Category Archives: viennna

2020 A Long And Winding Year.

Get yourself a cuppa and put your feet up, this is a long post.

Into BUMingham

Having seen New Year in on the North Stratford Canal we commenced the new year by cruising in to Birmingham or as Tilly would have it know, BUMingham, she’s not too keen!

What a stripy world!

A meeting with Amy from Dark Horse Theatre Company about a project in the summer set out our years cruising as I’d need to be in Huddersfield then York for the show. Then it was time to pack and get myself ready for ten days in Vienna. This would be the longest I’ve been away from boat life since we set out in 2014. Half of my clothes were packed up along with a basic scene painting kit and I jetted off to what was a mixed experience. Despite the problems I had a wonderful time working with a great team in the theatre, I hope one day to return.

Whilst I marvelled at the wonderful scenes in Vienna and pulled my hair out at work, trying to keep a calm exterior, Mick and Tilly headed back out into the countryside towards Tardebigge on the Worcester and Birmingham. Here they met up with a friend Chris who was planning a boat build.


Mick and Tilly came back into Birmingham to pick me up and then we set about exploring the BCN. There is plenty to explore and we didn’t quite manage to go everywhere, but we did our best.

Smethwick Locks

We headed up Smethwick New Locks onto the Old Main line. Stopped at Dudley Port Basin, coconuts accompanied us down Brades Staircase, then through Netherton Tunnel where we’d planned on visiting Hawne Basin, but thick ice thwarted our first attempt. The following day we succeeded and had a bumpy ride along the Dudley No 2 to fill our diesel tank.

Emma and Ted

Factory Locks brought us back onto the Old Main Line, we visited Wolverhampton, turned onto the Wyrley and Essington Canal and wiggled our way through the rubbish to Pelsall Junction. Here we had a wonderful get together with my bestestest friend and her son Ted (my Godson) who were over from Sydney, an all but too short lunch with them before they headed onwards on their whistlestop tour of England.

The Cannock Extension and Anglesey Branch were ticked off followed by the Daw End Branch, The Rushall Canal, Tame Valley Canal and up the Ryders Green Locks back into the centre of BUMingham early February.

The Jewellery Quarter kept us busy with visits to Smith and Pepper a time warp jewellery manufacturers, The Back to Backs, The Coffin Works. We watched the film 1917.

The Garden white card scale model

I designed costumes and made the white card model for The Garden for Dark Horse whilst we sat out storm Ciara which was to wipe out the Figure of Three Locks on the Calder Hebble. The damage to the locks looked great and not fixable quickly, a rethink to our cruising route was needed for me to get to work in the summer.

We went to the Symphony Hall and listened to Schubert and Berg spurred on by Dimitrios from NB Galene. Storm Dennis kept us from cruising to our next evening of entertainment at Titford Pump House, a bus replacement did the job so that we could see Alarum Theatre Company’s Acts of Abandonment. Little did we know at the time that this was to be our last live theatre until December.

A night out in the countryside for Tilly and a last night in the city to fill our bellies with curry. Then we were off again, up Smethwick Locks under the M5 where the scaffolding was being taken down. We turned up the Oldbury Locks following a boat that turned out to be NB Sola Gratia. A spin round the Titford Pools was in order before we returned for another diesel top up at Hawne Basin.

The Walsall Canal now beckoned us, that was a bumpy ride over trolleys, trees and all sorts! A fantastic fabric shop, the New Art Gallery right by our mooring and The Leather Museum kept our interest for a couple of days before we climbed up the Walsall Locks back up to Wyrley and Essington Canal.

The garden at Urban Moorings

The ladies at Urban Moorings welcomed us for an overnight visit, time to work the washing machine hard as we plugged into the electric. Then we kept our fingers crossed for a mooring at The Black Country Museum, which thankfully worked.

Marion and John came to meet us for an afternoon at the museum and we all enjoyed fish and chips with plenty of salt and vinegar in between visiting shops and watching chain links being made. The following day we took a boat trip into the Dudley Tunnel, had a second visit to the museum along with a portion of chips before heading out to moor in Tipton and have a visit from Heather from NB Bleasdale, followed by a pie at Mad O’Roukes Pie Factory.

The 7th of March saw us descend the Wolverhampton 21, leaving the Birmingham plateau behind us. Blimey we managed to pack a lot into the first ten weeks of the year! Just as well really. Onto the Shroppie where I had my first successes with gluten free sour dough bread, Tilly got to remember life in the countryside and we were treated to Shroppie Sunsets again.

Burgers with the Margees

The recent storms had brought down numerous trees and caused landslips so our progress was a touch slow heading northwards. We had a lovely lunch with Alison and Laura the Margees at Norbury Junction, they were to be our last visitors on board Oleanna for quite sometime.

Passing NB Bessie Surtees on the Tyrley Locks we actually got chance to chat for the first time. A stop to stock up in Market Drayton, we saw our first homemade mask (a pair of y fronts repurposed) and the start of empty shelves in supermarkets with people gleeful to have a twelve pack of toilet roll under their coat.

The Audlem flight was busy with plenty going down and NB Mountbatten coming up, delivering coal as they went. Theatres closed that day and we started to put into practice new ways of working locks hoping to keep ourselves safe. As we socially distanced around the shops in Nantwich people were joking about the virus. We shopped, adapting what we bought to what was available and then got ready for our first Zoom with family on the 21st March.

We stocked up with NB Halsall at Calverley then made our way onto the Middlewich Branch and down Cholmondeston Lock. The following morning (23rd March) we listened to our gut instincts. If lockdown was to happen we’d rather not have to negotiate locks to get to shops or services, so we winded and headed back up Cholmondeston Lock onto the Nantwich pound. Our gut instinct was correct.

Adam and Adrian on NB Briar Rose

The next few days we saw plenty of boats moving, finding places they wanted to spend the coming weeks, heading for home or temporary ones like NB Briar Rose. Jac my sister in law eventually managed to get a flight back from Melbourne where she’d been to celebrate her Mum’s birthday, at last everyone was where they should be.

We tried different moorings out for size as the need to fill with water or get shopping arose. It was also good to keep Tilly moving, both to stop her from getting bored and to help the local wildlife survive.

Our decision to be on the Nantwich pound turned out to be a good one, we ended up mooring at the bottom of Hurleston on the visitor moorings most, this became ‘Home’ for us where we watched spring turn into summer.

Watching the field behind the hedge be ploughed, planted and start to grow. Listening to the Lapwings enjoying the bounty in the potato fields. Getting to know our neighbours at a distance. The wheelie shoppers. The huskies out for their morning walk. The egg farm at the top of the locks. Weekly veg boxes from Nantwich Veg Boxes which we collected for ourselves and NB AreandAre. Supermarket deliveries were sought each week, sometimes only managing click and collect. The sun shone and Tilly had freedom. The coal boats kept us stocked up with fuel and our waterless (composting) toilet took one need to move out of the equation.

