Thursday, 31 May 2018

We're coming home we're coming home.... Percy here we come

Excuse the slightly weak link to an old England football song, well it is the world cup next month...  but for my (our) news please read on.

I have dropped a few teasers to another life change in past posts so here is the news.

We (or rather Rachel) took a good career move job just short of 4 years ago that saw a massive change in our day to day lives as the job was 200 miles away in Portsmouth. We let my eldest son have the Derby house and I moved on the boat - July 2014 I blogged about it here  and when I actually moved aboard.... here 

It started a mad life of living apart Monday to Friday with me on the boat and Rachel in a lovely cottage in the South Downs. Each week we would take it in turns to travel to each other, lots of miles quite a bit of tiredness but an adventure. Certainly an adventure for me as I was Derby born and bread and not moved further than the city boundaries in my 50 odd years of living.

What most did not know was it was part of a work/life/financial/pension plan that even as far back as 2014  had me planning my retirement at 55 so I could support Rachel for the last two years until she hit 55 and possible retirement.

I hit 55 and retired three weeks later. I went south and was the support worker (plus a bit of leisure time detailed elsewhere in this blog) What we could not influence was the health of Rachels mum who needed us to be in Derby each weekend pretty much for most of the winter of 2017/18. Even more driving but I was able to do this to ease the pressure on the worker !

Our grand plan was to be down here for 5 years, due to needing to be closer to family we decided to look to cut this short so Rachel applied for a job ironically at the University in Derby where I worked for 30 years !! It turned out they thought so highly of her they offered her another job at a higher level that was more suited to her very high skill set and experience level (can you tell I'm very proud of her achievements )

So we are coming home to the Staffordshire cottage and more importantly for most who read this the boat.

It has been hard to get time aboard Percy due to wanting to support Rachel down south and cover off the 'trips' (I don't do holidays anymore as my life is a constant holiday) six to date ! Being back in the midlands means I can spend my free time' on jobs at the cottage and on board Percy plus where we are moored as I did it means if it suits us we can live on the boat and Rachel can commute to the university.

So there you have it  - another life change, just got to empty the cottage down here in between two more 'trips' to France, with our lads and their partners and grandson then a week on the bike to Luxembourg.

A few gratuitous images for the blog to remind me of the cottages and the boat .....

Looking forward to this next chapter !!

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

A little bit of sadness

You may of read about changes afoot around Fradley.

There is a new marina being built below common lock  - the next lock down from our mooring
There is housing getting ever closer - some of the farmers have sold up - the pig farm has gone and it is understood the and behind our moorings has a house builders option on it.

The caravan park has a new entrance and there is a rumour of touring caravans being put onto the site
The biggest impact however is the approved local plan extract gravel on the fields directly opposite Hunts moorings.

I was on the boat last night and it is a beautiful peaceful place. I like it as it has two faces, during the brighter months during the day there is a lot of activity and being aboard you feel a little like the stars of the show and also there is a lot of boat activity and I feel like the canal is my moat !

Then as the day gets longer the place empties and we get the beautiful and peaceful Fradley Junction back. The gravel extraction will alter this visually as well as dust and noise it will loose a lot of appeal.

Sadly this pending change has seen my good neighbour Mandy of NB Don't Panic jump mooring and is off to pastures new on the Shroppie. A good move as the mooring there allows cars to the mooring and has water on tap, plus we all know how beautiful the Shroppie is. So there will be a 50 foot mooring available soon - lets see who we get !

This post was sponsored by C&RT who sent me my mooring reminder note today.... gone up 3.4% As I type this UK inflation is 2.7% .... The cost to moor my 60 foot boat is £1885, reduced this year by a prompt payment discount of 10% to £1696. In future years they are removing the discount !

Its a lot of money for no water on site, no hook up no internet no grass cutting  - just a place to put your boat behind a gate, but it is cheaper than a marina and is a nice place  - at the moment. I have my name down for the same moorings as Mandy, not sure of the cost. They are closer to the cottage, but have a limited cruising options especially now with the breach on the Middlewich branch.

