Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Day 2 Boat Repatriation

It rained hard on Monday evening, so we checked the boat to make sure that the automatic bilge pump was switched on. 

As we entered the port, we passed the CPL truck that was our boat transporter back to the UK. We decided to make an early start on Tuesday morning so that we could speak to Richard, the driver, and  finish off getting the boat ready for the journey home.

Crane setting up.

We arrived at the port at 08.40. There was no sign of the VNF port manager or the President of our cruising club.

It was a good thing that we made such an early start. The crane was booked for noon but, on the stroke of 09.00, we spotted the 'convoi exceptionnel' approaching the gates. The crane was preceded by an escort vehicle, and followed by a low-loader carrying the weights, straps, and spacers.

The crew told us it would take about 40 minutes to set up the equipment ready for the lift. During that time, we finished clearing the boat and stowing stuff safely on the floor.

When the crew was ready, I walked back to the CPL truck to ask Richard to reverse into place.

Straps in place. Lift begins

Getting the straps and spacers into place was a tricky operation. It needed four men and the crew was down to two. MWNN and Richard were pressed into service and I was left holding the remaining boat rope. Using one hand on the rope to stop the boat drifting out while the straps were hauled into place underwater, was made doubly difficult by trying to help Richard manoeuve the rear strap against the pull of the water and the movement of the boat. 

Out of the water

The crane driver was very skilled. There were hazards to negotiate. 

Tight on space

A lamp-post, an abandoned truck trailer, and a parked car limited the available space.

Cleared the lamp-post and turned in one smooth action

The boat had to be turned as it was being lifted as the truck driver wanted the bow at the front of the trailer.

Getting the props into place.

Once over the truck trailer, the crane driver took instructions from Richard and the other crew-member, who were re-adjusting the props on the deck of the trailer. 

Barnacles cover the hull and anodes.

The boat is covered in barnacles and some sort of worm. It was a good thing we didn't need to start the engine to motor the boat to another lifting point because the barnacles had colonised the prop and joined it to the lower stern gear bar.

Props in place

Once the props were in place, the boat was lowered gently into position.

Richard signalled to the crane driver to make tiny adjustments to make sure the stern of the boat was not over the end  of the trailer.

Straps are removed

By 10.30, the straps were off and the boat was secured to the trailer.

MWNN gave Richard advice about the best route out of the port and the approach to the UK boatyard on Wednesday morning and, a few minutes before 11am, the truck was leaving the port on its way to Calais.

The crane crew were busy dismantling the crane while we packed a few boat things into the car. There was still no sign of the VNF port manager or the crusing club President. We had to leave our shore-power cable behind as the electricity point was locked. There were no rubbish bins in the port so we piled our rubbish sacks underneath a boat that was out of the water for repair work.

MWNN signed the paperwork and we headed off to the hypermarket for shopping and lunch. We were half-way through our shopping by noon - the time at which the crane should have started lifting the boat.

On board Le Shuttle

After a leisurely lunch, MWNN drove us to Calais. We were booked on the 18.50 crossing but arrived so early that we were on board and leaving the station by 18.15.

There was 15 minute delay at the Dartford Crossing (it really should be automated to prevent the bottleneck at the toll booths.) We arrived home at 20.15. It had been a long, tiring day.

We were not looking forward to an early start today when the truck delivered the boat to Oundle. What a pleasant surprise it was to receive a phone call from Oundle, just as we were setting off. The manager at Oundle had phoned Richard last night and they had organised everything for early morning, instead of noon. By 10am, the boat was off the truck and into the water to soak before being cleaned and blacked tomorrow.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Day 1 Boat Repatriation

Ibis Hotel room

MWNN had booked us in for two nights at  the Ibis Budget Hotel, St Quentin.

We'd not stayed there before, so it came as a surprise to find that the shower and basin are in the bedroom. There is a door into the separate toilet.

The room is spotlessly clean. The checkin staff are on duty 24 hours a day and speak excellent English.

Boat exterior is really filthy

After we'd booked into our rooms on Sunday afternoon, we went to look at the boat. She's looking very sad and is absolutely filthy outside.

We were quite worried about what the inside might be like, but didn't open her up as we knew that the rain-covers over the engine compartment would  be unusable once they were removed..

MWNN begins removing the rain-covers

We knew that Monday was going to be a wet day but that the main part of the work was to clear the roof and clean the outside of the boat so that the crane crew could do their work without getting dirty.

