A different take on a ‘pie’ …

I popped to mum and dad’s on Tuesday for 24 hours, to collect our mail, as I’d ‘lost’ my purse during our visit to Ireland last week (I’d dropped it at the accommodation and it turned up some hours later), and had ordered replacement bank and credit cards.

That’s one of the limitations of living aboard a narrowboat – it’s rather challenging to get snail-mail delivered to a moving vessel!

Before I caught the train from Tipton, we thought we’d pay a visit to Mad O’Rourke’s Pie Factory. I remembered enjoying a lunch there with my father many years ago, when he used to be a sales rep for car insurance to second hand car dealers in The Black Country.

It’s a very famous pub and obviously their pies are apparently legendary.

So we were really looking forward to an exceptionally tasty pie for lunch.

It was only a short walk from our mooring, and the colourful signage, handsome building and fascinating interior promised so much …


The notice outside the door


Getting better and better, we’re almost salivating by this point …


They even go to the trouble to putting fresh sawdust on the floor each day – very quaint, we’re loving it so far …


And a fine sense of humour to boot …


You don’t get many good old British pubs like this anymore

The menu looked extensive in its pie offerings, albeit rather pricey. We weren’t brave enough to go for the ‘Desperate Dan’, despite it being the same price as the smaller pies. It was a challenging choice …


Barry chose the curry pie, and asked for it to be ‘hot’ please. While I went for the Queen Victoria – at least that one had a few veggies in it.

Service was quick, only waiting about five minutes for our food.


Our pies

We were a little disappointed to be honest. We’d read that Barry’s would be topped with a naan bread, and mine with mashed potato, but we still expected that a pie would have pastry underneath the meat. After all, here’s the Wikepedia definition of a ‘pie’:

“A pie is a baked dish which is usually made of a pastry dough casing that covers or completely contains a filling of various sweet or savoury ingredients.

Pies are defined by their crusts. A filled pie (also single-crust or bottom-crust), has pastry lining the baking dish, and the filling is placed on top of the pastry but left open. A top-crust pie, which may also be called a cobbler, has the filling in the bottom of the dish and is covered with a pastry or other covering before baking. A two-crust pie has the filling completely enclosed in the pastry shell. Flaky pastry is a typical kind of pastry used for pie crusts, but many things can be used, including baking powder biscuits, mashed potatoes, and crumbs.”


Lots of bags of flour at the entrance

The chips were delicious – the Black Country delicacy of ‘battered chips’. And don’t get me wrong, the contents of the pie dishes were very tasty.

But we did question how can either of those be a ‘pie’ in the true sense of the word? Frankly, although mine could be termed a ‘cottage pie’, Barry’s was a no more than a chicken Balti, naan bread and chips.

Maybe we’re just used to the pastry encased pies of New Zealand, from places such as Wairoa an hour and a half’s car journey from Barry’s hometown, where they bake ‘award winning’ pies. In fact, it’s reported the pie is one of New Zealand’s national dishes.

Our expectations were clearly unrealistic.

Ah well, it was a very pleasant lunch, with good company and in a delightful surroundings. You can’t have it all I guess …


The Home Brew Boat makes national news!


A few weeks ago Barry received an email from a journalist writing for a national newspaper. He forwarded it to his marketing manager – me!

“The Observer newspaper is preparing an article about new technology in homebrewing, to be published in the September issue of our science and technology supplement. The piece will entail asking the chief brewer at a prominent craft brewery to try out each of the gadgets and give his opinion on each, opinions which will then be written up as a large illustrated piece, online and in print.”

We weren’t sure when or even if, we would ‘appear’ in the paper. On Sunday I emailed to ask the journalist as we’d not heard, and not long afterwards had an email from the lovely Helen of Wild Side, to say her sister had spotted ‘us’ and sent a photo (see above).

The Observer’s reply arrived early on Monday,  providing a link for the full article which you can read in Sunday Guardian/Observer online if you’re interested.

The brewer who tested it gave a positive review (a FEMALE brewer I’m very proud to report!), and included The Home Brew Boat website link in which is fantastic for sharing what we’re doing to promote brewing your own at home/on your boat.

There was also an interesting comment about the heat panel from a reader, vehemently saying the price is “taking the piss”. Well it’s the recommended retail price, so they’re unlikely to get one cheaper anywhere else. It’s that old saying  ‘you get what you pay for’ I guess.

And the heat panel is a useful addition to any brewer, keeping the temperature of the brew right. It’s also great for keeping your feet warm in winter! Barry’s dear departed mum had one bless her, for those chilly evenings.

Tipton Canal Festival

We weren’t intending on trading at Tipton over the weekend, but had a text from Marianne and Mick from ‘Lollipop Sweets’, saying Wayne, the organiser for Tipton, was asking if we were coming and would find a spot for us if we did.

So we did!

Only for Sunday trading, as we didn’t arrive until late on Saturday after filling up and pumping out at the marina where Areandare had been snuggled up while we were away.

It was very special to catch up with Marrianne and Mick again, as Tipton was their final festival of 2014.


The beautiful Marianne, tarot reader, life coach and genuinely gorgeous person


Mick sells sweets, Marianne shares tarot insights and readings


Mick, Marianne and Sandra, saying goodbye for now on Monday morning


The Tipton Slasher, aka William Perry, was a British heavyweight prize fighter of the 19th century, and born to narrow boating parents


The festival in full swing on a sunny Sunday


NB Lollipop a the end, Barry’s in the distance …


Lots of interest from people



There was even a brass band on a boat! The Blackwell Concert Band from Bromsgrove – now there’s something you don’t see very often!

Tipton won’t go down as our most successful festival, there was lots of interest, but sadly a dearth of handing over of cash! We always find you never know what will eventuate following these events via the website and online orders though, so we’re not disheartened.

Bob and Sandra, from ‘All Things Spanish/The Ice Cream Boat’ were also there – and they’ll be at Parkhead Festival with us next week, so we’ll have more chance to chat with them.


Bob and Sandra leaving yesterday

And guess who else stopped by to say ‘Hi’? Yes, Richard Parry, CRT CEO was there and had a quick chat with us  – next time I’ll aim to remember to take a photo.

Parkhead Canal Festival

Next weekend is a rather special one.

On Friday 26th September we’ll be celebrating five years of happy companionship since we married on the roof of our previous narrowboat, Northern Pride. The weather was absolutely amazing, I think around 23 degrees C all day as you can see below …


Our first wedding – a Humanist ceremony, on the roof of NB Northern Pride, 26th September 2009, outside the Dog and Doublet Bodymoor Heath

Additionally, it’s my 55th birthday on Sunday 28th. Both my delightful daughters will be coming to the boat to help me celebrate so many years of specialness – hurrah!

If any of you are around the area, do come and share our happiness – and buy a spot of home brew too 😉


Our last planned festival for 2014 is next weekend

Beer, spirits and mindfulness in Dublin

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 …