Tuesday 6th January

I tend to do the early-ish walk with Caspar. Both yesterday and today were bright, snowy and intensely cold but today I am exhausted and deeply sad because of a serious impending family separation I learned of last evening. Sleep was hard to come by last night - the minutes ticked by as the ice creaked around the boat and the stars shone brilliantly above it. We are still in Marple where temperatures were minus 8 and the morning walk had to be conducted with care so I didn't go flying. We breakfast and in spite of my low mood I realise that I am finally feeling better after the fluey bug we came back here harbouring!  I still have a persistent rattley cough, but have recovered an appetite. Today we tidied up the boat a bit and that needs to be completed tomorrow and I will probably walk down to the launderette tomorrow. We are anxious about gas as we will need replacement canisters before the end of the week for power generation but the ice on the canal is getting thicker. Although it was bright today there seemed to be no thaw at all and Caspar's water bowl froze over in no time at all.

The problems of December are now replaced with a new set, some soluble with time and another working trip to Hungerford, but the main one beyond our influence.

Wednesday 21st January

I'm afraid, for one reason or another, I haven't felt motivated to keep this diary running until now. Just to summarise what has happened in the last 15 days: we were in Marple on the Peak Forest Canal totally iced in for well over a week. We were moored in a place where getting on the boat was difficult for me so that Nick would have to help me aboard. At least we had access to shops and civilisation but we were becoming anxious about gas which the New Mills Marina promised to sort but failed to deliver! Fortunately the thaw set in just prior to Nick having to travel south on the 12th. We were able to smash the ice, section by section - it took almost an hour to move less than 100yards to take on and off-load water and then travel on away as all the space on the wharf was taken. Nick left for Hungerford and after a day or two of thaw I was able to take the boat up to the junction, turn her around and get her on the wharf. By this time I was being supported by wonderful Friends at Marple Quaker Meeting. Mary Wright took me to her home for a leisurely coffee in her sunny conservatory and her experience as a psychotherapist was helpful to me with the family issues we have at present. She kindly offered practical help by picking. up a much needed gas canister which eased the power situation. James, the skipper of the handicapped trip boat across the cut got it on board, into the locker and working! He invited me along for a drink with some boat people. one of whom turned out to be a birthright Quaker. While Nick was struggling with tanks and plumbing and Nursery stuff I had to do double doggy walking and solo survival. The solitary living was eased with a launderette visit and coffee with Hilary, another Marple Friend and I was then invited to supper with her later in the week. Oh, and I went to see 'Australia' one evening - I knew it wasn't going to be great. It attempted to be a great block-buster romantic epic but acting wise and directing wise just didn't quite work.

Nick arrived back on Monday, at 11pm, over a week after leaving and was met with a practical issue - the generator had not been delivering a charge for several days and it seemed I may have caused this by damaging the cable. However when he sorted that, and the problem was still not corrected - at this point Nick is still assessing the issue as I write. However we  have plenty of power and hot water as we travelled to Lyme Park yesterday and watched the inauguration of Obama - an impressive occasion and impressive speech. I pray he will achieve just some of his goals. First television for ten days or more for me! I had never watched an inauguration before and never appreciated the solemnity of the event. The religious dimension was significant and quite acceptable for me. It was good he also mentioned the importance of religious tolerance in the States. It seems to be working hard to promote understanding and striving to effect some sort of unity in the States and the world.

On Wednesday morning we set off in bright sunshine onwards towards Bollington, the hills to the south are snow topped. We stopped after an hour and a half for a warming drink - much needed by Nick standing at the back in the chill wind. Then we completed the trip to Bollington, noticing a thin covering of ice on the canal, and arriving just after one o'clock, to enjoy some home-made soup for lunch.  A  short break, and then Nick was sawing wood collected from a tree we had had to negotiate that had come down across the tow path and half way across the canal. He cleared a way for pedestrians and plonked a fair few lengths of wood on the roof. The weather is now cloudy and we are expecting wind and rain. Patrick will pick me up from here tomorrow as I am going the babysit while Patrick and Abi are out!

