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 ...

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Seasons greetings everyone

Happy Xmas!

This will be our final post for 2013, as we're leaving the boat until 7th January, visiting family. Christmas Day will be spent half at my daughter's home in Malpas with her family and my younger daughter who's come up from Brighton, and in the afternoon we'll travel to Ombersley to be with my parents. On Boxing Day we'll drive up to Lichfield to see my eldest sister and her children and grandchildren.

On 28th December we'll set off again, this time onto the M5 to Exeter, to see my youngest sister for a New Year, leaving there for my next sister down in Southampton on 2nd January.

On 3rd January it's a short drive to Brighton to celebrate my youngest daughter's birthday, then back to my parents for a night or two before heading back to Tattenhall.

Phew! How lucky are people who have family all living within a short distance of each other! I often question how we came to be so far apart. It wasn't always like this. For many years we all lived in Sutton Coldfield, and spent Xmas and New Year together. I guess it's just how it is nowadays for many families.

We were really touched on Saturday night, when we went for our weekly night out at the Marina Bar (Scotty's), and were told we had a couple of letters and a parcel. As we weren't expecting anything, we were curious as to who had sent us what! 

One of the envelopes contained a Xmas card from Angie and Dave, from NB Lady Esther, the couple we met at Market Harborough (we blogged about the synchronicity of meting them in April). They'd sent us a wedding card to the Dog and Doublet in September 2009, after following our blog. We were really touched they'd taken the time and trouble to get in touch again - thanks guys, hope to catch you again in 2014.

Seeing the package I wondered if I'd ordered something and forgotten - what a delightful surprise it turned out to be. A Marks and Spencer's Hamper of delectable goodies from our friends in Sheffield, Sarah and Fred. Now gifts like this we can handle, they're not bringing unnecessary 'stuff' into the world. Yum!

And so this is Christmas, and what have we done? Well we've had an amazingly adventurous 2013, which included memorable and magical things such as: 
  • Saying a sad 'Haere Ra', farewell for now, to family and friends in Gisborne and other places in New Zealand
  • Moving from New Zealand to England in March, returning to the Inland Waterways in April after buying NB 'Areandare' 
  • Welcoming on board zillions hordes of vivacious visitors from England and even six New Zealand friends on separate occasions who've made room in their holiday itineraries to spend time with us
  • Catching up with fellow narrowboaters who we'd met in 2009 and 2010, as well as getting to know lots of lovely new kindred boating souls
  • Barry returning to NZ in August, successfully selling his 'Home Brew Supplies' shop 'Ezimade', AND obtaining stage 1 of his UK residency visa
  • Experiencing life in a Marina for the first time, meeting some great people, and being just a short bus ride away from my eldest daughter and grandsons - bliss!
  • Barry returned to UK late October - for the foreseeable future ;-)
  • Two articles published in the Gisborne Herald Weekender supplement about our 2009 and 2010 travels
  • Appearing in Waterways World twice (one was in the January 2014 edition, but it was published in December so we can count it!)
  • About to spend my first Xmas in England for nine years, and Barry's first since his one and only other  in 1976

Mesmerised by the glitter and tinsel of the Xmas shop in Chester

How many baubles can you fit on one Xmas tree?!

When we drive back to Tattenhall on 7th January, all the colourful lights brightening up the dark nights during December will have been taken down which is a shame. Wouldn't it be lovely if people left them up until spring?

Happy Christmas everyone, and we wish a peaceful and prosperous New Year to you all. Thank you for reading our stories and sharing our trials, tribulations and thrills.

We look forward to connecting once again in 2014, as we embark on our year of making it happen - focussing as always on enjoying time with family and friends, whilst vitally next year taking forward ways of earning sufficient funds to sustain a minimalistic lifestyle living aboard our narrowboat, whilst continuously cruising the Inland Waterways - from 1st March 2014.

It's going to be interesting!

Sunday 22 December 2013

Waterways World feature once again, and a wonderful weekend

We're currently feeling a little like 'Retiring Afloat' pin-ups having appeared as the feature photo in two consecutive Waterways World articles! When we sent in six photos of 'retired' boaters, we didn't imagine them using the ones of us, especially not such large ones lol! 

It's quite disconcerting to see ourselves staring back like this ...

January waterways World article - featuring Richard, Rivka, Sandra and Barry aboard Areandare

The lovely Pam and Terry from NB Rooster's Rest appear once again on the contents page. Sadly they didn't publish a few other photos of 'mature' couples on boats that we sent in (Sue and Vic from NB No Problem were one). Maybe another time.  Once again, the photo was taken with someone else's camera, this time Richard's from New Zealand - now he really IS officially 'retired' and drawing a pension!