I still may opt for a marina mooring when the time comes, with the thought being when we will be on the boat we will be cruising. It'll be either KingsBromley, Great Haywood or Aston. The latter two being closer to home and on on of my favourite stretches of canal between Great Haywood and Stone. Problem is they are pushing another £800 more a year - that is a lot of cash for a poor retired bloke ! Kings Bromley is a nicer marina less commercial but the wrong side of Rugely but the right side of Fradley (and they offer a first year 20% relocation discount.

Still while the fields are fields opposite we will stay put plus with plans changing the location may be the best....more on that later.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Nature is taking over

...that's what happens when you don't spend enough time at the mooring or God forbid moving the boat.

I needed to have the right bike in the right place for an upcoming trip to Scotland plus one of the bikes needs a bit of work doing on it and I have the tools and garage down south. However the icing on the cake so as to speak for a trip back to the midlands was the need to mow the grass on my mooring. I asked C&RT not to do this as they have broken two windows on my boat and another window on another boat on the moorings.

So on the spur of the moment yesterday I did my chores and donned my motorcycle gear and undertook a spirited ride up to Fradley. Cutting dry grass is such a pleasure  (compared to wet grass - all grass cutting is horrid imho) I set to and got the mooring tidy again...

Then it was off the the cottage to swap bikes over ....

Did a few chores at the house then back to the boat via the coop for food for tea and fishing !!

As I was waiting for the morning rush hour ( not for me anymore !!) to pass I has a session this morning but it was chilly 6c first thing !

Seems Fradley is a major plane junction 

The same reflected ...

The canal was sooo still this morning perfect for tree reflections.

Now the embarrassing bit... the boat seems to have more green on its bottom than the mooring. No moss on a rolling stone is the same as no algae on a moving boat.... mine has plenty !! Plus the spiders making webs is bad enough, but combined with Dandelion seeds that stick making a lace curtain shroud on the well deck, back doors and fender is another bad sign. Then the dust and bird poo.... Yes I need to give the boat some TLC and some moving time.... 

But if you have got this far there is some good news on the horizon.....!! 

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Living life to the full

There is no better (in a very sad way) to realise how important it is to live this life that was fought for by so many who gave their tomorrows for our today by visiting their graves and seeing their sacrifice.

I am lucky in that I along with some other friends have a very knowledgeable Battlefield tour guide friend who out of the goodness in his heart organises and takes us on European tours to visit sites that should be visited and never forgotten.

So last Thursday it was a 5.15am start to get over to the Tunnel for a trip to visit the Somme battle fields and pay our respects at the Menin gate in Ypres. As last time we laid a wreath as part of the last post ceremony to show our respects and say a silent thank you to the millions  -yes millions  who never came home.

Plenty to see and think about .... and realise how lucky we are to live the lives we do.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

My 2017 - a pivotal year and a very late review !

In past years I have had a little in between work time to reflect on my passing year. This end of year I have a lot more time to luxuriate in the reflections of the past 12 months. I've said far too many times now this is a blog for me to reflect back in and there is no better time to do so than at the end/start of a year (Ha ! finished this review in May !!)

Anyhow - let's start with an executive summary 

So the stats first - as I like a stat or two....

A massive 14% less blog posts in 2017 than in 2016. Part of the year was limbo land for accommodation and the rest was the same for work.... I did of course start the year living aboard Percy again while waiting for the house sale to complete. Certainly not enough boating not enough biking hardly any cycling lots of  nice walking far too much driving some focus on work not enough laughing, some loneliness and thankfully no loss of loved ones.

Pivotal as I became a granddad, sold our home of 21 years, brought the cottage in the country and retired from work. All of that (apart from being a grandad) was planned and in the main was delivered to time to budget and to a quality standard (work joke) 

Here was 2017

January 6 posts  - Started the year as I will end it - walking a lot. A walk around Bosham and then a drive back to Percy where he was made ready for another week living apart. Stew has to be up there in my top 5 meals.

Towards the middle of the month I was concerning myself over servicing the donk in Percy  - it will be interesting to see how much I actually ran the engine for in 2017....

Travel on Percy was on my mind, I was getting frustrated because bloggers and Vlogger (  a relatively new phenomenon)  but not for me, were planning their 2017 travels and I was at work.... just !