By mid-April my design for The Garden had been reimagined into an illustrated audio play. I was to do the illustrations, then they would have audio and some animation added to be available online. Chippy panto started to gear up with the hope that all would be back to normal-ish by the end of November for the show to be mounted.

We winded, went for walks, watched plays on the internet, winded, ate cheese scones, winded again! Tilly ventured further afield, across her field. We had barbeques, brownies and watched the reservoir banks get mown by remote control.

By Mid-May we were allowed to travel, so we hired a car for a day trip to Scarborough to see how our house was after the tenants had lost it during lockdown. In need of some tlc we now made plans for the rest of the year. We would be returning to life on land for a while, but planned on cruising as much as we could before then.

On the 23rd of May the suspension of the 14 day rule was lifted, our ‘home’ mooring was now 48 hours only so it was time to start moving again. Some boats around Hurleston headed off straight away, others remained a full 14 days before pushing off. We spent the next two weeks pootling to the far ends of the pound, Hack Green and Calvereley, the gunnels got a repaint and we said farewell to NB AreandAre who were heading up onto the Llangollen.

Cholmondeston Lock

With a full boat of veg and fruit from Nantwich Veg boxes, a Sainsburys shop and a visit from NB Halsall we were ready and on the 10th June we pushed our ‘home’ mooring away for the last time this year, Calverely was visited for a top up of water a toilet refresh and then we were off, turning onto the Middlewich Branch and descending Cholmondeston Lock, our first lock in 80 days. New gardening gloves became my boaters PPE and worked well, better than sanitising every five minutes.

Across onto the Trent and Mersey where we headed for Bramble Cuttings for a couple of nights. We’d been hoping to be able to drop down onto the Weaver but the Anderton Boat lift was still closed. So instead we winded at Whatcroft flash and headed up the Cheshire Locks hoping to catch Bosley Locks being open for a day to make our way onto the summit pound of the Macclesfield.

Nice Lock

It was nice being back on familiar ground again, although it took a little while to be able to do the Trent and Mersey hurdles over the lockgate beams with ease after sitting still for so long.

Our chairs were brought out onto the towpath to watch the setting sun at Tilly Railings and a barbeque was enjoyed on the Dane Aqueduct as we waited in line for Bosley Locks to open.

Bosley Locks and The Cloud in the background

With a single hander in front and one behind everyone helped out where we could making our passage up the locks a very jolly if hot one that only took 2.5 hours. Over the next ten days or so we pootled our way along the Macclesfield Canal, such a lovely stretch of water and oh those bridges! Still our favourites.

Calling in at Bollington Wharf we had our gas locker lid mended and had a top up of diesel. Foxgloves filled the canal banks and woods, we stopped at favourite spots along the way turning under the snake bridge at Marple onto the Peak Forest Canal at the end of June, heading for Whaley Bridge and Bugsworth Basin.

Saturday 4th July the pubs could re-open, we however went for a walk and waited for our delivery from Sainsburys along with a diesel top up from NB Alton. A batch of cheese scones were made to help us down the Marple flight on the 7th, we were the second boat down and it felt like we were pioneering boats going where no one had gone for months.

A couple of nights at Droylesden Marina saw to the washing pile and to recharge our batteries before we descended into Manchester. Our last narrow lock of the year was to be Ancotes Bottom Lock 1 on the Ashton Flight where we paused for a night at Telford Basin before tackling the Rochdale 9 on our own the following day. Patience and sheer determination got us out of Lock 92 at the bottom and was rewarded with a cheese scone as we made our way out to the Bridgewater Canal and Worsely.

The 14th July saw us rising up the Wigan Flight. We’d made arrangements to share the locks with NB Billy but it was decided by the volunteer lock keepers that they might be over long to share with, so instead we teamed up with John and Lindsey on NB Merganser. With the help of the Wigan Flight crew setting ahead we made good time up the flight, we then slowed down leaving the others to head off ahead of us.

The next few days we found ourselves leapfrogging NB Billy, or should that be hopfrogging? But we finally caught them up at Blackburn to share the locks. Another spectacular sunset was enjoyed by all near Foster Swing Bridge.

We’d planned to take our time along this stretch, but with local lockdowns looking possible in the area we decided to push on. The Burnley Embankment was busy with walkers and not a place to stop so we continued on to the bottom of Barrowford Locks. The following day we were caught up again by NB Billy so we shared the final flight up to the summit with Clare and Pete.

Our sixth anniversary of being fulltime boaters happened to coincide with pulling up at our favourite mooring on the network, the curley wurlys above Bank Newton. The following day the clouds lifted and we got to see the view. A barbecue was just managed before it started to rain.

It wasn’t quite plain sailing down into Skipton as the skipper of NB Amelie ended up in the cut at the bottom of Bank Newton and then we had problems with lock gates and swing bridges. Mick and I had an overnight in Scarborough leaving Tilly in charge and with the magic food bowl primed. On our return to Skipton we were met by two octogenarians leaning out of the upstairs windows of their house waving. We joined Margaret and Robert for a lovely meal, good to see them even if we were a bit nervy being in their company inside.

Sunny weather accompanied us onwards and finally I managed to take the photo I’ve been after for four years, Oleanna coming towards me under Parson’s Bridge. Now we have the matching pair, Lillian going away from us, Oleanna towards.

At Bingley five rise we teamed up with NB Barley to descend with the help of Lock Keeper Clare, carrying on to Saltaire in the sunshine.

A pause in Rodley meant we could meet up with friends Graham and Tracy in their new garden room, very nice to have a good catch up with them. The following day we took the opportunity to have lunch with my cousins Julie and John, our first pub in months.

Meeting up with Jenny and Andy on NB Barley again we shared the locks down into Leeds with them early the next day. A lack of water meant it took an hour to do one pound as water was let down from above, but we made it in the end to Granary Wharf. Shame the lack of water followed us, in fact the basin did a good job of emptying itself overnight. It took quite a few hours before boats had enough water to be afloat again, we all made a hasty exit as soon as we could.

Back into the big locks of the Aire and Calder we motored on to Ferrybridge where now only three of the power station cooling towers remain, a very sad sight.

Down Bank Dole Lock, the slow filler and we headed to Selby. Our trip up the Tidal Ouse was an interesting one a there were SO many trees floating about, we had to try our best to loose them before passing through what few bridges there were. Kingfishers escorted us just about all the way to Naburn which was a real treat. Instead of pulling up in York we decided to head on up to Ripon, we’d spend time in York on our way back, or so we thought!

Above Boroughbridge a familiar boat came into view, NB Billy. This was the last time our bows would cross this year. At Oxclose Lock we had some time for Tilly to explore before heading up into Ripon Basin to meet up with Robert and Margaret again and for Tilly to show off her ability to spot otters.

I’d get it in the neck if I didn’t include a photo!

