Category Archives: Pubs

Nice To See You. 21st March

Nantwich to Calverley Bridge 104

Late last night there was a lady on a facebook group having difficulty getting medication delivered to her boat somewhere in Nantwich. The pharmacy couldn’t deliver and local taxis wouldn’t due to insurance. We could easily help, so I left her a comment and message. This morning my phone was turned on early, but there was no reply. Still no reply as we had our cuppa in bed. Mick headed off on a bike into town for our Saturday newspaper and hopefully the few bits we’d not managed to get yesterday. There was still no reply by the time he’d finished. Hopefully she succeeded by other means.

A crow picking up Mick’s hair.

Mick had wizzed round the shops this morning and returned with a box of white and a box of red amongst other things, but still no rice to be had. We finished breakfast made cuppas and settled down at 10am infront of the laptop.

Duncan, Mick’s nephew had set up a video call for the family this morning. Gradually at 10am people joined the meeting, only one absentee today. Wiltshire, Lewisham, Sheffield, Eastbourne, Nantwich, Littleborough, Helensburgh and Dhaka, Bangladesh were all connected. Sadly Richard in Dhaka didn’t have enough bandwidth to have a picture, but he did manage to hear every seventh word people were saying and at one point we could hear the local call to prayer.

Curtesy of Duncan

It was lovely to see everyone and hear what people were up to in the confines of their homes, a good catch up and I suspect the first of many.

Padded trousers were needed for cruising, the air not quite warm enough without the sun today. We pushed off just before 11 passing two boats at the water point, our washing machine whizzing round, we’ll fill up tomorrow at Calveley.

Two years ago we got to know this stretch quite well. We knew where the Kingfishers used to hang out, but sadly they didn’t show us their wings today. We kept our eyes open for landmarks. The green double decker bus. The long line of high rise cars on the hill shortly before Hurleston Junction. But hang on! Where was the killer bunny? Psycho Peter Rabbit couldn’t be seen.

The bus

Just on the other side of the A51 is Snugburys a very good chilled medication establishment. In one of the farms fields they have straw sculptures the last one we’d seen was Peter Rabbit who towered above everything. But he is long since gone, I believe a bee is now in his place, sadly not visible from the canal.

Hurleston Bottom Lock

At Bridge 97 we arrived at Hurleston Junction the start of the Llangollen Canal. Barriers on the bridge stop you from walking up the flight at the moment as this is where the bottom lock has been rebuilt. We were a touch surprised to see that the lock was full of water, the bottom gates leaking and giving it away. The flight isn’t due to reopen for another week which is a shame as we’ll most probably be elsewhere by then.

Gordon and Dawn

All of a sudden a chap shouted out to us, recognising our boat name. We slowed to say hello. He soon told us that he also has a Finesse boat, NB Sonoma. Due to the battery delays on Oleanna our boats were being finished at similar times in Sheffield three years ago. We ended up having quite a long chat, all at a very safe distance. It was very nice to meet you Gordon and Dawn. I hope you get to do some cruising this summer and maybe our paths will cross again in more settled times.

Fairies
Extension finished

Onwards to Barbridge, the fairies still at the bottom of a garden and the new extension that was being built two years ago now completed. There were very few boats along the moorings here, the pub had lights on but was obviously empty. A new patch of gravel on the towpath by a sluice suggested where an emergency repair had happened a few weeks ago.

The recent repair

At the junction we were too busy looking at the new houses to beep our horn, so was a hire boat about to turn out from the Middlewich Branch. We spotted them first and Oleanna was brought to a halt, a near miss averted. There was then a bit of polite, you go first, no you go first. They went first and we held our position against the growing wind.

A near miss

On we pootled, more building sites cordoned off on the off side. The hire boat pulled in to scramble up the bank to the garage. We pulled in onto the 48hr moorings just past bridge 104. There was space for two boats, so we pulled up to the boat in front should anyone else arrive. We were now in the right place to meet up with NB Halsall.

