Tuesday 4th November: Marple

Well, I had virtually a half a week by myself. Nick left to go south for Geraldine's birthday bash and to sort out some Hungerford issues, and I am now able to manage the inverter and the generator. It was a bit tedious, but I joined Marple Library and resolved to find some useful voluntary work for 3 days a week. On Sunday morning I went to Marple Meeting which is held in a room in the Methodist Church complex, very close to the canal. I had previously met Fiona, who seems to be Clerk at Marple when I attended Disley way back in early September. I was made most welcome and it was a good meeting with a lengthy ministry and a longish reading from the book of Job and this stimulated other ministries about finding that place deep down in our subconscious for spiritual guidance . There is a lot of interest in Buddhism and Eastern Mysticism with the members. Though the meeting was small it is growing and is in the process of moving from what was little more than a box room to a larger room. The noise from the service in the main building was a bit of a distraction, particularly when they finished 15 minutes before us but it just requires a little concentration and mindfulness!

I intend to try to find my voluntary work thro' local Friends, though I have also visited the local Primary School, who are happy to let me hear children read. I also visited the local pub, The Ring o' Bells, which is has lots of character and some lovely stained glass. There is  a large communal bar and eating area where classic English meals are served. Then there are 2 smaller rooms that are almost museums; one is the Canal Room with lots of lovely prints, pictures and canal memorabilia, including a small library of canal books and the other is a military room, again with prints of locals from both World Wars, and collectable books including war poetry. The pub is very much a local with many customers on first name terms and they have a darts and cribbage team and a weekly Quiz Night. They also seem to attract a lot of folk who come to eat. Caspar and I were welcomed, and having a leisurely bowl of soup and company broke up the long days I was by myself.

Nick seemed very happy to be back with his little red car, just for a week or so, when he will return south with it for a day or two and leave it there to return on the train. He wasn't too impressed with the traffic on the roads and off the cut! He also arrived back with a 'Tempura' mattress topper purchased from e-bay which he hoped might solve the problem of my sore shoulder/arm/hand which I often get in the night. It is lovely, but ironically I suffered really badly last night. I had to get up to get some pain killers and couldn't resist tuning in to Barrack Obama's acceptance speech at 4.30 or so - a real bit of history! Nick persuaded me to go to the local doctor to get it checked out and he, the doctor, seems to think it's arthritic. I know I must take care to avoid too much sawing, wringing (of washing) and knitting! And I haven't been too clever remembering tablets - fish oils, glucosamine etc. in the last few days ,and I could lose a few pounds and take more care with my diet.

Monday 10th November: Bugsworth Basin

It's a while since I've written because we have been quite busy, socially. We have been in the basin, which might house several dozen boats in the summer but which presently has a few empty boats, clearly BW long term moorings, and Gloriana and one other boat. On Thursday we moved south on the Peak Forest, past New Mills and took the branch into Whaley Bridge, tree lined with golden beech trees which looked lovely in the sunshine, to see what was there. We turned in the basin, seeing the fuel tender boat taking on supplies at the quay, so we bought smokeless fuel as we were running short. Whaley Bridge is a small grey stone town in a valley with just a few shops, a co-op, a baker and a wonderful butcher - all meat from local farms. We stopped overnight in Bugsworth Basin and had to go back to New Mills for gas when the second of our three gas bottles gave up! We turned and returned to the Basin which is really an amazing heritage site. A tramway brought lime stone down from the Peaks to the basin where it was turned into lime. The local conservation group have worked tirelessly to restore it and it is quite impressive. Nick headed for a particular mooring which he had spotted on our previous visit but somebody was already there. We moored close by, where we were able to get our day's collection of wood logged on a picnicker's bench: and we were delighted to get an excellent TV signal that evening.

The next day Nick took the dog for a walk meeting and chatting with Wendy and Rick on 'Just Do It', which was on Nick's intended mooring of the night before. He discovered that they too had become close friends with Wes and Lizzie while on the Leeds and Liverpool. The outcome of this was that we shared a meal with them that evening, and the next day Wes and Lizzie travelled up from Market Harborough and stayed with us overnight while some friends from Ellesmere, Frank and Barbara, joined Rick and Wendy. So on Saturday evening the eight of us had an extremely sociable evening with contributions by all, finishing with some silly charades! 

