full of water and diesel and empty of poo! I had presents also waiting for me from two other sets of moorers – including whisky – oh they know me so well! Thank you everybody.

I was exhausted when I got back and so wasn’t surprised that I found even getting into the boat very difficult. My body had forgotten what it was like to have a gently moving floor underfoot and so I staggered like a drunken sailor for the first 24 hours – even though nothing was passing the boat as we are locked in. Roger and Shirleyann had to leave the next morning to get back to Devon and I found it really hard to let them go and even shed a few tears.

On Tuesday a lovely gentleman called Stan picked me up and drove me to Derby Hospital. After a bit of a wait, I was ushered through to the plaster room. I had expected to see the consultant who operated on me, but no, I only saw a physio. But that didn’t matter as they finally removed my bright green cast and revealed a dull green and blue leg! But it was straight and looking much improved. I managed to stand on it but not to take a step properly so I have to have some walking lessons!

Oh the joy of being free of the cast! I can itch and scratch (my skin immediately fell off in blizzards once the cast was removed – a bit embarrassing as I was having lunch in a pub with Stan at the time!) I have had my first shower without having to bag up my leg first and sleeping is so much more comfortable. This morning I managed to wear my new jeans for the first time and both shoes!

Some things are still impossible for me at present – like crossing the lock, so no returning to my own mooring just yet, but I really feel that normal life is being resumed – at last!

Monday, 5 November 2012

A week to go

I will be returning to 'Don't Panic' next Sunday and I can't wait! I have been very comfortable here in Devon and so well looked after but, as Dorothy said "There's no place like home!" Anxieties over how I'm going to cope with the boat have faded as my leg has got stronger and as my friends continue to be so supportive. Graham and Jan spent all morning on my boat yesterday cleaning and getting it ready for my return!

I had hoped to be able to post good news about the missing coal. People spread the word very quickly and I had harboured the hope that whoever stole it would have a fit of conscience and would return it to the mooring, but no such luck. I suppose I'm being a bit optimistic that a person who would steal coal from a boater as winter is coming on would possess a conscience! I have tried to forget about it but I can't help but wonder who did it and would they return to steal other things? I guess that's another reason I want to get back - to keep an eye on things. I reported it to CaRT and they have agreed to change the gate lock and give us unique keys for it - issued to moorers only. Still, Jan has told me that some trees have been cut down on the mooring by CaRT and all the moorers have shared out the wood - with CaRT's blessing. Jan and Julie saved some for me - bless them. At least I'll have something left to burn!

A week tomorrow I shall return to Derby Hospital - this time by car - to get my cast removed and have the consultant examine my leg. I'm hoping it has mended straight and that I will be able to walk reasonably well without the support of a cast, but we will see.

Meanwhile, yet another friend, this time from Barton Marina, has organised someone to come and do my boat safety certificate next weekend. Hopefully 'Don't Panic' will pass with flying colours and I won't have to worry about that for another four years. The stoppages start today so that the boats at Fradley are effectively 'locked in' with stoppages either side of the mooring until, I think, 23rd November.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Stealing from a cripple

I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of almost everyone I know since I had my accident and so the news I have just received has quite upset me. My friends Jan and Graham went to a lot of trouble to get several bags of coal put onto my mooring so that I don't have to worry about keeping warm while my leg continues to heal. Jan has just discovered that someone, either last night or today, has helped themselves to two of the bags!

I have always been so impressed that you can leave stuff on the roof of your boat and it will still be there when you return. However, if I had lost the coal off the roof while the boat is on visitors I would be less shocked than I am that they have actually stolen them off the mooring itself! I am assuming it was someone on foot as, if they had brought a boat onto the mooring, they would have taken all the coal. I also think they would run a much bigger risk of being noticed in a boat. Also the mooring is very silted up at present which would make it difficult for a boat to access the mooring.

It really is mean stealing someone else's coal at any time and something that, as far as I know, is mercifully rare on the canals. I am really hoping that whoever stole it was not aware of my situation, as stealing from a cripple really is beyond the pale and if whoever stole it ends up reading this, be assured you will receive your comeuppance, whether in this world or the next!

Jan hugely restored my faith in the rest of humanity when she said I would owe her £20 less because the two bags had gone! Needless to say I will not be leaving her out of pocket, but what a lovely thing to say! The nice people still out number the nasty ones - at least in my world!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

One step closer

I am starting to be able to walk again, albeit leaning very heavily on both crutches and only using my bad leg for balance rather than actually stepping onto it. My first target was to be able to take Bonny down the drive, past the post office, into the churchyard, and back and I have managed to do that. With good legs, it would take 5 minutes, we took over 30, but it still felt like a huge achievment! Fortunately there is a dry bench in the church porch where I can take a much needed breather. Bonny seems to understand that she musn't pull on the lead while I am on crutches and so walks carefully beside me - mostly!

My fantastic friends on Huff n Puff have moved me a huge step closer to being able to manage on the boat. Last Friday they turned Don't Panic at Alrewas. That sounds like an easy job but firstly Graham had to take time off work to do it. Then, when he and Jan came to move off, the engine wouldn't start. It turned out the starter battery had died. They removed the old one and then drove to the nearest boatyard and bought a new battery and fitted it. Only then could they do the 90 minute turn around!  Then this morning they took her to Streethay Wharf (a three hour round trip), queued behind two other boats and then got her pumped out and dieseled up. They have got coal for me as well and used their own money for all of it and are happy to wait for my return to be repaid! If there was a national award for friends of the year, they would be tied with my friends here in Devon for first place!

Don't Panic is now safely tied up on visitors moorings at Fradley, ready for my return. It was vital to get her sorted out before the stoppages and although there is one more weekend before they come into force, this was when Graham and Jan were available. Also it is never good to leave things till the last moment in case there is an unforseen delay (like my engine not starting!) The enforcement officer has given his permission to stay on visitors for as long as I need to - I have just got to ring him on Monday to update the situation. Graham and Jan have even managed to position the boat next to a passing place on the road so we can unload the car on our return without carrying anything a long way.

Although I would like to be back on my own mooring, there is no doubt that being on visitors for a while will be easier for me. Particularly as I won't have to cross the lock or do the slope every time I leave the boat. Also the boat is right beside the walk around the lake that Bonny loves and I might be able to manage with several stops. I certainly wouldn't manage it if I had to walk from my mooring.