The new houses at Barbridge Junction

Quite a few dog walkers and fishermen came past all with a cheery wave and nod of hello. We may all be keeping our distance but we can still say hello. I had a catch up with my brother and Josh in London. Jac is due to fly back from Australia in a weeks time and they are trying to decide how she should be quarantined. Should the whole house , all three of them be quarantined? Or should Jac be kept in the garden/tree room for 14 days keeping the back yard as a buffer between them all? Here’s hoping she can get home.

Mid afternoon Oleanna did a little bob, was Bunbury staircase being filled? About half an hour later the familiar blue and white bow of NB Halsall came into view slowing ready to pull alongside.

Here they are

Diesel tank topped up (83p), five bags of coal and as this morning we’d finished a gas bottle we replaced that too giving us three full bottles. So we just need to top up with water and we are good again. We arranged to pay by bank transfer as we still have their details from two years ago, this saves passing money around.

I always say hello to Buddy when we pass this boat

Lee was able to give us a bit of local knowledge regarding the Anderton Boat lift and the current situation on the Macclesfield Canal at Marple. Up there they are still waiting for results from a ground survey, but the thought is that unless something serious is found the navigation should be reopen in three to four weeks. We’ll put our thinking caps on and wait to see if it’s good news next week or not.

Tilly had to be reminded that Halsall wasn’t her boat as the bow came close enough to the towpath for a calculated leap. But it looked so interesting on there. Far more interesting than Olea-boring-anna!

Thank you Lee and Roberta

We waved Lee and Roberta goodbye, although we’ll be passing them tomorrow as they will be waiting for a delivery that has been slightly delayed. Then they are likely to pass us on their route eastwards.

0 locks, 5.23 miles, 3 straights, 2 boxes wine, 4 asked for, 1 newspaper, 0.5 of a tree gone (so Frank says!), 1 shared ring, 34 litres, 1 gas bottle, 100kg excel, 1 near stowaway, 12 turkey meatballs, No 6.

Hitchhiker And 1000! 13th March

Norbury Junction to Goldstone Bridge 55

Tilly was allowed some shore leave as we had breakfast, thankfully she returned home before we’d finished so no mad cat woman required on the towpath. Mick made a call to his dentists in Scarborough, they were still seeing people. However where we are right now isn’t the easiest place to do a day trip from, so he has moved his appointment to May when we hopefully should be nearer.

Up at the junction a boat was already on the waterpoint, they nudged back and made room for us to pull in. Water topped up, yellow water emptied and rubbish disposed of we were ready for our days cruise.

Good job there is room at the junction as there isn’t by this bridge!

What has happened to the etiquette of not mooring close to bridge holes? Just through Norbury Bridge on the off side is a permanent mooring, on the towpath there is normally a short distance before the 48 hr mooring sign, leaving a space by the bridge. This seems to be happening more and more.

Scaffolding
The other side

On we pootled in a northernlyish direction. Our next bridge was High Bridge, the bridge with the double arch and telegraph pole right in the middle of it. Just how many photos have I taken of this bridge? But my photos today would be different as the south face was covered in scaffolding.

That one will have been in the way

Evidence of more trees that had come down in the storms. One huge trunk turned out to be just a limb that had peeled itself away from the main part of the tree.

A Green Fergie

On through Grub Street cutting. The boats are still here along with the beautiful blue Daimler half under wraps.

Get that roof mended please!

I think the roof of the shelter will need some attention very soon!

Well worth a stop if you’ve never been, of even if you have

The chap on the fender boat stuck his head out to ask if Tyrley was open again. Past The Anchor, too early in the day to stop for a pint of 6X.

Boats, boats and more boats

Lines of moored boats slowed our progress, not quite as bad as at Goldennook up towards Chester. Sheep grazed in fields above and below the canal, some chomping away on crops laid in lines where they had grown.

Still no bedoingy lambs

We passed an immaculate NB Percy, Nev had been on board a few days ago but there was no sign of life today, we waved anyway.

Please would you come and give Oleanna a polish?

