Monthly Archives: Feb 2018

Topping Up 27th February

Nantwich Embankment

IMAG0326smP1240490smEvery morning we wake up and peek out of the porthole behind our bed to check on the water status. Despite being a bit chilly in bed last night the water was still very fluid around us. It must be that with little tree cover and bright sunshine the last few days that the canal warms up in the sunlight and holds it’s heat. Today however we woke to a snow shower, not very deep but enough to put Tilly off exploring until the sun had melted it.

P1240492sm.After a cooked breakfast (photo for Mr Carley’s benefit today), we decided to head into town to top up on food supplies. Fresh things mainly. If the weather forecast for this week is correct we will be in for a few days of not wanting to venture off the boat. We also wanted to equip ourselves with some means of being able to carry water. No containers around town that we could fill and keep to top up the water tank, so we purchased a couple of cheap buckets instead. These at least will be useful for other things in future and will sit inside one another taking up little space. All we needed now was a funnel so as not to loose a drop whilst filling the tank. The chandlers came up trumps.

P1240495smThe diesel pump opposite was busy filling containers for much of the day and a handful of boats moved past bringing with them slushy flat icebergs. The canal was starting to freeze, just not alongside us.

During the afternoon I continued with my sock knitting and Mick debated whether to walk to the service block for a shower or to move the boat. Snow showers had come and gone all day bringing with them strong gusts of wind, not good to reverse in without a bow thruster. But the showers haven’t been cleaned for about a week and the floor in there is ever so muddy! In the end it seemed daft not to top up our water tank if we could move. Mick checked that the water point tap still worked, which it did, then when we had enough hot water on board we both had showers in the late afternoon.

Tilly obliged by being on board so we pushed off and reversed to the water point as the sun was starting to set. As we pulled along side the service block we could see that straight lines had started to form in the canal, very thin ice. Would we be the last boat to move before the canal froze? With the tank and two milk containers full of water (to rinse the yellow water tank out next time) we pushed back over to the moorings and settled down in front of the stove.

The evening got colder and colder outside. A draught across our knees puzzled us for a while until we realised that it was cold air coming in from a mushroom vent directly above us. Nothing much we can do about that as ventilation is very important in a boat. A blanket on our knees may well do the trick though.

UntitledProgress in Scarborough, we won’t know the place when next we visit! Poor traffic cones being made redundant after such long service.

0 locks, 0.14 miles, 1 reverse, 7 snow showers, 1 dusting, 1 full water tank, 1 almost sunk bottle of water, 1 freezer full, 1 fridge full, 1 fruit bowl nearly full, 2 buckets, 1 funnel, 1 clean shaven chin, 2 showers, 1 pair of Pip socks complete, 4 years of cones, 1 traffic island!

Waiting For The Beast. 26th February

Nantwich Embankment
P1240468smThere was a slight amount of snow in the air this morning, but certainly nothing to write home to Scarborough about (it looks like they’ll be getting quite a bit of the stuff over the next few days!). Tilly was a little bit reluctant to venture out, but in the end the lure of the tree and mole hills were too much for her and she braved the cold.
We are definitely in waiting mode. Waiting for the beast to arrive. It feels like we’ve been waiting for ages already. Last week we both silently wondered if stopping at The Shady Oak for a night was a good idea, but so far the water around our hull has remained liquid. Maybe it’s because the embankment keeps getting a good amount of sunshine in the day which is keeping the water too warm to freeze, I suspect this will be short lived. Today there have been lots of passing boats, about half shareboats making the most of their winter week, hoping to be able to keep moving and return to base.
In water saving mode, Mick carried a large bag of washing over to the launderette this morning. One big machine took all our clothes and all was returned dry in just over an hour. That didn’t fill the day!
I spent the morning putting together a family invite for Mick’s next big birthday in May. It’s funny how he’ll legitimately be eligible for some Senior discounts, but the things he’s chosen to do for his celebration don’t do old fogey discounts. It was nice to be thinking of warmer times for a while.
P1240480smThe afternoon saw me finish off a sock that I’ve been working on for a while. I’ve now tried several patterns, some top down, some toe up. They all have had various things that I’ve liked about them, but other things that didn’t feel so good once on your foot. So I’ve been working on a hybrid pattern and yesterday I’d found a handy calculator to help with gusset and heel calculations. Now written out as one pattern I’ll hopefully manage to knit a matching sock for a pair! Soon I’ll have enough items to open my own etsy shop and hopefully sell enough to keep us in wine. Fingers crossed.
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Bourne Blue Cheshire the last treat cheese
0 locks, 0 miles, 1 tentative cat, 4 cold paws, 28 minute wash, 28 minute dry, 1 set of invites, 1 perfect sock, 0 ice, 7 passing boats, 2 shiny knockers, 1 cosyish boat.