On our way downstream the river was rising, we stopped off for a meal at The Dawney Arms making the most of the Eat out to Help out deal. Wonderful food and chance to meet up with Kerry the Landlady and hoped that the river level would ease overnight. Fortunately it did and we made our way in to York. We had hoped to meet up with old friends whilst we were in the area, it turned out the only people I got to see where Jaye and Duncan for lunch. Social distancing, rising rivers sadly put paid to seeing other people.

Over the next ten days the river rose twice. On one fall we made it back into York to pick up a supermarket delivery but very quickly headed back to Naburn where we ended up breasting up in a line of four boats tied to the floating pontoon by the water point. Levels didn’t rise so much as to necessitate wellies or waders, but it did put paid to the London Leckenbys joining us for a few days at the nearby campsite. A big disappointment all round.

But on the 31st August levels had dropped sufficiently for us to head back to Selby accompanied by Richard and Heather on NB Isabella, new boat owners. Naburn was their very first lock, Selby was to be their second! It was such a beautiful morning, we led the way but then let them go first when we reached Selby, we were likely to be able to stem the tide better, but they managed the lock with ease.

Lovely to see Bridget and Storm

At West Haddelsey we had a visit from Bridget and Storm, so lovely to see them. We’d planned on being good and sitting out, they’d even brought their own chairs and the camper van for their own toilet. But as it started to rain we bent the rules taking shelter inside Oleanna. This was the day I gave a second phone to the god of the cut.

For a replacement we headed down to Goole, calling in at Viking Marina to check we would have a mooring later in the month. After filling up with cheap diesel we then headed off up toward Doncaster and Sprotbrough where we caught up with Mick’s niece Fran, before returning back onto the Aire and Calder to do maintenance jobs and enjoy our last days onboard.

On the 18th September we pulled into our berth at the marina, finished off the contents of the freezer and started to pack. Two trips in a hire car to Scarborough and we were moved, Tilly joining us the second time.

Back then we imagined we’d be down to Oleanna doing jobs on day trips and by now we’d have had a couple of weeks out on the cut, but this simply wasn’t to be.

Living Room reclaimed

Jobs in the house keep me busy, along with starting work on the postponed Chippy panto. Mick for a while applied for supermarket jobs, hoping to be a delivery driver. The only job he was offered was as a meet and greeter just before Novembers lockdown. We both decided that maybe we’d cope without the money.

Not as low as she got after the breach

Then before Christmas came the news of the Aire and Calder breach. Fortunately plenty of people are keeping an eye on all the boats including Oleanna.

Blimey what a year!

So our vital statistics for the year 2020 according to canal plan are

Total distance is 792 miles, 2 ½ furlong and 339 locks . There are 82 moveable bridges of which 5 are usually left open; 233 small aqueducts or underbridges and 41 tunnels – a total of 19 miles 6 ¾ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 365 miles, ¼ furlongs of narrow canals; 242 miles, 4 ¾ furlongs of broad canals; 81 miles, 3 ¾ furlongs of commercial waterways; 76 miles, 1 ¾ furlongs of small rivers; 0 miles of large rivers; 27 miles of tidal rivers; 202 narrow locks; 118 broad locks; 18 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.

Sadly with Oleanna’s log book where it should be, onboard, I’m not able to offer up the engine hours, litres of diesel, gas bottle or bags of coal. This year I can’t even work out how many boxes of wine we’ve gone through!

However I can tell you that from one page of journeys on our trip computer, missing out all the journeys in between the start of the page and the end, the total distance travelled would have been 2.25 furlongs. Instead it actually amounted to 56 miles 7.5 furlongs with 19 winds (turning around). This was of course in Lockdown 1. Grand total number of winds this year, 67.

Christmas Day 2020, Scarborough Spa

Here’s hoping that the pandemic calms down, we all get vaccinated and the breach on the Aire and Calder gets sorted so that we can go boating again. After all we didn’t plan to move back on land permanently!

Not a bad view

Wooly Bo**ocks. 11th September

Sprotbrough Visitor Moorings to Doncaster to Kirk Sandall

This morning there were things to catch up on. Earlier this week I had sent an email to Vienna wishing the theatre out there all the best for reopening. The show that followed A Regular Little Houdini had to close only days after it had opened due to the pandemic. Educating Rita has opened their autumn/winter season, playing to half their normal capacity. One of the producers had replied that it was a relief to be open again, but a constant worry that they will be able to continue all the way through their season. A few months ago I was offered their next show, if I’d have accepted, my model and technical drawings would have arrived with them this week and I would no doubt have been answering numerous questions from Vernon their Production Manager.

Winding to head downstream

Vernon also got back in touch, he feels very lucky to be back working again, but playing to a half filled auditorium all socially distanced is odd, a very different feel than playing to a small audience. He would normally be heading back to England to work on Buxton Panto, but as most pantos have been cancelled I suspect he’ll be staying in Vienna this year.

I’d also heard from Dark Horse Theatre Company, who are wanting to mount an exhibition of The Garden, my illustrations have been requested for framing to be part of it.

The SJT canopy a few weeks ago

The box office at the Stephen Joseph Theatre opened for general sale this morning for their Autumn/Winter season. As we are staying north this winter I wanted to see if tickets would be available for a couple of shows. Reaching the website I found myself in a virtual queue in sixth place, I went off to brush my teeth whilst waiting. With reduced capacity, less than a quarter of the normal audience I was keen to try to get tickets today. Having arranged to meet up with Bridget and Storm to see matinees I was glad to find tickets close together but still distanced for us all. Two groups of two with an isle or a few seats between us, perfect, well maybe not quite where I would normally choose to sit in The Round, but who knows what the staging will be like, I’m not sure Graham (the designer for one of them) knows yet either!

Putting dates in the diary to see some live theatre had lifted my spirits, now it was time to enjoy the weather and head back down stream to Doncaster.

A lovely day to be out on the river, we winded and headed back to Sprotbrough Lock. A boat had just pulled in behind us, they said it was still quite busy in Doncaster. Oh well, we’d just have to breast up if that was the case as we really could do with a stock up shop.

That is NOT his tail!

Climbing off at the lock there were a couple of sheep knocking about. One lay on the track giving some grass a second chew, whilst the other was trimming back the growth. I have to say I did a double take. Was this a ram or just a sheep with a long tail? Blimey no! A ram with wooly testicles. I never knew they grew wool down there. As I walked past I hoped rams were friendly sorts and didn’t have to display their testosterone levels like bulls do. He just looked up and gave me a look as if to say ‘It’s cool man!’ Well his nether regions certainly weren’t cool!


The lock was full, they automatically refill, and we were soon making our way down back onto the river. We zoomed back downstream. A passing narrowboat said that there was a Lock Keeper at Doncaster Lock. As we approached I could see someone with a life jacket on and some blue, but not as much as normal. They stood at the top panel, we could see the sluices open and as we got closer the gates started to open, all the time the light showing amber. Was this crew for another boat? Or a Lockie?