On Sunday morning, Remembrance Sunday, Lizzie drove Nick and me into Disley. I went to Quaker Meeting and was again impressed by the warmth and friendliness of the meeting. The Meeting House is in Ring o' Bells Lane and we heard the muffled peals from the C of E across the way through much of meeting. The day and the momentous events of the week - the encouraging result of the American election and Remembrance Sunday engendered a number of profound ministries, and there were more significant contributions in the 'Sharing' time which followed. Meanwhile Nick had collected the little red car and found a MacDonalds where he grabbed a coffee and an intenet connection which we hadn't been able to get for almost a week! We returned to The Navigation, the beautiful old pub at the end of the Basin where the eight of us enjoyed a mediocre but value for money Sunday lunch after which the visitors departed and Rick, Wendy, and the two of us returned to Gloriana to chat and fix the country and the world problems, no mean task, so it took us from 3 o'clock 'til bedtime, helped along with a light supper and a glass or two of red wine.

Thursday 13th November: Marple

On Monday the good ship Gloriana and 'Just Do It' moved on to New Mills. We had to go to the marina to get the Eberspacher looked at. While that was happening Rick and Wendy went to explore New Mills and I was encouraged to take the dog up to the town to one of our favourite bakers. We didn't have much help with the Eberspacher tho' the view was, that it often helps if it's taken apart and put together again! A fellow boater volunteered a copy of the complete assembly book. So, we still have no hot water or radiators when we don't travel! We moved on a little away from the Swizzlers sweetie factory and Wendy and Rick joined us for supper. I entertained everyone by tripping in a spectacular fashion and breaking wine glasses and some eggs which were on the kitchen surface.

It's amazing how well you get to know folk on the cut! Wendy and Rick feel like lifelong friends. They have been travelling for about the same time as us in their spanking new boat which Rick had built from scratch. Most people buy a shell and fit it out, but Rick bought the steel plate and did the whole thing from scratch, He took six months off work to do the hull, then three and a half years working nights and weekends. Then she was transported from Cornwall to Whitchurch and put in the water. She is a tremendously handsome boat, inside and out, with a number of unique features, for instance, where we have a fold-up bicycle that has to be manhandled out of the stern doors, Rick has a motor scooter which unloads by swinging the rear wall of the boat out over the towpath and lowering on a jib!. Their first journey was to Lincoln from where they both hale.

On Tuesday Nick had to go to Congleton in the little red car to collect his new specs, I took the dog for a long walk trying to prove to myself that I am not senile after my fall the previous night! I climbed down hill, through boggy meadows and ultimately  found myself at the end of the Torrs River Gorge. Last time I was there the river was not running as deep and fast. It is truly an impressive place and the trees are nearing the end of their Autumn glory. As Caspar and I climbed out of the gorge we met Rick and Wendy climbing down as they too are as impressed by the place as I am! On arriving back at the boat we found Nick had already returned and we moved off in convoy, in increasingly wild and windy damp weather, through swing and lift bridges and back to Marple arriving just before the rain started.

We had  our last evening together on board 'Just Do It' enjoying a great lasagne, as the next day Wendy and Rick just had to start their return journey to Ellesmere.

On Wednesday, a beautifully bright morning,  Nick, Rick and Wendy walked down the beech lined Marple Flight to the amazing Marple Aqueduct over the  deep gorge down to the River Goyt, while I went into the local school to do some special needs work on a voluntary basis. After a coffee we waved 'Just Do It' farewell.

Thursday has been dull and rainy all day and we have had a relatively lazy day though Nick has finished the woodwork around the new TV screen. One good thing for me was a visit to the local alternative health centre. I was impressed with the 40 minutes or so I had with a physio who has advised on exercise and some treatment which she hopes will sort some of my aches and pains. I am going to see the chiropractor next week, and I'm hopeful that together they can help. I need to sort myself so I can continue our travels next year, as I have really enjoyed life on the canals and there is still a lot we haven't done. Our store of logs is showing significant sign of depletion so we will be travelling back towards New Mills tomorrow where, en route, Nick has identified a wood source: this will have the added advantage of placing us in the right area for my Sunday Meeting tho' we will have to find a good TV reception mooring for Saturday evening.

Saturday 15th November: Strines Aqueduct

Friday was pump-out morning which was done while I popped down into town. Then we travelled south and stopped just close to the aqueduct where we collected wood and Nick had a sawing session. It was dull and damp and I am fed up with soggy and puddle-y footpaths! Caspar, of course has enjoyed so much freedom jumping on and off the boat but now it's an issue as there is a limit to muddy, soggy towels!