A Busy Hour. 25th February

Nantwich to Nantwich

Tilly had obviously made her point to Lowkey yesterday as she had free run of the towpath between walkers and woofers this morning, it is a busy stretch.

Quite a few boats were on the move, some share boats, others we assume were weekend boaters making the move back to their moorings after breakfast.

P1240445smP1240444smOn his way back from the service block Mick had spotted a coal boat so had flagged them down. We’ve not come across NB Effingham before, their timing was good for a small top up of coal before NB Halsall comes through next week. If the temperatures plummet as they are forecast to, then even the coal boats may have difficulty moving. Although they do try to deliver by van where they can, little stops them, which is why they are such a valued asset to the system. With a buffer of three bags of Excell on our roof we could relax knowing that we’ll be warm for the next three weeks.

With quite a few boats moving a space on the embankment had shown itself, the end spot within easy reversing distance to the services. Tilly was home, it was time to move! We quickly pushed off, pootled through the bridge and pulled in at the services to top up the tank. Having had the heating on for a while this morning there was hot water, so whilst we filled Oleanna up I had a quick shower on board. By the time I was dressed again Mick was already coiling back up the hose. So as soon as my shoes were on my feet we pushed off and moored up at the end of the embankment moorings, there’s more sky here.

P1240458smThis outside has a few trees. Not easy ones to climb as they have sideways trees growing up them. This is more of a challenge, which I like. From the branches I can look down on the woofers walking by without them knowing where I am. There are also lots of holes for me to stick my arms in and dig through the soft soily mounds. It’s going to be good here. Tilly was out for much of the afternoon, returning for a snooze every now and then, A good outside can be exhausting!

We had a wonder over to the Launderette, suspect we’ll be bringing a large bag of washing over tomorrow so that we can save our water. The rest of the day we enjoyed the bright sunshine heating up Oleanna. I washed off the mud that had built up on the stern and bow and watched steam rising from the gunnels as it dried almost instantaneously.

P1240464smMaps were put on the table  and we had a cruise planning session for the first half of this year. There are various dates when we want to be in certain places, visitors (yes, you Duncan!), birthdays, cricket, a play, a wedding, a train and appointments. They are all possible and we may not have to go through Worcester too many times either!

My plans for a pot roast chicken this evening were scuppered as the chicken that came with our shopping was far too big for my cast iron pot, so we enjoyed a conventional roast chicken instead.

P1240448smDSCF7114sm0 locks, 0.15 miles, 3 bags coal, 1 full water tank, 1.6kg too big, 4 exhausted paws, 1 ivy clad tree slightly worse for Tilly, 3rd sock attempt a good one, 5 months almost planned, 2 made to measure hearth rugs photographed, 1 mooring in pole position but too far for our hoses.


Stand Off In Nantwich. 24th February

Nantwich

A sunny morning to explore my new estate. They keep saying we might be here for a while if the canal goes solid. I have my own picnic bench and they have been suggesting that maybe we should have a barbecue one evening. It however is a bit too chilly on my bum for that.

P1240412smSo I was minding my own business making sure I’d marked everything as being mine, doing my best to fend off the masses of passing woofers and succeeding at this mostly, when I turn round and there was a trespasser! What was he doing? This is my estate! He’s certainly not having my bench!!!!!

P1240414smI sat down under MY bench and sat my ground. He sat down too. We sat and avoided looking straight at each other for what could have been days. The non stare zone was strong, who would give in first? Certainly not me!