When we could see that there was no boat in the chamber we headed on in. The chap was a Lockie in training, he’s allowed in the hut, but not allowed to press any of the buttons, hence the light being amber. A few hand signals would have helped, he might have been opening the gates and letting loose half of the boats from Strawberry Island. Oh well, he did the honours, the lock dropping incredibly slowly. We thanked him and then rejoiced, there was space for Oleanna on the moorings.

Shopping time. First port of call, Scicluna, my favourite deli. I followed the one way arrows, which others didn’t and found where the masses of different sorts of flour are. I knew they’d have what I was after, but finding it took a while, I think there must be over 50 types in this shop. Then the cheese counter pulled me in, a couple of treat cheeses were added to my shopping, I made sure I paid before I could see anything else!


We had a look in the indoor market buying a pork pie for Mick and a couple of good salmon fillets for a barbecue. Next the Post Office to send off The Garden drawings recorded delivery to Huddersfield so that they can be framed for the exhibition.

South Yorkshire Cooplands make the best Chocolate Concrete

This was followed by a visit to Sainsburys. We’d already realised that the comprehensive shopping list we’d written up had been left on Oleanna so we did our best to remember everything. This we succeeded in doing but when back onboard we both realised that we’d forgotten to add batteries for the Co/Smoke detector to the list both written and mental!

It was still before 4 so for Tilly’s sake we decided to move on, hoping there might be space at Long Sandal Lock.

Very full moorings

Sadly the moorings here were even fuller this time. 48 hours had been exceeded by one boat and then Dolly Earle and it’s friend had breasted up in the other space. No choice but we had to carry on.

Going down

No Lock Keeper at the lock, so I did the honours. But where to stop for the day? We didn’t want the fly problem returning. A small ‘m’ on our map showed us where we’ve stopped before near Kirk Sandall, so we pulled up with still a couple of hours left before cat curfew, although the amount of woofers being walked didn’t go down too well!

Stocked up on flour

3 locks, 7.62 miles, 1 wind, 1 lock keeper, 1 space to shop, 2 treat cheeses, 3 bags flour, 0 space to store them! 16 drawings in the post, 1 box wine, 0 chocolate concrete, 72 hours at least! 1 blowy woofer filled mooring, 0 flies, so far, 8.

A couple of boats passed us and eventually we made the move ourselves as we needed water. Mick valiantly pushed the bow out and cruised the mile and a half to Wheelock where we found a boat moored on the first section of the water point, good job there are two taps!

All rubbish was dealt with as the tank filled and Tilly’s pooh box got a good clean and new litter.

The water point is right by Barchetta Restaurant and the smell emanating from their open doors was of garlic butter, I could almost see a plate of seafood drizzled with it. The restaurant is doing take aways from their menu every evening. We quite quickly decided to find ourselves a mooring for the remainder of the wet day and have a look at their menu.

White bits

Tilly was none too impressed with the soggy world we’d tied up, but she still made the most of it, although it did necessitate extra visits home for Dreamies. During the afternoon Mick and I chose from the menu and placed our order over the phone.

What to do on a very rainy afternoon? Well as we were going to be eating out (but in) this evening we decided to go to the theatre and sat down in our seats (our sofa) to watch The Madness Of George III just before time ran out. This was a production of Alan Bennett’s play that had been produced at Nottingham Playhouse. The title role of George III was played incredibly by Mark Gatiss of The League of Gentleman, Dr Who, Sherlock fame amongst many others.

Parliamentary discussions

The set involved revolving walls and windows, a huge painted front cloth and a backdrop of a Canaletto painting of St Pauls Cathedral. Lots to fill the space and move us from location to location. Wonderful props and costumes, it was well worth watching. Here’s a link to the scenic artists painting the backdrop if you are interested.

On last nights news the theatre industry was highlighted, well after the football and horse racing. The government are going to look into a road map for reopening theatres. Cameron Mackintosh will not be reopening his theatres this year as most of his audience is made up of tourists. Several theatres have already closed their doors for good and others are looking at restructuring and down sizing their staffing with the hope that they will be able to sit out and wait before they can reopen.

Photo from 100 years ago

With staff furloughed and the furlough scheme ending before most theatres think they will be able to reopen, then social distancing reducing capacity to well under the 50% which for most venues is the minimum they need to remain open, the theatre world as we know it could easily be lost forever. It’s not just the small theatres or the big West End shows, but every theatre and company across the country that will be affected. Even The National Theatre and The RSC are looking at reducing staffing levels and making a proportion of staff redundant. Add to this the number of freelance staff who also work in theatre, like myself.

There is the Self Employed Income Support Scheme helping many, but this runs out at the end of August, long before most theatres will be able to reopen. Then there are people like me who do not qualify for the scheme, my small income from renting the house out has exceeded that from my self employment, so I don’t qualify.

Anna in Puss in Boots last Christmas

Many companies in all sectors will not survive the pandemic. British Theatre could be wiped out without support from the government. Last night I sat watching the news concerned that I may have just made the wrong decision about Vienna. Then Anna Tolpott appeared on screen, she is an actor, director and the wife of the Artistic Director at Chipping Norton Theatre!

If you have ever been to a theatre; boo’d at the panto baddie; cried at War Horse; laughed through Bouncers; listened to a Shakespeare history play; watched Pepper Pig with the grand kids; marvelled at the quick costume changes in The Audience; watched multi role play beside the canal by Mikron; seen Fleetwood Mac live in concert; got muddy at a festival; been part of the guffawing audience watching Peter Kay; or enjoyed one of the plays, musicals, dance pieces that are being broadcast into your homes right now, helping to keep you entertained, please will you add your name to this petition to Government.

As we pass the COVID-19 Peak, the Government should: State where the Theatres and Arts fit in the Coronavrius recovery Roadmap, Create a tailor made financial support mechanism for the Arts sector & Clarify how Social Distancing will affect arts spaces like Theatres and Concert Venues.

In their plan to restart the economy, the government has addressed hospitality sectors such as restaurants and cinemas. They’ve stated how the sports will be resumed after the lockdown period. But there has been no mention of the arts. On 13 May Robert Jenrick was directly asked to pledge to protect this industry, which could be without income longer than other sectors, but he failed to give a clear answer. This further shows how the arts are being overlooked. The Govt must show more support for arts.

I don’t often get onto a soap box here on the blog, but right now I feel the need to. Tomorrow I will be adding my photo on social media to the ever growing number of freelancers who work in theatre, both on and off stage. The masses who keep the lights on, tread the boards, hammer them down and paint them.

What’s in the boxes?

After the play, Mick popped over to the restaurant to pick up our food. His a pizza, mine steak and chips! I got some eventually, just a shame I think they came from the chippy and had been kept warm for a while. The steak however was very good and cooked just how I like it, glad we were only a couple of minutes walk away.

Yummy steak

0 locks, 1.41 miles, 1 full water tank, 0 rubbish, 1 soggy moggy, 1 pizza, 1 steak, 1 portion of chips! 20% take away discount, 1 industry on the brink.

