Beer and spirits

Barry took the opportunity for a spot of ‘research’ during our trip to Dublin last week, spending a leisurely few hours at the Guinness Storehouse. By booking online beforehand he saved £3.60 which can’t be bad. Unfortunately that didn’t cover the cost of a pint of the dark nectar in Ireland! Such an expensive place, I’m told there’s a high tax imposed on alcohol, which apparently explains the extortionate cost.

All the more reason to brew your own there too I’d suggest!

It’ll take a while before I get any photos from Barry, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t take any of the Guinness he disposed of, but you never know!

He also sought out the Old Jameson Distillery to see if he could pick up a tip or two – I suspect he gave more than he received. Reluctantly tasting a sample was a part of the tour – and for those who enjoy whisky that could’ve been a highlight. Barry doesn’t, so it wasn’t! Interesting nonetheless.

Dublin at night

We had a fabulous night out together at a pub called The Church, recommended to us by our ‘airbnb’ host. It’s the most amazing venue, complete with organ, and live Irish music each night. We were even entertained by a couple of ‘Riverdancers’.


Barry tasting some of the local Irish Pale Ale – I’m on a blonde Belgium beer which was rather lovely


Sitting at the bar we got chatting to Julio, originally from Paraguay, now living in Canada, who’d been working in Ireland for a number of weeks. We helped him toast his last night on the emerald isle


Trying a variation on Guinness

Last week I posted on our Facebook page for The Home Brew Boat, a photo for a beer brewing starter kit and suggested people may consider buying one for ‘the man in their life’. I got a couple of comments back that women drink beer too – of course they do, how thoughtless of me, I guess I’m just so used to Barry drinking beer and me drinking wine or cider.

This picture made me smile after that …


Wisdom 2.0 Europe conference

The reason we headed to Dublin was for an international conference on ‘Compassion and Mindfulness in the Digital Age’. Quite apt I feel for someone who spends a fair proportion of time on Facebook, Twitter, blogging and emails!

It’s the first time this annual conference has come to Europe, previously it’s been USA based only. There was some fascinating information from inspiring speakers – who included a British MP introducing mindfulness into parliament, a head teacher embracing it wholeheartedly into mainstream schools, the head of learning and development at LinkedIn – and so many more. I shan’t go into more detail, except to say that there’s a body of evidence emerging daily on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, not only in your leisure time, but vitally at work.

The pressure to work more, harder and for longer may be lessening, when big companies like Google employ a ‘Meditation Manager’, and Volkswagen tweak their email system to stop employees gaining access outside of working hours.

This was MY research in Ireland, into ways of supporting people through life coaching, to slow down in this fast-paced world.

Do email me if you want to hear more …


Our apartment was just behind the ‘tube in the cube’, the Dublin Convention Centre across the River Liffey, my walk to the conference was over this cool harp shaped bridge


Barry even walked with me …


And here I am at the Google Foundry, where the event took place, sponsored by Google and Yogaglo


What are your thoughts?

Living in the slow boat lane

Those of you who’ve been reading our blog for a while, will know it’s taken many years to reach the place we’re at.

Slowing down is something I’ve been consciously working on since I first travelled to New Zealand in October 2001 – almost 13 years ago now! The nine months I spent living and working (for four of those months) there, were literally the first time in my adult life I’d been able to gift myself some real time-out to reflect on what I’d done with my life thus far, where I’d been, and where I wanted to go.

Fast forward (excuse the pace change!) to October 2014, and I’ve stepped off the hamster wheel, in partnership with Barry, and we’re making our dream of sustaining this floating idyll a reality.

We feel an enormous sense of freedom and flexibility in how we spend our days. Not bound to the normal conventions of travelling to and from work, or trying to ‘keep up with the Jones’s’ (not that we ever did that anyway!), maintaing a car and house (though we do keep the boat in order), or getting stuck in the downward spiral of the barrage of negativity from the media through TV or newspapers, we feel like ‘free spirits’ – pun intended.

When I immigrated to NZ in 2005, I went with the intention of relishing life so much more than I had – and reading a book by the inspirational man below reinforced that desire …


The man I went to meet – Carl Honoré whose book In Praise of Slow I bought and read in 2005 in NZ

Life is good – now it’s back to ‘work’, and today we’ve been unexpectedly trading at the Tipton Canal Festival. More on that in the next blog …


A lovely lady called Pip Norton contacted us a few months ago, to ask if we’d be interested in being a part of a documentary she’s producing about Roving Canal Traders.

We didn’t hesitate to say “Yes please!” – both to increase our visibility and to promote the possibilities available to people to live and trade on a narrowboat.

Pip has been waiting until she had enough funding to film us, and got in touch again recently to say she’d be coming to film traders at Stoke Bruene and The Black Country 13th/14th September.

She has a FB page set up (you can find it here – click on and ‘like’ the page please and give them some more exposure), and is hoping to be gaining more support through a process known as  ‘crowd funding‘ in the near future. If you’ve not heard of this it’s “… the practice of raising funds from two or more people over the internet towards a common Service, Project, Product, Investment, Cause, and Experience or SPPICE.”

We hope she’s successful and look forward to seeing the finished product in the not too distant future.

Pip and her sidekick Anna arrived to film Barry around 10am on Sunday, with a list of questions to ask …


Anna, Pip and Barry get ready for filming


Almost set up …


Barry’s getting stage fright!

Pip interviewed Barry who was unashamedly nervous. I don’t recall ever seeing him so stuck for words. He’d briefly read through the questions Pip would be asking, five minutes before the interview. One of the last ones asked about canal related anecdotes – Barry was so put on the spot, he couldn’t conjure up a single one!

