Sunday, 31 May 2020

There goes another one ....

.... holiday that is. Now I know my moaning is poor show when there is so much suffering in the world and in this country also. A few holidays (yes yes I know plural holidays ....) lost is not the worst thing.

With that coverall out of the way...

  • We should have been loading Percy up tomorrow for a cruise up the llangollen canal for a couple of weeks. 
  • Last Bank holiday I should have been out for a few days with a group of motorcycling friends based in the Peak District. 
  • In the early to middle May I should have been riding the North Coast of Scotland with a good friend.
  • In June I should have been in Normandy on my bike with a group of southern riders. 
  • In late June we should have been in a holiday cottage in Anglesey with our lads and families.
All gone west due to this virus. I have my personal views on it but they are best kept personal as they might be a bit too controversial for this blog or any airing outside of my head. And today Facebook rubs my nose in it reminding me we were in Times Square this time last year - people watching  !!

Greedy greedy holiday pig  - yep but then again this is my retirement, this is what I worked for saved for planned for so yes I'm well peed off but still thankful I have what I have and am able to stay relatively safe.

The other day  I did exercise my rights to ride my motorcycle to a place, meet one other person (Steve) and took some exercise walking along the Ashby Canal.

Same again yesterday only this time to meet another friend to pass on my gimbal and microphone I used at my mother in laws funeral as he was doing the same for his dads funeral, just three of them and a Zoom broadcast for others across the country. 

After dropping off the gear at Eccleshall I rode up to Audlem as we'd have been on our way there today on Percy. We are planning a one day visit to Percy  in the next couple of days to no doubt garden - might have a mini cruise to get the green off the hull .....

Monday, 25 May 2020

At least it got a clean before we had to go home

Says it all really, we cleaned the cottage in the Am then drove over to Percy to initially give the little garden some tlc. I ended up washing the starboard side as well as the back and the front. The front was covered in cobwebs... the spiders really do like this part of the boat.

Percy really needs a proper wash and polish, but we need the right ( not bright sun and high temperature) conditions. It is sooooo much easier to wash the boat at Shebdon compared to Fradley. Water tap by the boat is a singular pleasure as it the close proximity of a winding hole.

It’s just so frustrating  not being able to stop over... I understand and comply. Doubly frustrating as we were due another lost holiday from Friday for a couple of weeks... we had planned the Llangollen or four counties.... the latest release of controls ( shops) is a good indicator we are going  the right way, so we may get some time away....

For now a couple of pictures of our hard work.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

So what’s your nearest place on the canal

Ok, those that live aboard may not want to play, but clicking on CanalplanAC  ( did you know that’s a palindrome) and allowing the program to know your location it’ll calculate how far you are from the nearest canal feature.

“Your nearest place on the waterways is Changeline Bridge number 52 on the Trent and Mersey canal (Caldon Branch  - Main line to Froghall) This is two and three quarter furlongs away”

That’s a third of a mile as the crow flies and there are a few flying around here.

Friday, 15 May 2020

Roll call for my list of supportive companies and organisations.

There is no doubt many companies and organisations* have reacted well to the virus challenges presented to us/them. Some have not but this is a positive post where I reflected on those companies I have been grateful for or who have gone the extra mile or innovated.... it's not exhaustive and I may have missed some off and the list is not in any order of effort or preference ...

  1. Morrisons  - my supermarket of choice. In the main friendly staff and well organised with all the food and essentials I have needed.
  2. C&RT - they have kept the canals open for those who need to use them as live-a-boards. Kept information coming and given me hope there will be travel in the future !
  3. Amazon, not everyones cup of tea but I use them and they and their drivers, pickers, IT  and others  have stood up well and been a great support
  4. Admiral car insurance - just because they gave me £50 back off my car insurance, top company and I will stay with them next year as a show of loyalty
  5. BT Openeach and Plusnet for keeping an uninterrupted internet service going - essential for working at home for Rachel.
  6. Apple, because they have reacted so well to my damaged IT equipment and their gear is so useable and so reliable   - see my Spotted dick post ! 
  7. The Coop group, I have many services from them as I like their sharing and charity ethos. They also are to be recommended for their insurance fast efficient and fair.
  8. My neighbourhood, the little hamlet where we live have been supportive as have the wider village group who have set up and operated a very useful and supportive Facebook group
  9. Facebook, only just made it on but then I reflected the benefits of family and friends communication outweighed the twattery that I have to endure in some groups, mainly the 'Friendly narrow boat group' ironically. I joined out of all but that one and I fear it's only a mater of time before I sack it off based on the amount of moaners and know it all's in there.
  10. Finally the UK government. Sure they have got stuff wrong, but they are humans and working at breakneck pace. I am a bit fed up with the snipers who compare with other countries and other leaders. History will detail the countries that did 'better' than others, based on the reality of population, population density, international travel hubs etc, not facebook or blogging warriors who have political bias. Our Children and grandchildren will read about the lessons learnt and in some ways it's the governments who learn and change as well as those that react to protect people AND the economy as without that we have no health and public services. 
  11. * These have been the absolute back bone  - NHS, Pharmacies, Farmers, Posties,  Bin men (never seen a bin woman, I'm sure they are out there but we have bin men) other couriers and delivery drivers.
I ponder often how/if we will retain out loyalty to those that came good. It is my intention to be more loyal, maybe even at a bit of cost but they were good for me in the dark times so I will be behind them in the future. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Some normality at last and a hospital visit