Starting From The Bottom. 17th June

Bramble Cuttings to Rockery Railway Bridge 158

With a distance to cover today Tilly had no choice but to stay on board this morning, the doors were kept firmly closed. A boat pulled up for a short while at the other end of the moorings, possibly just to give his dog a comfort break.

A little visitor pointing due north

We pushed off about 10:30 headed northwards. The nearest winding hole about two miles away at Whatcroft Flash. The sun was doing it’s best to show and a damselfly decided to stop and soak up some rays on the phone that currently runs Waterway Routes as we cruise. My photo doesn’t really show how much the turquoise on it’s tail zinged out.

Just enough room to get through

A short distance further a tree was down across the cut, leaving a gap just wide enough for a narrowboat to squeeze past. Soon we came across a C&RT tug boat, whom we thought might be heading that way to help clear the blockage, but they were there to move skip boats about.

Whatcroft Flash

No moorers at Whatcroft Flash, another favourite spot of ours, but then the towpath was showing how much rain we’ve had recently, a right quagmire. We winded with ease at the wide water and returned to towards Middlewich.

A very Cheshire house with giant bear to guard the log pile

My messages to people at Chipping Norton finally got a response this morning. The feeling there is still quite a positive one, even if the government haven’t given the theatre industry any guidelines for when they reopen. The fact that Will had not mentioned restructuring of the organisation or redundancies on the horizon helped me make my mind up about the job in Vienna. There are so many factors to consider, dates so tight they may as well be a pair of latex gloves, not enough room on the boat for two models, I’d have to turf Mick and Tilly overboard! I’ve weighed up the pros and cons over night taking all factors into account, too many to bore you with. My heart has been shouting ‘Take it take it!’ My trip earlier this year had been a great one and it’s very flattering to be asked back. But my head has shouted louder, I’m not willing to stop cruising (now that we can again) for a couple of months to get two shows designed and I’m also not willing to compromise my work. So very, very sadly I have turned Vienna down. Hopefully they will approach me again as the cheese shop near the theatre needs further investigation and the gluten free Weiner Schnitzel needs another try, it just won’t be this year.

My assistant ready to help

Back on the cut, Mick brought us in below Kings Lock where my young helper was lurking hoping she could help again. Apparently their cruiser has engine problems so they are stuck at the moment and in the last few days she thought she’d helped 23 boats through the lock. A chap was trying to persuade his dog to cross the top gates, the dog reluctant to walk over the gaps. I waited as my assistant wasn’t able to close the bottom gate on her own. The dog then misplaced a paw and ended up in the drink, the chap pulling on it’s lead to keep it’s head above water. Thankfully the chap was young and managed to pull the dog out by it’s legs as the lead had long since slid over it’s nose. Thank goodness we hadn’t lifted any paddles.

Oleanna adding to the boats

Below the bottom Middlewich Lock a chap was doing some work on an Andersen Hire boat. As Mick waited for me to set the lock he chatted to the chap. He is eager to get the hire boats back out with holiday makers, but there have been no dates given to them. He really hopes when the time comes they are given some notice, all his boats are still winterised, they need checking over and making ready for the season. For this he needs his staff who are all currently furloughed. So the Prime Minister standing at a lectern saying ‘from tomorrow you can go on a boating holiday’ will not be helpful.

Starting at the bottom of the Cheshire locks

We worked our way up the three locks each set against us. As Oleanna came into the last one a boat approached from above, NB Ghia (?), we’ve been playing leapfrog with them the last few days. They were hoping to reach Bramble Cutting today to let their cats out, I did warn them that there may now be few friends to find after Tilly had free range yesterday!

First narrow lock on the T&M

With the lock just over half full I glanced to the stern of Oleanna, where was Mick? He’s normally in view, usually about to step off and help open the gate. But where was he? I crossed over the gate just as Mick appeared from inside with water proof trousers as it was just starting to rain. The chap from NB Ghia said he’d done that the other day and now he knew why he’d been given a funny look when he appeared back at the helm. Mick has been made aware of my concern.

This chap had a knack of standing in the way

Onwards to Kings Lock, by now waterproofs were required and rumbling over head meant we wanted to get up the lock as quickly as we safely could to get tied up and out of the soon to arrive deluge! So this was when a helpful(?) gongoozler decided to lend a hand. Normally in the sun this would be fine, I’d carry on as normal and if he wanted to help fine. But trying to keep two meters away as someone stands in the way on the bridge isn’t helpful. ‘Do those things go into the ground underneath and keep the gates closed?’ ‘How do you know you can open the gates?’ All the time the rain getting heavier, he didn’t mind he’d had his fish and chips!

Ring your order through and you’ll beat any queue

Quickly we tied up on the first rings, battened down the hatches and settled down to lunch as we steamed away inside Oleanna. Still no chips!

Only two

Things started to improve so on we pootled. Only two swans today in the whole pound where once we used to count 40/50 odd.

Very gold

At what used to be the Kinderton Arms a new sign post has gone up, continuing the Thai theme that the pub has had for a while. A small sign in the window advertises delivery.

Mountains of salt

Near where the Bisto factory used to be we could see lots of orange cables and small traffic cones along the towpath. This is investigative works for the new Middlewich Bypass.


When Booth Lane Bottom Lock came into view we could see some activity going on. There was a boat in the lock and a white circle on the front bulk head made me zoom in with the camera. I was fairly sure it was the ‘Blue Boat’. A couple walked up and down either side of the boat and then a border collie could be seen. Most definitely the ‘Blue Boat’ with Mr and Mrs Blue Boat and their dog, our summer cruising is now complete.

Is it?

As our bows crossed below the lock we had to remind them who we are, ‘We used to have the yellow boat!’ Back in August 2015 we came across Pat and Roy on the Huddersfield Narrow. We then leapfrogged each other to Keadby Lock. Every year since then we have seen them somewhere on the system, up on the Macc in December 2016 and in Middlewich. We’d been wondering if we’d see them and there they were. They tend to spend winter around Macclefield so maybe they were one of the first boats off the Macc yesterday when the locks were opened for a few hours to help boats escape. One day we’ll find ourselves in the same place and have a proper conversation, after we’ve reminded them who we are.


Booth Lane Middle Lock has had a hand rail added to the steps leading down to the towpath, now you can happily fall in the direction of the canal but not onto the towpath. Not seen one of these before, suspect somebody had a bad fall.

Nice Lock

Next Crows Nest Lock, number 67. Nice Lock. This was the nearest lock to our old shareboat base, so on the way out it was Nice Lock and on the way back Nasty Lock! Now it’s just Nice with the large trees alongside. A couple out for a walk stopped and watched as we rose up in the lock, I think it’s the first time we’ve had gongoozlers along this stretch.

Such a nice lock

Things have changed even more at Elton Moss Bridge. Two boats were moored up outside the old cottage, a chap chatted from the stern of his boat that had an identity problem. Was it a Braidbar boat or a Kingsground boat? Between the cottage and the long wooden shed a new house is being built with large windows over looking the canal. A long line of homebrew barrels filled the wooden shed where Carefree Cruising touch up paint used to live.