As I write this I am awaiting a call to take the boat thro' the next swing bridge as we have started moving on, thro' Disley towards New Mills and Furness Vale, where Nick has been told there is a Wi-Fi hot spot! Furthermore I've just heard from Abi, and we are expecting, granddaughter Elanor for a sleepover tonight. Let's hope she actually stays over this time.

Monday 17th November: Marple

We had no joy with the supposed Wi-Fi hot spot tho' it was apparently the right place,  and we get the impression that reception on Vodaphone is just not good here!  It was damp and dismal as we headed onwards to Whaley Bridge and turned in the basin. Nick shot off to find the wood he had already earmarked a week earlier and returned with not only wood but a rash on his arms and head! Abi arrived with Elanor plus a car loaded with duvets, cuddly toys and various amusements. We had a lovely evening tho' the little princess was a trifle clingy - not surprising I suppose as this sleep over isn't exactly at the bottom of her garden. I mistakenly thought we had Snakes and Ladders in our compendium of games but she spotted the chess pieces and amazingly we played a loose and floppy version, which really captured her imagination! I was surprised how quickly she grasped the names and at least some of the moves, tho' she found the diagonal moves tricky, and boy! she is really competitive!

We had moved to Bugsworth Basin the previous evening and moved off early on Sunday morning to see if we could make Disley for Quaker Meeting but unfortunately didn't get there in time! Elanor had slept right through the night and was full of energy, helping with swing and lift bridges, but unfortunately then went flying on the muddy towpath and we had some cleaning and patching followed by a quiet time with more chess and some card games. Abi met us at High Lane and we had Sunday roast at 4.30 or so,  and our visitors left us with a chaotic but somewhat emptier boat.

Today, Nick went to collect the car in preparation for his journey south on Tuesday while I stopped to tidy and sort some washing. After Nick had encountered some time consuming incidents we set off back to Marple in the late afternoon, stopping to fish, unsuccessfully, with a magnet for the cowl, which was knocked off the chimney by the fine branch of a tree seen too late in the evening gloom. It was almost dark as we approached Marple, with the boat light casting spooky shadows of Caspar and me as we approached the wharf where we had to stop for water. By the time we were moored it was dark and raining quite heavily.

Thursday 20th November: Marple

Nick left promptly on Tuesday morning and mid morning I took the dog for a longish walk down the Marple Flight. The trees have now almost shed their leaves and it is all beginning to look quite wintery - not surprising as it's mid November. The hills all around still look wonderful - it really is a beautiful part of the world, even though we are on the south eastern edge of Manchester. Apart from washing and reading I didn't do a great deal more and did enjoy some tele' in the evening. I went in to the local school the next morning which started well, but by midday clouds had covered the hills with drizzle and wind which disturbed the satellite dish - another job for Nick who returned at about six and on Wednesday and was greeted by Caspar with huge excitement!

I went into school yet again on Wednesday morning and went to the chiropractor in the early afternoon as I'm somewhat concerned about my right hand which becomes quite painful at night. Seems he might be able to help but clearly has to be very careful with my neck and that is where the problem seems to  stem from. Certain the situation may not be helped by carrying heavy things and probably the lock working and sawing are not too brilliant.  He wants to see me 3 times a week for a few weeks so that is going to cost a bit but health is precious isn't it?

Saturday 22nd November: High Lane

 I can't quite think where Friday disappeared - we both stayed busy for the better part o the day - some wood collecting and cutting went on, as did some shopping and cooking! The cold weather set in as the day went by - it was fairly bright but the  north west wind created a real chill factor! Still. we haven't yet had the ice on the inside o the windows we had in the cold snap a month back, tho' maybe we are managing the wood burning stove better now.

On Saturday we had to take on water, collect more wood, sort shopping, visit the library before setting of for High Lane  where we knew we would get a signal for Strictly. We spent the afternoon watching the rugby in the pub. We left before the end as England were struggling but after we left it seems they were soundly thrashed by South Africa! It was a keen rugby pub with a number of chaps wearing their England strip! Tomorrow, weather permitting, I am catching the bus to Quaker Meeting at Disley and Abi is coming over to take us to theirs for the rest of the day. I have decided to come south to see my doctor about my aches and pains before I spend a lot of money on chiropractic here. It will also be great to see my sister and some Hungerford friends and neighbours.