Now all I have to do is get steady enough on my legs to return. From next Tuesday I am allowed to start weight bearing on my bad leg, working up to 75% of normal. That will make a huge difference. I love being with my friends in Devon but I am starting to get itchy for home!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Great people - again!

There has been a flurry of activity since my last post. Neville, my hugely helpful neighbour on the mooring wrote to inform me that the plan to pump out on my return is doomed to failure thanks to a double lock stoppage, which basically means that we will not be able to move in either direction between the 5th and 23rd November. He went on to offer to help move the boat before my return and get it pumped out and dieseled. Then Graham and Jan joined in and between them have basically told me not to worry - my boat will be sorted out before the stoppages. How kind is that?

I then contacted the moorings officer to see if they can leave the boat on visitors moorings for my return. She was very sympathetic about the accident and wants to visit me when I'm back. She has contacted the enforcement officer to see if it's ok for me to overstay on visitors. I know lots of people just do it without asking but I wouldn't be happy doing that. I suspect that the answer will be if there is room I can, if not then I'll have to manage on our mooring. My main concern with that is crossing the lock on crutches and managing the slope down to the gate. Normally there probably would be room on visitors in November but there is every possibility that, due to the stoppages planned, any boat that wants to moor for free for three weeks will be heading for Fradley Junction! Ah well, what will be will be.

I am amazed yet again though by the instant generosity of people and want to publicly thank Neville, Graham and Jan for being such excellent neighbours!

Plans and fears

I haven't been writing very much as there is only so much you can say about sitting on a sofa for days on end! However I can report that my new cast is 100 times more comfortable than my old one and that I am gingerly resting my leg on the ground and taking steps while taking my weight on the other leg and my hands. I really should have brought some lock working gloves with me as the palms of my hands are bruising from the contact with the crutches.

The plan for returning is as follows: I am due to attend Derby Hospital for (hopefully) cast removal on 13th November. My wonderful carers Roger and Shirleyann are planning to bring me up a couple of days earlier and then take the boat, with me in it to Kings Bromley Marina to fill with diesel and pump out the loo so I don't have to worry about doing that for a month. Then they will take the boat back down and if there is a space on visitors moorings, leave it there. There is hard standing on visitors and it means I won't have to cross the lock on crutches each time I need to get out. It will also be easier to take Bonny round the park from there. It is only 48 hour mooring on visitors but I'm sure if I have a word with BW / CaRT they will allow me some leeway considering my circumstances.

I have to admit to being quite anxious about returning. Winter is the hardest time to live on a boat in the best of circumstances and these are not the best of circumstances! I worry about how I'm going to cope with coal and water carrying. I worry that I might slip if it gets icy and I'm even worried that I will have lost all confidence in cruising and will never be brave enough to take the boat out again! I think I have had too much time on my hands with nothing to do but imagine the worst. I hope that when I actually get back it will be fine. I also have good friends on the mooring who I know will help with anything I can't manage.

Meanwhile things are slowly improving here. I had my first two public appearances! One was in a shopping centre called Atlantic Village to watch Roger sing with his choir (Torrington Male Voice) and they were excellent. The other was to attend 'Wine and Wisdom' - a village quiz with wine and cheese! Great fun - didn't get home till 11pm - very late for me! I find going out utterly exhausting at present but preferable to being a couch potato. I have also managed to crutch all the way down the driveway and into the village square with Bonny walking very quietly and carefully on her lead alongside me. It was great as, for the first time, I felt I had a measure of independence. I reached the bench, rested for a while (getting a rather damp bum) and then crutched my way back again. I felt as if I had run the marathon!

So that's it for now. Here is a picture of the aforementioned choir, and me watching them having, for some reason, been parked under a line of bras!...

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

PS to last post

I have been in touch with a lovely helpful lady at the fracture clinic at the hospital (another very clean, efficient and friendly hospital). She has translated what the consultant said. 20% means I can rest my foot on the ground when standing but whilst walking I should bear almost all my weight on my other leg and crutches. In the third week I can start taking more weight on my leg, building up to 75% which is almost normal walking BUT never doing it without the support of my crutches. Simples!

Progress in green

I had a nervewrackingly exciting day yesterday as I visited Barnstaple hospital to dicover whether I still possessed a working leg under the cast put on in Derby 2 weeks ago.

It was the first opportunity to see my leg since the accident and it really wasn't a pretty sight. I did consider taking a photo with my mobile and posting on the blog, but it would only have put you off your dinner! The whole leg is an interesting variety of colours, ranging from deep red, through black, blue and a rather nasty green / yellow. The wound from the operation is quite impressive as it stretches in a slightly wavy line from below my ankle bone to half way up my calf. The good news was that the swelling has reduced enormously and there is only a little left around my ankle. Also as both legs seem just about the same size so far, I don't appear to have lost much muscle yet.

The nervewracking bit came when the consultant came to examine it. If the bone was knitting incorrectly he would have to rebreak the leg and start again. If the wound wasn't healing well, then I wouldn't be allowed a new cast straight away and so wouldn't be fitted with what I craved - a new weight bearing cast so I can start putting my foot to the floor. But all was satisfactory and the nurses fashioned me a new, walking cast. It is lovely! Particularly so as they asked me what colour I'd like it in - purple, pink, yellow or green! That threw me as I was expecting a dull old white one that people used to sign their names on. The first three colours were garish in the extreme so I plumped for green.

Here it is...
Pretty isn't it? Well prettier at least than what lies beneath!

So - a huge step forward as I can start weight bearing again. I am a little confused by what the consultant said though. He said for the next 2 weeks I can bear up to 20% of my weight on it and then for the following 2 weeks I can increase that to 75%. How do I know how much that is in practical terms? Does it mean just using it for balance to begin with? Is it a heavy limp? Can I dance the Tango? Who knows. He was very strict about me being careful though. He said that how I treat my leg in the next month will make the difference between a perfectly useable leg in the future or a problem one. I have decided to seek advice from the nurse here in Bradworthy as to what I can actually do with it.

Bonny is fine and has a new best friend who takes her for long morning walks. Unfortunately she is only visiting the area to look after a sick friend so Bonny may not have her for long. My boat is also fine, thanks to Jan and Graham, my wonderful friends from 'Huff n Puff' who are making sure the batteries are fine and running the engine for me to warm the boat up and stave off any dampness. Graham also refilled my greaser for the stern gland which is a mucky job but helps stop leaks from the propeller shaft. Thank you very much!!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Boredom descends

I am very grateful for the care and kindness I am receiving from everyone here in Bradworthy but I am also starting to bounce off the walls! Bonny and I have been used to such an active life, where we really only sit down once the day is over. Now, we are sitting down for 95% of the day and it is driving us both slowly round the twist!