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People walked by with their woofers and still we sat. ‘Ah look at the sweet kitties’ Sweet my …….. if he comes near my bench! Still we sat, the zone stronger still.

Then this man arrived, ‘No fighting you too!’ He walked into the zone and broke it! Go away, we were doing just fine until you came along!

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Because the bond between us was broken he started to back away slooowly, I started to regain my estate, slooowly. This was all going to end well in my favour. If I was lucky I might end up with a second picnic bench. but the stupid man kept trying to stroke us, couldn’t he see we were involved in some serious feline negotiations, things started to get edgy.

That is when Tom appeared, trying to pick me up. Nothing for it, the sloooow careful negotiations were on the rocks and our time was running out. Nothing for it but to speed everything up. Arched back, mohican fur, chimney sweep tail, side ways running put into action. Just a shame that my arched back made it easier for Tom to pick me up!

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Tilly was returned to the boat so as to avoid any possible vets bills. She certainly seemed to have the upper paw in the situation. But now he was strutting his stuff around under my bench, even daring to sidle up to my hatch! For the next hour or so Tilly ran from window to window keeping a close eye on her new neighbour. He had been here before her, so she had most probably been stealing his estate.

Mick had done the paper run on a bike first thing and had had a look around the Farmers Market that is held every last Saturday in Nantwich. He returned with a pork pie for himself and a parsnip quiche for me which was very tasty. With Tilly safely indoors, we decided to make the most of the beautiful sunny afternoon and go for a stroll. Knowing that Jaq from NB Valerie had been moored on the embankment this week we decided to see if she was still there so that we could finally introduce ourselves.

P1240437smAlmost at the winding hole was sat a dark green boat with solar panels catching the sunlight. We tapped on the roof and could hear stirrings from inside. Jaq’s head popped out from the bow doors and when we said who we were a smile quickly crept across her face. We were invited in out of the cold for a cuppa and a long chat. When you follow peoples blogs you know all that they are willing to tell of their lives, you know what they look like and certainly with us you know what we like to eat! At last we could put a voice to Jaq. It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon, thank you for your warm welcome.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 happy cat, 2 not so happy cats, 1 newspaper, 2 pies, 2 puddings, 0 juice, 1 item listed, 1st stages of etsy done, 1 hour stand off, 1 stupid name Lowkey! 2 many woofers, 1 stupid man, 1 bench to reclaim, 2 cuppas, 1 green boat, 1 Jaq smile, 4 fingers crossed for Tuesday, 20 minutes catch up with Australia, 1 bully beef ding ding for Tilly tonight.

Killer Bunny Sunset. 23rd February

Beeston Castle Winding Hole to outside Nantwich Basin

P1240265smJack Frost had visited us over night and the surroundings looked very picturesque this morning. We were relieved that the water around us was still fluid so that we could carry on to Nantwich.

For the first time this year, maybe this winter, I put thermals and padded trousers on this morning as it looked so cold and with wind chill added we could get nithered if not wrapped up well.

P1240279smThe lock ahead was empty as planned, so was the next one, but the following two were set against us, all that winding of geared paddles!

P1240313smP1240317smAbove Stone Lock the pair of boats was still moored on the visitor moorings and just after the rings finished was a short narrow boat with a tarpaulin over it’s stern. As we slowly made our way towards it, it became obvious that the bow had come adrift as it swung out from the bank. It then proceeded with the assistance of the bitter wind to do a perfect wind (turn, called wind as you use the wind to your advantage to make the manoeuvre) right in front of us, returning it’s bow to the bank. No shunting back and forth, just a simple clean swing all the way round.

P1240324smP1240325smWe could see that it had been tied on pins which looked like they were still hanging on it’s mooring ropes in the water. Once we’d managed to pull in I held Oleanna whilst Mick headed back to moor it back up. It then decided that it would rather be on the other side of the cut, but the wind soon pushed it back over. With all it’s ropes now on the off side and hard to get to, Mick managed to grab the centre line. By now the boat was by the start of the visitor moorings so he tied it to the first ring. It may have drifted from further up the pound, but it was certainly now facing the opposite way from where it had been left and moored a touch more securely.