SAD was evident in my posts as the long muddy dark winter aboard Percy was being described but countered by a sighting of a beautiful white stag in the South Downs  - even now I can still recall the image. No wonder I am contemplating a new camera.

I did say in the exec summary we had not lost anyone in 2017, that was family but we did lose a much regarded CC'er and canal family member  - Les Biggs in January. Jaq his lovely wife is keeping Les on the cut by planting flowers with a little of his ashes at their favourite moorings - a beautiful tribute to the much loved fella.

February 4 posts The constant drizzle and mist was becoming testing but we did get a few days of hard crisp frosts that saw me out walking Leia early before work !

Weekend walking was being undertaken as we were living on Percy when in the Midlands  - Leia got a shocking experience when she backed onto an electric fence, another strong memory for me and no doubt one for her !

We were getting a taste of what was to come when we were walking and catching the steam train in the Churnet valley. This was part of a short local break with no2 son and his partner Emma. A good couple of days walking canals, riding trains and eating good food.

March 3 posts 

We expect spring to arrive as soon as Christmas is over but the reality is the winter rolls on, deceiving us with slightly lighter nights but still some heavy frosts. So it was in early March still living aboard Percy dog walks before work were getting a little brightness but still cold...

Reading back the bias was to the boat, but we were in London and Chichester as well, flat hunting with youngest son and his partner then Chichester for walks ... (plus the odd bike test !)

We did get out on Percy for a little cruise, just to Wychnor and back, but nice to get some water under the boat 

As part of the reciprocal work on keeping each others abodes clean and tidy Rachel decided to spring clean Percy only to forget she has left a tap running and dumped a lot of water into the cabin bilge. Nothing serious other than me having to cut the surveyor advised inspection hatch to remove the water.... its a job waiting for this spring to make a proper job of the hatch now I have time !!

I was even having a few evening walks and time for a last light beer at the Swan

The sunsets were arriving at Percys mooring again and the wine was supped while watching the sky take on natures orange firework display

April 4 posts

April was a busy month, seems the longer days were a catalyst for getting out and doing stuff, the best type of busy for me. 

I was updating on all the work I had done to get our home of 21 years sold  - it was a lot of work, in the main single handed which makes it harder. 

The month started with a trip to the Tramway museum, a much loved attraction for my late father in law Charles Lambert. Then the following day we have a little trip on Percy with our mothers to Alrewas and back.

The sun brought the April mothers day gongoozlers out in force, we boaters should get paid for the entertainment 

The DIY'a'thon is better detailed here .... click me  I was happy to complete it and being able to live on Percy some of the time helped. 

Still miss the old place, it was a nice home......

But we did complete on the new (old) place.... more blogging  later in the year on that.

While we had our new cottage we had no furniture so we headed off to Percy for the weekend spotting our old share boar Sylph and me making gaskets for the day tank pump (still holding up I am pleased to say)

I was actually test riding 1200cc triumphs in the middle of the month as well as outings on the 1300 Honda with friends from down south for a Sunday breakfast, then back up to work and living on the boat despite having the cottage  - as the nights were getting longer and the fishing was good !

Plus we were walking in the South Downes when we could !

My last blog entry for April was is seemed like we had filled a years worth of activity but it had only been a month !!

May 3 posts

I was exploring my valley in Staffordshire  - lots of beautiful walks some by the Caldon canal, 12 minutes walk from my front door along a lane then footpaths - perfect

Also I introduced my grandson to the blog, one of the three pivotal moments of my year. His arrival, or rather his notification of arrival changed our plans for property. Before we were told we were going to be grandparents we were searching for property in Wales  - when we knew he was on his way we decided an hours drive to him was our decider on property.

I ended the month concerning myself about the bloggers I followed and have met who were hanging up their windlass's. Some I had followed from boat conception through boat build to cruising to selling  - a marker of time for sure !

June 4 posts 

June was an exciting month  - a bit of contrast work and leisure. I started it by blogging about that ever interesting subject of on board internet. What is becoming apparent is that mobile or 4g internet can be as useful as house (wired) internet for most things - on line gaming being an exception.  I have over internet capacity but I do use it a lot and the detail in the post will be useful for some.

