Monday, 13 April 2015

At last

the road works at the Black Cat roundabout are coming to an end. The journey to the boat is now just over an hour. This means that we can have a day out without worrying about travel time.

Inside the boat is beginning to look shipshape. Rising temperatures mean that we have no need to light the stove and working inside is much more pleasant with fresh air,sunlight, and no need for heavy jumpers.

A coot comes calling at Teatime.

In between jobs, we can sit out on our pontoon, drinking tea and watching the wildlife.

We have a resident pair of crested grebes on the lake. I think they're nesting in the reed bed near the entrance to the River Nene.

Ruffled feathers and injured pride

There is also a pair of swans that regularly comes a- calling at the boats, demanding to be fed, Ron doesn't approve at all and makes his opinion known. Swans are noted for their robust response to such things.

This one was no exception and treated us to a display of agression, complete with hissing and raising of wings.

Meanwhile, the ducks practiced their co-ordinated flotilla formation, pairing off as they descended on the moored boats for a spot of noisy pestering.

Who said the countryside was quiet?

The marina is definitely looking springlike. Daffodils, blackthorn, and the first of the cherry trees are in full bloom. Boat crews are out in force, spring-cleaning, painting, and DIY-ing in the glorious sunshine.

With more fine weather forecasted, MWNN and I are looking forward to spending more days at the marina,

With this view to look forward to during tea-breaks and lunch, who would blame us?

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

More boat renovation

We are all set to have a new cratch cover, stern tonneau, and complete re-paint within the next few months.

Yesterday, we had an appointment to meet Tim-the-covers, at the marina. We set off early so that we could install the new cratch-board (courtesy of my nephew-in-law's skilled work) before Tim arrived.

We pulled into the Apple petrol station on the A1M at about 10.30am. There was then an altercation with a concrete pillar, resulting in the loss of the rear windscreen on MWNN's Berlingo.

The service-station manager took photos and confirmed that no damage had been done to said pillar. After clearing  much of the windscreen from  the station forecourt and interior of the car, calming Ron, and filling with diesel, we drove back home to switch cars.

Poor Ron was very shaken but settled in his crate in the back of my Berlingo for the return journey.
Tim-the-covers was waiting for us at the Marina, but said that the wind was too strong to make the templates. He measured up, quoted for both covers, discussed design and materials, and agreed to meet us next week (weather permitting) to make templates. Then we wait a few weeks for them to be made, installed, adjusted, and checked for leaks.

This morning, our neighbour (who is also our car mechanic) announced the birth of his first grandchild and also that he had ordered a new rear windscreen that he would fit as soon as we cleared the remaining glass from the mounting.

We are in for a busy few months. I hope that we will be able to have a 'shake-down' cruise to test the new covers by mid-May, ahead of the painting of the boat.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Manchester Trip - Day 3

did not start well.

We bought a return Metro ticket, intending to start at the Town Hall to see the Ford Maddox Brown Murals.

The tram terminated at Piccadilly, where we stood for a long time waiting for another to take us on to St Peter's Square.

After a bit of 'advice', we walked across Piccadilly 'Gardens' to another tram stop.

At the base of the Manchester 'Eye', we stopped to chat to a busker, who was playing a Kora. He'd recently graduated from Salford University and was playing a tune composed by his Tutor (who was standing behind him.)

After a long wait and quite a bit of mis-information, the penny dropped that there was neither tram nor bus going to the Town Hall and beyond, due to engineering works on the new Metro track. It was a short walk to St Peter's Square, but neither MWNN nor I fancied a repeat of Friday's marathon session that left us both exhausted.

We arrived at the Town Hall to find it closed, yet again. So closed, this time, that the front doors were locked. We were disappointed and getting a little tired. The decision was made to have an early lunch, so we set off in search of Sam's Chop House.

We found Tom's Chop House easily enough, on Cross Street. We'd been given directions to look for a left-hand road opposite Tom's, where we'd find Sam's. I tried asking two couples, neither of whom knew anything as they were foreign visitors.

We crossed the road and I stood looking gormlessly at my mobile's maps. A young man asked if we needed help (we'd had numerous locals do this over the weekend) and pointed us in the right direction. He was standing beside a new (to me) glass tower, bearing the name 'Cross Street Chapel'.

Once inside, Sam's, the little snug bar is dominated by a life-size bronze statue of L.S. Lowry.

He was a regular in the day's when Bert Knowles owned the restaurant.