P1240341smA squeezing through the Anglo Welsh boats below Bunbury, then up the staircase on our own, just a family watching our every move. By now we were cold and hungry so we made use of the moorings before the services at Calverley.

P1240346smThe next treat cheese came out, Black Bomber Snowdonia Cheddar, creamy but with a kick. Wit time getting on we didn’t have time to stop at the cheese factory, next time.

P1240363smWe toped up the water tank whilst I cleaned out Tilly’s pooh box and then had a shower. The water tank needs to stay as full as possible with the likely hood of the canal freezing over, no water point will be passed without being used. Straight on at Barbridge. Obeying the sign at the bottom of Hurleston locks we kept straight on towards Birmingham, we’ve been to the furthest points in the other two directions so it’s south for us now.

P1240366smP1240370smBeing not far from Snugburys Ice cream we could make out the ears of Peter Rabbit in their field holding onto his dagger carrot as the sun was setting behind him. I’ve started to find him quite menacing.

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So far this winter we have always seen a kingfisher along this stretch from Barbridge to Nantwich. I was beginning to think that today was going to be the occasion that proved the rule. But a flash of blue by the moorings at Henhull and one came out for a photo call, first sitting on a cratch cover and then a tiller. As soon as we passed he was away back low along the cut flitting this way and that to give us flashes of his blue back.

P1240397smArriving at Nantwich there were a couple of spaces before the service block, these are normally 24hrs, but for another month are 14 days. We decided to see if there was any space on the first stretch of the embankment so carried on through the bridge. However there was a line of boats stretching all the way to the aqueduct. Mick popped Oleanna into reverse and gradually pulled us back through the bridge hole to moor in one of the gaps. By now the freezing breeze had frozen our bottom jaws and we were glad to get back inside to the warmth of our stove. Stew and a Hot Chocolate Cake for pudding was well deserved.

P1240407smWe’ll most probably stay here for a few days and see if the icy winds from Siberia do their worst. We have shops nearby, a water point and if we run out of coal there’s the chandlers to top up our stocks.

This morning we heard of a boat fire in Stone last night, where the owner and her dog passed away. Tragically it turns out to have been Alex Bennett who we saw in the New Year with at Bugsworth Basin 2016/17, we also bumped into her on NB Tench last October on the Caldon. She was a well known face at boat rallies and she loaned NB Tench to Alarum Theatre Company last year for their Idle Women Tour (click on the link for a bit more about Alex). We hardly knew Alex but will miss crossing bows with her somewhere on the network. When we next see NB Tench she will have a new owner. Our thoughts are with her family and friends, such a sad loss.

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DSCF7114sm6 locks, 2 of them a staircase, 8.81 miles, 1 reverse, 2 straight ons, 1 perfect wind, 1  freezing wind, 1 full water tank, 1 frozen head, 1 photogenic kingfisher, 1 less boater on the cut.