Tuesday 25th November: Furness Vale

On Sunday we woke at our normal civilised time of eight o'clock-ish and Jackie caught the bus to Disley for her Quaker meeting leaving Nick and Caspar to do some domestic jobs on the boat. Abi drove over from Northwich picking up Jac from Disley and Nick & Caspar en route back to Northwich for Sunday lunch. Regrettably, the new led lights that had been ordered on Friday for next-day delivery had not arrived. We have ordered replacements for all the old lights: the new ones will use one tenth the power of the old thus allowing us to have as much light as we wish on the dark evenings without worrying about the battery.

On Monday morning Jac was up early preparing for her journey south. She took the 11 o'clock bus into Stockport, where after a short delay she caught the train to Newbury arriving soon after four. In the meantime I took the boat back to Marple, stopping on the way to cut some sizeable branches from a dead tree in a field: as I write this probably half have already been burned.

Tuesday morning saw the dog and me walking to another field along the towpath, cutting yet more timber, part of which I carried back to the boat, the remainder (two six foot by six inch diameter trunks) being left behind the wall of the field to be collected as we motored by later. The following hour or two was spent logging, followed by a pump-out and filling with water. After a quick shopping trip and lunch, we set off for New Mills. The journey without Jackie was marginally slower than usual because I had to open and close the lift and swing bridges on my own, but in under two hours Gloriana was in New Mills where I had hoped to get a copy of an Eberspacher manual from another boater, Chris. Unfortunately his manual was for a later model, but he referred me to Nick at TW Marine in Furness Vale for the possibility of advice. So half an hour later we were moored just upstream of Coles Swing Bridge where we stopped for the night. The weather had been really pleasant, with blue sky and sunshine, and the skies stayed clear well into the evening. And the good news of the day is that Jackie has seen her doctor and the arm discomfort is not considered to be associated with her chronic neck issue:  a bit of osteopathy followed by maintenance massage should solve the problem.

Wednesday 26th November: Marple

The next morning, the dull and damp had returned and it stayed much that way for the rest of the day. As TW Marine was a quarter mile onwards, and taking the boat there would have meant carrying on to Whaley Bridge to wind (another hour for my return journey), I decided to walk, so Caspar and I set off: we'd only gone a hundred yards before I got talking with Jeff on the next boat along, "Suits Us", and Jane, a dog walker who was already in conversation with him. We discussed a variety of things from the books of the author Bernard Cornwell, most of them read by Jeff in the preceding month and to which Paul High had introduced me earlier this year, to the socialising of dogs and the unnecessary use of leads. Caspar was spoilt with several biscuits before we finally carried on to TW marine. "Suits Us" is now firmly in Caspar's memory bank! It transpired that Nick (TW) knew a great deal about Eberspachers having been on all of the training courses. The first thing he told me was that working on them in situ was a difficult pastime: this I already knew! He said that taking them out and working on a bench was easiest (nothing new here!) but did confirm one or two ideas I already had and was able to give me some basic info that isn't in the manual. So on my return to the boat I started again checking the unit and established that I needed to make up a test lead (which is now done). But it was time to return to Marple as I had intent to go to see Quantum of Solace at the local cinema. I set off, opened the swing bridge, turned immediately upstream (not strictly a winding hole but adequate) and started back for Marple. The weather remained heavily misty rather than wet, though by the time we reached Marple it was relatively comfortable. Unfortunately, I didn't get to the cinema, the precursory sight problem I had experienced during the afternoon did indeed develop into a nasty headache. However I was able to enjoy my sirloin steak without rushing, and there's always Thursday evening for James Bond.

Thursday 27th November: Marple

I was actually up at seven this morning, and with the fire resurrected from not too deep a slumber, Caspar and I went for a walk, the weather being unexpectedly dry and bright. The early walk was prompted by the forecast that there would be heavy rain all day, but it didn't start until about 1pm by which time I'd sawn another load of logs from the 6x6 trunks, and been to the town for a little shopping. Any thoughts I might have harboured about moving on towards Macclesfield were now firmly laid to rest. Further inspection and testing of the Eberspacher is tending to suggest that the water pump has failed: apparently lack of use of this equipment is more detrimental than overuse. A telephone consultation with Nick is on the cards because a replacement will be 150+! The rain had cleared by 2.30 so the dog was taken for his afternoon constitutional at three o'clock, and at half-four I was again speaking with Nick. The replacement is even more costly than expected but we don't have an option. In the evening I went to the cinema, saw the Bond film, and finished with Caspar in the Ring o Bells.