We had a lovely, relaxed Sunday lunch in the restaurant section of the pub. We were so early that we had the place very much to ourselves.

After lunch, we decided to return to the hotel via Deansgate, where we knew we could board a bus that would take us to Shudehill. MWNN remembered that I'd told him about the time I worked in a baker's shop during the school summer  holidays. I could walk to Manchester's Hidden Gem from there for the feast of the Assumption on 15th August. Generations of my ancestors were baptised there, it pre-dated the Catholic Cathedral, which was not built until twenty years after Catholic emancipation in 1829.

Despite the fact that he was tired, MWNN insisted we visited the church.

I'm glad he did, but it was a shock for me when we  stepped into a brightly lit church, spotlights rendering the three altars uniformly white.

My memory of the church was one that was lit by candle-light and daylight from the cupola windows. The 'gem' of its nickname, I always thought, referred to the 'gem stones' set into the reredos of the three altars - the Pieta, the Main altar, and Our Lady of Manchester.

I set my digital camera up with no flash and took some close-ups of the main altar. This photo is a collage of a close up of the saints, with enlargements of some of the 'gems'.

The new lighting, no doubt, was installed to enhance the newly-installed (only ten years ago) Stations of the Cross. These are now tourist attractions in their own right, but for me, the beauty and peace of the church stemmed from a dark interior lit by the carved reredos 'gems' and candle-light.

Outside, in Mulberry Street, we took our bearings and made our way to Deansgate.

There, we passed this statue of Chopin, dedicated to the man himself and a gift of thePolish Community that has been part of Manchester's inhabitents for generations.

As we crossed Deansgate to find a bus-stop, I spotted the John Ryland's Library. MWNN had heard of this and wanted to take a peek inside. We were both very tired by now, so it would have to be a fleeting visit. There was a cafe in the modern entrance hall, where we knew we could sit and rest over a cup of tea when we needed.  

The first gallery housed an exhibition of Merchants of print, from Venice to Manchester.

MWNN said the trip to Manchester was worth the visit to the Ryland's Library alone.

Many of the venues we saw and visited were made available to the population of Manchester by 19th century entrepeneurs.

For me, who felt like a tourist in the city in which I was born, it dawned on me what a privilege it was to grow up and be educated there. It reminded me of the visits I used to make to Central Library and the Science Museum, on my own, or to study with school friends. Britain's first free public lending library was opened in Manchester in 1852.

Speech Day, Free Trade Hall

I remembered the number of times I sang with the school choir with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, or at Speech Day, at the Free Trade Hall (now a hotel); the speakers who were invited to the school, from the University, the Science Museum, the Halle Orchestra; the trips we had - to the Manchester Ship Canal, where we went through a lock in a tiny boat; the Lowry painting that hung in a corridor in my Primary School;  theatre-in-the-round at Manchester University's Theatre.

And much, much more.

This trip opened my eyes to a Manchester I knew existed but had not experienced fully when I lived there. Growing up in the world's first Garden Suburb, I rarely went in to the city center, preferring to spend my leisure time in the nearby fields, or Wythenshawe Park.  It has provided a lot to mull over and, perhaps, the possibility of a return trip to see those elusive murals.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Manchester Trip - Day two

Today was the big day - the anniversary of the day my grand-uncle James Alfred Ryder MM, was killed in Action in 1918. He left behind a wife and four young children.

Today is the day I was meeting his great-grand-daughter, Jane, for the first time.

We'd arranged to meet for lunch at The Red Chilli, Portland Street. But before then, MWNN and I took a tram ride. I'd promised to show him the boats in Castlefield Basin, but we got off the tram at Castlefield-Deansgate, beside the Beetham Tower.

The tram stop is alongside the Rochdale Canal locks, a long walk from the basin, so we popped into a cocktail bar for a coffee before boarding the tram back to St Peter's Square.

Entrance Hall Ceiling

We had planned to visit the newly-refurbished Central Library on our way to the restaurant. I'm so pleased we did. It's stunning and so vibrant. 

There was a 'Shakespeare Week' just beginning on the ground floor, complete with a Tudor Minstrel. As we entered the Dome area, Dante Ferrara  was playing a Hurdy Gurdy.

Later, he switched to a Lute, a much quieter instrument. We had to get quite close to hear the tunes.

He looked quite incongruous among all the high-tech, interactive technology that has replaced many of the books on this floor.