New house

Artie never misses an opportunity to advertise!

Arties new house

On we pootled past the new houses and where once the Carefree boats used to wind, now all over grown. Under the railway bridges as the clouds grew dark overhead again. We pulled up to the first free set of rings, then moved along to avoid ants nests. Just as the last zip of covers was done up the heavens opened again, this time a hail storm. Due to the numerous ants outside we decided that Tilly should be kept it, the last thing we wanted was a cat off her face on Oleic Acid.

9 locks, 10.22 miles, 1 straight on, 1 mystery mastic gun, 0 chips, 0 shore leave, 1 helper, 1 hinderer, 2 watchers, 2 ants nests, 1 decision, 0 trip to Vienna, 1 sad designer, 1 full days boating.

Setting Up Office. 16th June

Bramble Cuttings

Last night we had more rain, thunder and lightening and when we woke it was still peeing it down! As we supped our cuppas in bed we could hear the boat behind us start up its engine and gradually pull away, when it came to taking a peek out of the side hatch we realised we were on our own, the boat in front of us had vanished. Oh well what a shame, Bramble Cuttings all to ourselves!

Mist rising after the rain

First job, after letting Tilly out, the yellow water tank. We tried to remember when we last emptied it and we think it was at Calverley! This job normally gets done every three or four days, we’d reached six days. No wonder it was making a slightly odd noise this morning! We considered heading up the canal to wind and return to make the job easier, but that could take a couple of hours and would our space still be here? So instead we pulled back to one end of the moorings with less overhanging trees and set the hose up over the top of Oleanna. The container we pump into had very little room left in it for even one rinse of the tank, the fullest it’s ever been.

The rain last night hadn’t been conducive to sussing out the phone signal. I remembered it wasn’t so good here and certainly in the cabin I only had Emergency calls. With the sun doing it’s best to show itself and the storm clouds having cleared I had a wander around the mooring to see if signal was better. First one picnic bench then another, a couple of faint dots appeared, hopefully that would do. Time to go to work.

Setting up the office

Several of our shopping bags protected myself and the laptop from the very wet picnic bench. Then I was ready to make my call. Last week I’d caught up with the Director for Panto and today Helen the costume designer and I were going to have a designers huddle. Comparing notes and references, making sure that the two of us were heading in the same direction with the overall look of the show. After all I could have been heading down the Arthurian way and Helen setting the show in the 60s/70s. But both of us were on the same track. We shared a few ideas and decided which way to go with one character, both a puppet and an actor. Helen will design the costume then I’ll sort the puppet to match. A very good meeting and worth getting a slightly damp bum for.

Surrounded by green

Bramble Cuttings all to myself, well She and Tom were here too along with a few friends! Fewer now.

Is that it?
It’s down here!

Whilst She chatted away I had a good nosy round, claimed all the benches as mine and enjoyed clambering up and down an old tree that had been cut short. Plenty of pouncing possibility. I soon found friends and brought them out of the friendly cover to play with. She wasn’t too impressed and I got taken inside on one occasion, ‘to give your friend a chance to run away!’ But I was soon back outside trying to track it down again. The use of a barbecue stand gave me extra height to see over the tall grass for any movement.

A good vantage spot

Next I had some thinking to do and an email to send. Yesterday my agent had been in touch regarding designing another show this year. With the theatre industry sitting on a knife edge at the moment this was quite a surprise.

My assistant hard at work

In normal pre-covid and pre-boating days I’d have checked the dates seen that it fitted quite well with panto, said yes and started to pack my bags for another trip to Vienna. But life is not that way anymore.

What a lovely spot

Austria is ahead of us with Covid-19 and the Vienna English Theatre are starting to put together a plan to reopen later this year. I presume they have social distancing to deal with and then importing their actors, director and designer from England. The dates sit very close to panto and it would mean me being away from Mick and Tilly for a few weeks in a row. I’d return from Vienna and head straight to Chippy. Should the 14 day quarantine still be enforced I would not be able to do both. But if Panto can’t go ahead then it would be a shame to turn it down. So many factors no body knows the answer too. I sent an email to Chippy to see what the current feeling there is.

Engine thankfully not full of water

Mick checked the engine bay to see how much water had made it’s way down there yesterday in the storm. Only water where it is expected to be, the rest still dry, the drain around the engine board did it’s job well.

Can you spot the froglet?

Early afternoon we were joined by a boat at the far end of the moorings, they proceeded to sand back to metal a portion of their gunnels, but after about an hour the world fell silent again and they pushed off heading towards Middlewich, leaving us all alone again.

Can you spot the cat?

The washing machine was put to use, but we didn’t dare hang it out as it would certainly get another rinse as late afternoon the sky started to rumble away again, this was soon followed by more torrential rain.

Thunder? What’s that?

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 empty wee tank, 1 office, 1 load washing, 2 designers in a huddle, 1 designer in a quandary, 2 dinky frogs, 6ft back to metal, 1 boat cat in heaven, 1 thunderous evening, 1 Tuesday roast of pork.

A Touch Further. 15th April

Lockdown Mooring 4

Today Mick had extra errands to do on his bike other than just the click and collect from Sainsburys. I’d managed to track down a local timber merchants that is open in the mornings Richard Potter Ltd. A quick phone call this morning and bingo they had dust masks! I go the chap to put a pack aside for me. I’ve been wanting to get on with some painting of Oleanna, which of course requires the existing paintwork to be rubbed back. When doing small areas I haven’t bothered with a mask in the past, but in the current climate I’d rather not be adding any dust to my lungs.

Cowslips on the branch

Just about any suitable masks on the internet were being snapped up by those wanting to wear them day to day when outside, so I was relieved to be able to get hold of some locally which are suitable for the job in hand.

As Mick cycled away I checked on my stock of sandpaper, nothing, well it wasn’t where it should be. I knew I was running low anyway so that and some masking tape were added to Mick’s list.

Whilst he was away shopping I continued to reread Communicating Doors by Alan Ayckbourn. The theatre in Vienna were interested in putting on the show next year, but had been told by previous designers that it wouldn’t fit on their stage. A month or so ago I’d come up with a possible layout that might work, the other day I read Act 1 and today Act 2. If the director can live without having a bath I think I have a solution. Who knows whether the show will be mounted, but at least I can say that they could do it. Austria this week are lifting a few of their restrictions, allowing smaller shops to reopen. It will be sometime before theatres open their doors again. Here they were the first things to close, so in my mind will be the last to reopen. But there is no harm in having a show up your sleeve.

Successful shopping trip

Mick returned with the shopping, walking along the towpath. Only one thing was missing from our Sainsburys order and that was hand wash. We’ve just opened our last bottles and in normal times we’d buy more to have in reserve.

This afternoon I decided to extend my walk a touch and head off on footpaths to see what Stoke Hall looked like in comparison to the Manor. I walked northwards along the towpath to Stokehall Bridge 99 where I headed north east across fields.

