Narrowboat AREandARE

From the 2009 & 2010 tantalising tales, traumas and stunning photographs of Barry (photographer) and Sandra (writer) from New Zealand aboard NB 'Northern Pride', to the stories of their 2013 return journey, purchase of 'AREandARE', progress on sustaining their live aboard continuous cruiser lifestyle, and Barry's quest to gain residency and 'Indefinite Leave to Remain' in UK ...

Sunday 30 June 2013

Back to Droitwich!

No, not by boat, by train again!

I'm spending a few days with my elderly parents, whilst aiming to negotiate the minefield of what support could be available to them via the NHS/their GP/Age Concern, etc.  It's certainly not simple, and I suspect there's been a lot of budget cuts since I last worked clinically in the NHS in 2001. Fingers crossed though I've armed myself with a few possibilities to discuss with my dad's GP tomorrow.  We shall see ...

Barry meanwhile is 'boat alone' again - and I suspect loving the peace and quiet! He's moved from Penkridge, where I left him on Friday morning, to Stafford.  So if anyone's around the area, do go and say hi to him.  I'll be back on board before he gets scurvy (he always jokes this happens when I leave him for any length of time and he has to rely on his own cooking skills), which I hope will be Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest.

Last Wednesday meanwhile we both had a very special treat - Helen, from Wandr'ing Bark and Wild Side fame, scooped us up (as she'd been to their boat at Calf Heath) and took us to her and Andy's home in Sutton Coldfield.  We were supplied with gin and tonics, a beef casserole, then Eaton Mess.  Marvellous and utterly delicious! Though the kitchen did sway a little (and we only had one gin and tonic, honest!) - it's unnerving when that happens due to your balance centres mistaken belief that you're still in a floating home.

Helen featured in this months 'Waterways World'.  Disappointingly she didn't get a write up for being the ONLY narrowboat trader at the St Richard's Festival, but did get the kudos of a photo - and if you look very closely you'll see Barry and I lingering at her delicious jams and preserves stall too ...

Helen and Andy's house was teaming with jars and bottles of produce for their business - it has rather taken over I think!  But in a good way.  Business is booming, and if you want to know more read the 'Canal Boat' article - they generously gave her more than just a photo!

It's difficult to believe tomorrow we're already into July, the seventh month of the year - incredible!  We have a few more lovely visitors coming to spend time with us, so I'm hoping this beautiful warm weather (27 degrees apparently at Heathrow airport registered today, warmest day of the year) is going to last ...

Tuesday 25 June 2013

From Worcester to Calf Heath - BBQs, mayhem, blessings and cards!

It's been ten days since I wrote a blog - primarily due to our continuing stream of vibrant, vivacious visitors!  In that ten days we've travelled back up (or was it down - I'm never quite sure on the rivers!) the Severn, turned into the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal and moored at Stourport then Kidderminster, spent a couple of nights in Kinver, then tootled up to Tettenhall just outside Wolverhampton, and arrived at our current mooring just past Calf Heath yesterday.

So apologies for the length of this blog which catches up with where we are, who we've spent time with and where we've been.

During this time period we welcomed: 
  • My mum and dad, and mum's Sunderland school-girl chum Jo who lives in Florida but spends a few months each summer in UK to get away from the heat and hurricanes there.  Amazing to get my dad back on the boat, but I suspect, sadly, that was the last time he'll be able to manage it.
  • Barry's sister back to the boat for two nights - she'd been visiting Bath and Cornwall for a few days.  Jenny left us on Tuesday morning last week and headed to London and then back 'down under' to her home in Gladstone, Australia after her European tour - it was very magical to have Jenny on board with us as we don't see her often and now it's likely we won't see her for many years.  Good luck with all your artistic endeavours Jenny (see her incredible Fimo creation below).
  • Gavin and Helen - friends from Gisborne, originally from UK, who were over visiting family arrived Tuesday afternoon for 24 hours. We were humbled and honoured they found time in their busy schedule to fit us in.
  • Lisa and our gorgeous grandson gave us the enormous pleasure of a day in their company on Friday for some marvellous mayhem and madness.
  • Finally, for this blog, we were blessed with a chance meeting with Leonie and Ray, who'd been in touch with Barry a couple of time before we came here - and live in Napier, New Zealand, one of our closest neighbouring towns (just a short three hour winding road trip away!).

I've scheduled in time to build a few more foundations for my Life Coaching business, in between visitors, and we've also enjoyed a few days where just the two of us have been able to amble at a leisurely pace, or sit still for a while. 

More and more, I'm recognising the main reason for me/us being back in England - to experience and appreciate the importance of people, rather than things, stuff, or money.  Don't get me wrong, money is important, but we can and will find ways to earn more in the coming months and years, but we know we can never make more time.

Below are a mixture of mine and Barry's photography overview of the past week and a half ...

