I’m back with Barry for a few days having a bit of a break from my caring role as my younger sister Viv’s with them until Sunday.

Barry does fine on his own (apart from the self-imposed scurvy!), and we don’t have to be at our next festival until the end of May when it’s just The Home Brew Boat trading at Etruria (they said they have already had a face painter booked). So Barry can meander slowly north, as and when. He may even do a spot of towpath trading as he meanders along …

I have the use of mum’s car, as I finally managed to get an insurance company (SAGA) to ‘allow’ me to be a named driver, despite living in NZ from 2005 to 2013. Their previous insurer RIAS wouldn’t insure me as I hadn’t lived in the UK for more than three years, they were quite happily insuring my 93 year old father with cataracts though which I found quite ridiculous!

We’re currently moored in Stourport, described on their website as …

‘a unique Georgian canal town in the heart of the severn valley’

Moored up for a few days in the canal loving town of Stourport

Moored up for a few days in the canal loving town of Stourport

We’ve visited here a number of times, the last on was June 2013. Check out that blog for some of Barry’s very fine photography.

Catching up on my ‘WordPress’ hints and tips emails (I love learning new things about the blogosphere), I’ve discovered an amazing tool that enables me to schedule a ‘photo a day’. I’m going to test it out with some Barry gave me from our recent journey from Birmingham to Tamworth.

We probably won’t have an awful lot of boating news for a while, but I’ll aim to keep you posted on whatever the journey ahead holds for us.

Please keep in touch and visit Barry if you can – I suspect he’d secretly love some more company when I’m not with him.

And a big thanks to Jim for offering to help at any time – we WILL be in touch I’m sure at some point.

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St Richard’s Festival

Wow! What a wonderful three days we had last weekend at Vines Park, Droitwich. Last year’s festival we visited Helen and Andy  by train on the Sunday, when they were the only narrowboat trading.  Being there, moored alongside them this year, was a dream come true.

However, due to the vagaries of life’s current challenges and changes, we hardly got a chance to socialise with them. But we did what we could under the circumstances!

On the Friday before the festivities, Helen kindly cooked us a curry which we enjoyed aboard Wandr’ing Bark. I’d been with my parents until the evening, so it was such a welcome relief to be cared for. And the lovely Helen had even bought me a pampering package to raise my flailing spirits. Friends are so precious, thank you lovely lady.

Andy and Barry enjoying the fruits of their labours

Andy and Barry enjoying the fruits of their labours

Barry had a couple of courier challenges on Thursday and Friday, with an order he’d put in from one of our suppliers.  Despite putting in an address and postcode that he felt would be simple to find, each time the courier and Barry’s whereabouts failed to coincide. We need to refine this as it was such a waste of Barry’s time and the courier. It’s a work in progress. Sometimes it all happens in unison, and other times …

Final preparations ready for the first day's trading

Final preparations on The Home Brew Boat ready for the first day’s trading

Barry had loads of interest over the three days, though still heard the age old adage of “I don’t have time“, “... I used to brew years ago ...” from a few people. From the sales he made it feels as though slowly but surely a growing number of people are realising the cost savings and high quality outcomes possible from home brewing.

Helen and Andy sell oodles of their delicious Wild Side jams and preserves

Helen and Andy sell oodles of their delicious Wild Side jams and preserves to lucky punters

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Costumed characters telling the story of St. Richard and paraded through Droitwich and Vines Park to bless Upwych pit

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The ‘Pope’ takes a sneaky peep at The Home Brew Boat!

Funtastic Facepainting was a massive hit with the younger visitors over the three days. So much so that I transformed little faces non-stop each day, without time to even eat or pee! Admittedly though by Monday, around 1430hrs, I had to take two minute toilet interval despite a number of people still waiting.

I really wanted to avoid such queueing, and tried a laminated raffle ticket system with allocated times on the first day. But 3 of the ‘booked’ people didn’t return, and when others did and I’d then got a crowd waiting, I felt uneasy about putting them before people waiting. I suspect there’s no ‘ideal’ method, apart from speeding up and losing quality, doing only very ‘simple’ faces and/or having another person painting too.

My surprise visitor - The Dream Job Coach

My surprise visitor – The Dream Job Coach

Part way through Friday I looked up briefly and saw a smiling woman in front of me. I recognised the face immediately, but it took me a few seconds to place it. Louise Jenner and I have ‘chatted’ lots on Facebook and via our website/blogs for about six months. We have a commonality in coaching, and our passion for using the knowledge and skills we’ve gained over the years, and our coaching training, to support others to find more happiness in their lives. I was disappointed not to get much time with her, but can’t complain as I’m so grateful that I’m actually ‘working’ in one of my ‘dream job’ roles I’ve wanted to do for many years!

'Hard' at work and loving it!

‘Hard’ at work and loving it!

It's not all about faces you know, especially when you've only got a bit of pocket money to spend

It’s not all about faces you know, especially when you’ve only got a bit of pocket money to spend

We hardly saw any of the festival other than our pitches, but you could feel the buzz from everyone and the weather was extremely generous – not a drop of rain until Monday night. My youngest daughter Kim came to stay on Sunday, and we had a fun night out with her and Helen and Andy in beer tent. It was a brilliant band who managed to get many people up and boogying, including Barry towards the end.

I so needed the exercise after sitting down for such a length of time …

Sandra and Kim hit the dance floor

Sandra and Kim hit the dance floor

Barry and Kim get on down

Barry and Kim get on down

All the young dudes - who remembers this one? It was a new one for Kim!

All the young dudes – who remembers this one? It was a new one for Kim!

A stroke in each hemisphere

I’m now back with Mum and Dad, who we believe has had at least one more small stroke. He’s up and down and needing to have someone here 24/7. I’ll be back with Barry tomorrow, meeting him in Stourport where he’s moved the boat for a much needed pump out today! My younger sister Viv arrived yesterday evening and will be staying until Sunday, so I’ll have a few days back on board if Dad remains stable.

On Saturday morning I received an email from a friend in Gisborne informing me that my dear friend Therese, had also had a stroke – albeit at a far younger age than my father. She’s in hospital, thankfully I got to talk with her Sunday evening via her daughter which was a relief for me to let her know I’m thinking of her.

Walking down the sandy aisle, 22nd December 2009, with my NZ 'mum' Therese

Walking down the sandy aisle, 22nd December 2009, with my NZ ‘mum’ Therese

So at the moment you can imagine I’m taking life a day at a time. It’s feeling rather out of my control, which at times is unsurprisingly unnerving and more than a little scary.

Our next booked festival isn’t until the end of May, in Stoke, so we’ll be staying fairly local to Ombersley/Droitwich for a while.

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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