The real life decision was to resign from my well paid and easy job of the last 29 years 11 months to take early retirement. Not a shock to me of course as it had been a goal for the last few years to finish at 55 and much planning had gone in to making it happen. I took the view time was more important than wages/chattels. It has not been a bad decision I can say nearly 8 months in.

I have long reflected on 'time' and how little of it we actually have and how it is one thing not easily acquired...

I was spending time between the boat and the cottage in the Churnet Valley, both beautiful peaceful locations. It was hot on the boat and I was spending nights fishing into the darkness... we need some of those days now !

The valley and its many footpaths were keeping me and Leia fit  - there is a lot of exploring (still ) to be done.

July 3 posts

Bloggers selling boats and sadly other bloggers checking out fully were happenings in July. Sad but I once again blogged about how we all need to 'get busy living or get busy dying '.

On that get busy living I was blogging about my trip on the bike with a great group of fellow bikers to France, Belgium and Germany.

Had a reminder that biking can be dangerous when on the return ride from the tunnel I had a coming together with another bike, just plastic and no injuries but it could have been a lot worse !

I was filling my 'notice period' with planning my retirement cruises  - not yet got them fully underway but I hopefully have time now !

... and finally in a related post I was blogging about bloggers and now Vloggers I had met. With a chat with Jonno who had given up a TV career to be on the canals - nice fella.

August 2 posts 

Not a lot of blogging this month. I was pontificating on boats on the cut - there were a record 4 opposite Percy one day in August. I also ventured out (no photos I don't know why) and filled Percy up. In fact I don't think I have added diesel since !!

September 10 posts 

A record but unsurprising as early in September I retired !! I still cannot believe I got out so early and so 'well'

I was prepping Percy by cleaning the chimney and servicing the engine ...

It was beautiful in the early September sunshine - Hunts moorings are hard to beat for a lot of good reasons

I was walking my valley again.... this time to call in on Adam and Adrian off NB Briar Rose.  I eyed up the mooring as the Caldon was my retirement cruise destination.

Just before I retired I took the group of managers who have worked with me and helped me. I asked them to help me wind the boat and point it in the direction of my retirement cruise  - I liked the thought they were helping me on my way !! 

I like this picture as Mike at the tiller is clearly enjoying being the captain of the boat !

I blogged about my last day and put in some reflections.... I have copied the post in full as I have no regrets and what I penned then I how I feel now...

Clocked off

I am labouring a little on this event but to be honest until your time comes - and I hope you are planning for it, no one can really understand how emotional it is to leave the safety of work. Some will find it easier as they move around in different careers and different time spans in any one place of work. For me it was harder to say goodbye as I had been in one place for the last 30 years !

In some ways I still do not feel like I am retired, I guess that comes with time.

Yesterday the 8th September 2017 was my day. I received the most wonderful send off from colleagues current and I was so pleased to see colleagues from the past, some had made considerable time and distance sacrifices to be with my family and myself.

I was selfish and asked my family to be with me, I was nervous and unsure on my reactions. I wanted to show off my wonderful, beautiful family. It is why I have been in work and it is what work has supported me in achieving.  I will be eternally grateful for my luck in that respect.

Many came  - some were absent by choice no doubt and that pleased me as I only wanted those who wanted to be there there. I was showered with gifts and beautiful cards with lovely words, I am not normally a keeper of cards but these marked the respect and friendships I have enjoyed over a long time.

There were some I thought about who could not be with me as they had passed, some while working which is so sad but makes the need to enjoy and feel blessed all the more important.
I received sage advice from some who had gone before, retire with pride and dignity don't focus on the bits that were not right, focus on all what has been good. My colleagues made that very easy to do.

So I am very very lucky to be free from work at the age of 55. It has come at cost  - financial which is significant. However as I have said to so many this was the time in my life I had the option to buy time. Not all have such a privilege and in my thinking and planning it was not an option to pass it by.

I have changed my timer on the side bar to now count up from my last day of work, rather than what was there counting down to it. Let's see what retirement is like then !

