Category Archives: Birds

Metropolis. 1st June

Lockdown Mooring 3, to the shade and back again

Tilly was given an hour this morning before we wanted to move. A few calls after we’d finished breakfast to encourage her home along with starting to wash the fertan off the gunnel worked a treat. I’d only just started and she pounced out of the friendly cover back onto the towpath where she was promptly picked up and passed inside.

They are growing fast

We made our way to the shady spot again where the washing continued. The gunnels were already quite hot from the morning sun so dried off very quickly as I put my dungarees on to do the priming. I started at the bow working towards the stern which had absorbed more heat before we’d moved, it had cooled down by the time I reached it. Job done for the day.

Mick had walked up to the mill Shop for some bread, only plastic white frozen variety available, whilst I worked. The water point was busy, two boats filling and more waiting their turn. Today C&RT were aiming to have the network open again, so Continuous Cruisers can start to move around again. This has meant a lot more boats on the move and few of them coming past twice.

NB Islonian once topped up with water came past winded and found themselves a space on the 48 hr mooring, another boat had pulled in behind where we’d been moored, but there was still space for us. After lunch we reversed back to where we’d started the day, tyre fenders out to keep the newly applied primer away from the edge.

The bathroom floor is a nice cool place on a hot day

By mid afternoon more boats had arrived the visitor moorings now full and the straight stretch behind us only showing a few gaps. The boating world is on the move again.

I had intended to do some jobs inside this afternoon, but instead I decided to do a bit of research for a possible project with Dark Horse early next year. #unit21 is set in a world where as you reach the age of 21 you are assessed on your adulting skills. A world of uniformity.

Amy, writer and director had said she’d been influenced by German expressionism and films such as The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari, Metropolis and George Orwells 1984. I’ve seen the first two a very long time ago when at college and surprisingly never 1984.

Ten hour clock

A free version of Metropolis was on YouTube, so some of the afternoon was spent watching this iconic 1927 silent film. Not a short film by any means, this version had every scene reinstated. Directed by Fritz Lang it portrays a beautiful cultured utopian world above a bleak underworld where the populace are mistreated. A privileged youth, Freder discovers the underworld and falls in love, instantly clutching at his heart, with Maria a rebellious teacher. His father is none too impressed and orders that a machine man (robot) is made in the image of Maria.

Maria

The world is so deco, planes turn corners without having to bank and the work force battle hourly to stop the machines below ground from exploding all arriving at work in a trans like state, leaving exhausted after a ten hour shift. Makeup and the acting are as dramatic as you will ever see. The remainder of the film awaits for in between coats of paint or the possible rain forecast from Wednesday.

Deco lift doors

0 locks, 500 yards, 1 side washed, 1 side primed, 2 many boats, 1 full stretch of moorings, 1 water world on the move again, 445 deaths missed, 10 hours, 1 popped cat.

Laying The Ground. 18th May

Lockdown Mooring 4A

Tilly obliged in coming home this morning so we could have a walk up the locks together. We don’t like leaving her out with no-one home, just in case!

Moving things around in the compound

We’d been able to hear and see things going on at the top of the flight, a digger/crane in the compound that had been used whilst the bottom lock was being rebuilt. At the locks there was activity too. A couple of chaps seemed to be moving earth around, tidying up the edges of the towpath with a digger . Mick made sure they were aware of the leak at the lock. We suspect the brief for the lock may not have actually included repointing behind the gates, just rebuilding the chamber wall and making it wide enough for boat passage. We feel we’ve mentioned our concerns to enough people now, as I’m sure others have too.

Cleaning up the edges

The red van still has eggs for sale, but no duck eggs sadly. We looped back round onto the towpath, crossed over the lock and did a circuit round the reservoir. The work men at the bottom lock were raking finer stones around the lock, finishing off what has been left for a couple of months. Wonder if any of it will need to be dug up to sort the leak out?

Raking in finer material

An afternoon of painting again. The garden fence went on forever! Will I actually get them finished this week?

Nearly at the point of finer detail

Mick attracted my attention at one moment, ‘It’s them!’.

The Wheelie Shoppers were on the towpath, not the field, walking towards the junction. They didn’t dip down into the field but carried on. I grabbed my camera and followed at a distance.

