It’s been a busy few days on and off Areandare since our last blog post.

Thanks to everyone for their good wishes on Facebook, they do mean a lot.

The sight greeting me at mum and dad’s house on Tuesday evening, were a couple of very old people struggling to cope. That afternoon, Mum had been ripped off by a plumber, unbeknownst to the Social Worker who was visiting. It’s a long story that I won’t go into too much, but she’d managed to phone said person who’d got her to sign a contract (that she didn’t understand) to agree to his astronomical price of £59 per HALF hour or part thereof, and strung out the job for almost four hours. The (lovely) plumber she’d originally called, arriving later in the afternoon, was aghast at what had occurred, and suggested the work should have only cost £150 – Mr Absolutely-no-consience-whatsoever made away with £630 for fixing a leaking cistern.

Trading Standards will be notified (by Mr Lovely Plumber) in the hope something can be achieved, but in my innocence of such matters, I wonder how on earth such people live with themselves? It gets me wondering what their beliefs are about the world, and their fellow man, that they can be so incredibly cruel and heartless. At the end of the day though  considering my overriding priorities of family and health, it’s ‘only’ money …

Mum’s been amazing to care for dad mostly alone for so long, reluctant and too proud to ask for much help. Dad was always the one who looked after mum, she’s not used to having all the responsibility. The tide has turned now she’s reached out – thank goodness. It’s only been two and a half days, and three of the Walsh sisters have visited to help, with the other one on her way today. The difference in mum and dad is stark. Mum’s had some sleep, and dad appears a little improved and less dehydrated.

Mum took dad, with great difficulty, to see the doctor on Monday as he’d had a nasty fall a few days before and was in a great deal of pain. On Wednesday morning, after a challenging night, I looked closely at him and realised why he’d recently become more confused. The right side of his face was drooping, and of course his lean and gait was that way too. A request for a home visit from the doctor confirmed he’d suffered a small stroke at some point since I’d seen him three weeks previously.

St Richard’s Festival

Yesterday I went into Droitwich for a few last minute items needed for the weekend, and whilst there visited a mobility store looking for aids to help rescue my dad from the floor when he falls. As a nurse and midwife working in a hospital, I’d never lift someone, we’d have all manner of things available to us to provide support to do so without the risk of injuring our backs. When you have someone in the home it’s obviously much more of a challenge.

The assistants looked through their catalogues, apologising for their lack of knowledge of such things, whilst explaining they were just looking after the shop, but were really the social media spokespeople for St Richard’s Festival! We got chatting and tweeting, and I got a much needed lesson in how to have more than one twitter account available on my iPhone. It’s funny how you meet people isn’t it? Later that day, Laura and Celia came to visit The Home Brew Boat and Wild Side, moored snugly next to each other not far from Vines Park, and took a photo to tweet. Sadly not the one below (I can’t work out how to copy it without having a mouse to use here at mum and dad’s!), but there’ll be pictures of this weekend’s festivities in the near future …

The Home Brew Boat trading at Alvecore Floating Market

The Home Brew Boat trading at Alvecore Floating Market

My younger sister arrives from Devon this evening, staying until Monday, so I’ll be face painting and spending a little time with my frequently abandoned but uncomplaining husband (I suspect he secretly likes it!) – and maybe having a game or two of six-handed rummy with Helen and Andy if we’re all not too tired at the end of our ‘work’ days.

I have a pitch across the path from the boat – and even the luxury of a gazebo to put up to guard me and the painted faces against sun and rain. I’ll be trialling a system of laminated raffle tickets with timings on them, that I’m hopeful will mean no-one will have to wait in a queue to have their face painted, but can take a ticket and return at their allocated time-slot. I’ve known friend’s children wait in line patiently for an hour or more at events, and I’m determined to find a way to prevent that.

Both my daughters are coming to Droitwich at some stage, over the weekend, so although I’m hoping for lots of fruitful trading, a little break now and then will be gratefully accepted. The weather forecast is dry and mild – hurrah!