I was deep into the planning for the Caldon trip  - mainly around pubs for the return trip for my two friends from Scotland  - not a bad itinerary...

Sunday - Black Lion Consall

Monday - Holly Bush Stockton Brook
Tuesday - Plume of Feathers, Barleston
Wednesday - The Greyhound Burston
Thursday - Woolsly Bridge inn- Woolsly bridge
Friday - The Swan Fradley

We were off cruising  - yes actually moving the boat, but a toast to those not able to be with me first ...

Leia wanted to get going  !

Week one was to get to the end of the Caldon  - just lovely cruising

I recall the week was all about nice weather until just after lunch then rain !

Leia actually dozed off and fell in at Barleston !!

More gentle cruising off the T&M and up the Caldon

I had to get the picture I had long admired Les Biggs took of Valerie many years ago at Consall with the steam train passing in the back ground 

October 5 posts 

In October I was still blogging about my retirement cruise. I love these pictures .... it was as tight in the tunnel as it was under the gauge !

Another dream realised  - many times I have visited the basin and thought of getting my boat in and spending a night aboard. I had never dared dream I could also walk to the basin!

I continued to blog about the return trip... very different with three blokes aboard and beer....

Suffice to say we had a boozy funny time with lots of decent conversations. Thanks John and Mick.

Back on the mooring we had a close call when a willow came down  - or the top of it between Percy and Sam. I made it safe before C&RT made it really safe by cutting it down totally.

I also got the boat safety sorted  - it was quite late   but very pleasing all the same.

I was also repairing the engine as right at the last on the return trip a fuel line cracked.... an easy repair thankfully.

I finished October by blogging about the post cruise polish for the winter  - I do need to do the same for this coming year even though as I type this its May !!

November 2 posts 

I was aboard again - riding out another storm.... I do like being aboard in harsh weather. I was also catching up on trips on the bike for a long weekend to Somerset plus other retirement activities such as walking and family stuff.

C&RT took the willow down and the boaters took the wood !!

December 4 posts 

A mega catch up - I can't believe now I am retired I spend less time getting the blog updated ! I was blogging about Bike trips to the Brecon area and also buying new bikes (x2) ! I was also aboard enjoying the early winter peace. Family were over again which is great.

Honda NT700 Deauville

Honda ST1300 Pan European 

 I was road testing bikes - this BMW nearly was purchased rathe than the 1300 above

To get the red bike I was off to Oxford at silly O'clock

The workshop got it's bench ...

I blogged about the NEC bike show and I had a trip to Colwny bay to get the AC sorted on the Rover then I was fixing the Rayburn and the NT700 (plus the dishwasher !) 

... and some family time was blogged about 

... and some relaxation  - after all I am retired !

I was also reflecting  - by looking back, on previous years posts in December - we do spend time aboard in winter its a nice place to be. I had moved aboard in winter (December) 16 to help the house sale - we did not move till April 17 !! In December 16 this is how Percy welcomed me after moving out of the house that was sold waiting to exchange

I was also blogging about 2018 boat jobs.... as I type this  - May 2nd I have done just one off the list ! However watch this space for some important news I'll blog about shortly .

1:  A back stove needs adding back in. 2:  There is some paint touching up needed - not my favourite job but it needs attending to - a crack in the roof paint in annoying but needs attention.3:   Two floors in the kitchen and bathroom need laying  - I have the Karndean.4:   Might replace the cooker- one with a drop down lid will give more cold prep in the kitchen5:   Will need to tile the kitchen  - not a lot but they will need some sourcing as they will be imperial size6:   I need to complete the bilge inspection hatch I had to cut when Rachel tried to sink the boat from the inside !!7:  I need to address a bilge pump issue 8:   Replace the central heating water9:   Replace the engine coolant10:  Paint the poles 11:   Re roof the log store 12:   Landscape the mooring a little to make it easier to mow the grass

I finished the year thinking about 1 above ... really to get to 50 posts - not quite one a week. Lets see if 2018 is better. Like I typed earlier some news pending that will see me on board more  - hopefully !!

Well done if you have got this far, after all it is my on line diary and something to look back on in my older years - hopefully. 

Now get busy living or get busy dying - you really do have a choice !!