Barry felt very privileged and proud to have been invited to attend and trade at last weekend’s ‘Birmingham Beer Bash‘. This was the event’s third year in a row, welcoming 25% more people than in 2014, so there’s no doubt it’s a popular one.
We weren’t expecting huge sales.
Admission to the event was by advance ticket only and staggered over a number of time slots from Thursday to Saturday evening. Ticket-holders were unlikely to be expecting a Home Brew Boat to be in attendance!
It’s likely Areandare as The Home Brew Boat was a bit of a novelty factor – which is absolutely fine as we feel she looked rather smashing, sitting as proud as punch amongst the festivities!
There was an incredible variety of beers available – British and International.
There were casks and ciders, keg bars and specially focussed Wild and Sour beers, and lagers, and a range of bottled beer too.
A few names that stand out from the brochure include Kia kaha (a Maori word meaning ‘be strong’), Snake Eyes (maybe how you look the following day?), Bohemian Hipster (bring out the ageing hippy), Hello My Name is Ingrid (the mind boggles!), Lupy as a Toucan (conjures up an entertainingly satiated person), Faceless Spreadsheet Ninja (for computer geeks?), and a Liverpool Tart (maybe just because it’s shocking to go to the bar and ask for one!).
Simon Williams, from CAMRGB (aka the Campaign for Really Good Beer), says:
“BBB isn’t just a beer festival in a beautiful post-industrial setting in one of the country’s best and most exciting cities, it’s a place, a space, where you can discover beer and discover people, discover that you’re not alone, forge new alliances and friendships, have your spirit of adventure renewed, feel young and excited again, and get a bit tipsy while you’re doing it.”
There was also an abundance of fascinating food stalls (some of whom kindly fed Barry in my absence at a discount!), many from Birmingham’s celebrated street food scene, and a musical line-up each evening.
An unexpected bonus of Barry being given permission to remain moored at the venue overnight from Thursday to Monday was most welcome. Previous visits to The Bond in 2014 for their Spring and Autumn markets have entailed arriving in the morning and leaving once the event had finished.
The slight challenge was Barry had to remain ‘imprisoned’ inside boat overnight – any movement outside would have set off their alarm system. Not that he has much of a problem being ‘stuck’ on his beloved floating home! And it was lessened by the program involving late night sessions, so once he was sorted it was almost time to retire anyway.
As expected, there weren’t a huge amount of sales during the weekend, but there was lots of interest, it was a great marketing exercise, and there’s a promise of online after-sales.
A Family Gathering celebrating a 60 year coupledom
Meanwhile I had a wonder-filled week with our grandsons and my daughter in Malpas, followed by an amazing Walsh family weekend at Northmoor House near Exmoor.
November 2014 marked 60 years of my parents being a couple – and 30th July 2015 would have been their 60th wedding anniversary.
We worked out that as dad’s descendants we’d previously stayed at this splendid house nestled in Exmoor, five times. In 1999, 2000, 2001, 2006, 2012 (Barry’s inaugural visit) and now for the sixth time in 2015.
The house boasts 14 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms, has two lounges, a huge dining room and kitchen, and a full size snooker table overlooked by three stag heads. Every visit includes an obligatory snooker tournament, with names being drawn from a hat to play. As our family has grown considerably since our first stay, we also book the Lodge, a short walk along the driveway and sleeps five people.
This year two of my niece’s partners were asked to organise the playing schedule, and they honoured us by having a trophy made which dad would have adored. It was one of his favourite games, and one he was extraordinarily good at even as his health was fading. So much so that he thrashed his grown up grandson in 2013, much to Jack’s surprise and dad’s delight.
Barry hopped on a train at New Street down to Tiverton Parkway on Sunday morning and joined us – for less than 24 hours! It was worth it though, to experience the magic of being enveloped by the love within the Walsh family.
Onwards to Blisworth
We’re now winging our way serenely to Blisworth for our next canal festival, optimistically hoping for more sunshine, though in reality dodging the usual intermittent rain of a damp and grey British summer.
