Monday, 24 March 2014

Canally retentive

I've been away on a canal boating holiday! A very short one. Alright, a weekend. Well, a day and a night and a half a day.  It was very nice too, and despite the freezing wind which whipped around us intermittently, the weather was glorious.

Our lovely mates Bill and Jayne have bought a narrowboat, and invited us to come and admire it, so early on Saturday morning we set off for Oxfordshire.  The sun shone, the roads weren't too snarled-up with traffic, and we arrived almost exactly on time, to be greeted by our mates, offering cups of tea.  Marvellous.

As well as the four adult humans on board, there was a charming dog. We'd sent ours off to have a holiday with her family, and thus avoid the possibility of two excited dogs falling onto the canals.  Anyway, this is the lovely dog who lives on the boat with his owners:

He's a Bavarian Mountain Hound, and a more relaxed dog you'd be hard-pushed to find.

This is the boat, complete with gorgeous hand-painted bargeware bits and bobs:

We went from the boatyard, down the canal to Cropredy, where we went to the pub.  The Red Lion, as well as serving beer, selling excellent cheesy chips and housing a beautiful golden retriever called Shandy, has a guitar shop.  I had a chat with the guitar man, who also runs the pub, and he told me Rickenbackers are buggers to play. Yeah, I knew that.

Oh, they also had a funky clock on the wall:

A stroll around Cropredy, then back to the boat for drinks, pre-supper snacks, and then a mighty fine supper cooked by Jayne.

An evening of chatting, laughing, catching up on 30 years of friendship, then wrestling with the spare bed to allow us to get to sleep, followed by an early morning tea and Jaffa Cake-fest.  A leisurely stroll to the local shop, a look around the Cropredy battle-site memorial, and back up the canal to the mooring.

This little sign took my fancy.  You walk through the Hell Hole to get away from the church.

 The view up to the pub from the canal bridge.

Making way back towards a lock.  The pointy bit you see there is the front.  Sorry if I'm getting too technical.

I liked being in the locks, and I particularly liked this one; the gates look like the entrance to Mordor. In my head.

We passed this sad wreck, seemingly a victim of the storms, where I was intrigued by the musical instruments and amps left on board.  Just across the canal from it was a fallen willow tree, blocking the thoroughfare (is that the right term? I'm not sure) which had fallen across the canal and meant everyone had to risk bumping into the sunken boat to get past it.

As a favour to the canal-dwelling community, it was decided that on the way back down the canal Mr WithaY should wait in the front of the boat with a long trident/rake thingy, and a bill-hook, and when we got close enough to the fallen willow, he would hack away enough of the branches to clear the channel for other boaters.

What a great idea.  You can see the tree there on the left, making it difficult to pass the sunken boat safely.

We got close to the fallen tree, our stalwart captain held the boat in position, and Mr WithaY leant out of the boat with the bill-hook, lopping off the longer branches.  Most of them were so dry and brittle that they snapped at a touch, making his task easier.

Most of them.

Almost as soon as our captain cheerfully shouted "Don't drop the bill-hook in the water, mate!" Mr WithaY hacked at a branch that was NOT dry and brittle. No.  It was green and lush, full of bounce and vim.  So much bounce and vim, in fact, that on contact the bill-hook bounced off with some violence, causing Mr WithaY's hand to release his grip on the handle, and it dropped into the canal with a gentle "sploosh."

Dear readers, there was some bad language.

Fortunately, our sensible (and experienced) boat-owners had a large magnet on a length of cord, and after a little bit of fishing, the bill-hook was recovered, none the worse for wear.

The remainder of the journey to the boat yard was completed with the bill-hook and trident securely stowed away, in no danger of falling in the water.

This is the boat yard, where they had HUGE chickens roaming around outside.  I look forward to seeing it again on a less chilly afternoon.

In other news:  I am pretty much fully recovered now, and am able to drive, carry stuff, lift things (carefully) and walk the dog again, so I am much happier.

I've rediscovered my desire to sew, and have been cutting out all the bits to make a shirt.  Today I went down to the excellent Hansons Fabrics in Sturminster Newton and had a good old poke about.  Tomorrow I shall start actually sewing all the bits together, and by the weekend I plan to have a funky new shirt finished.

It's all go here.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Spud U Like

I'm mostly better now, thank you.  Still getting a few twinges when I do something unwise, like e.g. lift a polythene box full of packs of sugar off the floor to get into another box underneath, or take the dog for a walk and have her tow me through the village like a water-skier, but otherwise I am about 98% fighting fit.

In the 8 weeks - almost 9 actually - since I had my op, the outside world has started to become Spring-like. There are snowdrops and crocuses in flower in the garden, and daffodils in bud. I assume they're daffodils. They might be irises.  Or hyacinths.  I'm not sure.  The mole made a brief appearance in the front lawn, much to our delight*, but seems to have buggered off again.

To mark the "new beginning" feeling, this weekend we are doing a catering job for some neighbours, which I am very much looking forward to.  And yes, we have asked one of our excellent helpers to come along and lend a hand so I don't end up overdoing anything.

So. Other than recuperating, and some low-key socialising, what have I been up to?

Well.  This:

Mr WithaY and I went along to a willow heart-making class in a nearby village, and I made the above work of grace and beauty.  It took me two hours, and hasn't fallen apart yet.  When I get round to it, I will secure it to the fence at the bottom of the back garden so all may admire it.

And how did we hear about this willow-weaving class, you ask.  Well, by attending THIS event:

Which I found out about on Twitter.  I love social media.  The potato day was held in the Cheese and Grain venue, which hosts all manner of events.

Sci- Fi!  Anti-Fracking Protests!  The Wurzels!  Ah, the West Country.  Everything you want, and quite alot of stuff you'd prefer not to have to look at but can never unsee.

So here's some of the highlights of potato day:

And here are the throngs of visitors, eagerly eyeing up tubers:

The vantage point is from the little meeting room upstairs, where we went to listen to a chap talk about foraging.  It was next door to another meeting room, with this stern note taped across the window:

It was a little distracting, listening to the chap talk about the types of plants which could be found locally and were good to eat, with the enthusiastic clomping of trainee burlesque dancers going on in the next room.

What else?  Oh, I had my hair cut off!  I was fed up with feeling frumpy and old and tired, partly due to post-op malaise, I suspect, so I went to the excellent Toni and Guy in Salisbury who did me a funky modern cropped choppy look, which I love.  It's funny, a mate** posted a photo of me on Facebook which he took when I was a student, 25-odd years ago, and I HAVE THE SAME HAIRSTYLE.  Just goes to show.  What goes around comes around.

Only now there's some grey in it. Bah. And gah.

I have decided to try and be a bit less lackadaisical with posting on here too.  I used to get so much genuine pleasure from interacting with people, and just the simple act of writing stuff down was cathartic.  So I will make more of an effort to be here more frequently.  Can't promise photos of potatoes every time, though.

*well, to my amusement and Mr WithaY's speechless rage.

**Hello Martin!