This morning we’d pin pointed two possible moorings, depending on when the rain arrived would determine how far we got. Black Flat Bridge arrived and we only had a touch of drizzle in the air, so we continued.

Looking out for fish

A couple of churps. A Kingfisher. We both looked up as a blue flash passed us at the stern. Normally a Kingfisher would carry on skimming the surface of the canal to quite a distance up ahead to find a perch. Not this one though!

Oleanna trying to keep quiet behind the bags of coal

He swooped up onto our cratch cover and caught a ride with us for a few minutes.

Thankfully there was enough time to get my camera out and take a few photos.

Look at those markings

Being only about 50 ft away I managed to get some good photos showing off his plumage. Wow! What a treat! We felt like we’d been chosen. So beautiful.

Just Wow!

Then he took off and headed back to where he’d come from. Thank you for spending a few minutes with us.

The rain was now trying harder, so we had a go at pulling into possible moorings on the embankment, with great views. But the Shropie shelf thwarted that idea.

Great views along this stretch

Soon we reached the next visitor mooring with rings at Goldstone Bridge. No view but a suitable place for Tilly to keep amused and us to stay dry for the remainder of the afternoon.

I browned off a pack of pork mince, then split it in two. One for the freezer, the other for a bolognese sauce which will last us a couple of meals. This sat on the stove top gently bubbling away the afternoon as we watched the news regarding the virus.

Okay

It doesn’t seem like it will be long now before numerous events will be cancelled and everyone’s life will be contained to some degree. What a strange time lies ahead for us all. Stay safe and well my friends.

0 locks, 7.74 miles, 1 straight, 5 trees, 1 bridge, 2 kingfishers, 1 hitching a ride, 2 outsides, 1 damp day, 70% rent, 500 grams when cooked equals 360 grams, 1000th Oleanna blog post.

The Lilly Marge Flotilla Reunion. 12th March

Norbury Junction

A few days ago we’d contacted our friends Alison and Laura, who used to own NB Large Marge, to see if we could meet up as we were roughly in their area. Today they were free and so were we.

Oleanna had a tidy and a sweep through and as Mick returned from a trip to the bins I could hear loud voices, they’d arrived.

Laura, Alison, Mick and Me. A Lilly Marge flotilla reunion.

It’s almost two years since we last saw them, they came out to meet us here then, but a faulty boiler in their (new to them) house, meant they were too late for lunch at the pub. Cuppas and some of my chocolate chip cookies and plenty of chat later we walked up to the junction and pub.

Norbury Junction

The sun was out but blimey it was blowing a hoolie! We were glad to get inside to the shelter of the pub. The specials menu looked attractive but in the end we all chose a burger. My gluten free one came with a bun and I ordered extras of cheese and bacon, well just because I don’t want the gluten doesn’t mean I don’t want the tasty extras! They were all very tasty.

See I did manage to get you all in as well as the burgers!

We retired back to the boat for another cuppa and more chat of Jaffa (their parrot), chickens and keeping tortoises in the fridge. It was very lovely to see them both and we did try to persuade them to join us on the Leeds Liverpool later this year, NB Large Marge was a touch too long to fit the locks up there.

Where was Jaffa?!

What no tasty friend?! Jaffa always looked lipsmackingly friendly through the window, but they’d not brought him. It was a shame as I’d liked to have caught up with him and met his chicken friends. She wouldn’t let me follow them home though!

The C&RT notice we’d been waiting for came through at lunchtime today, meaning the Shropie is now open ahead of us. So we shall continue northwards and see what happens with the Marple embankment.

This evening we couldn’t resist sampling the fresh eggs the Margees had brought, very creamy yolks. Thank you ladies and your lady chickens.

Fresh from Wenlock Edge

Coronavirus will affect us, nowhere near as much as others as we live a fairly solitary life on the canals. But I wait to hear decisions that will almost certainly be made regarding my show in July. Should Mick keep his dentist appointment next week? Will the government bring in stricter measures to protect the population? Avoiding going on a cruise if you are 70 doesn’t seem ample to us and the need to build up ‘community resilience’?! What exactly does that mean? Anyhow, we will continue pootling along until something stops us.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 Margees, 5 eggs, 8 cookies, 5 hours of constant chat, 4 burgers, 2 pints, 2 glasses wine, 4 elbow bumps, 1 cat wanting to jump ship, 1 route ahead open, Yay!