It was the lovely Helen and Andy who brought said copy of WW to the boat last weekend, when they came to stay for a couple of nights. What fun we had. Andy managed to get two blogs from the visit, you can read them here and here. He took some fabulous shots of Barry feeding our friendly swan (don't show the children!) - by getting him to literally take the bread from his mouth! Yes he is completely crazy fearless!

We had a cracking day in Chester, having persuaded a very reluctant Andy to experience a bus journey (damn the bus driver for being late entailing an uncomfortable wait in the cold and rain - that didn't persuade him one iota of the merits of public transport!). We walked the walls once more, and while Andy and Barry were distracted with their lenses, Helen and I ducked into a quaint-looking pub for a drink. Now Andy, in his blog, suggests that he and Barry talked the landlord into letting us stay for a drink after closing time. The reality is that Helen and I were chatted up, in their absence, and they suggested actually locking the doors so the boys couldn't get in, while the girls enjoyed a pint! Now that would've been a table turning event if ever there was one!  In the spirit of the festive season, we decided to show goodwill to our men, and not torture them ...

A grainy shot from Sandra's iPhone (must clean the lens more often!), Barry, Helen, Sandra and Andy in the very old-worlde Albion Inn

There was a plethora of memorabilia from in the early 20th century to keep us amused - this one below is especially for all the lager drinkers in England and New Zealand - mostly for you Tony Fox!

The Albion Inn, where the landlord has remained continuously for 37 years, and the interior decor iconically captures the essence of the 1914-18 Great War - well worth a visit if you're in Chester

Oh, and to finish, we're celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary today. This year we're off to the local 'Letters Inn' for a couple of drinks, a Chinese meal and to St Albans Church to sing some carols.

Barry and Sandra sign the register 22nd December 2009, Wainui Beach

Sunday 15 December 2013

Auto Awesome from Google+ - incredible!!

Shortly after posting today, I received a notification from Google+  a photo had been picked to 'twinkle' - and here it is! I adore technology, how incredible is this ...

Truly magical, I'm beginning to love Christmas in England after all :-)

'Tis the season to be jolly - feeling Christmassy in Chester and resisting the pressure to spend!

Most weeks recently, Barry's been tootling up the canal on the boat to Christleton on Mondays, to play Badminton at the High School there. Meanwhile I catch the bus and spend the day in Malpas with my daughter and grandsons, returning to Barry in the evening.

Last week we decided to stay for two nights 'on the cut', and walk into Chester from Christleton on Tuesday to do a bit of shopping we needed, and see the Xmas lights and market. We'd have loved to take the boat, but the first lock is closed for maintenance until 20th December.

I'm trying to be enthusiastic about a season I have some challenges with - mostly in respect of the ridiculous amount of pressure people feel to spend money they don't have on 'stuff' no-one needs. I loved Christmas in my eight years of the summer in New Zealand - the warmth and light of the days gave it a completely different feel - it really was a time for being jolly as you can see from a particular decoration below ...

A surfing santa in NZ

Contrast with the lights and noticeable difference in the diluted blue of the wintry sky in Chester ...

The Chester Xmas Market

Xmas tree and lights in Chester 

We walked around town for a few hours, and according to the 'Map My Walk' app on my iPhone's calculations, including the distance from Christleton, we walked 26.9kms! Barry's back wasn't up to returning by foot to the boat, after badminton the night before as well, so we caught the bus back.

I was very pleased with myself for managing to resist all temptations of the array of glitter and sparkle in every shop. The only xmas decorations purchase I succumbed to was buying batteries for one pound I needed for a father xmas I bought in 2005.

To put into perspective the real problem of unnecessary xmas spending (I'm reassured it's not just me who hates the waste), 'Life Squared' has a great publication called 'How to have a better Xmas'. One of the horrifying statistics they quote is 'Britain uses over 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper over Christmas, which produces over 83 square km of rubbish - enough to cover Guernsey." Scary aye, are you sure you still need to buy all that wrapping paper?!

Admittedly it's lovely though, seeing the lights around on the dark nights, I'd forgotten quite how magical it makes the evenings here. On the boat, we're keeping our decorations to a minimum, having brought a few things over from NZ ...

 L to R - Knitted crackers from Ombersley church xmas tree fete (20p each!), Rudolph bought by a German girl my daughter met on her travels to NZ in December 2005 and who stayed with us over Xmas, a Snoopy xmas stocking my girls bought me many years ago and filled with treats bless them, a 'pop-up' narrowboating xmas scene bought for us by friends in NZ a few years ago, and an illuminated santa claus bought in December 2005 in Tauranga, NZ, all on a little embroidered tablecloth I bought from a Gran Canaria holiday in 1995!