It’s them!

Of course Tilly had to come and help, in fact her meowing arrival at my ankles may well help me in laying down the ground for my back story. The two of them, minus wheelie shopper, walked up the hump to the bridge. Each gave a glance over their shoulder towards me. My sight line was obstructed for a few moments during which time they vanished! But where to!?

I’m up here you numpty!

I walked up the mound, as if to cross the bridge whilst Tilly continued straight along on the level. Tilly confirmed that they weren’t hiding below, in fact she got quite upset about the whole thing and started shouting very loudly mimicking a duckling who gets stuck on the wrong side of a passing narrowboat from it’s mum. Panic had set in, so my attention had to turn to her, calling her up to the higher level to see where I was. This all helping very much with my back story, should I ever need one.

Where did they go?

The Wheelie Shoppers hadn’t actually vanished into thin air, I had a very good idea where they had gone. Opposite the end of the bridge there is a narrow path that leads through the sideways trees, I’d spotted this months ago. Straight ahead is what looks like a small branch blocking the way. They had either lifted this to pass, or the pathway takes a 90 degree turn which isn’t visible from the towpath. As I glanced through the sideways trees I could see them quietly moving away from the canal.

In There!

This morning whilst looking down to the boats below the reservoir, I got thinking. With the normal mooring rules coming back in next week, boats will start moving off. We are on a 48hr mooring, so will need to move on Monday whether we want to or not. Each boat will go in a different direction, at different speeds, with different aims and different destinations in mind. We’ve spent a couple of months in each others company, yet not been able to get to know each other, keeping our distance.

Visitors this morning

Some we just nod our heads, others we deliver veg boxes to, others we have little chats when we come across each other on the towpath or when passing. Social distancing will not be lifted for quite some time yet, so sadly we can’t get together to celebrate being able to move again, or celebrate the lifting of lockdown when it comes. We will all just drift off in our own directions after sharing the last two months together apart. I hope that our bows will cross again in the near future when we can take the opportunity to stop, stand closer have a drink and conversation together. These boats will always be our Lockdown Buddies.

So fluffy, no wonder Mum and Dad are so proud

0 locks, 0 miles, 1ce more round the reservoir, 2 to tidy, 1 to watch, 1 full lock, 1 leak leaking badly, 2 speeding boats, 8 feathery fluff balls, 14 fences, 0.5 fee, 0 shopper, 2 rucksacks, 2 secret pathways, 1 button webcam required, 1 back up story well and truly laid.

Tom’s Cat. 17th May

Lockdown Mooring 4A

For the last couple of nights I’ve preferred to sleep on my bed on the sofa. She is comfortable, mostly, but I thought I’d try a change. It also means I don’t get moved around quite so much during the night.

Then this morning I thought I’d try another change. Instead of warming one set of toes I decided to warm knees instead, Tom’s knees. She wasn’t too happy about this and said I’d become Tom’s cat. Because of all the changes I totally forgot about my morning game of pen and headed straight for the back door instead. She was even less happy about this.

Tom’s girl

Maybe I should reconsider. Tom gives good chin rubs, but his head nudges aren’t as good. He also tends to just push me off the bed in the middle of the night where as She slides the duvet around with me on it when She wants to turn over. I’ll think it over.

Birdie by the locks

Today she went for the usual walk trying to avoid other people going round the reservoir, so she went in the same direction only to find that the family turned round and came back! I’d have run through their legs in this situation, but She says that wouldn’t be 2 meters away and more to the point She’s too old to be running around on all fours! I don’t see a problem with it myself.

The weir into the reservoir all clear now

The reservoir had lots of fishermen round it. All with their masses of equipment. One chap stood in the middle of the path as I approached, but moved out the way for me. His mate down the bank said to just push him out of the way! I didn’t have a long enough stick to keep the social distance, he’d moved enough out of the way anyway.

Oleanna, a visiting boat and then the flag bubble to the right

Back on board I made myself some hummus as I’d run out. With no tahini on board I tried zuzzing some sesame seeds with my stick blender to make some before adding chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, a touch of cumin and some sumac. This will keep me going for a while even with putting half of it in the freezer for the next time I run out, although I think it will need thinning a touch with some more oil.