Bonny's day starts with a frustrating wait for her morning walk. Normally I would take her at around 7.30 but the kind lady who takes her for me doesn't usually come until around 9.30. She is back within 30 minutes and then Bonny faces hours and hours of nothing very much happening until I can get someone else to wait her sometime in the afternoon. So from 3 walks totalling over 2 hours, she now gets less than an hour. And since her escape she can't mooch around the garden without her lead on. As if that wasn't bad enough, we have had unbelievable rain in the last 24 hours, flooding most of the village.

For myself, I didn't realise how much I usually fit into my day and how much I enjoyed being my own mistress! Now I am at the mercy of others and condemned to a sofa existence until I get a walking cast which thankfully will be next Tuesday afternoon at Barnstaple Hospital. Still, it is all about lessons in life and these are important lessons for me - cultivating patience, appreciating the kindness of others and giving up some of my autonomy are all good practice for when I am a crumbly!

At least the rain has stopped for a bit. My lovely hostess has said that we might manage a turn around the village in the wheelchair later for a change of scene. That would be lovely, especially as Bonny and I had been due to go out for a visit with a friend today, but due to the flooding she has had to cancel our visit. And as my other friend Jan says 'This too will pass'.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Bonny kicking back

Since I have been in Devon Bonny has refused to give me the time of day. She lies as far as she can away from me. She refuses to come to me when I call - even for a treat and is generally being a little madam! Yesterday morning she tested the Bonny proof fence and was out in around two minutes! She then took herself on a tour of the village. Fortunately, being early on a Sunday morning, the roads were quiet so she didn't get squashed. My remarkable friend Shirleyann, despite being thick with cold, mobilized the locals and got her cornered and caught in only an hour or so - amazing!

I have been so worried about her and it came to a head this morning. I have caught a cold too and that combined with a broken leg has brought me really low. I decided I couldn't cope with Bonny any more and would have to give her to one of my friends down here to look after. I was snotty with tears at the prospect when my boater friend Jan phoned to see how I was doing. She then proceeded to talk a lot of sense into me. She pointed out that giving Bonny to yet more strangers with yet a new routine wouldn't help, even if they do have a lovely big garden to run around in. What she needs is to adjust to this new routine and I need to stop feeling so guilty that I can't give her what she wants. After all she has shelter, warmth, food and me here. She is getting two walks a day even if they are not at her accustomed times of day and she will adjust given time.

She is just punishing me by ignoring me, much like some dogs do after coming out of kennels. I have been guilty of spoiling her in the past by giving her what she wants when she wants it. I just hadn't seen it before and now I have, I am mortified! So a new regime of tough love is coming in. And if she chooses not to have cuddles etc - well that is her loss and my task is to stop feeling so guilty and practice ignoring her a little more.

Meanwhile, I am continuing to discover what I can and can't do in this new reality. I made myself a cup of tea and managed a shower for the first time which is great. However I have to be careful as, if I don't have my leg elevated for more than 10 minutes or so, it swells and becomes painful. I am having to learn to sit down and stay still and it is really hard! I'm sure things will get better very soon, but today I am stuggling not to sink into a morass of self pity. Thank goodness for sensible friends!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Disaster Part 2

So where was I… landing on the roof of the hospital with one of the best looking doctors I have ever seen!

I was swiftly scanned and they discovered I had broken both my tib and fib bones in opposite directions just above my ankle, which is supposed to be impossible! It was so interesting to them that Mr Milner, the top consultant took my case and the next day, after a dreadful night of pain, he put me back together again with plates and pins and an audience of interested doctors. I too watched with interest as instead of a general, they gave me a spinal block which meant I was conscious but pleasantly woozy and could see what they were doing on a small screen.

That night after the anaesthetic wore off was the most painful of my life. I remember at one point clinging hold of a nurse and refusing to let him go until they gave me more morphine! I was beside myself with pain and shock but of course the night finally passed and things started to improve in the morning.

I have to say that, despite what people may say about the NHS, I found every member of staff to be professional, courteous and kind. They were dreadfully understaffed at night and yet not once did they become impatient or neglectful. The hospital itself was spotless and the beds arranged in bays of four so I wasn’t exposed to loads of people. My fellow patients were lovely and even the porters had a sense of humour!

On Thursday I had problems of a different sort. I broke my tooth in the morning and, since the hospital didn’t have a dentist, had to resort to a bit of self surgery with the aid of a pair of tweezers to extract the broken bit. Then I had a problem of another sort that I won’t go into details about – suffice to say I spent two and a half hours on the toilet!

On Friday I was ready to be discharged with a cast on my leg and a pharmacy full of medication. One problem – where was I to go? I am not allowed to put any weight at all on my leg for 2 weeks. Then I will get a new, walking cast and can start to put weight on it. It will then take 4 weeks before that cast is removed and probably a further 2 weeks after that before I can drive. At present there is no way I could even enter my boat, let alone live on it.

Enter my friends and family. It is only when something like this happens I realise how lucky I am to have the sorts of friends I have! Jan and Graham took Bonny on as soon as I went to hospital and looked after her all week. They walked and sheltered and fed her. Their dog Bernie provided the comfort. The first night, she was in her bed whining in distress. Before Jan or Graham could go to her, Bernie the Westie left his own bed, went to hers and curled up with her, with his head on her side. She leant against him and slept the night away.

husband and wife

Other moorers took her out for walks and generally spoilt her – thank you all so much – I was so worried about her and it was such a comfort to know she was safe and being cared for.

Then Roger and Shirleyann Andrews said they would have me back in Devon. These are the friends who recently took my boat out while I stayed in their house. Not only have they taken me and Bonny in, Shirleyann drove all the way up from Devon, stayed the night on my boat and collected all the bags Jan had packed for me and Bonny. She then drove to the hospital, picked me up, drove me back to Fradley where I was reunited with my precious Bon and then drove us both all the way back to Devon. What a friend!! Not only that but there are people lining up down here to take Bonny on walks and, when I am feeling a bit better, to take me out on treats. Meanwhile others on the mooring have offered to keep an eye on the boat and prepare it for winter if necessary.

As if that wasn’t enough, Roger has fenced in his garden today just so I can let Bonny out safely!!