We’re both trading over the weekend of 8th and 9th August – and also catching up once again with Helen and Andy who will be trading from a trestle table rather than The Jam Butty. We’ll have the pleasure of their company overnight on Friday 7th for another game or two of six-handed rummy I have no doubt …
It’s around five years since Barry and I first began formulating the possibility of finding ways to make a ‘sustainable’ living, continuously cruising aboard a narrowboat.
Running three businesses whilst moving around the system involves a bit of a juggling act! Allowing a plate or two to stop spinning and fall (like writing this blog regularly) is an inevitable casualty of becoming increasingly ‘successful’ in our endeavours.
Not that I’m complaining mind you, it’s absolutely what we’ve been focussing on.
We just have to step out of the busy-ness every now and again and reflect on what we’re doing and why. And of course appreciate the advantages for us of living this way. It’s not for everyone!
Once again I’ll do a catch up of the past three plus weeks – and make a tentative note to write shorter posts more frequently in future …
Market Drayton and Bromyard
Since our last post, Barry’s traded at the Market Drayton RCTA Floating Market while I hired a car for the weekend and spent a bit of time with mum as I had a facepainting booking in Bromyard, not far from Ludlow.
Barry somehow secured a starring role in an amateur video made of the traders at this floating market. Sadly it’s been taken off Youtube so I can’t share it with you.
Meanwhile I painted and glittered non-stop in Bromyard from 11am to 4pm, when everything began packing up around me! Nothing like the canal festivals where I continue until everyone’s wandered away.
Bromyard seemed a delightfully quaint village, away from the hustle and bustle of 21st century life, whose population came out in force to take part in the 1940s street fair, and really got into the prevailing mood of the era. A most enjoyable ‘job’.
Following that last weekend in June, we meandered along the Shropshire Union from Market Drayton, making great efforts to secure Internet signal for some scheduled Life Coaching calls. It’s one of the most serene stretches of waterway, with few locks to interrupt the peace. Just not so great for running a business requiring online calls!
On the way we managed a brief stop at The Anchor, a pub we’d wanted to visit for a while. It’s the most incredible, historic place, owned and managed by 79 (I think!) year-old Olive, who strolls into the bar from her sitting room as necessary. We ordered our drinks just before the dulcet tones of the ‘Coronation Street’ theme tune was heard, when she bustled back to watch the soap.
Captain Ahab captured the feel of the establishment in a 2009 post which portrays the atmosphere so much better than I could (he has a magnificent way with words)!
A quote from the article (2009) reads:
“Olive Cliff stands at the spot where her family have stood for generations – at the small hatch in the doorway that separates her own sitting room from the bar.
Olive, 73, is the landlady of The Anchor Inn at High Offley near Newport, a tiny parlour pub on the east Shropshire border that has been run by her family for more than 100 years and whose interior of quarry tiles and wooden bench seats has remained pretty much unchanged from when it opened in 1830.”
Jim you were right – Bromyard shares a few similarities with the aforementioned establishment, though to be fair in comparison it’s moved on somewhat further than Olive (who I hope never moves on, life looks so much simpler from her parlour).
Brighton with the boys
Our next stop was Birmingham once again, as I had a train booked to Euston on Friday 3rd July where I met up with Lisa and the boys and we continued to Brighton for the weekend to stay with Kim. We’re not together very often, so really relish any time we co-ordinate it.
I do occasionally (Barry would say far too frequently!) pine for the simplicity of life in New Zealand, and have been known to
occasionally complain about the British weather (can’t imagine why?!), but I seriously am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to be back in England spending magical moments with my girls and grandsons. We had such a fun weekend.
Back to the place of my birth
Returning to Barry and the boat on Monday 6th July, and we headed slowly to Kings Norton, our next planned trading festival.
As it wasn’t terribly far from Britain’s second city, we chose to take a little de-tour to Shirley, a suburb of Solihull, south of Birmingham.
You may ask why? Well because it’s the place of my birth.
However, we hadn’t appreciated quite how far away from the canal said place was …
Not wanting to miss the opportunity, and using the GPS on my iPhone, we walked almost 3 miles to 4, Brentwood Close, where my mum gave birth to me on 28th September 1959. In those days you were ‘forced’ to have your first baby in hospital (so dangerous you know, those untested wombs!), and then unless you had a VERY good reason, you had subsequent children at home whether you wanted to or not.