With just ten minutes to go to lunch, MWNN and I made the short journey on foot to China Town in time for the 1pm appointment for lunch.

Jane and her husband were at the Red Chilli restaurant and greeted us warmly. We spent the next two and a half hours over a leisurely lunch,  pouring over marriage certificates, old photos, and census printouts.

Then it was time to head off to the main business of the day - the laying of a poppy wreath in the Manchester Regiment Chapel in Manchester Cathedral.

Jane and I were quite disappointed that the book of remembrance was not open at James Alfred's page. The only book of remembrance was open at a date in April for a Corporal awarded the Victoria Medal in WW1, who died in 1940.

I showed Jane the page in the Manchester Regiment's Roll of Honour where her great-grandfather was to be found.

Then, to the strains of the Cathedral Choir, practising in the choir stalls, we placed the wreath against the Regimetal Chapel's altar.

Behind the altar is the Fire Window - a window of  stained glass, which has had a chequered past.

MWNN took some final photos of  Jane and me before we departed and went our separate ways.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Manchester Trip - Day 1

We were lucky to catch a glimpse of the 90% solar eclipse from our hotel room. There was cloud cover which thinned enough for us to see it at totality and later, as the moon passed across.

Then, it was out to walk to Manchester Town Hall to look at the Ford Maddox Ford Murals.

Unfortunately, there was a function in The Great Hall, so we were not allowed in. We are hoping to see them on Sunday, when there are no bookings in the Great Hall.

We had tea and toasted tea-cake in the Sculpture  Hall Tea-room and headed back to the hotel, where we were meeting boating friends we hadn't seen for two years.

Lunch was at The Old Wellington Pub (est 1552), part of The Shambles.

It rained hard while we were eating lunch but, as soon as we stepped outside, it stopped. Our friends had to leave us as they were visiting friends in Liverpool for the evening.

MWNN and I walked the few yards to Manchester Cathedral

 to look at the book of remembrance in the Manchester Regiment Chapel.

The window is called The Fire Window, and is a reconstruction of the one installed after the 1941 blitz.

Finally, we found the entry for James Alfred Ryder, in the book of the Fallen WW1, 1st and 2nd Battalions.

I also found a plaque commemorating the Emergency Services' work in 1996 after the IRA bombing of the Arndale Shopping Centre. This was a reminder that the First Discworld Convention Hotel was the only building in the immediate area that did not lose its windows.

On the way back to the hotel, we walked along Hanging Ditch.

We cut through the Arndale Centre and were soon back on Shudehill. There we met a town pigeon enjoying a late lunch.

Having had a substantial lunch ourselves, we bought sandwiches from the local supermarket for our evening meal.


Friday, 6 March 2015

Lovely boating weather

Shame the Nene is still running too fast for navigation - and there's more work to be done on the boat.

We went up on Monday, to see if we could catch a glimpse of the boat painter who lives in the marina. It wasn't until we were leaving that we discovered he has had a knee joint replaced and is out of action for a few months.

We had a long walk though, in glorious sunshine.

Our walk took us past the boats at the Willy Watt Marina on the Nene at Ringstead.

through the muddy section leading to Woodford Mill Tearoom (closed on Mondays) at Ringstead, and as far as the next straight reach approaching Woodford.

As we approached the river crossing, we spotted three red kites, hunting above the banks of the river. It's difficult to take a photo of birds in flight as my camera wants a static object on which to focus. I finally managed to get a shot of one of the Kites, by sheer luck.

 Stretches of the river, especially approaching Peterborough, are winter quarters for large numbers of geese.

This group was foraging for food as the Kites circled overhead.

On the return journey to the marina, we passed our nearest neighbours, the fishing lake beside Blackthorn Lake.

MWNN clearing mud from his shows

MWNN reckons the walk was a long one. I don't think it was. I think we're both out-of-condition. 

We were both very muddy and, despite the sunshine, we stayed wrapped in layers to protect us from the strong, bitterly-cold, wind.

Blackthorn Lake Marina

The  video below shows the area in which our boat is moored. It features both Willy Watt and Blackthorn Lake Marinas as well as the Woodford Mill Tearoom (a short 15-20 min walk from the boat.) Since the video was made, the tearoom has become a very popular eating venue. It is already fully booked for Mother's Day lunch and is extending its seating area with a new extension.

And, to finish, some pictures of the glorious tulips MWNN bought me for our St David's Day anniversary.