First off I feel for those reading about the easing of restrictions who for a variety of reasons cannot or do not wish to yet go out into what is a different world from what it was mid March.

On the canal forums - well the Facebook  'friendly narrowboat forum'  there is some horrible discord with all sorts of insults and criticisms of the perceived different types of boaters doing or being allowed to do different things. In reality it's not anyones 'fault' on how they are dealing with the restrictions, the government's focus on not allowing people to visit second homes ( C&RT are most probably on balance correct regarding leisure boaters boats as second homes) so they have been telling us leisure boaters to keep away from their (my) boats.

Today was the first day us leisure boaters could visit our boats but not to stay over.

I'm not joking when I woke up this morning it felt like Christmas and birthday all in one. I was at the boat for just before 11. First job was to check the inside of the boat and as I had hoped Percy had behaved. Just a few cobwebs.

It occurred to me I had not tried my new wiring out since I installed the new starter battery  - remember this ....

I recon its been three months since Percy's donk was started so with some trepidation I gave the key a turn and the new battery spun the 3 litre donk up super quick and the engine did its suck squeeze bang blow all as it should - perfect.

The solar had been doing its thing and within 10 minutes the Victron was showing the alternator was  putting in just over an amp meaning the batteries were well charged.

It was a naffing jungle when I arrived so I set to with the strimmer and mower to get some semblance of order. After an alfresco lunch the drone went up, first flight at the mooring.

Then it all went wrong as when stepping off the boat I went over on my ankle with a horrible scrunching noise !!

So it was a grab and go to drive home then off to the walk (or hobble) in centre where it was very  quickly assessed and  X-ray'd. Pleasingly just soft tissue damage meaning a couple of days rest  then hopefully back to normal... ish.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Murder at Ivy Cottage

Sounds like a detective novel. I've been ever more entertained by the new tenants I blogged about here  Since moving in they have now both had families, the bricks and mortar couple about two weeks in front of the timber framed tenants.

I suspect the house couple have been parents before as they seem to be more active - the others, well a lot more haphazard in the nest building stage from what I observed.

Anyhow a couple of days ago plenty of commotion as I was having my morning tea and observing.... the first nest leaver was out and wanting to go back to where he got his belly filled....

He was persistent, a few times clinging to the hole only to be chased away by the hen, at one point she scragged him to the ground much to Leia's consternation. He eventually got the hint. His brother came the next day, who seemed to not hang about as long.

Then it got dark.... Friday I came out for my morning tea and saw what was obviously an underdeveloped chick on the garage roof, under the nest.

Nowhere for it to hide, so I consulted the RSPB website and they suggested as a last resort put it back in the nest, which I did and the hen carried on bringing her food for it. (when I put it back there was no other chicks left.)

Today, Saturday I was out once again with my morning cuppa when I observed different behaviour. I first thought it was one of the fledglings back trying to get into the nest but the hen bird seemed to defer to the male. Plus the male was actually going into the nest. Then all of a sudden 
the poor chick was dragged out of the nest back onto the garage roof by the cock sparrow.

I recovered the poor chick and it was evident the cock sparrow had been pecking it on its head and back  - obviously wanting to start the mating all again  - I read they can have two or three broods each season and they are in the main monogamous. This poor little chick was no doubt the runt of the brood, not getting the food of its brothers so not developing at their speed. I put it into a hedge in a plant pot hoping this time its mother would find it but she had no interest - seemingly job done.

Sadly a hour later it had died. Sparrow infanticide - something that happens I read, very harsh but that is nature. They eject their weaklings, certainly a lesson in survival of the fittest.

Here are the bad parents .... Hen at the bottom and the murdering cock at the top.

It did not take too long before he was cleaning the nest out... 

Let's hope the wooden house residents are a little more caring !

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Naughty but I might just have to go to the boat.....