Pooh sticks bridge

A bridge over a stream meant I just had to have a game of Pooh Sticks. I both won and lost, the longer stick being faster than the shorter thicker one.

Stoke Hall

The hall soon showed itself through the trees. A Grade 2 listed building from the 17th Century it has been extended through the centuries, mostly during the 19th Century. Three storeys red brick in Flemish Bond it doesn’t look quite as imposing as the Manor does. But I hunted down the details from when it was last on the market and their photos are far better than mine. The interior has wonderful panelling and a small blue swimming pool adds to the seven bedrooms and similar number of reception rooms.


I crossed the freshly ploughed field aiming straight for the stile on the far side, few foot prints to follow on this field. Then a short distance along the road before climbing into a field with a couple of horses.

Stiles a bridge and a hedge to negotiate

The footpath took me across grazing land, over small planked bridges and over stiles in hedges. A farmer plough his field heading uphill whilst the path I followed took me past last years cut off stumps of maize.

Last years crop

My OS map showed a trig point, so I veered off the marked footpath to spot it. Not much good for it’s purpose now as it’s surrounded by trees, but it’s still there.

I then continued straight along the footpath to where a stile brought me onto the road that leads either to Cholmondeston or Nantwich.

Onto the road

Next I had a choice to walk to Venetian Marina and Cholmondeston Lock, returning along the canal and past Lockdown Mooring 1, or to follow a road to the west which would see me passing Stoke Hall again. The former won, the road was a touch busier than I’d expected.

Cholmondeston Lock

Walking up to the lock and standing on the bridge above the bottom gates I sighed. On the 23rd of March we’d known what was coming and headed up the lock for the last time. This is starting to feel like another life, another time.

Hello Blossom

I now followed the canal back to Barbridge Junction. Many of the boats that had been there three weeks ago are still moored in the same places. I spotted a couple of boats that we’ve seen moving, now back on their home moorings and got to say hello to a lady who is a member of the local Covid boaters group.

Below Hurleston Reservoir

Back on the main Shropie a lady paused whilst gardening to have a chat. Her and her husband have been busy tidying their mooring and we’ve said hello each time we’ve passed when going for water. She said I must have been a long way, which I had, a touch further than I’d imagined, but it was making up for not working our way up the Cheshire Locks on the Trent and Mersey today. We chatted away across the cut, their boat was being painted when lockdown happened. Luckily the painter has been able to continue work, but all they’ve seen so far is photographs. I suspect we’ll have another chat the next time I pass.

Shouty boat lifting his fenders

0 locks, 1 walked over, 0 miles, 5.7 miles walked, Act 2 read, 1 solution, 3 masks, 2 boxes wine, 7 black plastic bags, 2 grades sandpaper, 2 rolls masking tape, 3 days quarantine, 3 on the offside, 1 Hall, 2 horses, 6 kissing gates, 4 small bridges, 2 sticks, 2 gardeners, 15 minutes chat, 2 concerned home owners, 3rd chicken left over meal, hash with an Indian influence, 1 shouty boat up the locks, 1 shouty boat down the locks.

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

Poot. 17th 18th January

Cast Iron Roving Bridge to Cast Iron Roving Bridge

Just as we were about to tuck into a late breakfast a familiar face bobbed down to say hello at our side hatch. Paul from Waterway Routes was heading off for the day to do some data checking for his maps. We arranged to meet up later in the day.

Morning Tilly

Tilly came and went whilst I made use of the washing machine. Mick headed into town to pick up some new glasses, he was a touch concerned that I might not like them as I’d not been with him when he chose new frames. The heavens opened and I was glad I was having a lazy day.

Pixel all wrapped up for our safety

For lunch we set free one of the cheeses I’d brought back with me. Pixel had been loosely vacuum packed as it was so squidgy. It took a while to cut off an end, I then realised that the whole cheese was wrapped in muslin and it should have been unwrapped completely. But the liquid state that it was inside would have required a bowl! So hoping that the muslin would contain it we continued cutting it away, bit by bit.


Verdict. Ohhh yummy, gooey, slightly ‘prickelnd’ on the tongue. In fact after a couple of slices of my GF Austrian bread spread with it my tongue was just starting to go a little bit numb! We’ll try and eek this one out as it was most definitely a treat cheese.

Mick’s glasses are okay, bigger than his previous ones, Dame Edna meets Ben Sherman, apparently this is more modern and cool!

Paul popped in for a cuppa late afternoon when he’d returned after cycling part of the Trent and Mersey. Tomorrow he would be cycling from Lincoln to Boston to check data, good job he has an electric assisted Brompton, just hope the wind stays in his favour for the day.

Do we have to get up now?!

Saturday morning, a bright start to the day, but we loitered in bed for a while, well I have been working hard! Mick headed off for our Saturday newspaper and after a leisurely breakfast we decided to go on a little pootle.


With the next week looking like overnight temperatures will be low, we need to stock up on essentials. Earlier in the week Mick had pulled in at Alvechurch to enquire how much their gas was. At £29.90 Mick bought two bottles! Coal was the next thing, so we pulled along to the service point outside the Distillery.

Coal please

Another boat was topping up and emptying when we arrived so we pulled in and waited our turn. We’re hoping to reach Horne Basin, where the diesel is cheap, in a couple of days so we only stocked up on coal. Only three bags as it was £13 for 25kg a touch more than we’re used to.

The water tank was filled, the tap here has good pressure, one to remember! As we pulled away more boats were arriving, quite a busy spell.

Heading out of town

We decided to have a little jaunt a touch further along the canal to turn round. We passed the boat that runs it’s engine late at night sat not much further on. One end of the Soho Loop is closed at the moment so we chose the Icknield Loop instead.

Turning into the Icknield Loop

Blimey it was chilly out there, the sun low in the sky making it hard to see. The island here is becoming a new neighbourhood according to the developments website. Car free with modern terraced houses, green spaces (currently concrete and mud) and a widebeam sales office.

The new neighbourhood

Coming back onto the Main Line we turned right and headed back into town, turning down the Oozells Street Loop so that we could turn back on ourselves to have the hatch towpath side where we’d been moored before. The left turn out of the loop was a touch tight, but Mick managed it without hitting anywhere.

Boxes on boxes

After a cheesy lunch we walked into town. A bag of unwanted items was donated to Cancer Research, this has now freed up space for this years Christmas presents. Boots was visited for an adjustment to Mick’s new glasses as they were tending to slip down his nose. A food shop for a couple of days and some model making materials for my next project, I have a model box to make soon.

One puzzled Tilly

Back on Oleanna I browned some shin beef added veg and popped the cast iron pot onto the stove to bubble away the remainder of the afternoon. Whilst in Vienna I longed to cook for myself easily avoiding gluten in my diet. I’d dreamt of cooking on the stove top. Later on jacket potatoes went inside the fire box and yoghurt dumplings were sat on top of the stew. It’s good to be home again.