 Jenny's amazing artwork - we couldn't bring my our seven year-old cat Suki with us, so she lovingly made us a Fimo model for xmas to pack in our suitcase

Holt Fleet Lock on the River Severn

A charming, chocolate-box cottage spotted along the river

Sharing one of the big river locks

Interesting rocks beside the Severn, close to Stourport

Coming into Stourport Basin

Sandra pontificating on something while waiting for the lock to fill

The back of the Chandlery at Stourport - very picturesque ...

... but not as much as the historic fairground close tot he canal and river

Stourport was built around the canal

Stourport has five basins and houses almost 100 boats, and has five locks and a dry dock.  We were told a few years ago that Bewdley chose not to embrace the canals, however I found this information on the Stourport Town Website which put me right:

"Popular legend has it that James Brindley chose Stourport rather than Bewdley for his canal because the citizens of Bewdley did not want his ‘stinking ditch’ passing through their town. The reality is that Stourport made far more sense from a topographical point of view. A canal joining the River Severn at Bewdley would have needed to cross several hills. Joining the Severn at Stourport it could follow the Stour valley and this obviously made construction much cheaper."

The Fairground

We were most impressed by the fair - it's so well-kept, has REAL flowers dotted around everywhere rather than being spoilt by plastic/artificial versions, and have put down some turf - which is plastic, but looks fine as it's underfoot and clean.  The rides are all shining and classic examples of the rides you remember as a child.  Well worth a trip if you have children of any age.

Areandare moored at the same prime spot we secured for 24 hours in May, 2009

Then it was on to Kidderminster, and more visitors ...

                                           Dad, mum, Jo and Sandra on board Areandare

Kidderminster is a town dear to my heart as I resided there to do my Registered General Nurse training, from 1978 to 1981.  There's some fabulous moorings stone's throw from either Tesco or Sainsbury's (take your pick!), and a short walk to the town centre.  I do have to admit that Kidderminster is pretty characterless - though Barry has managed to spice it up a little with some fabulous camera work ...

Very clever - the boaters clothing matches the colours on the boat!

A walk to Kidderminster General Hospital revealed significant changes since 1981 - the staff residence has been demolished and a Primary Care Centre built in its place!

Jenny returned from Cornwall by train, which is a bit of a walk away from the canal - and meant on our way to meet her we saw the effects of a large fire at a recycling plant, with smoke billowing high into the sky.  It apparently took 80 firefighters to bring the blaze under control over a few days, and there were concerns the water they'd been using could contain toxins that would contaminate the canal.  

Meanwhile Barry saw it as a fantastic opportunity to take some dramatic shots (I've super-sized them as they're worth seeing more of) ...

Jenny stayed for two nights, had a short journey northwards and left us at Kinver, where Gavin and Helen met us in their hire car.

Gav and Barry shooting something special - picture to follow!

Barry and Gav practicing with the good old British Charcoal BBQ - in NZ it's not such a chore as they generally take the simpler, safer and quicker gas BBQ method

Possibly got the meat on a little too early - but managed to cook it and it did taste lovely and smoked!

We had travelled a little way up the canal with Gav and Helen, then moved further the following day arriving at Tettenhall and moored opposite the Multiple Sclerosis Society - so we had a postcode to give to Lisa who was arriving the following day.  Fortuitously we were right by some shops, and when Lisa parked up on Friday, discovered a great little children's park too.  Barry and I had great fun climbing up and sliding down the slide with our grandson, and then taking them for a little round trip.  You can't take your eyes off young children for a second on a narrowboat, and we were shattered that evening - I slept for 12 hours!

We've decided not to go up the Shropshire Union due to the poor internet coverage - and also because we've found we have more time to meander before Barry heads back to NZ in August.  So on Saturday we had a quieter stop for two nights in Coven - right outside the Hope and Anchor pub which I'm amazed to report we didn't frequent at all having blown our alcohol/socialising budget enough last week!

Arriving at our next night's stop last evening, just after Calf Heath, we heard a tapping on the boat and at first I wondered if we'd moored somewhere they were going to charge us.  A friendly, smiling face was waiting as I emerged from the cratch and introduced herself saying they were the couple who'd been in touch with Barry and couple of times before we came here. How special to find they've been inspired by our blog to venture here to spend some time on the waterways.  Leonie and Ray bought their boat 'Firefly', and arrived here in April for they're not sure how long. 

Leonie's paternal grandmother was born in UK, so she's fortunate to be eligible for an initial four-year UK residency visa, and is able to work - she was able to 'sponsor' Ray to have the same rights.  We found ourselves extremely puzzled and perplexed as to how it appears so much simpler for them to gain entrance, than Barry who's married to a British citizen? Who knows the answer to British bureaucracy, but good on you both for taking the plunge and being so adventurous.

Not the most flattering of photos, sorry (Sandra's of course!) -  the obligatory home-brew tasting challenge and a game of six-handed rummy - we look forward to a return match sometime soon!

Saturday 15 June 2013

Wonderful Worcester and another incident with Barry's camera!