MWNN set to, removing the covers in drizzle while I waited in the car.

The inside of the boat was good. No damp, and not much dirt other than dust that had entered through the ventilators. The electrics were working which meant I could give the whole boat a good vacuuming and boil a kettle for tea,

There was a little respite from the rain, allowing MWNN to clear the roof, while I cleared the inside of the boat of spiders (sign of a dry boat), dead insects, and cobwebs. We stopped for lunch, which we'd bought from Monoprix, and we ate in the car. 

MWNN removes the rain-covers

After lunch, MWNN worked in heavy rain, cleaning the outside of the boat. I removed anything breakable from shelves and cupboards and packed it all away in boxes on the floor of the boat. There was a lot of rubbish to be dumped. Out-of-date and open food packets and bottles, all the pillows and a sleeping bag, along with lots of leaflets and other no-longer-needed stuff.

By 3.50pm, MWNN was soaked and getting cold and I had backache, so we called it  a day. Most of the work is done, just a few things to put on the front deck and rubbish to be dumped before the crane lifts the boat onto the low-loader tomorrow at about noon.

A good day's work.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Repatriation of the boat

is progressing well.

The hotel and crossing to France is booked.

The house/dog-sitter is booked.

 The French crane is booked.

The low-loader is booked.

The boatyard at Oundle is booked.

Yesterday, MWNN and I visited Oundle boatyard to finalise the timings of various surveyors and remedial works before we can cruise down to Blackthorn Marina.

We lunched at The Ship, a family-run pub that is over 450 years old. The meal was very good indeed.

The Ship, Oundle

With a bit of luck, and a following wind, we may be at our new mooring by the middle of September.

Monday, 4 August 2014

They'll be home by Christmas

Well, they weren't.

And too many of them never came home.

Poppies in an English Field

Remembering my grand-uncles who served in the Great War.

Those who never came home.

Thomas Harding Nothing can be found about where he served or where and when he died. Family legend says he was killed in action.

Poizieres Memorial

James Alfred Ryder, Lance Corporal MM (2nd /6th Manchester Regiment). Volunteered August 1914.  Awarded Military Medal for carrying messages under shellfire at Poelcapelle, October 1917.  Killed in action, 21st March 1918, Fervaque Farm.

Commemorated at Poizieres.

Those who returned.

George Elphick (King's Liverpool Regiment) Volunteered January 1915. Severely wounded during the first Somme offensive, Ocotber 1916. Discharged as unfit for further service, January 1917.

Stanley Elphick. Volunteered August 1914. Trained with 11th Cavalry Hussars. Discharged as unfit in October 1915.

William Mooney, acting Sergeant (13th Manchester Regiment). Enlisted October 1914. Posted to France, September, 1915. Posted to Salonica, November 1915. Served in Salonica until 1918. Posted to France, June, 1918 as part of 66th Division which had suffered great losses in the March - June fighting. Wounded October 10th 1918 (Battle of Cambrai) Discharged June 1919.

James Mooney (East Lancs. Company). Volunteered  March 1915. posted to Royal Engineers J Depot Company. Served on the Home Front as as a saddler. Discharged November 1918, medically unfit (asthma).

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The front garden

is almost finished.

Click for larger size

I added some alpines (Sempervivum and Sedum) yesterday in a lovely half-priced terracotta pot.

They need a sunny spot so there is some discussion about where to site them.

Summer sun at about 3.30pm Click for larger size.

I favour the front of the garden, where they will get morning and late afternoon sun. MWNN wants the pot near the house.

Click for larger size.

I also planted a Sedum and a Dianthus  in the front end of the retaining wall, hoping that the creeping sedum will creep over the unsighly broken bricks.

This Sedum has different coloured flowers. I suspect they are red, (very evident) white, (some evidence) and blueish-purple.

Click for larger size.

The pots beside the front door are looking wonderful.

All that is needed to finish the makeover is more shingle to cover the bare patches and a regular blitz on the weeds that keep popping up.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Getting there- slowly

but ye gads, it's hard work.

Just like narrowboating.

We went to view a potential new mooring for our narrowboat, yesterday.

It's in a beautiful location - great for dog-walking and with all the services we'd need for getting the boat back into good shape.

The moorings were built in about 2007, on one of a series of lakes in Northamptonshire. Blackthorn Lake has direst access to the river Nene and, unlike other moorings  along the river, uses floating pontoons. Best news of all is that each pontoon is 70ft long. We haven't had a pontoon that was more than half our boat's length in the 14 years she's been in France.