Stew and dumplings

0 locks, 2.14 miles, 2 straights, 2 lefts, 2 rights, 1 liquid cheese, 3 bags coal, 12 loads washing, 1 full water tank, 2 visits from Paul, 1 stew, 12 dumplings, 1 flummoxed cat, 1 set of needles knitting again.

Returning Problems. 16th January

Tardebigge Top Lock to Cast Iron Roving Bridge, Birmingham, BCN

Out in Vienna it was time to pack my bags. One thing left to do, visit the cheese shop on Langegasse that I’ve been walking past and inhaling for the last ten days.

Yummy Jumi

Many cheeses in this shop are kept in cabinets for safety, our safety. Many of the cheeses in this shop look like given half a chance they would take over the world with only Dr Who capable of stopping them. With so much to choose from and a taxi booked I couldn’t sample too many, which maybe was a good thing.

Bombs, brains

I’m not too fond of Emmental or Gruyere so that immediately ruled out half of the shop. The chap helped me and gave me a couple of samples. I like goats cheese, but in Britain you don’t often get a hard goats cheese. So as I was in Austria I had to have one from the mountains, ‘High on a hill lived a lonely goatherd’. It was tasty, sold.


Then a softer cheese. No chance to taste this one as they are individual cheeses that have a whole culture of their own. Sold! The chap vacuum wrapped them for me so that my bag wouldn’t be making it’s own way back to the UK.

Heading for home

My taxi was early, the driver arriving just as I checked out and was asking where to wait. Soon I was whisked out to the airport to await a delayed first flight to Munich.

Sadly not available in Mick’s size

I’d booked a window seat, but at the gate I was issued with a new seat in the middle! This was a shame as there were fantastic views over the Austrian Alps, not much snow though!


Meanwhile back in Birmingham.

Mick and Tilly have been avoiding storm Brendon. On Monday once Chris had left to visit more boat builders Mick filled the water tank and headed northwards again. Passing NB Sola Gratia, under the M42 he chose a suitable place without trees to spend Monday night by Bridge 68.

Tuesday they decided to head into Birmingham setting off early to beat the weather. At 9am they reached the southern portal of Wast Hill Tunnel. The interior of Oleanna already in full tunnel mode, hoping that with all the lights being on this would keep Tilly from fretting. I suspect he just timed their passage well and she was busy having her morning snooze as he could hear no shouting at the back doors.

A mile and a half later they came back out into daylight. But what lay ahead?

Out the northern portal

There was a boat up against the towpath, pinned in my a fallen tree. Had the tree fallen onto the boat? Mick was about to try to nudge his way through when the owner came out. Last night he’d tried to do the same, but got stuck. Whether he was grounded or just held by the tree Mick didn’t know, but one thing was certain Mick was now stuck too!

One stuck boat with tree attached

The other boater had rung to report it to C&RT, another phone call wouldn’t hurt after all Mick had nowhere to go. He couldn’t get into the side so was just having to sit in the middle. Apparently C&RT staff were on route to access the situation.

Fountains arrive with long chainsaws

Then the C&RT staff got held up by traffic so the contractors were called and sent anyway. They arrived with long handled chain saws and proceeded to climb onto the roof of the stuck boat. Helmets, high-vis but no life jackets! The roof of the boat was wet and had no grabrail or anything should they slip to stop them. They chopped and chopped away at the tree. Soon the trapped boat was free.

On the bow

Mick offered the bow of Oleanna as a platform to carry on working from, then they moved to the stern to clear more. At last Mick and Oleanna could continue on their journey into Birmingham. The 8.5 miles had taken around 7.5 hours and Mick had got a touch wet in the process.

and on the

Location is always important. So I insisted on some greenery in the BUMingham outside. Tom obliged and tied up the one with short sideways trees. Thank goodness it wasn’t just bricks again!

So back in Munich.

I should have had an hour and a half waiting for my next flight. There were things to do, look at the shops and restaurants, then eat the quinoa salad I’d brought with me from Vienna. The new (well to me new) passport control had to be cleared, this I am now a dab hand at after being rejected on my outbound flight. Hold your passport down on the screen with your hand so that it can be read!

Long corridors

I headed to the gate, not quite at the furthest point of the airport, but almost. Staff arrived, then announced that there was a delay. This extended and we finally were allowed through the boarding gate as our plane should have been pushed back. There was no plane, just a bus to take us out to our Star Alliance A319-100, here we crossed the tarmac and climbed the steps to find our seats.

Climbing on board

With everyone on board we taxied round to run up along the side of the runway. The pilot swung us round onto the tarmac, would this be a rolling start? We tootled along for a little while straightening, then the engines roared up and the wheels began to speed up. Time to say goodbye to Europe….

Except the engine soon powered down! There had only been a short blast of throttle, now we were trundling along the runway. An air hostess quickly came on the tannoy and said that an announcement would be made shortly by the captain as to why we hadn’t taken off. They don’t use the term abandoned as this might cause alarm!

Once we’d turned off the runway the Captain spoke to us, something about the engines not being in sink, I’m not sure what he was saying as a group of English men were too busy joking with each other about finding the nearest underware shop! One thing we did all hear though was that he was going to go round and try to take off again.

This time we headed further up the runway, turned to face the tarmac and stopped. The engines roared and we set off, so far so good, we’d made it further than last time. Bye Europe… as the wheels lifted off the ground this time. Phew!! I had wondered if we’d have to change planes, be diverted to another UK airport, but thankfully we were on our way.

Mick later told me about the air disaster in Munich in 1958. Glad I didn’t know about it earlier!

The sun setting over main land Europe

The sun soon set on the horizon turning the sky orange. After an hour and something the coast of main land Europe showed, lights twinkling below. Clouds covered the English coast, just the occasional glimpse confirmed we were over land again.

With half an hour to go we started to descend, the lower we got the bumpier it got. Bumpier and bumpier. The bumpyness kept on coming. We seemed to be getting lower, but would we be sent round again by air traffic control. There were a lot of houses getting closer, surely we must be about at the end of the run way!

As the runway lights came into view the plane crabbed it’s way towards the ground, was this still Storm Brendan? One wheel down, then the other, both now on the tarmac going slightly diagonally. As soon as the engines stopped their furious noise a round of aplause filled the plane, followed by more comments about underwear shops.

Birmingham and canals

Only about half an hour late, I sailed through biometric passport control, my bag was about the tenth to appear on the conveyor. The cheese in my bag kept quiet so I exited arrivals through the green customes doors to see Mick stood holding his phone with my name flashing away in red, just in case I’d forgotten what he looked like!

Very posh first night present from the Viennese Producers

0 locks, 14.16 miles, 1 wind, 2 much wind, 1 tree, 1 wet boater, 2 chain saws, £20 on cheese, 2 vacuum bags for safety, 1 taxi, 2 planes, 2 trains, 3 shuttles, 1 walk, 271 head nudges with Tilly, 16 very posh first night chocolates.