After Barry’s ten minutes of focus, they then thought it’d be a good idea to interview me as the social media coordinator for The Home Brew Boat. I basically talked about the history of setting up businesses while living aboard a narrowboat and travelling the system, and how I market them on Facebook, Twitter and through blogging.

It’ll be interesting to see which parts of our slots make it through the cutting room floor …


Trying to look cool, calm and collected


After they’d finished with us, it was time for Wild Side. They got some fabulous footage of Helen and Andy chatting to their customers, and then a fascinating interview with Helen about how she came to be a roving trader (if you don’t know the story, it’s an intriguing and encouraging tale of how changing your perspective on unexpected traumatic events can make a negative into a positive).


Filming the Wild Side crew trading from their Jam Butty


Lots of tasters to be sampled before buying


Chilled out for her interview – but then she was with a TV camera crew only a week previously! Such a star, she takes it all in her stride …

Barry had another great day’s trading, while I wandered around the festival site, entertained my eldest daughter and grandson, and enjoyed catching up with another couple of ‘old’ friends …


The Narrowboat Trust historic working boats – where our Epping range is now residing happily


The captain and brew boat CEO – loving his ‘job’!


The apparently infamous ‘Pork Scratchings’ woman plies her wares from the bridge – home made and rather tasty!


Another ‘teeming with people’ day


This boat proudly displays the official Black Country flag, designed by a local schoolgirl who won a competition


Lisa contemplates her jam choice


More festival meet ups – Michael and Anita


Heather and Tony on The Fudge Boat sold out by the afternoon!


Bye bye for now, see you next year!

We had an amazing weekend, and have already booked and given our cheque in to book for 2015.

Heading overseas

Yesterday evening Wand’ring Bark and Areandare formed a short convoy and sauntered along to a secure marina to moor the boats.

Barry and I are off to Ireland on Tuesday for a few days. I’m going for a conference called Wisdom 2.0 Europe, structured around the topic of ‘Wisdom and wellness in the Technological Age’, while Barry will be checking out the local landscape – and without a doubt spending as much time as possible in The Guinness Factory all for the purposes of research of course!

So there’ll be no more blogging until at least next weekend. After that we’ll be heading slowly to our last planned festival of the year The Parkhead Boating Festival, at lowers Green Pumphouse, in Dudley.

There’s certainly nothing dark and smoggy about The Black Country this weekend. What wonderful, down-to-earth and friendly folks we’ve had the pleasure of meeting so far.

Barry had an endless stream of visitors to The Home Brew Boat – not all were buying, but they took business cards away with a lot more knowledge of the advantages of brewing your own and we’re hopeful they’ll become loyal customers in the future.


Barry even put his best shirt on! Lots of visitors, and the local Army Cadets Kingstanding/Warwickshire, worked tirelessly all day picking up litter and providing some security just in case

Our neighbours The Fudge Boat (Heather and Tony), and Wild Side (Helen and Andy) also had a great day as you can see below …


Waiting patiently for a free fudge tasting


Andy trading from The Jam Butty

Sadly our other ‘new-found friends’ got into a little strife as an Ice Cream van was booked into the festival, and wasn’t too pleased to have some of his business taken from him by ‘All Things Spanish’ which the planners hadn’t appreciated included selling ice cream. A lesson to us all about telling organisers what we’re selling so as not to step on other peoples shoes.

I wasn’t able to face paint as they already had two booked – fair enough. I did check again on Friday, just in case, but it was a no-goer.

Sandra and Bob, from The Ice Cream Boat (All Things Spanish), left this morning. I suspect they’ll head into Birmingham to see if they can trade there while the weather’s fine. Good luck to you both, lovely to meet you and hope our paths cross again soon.


The Dudley trip boat ferries passengers up and down the cut all day for £3 each


Such a marvellous setting – and a very popular event


I went for a walkabout to find the face painter – here she is! Doing very well, wonderful

We had the pleasure of a couple of our favourite people visiting too. Richard Parry, CEO of Canal and River Trust, popped by to say hi. He’s such a transparent and supportive person to the traders, and has appeared at every event, apart from Standedge, we’ve been to this year. Hats off to you Richard, we’re very lucky to have you leading us.

Then we had a surprise vista from Andrew Denny, aka Granny Buttons. It’s been months since we last saw him. Andrew used to be a prolific blogger – in fact he was the first boater to begin blogging about the canals and life on them, on 7th August 2003. He was a bit of a hero of Barry’s while we were planning our initial adventure to the canals, during 2007 and 2008. We first met him in person in May 2010, when we fortuitously moored right next to his boat one evening, phoned him up, and although he wasn’t on his boat at the time he drove the distance from his house to come and make our acquaintance!

We were thrilled he accepted the invitation to join us for dinner last night – we just completely forgot to record the occasion for the blog! You’ll have to come back soon Andrew.

Then we joined Heather and Tony from The Fudge Boat for a couple of pints in the beer tent – it’s a very sociable way to ‘work’!


Music and refreshments in the beer tent

Barry from The Narrowboat Trust, surprised us too. We’d agreed with Ray from NB Stronghold, to a fair price for our ‘Epping’ stove in the Boatman’s Cabin. Having a spent a winter without one in the living area to keep us warm, we decided we definitely need one this winter and although it made the cabin ‘authentic’, we’d rather have the storage space and by selling it have the funds to buy a smaller heater for the lounge.


The Narrowboat Trust Boats arrive yesterday evening


Then this morning they arrived to remove our Epping


Barry, Barry and Colin – with the stove all out and ready for its new home


Bye bye!

This morning we’ve had Pip Norton and Anna Marie filming us as part of a ‘Roving Canal Traders Documentary‘ – more about that to come in the next post …


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