My dad, being a rather traditional male, went away for work despite mum being around 38 weeks pregnant. As a midwife I know that babies are ‘full term’ from 37 completed weeks to 42 weeks of pregnancy. In other words, if they’re born anytime between 38 and 42 weeks it’s ‘normal’ (a controversial subject admittedly depending on your perspective).
Anyway, dad was absent, mum had my sister Kath at home who would’ve been 16 and a half months old, when she went into labour at night. There were no home phones in those days. So she had to walk across the front garden to her neighbours, Nina and Peter, wake them up, and ask Peter to go to the nearest telephone box and ‘call the midwife’. The first time he did this I’m reliably told the midwife decided mum would be ‘hours yet’, so to call back when things were hotting up a little.
Not too long after, mum had to retrace her steps, and say she was getting quite distressed. So off Peter trots again and calls the midwife.
This time she did make a bit of an effort and reluctantly came out to mum. By now mum was in the second stage and wanting to push. The midwife said to her “Don’t push yet, I haven’t got my equipment ready.” Mum informs me she said “I’m bloody pushing!”, and out I came. It seems I was impetuous and impatient from the beginning! Or maybe headstrong and decisive?
Though to be fair, if you offered a woman at that stage £1million to not push, it’d be nigh on impossible for her to stop the forces of nature.
So there I was. Born in Shirley, around 6am on a Tuesday morning all those years ago.
It was quite surreal to be back at the house. I don’t think I’ve been back since I was a teenager – we left there when I was almost five years old.
Barry asked if I was going to knock on the door and say hi, but I wasn’t sure that was a great idea. Shortly afterwards a lovely lady came out and took her bike from the garage. So I did, say ‘hi’. And recounted that I’d been born in her house! She’d moved there in 2002, and said at that time all the original features were still present, including the serving hatch between the kitchen and dining room.
I have a scar above my right eyebrow from falling off a chair onto a spoon, when I was about four, that I’d got through the serving hatch as I was setting the table. I can still picture myself doing it.
It’s now all been modernised, and the drive’s changed from a grassy lawn that mum would’ve walked across, to a two car parking area. There’s double glazed windows and an extension on the back of the house.
But it still evoked memories from my distant past, and I was so thankful we’d made the effort to re-visit a very special place in my life.
This was the final of the four festivals celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Worcester-Birmingham & Droitwich Canal Society in 2015. We’ve traded at three of the festivals – we missed Worcester.
Arriving on the Thursday evening, 9th July, we were almost the last trade boat to moor up. Helen and Andy from Wild Side snuck in behind us on Friday afternoon.
The main festival site was a short walk away, on the Kings Norton playing fields. I was offered a facepainting spot by the canal bridge, but declined as it felt unsafe – much to close to the water for my liking! So I got a great pitch in the main field with the land-based traders.
People living close to the canal were a little shocked at the conglomeration of boats descending on them. Apparently it’s a rarity for boats to moor there, so there was a bit of conflict from a couple of locals, some of whom live in the historic toll house. Understandable really, they felt their privacy was being invaded. Barry assured then that it was unlikely to happen again for another 100 years …
I had another really great weekend, meeting and painting heaps of gorgeous children and many fun-loving adults. Including a number of the organisers. I can post a photo of them here – I won’t ever post children’s faces as a matter of principle (though a few do get on my Facebook page if I’ve gained permission from a parent or they post themselves there).
Our Friday night entertainment was our regular round (or two) of six handed rummy with Helen and Andy. On Saturday night we frequented the music and beer tent – as I didn’t finish painting until around 7.30pm I staggered directly there and had just enough energy to buy some chips for tea. I knew if I went back to the boat I’d have been unlikely to venture out again that night!
Full-on facepainting days entail no chance of a loo break, never mind the possibility of eating, so once I’m finished my throat feels like it’s been cut, my stomach is echoing, my feet ache, my back is crumbling and my bladder complaining painfully! Maybe I’ve begun this new profession rather late in life?!