Traps, Tunnels, Terra Firma And Tara. 5th March

Black Country Museum to Owen Street Bridge, Tipton

After booking ourselves onto the midday tunnel trip we walked back into the Black Country Museum. There were places we’d not looked at yesterday. The first to catch our eye was the Trap Shop.

Open today

Here a very knowledgeable chap talked us through the history of trap making. From men sitting hammering shapes, to fly wheel presses churning out parts to a gas powered engine that turned the presses. Sidebotham’s sold animal traps around the world even after they were banned in England. Not the nicest of things they were designed to hold their victim until the hunter came along to release them!

Inside the trap shop

The building was originally ran along the back wall of Sainsburys in Wednesfield, well before the supermarket was there. It was dismantled kept in storage and took four years to build back to how it had been.

The Pawnbrokers

We called in at the Pawnbrokers, Tipton in the day had forty such shops, for such a small town this just showed how most of the inhabitants lived from day to day hand to mouth, or not even managing that.

Bottles of stuff, whether they did you any good was a different matter they just looked the business

The chap in the Chemist was full of the new street plans further up the hill. The first building to be erected will be a pub from Wolverhampton. Around 30 million has been raised to create the new street and after many years of planning things are starting to happen. The aim is for the new street to be fully open in two years time, sadly our years pass won’t cover that, but maybe there will be something new before the end of the year for us to look at.

Helter Skelter being dismantled
Trolleybus!!!!

Then Mick spotted a trolley bus. Would it get us up the hill and back down in time for our trip into Dudley Tunnel? We walked up to catch it, but with no passengers waiting for it it headed back up the hill. So instead we walked back down to the lime kilns to see if we could work out which of the sunken boats was an Ampton. Below the surface hulls lurked.

There’s an Ampton down there somewhere!

Oleanna is 26 paces long and 58ft 6″. So we needed to find a hull that was around 35 paces long. We think we found two, both very well submerged.

Dudley Canal Trust was heaving with young kids who’d all been on a trip into the tunnel. They were full of it. One lad almost gave us a guided tour without being in the tunnel, he said it was quite ‘Bumpy’. Our boat was far quieter, only six of us. We donned hard hats and sat on the benches. The chap at the helm gave us a running commentary and another fella kept an eye on us and untied the boat ready for the tunnel.

Hard hatted and ready

Limestone mines in Castle Hill necessitated a tunnel system to help extricate the limestone. Lord Ward had the tunnels and canals built under the hill, work started in 1775 a year before the Act of Parliament was passed for both tunnel and canal. The work was completed in 1778. The tunnel gave access to the other side of the hill, 3 miles underground, the second longest in the country.

One of the caverns without it’s roof and two tunnels ahead

Large caverns and various tunnels fill the hill. Today the first two caverns have no roof and are open to the sky, then our boat dipped into the black of the tunnels. Now lined with concrete and areas oversprayed the first section is very round, but this soon becomes more rock like. Opening out into a larger cavern we were shown a film explaining how the limestone was created, then the hills pushed up creating fault lines.

Pixel par illuminations

On further and another cavern, more film showing how the limestone was mined and how the Victorians used the tunnels for excursions, coming in by boat and listening to bands, having picnics. Today there is a stage where performances can happen, people get married and concerts are performed.

Formations

We backed out through a different tunnel, this one lined with handmade bricks. The original method for boats to come through the tunnel was to be legged. Two volunteers took to a plank in the middle of the boat and they started to leg us along. The tunnel being only one boats width meant one way traffic and boats would queue up at either end to await their turn. One chap could leg three boats joined together on his own, meaning he made more money than the normal pairs of leggers.