Sunday 25th January

Wednesday night was rainy and particularly windy throughout - apparently this mooring by Adelphi Mill is in a sort of wind tunnel created by the tall building - and I togged myself in wet weather gear, decked Caspar in his cool wet weather coat and managed an entirely dry walk!  We had a lazyish morning and Patrick came for me at 2-ish. Sadly I had just an hour with Elanor before she went to her friend, Georgie, for tea and afterwards it was virtually bedtime. Pat and Abi went out together for their first joint Relate session and returned, drained and sober. Theirs is not a happy house.  Elanor is her usual cheery self but who knows how the tense atmosphere is affecting her inside. I did not sleep well and woke before six when Abi left for the gym and work! Lots of deep talk with Patrick in the morning and I was returned to the boat where Nick had successfully sorted the generator/inverter issue.

Nick and I moved on and back towards Marple on Saturday morning, yet another dull and showery day, stopping again to collect more wood from the fallen tree just south of High Lane. We arrived back in Marple late morning and I scooted down to library and shops while Nick did a pump-out. So we are fine in that department for another few weeks. We travelled a short way on the Upper Peak Forest Canal towards Strines, mooring close enough to Marple for me to walk to Quaker Meeting on Sunday morning. We had our Sunday roast on Saturday evening as I had picked up a short-dated organic chicken at the Co-op at half price (and very tasty it was too!). We had a good television signal and watched an excellent TV drama/film called Dustbin Baby.

On Sunday Nick did the early morning walk while I sorted the breakfast and got ready for the walk back to Marple and Meeting. I had a little shopping to do but found the big Co-op not yet open when I reached it at ten, so I was early to meeting - a beautifully silent affair with lots of talk after about Gaza and the BBC's decision not to broadcast the appeal. Mary kindly popped me down to the Co-op and then to a point where I just had a 5-minute walk back to the boat. Do you know, I feel so comfortable and accepted and supported at Marple. I do find the intermittent noises from the Methodists distracting; feet pounding, kids shouting, doors banging you never quite know when - I guess you slowly learn to lay the distractions aside. The environment isn't as beautiful as Disley which has a lovely location and is housed in a beautiful old stone building where the only noise is from the church bells across the way. Maybe the small meeting allows more of a family support network within a meeting. Each is organic, with a character of its own, just as individuals and school classes were when I taught.

On my walk this afternoon I was aware that the winter season is moving on. It was still light on my return at five! On the way I saw some hardy black cattle behaving quite skittishly and there are catkins at their early stages, yellow gorse is in bloom across the cut and some buds are distinctly swollen. Some of the flock of Canada geese on the field across the way are drifting along on the cut, while others are moving en masse up the hillside. Living aboard in winter is a trial with distinct exceptions! Then in the evening we watched Julie Walters in a drama about a doctor with a terrifying, deteriorating disease opting to go to Switzerland with her family to die. Quite harrowing, but what courage the screen writers and the actors have bringing important issues on screen. Last time I watched her was in Mama Mia - somewhat different! Then I recall her performance in 'Housewife' 49'  and as the Head of the failing inner city comprehensive. She certainly appears to have a formidable reputation in these dramatisations of real life stories. Going back to last evenings production,  so beautifully done, Like her character, I think it appalling that she had to go to a foreign city and an impersonal apartment to die. The thing I found terrible was the police arriving shortly afterwards, just as her children had said their goodbyes. Why could those poignant goodbyes not happen in her own home? I'd like to think things had moved on by the time I pop my clogs and, if necessary, that I can say 'enough' and have my wishes respected.

Tuesday 27th January

We are now in Bugsworth Basin in our charming mooring with garden seats and shrubs. We travelled on Tuesday with bright sunshine which diffused en route as mist descended over the top of the hills ahead of us. Caspar seemed to be happy to be on the move again and elected to walk along side the boat for much of the way. Later in the evening when we decided to go for a drink at 'The Navigation' before supper he couldn't lift himself out of his bed to accompany us. We stopped for a while at New Mills for lunch and I trekked into town for a quick shop. I'd forgotten there was an organic shop. We are missing the taste of organic vegetables and now have a few to enjoy. The shop also makes their own delicious  homous which isn't especially easy to make on the boat, and supermarket stuff is not very good. We arrived in the basin mid-afternoon.

The morbid cultural input continued with the afternoon Radio 4 play which followed a mother and daughter as the daughter is being treated for terminal cancer. I happened to be finishing a book from Marple Library called 'Grace' written by a Norwegian writer, Linn Ullmann which followed a similar theme. I began to wonder whether I should cut my throat then and there or leave it a while so I elected to listen lots more to Radio 3 and Classic FM. I remember now reading a book on well-being which insisted on a news blackout at least once a week. It should also advise on rationing 'heavy' plays and novels!