With my feet up, bladder emptied, a pint of Thatcher’s and a tummy a little satiated by carbs, we all enjoyed a fab band formed in 1992 called ‘Meet on the Ledge’. Barry was in his element, as they played many songs he loves, and to cap it all they played ‘Comfortably numb’ by Pink Floyd. One of his favourites from 1979, when he was a spritely 23 years old and living with a few of his mates in a veritable (and infamous I believe!) ‘party house’ in Gisborne.
Mooching around Birmingham for a while …
We seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time around Birmingham due to our current festival bookings.
Barry was invited to trade at The Birmingham Beer Bash at The Bond this weekend, which he’s really looking forward to. Unfortunately it means he can’t come with me to a Walsh family gathering at Northmoor House on Exmoor, to commemorate mum and dad’s 60th wedding anniversary on 30th July. It’s a magnificent property that as a family we’ve spent many happy times over the past couple of decades.
Yesterday I returned from a few days with mum, which I’d coincided with a Funtastic Facepainting booking at Hadley Bowling Green Inn, a short distance from her home. I have a listing on ‘Stall finder’ in her area which is how I’ve got local bookings. It means I can be with her AND work.
It does however entail hiring a car to take the facepainting set up – definitely not possible to pack it all into a manageable bag to carry on public transport as you can see!
I’m catching a train shortly from the almost completed New Street Station (it’s going to be incredible when it’s finished in September), to Lisa’s to granny sit my gorgeous grandsons for a few days. Then down to Devon for the long weekend before returning to Barry.
Hurrah for the flexibility of self-employment which means I’m able to juggle so many balls!
Many readers will be aware before Barry was a master home brewer, he’d been a professional photographer.
In fact 35 years of his working life was spent photographing weddings, family portraits, the majority of the schools on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, and a plethora of commercial contracts.
He sold his successful business ‘D & K‘ in September 2008, in preparation for our inaugural six months on the UK waterways starting in April 2009.
During 2009 and 2010, we travelled around the majority of over 2,000 miles of connected canals and rivers on our previous narrowboat ‘Northern Pride‘, and Barry took great delight in snapping for pleasure rather than business. He’s built up a large catalogue of mesmerising images that showcase most of the system.
He (and I!) was very proud to hear yesterday Waterways World has chosen one of his pictures depicting part of the Oxford Canal (close to the Napton Windmill), for their July edition front cover. They have a feature on that particular waterway, so it was an apt image.
Here it is in all its glory for your perusal:
Middlewich FAB celebrates 25 years
We’re now in Middlewich for the FAB Festival, along with an abundance of fellow trading boats. It’s their 25th anniversary, so all the musical venues are free this year. We’re hoping to get to see a fellow boater called ‘Early Grey and the Charwallahs’ on Saturday evening.
In between such frivolities, we’ll be busily selling our home brewing and facepainting skills to as many people as possible. To be honest (seriously!), the socialising will be a minor component. Ensuring this becomes a sustainable lifestyle and obtaining Barry’s UK visa is our number one priority for the foreseeable future!
The laptop outcome
Sadly it wasn’t economically viable to mend my drowned MacBook Air. I toyed with returning to a ‘normal’ laptop, but since buying an iPhone and Apple MacBook Air in late 2011, I’ve been converted.
A large proportion of my time is spent online, for a variety of ‘work’-related reasons, so I convinced myself I was worthy of another priceless and precious beast. And here I am on it. Loving it and feeling fortunate I’d backed up my files and been able to transfer them. Albeit a month before the accident! But mostly there nonetheless. Another reason to re-invest in the same company.
On the positive side, I had a wonder-filled last weekend with my dear mum in Brighton – even got an afternoon on the beach and saw the sun and blue sky! These rarities are very precious in England this year so far …
Where to next …
We suddenly realised yesterday we hadn’t booked into a planned floating market next weekend because we’d originally hoped to travel north to Lymm for their historic boat gathering. Sadly the organisers have chosen not to allow trade boats there.
Thankfully there’s still spots available with the Roving Canal Traders Association Floating Market at Market Drayton – so we’ll be heading there after the festivities here.
I have a facepainting booking next Dunday at a place called Bromyard, not far from my mum’s. It’s a 1940s street party which sounds delightful – any ideas of what would be appropriate to wear? I shall have to Google it …