Sadly they don’t make pizzas I can eat

I also set about browning some pork that we’d bought back in November in Oxford. To this I added a parsnip, carrots still left from a couple of weeks ago, the turnip from this weeks box and several tomatoes. A little glug of wine a stock cube some sage and seasoning, then left it to bubble away at the lowest setting in the top oven. This cooked over several hours and smelt exceedingly yummy.

Hummus

Mick gave the chimney a sweep, removed the baffle plate inside the stove and cleaned it out. I made sure he stayed well away from my illustrations when he came past with sooty hands. Sadly the stove wasn’t lit until the evening, so the pork stew stayed in the oven to gently cook.

Filthy boy!

Skies were painted in and a few backgrounds for fireworks and blowy days. There is still a lot of work to do on my illustrations. I need to get a few more hours done in a day, but I am limited as my right hand isn’t too keen on holding thin brushes for too long.

Yummerty yum yum

The pork stew was very tasty, we had it with some salad and rice. There is enough left over for a couple more meals. Trying to keep up with the veg boxes keeps me on my toes, so I think we’ll have to freeze the remains of the stew, just so that we can get the greens, aubergine and broccoli eaten before the next box arrives!

0 locks, 0 miles, 6 fishermen, 1 Tom cat! 1 pizza boat, 2 lots of hummus, 3 meals of pork stew, 16 illustrations, 14 skies, 1 whirl wind, 0 wheelie shoppers today, 1 clean chimney, 2 filthy hands.

Back Home. 16th May

Lockdown Mooring 3 to Lockdown Mooring 4A

All the washing done, the water tank almost empty it was time to head ‘home’. But first it was Geraghty Zoom time. There was plenty of gurning from Wiltshire this morning. Good to see everyone.

Bunbury in view

All the boats apart from NB Islonian had moved off before us this morning. Several more we’ve not seen before came past too, people starting to move to touch further. Down to the winding hole. The reeds here look like they need their roots doing, a very clear line between the bright green new growth and the sandy dry old from last year.

Roots coming through

At the water point we joined another boat to fill up. Most moored boats by the services having a visit from their owners for the first time since lockdown was impossed. People rubbed back paintwork and others checked their engine bays. Covers removed and boats pushed off for a little jaunt up the canal and back to give them a run. For the next week people can visit their boats for the day, but not stay overnight.

As the water echoed around our almost empty tank I walked up to the garage for a newspaper and few other bits and bobs. Eggs were needed as I need to bake a cake soon and I didn’t want to risk the egg farm having sold all theirs to the local garden centre.

It’s been a few weeks since I came to the garage, here basic supplies and of course fuel can be purchased along with a Saturday newspaper. A perspex screen has been added at the counter, the chap serving wore gloves and struggled to get my basket through the opening. Bread, butter, eggs, a paper and a 3kg bag of porridge oats were scanned, a handy top up shop. However I did forget to get one thing, I’ll just have to be creative next week!

Damselfly

Back on the towpath I took my time to walk back to the water point. I’d spotted what I’d thought was a Damselfly and wanted to check it was. Three sat on the towpath warming themselves. The first I’ve seen this year, maybe they’d just hatched out and were finding their wings before zooming over the water. They obliged by sitting still to have a photo taken.

Back at Oleanna the tank was just about full on my return. Another boat had turned up for a top up, the water was certainly busier than we’ve seen it for a long time. We pushed off and made our way back towards Barbridge. I’d considered walking back but when we came across a group of fluffy cygnets I was glad I hadn’t, Dad was standing guard on the towpath and I suspect he wouldn’t have let me pass.

Mum with her fluffy grey offspring

Our first cygnets and damselflies today.

Fishermen are back in numbers. One chap had totally taken over the grass at the junction with a tent and several rods out across the water. At least he’d found a patch where people could avoid having to walk right past him, quite self contained and out of the way.

Fishermans tent at Barbridge Junction

A shiny freshly painted boat sat on it’s mooring as we approached the reservoir. The owners had just arrived for the day so we got chance to chat as we passed. The boat had been at Overwater for a repaint when the country closed down. They spent their time tidying their mooring, but last Thursday they jumped at the chance to get her back home. A fine looking boat.