The last time we were in Worcester on a boat was in May 2009, on Northern Pride, just a few days before our disjointed trip on the River Avon when we received a phone call to say Barry's dad wasn't well and Barry had to return to NZ for three weeks.

This time we stayed in the city for a couple of nights, then turned around rather than continuing to the Avon at Tewkesbury - another time maybe, we rushed the lower Avon so would love to return one day and do it more justice.

As Jenny was leaving us on Tuesday, to catch a train to Bath and then continue to Cornwall, Barry took the boat down through the bridge to check out the swans before mooring up for the night - and paying a four pound mooring fee! We're not used to having to pay, apart from on the Thames, so we did so resentfully.  

Standing tall and proud - Worcester Cathedral, well worth a visit

So many swans! Apparently a group of swans is called a bevy, lamentation, herd, game, team or wedge (when flying in a 'V' formation)

The Cathedral grounds

Lovely cobbled streets

I know that many people pooh pooh Facebook, believing it to be full of nonsense and posts about meaningless rubbish - and if that's what they're expecting then that's what they'll see (though I question whether those people who denigrate Facebook in this way have ever really even used it properly - Barry included!).  

However, I see the better side of social media, in that it connects people all around the world and keeps them in touch in ways one would never have imagined possible just a decade ago.  This was brought home to me again this week - Jenny posted a photo on her page, in which she 'tagged' me, and seconds later she had a message on the post and told me I had a visitor coming!  It was actually a comment from someone I was in the same class with at Grammar school, in Sutton Coldfield, over thirty five years ago - saying he lived just five minutes away from our mooring.  

So we chatted (yes, on Facebook!) and arranged to meet up on Tuesday - it was wonderful to see you again Russ, and get a glimpse of life at Kings School Worcester - an Independent (private) school refounded by Henry VIII in 1541. Russ took us on a tour of their newly built Boathouse which was made possible by an extremely generous benefactor - and inside we met a girl from Hamilton, New Zealand (where Barry's daughter Jamie lives), who was working there.  It sure is a small and magnificent world.

Me and Russ - and a clever camera trick showing a very small pupil in the background!

Minutes after leaving the boat to walk into the town, Barry suddenly stopped and admitted he'd done his old trick again - left his camera behind!  Zipping up the cratch cover he'd put it on the roof of the boat, so hurriedly returned just in time to see someone standing next to the boat.  He was a council worker who'd been passing by, noticed the camera sitting there with no owner in sight, and was helpfully taking it to safety and writing us a note to tell us so, leaning on the top of the boat.  Barry approached him, thanked him for being so observant and thoughtful, and took his camera - at this point the young man picked up his folder and phone - which tragically slipped through his hand and managed to slide slowly right down the side of the boat and into the river! Poor Barry returned sheepishly to recall this sad tale - maybe it'll be the last time he forgets to pick it up - but I doubt it!

When we got back to the boat later that afternoon, we arrived just in time to help the young man to move AREandARE and enter the river to try and retrieve his phone.  He said he wasn't bothered about the phone itself, just the SIM card, he had a new phone coming anyway.  Boy did we feel awful as he stripped down and shivered uncontrollably in the cold water, attempting to find said phone amongst all manner of muddy and mangled items.  Unsurprisingly he was unsuccessful.

Bless him!

We moved to Diglis Basin early in the evening, passing The Boathouse along the way, and just managed to get a mooring (close to  the water point, yaay!), which meant we could turn around and go back out to travel up to Stourport on Thursday.  

The Boat House - a most unusual structure

Later on we had a walk along the canal and then back through town - Barry decided to take me a long way so we could see more of the houses and nooks and crannies much to the disgust of my poor feet who hadn't been expecting such an extensive journey!  Lovely all the same, and we got to perve at some very big homes - not that we're jealous (seriously we're not!), we love our tiny, cosy abode.

The following pictures are rather large, and don't fit the page so well - forgive me but I don't feel the smaller versions do them justice and it's so good to have Barry's photography back on the blog ...

Under the bridge along the Birmingham and Worcester Canal into Worcester 

A wall of a house that faces the canal - obviously they didn't want to overlook it too much!

Then there's the door that leads to the canal - which seems to be sealed off, with no handle

Then there's this marvellous mural

Cobbled lamplight - we could have gone back in time without knowing it here

On Wednesday we caught the bus to Ombersley to spend the day with my parents as they had some phone and computer issues to sort out.  Walking through the city to the bus station, Barry captured a couple more gorgeous images ...

The main shopping area in Worcester - look at this photo and then 'spot the differences' with the one below ...

One of Barry's favourite images, taken in autumn 2009, and now 'owned' by his brother Ray

The stunning building of the 'Three' shop in Worcester

On Thursday we headed back through the lock and onto the Severn, meandering to our next overnight destination of Stourport.

Diglis Basin

Seeing the Boathouse from another angle, with the cathedral in the background

Farewell for now Worcester, it was a pleasure as always

And here's more swans to add to the sanctuary