Once through the main tunnel the boat would enter the big cavern where numerous tunnels headed off, which one was the right way? A lamp hangs in what would have been dusty air to guide you through. They say this is where the term ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ comes from. However our guide didn’t explain how the leggers got the boats across the wide cavern, presumably the boats were poled across here.

The light at the end

Passage through the hill was much easier through Netherton Tunnel, opened in 1858, which was wide and had a towpath on both sides. So by 1959 Dudley tunnel was more or less disused and British Waterways were going to close it, despite protests it finally closed in 1962. Much work was done by determined enthusiasts and it reopened in 1973. In the late 80’s more work was done to open up links between the caverns. Now visitors can go inside in the electric powered boats to see the sights. No diesel engines are allowed in the tunnel due to lack of ventilation and most modern boats don’t have a low enough profile to manage the journey. A very interesting tour, well worth the drips and getting very cold.

No bread to buy other than in a pudding

Mick still wanted a ride on the trolleybus so we headed back into the museum, but it seemed that the driver must be at lunch, so we joined the queue for a sneaky bag of chips between us before we left.

Tara for now

Time to head onwards. We winded with the bow under the bridge into the museum then pulled up at the services. Water topped up and yellow water disposed of we pushed off and headed to Tipton.

We pulled in behind a couple of boats moored on the off side by the Medical Centre,walked down into the shuttered town centre to find the Co-op to stock up on a few items.

Back at Oleanna we decided that our second mate should be trusted with some outside time, she most probably wouldn’t like it. Chaperoned for a while she nosed at the people in the doctors waiting room and checked under the friendly cover, but no one was around to play with.

At bloomin last!!!

A short whole after 4pm a visitor arrived. Heather, Mrs Bleasdale, was in the area and had spotted we were too, so she called in for a cuppa, a hot cross bun and a very good boaty catch up. NB Bleasdale is currently stuck down on the Great Ouse due to high river levels and delayed maintenance. Last year we had a catch up in Weedon, so there was plenty to talk about. The subject turned to the Irish waterways, this is the second person who’s brought the idea up. Costs need to be looked into, but it’s an idea, I might need to do extra work for us to be able to afford it, but it is an idea!

Mad O’Roukes Pie Factory

Heather headed off to catch a train and we headed off to walk through Tipton to Mad O’Roukes Pie Factory. We’ve heard mention of this pub by several bloggers but never been. This being our last night on the Birmingham plateau we decided to treat ourselves and managed to time it with Thursday Pie for a fiver night.

The interior of the pub is very much an old style boozer, no modernisation here, just tables and benches to pack in the masses. We managed to find one of only two free tables, ordered our pies and drinks.

Pies and more chips!

Their gluten free menu had five pies for me to choose from. I was excited, it’s not often I get to enjoy a pie. The only shame was that my puff pastry top was only just browned on top. Gluten free things always take longer than normal and I suspect my pie had been put in the oven at the same time as Mick’s. His crust had bubbled up wonderfully, but mine was doing the chewy under cooked gluten free thing that I now avoid by making my own pastry. Such a shame as I’d been so looking forward to a good pie. The filling was very tasty beef and my gluten free battered chips were tastier than Mick’s.

All gone despite the crust

0 locks, 0.54 miles, 1 wind, 1 straight, 0 trolley bus, 1 trap shop, 2 horses, 1 new street all the talk, 1 year and 1 week, 1 sneaky bag, 76 of each, 6 on a boat, 9 million bricks and counting, 1 text message underground, 2 leggers, 1 lamp, 1 Heather, 1 hour shore leave, 2 boxes wine, 2 pies and chips, 1 pint, 1 glass wine, 2 boaters in need of veg.

Day 7.

Things are doing well, I’ll give it a day longer, but start keeping the discard for some pancakes. Fed twice today and bubbling nicely.

The Beast. 29th February

Operational Mooring to Town Basin to Operational Mooring, Walsall

In an ideal world we’d have pushed off and headed up the locks today, but with storm Jorge having already buffeted us about last night we weren’t sure we’d be going anywhere . We’d decided to wake earlyish for us, check the forecast for the next few hours and then formulate a plan.