Bonus points awarded for the fact that there is direct footpath access to Stanwick Lakes, 750 acres of SSI nature reserve.

Woodford Tea Rooms was recommended as a good lunch spot but we opted for lunch at the Axe and Compass. MWNN really enjoyed his pint of EPA.

The thought of repatriating the boat is  beginning to have its effect. Things are looking brighter.


Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Singing is good for you

Picture from 'The Big Sing' Baldock Town Hall, June 2014

I sat in on a session of Singing Aloud last night. It was a fast, noisy session and everyone was fully involved. I already knew a couple of songs and was encouraged to join the basses for 'Catch a Falling Star'. I hadn't learned it with the group but remembered the lower harmony from my childhood. It felt good!

Despite the amount of noise during each section's  run-through with Ruth (mainly enthusiastic practice from other sections) I stayed until the end. The sound is really good - goosebumps from some of the harmonies.

I'm looking forward to learning the bass part to If I Fell (also a song from my childhood).

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Health and Safety kntting?

A member of Hitchin' Stitchin drew the group's attention to an article about the Tour de France preparations that had nothing to do with the sport.

Thousands of knitters have spent months of preparations for the Tour de France. Miles of bunting has been strung across streets in towns that will see the athletes racing through.

One council, however, has ordered that the bunting be removed. The theory is that, when it rains, the weight of wet wool will bend the lamp-posts.

Health and Safety hazard? Masham Town.

Knitters are known for their determination and have found alternative means of demonstrating their support for and celebration of the Tour.

And it's not only bunting that is decorating English towns along the route, bicycles have also been used in a variety of ways.

Yorkshire Pudding bicycle wheel

The start of this year's Tour looks like being a typically quirky British affair.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The garden is looking lovely

We recently bought two more fuscia plants to brighten up the rear garden. Each one is in a pot on top of the wall pillars

Last year's fuscia is doing very well after its transplant to the side border.

Together with Red Hat Lady Rose from Harkness Roses (now in its 3rd or fourth year, new lavender from Hitchin Lavender (last year), and Asian Lilies, the fuscias add  more colour than ever.

Red Hat Lady is very happy in her specially prepared peat bed. The lavender, meanwhile is thriving on chalk.

Last year's pelargoniums survived the winter outdoors.

View from the lawn, towards the side border.

View from the side border across the garden.

View from the side border across the conservatory terrace.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Beautiful harmony

Picked the rose one early morn
Pricked my finger on a thorn
They'd grown so close, their winding wove
The Briar and the Rose.

The Briar and the Rose - Tom Waites

The final verse, performed by Singing Aloud members at Baldock Town Hall Sunday singalong, June 15th

Monday, 16 June 2014

More Singalong

Darkness on the Delta is a barbershop arrangement. Having been absent from Singing Aloud for over a year, I missed the opportunity to learn the bass part.

I have always wanted to sing barbershop and it was with great pleasure that I recorded this version by the four groups of Singing Aloud singers who gathered at Baldock Town Hall for a Sunday afternoon singalong.

I uploaded the video to YouTube. I used my phone and the original was very shaky. YouTube has a  remove-the-shakes editing program.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Singing is good for the soul

I went along to Baldock Town Hall this afternoon to listen to the 'singalong' of all four Singing Aloud Choirs.

I'm really glad I went. It gave me a real lift to hear all the glorious harmonies. I even remembered the bass part of To Make You Feel my Love and joined the massed choir.

This is just one verse of one of the songs performed on Sunday afternoon.


Monday, 26 May 2014

Sunny Bank Holiday


well it was, yesterday, so we went to Benington Lordship Gardens.

Picspam to follow - doesn't convey the heavenly scents that assailed us as we turned onto a new avenue/path/terrace.

The folly had us both fooled, probably because it was built from the rubble of the Norman Castle (c1830s).

The manor house (not open to the public) was built in the 1740s

MWNN was rather taken with the Aliums.

Planting in the formal walled-garden in front of the house.

Herbaceous border alongside the kitchen garden wall.

Haven't a clue what these are, but I like them

and these.

The bees were busy gathering pollen from various flowers, especially the bell-shaped ones.

I spotted a herb garden with a buxus hedge edging it. Decided it was too low to use as a hedge in our front garden

After we arrived back home, we walked Ron, looking at the various edgings on the estate's open-plan front gardens. A low hedge of Euonymous may well replace the leylandii trees we removed.