I am overcome with such kindness. I never realised how many good friends I have and I haven’t even mentioned my family who have been equally supportive. There was I moaning on in my blog about needing my space and wanting to be alone and this has proved to me that, rather than protecting my space, I should be thanking the good God above that I haven’t chased my friends away with such selfishness and that the friends I have are so incredibly generous and kind!

I’ll stop now but I will try to remember to tell you about a hilarious misunderstanding that took place in the hospital next time.

Disaster!

Sorry about the lack of communication recently but I have a really good excuse – I’ve been in hospital for the last 5 days!

I had been out at Hopwas as you know and returned on Monday with no problems. I got to my home mooring and was just pulling the boat in with the centre rope when I slipped, heard a crack, looked down and saw my foot was facing the wrong way and dangling in a really weird way. I sat down rather quickly and got my boot off before the pain started. There I was with the rope in one hand, my leg in the other, Bonny stuck on the boat roof and me shouting ‘help, help’ and praying for someone to come along.

Fortunately, my mate Julie did, closely followed by my friend Jan and between them they got an ambulance and sorted Bonny out. I won’t go into the rather funny story of the arrival of the paramedics on this occasion but suffice to say they quickly worked out a helicopter was required to extract me. Oh honourable mention goes to Henry from the mooring as well as he stood in the rain for ages in case they needed help. Thank you all who helped very much.

So off in a helicopter to the Royal Derby Hospital. Normally I would have loved my first ride in a chopper but on this occasion I was terrified – strapped down on a stretcher without being able to see what’s happening really made me feel helpless. Coupled with that was the fact that I had watched the Towering Inferno the day before where the helicopter had crashed and burst into flames!

I’ll write about what happened next later – need a bit of a rest now.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Hopwas

I managed to stay on the mooring for over a week after our return from Devon before getting itchy feet. Last Thursday we slipped our mooring and drifted off down the Coventry Canal.

We stopped at Hopwas. This is a little gem of a place. The village is well blessed with pubs by the canal, one being ‘The Tame Otter’. This is not a cheap place to visit but the food is excellent and the surroundings very convivial. But what Bonny and I really love about this area is the forested hill between the village and our preferred mooring point by the fields. It is actually part of the Willington army firing range, with a myriad of paths, hollows and dead ends and it is also a paradise for squirrels! There are lights and signs to warn when firing is actually happening but I have never seen them activated.

It is quite an ancient woodland…ancient trees

There are no roads here and so Bonny gets to run wild in the woods and I get to worry whether I will ever see her again as the squirrels lead her ever deeper into the woods in a relay race! But so far she has managed to find me again and her joy is a wonder to behold. When we return from our walk she collapses for a while…

sleepy girl

or watches for any stray wildlife passing the boat…

watching

The River Tame passes by our mooring and has topped its banks in the recent rain, flooding the fields – again. Fortunately the harvest is over.

Tame flooded fields

I have also come away to do some thinking. It is not pleasant on the mooring at present, for reasons I have mentioned in the past. I am also feeling that I need to make some decisions about my immediate future. I am still leaning towards working through the spring and summer and having autumn and winter off. It occurred to me that I could perhaps find some work somewhere on the canal network – for a hire firm or boatyard or marina and take my boat up to wherever that work was. It would give me a break from the domestics on the mooring and I would have greater scope to find work. I might even give my cv to CaRT (formally BW) as I wouldn’t mind being a seasonal lock keeper or any other job on the canal for that matter. Whether they would employ a 50 something female is another matter!

If the situation on the mooring gets any worse I would reluctantly consider leaving the area altogether and finding somewhere else to moor. I’m not there yet, although just before I came away Mr Angry’s partner’s dog jumped all over Bonny on two occasions which upset me. It’s not an aggressive dog but very solid and seems intent on dominating Bonny by squashing her. Bonny, not being at all dominant just lies there being squashed but it scares her. On both these occasions I had to lift Bon up until the woman came and fetched the dog – with no apologies either time. I can cope with being bullied but I won’t put up with Bonny suffering the same!

Still, it all seems unimportant once we are cruising, so perhaps I just need to do a lot of that!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Back where we belong

Bonny and I returned to our mooring last Saturday after a fantastic 15 days in Devon. I was rather worried that we had been so spoilt by being in a house that it would make us a little dissatisfied with the boat.
When I first arrived back, the canal was heaving with boats and it took me over an hour to ferry all the contents of my car to Don’t Panic, crossing the lock, I think, 6 times. I was very tired after that and the long drive and so I looked on my ‘bijoux and compact space’ with a rather jaundiced eye. However, the next morning I got up to the birds singing and the sound of a Lister working boat engine chugging by and suddenly all was right with the world.
Bonny doesn’t seem to be missing Devon either as she is happy rooting around in the hedges of our mooring. Mind you, dogs seem to be able to live entirely in the present moment, so missing something doesn’t seem to enter into their experience. She has been well behaved so far and so we have risked some off lead walks. We had a lovely one this morning as we arose to the first frost of the autumn. The sun was just rising and mist was hanging over the canal. I wish I had taken my camera, it was so beautiful. Bonny of course was less interested in the aesthetics than in trying to chase any number of squirrels up trees!
So, I have had my big cruise and my trip to Devon, so now it is about time to decide what to do with the rest of my life – or at least how to finance it. Having done my sums, I think I could eke out my savings until I receive my first pension by working either a winter job or a summer one. Then I would still be able to go on long cruises. The question is do I go and work in a shop when they take on extra staff over the 4 month Christmas period or do I take a summer job from say April to September where there will be more choice of the type of work and cruise in the winter?
There are advantages to winter cruising although obviously the weather can be limiting. Also it means that I don’t have to get up in the dark and come back in the dark and still have a dog to walk, water to fetch, a fire to light etc etc. In the summer, things are generally easier and I would have time to do my chores as well as work. Then again, cruising in the summer can be lovely with sunshine and warmth (except when we don’t get a summer like this year!) Then there is Bon to consider. She is used to being left on the boat, but not all day. I would think I have more chance of finding some sort of outside job in the summer months where perhaps she could come too.
Well, I have various dates in my diary for enjoyable things to do in October so I’ll take some more time to think about it!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Bonny and Maisie

With the risk that this is turning into an animal blog rather than a boaty type one, I thought I’d show you a few photos of Bonny and Maisie getting on:
Bon and Maisie 002
They started off with a bit of a gap between them.
Bon and Maisie 005
Getting closer!
Bon and Maisie 001
This one is Maisie playing with Bonny’s ball and chain. This is something I made up myself to help Bonny not run off but still be free to mooch about. It is the long lead from an old retractable lead, attached to a large ball with throwing loop attached. As long as she is dragging this around, she doesn’t run away, even though it’s not tethered to anything. I really should patent it!
The only problem here is that every time Bonny moves, Maisie jumps on the string and holds onto it, jerking Bonny to a halt. Her confused face is a delight!
Bon and Maisie 006
They both compete for my lap as soon as I sit down – which is lovely as Bonny has never shown very much interest in having a cuddle before!