That’s a good yellow

Oleanna smiled back at us as we rounded the final bend by the reservoir, we were approaching ‘home’.

The junction

All the neighbours waved and said hello, Helen from the Scrabble boat said she was going to get a bungee to tie us down. Our little community happy where we are for now.

Look at that sky

There was one space left on the 48hr mooring, our space. We slotted back in, back at ‘home’. It looked like someone had spent sometime in our spot as a can of Redbull lay on it’s side and five cigarette butts were strewn around. These were picked up and put in a bin for disposal later, the litter bug humans are returning.

Rubbish!

Tilly was straight out, happy to be back. No coming and going time and time again, just content to do her thing.

I settled down to have a long chat with the London Leckenbys catching up on the weeks news. Mick popped his head out of the hatch and pointed to the gap in the hedge, the Wheelie Shoppers!! I watched the lady walk past and loitered at an angle to check they were heading to the path they have worn through the barbed wire fence.

Wheelie Shoppers? Where?

A couple walked by, obviously having picked up some eggs from the farm. No duck eggs still, but the van was still there, so that is a relief. I glanced back into the field just to see the lady disappearing round the end of the pond.

Thursday on a Saturday

Tilly now so happy to be here needed some encouragement to come home. So the mad cat lady walked up and down and headed into the field. No sign of the white tipped tailed one, but I did walk round the corner to near where the Wheelie Shoppers go. I see this as laying the ground for venturing along the path in a few days time, under the pretence that I’m looking for my cat.

0 locks, 4 miles, 1 wind, 2 straights, 1 full water tank, 1 new pooh bucket, 1 paper, 6 eggs, 1 loaf bread, 3kg porridge, 3 damselflies, 7 cygnets, 2 proud parents, 1 busy canal, 7 fishermen, 5 fag butts, 1 spot for us, 0 wheelie shopper today, 1 Thursday photo taken on a Saturday.

PP … What Are You? 11th May

Lockdown Mooring 4A

With this weeks veg box order made it was time to check on the egg situation. At the bottom lock we crossed over the gates to see if we could see where the water might be leaking. It was soon very obvious. The recess where the gates sit when open look like they weren’t touched during the rebuild of the lock chamber. Certainly there was no repointing done to them. At the top end of the lock you can see where the work stopped and the old structure has been left. So hope the current water ingress isn’t doing damage. We carried on up the flight where two C&RT chaps were busy clearing vegetation from the weir that leads into the reservoir.

Bottom end of the lock
Top end where old meets new

This morning mixed messages had come from C&RT regarding boat movements. What they said left a lot that could be interpreted. ‘The Trust is lifting any remaining restrictions on boat owners visiting their boats though the Trust advises against travelling long distances unless it is essential to do so.’ However they also said ‘In the meantime, mooring exemptions are extended by a further two weeks until 23 May.

Green shoots in the fields

We took from this that there are no changes as yet to us as CC’ers. I feel that their ambiguity was due to pressure to make a statement ASAP. Yet the Prime Minister hadn’t been clear in what he had said last night, did even he know what he was saying? Schools that are meant to be reopening for the younger kids in a few weeks didn’t even know it until Mr Johnson opened his mouth last night! So today we have watched those on social media debating the statement and what it means to them. We will be continuing as we are until we hear otherwise from C&RT.

Floating high
Eagle eyed

No duck eggs again, oh well. We did a circuit round the reservoir letting the wind blow the cobwebs and our breath away before returning to Oleanna.

Base colours going in

This afternoon I got my watercolours and brushes out and started to block in colours on my illustrations. These are needed by the end of the month and if the lockdown eases we will want to start moving again, not sure where. As yet I have only managed to tick one thing of the boat jobs list and the list hasn’t even been written yet! I wonder if that is an achievement in itself.

More colours

Late afternoon we heard the familiar chug chug as NB Halsall pulled up alongside. Our first top up of diesel for about a month and a bag of coal in case the temperature stays chilly. A Gammon joint was popped in the oven to bake away for a couple of hours.

Still looking after us

All of a sudden outside our little feathered friend started to sing it’s heart out again. Well just enough and long enough to be heard and caught on Mick’s phone. The bird song app didn’t recognise it, possibly due to the breeze, or distance away from the microphone. But Mick managed to down load it this time. So all you twitchers out there please, what is the real name of the PPe bird?