Friday 28th November: High Lane

It was nine in the morning before I surfaced, and after shopping for the evening meal, I set off for High Lane having diverted Jackie from her intended Marple destination to meet me there, but only after some trouble with starting the engine. It took several turns of the starter to get her going, the white exhaust indicative of water in the cylinders, confirming my suspicions about the head gasket. The advantage of the move  to High Lane is that there would be a little hot water available on arrival, and that I will be on the direct bus route to Furness Vale and New Mills where on the morrow I have to buy the water pump and organise an engine servicing. Lunch was taken in The Three Horseshoes, Caspar eating courtesy of Becky - me drinking, where I was able to arrange for a postal packet to be delivered for me on the following day. On return to the boat I spent an hour or so preparing two breasts of lamb purchased from the Marple butcher earlier: stuffed breast of lamb was my speciality in my early twenties, learned from my mother. As we are short of sage, for the stuffing, it will be tomorrow's dinner, superseded this evening by Sea Bream. At about half past four Jackie arrived.

I'm impressed that Nick has managed to keep the log up to date - I'm sure folk noticed the change of style - just a trifle hifalutin'! I have been really spoilt by my sister and brother-in-law and have seen a number of Canal Walk neighbours in Hungerford. Nick had suggested I might do some of the Christmas shopping for family down south and, thanks to Isabel, that was pretty much completed: she demonstrated her organised and enthusiastic shopping skills, and a positive approach, so my usual (December) negativity and procrastination was not possible! Thanks, Isobel - that has removed a great deal of stress from my shoulders! I didn't manage to see everyone I'd wanted to see but I figured I should head back as Nick seemed to be needing a  bit of TLC!

Sunday 30th November: Higher Poynton

I caught the bus into Stockport fairly early on a foggy, frosty Saturday, knowing that there was a special Victorian Extravaganza - the official opening of the newly renovated ancient covered market. There was lots going on - ancient steam engines including fire engines, brass bands, choirs and Morris dancers. I popped into the Tourist Centre in an attempt to locate an advent carol service. I so prefer the advent carols! I had no luck at all, but then discovered that the Manchester Bach Choir were rehearsing the Messiah in St Mary in the Market Place, and very lovely it was too! Having enjoyed that, and determined we should return in the evening for the performance I bought some fruit and veg and headed back to High Lane. Meanwhile, Nick had been into Furness Vale to get the replacement pump but returned without it because there are one or two further issues which he has to resolve before proceeding on the given course. However, we went to the Three Horseshoes and, along with a beer, collected the LED lights which Nick had ordered and which had been delivered that morning.  After a late lunch and serious deliberations about the urgent need to attend to the engine and the possibility that we might have to go all the way to Stone, we had to start thinking about an early supper in order to go back into Stockport. Nick had bought two lambs breasts and had spent an age preparing them, and stuffing them just as his mother had taught him! When he first used to do it he paid 6p for a lamb's breasts but gave 2 in Marple for the pair! Still, we had a generous helping from just one, leaving plenty for cold, and the other is in the freezer compartment waiting to be stuffed at some future moment! It was delicious and really lean!  Unfortunately we had been misinformed about the bus times - the one we were hoping to catch didn't exist, and the next was so late meaning we were going to be really late for the concert, so we reluctantly abandoned the idea, and warmed ourselves by a roaring fire in the pub, outside which we had stood getting colder and colder! 

In the morning there was a film of ice on the canal around the boat. Caspar likes cold mornings and careered around the frosty recreation ground like a puppy! I caught the bus to Disley where we again had a wonderfully thoughtful meeting with ministries and readings from Quaker Faith and Practice related to Christmas Cake making and the inter-related nature of our world, and on the terror that took place in Mombasa. Sadly, I had to leave promptly to catch the bus back and on my return we had coffee and then set off for Higher Poynton, in the direction of Macclesfield, breaking ice in places, which is remarkably noisy!  Nick had spent the morning modifying the light fittings in the saloon to accept the new LED lamps: though they only take one tenth of the power they seem brighter than the old units.Nick intends to speak to the boatyard tomorrow about the engine works - we don't really want to do the 4-5 day trip to Stone unless we have to!  As we approached our mooring it was fascinating to see the thin layers of ice sliding over each other as we pushed them against the bank.

As I was writing this, Nick visited a recommended marine engine specialist living aboard a narrowboat across the cut from us but found that he can't take on any more work 'til after Christmas which Nick says is no good. So it looks as if we will have to make a wintery journey, southwards to Stone!