In the cratch we have some holly and berries from Ombersley in the herb planter, with baubles hanging from it - we 'found' said (brand new) baubles in a black rubbish bag under a bridge this year along the canal, and 'rescued' them! I have indulged and bought some Xmas lights - five pounds from Wilkinsons for 20 LED battery operated ones that hang on the holly. So with the batteries for santa claus and the stockings, I've spent a total of six pounds and forty pence on xmas decorations, not bad I think.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Sandra plays her cards right after Barry's birthday, and aspirations for a happy Xmas

We returned to Areandare last Tuesday evening, after spending another few days with my parents, and Barry's short trip to Brighton to catch up with his mate Dickie and meet Ray for the first time. Barry spent just 46 hours on the south coast, as Dickie was leaving for a work trip to Southampton. I'm not sure he would've coped with any longer - certainly our meagre personal allowances wouldn't support any more outrageous Guinness drinking! The sustenance of the two days was very much of the liquid, not solid, variety ...

Barry, Dickie and Ray (NB Stronghold)

Back in Droitwich, we unfortunately discovered our hired car had been deeply scraped on the passenger door handle whilst parked, we assume, in 'Morrison's' car park. We choose never to partake of the offered 'extra' insurance by Enterprise to reduce the potential excess of £750, as we figure the odds are very much in our favour. I've only ever, in 36 years of driving, had one car accident - and that was when someone ploughed into my rear end when I was stationary at a traffic island. We reckon on the balance of probabilities, we'll still save money in the long-run, as we hire cars every month or two. This year we'll have hired six times since March, so if the extra is around £10 a day (can't recall how much!), it would've cost us heaps more and saved us nothing. The door handle repair cost £134.

It's all a gamble really isn't it, this insurance lark? We have a car booked over xmas and NY, so we're hoping the weather remains as unseasonably mild as it's been lately! The cold snap that's been forecast for weeks has yet to materialise, in Cheshire at least - yet another case of what I perceive to be the mass negativity propaganda of the British media.

Last Friday was Barry's 58th birthday, only his second winter one, the first being his 21st in 1976! He's more used to a summer celebration, with a BBQ and party with friends in the long, light evening of New Zealand. He's more than happy though, and enjoyed a good old British breakfast to start the day, and a traditional British pub to end it.

In the afternoon we had a stroll into Tattenhall, where we popped into the church to see the decorations and check out the ambience (we may not be 'believers', but there's something very warm and welcoming about British churches I find) and were greeted with 'messy church', a cup of tea and biscuit (love Tattenhall people!), and a sing along with guitar for some village children. Then it was time for a few pints in the warm and cosy 'Letters Inn'. We were invited to join some locals in the corner, chatting amiably to them for a couple of hours, before being offered a lift back to the Marina in a retired farmer's Mercedes. There's not many places where that would happen - a wonderful day.

Barry and his new mate Keith, snug in the corner

My sister Kath joined us on Saturday, so we took her on our hour-long circuit walk along the canal and then back around the country lanes.

In the evening we were happily surprised to discover that fate decided we weren't to miss Scott's bar 'Play Your Cards Right' while we were away. I won £49 by being the only person of about 25 present to make it twice through the board amidst calls of "Higher", "Lower", etc, and amazingly not a single pair ("You get nothing for a pair"). With that and my recent £500 win with the Avon Consumer panel, I'm confident 2014 is going to be a financially successful year for us.

Kath and Barry walk towards the setting sun

Barry gets into Beeston Castle on his second attempt, making the most of Kath's car on Sunday

Talking of finances, I'd forgotten quite how crazy the Christmas madness becomes in UK, this being my first one for nine years.  As we choose not to possess a TV, we aren't subjected to the persistent advertising frenzy (apart from via social media which is bad enough!), but we do experience it at my mum and dad's. It really has got out of hand IMHO.

I'm very conscious of contrasts between xmas in UK and NZ. In the southern hemisphere it's the season of long, warm, sunny days, so not many decorations are needed or noticed - the days tend towards being naturally gorgeous, bright and cheerful! However, in June and July, there's little to brighten up the days, and I remember thinking they could do with something similar there then! But definitely not with all the commercialism that seems to be paramount here.

I do love to see the xmas lights in UK though, in the houses and shops. What I don't love is the potential for so many people to verge towards being sadder than ever at this time of year, when they may feel as though their lives aren't filled with as much love and comfort as others. People who are alone, people who are homeless, people who are abused, for instance.

I guess what I'm trying to say is I aspire to 
  • keep it all in perspective
  • enjoy the things about the festive season that bring joy to people
  • appreciate that spending money we don't have, on stuff we or others don't need, is not great for us individually or collectively
  • look around and see who could do with a bit more love, and our presence, rather than presents

More xmas aspirations and possibilities for seasonal cheer spreading in the next post ...