Friday, 7 September 2012

From hero to zero in 12 hours!

Oh I was so pleased with my little Cairn heroine that I decided to take her for a long walk around the beautiful Tamar Lake this morning. We set off at around 7.20 and parked up for the walk about ten minutes later. The sun was shining through a low mist and the lake was beautiful and all was right with the world. I didn't bother with a car parking ticket as I would be back before everything opened up at 9am.

Taken moments before Bonny took off - calm before storm!
I walked Bonny across the dam, got onto the circular path that runs the 3km around the lake and let the little darling off her lead. She immediately ran through a gap in the fence and was gone. I hoped she had just seen a rabbit and would run back any moment - after all she was in an utterly strange place and surely would want to stick with me. But no. Oh I saw her often enough as she dodged in and out of the gorse bushes, shrieking with excitement and causing a rabbit rout.

So I started using all the strategies I have learned for this situation. I walked away on the path for a while. She followed me, but on the wrong side of the fence, with no way to get through. Once I realised that, I returned to where she had gone through, but she just saw that as an invitation to carry on hunting rabbits. I tried walking past her and on down a hill in the same field, so she wouldn't have to find a way out. That worked until I reached the other end and found there was no exit. She, having followed me, worked this out just as I did and by the time I turned to look, she was haring (forgive the pun) back off up the field. This went on for several hours.

I had arranged to have lunch with my former supervisor today and that piled on the pressure as I hadn't brought my phone with me. Added to that I was without money and so couldn't pay for the parking. Fortunately I met some friends at around 10.30 in the same field and they paid for my parking, bought me a bottle of water and promised to phone said supervisor when they returned home. They did try to tempt Bonny out to join their dogs but with little success.

By this time I had climbed a very steep hill at least six times, walked across the dam twice and down the lake path many more times, all to try and get Bonny to follow me without success. I was hot, footsore and seriously peeved with her. Then a young man approached and asked me if I'd lost a small grey dog because there was one running around the car park! Somehow she had got out of the field and crossed the very large dam without me spotting her. I ran over there as more cars were arriving all the time and Bon has little car sense - especially when she is out of her head as she evidently was - acting like a wild creature.

Sure enough, there she was, hesitating near my car. Whilst I stood still working out what move to play next, she spotted me and ran off into a plantation alongside the car park. I couldn't follow her into the undergrowth so I stopped. There is a cafe at the carpark and I was desperate for a wee, so I went in. The friends I met earlier had already informed the very lovely oriental woman running the cafe what was occuring and she not only let me sit in the shade, but gave me a free pot of tea as well.

By the time I had drunk my tea and had a wee around 15 minutes had passed and no Bonny. As I walked back out to the carpark I was just in time to see her jogging off down the drive towards the road! I yelled at her and she dived into an adjacent field. I lost all self control, vaulted the gate and ran straight at her. She ran off down the fence line with me in hot pursuit. I just couldn't let her get to the road or all would be lost. Panic gave me the necessary energy and I cornered her by a patch of nettles and with no hesitation, rugby tackled her to the ground! The time was 12.30 - exactly 5 hours after she ran off. I had missed my lunch appointment, my feet were in agony, my hands were nettle stung and my blank blank little dog was filthy, covered in burrs and limp with exhaustion. As I carried her back to the car she tried to lick my face and generally acted delighted to see me! As if I had been the one who had disappeared for 5 hours and not her.

I really do not understand Bonny at all. Once she has run off like that and not returned when I call, it's as if she then feels she can't come back because she has been naughty. She then gets into a total panic and the result is the 5 hours I have just described. As usual, when I finally do catch her, she then acts as if she is so happy to see me - as if she failed to recognise it was me chasing her all morning! So it's back on the lead for walks again. That's so sad as I really thought the cruise had finally put paid to all this palavar.
Wild thing!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

My Heroine!

I always knew Bonny was clever but tonight she proved that, not only was she intelligent, but brave and persistent as well.

I have already reported that she and the resident Devonian cat Maisie were getting on better than anyone expected, but what I would never have guessed was that Bonny would risk my displeasure to rescue her!

Maisie is a stay at home cat. She would prefer to curl up on a lap than be hunting in the undergrowth. She also eats about once an hour – or at least comes looking for something that regularly. Today, as usual, she spent the majority of her day with Bonny and me. She disappeared at around 4pm and since it was sunny, I assumed she had gone off to bask somewhere. I gave Bonny a last walk at 5 and then fed her. I was a little surprised that Maisie missed this exciting time of the day, but assumed she would be along.

Bonny had had a morning out at the seaside (her first experience of the sea) and several small walks since so it was high time she settled down for the evening as usual. I was also pleasantly tired and so became quite irritated when Bonny refused to settle and instead kept going to the front door and whining, with the odd loud yap thrown in. Several times I took her back into the lounge and told her sternly to stay put. Even when I ate my supper – usually a time when I have her undivided attention, she paced between me and the door with an almost human expression of impatience on her furry face.

I washed up, took Bonny outside for a last wee and because I was cross with her, made her go in the opposite direction from where she was pulling me. I then tried to relax in front of the TV, but was distracted by Bonny acting like she had ants in her pants and by an increasing concern about the missing Maisie.

OK, I know now I was being very slow, but I never imagined Bonny was trying to tell me something – that only happens to owners of Lassie and the like. But eventually I said to her, ‘Where’s Maisie then?’ I think if she could speak English, Bonny’s response would have been along the lines of ‘Wow, better late than never, Thicko!’ She jumped up at the door and barked. I slipped her lead on and this time let her go where she wanted. it wasn’t far. She went straight to the door of the annex – newly built for my host’s mum but not yet occupied. Immediately I guessed what had happened. Earlier in the afternoon I had let someone in to check the fire alarm and I assume that Maisie accompanied them unseen and was locked in when they left. Sure enough a sad little face popped up at the window and as soon as I got the keys and opened the door, a grateful, hungry and stressed little cat streaked out.