Kangaroos At The Castle. 22nd February

Duttons Bridge 112 to Beeston Castle Winding Hole
P1240154smOur destination for today was always in our sight as we pootled our way along the two miles to The Shady Oak moorings. Beeston Castle can be seen for miles around as it sits on a great big blob of sandstone 350ft high that stands out from the Cheshire Plain. We’d promised ourselves that we would climb up to the top this time.
P1240158smP1240181smMick had remembered a good mooring with great views, he was certain that it was above the next lock. But I remembered us commenting that it was a shame that the hedges were so high there. Sure enough right at the end of the visitor moorings the hedge has been cut very low giving a great view over the railway to the castle.
P1240171smI got a pork stew together so that it could sit on top of the stove for a good few hours. The amount of pork that had arrived yesterday means that we may have to eat stew for the next week! The pot was very very full.
P1240174smWe decided to walk up to the lock and then across to the castle on footpaths. The top gates of the lock were open so we closed them to save the pound above, but also so that it would empty itself for us tomorrow. It was a bit of a boggy mile under foot passing under the railway and across a few fields. We then joined the road and walked up to the eastern end of the castle where the gate house is.
P1240188smThe chap at the desk tried his best to get us to join English Heritage, but we’re not sure how many sites we’d be able to visit and anyway buying membership right now wouldn’t make sense as Mick will get extra cheap entrance when he turns 60 in a few months time. All the information about the castle is on boards in the Victorian gate house which we had a brief look at before we started to walk up the hill to the top.
We walked up through the woodland that surrounds the lower parts of the site to the Outer Gatehouse. Here the second line of walls is surrounded by iron age earthwork defences. Evidence of earlier Bronze Age metal works have also been found on the site. The first castle was built by Ranulf, 6th Earl of Chester in the 1220’s. Works continued on fortifying it through to the 1360’s. Legend has it that Richard II hid his treasure in the Inner Ward well before the Castle was captured by the future Henry IV.
P1240195smP1240204smIn 1643 during the Civil War, the castle had a garrison of up to 300 Parliamentarians living there. But six months later Captain Sandford led a midnight raid with nine Royalists to take control of the inner ward. The Parliamentary leader dined with them and sent beer to their men before surrendering. A year long siege followed, the royalists were said to be eating cats before they surrendered. In 1664 the castle was partially demolished to prevent it’s use as a stronghold.
P1240231smP1240237smIn 1840 the castle was purchased by John Tollemache who was the largest landowner in Cheshire. This was part of a large estate which needed a castle that he could live in, so on the next sandstone outcrop he had one built, Peckforton Castle. He promoted Beeston Castle as a tourist attraction and brought deer and kangaroos into the grounds. A two day festival was set up which brought 3000 people each day raising funds for local widows and orphans.
P1240199smSurrounding the Inner Curtain wall is a shear rock-cut ditch. A 1970’s concrete bridge steeply arches itself up over this to the Inner Gatehouse. So far the terrain would have been challenging to wheelchair users, but this and the lack of any flat surface inside the inner bailey would make it impossible. As if we hadn’t climbed high enough already there was still more to come. The ruined walls surround you and at times you are not aware of the great drop below, a sheer rock face back down to the Plains.
P1240218smWe could only imagine what the views would be like on a clear day, apparently you can see eight counties. But still even with the hazyness we could see for miles, the chimneys of Ellesmere Port just in view. We took time to work out where Manchester was and wondered if White Nancy near Bollington would be visible in better conditions. The castle was good, but these views upstaged it.
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Can you spot Oleanna down there? Lucky we’d had the roof painted cream enabling us to spot her. No sign of Tilly in the window not enough people to admire me!
P1240253smWe also had a wonder around some of the rest of the site. In the southern most side are the caves. Sandstone does good caves, these were used in the film Robin Hood starring Uma Therman and Patrick Bergen. A shame that they are gated off, so you can’t go into them.  There is also a walk around the base of the castle, but we refrained from that mostly because we had to walk back to the boat. This time we followed the road back, far less muddy, well until we reached the towpath!
Tilly was given the freedom of the towpath and the stew had reduced enough for me to add a Bramley apple to it. We are hoping that the temperature doesn’t drop too much tonight as we hope to reach Nantwich tomorrow where we can be near a tap and shops should the canal freeze over for several days. If it happens tonight then we’ll have to make the stew last, oh and there’s always the pub!
DSCF7114sm0 locks, 2 miles, 1 cheese finished, 350 ft, 3.25 miles walk, 360 degrees of views, 0 kangaroos today, 0 deer too, 1 steep bridge, 1 tiny Oleanna, 1 vat of stew, 1 chilly evening.