The sun was out and it seemed calmer than last night. Forecast, the winds would build and it would be wet at times. We could make an early start but to get to a mooring we had several hours to cruise and we already know about the amount of rubbish that awaits us on the curleywurley. The thought of getting something major around the prop with strong winds was not a good one.

No help from Tilly today

Should we head back into the basin so we could get off the boat and go somewhere if we wanted to? This would mean we could get a Saturday newspaper. Was the wind on the operational mooring being funneled by the tall buildings? Or would this be worse in the basin? Would the pub have live music on tonight? All these questions and Tilly wasn’t helping us with any answers!

That’s grown!

First it was breakfast time for the sourdough starter. The cabbage had done it’s job and there was a distinct rise in the jar. I removed the leaves, drained off any fluid then added another half cup of flour and the same of water and gave it a really good stir. I then marked the level with an elastic band so I could see easily how well it did during the day.

With the winds set to increase we decided to head to the basin and see what it was like there. Taking care on the slippy pontoon we pushed off up to the junction where the wind whizzed us round. Blimey it was cold, neither of us had prepared well enough for the arctic blast. Back in town we moored up where we’d left yesterday, keeping the Costa customers entertained over their flat whites.

Once a cinema, you’d never guess

As Mick headed off to get a newspaper from WHSmiths I checked out what would be happening at Bar 10 tonight. A tribute band and a DJ starting at 9:30 going on till late! When Mick came back we easily made our minds up that sitting in a wind tunnel would be preferable to not being able to get to sleep due to music and rowdy drinkers.

We backed away from the pontoon, winded (a little bit harder here) and returned to where we’d come from. Once tied up we could relax, break the news to Tilly she wouldn’t be going out again and have a cooked breakfast.

There you go.

Looking up to the proving shelf I could see things were happening to my starter. I could swear it grew everytime I looked away. The level crept up the inside of the glass, had I misread the instructions and bought the wrong sized jar? This was only day two, that cabbage had given it ideas above it’s station, would I need to sit it in a bowl to catch it if it grew over the top? Instead when there was only an inch left of air in the jar I moved it off the shelf onto the table where the cooler temperature should slow it’s growth.

A couple of hours after breakfast
A couple more!

During the afternoon I found my ground plan of the theatre in Vienna. I then made cut outs of sofas, baths, doors etc and started to arrange them on the plan doing my best to keep the important elements within everyone’s sight lines. If only I could grown the downstage area by 1m each side, would a corner bath work better? When were corner baths brought in?

Bedroom door too close to beams

I spent a couple of hours nudging the furniture around trying to find the best solution, then added into the equation the height of their stage and needing to be able to see over the back of a sofa as to what was happening on a balcony US. This would mean having several steps up to the balcony, where could they go. Was there enough room to get a large laundry basket through doors Down Stage? Could I move the balcony Down Stage? What if this went there? Or that there?

Steps to the balcony and the prosc widened

I sent an email to Vernon the Production Manager with a few questions, like could I make their proscenium wider. I’m waiting to hear back, I already know the answer but it’s worth asking.

Almost breaking out of the jar

By 9pm, the beast in the jar was needing feeding again, it had deflated itself so I plucked up the courage to take the lid off and give it a feed. We’ll see if we have to fight our way into the main cabin in the morning.

Jorge has buffeted us about for most of the day and given us some sunshine along with hail stones bouncing in through the mushroom vents. Here’s hoping it calms down enough for us to get up the locks tomorrow.

0 locks, 0.9 miles, 2 winds in the wind, 2 moorings, 1 newspaper, 1 tribute band, 1 inch, 4 inches, 7 inches! 1 beast in a jar, 4 options, 2m extra wide or no space for actors, 2 troublesome balconies, 1 extreamly windy mooring, 59 views from facebook, are we being talked about?

Day 2 Evening.