PPe Bird

0 locks, 0 miles, 9.5 miles, 0 eggs, 1 circuit, 1 update left for interpretation, 15 illustrations blocked in, 59 litres, 1 bag coal, 2 many contradictions, 1 Ppe bird.

Tilly just missed hitching a ride

Swooping. 10th May

Lockdown Mooring 4A

Brrrrr!!!!! That is all I need to say about the weather really. Glad we had the barbecue yesterday. Today we lit a different fire, the stove at about 10 am. Tilly popped her head outside on a few occasions but was severally unimpressed with the blowyness out there. It blows right up my bum! You wouldn’t like it either if you didn’t wear trousers! So instead she stayed inside for much of the day taking pole position on the sofa.

 

You can’t move me! Look how cute I am.

Today we have been surrounded by Swallows, or are they Swifts? They move far too quickly to see what shape their tails are. On one occasion they took to swooping down to discourage Tilly. It succeeded! They all look like they are having a great time.

We ventured up the locks to see if there might be any ducks eggs. Sadly the van looked quite empty and there were no eggs for us today. At least it gave us a reason to venture out on a chilly day. The farmer walked down his drive so we asked if he had any duck eggs. ‘I’ll get a couple of trays’ he said. Brilliant.

Not many today

We waited for him to return but that is when we worked out that he must be slightly deaf as he only had hens eggs and we’d restocked with those yesterday. Our hopes raised only to be dashed again. We’ll keep trying.

Fancy ducks

I wrote a few weeks ago about how the bottom lock at Hurleston seemed to have sprung a leek after it’s rebuilding. Back then we’d noticed that the towpath gets very wet when the lock is full, if left empty overnight the towpath dries up. I sent a message to C&RT with photos and they said a local engineer would have a look and that the site had not as yet been signed off.

10th April
17th April with an empty lock overnight

The flight is used at least once a day with boats heading in to Nantwich for shopping and services. So as we walk up and down the flight we see it in all states of fullness and emptyness. It turns out that the towpath only gets wet when the level of water in the lock is between full and two foot down.

Yesterday a C&RT employee was at the top of the locks clearing debris from the lock mouth and checking things over. We stopped for a chat with him across the lock. He said that C&RT are fully aware that something isn’t quite right at the bottom lock and that water is actually showing in three places that it shouldn’t be. But with the pandemic there was little they could currently do as the contractors were not working. We were relieved to hear that they know about it after the huge amount it has cost to rebuild the lock.

Just a few more minutes

The rest of the day wasn’t conducive to doing much. Tilly hogged the stove, Mick listened to the 2005 second test match between England and Australia and I unpicked one side of the button band on my treat cardigan. It had all ended up being a touch too tight, so another twenty rows were added and it sits a lot better. Mental note for next time, lay things out on a table not your lap in front of the TV! It works better this way.

There are the ends to weave in, the pockets to sew up along with the under arms. Then I need to find the buttons and it will be finished. I have enough yarn left over to make something else. I toyed with a hat for a while, but today’s chilly wind spurred me on to making matching socks. They will have the same pattern that is on my cardigan sleeve and pocket.

Nearly there

This evening we watched the Prime Minister informing us of the road map to get out of lock down. All very vague. Boaters social media started buzzing with everyone interpreting what had been said in the direction they were wanting to hear. C&RT have said that they will be giving continuous cruisers advanced warning of the lifting of restrictions, so we wait to hear from them. I suspect they are just as confused as the nation is.

0 locks, 0 miles, 0.75 of the egg walk, 10 degrees, 14 down from yesterday, 1 disgruntled cat, 2 one cosy cat, 1 cardigan nearly finished, 1st matching sock, 2 pies, 1 with not quite enough filling! 2 boaters not fretting, 2 boaters doing some homework.

His and Hers Loaves. 6th May

Lockdown Mooring 4A

Frothy!

My sourdough sponge had gone frothy overnight, so it was time to mix in all the other flours. Potato starch, Tapioca starch, Flaxseed all sorts, plus some butter and an egg. It all makes for a very liquid bread batter that is so very different to the last few loaves I’ve made which were vegan as well as gluten free.