The really amazing thing is that as soon as we got back in the house, Maisie approached Bonny and rubbed herself right down Bonny’s side, for all the world like a gesture of thanks. Bonny gave her ear a lick and then, exhausted, retired to her bed where she stayed for the rest of the evening. How did Maisie know who to thank? They may have been tolerating each other well, but there had been no physical contact up to that point and I didn’t think there ever would be.

I was so impressed that despite me yelling at her and dragging her away from the door, Bonny persisted until I finally got the message.

Bonny Lass – my little heroine!

who me

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Luxury

I have been in Devon since Saturday afternoon, after a horrible drive down through endless traffic. I forgot how it feels to be in a traffic jam and how rude and pushy people can be. We arrived to sunshine which promptly turned to rain for the next couple of days, but I don't care! It is so lovely here. The house seems huge to me and the joy of running a tap or flushing a loo  or, best yet, having a bath, can only truly be appreciated by those who live on rationed water and have to dispose of their own poo!

Bonny loves it too and is currently stretched out on the wooden floor, not two feet away from the resident cat who, I was told, can be feisty or down right bullying to other animals. Well, Bonny's submissive nature seems to have won her over and although they aren't quite sharing a bed, there is definitely a thawing in their relationship! I have also been introducing Bonny to some of the walks I used to take Brandy, my beloved Labrador on. I sometimes feel that if I just turn round quick enough I would see his grinning face and wagging tail!

It is unbelievably relaxing not to have to keep a constant eye on my consumption, whether it be power, Internet data or water and I really appreciate it. I am already noticing though that I feel a bit disconnected from the basics of life. Everything is provided for me; power generation goes on miles from here, the water flows endlessly through pipes I have no access to, and who knows where the contents of the loo ends up. That all frees me up to do other things, but it is an unfamiliar feeling to have faceless people providing for me what I have become accustomed to providing for myself and I'm not sure I would like it for any length of time. That's not a worry though because there is no way I could afford to live in a house and pay the sorts of bills people pay for these privileges!

I have a full list of social engagements while I am here and have found it very touching to discover how many people want to catch up with me. I finished my church career here and it was an incredibly painful time, but this visit is reminding me of all the good things and particularly the good people here. It is, in some sense, redeeming Devon for me and it's good!

Sunset over Bradworthy wind turbines

 

Friday, 31 August 2012

Off to God's own county but not by balloon!

I am rushing around packing to go to Devon, (not a familiar experience as, like a snail, I usually just move my whole home!) I had planned to have the boat all watered up and sitting on visitor's moorings when my friends arrive to take Don't Panic over. So much for plans. The visitors moorings are rammed with boats and I got a call this morning to say there is something wrong with our water supply as the tap is producing something that looks more like chocolate than water!

Ah well, never mind. They can start their cruise from my mooring, which is looking beautiful since Neville - my neighbour on Water Lily - cut the grass with his mower which is so much better than my strimmer. There is a water supply on the way up the lock flight so they can fill up there.

Meanwhile we had some excitement this morning. This is what I saw on returning from our morning walk...


The balloon crossed low over Hunt's Lock,then swung towards our boat. I thought it was going to land on top of us! Bonny could hear the roar of the burner and was going crazy, racing up and down the mooring! It then swung back into the field behind our boat and landed safely. All very colourful and exciting!

I hope I'll be able to blog from Devon, although it will be a non boat blog for a change!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Anger

I have to thank you Neil R for your kind offer of an army to help me sort out my problems! However, after careful consideration I have concluded that getting my angry neighbour duffed up will not help!

I have been experimenting with ways to diffuse the situation. Before I went on my cruise I tried appeasement; being excessively polite and friendly in the hope he would respond. That didn't work as I think he then saw me as weak and would therefore let him get away with being as rude and aggressive as he liked. I was also not sincere in my friendliness and I think most people can sense when someone is not being congruent. In the week before I left he was particularly obnoxious and I lost my temper and met anger with anger, although it wasn't quite even as he had a large barbeque fork in his hand at the time! This certainly didn't work as my anger just fed the flames of his.

Then I left for two and a half months and assumed that when I returned, whatever had got him so angry would have died over time. I gave him a bright 'Good Morning' when I first saw him but only a grunt was returned. Very quickly I realised that he was still very angry - almost certainly I wasn't the cause, but I was the focus. One day he seemed to tip over the edge when I was on the phone whilst walking Bonny on the towpath opposite the mooring. It was the middle of the afternoon but I was speaking quite loudly as the person I was talking to is a little hard of hearing. All of a sudden I heard screamed swear words of the worst sort. I looked back and saw Mr Angry yelling at me, spittle spraying from his mouth. The general gist I think was that I shouldn't be talking on the phone within his earshot. That was particularly illogical as both he and his partner regularly walk past my boat in full flow on the phone.

This was a turning point for me. As people turned to see what was happening and I saw what they saw - a man totally out of control, I realised that Mr Angry couldn't help how he was at that moment. That level of anger and frustration is like an illness and I would never take someone's illness personally. They can't help it and it would be silly of me to hold it against them. I also realised that I couldn't help him either as for some reason I am the object of his rage - or at least the outlet for it. The best thing I can do is not provide any fuel for the flames. So since that day I have not looked at or spoken to him. I haven't reacted to his words or scowls. I have just carried on my own life as if he wasn't there. I don't think that has lessened his ire but it's very hard to fight with someone who won't engage at all. I suspect that's what Jesus meant when he advised us to turn the other cheek.He wasn't advising that we become permanent victims - rather by rising above the conflict and not letting it get to us, we end up freeing ourselves (and probably really winding up our enemy!!)

I have also had a less comfortable insight. A boat came and moored opposite us and stayed for a couple of nights. I really thought I had risen above letting this bother me - I haven't. I've been spoilt, as BW or as they are known now CART (Canal and River Trust, or putting the cart before the horse tee hee) haven't cut the undergrowth on the towpath for ages and as a consequence no one has moored opposite since I returned. But this couple did and then ran their noisy engine. I found myself increasingly resentful and at one point when the squeak in their engine reacted on me like nails on a blackboard, I found myself shouting 'Will you please shut up!' I hastened to add I did this out of their earshot, but all of a sudden I was in touch with the same sort of anger that I imagine Mr Angry feels. My anger wasn't logical - they have every right to moor opposite me and run their engine, but that didn't stop me feeling that frustration. The only reason the people in the boat didn't suffer from my anger is that I have enough self awareness to realise how illogical I was being and enough self control to keep my anger to myself.