Reached top of the jar before deflating. Liquid drained off and fed again

Antipodean Visitors. 27th January

Pelsall Junction

Mooring at Pelsall wasn’t just so that Tilly could have a run around and for me to do some work, it was also for us to be close to the road network.

A beautiful morning

With visitors due Oleanna had a tidy and a sweep through this morning. Then to encourage Tilly to have some outdoor time I finally got round to washing the port side windows. The cratch window is the best, I get to lie on the top by the horns and watch the cloth and newspaper go back and forth until the outside can be seen clearly again.

The travellers were delayed, there had been a crash on the M1 and they had stopped to help. So the stern or Oleanna got a good sweep down and a rinse off with canal water, followed by the gunnel. If they were held up any longer I might of got round to the flithy roof and cabin sides.

A check on progress and they were almost with us, time to smarten up a touch and head for the pub. The Fingerpost Pub was boasting a new menu, food served daily 12-3pm, we’d not bothered to check. But they had let one of their two chefs go, so no food on Mondays or Tuesdays! We loitered in the car park, there were several more pubs in Pelsall to choose from.

The bridge over the canal had a car drive into it a while ago and there is a contraflow of traffic over it. Will the bridge be mended or will a planned new bridge be built to replace it? Locals are not in favour of a new improved bridge as this would attract lorries to the area, the old canal bridge would remain but for pedestrians. But for now the towpath is closed and traffic takes turns to cross.

There was waving from the car at the front of the queue! They had arrived.

Emma and Ted doing well despite jetlag

Emma my Bestestest friend and her son (my Godson) Ted are over for a visit from Sydney for a few weeks. They had originally been coming to visit Teds Grandmother in Ireland, but sadly she passed away before Christmas. This means they are now hurtling around trying to catch up with as many friends as they can. Last night (their first) they had enjoyed the hospitality of my brother, then we were their lunch date/pit stop whilst en-route to the Peak District to see Emma’s Aunt.

The Fingerpost

Time was ticking so after big hugs all round we hopped into the car and headed in to Pensall. We passed The Fingerpost which as it’s name suggests has fingers pointing in four directions.

The first pub we came to was the Old House At Home, a Marstons pub, the car park was busy so it looked hopeful. Yes they were still serving food, phew! We settled down for a good catch up and some okay pub food. Having said that the Yorkshire stack with cheesy mash looked interesting.

An okay pub for a chain

It’s been over six years since we saw last Ted, he turned 21 late last year, what a handsome tall young man he is. In between labouring for a building firm (in 40+C recently) he is studying law. Emma we last saw when Oleanna was still spanking new and we loitered around London to meet up with her nearly three years ago. Lots has happened in that time and we only just managed to scratch the surface, a late night drink with Emma on our own was really needed, but sadly not this time.

Me and my Godson

After a couple of hours we got a lift back to the boat, well to the other side of the canal where a footbridge crosses. This was a much better way to approach Oleanna, sitting on her mooring in the middle of the common, viewed from the top of the arched footbridge, very romantic.

They didn’t want to play with fish, but I did

Ted had a guided tour and met Tilly, who was quite sociable for a change. Well I knew he was important and wouldn’t be staying long. I think Emma was a touch relieved to see that we live a cosy life in winter with our stove burning 24/7.

Bestestest friend

Far too soon it was time for them to head further north. We waved them goodbye as they crossed back over the bridge to the car. The only way to get to spend more time with them is to visit Australia, we haven’t been for over a decade, maybe my next design fees should be saved up for a trip!

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 broken bridge, 1 tidy boat, 6 clean windows, 1 cat assistant, 1 bestestest friend, 6ft+ of Godson, 2 Aussies enjoying our clean air, 2 chilly Aussies, 2 Yorkshire Stacks, 1 Hunters chicken, 1 steak and kidney pie, 2 glasses of wine, 3.5 pints, 2.5 hours so not enough, 1 thumbs up from Huddersfield, 3 envelopes forgotten.