Ready to rise

Poured into a lined bread tin (GF stuff always wants to stick when it’s cooked) it was then left on the proving shelf to grow. The recipe I’d chosen I could have added yeast too, but as my starter had been so bubbly I decided to omit it and leave it to rise for longer on it’s own. The timer was set for 2 hours, the minimum.

With only one egg left I set off on the Egg Walk. Micks version of this may differ slightly from mine, but both versions have the same intention. Duck eggs and maybe some hen eggs. I walked up the locks, under the first two bridges on the Llangollen Canal and then climb up onto what was the A51 before the newer version was built.

Wheelie Shopper wood

Here people pull in to buy eggs and boaters have their cars parked. Today the red van had a fresh supply of eggs, medium and extra large, but sadly the centre trays were empty. No duck eggs.

I looped round onto the A51 and walked over the canal. Nantwich Vets Equine Centre looked like it has opened back up. Several horse boxes turned in along with various other vehicles, in fact there was a bit of a queue to turn in. The world is getting busy again.

Thirds

I walked round the houses to see if there were any eggs here, but sadly the table wasn’t out. We’ll try again tomorrow.

A full circuit of the reservoir before heading back down the locks. This only equates to a couple of miles at most, but at least it’s showing some effort before starting work for the day.

Somewhere behind those trees!

At lunchtime Mick asked if I could make him a loaf of bread. We still have some bread flour on board, not much, but some. We also have dried yeast, so this was possible. My loaf needed longer on the proving shelf, so I wondered if they both would be able to go in the oven together.

Kneaded
Risen

Baking times and temperatures were different for the loaves, but I managed to work it out in the main oven. My loaf was baking first with the hope that it would have set itself before possibly getting disturbed when adding Mick’s loaf. If you happen to knock the tin of the gluten free loaf before it’s set all the air bubbles will pop, making it a flat loaf. My calculations worked and the usual extra five minutes out of their tins finished them off nicely.

His at the back, Hers at the front

Three quarters of my sketches got inked in this afternoon before noises from the flag bubble distracted me. Shrieks and engine noises. Just what was going on!

What’s going on?

NB Plum appeared to be trying to get in to the off side for some reason. Then after a while we could also see NB AreandAre doing similar things. A tractor in the field? Then we could see why, a cow had fallen in the cut. It actually turned out to be two cows that had misjudged their footing and toppled into the canal. Plum and AreandAre were being used to stop the cows from walking away from where they could be rescued. After about fifty minutes both were back on dry land and the world calmed down. Sandra filmed the rescue, here’s a link to the footage on their facebook page.

MInd the prop
One stubborn cow

This evening I decided it was time to use the aubergine we’d got in the veg box last week. An obvious choice was to make a Moussaka. I’ve never made one before, but we had everything required which would mean I could use the half tin of tomatoes and some more potatoes. Well it took some time to get ready for the oven, but that time was well worth it. Ever so tasty, it’ll be added to the repertoire.

No audible sound of the PPe bird at all today and no sign of the wheelie shoppers. I’ll carry on listening to bird song on the internet in hope to find out what it is.

Tilly watching out for the Wheelie Shoppers

If you are wanting a bit of a jolly good laugh this weekend I can highly recommend By Jeeves which will be on the Show Must Go On Youtube channel from 8pm on Friday. This was the show that opened the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough when it moved into the Odeon building in 1996. I did a little bit of work on the premier production when I first started working there, I put the flowers on the grass verges I seem to remember. This recording is from a production in the States or Canada I believe. Not your usual Lloyd Webber big musical, but Jeeves and Wooster brought together in a daft musical by Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber. For those who worked at the SJT back in 1996 the show is in our blood, the lyrics resurface just as soon as the music starts. When a production of it was put on at The Old Laundry in Bowness a few years ago so many of us rushed to see it again. We’ll certainly be watching.

By Jeeves - Wikipedia

0 locks, 0 miles, 0 duck eggs, 0 reservoir eggs, 1 circuit, 2 loaves bread, 1 sachet yeast, 1 sourdough, 12 inked in drawings, 1 pirate on a bike, 2 swimming cows, 1 tractor, 2 boats, 9 hours, 1 exhausted cat, 1st Moussaka, plenty of potatoes left.