Have a happy May Day Bank Holiday Weekend everyone in UK.

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Barry had an easy journey into Birmingham last Thursday. Jim and my nephew Mathew joined him so the 13 Farmers Bridge locks were a doddle. Thank you guys, much appreciated.

The tide begins to turn

Since we’ve been on our adventures aboard Areandare, I’ve kept an account of every penny we spend – and earn (though there hasn’t been a proliferation of the latter for much of that time!).

Each week on a Sunday evening, or as soon as possible afterwards, I’ll be found sitting seriously at my Mac Book, going through the previous week’s list, categorising all spending, adding it up and updating the spreadsheet.

Through this exercise we now have over twelve months data available, meaning we can calculate such fascinating things as the average weekly spend on living costs, boat upkeep and mandatory fees, and the running total (scary stuff) we’ve spent to start-up our businesses and their general costs to date.

The most exciting part of course is on those magical weeks when money flows IN!

By the end of March 2014, the twelve month figures weren’t looking like anything a bank manager or accountant would be in the least enthralled by. My income from Life Coaching, writing, surveys and competitions didn’t even come close to matching the amount I’d paid out in resources and start up costs. Barry’s ‘Home Brew Boat’ business was only just completing its foundations, having also managed to remove a fair amount of money from our now joint account with Barclays.

However, on Monday this week, after returning to the boat from a few fabulous days with my daughter and grandsons, I dutifully completed the accounts for the four weeks of April. I love the way we can manage our money now we have immediate access to our bank balance through a Smart phone.

I’m extremely proud and pleased to report that for the first time since February 2013, our incomings exceeded our outgoings. Not by a great deal, only around thirty pounds. But that’s completely irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. There’s a change in direction – and that’s absolutely brilliant.

Our choice of living a life less ordinary aboard narrowboat Areandare, on the Inland Waterways of UK, can only be sustainable if we earn sufficient income to maintain it. We also have to pay back what we’ve spent from our savings by April 2015, so we have that same amount in the bank sitting comfortably for six months prior to the second application for Barry’s ‘indefinite leave to remain’ UK spousal sponsored visa. That date looms on occasions – it’s in only twelve months time.

It’s a tall order, and we know this, but there’s a saying in Life Coaching that really resonates and inspires me:

If you believe it you’ll see it

rather than the usual “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Later in the day I received an unexpected phone call, from a complete stranger (lovely to talk Nina if you’re reading), who’d read our Gisborne Herald articles, and subsequently our blog. She became so fascinated she wanted to chat and offer us another business opportunity to consider. This may, or may not, be something we’ll pursue. Regardless, it certainly feels like the jigsaw puzzle of our project plan is fitting nicely together.

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Let’s hope this isn’t true – I’m certain there’s heaps more amazing things to come for us …

Who knows what the finished picture will look like, but I’m now clearly imagining us manifesting Napolean Hill’s words:

When big money begins to come, it comes so quickly and in such large amounts, you wonder where it was hiding during all those lean years.

And even if it doesn’t, there’ll be a reason I believe. So for however long we’re blessed to live in this parallel universe, with the freedom and flexibility it provides, we’re already rich beyond measure.

A storm appears to be brewing

As this tide turns though, rather than allow us to become a little complacent and find a bit of a comfort zone, the universe has decided it’s time to shake us up somewhat and find ways to be even more flexible.

One of the reasons I was ‘happy’ to return to the land of my birth with Barry, despite adoring living in New Zealand, was to re-connect with my family/whanua. The few days with my grandsons last week were such a delight, I wouldn’t miss being their ‘fun grandma’ for anything. And when I emigrated to NZ in January 2005, I wasn’t sure if my elderly parents would still be around in the years to come. So I feel inordinately blessed that they are.

