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These photos are way overdue to be published! Barry’s been so caught up with The Home Brew Boat that I have to keep nagging (me, nag?!) him to give me some of his fabulous photos!

It’s always worthwhile though, and these are no exception.

I’ve divided them into two posts for your delectation and delight …

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Ray Oakhill, from NB Stronghold, who’s been an amazing support to us both since we began our narrow boating adventures in 2009. I finally met him in person in Stone recently

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Love this shot of you Ray, looking pensive ;-)

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We’ll catch up again, don’t know where, don’t know when …

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Great Haywood Junction

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Tixall Wide

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Tixall Wide from the other side!

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Looking back around halfway up the Wolverhampton 21

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BCN Old Line, cruising along under the madness of vehicles above on the motorway

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Hoping the sheer volume of traffic isn’t going to collapse the structure …

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Old and new, small and massive – which do you prefer? We’ll stick with the slow lane ;-)

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It’s unlikely you’ve spotted these locks to the new main line from the motorway!

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Such a stark contrast all the way along this section

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Four different bridge arches all lined up

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Shutting the gate at one of the Smethwick locks

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Now that’s a sight we’ve not seen before – speed boating on the cut!

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Industrialisation around Soho, coming into Birmingham

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Colourful graffiti

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Approaching the city centre – the centre of an old bridge is all that’s left

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The other side of the bridge centre – and is that a tram we can see?

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Barry wonders if this is the only four-way cross road/canal on the system? It’s Icknield Port Loop and Soho Loop cross the Main line of the BCN

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Approaching the thriving and beating heart of the canal network – Sherbourne Wharf to the right

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Gas Street Basin on a buzzing Saturday evening – hen parties passing as they sing and dance frivolously

It’s fitting that this evening we’re moored up in the centre of Birmingham once again, some weeks after these shots …

After a longer-than-average stay at Merry Hill, we began our journey towards The Bond in Digbeth, in readiness for our last planned festival of 2014 at their Autumn Market on Saturday.

The morning of our departure a howling gale blew up and unfortunately found the strength to whip ‘The Home Brew Boat’ banner out of it’s flagpole holders! Luckily the banner itself landed on the towpath, however the holders were nowhere to be seen having been ripped out of their screws. The most likely hiding place is down in the depths of the canal – hopefully we’ll manage to find some replacements before Saturday …

Shortly before leaving, Barry got a distress shout from GUCCCo nb Sagitta, the Dudley Canal Trust’s historic working boat. They were on their way back from the Stourbridge weekend, and had broken down with what they suspected was a faulty fuel pump. We happily towed them a short way to a safe mooring at the industrial park of Merry Hill. We hope they got things sorted and were able to move again.

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Towing nb Saggita

Last night was spent at Parkhead, on junction of the Dudley No 1 and No2 canals, and today we’ve continued into Birmingham where we were thrilled to sneak in beside Andrew Denney’s narrowboat ‘Granny Buttons’. He’ll be home this evening, so we’re hoping he’ll pop in for a chat and a catch up.

We may even remember to take a photo this time …

Following my last post ‘What’s wrong with Walsall’, as we wondered why other boats weren’t apparent in the area, Barry discovered more challenges when he left the basin that could explain it.

Though the sparse amount of water was clear and clean looking, the level of rubbish on the bottom of the canal was extensive and included clothing, plastic bags, a window blind (!), and an assortment of literally ‘crap’. Clearing the detritus from the weed hatch, he informed me reliably, was nauseating in the extreme …

Apart from a hire boat that passed us just before we arrived in Walsall, Barry didn’t see or pass any other boats along the whole stretch of around nine miles. Maybe it’s the time of year?

I met him back at Bumble Hole on Tuesday, after five days with my parents in Ombersley. Well actually he met me at the Old Hill railway station, a bracing one and a half mile walk away.

We’re now moored at the industrial park next to Merry Hill Shopping Centre, in Brierley Hill. There’s been a few boats passing us, most likely on their way to ‘Stourbridge Navigation Trust Open Weekend‘. Unfortunately we were too late to book into the weekend as a trading boat, so we’ve put up The Home Brew Boat banner here instead, hoping for some interested foot traffic!

Not long afterwards Barry got chatting to a delightful man from Cornwall, who’d brewed many years ago, and may just have had his interest re-sparked. Maybe we’ll be getting an order through for a beer brewing starter kit next week …

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There’s a very handy Sainsbury’s here, and it’s a very pleasant and fairly quiet mooring.

And Barry’s given me a few of his photos to play with, which I’ll be looking at and publishing here over the next few days for your delectation!

Life in the UK

In the meantime, we’ve been investigating what Barry’s UK visa requirements are, for his next application in November 2015. One of these is the test ‘Life in the United Kingdom’, for which he must get a 75% pass – 18 out of 24. There’s options to ‘practice’ doing the test online, for free. So we gave it a go …

I’d recommend if you have some time to kill that you give it a go, because to be honest, I seriously doubt that the vast majority of British people would pass!

We gave it a go – Barry got 16 out of 24 right, which is 66.67%, however as a British Citizen, I got a measly 12 out of 24 – 50%! Does that mean I have to leave and return to New Zealand where I’d most likely score a hell of a lot higher? What a farce, a box ticking exercise that we must go along with.

Practice makes perfect, looks like we’ll both be learning a lot more about ‘Life in the Uk’ in the next 12 months …

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