I hope on Sunday the government give us some focus on the start of the end (!) of lockdown. We have been as good as we can be, I shop once a week and the bikes have stayed put under cover despite this beautiful weather. I did go to B&Q yesterday, they are now open so I have to assume what they sell falls into the essentials. Point of order I hear you say but my reason is my own mental health, seriously I am a do'er and just cannot sit still and have to have one or two project on the go. Maybe a reason why I opted not to just have the boat as a residence and brought the cottage as our main residence.

We did seriously consider just having the boat for a few years. but our stuff and my need to be doing things cut that idea short. I'm not decrying anyone who does live aboard, different strokes for different folks as they say.

So why am I possibly thinking of technically breaking the 'rules' and visiting my boat. Power, ironically I need some of the boats power. Yes we are connected by a fat (overhead) wire... a sure sign we are rural dwellers, no gas and our power comes across fields to a pole then stars out to the six local properties. We got a letter yesterday from the power company telling us next Thursday we would be without power for the day as they have works to do in the area. I know from talking to the engineer who came and did his survey that the overhead power run to one of the cottages is too low (a highways thing - even though the 'highway' it goes over is not, its part of a bulge in the lane where the access it to one of the cottages) Anyway they cannot or do not want to put in a taller pole so are re routing her supply via another pole.

They arrived yesterday to do some advance tree pruning to clear just one large branch that was close to one of the overhead wires.... they left the wood in the undergrowth that I nipped out and squirrelled away to cut into rounds for two nights heating next year... I'm a poor pensioner you know !

So the power I need is the generator from the boat to enable Rachel to carry on working from home. I think I can lash up enough runs (with the help of the long extension reel that is also at the boat) to power the laptop and home PC and monitor as well as the broadband router and maybe even the fridge and freezer if I'm imaginative enough.

Let's hope we get some relaxation on Sunday but somehow I doubt it !

Monday, 4 May 2020

Volunteering and charity

If nothing else this period of virus lockdown will hopefully generate a more tolerant and helpful society. Our charitable giving has increased, it makes me feel better and hopefully others benefit in difficult times. No one should feel bad if they can't give in a physical way as there will be many worrying about their personal future. But to give  a smile, a hello, a thank you to stranger, to the postman the delivery driver all helps. I've given boxes of 'Heros' to both our post ladies  and the two bin crews all very gratefully received, more the thought than the item. I've given beer to the delivery drivers and put stuff out for collection to the many walkers from the village we've said hello to. We also put some water out for the doggies to have a drink on their extra walks !

Smiles are like an extra vitamins to me !

Last year we lost a good friend to a severe Leukaemia, she died very quickly, very young and far too soon. She was a beautiful soul, kind and just lovely. We were told she had received over 80 'bags' of blood products from all over the country to try and kick start her bone marrow after the Chemotherapy. I have no doubt much of that was brought to her by blood bikes.

Blood bikes is a charity I have supported in the past and do so now. Some of my biker friends are  blood bikers in the North West, south coast and Wales. I am a member of Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire blood bikes. I joined up late last year but due to my mother in laws sad health issues and some of my own I never progressed past the induction phase and I am still in the process of doing my IAM training which is required to be able to ride their fleet of bikes.

Here is their web site - CLICK ME

Now we have no longer the caring responsibilities to Christine and I have had some positive news on my health issues I am rearing to go but cannot get the IAM training done so I have put myself forward for 'controller' training.  The charity needs controllers to take calls on a duty rota for hospitals for all sorts of things to be transported as quickly as possible at no charge to the NHS. Our charity is moving a lot of extra stuff right now including PPE, blood products, faecal matter, baby milk.... the list goes on. I hope to get the training remotely to enable me to be on the rota to do my bit. The controller tracks the bike from start of the job to turning the key off, to ensure their back is covered.

If we all do our bit we will make this whole episode so valuable. In my working days I really advocated learning by evaluation. Everything we do we need to reflect on to extract the positives and negatives the learning and therefor improvements for the future.... this is what this period of challenge is presenting to us.

I'll hopefully be able to share my engagement further as time goes on but if you see a blood bike on the road, give it some room to make progress, it will be on its way to helping someone out there  - maybe even someone you know or love !

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Vicarious Bolinder boating

You may be getting the sense I am missing my boat. We should have done the four counties now and be planning our Llangollen trip, which may or may not happen.

Anyhow for those like me wanting some canal cruising albeit vicariously here is a very well shot Youtube series of video taking the Bollinder to the port on Mykaskin's  channel.

Get a cup of coffee, a few malted milks (my rediscovered biscuit of choice) , superseding the venerable Ginger nut and fig rolls at the moment and enjoy.

Bolinder to the port day 1 

Bolinder to the port day 2

Bolinder to the port day 3

Bolinder to the port day 4

Be aware there is an unnecessary altercation at the first of the Glascote locks in the day 1 video, his behaviour really lets the boat owner down as does the bashing into the top lock gates  - shame.