My parents in April 2007, on our first narrow boating adventure aboard 'Wye' from Alvechurch - spookily we've just cruised past their base today

My parents in April 2007, who joined us on our first narrow boating adventure aboard ‘Wye’ from Anglo Welsh boat hire, Alvechurch – spookily we’ve just cruised past their base today. My dad adored driving the 70′ boat, but also managed to fall into the canal during the trip, sliding gracefully from a lock gate walkway (only a drop of a couple of feet), and ‘jumped out of bed to avoid a passing train‘ one night too! But he loved every minute of it …

However, things have been progressively worsening for my dad over the past twelve months, and it looks like we may be hitting a bit of a crisis where I’ll need to spend a lot more time with them. Barry’s always understood this to be a possibility – he’s well rehearsed on lone-boating in readiness!

Hurrah for discovering ways of earning a living flexibly, without needing a ‘base’. Whatever happens will be manageable. Rather than see it as a problem, I see it as being extremely fortunate to have the opportunity of giving something back to the people who gave me and my sisters life and so much more. And thank goodness he had the good grace to make four fabulous daughters, despite always wanting a son. Now he has the carers willing and able to keep him out of a nursing home for as long as possible.

The upshot of this is it’s likely I’ll be off the boat for four out of seven days at some point – so if anyone has time available and wants to keep Barry company, please get in touch by commenting below or emailing us via our ‘contact page‘.

I’ll keep you posted …

I promised a part two of Barry’s photos last week, then got a little caught up with travelling and sorting for our first, full-on working weekend from Areandare.

As you read this pre-scheduled post, I’ll be safely ensconced in Malpas with my daughter and two gorgeous giggling grandsons. Barry will be on the boat, having travelled back up the Farmer’s Bridge Locks. I’m hopeful someone will be there to assist him. I put the word out to my nephew, and Jim Shead, waterways photographer extraordinaire. He’s an ex-boater, now lovely lock helper living in Birmingham, who we had the good fortune to meet last year when Barry’s sister Jenny, from Australia, was with us. If neither of those options work out, and for a reason I’m unable to fathom (mainly because I can’t imagine doing it myself), he’s perfectly happy and capable of locking alone.

Below are some superb shots from a professional photographer’s perspective, of the 13 Farmer’s Bridge Locks descending from Birmingham (aka the REAL Middle Earth, it wasn’t originally in New Zealand, in case you weren’t aware – it’s a city sitting on a plateau don’t you know) …

Cambrian Wharf as we leave the soul of this vibrant and thriving city centre

Cambrian Wharf as we leave the soul of this vibrant and thriving city centre

The first of a series  of 13 locks

The first of a series of 13 locks

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Sandra keeps up the social media marketing from the locks – focus woman, focus! Watched by a couple of gongoozlers and the BT Tower

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The majority of people visiting, living and/or working in Birmingham city centre, would have no idea they have a canal running underneath buildings

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The BT Tower (formerly the Post Office Tower) easily achieves the title ‘tallest building in the city’ at 150 metres high

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Looking spookily as you’d imagine Venice may in places …

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The red wooden doors are where the fire hoses used to reach into the canals to source water, but we wonder why they needed four doors per bridge?

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Graffiti is prolific around the Birmingham canals – rather than viewing it as unsightly, our perspective is it’s a comfortable and often colourful part of the urbanisation

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This could be a scene from times past …

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About half way down the thirteen locks – we think!

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The brickwork of bridges always amazes us. This one sits majestically under the railway lines to Snow Hill Station

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The brickwork’s also a little eclectic and claustrophobic at times

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The ancient and modern nestle harmoniously together at Aston Junction

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Looks like another Toll Island by Typhoo Basin

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One lot of locks completed, arriving at the Junction of the Tame Valley and Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, and on the left our mooring for the Spring Market (I know, we were out of order but time restricted and left with little choice)

Barry will try a spot of towpath trading in Birmingham over the weekend while I’m away, so if you’re around do pay him a visit.

On Monday we’ll continue the journey to Droitwich for our next three days trading over the May Day Bank Holiday Weekend. We’re very excited to be doing so alongside our dear friends Andy and Helen from Wild Side Handmade Preserves – the hedgerow’s finest don’t you know!

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