The Northgate Shuffle. 21st February

Chester Basin to Duttons Bridge 112
Chester students are far quieter than those in Nottingham, we hardly heard a sound from them all night. The down side however of mooring on that side of the basin is the bright lights along the towpath, Tilly is a right b**ger at opening the curtains for a nose at 3am! But on the up side it was very easy for the man from Sainsburys to find us this morning. The back steps are almost hovering with the extras that get stored under them!
P1240062smThe bins were sorted ready to be disposed of at the top of the staircase and we made use of the nearby elsan to empty our yellow water tank. We were then ready for the off.
P1240067smSwinging under the bridges at the bottom of the staircase we could see that the bottom chamber wasn’t empty, well there had been a Carefree Cruising Boat head up earlier in the morning. Then we could see a red boiler suit near the top, it had to be Brian from NB Harnser. I walked up and introduced myself. They were sharing the top chamber with another boat, but we were welcome to enter the bottom one and then we’d do a shuffle.
P1240068smBy the time the bottom chamber was empty both descending boats were in the middle one, water cascading over the gates. As soon as I’d looped our centre rope around a bollard and closed the gate Brian did the honours and started to lift the paddle to lower their boats and raise Oleanna. The other day when we’d walk up the middle chamber had been as empty as it could get and we’d been puzzled as to where the water came into it from the chamber above. We’d looked along both sides but could see anything. Mick did a bit of hunting on the internet and discovered that the water actually enters the locks below the cil, so centrally below the next set of gates, not from the sides. This made for an easy transit up the staircase.
P1240071smP1240079smP1240081smOnce the two chambers were level Brian moved NB Harnser into the bottom chamber alongside Oleanna, the chap on the other boat moved over to create a space for Mick to move forward into. As soon as Oleanna was out of the way Harnser was pushed over to take her place and the other boat could then move in along side. Gates closed, shuffle completed, we could all carry on up and down the staircase. I still had to fill the top lock as I’d been too busy chatting to Brian to do it earlier, so they reached the bottom before I’d even started to fill the middle. Waves all round as they disappeared under the railway bridge.
P1240107smHoole Lane Lock is the first out of the city. The two times we’ve come up these locks before to The Cheshire Cat we haven’t been able to control the boat and poor NB Winding Down got biffed around quite a bit, even dropping paddles didn’t help. Today we are four years more experienced, but this didn’t help!
We passed the centre rope round a bollard, tried the same side ground paddle, no! Other side paddle, no! A bit of one then the other, no! Sitting closer to the top gates, no! Sitting further away, no! Other than just letting a trickle of water thorough and it taking forever, is there any way of working these locks with one boat and not biffing around?
P1240111smOnce up Christleton Lock we pulled in and filled with water. We took the opportunity to have a late lunch too. The first of the cheeses came out, Cenarth Brie and Ribblesdale Blue Goat. Both very nice especially the goats cheese, shame it was the most expensive.
P1240121smP1240124smOriginally we’d planned to stop at the Cheshire Cat again but instead we decided to push on a bit further today. The next pound is over eight miles long, so steady going. Tilly was making quite a fuss inside, shouting at us I don’t shout! So I offered that she could join us for a bit. This means her wearing a harness and being attached to a lead, I don’t trust her not to jump off or get into trouble. Putting the harness on is quite easy and once out on the roof on a short reign she had a good nosy around. Sitting on the wood above the morse control seemed to be a favourite today. Metal can be so cold on one’s derriere. She stayed with us for a good twenty minutes, she normally only lasts five. That is because I am far more experienced now, it’s just when someone steals the sky that I get worried. She finally made up her mind to return indoors as we approached Golden Nook Moorings, the mile of boats.
P1240145smAs we passed NB Blackbird we wondered when we might see her again, our paths aren’t likely to cross this summer. One more boat in the line today. We carried on to bridge 113 where there are moorings, but decided to go past the entrance to Tattenhall Marina and pull in. Well we would have if we could have, but the bottom was too close to the top on numerous attempts. First spot that we could pull in at was through the next bridge. Tilly had been shouting at the bathroom window so I quickly recited the rules and even though it was half an hour before sun down she was allowed out.
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The day she moved in
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A year later, well setlled
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Two years later, she rules our lives.
Today marks the second anniversary of when Tilly came to live with us. She has grown up and is very accustomed to living on a boat now, I often wonder what she’d make of living in a house.
DSCF7114sm8 locks, 3 a staircase, 1 shuffle, 8.67 miles, 1 blogging boat, 1 ex-blogging boat, 2nd water point working, 4 croggies, 5 annoying locks, 2 cheeses, 20 minutes they just stand around whilst the outside changes itself! 118 boats, 1 mooring too close to a chilled medication farm, 2 years of not needing a hot water bottle, 2 years of purrs, 2 years of being shouted at, 2 years of life with Tilly.