As with everything that happens to us in life, it contains a lesson for me to learn and the very thing that frightens me or winds me up will almost certainly continue to happen until I have learnt that lesson. Continuing not to react to Mr Angry is also a really good ongoing exercise in self control for me!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Being Back

It's a little surreal being back on our mooring. It's bank holiday weekend and as usual it's heaving with boats and people at Fradley Junction. I see the queues for the locks and am happy to be watching it all float past me with a drink in my hand! On the other hand, 'normal' life has well and truly dragged me into its clutches. I have been rushing round shopping, doing laundry, gardening, getting Bonny's jabs and MOT (she is disgustingly healthy with an 'athletes' resting heart rate, according to the vet). I have also been catching up with friends on the mooring and trying not to let one angry bully of a man get to me!

It's all a far cry from the extraordinary experience of cruising. Mind you it's a heck of a lot better than working for a living! I can't work out now how I found time to fit work in with so much else to do. Still, sooner or later looming penury will force me to find some way of earning a living - but not just yet.

Meanwhile I am starting to do some serious cleaning to prepare my boat for my friends. I am also starting to contact Devon friends to warn them I am on my way, giving them the opportunity to hide or invite me to lunch!

Thank you for all your kind messages and emails about the blog. I will carry on writing but it all might be a little dull after my cruising adventures. Mind you, as some actor in some film said "Life is a mighty big adventure!"

One of the best things about being back...

Monday, 20 August 2012

The end and the beginning

We are back to our home mooring. My goodness it was overgrown, but beautifully green. Here is my bench almost swallowed by nettles:

overgrown home mooring

Bonny was very happy to be back in familiar surroundings and has spent the last few days happily exploring the undergrowth without showing any inclination to wander off! Here she is in meditative mood:

meditative dog

Oh and just because I love the photo, here is a friend I met at Great Haywood:

highland cow

So, our great adventure is over and we are back safe and sound. Thinking about all the things that could have gone wrong mechanically, physically and emotionally, I am very grateful to have done it all with only a bruised leg to show for the risks I took.

It is good to be back. Friends on the mooring have been lovely, (with the exception of one grumpy bloke who seems utterly un-delighted that I have returned safe and sound!) It has been great having my car to do shopping and the massive load of laundry I had piled up in my bath! I am a little sad that the great adventure is over, but as the title of this post suggests, it is the end of one adventure and the beginning of the next, as my future at this point is totally unknown!

The immediate future is more certain as tomorrow I take to the water again, but only as far as Barton Marina to finally get my water leak fixed. Then on 1st September I’m off to Devon to stay in a real house for two weeks! Oh the bliss of just flushing and forgetting, of turning a light on without worrying how much power I am using and perhaps even having a bath without having to replace the water! Deep joy – for a change, but only as a holiday; I wouldn’t swap water borne living for anything.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Am I Odd?

perfect mooring weston

I have been moored in the above spot since Friday. It is just above Weston Lock on the Trent and Mersey. Because of the vegetation and silt, there is only comfortably room for one boat to moor. Since this trip began, I have only found a handful of moorings as isolated as this.

I have found that I can only deeply relax when I know I am going to be without company. My spirit expands to fill the space I am in and it feels wonderful. I can honestly say that I have not missed human company at all on this trip. Yes, I have had friends and family at the end of a phone or computer and that has been good, but day to day living without being face to face with anybody else has felt so normal I haven’t even really noticed the lack most of the time.

So I come back to my question – am I odd?

From Genesis onwards when God said ‘It is not good for Man to be alone’, society has arranged itself in communities and has treated with suspicion anybody who lived outside the group. These days, it seems to me, you are a second class citizen if you are not in some sort of relationship with somebody. It doesn’t really seem to matter if it is with a lifelong partner or someone you fell into bed with the night before, but if you live as a single person, I find you are treated with pity if not with downright suspicion.

It seems to be assumed by most people that if you are alone then you must be lonely. If you are single then you must be in search of a man – or woman! If you are a single handed boater, you must be in need of a crew (or as a woman, a captain!!) And if you actively seek out solitude then you must be, at the very least, odd!

I have been exploring what draws me to solitude and have come to conclude that it feeds both the unhealthy, damaged side of me and the whole, spiritually searching Mandy. The scarred by life part of me feels threatened and therefore frightened when anybody gets too close to me. I want to push them away – aggressively if necessary. But this part of me needs to be healed and the only way I can see of addressing it is by being in the company of other people and practising not feeling threatened.

However, the wise woman (as a close friend persists in calling me) needs space and time alone to explore the universe, both outer and inner, and that is where any wisdom or spirituality I have comes from. And there’s the rub. How do I organise my life so that I have both company and solitude? How do I begin to address the ‘defensive child’ in me, whilst at the same time feed the ‘wise woman’?

As for being odd, well I can live with the label. One of the advantages of being at home in my own company is that other people’s opinions of me are held fairly lightly.

OK, end of introspection for today. Normal service will be resumed shortly!

Oh, one more question. I have started to consider how I am going to earn my daily crust again and wondered whether I could write for a living – articles or even a book. If anybody has any comments or suggestions how to go about making money from my ramblings, they would be gratefully received. (Lynda, I’m particularly thinking of you!)

Friday, 10 August 2012

Tunnel and Town

I faced my greatest fear (during this cruise) when I navigated the Harecastle Tunnel – all 2926 yards (or one and three quarter miles) of it!

Here it is. The man with the brolly was the really kind and helpful lock keeper. Note the colour of the water!

north entrance of Harecastle

And inside the belly of the beast, approaching the end – this is one of the higher partsinside the belly of the beast of the roof – at one point I had to bend over to avoid hitting my head. The boater following me wasn’t as careful and gashed his head, lost control and sheared his chimney off half way down! I’m really glad I only heard this story afterwards and not before I went through!

 

When I came out the other end, the lock keeper told me the usual transit takes 45 minutes to an hour and I had come through in 35 minutes. I wasn’t going to hang around! Seriously though, the most helpful thing the first lock keeper told me was to keep my speed up to 3-4 mph. That way the bow wave created would help keep me off the tunnel  walls. It worked perfectly; the only time I got near the wall was when I slowed down approaching the exit.

Then I had to get through Stoke on Trent and Stone, before returning to my natural habitat – the countryside. For those of you bored of all the pictures of green and pleasant land, here are a few of the sights I saw in town…

industrial stokeStoke – the pottery town.

flowery wallIf you have to be surrounded by walls, it helps if they are covered in flowers!

bottle kiln stokeOne of the famous old bottle kilns.