Tuesday morning dawned bright and cold - there was a film of ice over much of the water in the basin. I did the morning walk with camera, and Caspar, a short affair as we had planned to go for a long walk or a visit to Buxton. However we found ourselves quite busy - Nick struggled with the generator which just didn't seem to want to start and then turned his attention to the engine and the untidy and grubby roof of the boat. I started a clean up of the cratch and interior and we had the boat open and aired through, something that hadn't happened since September. We actually managed a washing machine load and opened up the cratch to start the drying process. As I write most of it is dry! However, our gadding out-and-about plans had been abandoned: especially as when we finished at 1.30 the clouds had arrived and it was raining, though lightly.   

Friday 30th January

Wednesday was dull and foggy and after completing a few more chores we set out for Whaley Bridge as the skies cleared. We found Stuart and took on fuel, then left the boat moored alongside his, having decided it would be a good day to visit Buxton again. We discovered we had just missed a bus but were tempted by the local chippie and shared a helping of delicious chips finishing them just as the next bus approached. Again the climb up over the peaks and then down into Buxton was beautiful. We walked in the gardens of the Opera House, very acceptable at this time of year, but holding greater promise for Spring and beyond. Then we spent a little time in the shopping area and Nick bought some bathers and a top, blowing a Christmas token in M&S. We arrived back at the boat at 4'ish and set off for Furness Vale where Nick hoped he might get a good enough wireless signal for an MSM Messenger Conference organised for Thursday evening - although there was a signal it wasn't good enough. So, next morning in more dismal circumstances we continued the journey on to Marple where I could be picked up by Patrick and from where Nick could travel onwards to where he knew he could get a signal: on beyond Goyt Mill. I went off to do my family support stuff in Northwich leaving Nick to travel on to do his computer wizardry.

Next morning I caught the train from Northwich to Stockport and Mary picked me up from the station. We went to hers for coffee  and serious family talk - she is hugely helpful to me with regard to the rotten mess in which my lovely family in Northwich find themselves, and thankfully believes Patrick is making significant strides. I think so too. I am seriously impressed by his strength and determination to protect Elanor as far as humanly possible.  His relationship with her has always been good but he is now more confident in himself, no longer constrained to follow Abi's pattern of parenting, and doing his own thing. Consequently his relationship with Elanor has improved. Mary made some lovely soup which we enjoyed while watching the birds in her beautiful garden. I began to get my bearings when she pointed out the viaduct and aqueduct which is at the bottom of the Marple Flight. Just as we were about to leave Julia, another Friend, rang asking if we fancied a walk around the lake at Comstall, which we did - a wintery walk with plentiful and quite exotic water fowl, and an impressive stepped waterfall.

Saturday 31st January

Friday night was pretty windy. As we were waking we heard a big thump on the roof. A piece of our double gangplank had blown over and it was lucky that it blew across the roof of the boat and not into the canal! Nick has now secured it! I visited the excellent baker just by the canal in High Lane. The chap bakes organic stone ground bread and allows slow proving - consequently the bread is so-o-o different from bread from supermarkets or bakers! The wind, still bitter, appeared to have died back and I wanted to visit the health store in Poynton, not a long journey but it was still quite windy and at one point we bumped into a bridge tho' Nick was talking to James on the bank at the time!  The wind has since picked up again - it is really quite wild, tugging the boat on its mooring - seasickness has been mentioned! We had intended to travel back to High Lane so that I could get to Meeting for Worship tomorrow but Nick figured the effect of the wind on the journey back, gusting from behind us would make travelling very difficult so we'll try early tomorrow - surely it cannot remain so blustery for yet another 24 hours. I had hoped my trip on the bus would allow me to get back quickly: this required shopping quickly but unfortunately the credit card machine ran out of paper and as I walked out of the shop the bus sailed by, bang on time, which is relatively unusual! All was not lost as I managed to get my hair sorted by the girl who remembered me from before Christmas! I was fascinated by the shop owner and stylist, who was also a body builder - quite an unusual combination. His upper body was so well developed that he walked like a cowboy about to go for his shooters, in fact it looked as if it might be quite difficult living with that musculature! Not a turn on for me I'm afraid, in fact rather the opposite! As I write this Nick has gone out to sort the ropes and check that all is secure on the roof and is reporting that it remains bitterly cold. I'm pleased I'm not at sea!