Vienna Postcard 4. 13th to 15th January 2020

31 hours

Real roses tend to loose their heads when used in magic tricks

Back to work Monday morning. Today we should have been doing some technical notes followed by a couple of dress rehearsals, the second one to be watched by Julia and Helene the Producers from the theatre. I spent the morning breaking down the water torture cabinet more. Then later I was able to add chains and padlocks.

Me on stage adding bits of dressing to the water torture cabinet

The afternoon was then spent going through sound and projection cues. Even though Sunday afternoon had been used as extra plotting time there were still issues. The projector was producing a distorted white rectangular light when we went into black out. One suggested solution was never go to black out! This didn’t go down well for obvious reasons.

Dan running through things out of costume

Then when the water torture cell came on (it has a tv screen inside it which runs footage) the projector also showed the footage! The projector wasn’t the right one for the job. This was the point that the projector was turned off never to be powered up again!

Even a Notfallplan wasn’t going to help

Everyone was getting nervous when sound cues were played back. This morning they had been finessed, this afternoon all that work had vanished and needed redoing. Poor Dan really needed to do a dress rehearsal but was thankful that he and Tim had done a run on stage on Sunday as there was no time left.

Dan with one of his tricks

So our first dress rehearsal was in front of the producers and photographer. My set still needed a few things doing to it, but there simply hadn’t been any time left after sorting the technical issues out. The dress went okay, but the producers had lots of questions afterwards.

A doughnut in action

Tuesday there was time to finish the cabinet, with bolts and breakdown the chain making it look older. Then Bruno, the Viennese Frank Matthews started work on what are known as the ‘Doughnuts’. These on the transporter bridge connect the cables from the dolly at the top of the bridge to the gondola below. I could hear quite a lot of German being muttering under his breath, but in the end he succeeded in getting the tension right on the ropes both upwards and down to the stage.

Das Lange the nearest pub

The dress rehearsal in the afternoon disappeared again, so in the evening we had a preview in front of local teachers. It went well but with a few little glitches. Most of us retired to Das Lange for a few glasses of beer and wine, we’d got through the show, but there was still work to be done.

Healthy fruit for breakfast was followed by some egg and bacon

Wednesday morning I was given instructions to head off and do some sight seeing. My jobs list was short but lighting, sound and a new projector needed to attention. Helga was sent out to track down more rivet heads that I could use on the bridge.

Second time lucky

So I headed into the city to the historical centre. Walking in again I wish I’d wrapped up better as the temperature was low, it even started to try to snow at one point, sadly not for long enough. Young trees were wrapped up to protect them in parks and a few mounds of old snow lingered near the ice skating ring.

St Peter’s

I walked through the palaces, not really knowing what was around me, the balcony where Hitler addressed the crowds in 1938. The butterfly house reminded me of Kew garden with a touch of Jules Verne added. St Stephan’s and St Peters churches both still with their Christmas displays.

At Julius Meinl I was pulled inside to marvel at the number of different caviars for sale. I hunted round for things to bring back. The cakes looked fabulous, the cheeses so tasty, twelve types of tomatoes, tins of baked beans for 2.49 euros! I spent my time smelling and absorbing and refrained from buying anything other than what the ladies at the theatre had said was the best Austrian chocolate Zotter, they certainly make strange flavours!

How much?!

Whilst having some lunch I got a phone call saying the rivets had arrived. So I walked back to give them a coat of paint before they were added to the set. I’d only managed 8 miles walking today!

Pre-rusted rivets

In the morning a new projector had been brought in, but the image couldn’t be made a suitable size to satisfy us. So after another morning of work the projection in the show was cut for good. I could then get on with riveting the bridge with the help of Vernon. we managed two sides but ran out of time. He’ll finish them without me tomorrow.

Finishing touches

Another preview night and then it was time to pack up my belongings. Julia and Helene seemed happy. The show is great, it’s just a shame the icing on the Sacher Torte was missing, your average punter wouldn’t know it wasn’t there. Farewells and big thank yous to all the chaps at the theatre. They are a great bunch and very welcoming. By the end of my time there it felt like I’d been working with them for ages, a very good team.

Top of Act 1
The bridge and Dan in action