Ramsted HallHow the pottery owners used to live!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Attitude alters reality

Or does it? I wrote a scathing review of the Macclesfield Canal only a week or so ago. I called it a neglected, silty ditch masquerading as a canal. I criticised the towpaths, the lack of dredging and the visitors moorings. And all this was absolutely true – in my reality, at that time. But my attitude and feelings at the time had a huge influence on what I was perceiving.

I had just completed ‘Heartbreak Hill’ and was exhausted. I had been dreaming of cruising the Maccy for so long that I had built up a level of expectation that the Grand Canal in Venice would not have been able to match! I was also entering a period of travel weariness, where having to plan where I was going to buy food, wash my clothes or moor for the night had started to feel like hard work and I had started to miss my home mooring for the first time on this cruise. (Note I now say home mooring and not home – after three and a half years my boat is finally home for me and not the place that it is moored!)

For the past three days I have been travelling back down the same canal, with roughly the same sort of weather (sunshine and showers) and it now seems utterly beautiful to me. I have found moorings without difficulty – the first night I returned to the idyllic mooring near High Lane. This is the only place I have found on my cruise that rivals Fradley Junction as a long term mooring spot. The next day I discovered a hidden gem in Dane’s Moss – a small but perfectly formed nature reserve really close to the mooring I had on the way up, which drove me to despair and to writing my damning account of this canal. Yesterday I managed two swing bridges, 4 miles and the 12 locks of Bosley and moored at the bottom of the flight just before the first rain of the day. Today I have only moved far enough to find a secluded mooring, facing ‘The Cloud’, with plenty of hunting opportunities for Bonny along the overgrown towpath. (She is so good now I have allowed her free rein and she has voluntarily stayed close to the boat.)

I am seeing this canal through different eyes because my attitude has changed. My expectations are now reasonable and because the end of my cruise is almost in sight, it makes me appreciate what I am experiencing here much more sharply. Also, I believe I am now more ‘in the flow’ of the journey.

When I was on the Llangollen, a boat passed me, its engine straining, the boat kicking up a big bow wave and a red faced,angry man at the tiller. Because of the speed he was travelling, he threw my boat about on its ropes. When I pointed this out, he said ‘I’m not going fast, I have to fight the flow’. He meant the flow of water you find on that canal. That phrase and picture of him and his boat stuck in my mind though.

I think for a lot of this cruise if I haven’t been actively ‘fighting the flow’, then I have at least been trying to control it. Instead of being open to what comes, whether that be weather, people or challenges, I have tried to force reality to fit my wishes and expectations. It’s hard to explain but it makes cruising – and life – feel like hard work, with lots of disappointments along the way. But when I let go and ‘go with the flow’, then, although I feel less in control and so not as safe, life is better. I am not nearly as stressed, the challenges are less daunting and I don’t waste energy on worrying whether I’ll manage, or will I find a good mooring or will someone come and moor right next to me etc. etc.

I am reading a Buddhist book at present – The Wisdom of no Escape by Pema Chodron. In it, she says that we are all at the centre of our universe. around us is a sacred circle and everything that enters that space around us, whether it be people or problems or experiences come to teach us something. Therefore we should welcome whatever comes into our sphere of existence, not labelling it good or bad, because it is there to teach us something and help us grow. This fits well with what I am beginning to understand about this journey.

So here is to ‘going with the flow!’

swirly stream

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Going Back

I have been down to Bugsworth Basin at the terminus of the Peak Forest Canal. It was a fascinating place, made up of three different basins and various little dead ends where one or two boats can moor. For over 100 years burnt lime was produced here and ferried by working narrowboats. It was said that you could walk for six miles past boats waiting to be loaded up here!

It was a hub of industry all through the 18th century but declined as the railway system slowly took over freight hauling. The basin finally closed in 1927 and was left to moulder until some canal enthusiasts spent the last 30 years bringing it back to life and you can now tour this historic site and moor in it!

bugsworth basin

End of history lesson. Although it was a really interesting place to visit,  I didn’t enjoy it as a mooring site. The A6 runs right alongside the basin which makes it pretty noisy. The old walls of the basin are high and it made me feel quite claustrophobic, as well as being surrounded on every side by boats, so we only stayed one night. The next day (Sunday) I took a ride to the 21st Century in the shape of a Tesco built right alongside the canal (by where the canal splits to go to Whaley Bridge or Bugsworth). Then having topped up my water tank, we set off back towards the Maccy.

This is the first time in two months that we are actually heading in the direction of Fradley Junction – albeit a long way away. It has made me think what it will be like when I settle back into ‘normal’ life. How will I cope with the ordinary little happenings on my home mooring after all the excitements of the grand tour? I’ll have to start thinking about earning a crust, but the very thought of settling back down to the 9-5 grind makes my blood run cold.

I have also found it profoundly normal and comfortable to spend long periods of time alone. It suits my personality as well as keeping my neurotic impulses to a minimum! It has been super to keep in touch with people by phone and email but it is also a relief to be able to turn the phone or computer off! I will have to find a way of preserving that space without losing my friends and relatives!

I do have something to look forward to though. After cruising for three months I rather crave a bit of luxury on shore, so I have organised a holiday swap with some friends back in Devon. They will take ‘Don’t Panic’ for a couple of weeks while Bonny and I stay in their annex in Bradworthy (can’t stay in main house as cats rule!). I’ll be able to visit all the friends I haven’t seen since the end of 2008, whilst knowing the boat will be looked after.

The idea of being able to run a tap and not worry about replacing the water, or to leave a light on even if I’m not in the room is intoxicating! (Lynda, I relate to your New Wine experience – lovely to camp but lovely to get home again! Let me know how you found New Wine – I wondered if your developed theology might struggle a bit with some of the more simplistic teaching you can find there?)

My friends are very good boaters so I know my boat will be in safe hands. This will happen in September so it’s nice to have another treat to look forward to. Meanwhile, I shall make the most of my journey. I had no phone, TV or radio reception at Bugsworth and it was refreshing. I realised that I haven’t been entering into the experience of solitude as deeply as I might have as I have been texting most days and watching TV or listening to the radio most evenings. So, since the reception isn’t great on the Maccy anyway, I shall be turning my phone off for a day or two and listening more to silence!

I’ll leave you with something conspicuous by it’s absence so far – a picture of me on my cruise! This was taken yesterday on the Peak Forest – and yes, this cruise has turned me grey!

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