A few delights from Stoke-on-Trent

After almost five weeks of constant care and comfort, dad seems to have made a good recovery from his strokes. Despite that, he’s still the magnificent age of 94, and is frequently confused and befuddled. He continues to be a falls risk too, and it’s unlikely he’ll improve significantly more than he has. They have carers coming to their house morning and evening to support them, and have been offered six weeks of respite care annually, so they can both have a bit of a break and a breather from each other to re-charge their batteries.

Yesterday I heard a possible place had been found for his first planned respite stay, and the care home looked like a very suitable place for him to stay for a week. He’ll get company, attention, activities and it looks like a very high level of care. He’s likely to experience far more things to occupy his mind than his current routine of sitting in his chair most of the day, in between eating and sleeping.

I’ll have visited the establishment by the time this is posted – it certainly sounded impressive looking at their website and CQC report. I’ll update you all on how it went early next week …

Six handed rummy – luck or chance?

On Saturday evening, all six boaters gathered aboard Areandare after a good day’s trading. As usually happens when we get together with Andy and Helen, the three packs of playing cards emerged from their cupboard in readiness for a game of six-handed-rummy. Suzie and Dave hadn’t previously been introduced to the complex but completely addictive game. It takes some time to really absorb all the rules and nuances of it. Suzie found her feet fairly early on, but Dave struggled a little – very understandably as far as I’m concerned!

I vividly recall in 2009 an evening when we had a friend from New Zealand on board (she was and is living in England now, and originated from Holland, but we met her in NZ!), she and Barry attempted to teach me a card game called ‘500’. Because they’d both played it heaps of times before, the rules sounded simple to them. To me it was like gibberish and try as I might, I couldn’t comprehend how to play. So much so, that after a while I felt so overwhelmed by the pressure to understand that I stormed off the boat!

Actually, I didn’t. I sat in the cratch in the pitch black, fuming inwardly and focussing on calming down while telling myself it really wasn’t that important. After about five minutes the boat doors opened. Barry was coming out to see if I was ok, assumed I was on the towpath, and jumped out of his skin when I spoke! That broke the ice …

Andy may not admit it openly, but he’s extremely competitive when playing this game. If on a winning streak he’ll declare it’s a game of skill. If losing, it’ll all be down to lady luck and the randomness of chance!

Saturday night he was unlucky – I won!

Sunday evening, Barry and I went to Wandr’ing Bark for a re-match as we’re unlikely to see our lovely friends again until late September. Andy’s skill appeared to be a little brighter that evening, but was pipped to the post by his adorable wife.


Not the best selfie, but slightly better than no photo to remember the evening by at all!

A little more Stoke

Last weekend was our fourth trading canal festival. Richard Parry, the CEO of the CaRT (!), has visited at Alvecote and Droitwich, and we wondered if we’d see him again at Etruria – we did!

He’s such a pleasant man. I know because I did actually get to chat with him for quite a while at Alvecote. The last two festivals haven’t allowed that to be repeated, as I’ve been so busy painting faces when he was around. Not that I see it as a problem, it’s marvellous to be earning some money again, and great that Richard witnesses trading boaters ‘in action’.


The unassuming and always friendly Richard Parry visited the  festival Рno-one had the opportunity of a photograph, but Suzie obtained a business card!

The lock at Etruria - my face painting stand was just to the left of the bottom gate

The lock at Etruria – my face painting stand was just to the left of the bottom gate, you can just make out the gazebo

On Monday Barry and I drove into Stoke – I have my parent’s car at the moment which makes it so easy to get around locally – and get some groceries in as well as sorting out postage for website orders.

The Post Office in Stoke is situated within a WH Smith store, in one of the under cover shopping centres. As we were nearing said shop, we noticed the photo below outside the Vodafone centre.

Spot the error?

Can you spot the error?

We wondered how many people noticed the missing boat driver! Hilarious.

Where did he/she go? Maybe they didn't want to be in the public eye, as it looked like someone had been airbrushed out ...

Where did he/she go? Maybe they didn’t want to be in the public eye, as it looked like someone had been airbrushed out

Leaving Barry once again …

He’s been fed and watered, and is quite possibly ready for another break from me now!

I feel refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to take on supporting my precious parents once again – but not by returning there to live 24/7. Although I believed that would be possible, I now realise it’s not. I have a life, and staying with them continuously will only lead to resentment from me and to me. It’s kinder for us all to accept that there are now lots of people involved with providing loving support as they journey in this new stage of their amazing lives together.

Once I’ve checked out the care home and okay’d it, Social Services will confirm the placement and arrange the funding. I’ll gently explain once again to dad what’s happening, pack his bags and personal effects, and escort him to his holiday home on Thursday, with mum. My next sister down, Linda, will arrive Friday to be with mum for two days.

I’ll then head off to Anglesey to spend a couple of nights with Lisa, Rob and my grandchildren. I’ll see the sea! Wonderful, I really miss living five minutes from the coast, and having never been to the island, it’ll be a real treat.

The captain will be meandering along with Suzie and Dave, to Westport Lake, where they’ll endeavour to do a spot more trading before the Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival the following weekend which we’re booked into.

I may get back in time to face paint/glitter tattoo a few little lovelies on Sunday – we shall see …


Fourth Fantastic Festival full of fun …

Life’s returned to a semblance of normality recently, as I’ve been back on board Areandare since Friday evening. My elder sister, Kath, covered me for the weekend so I could return ‘to work’.

I find that quite amusing, as the ‘work’ we do is so different and variable in comparison to anything I’ve previously experienced.

I enjoy the Life Coaching I do, which is very part-time by choice. I’m also currently collaborating with a small group of coaches and it’s likely that sometime in the not too distant future we’ll be launching a new business venture.

The facepainting is magical. I’ve spent a small fortune on colourful paints, glitters, brushes, sponges and a myriad of tools to create fantastic faces, and added glitter tattoos to my repertoire for Etruria Festival which were very popular – especially as we were fortunate to see the sun shining so face paint and sweaty faces don’t gel too well!

A glitter tattoo 'selfie'!

A glitter tattoo ‘selfie’!

All set up next to the lock for more fantastic facepainting

All set up next to the lock for more fUntastic facepainting


Glitter tattoo and painted flowers - this lovely girls wanted both!

A glitter tattoo AND painted flowers – this lovely girl wanted both! And why not ūüėČ

We’d enjoyed a fish and chip supper on Friday evening, in the beer tent, courtesy of the fabulous organisation of Elisabeth and Richard. On Saturday night there was a delicious Indian buffet organised too, so we booked into them both. It was such a blessing not to have to worry about planning, preparing and cooking before or after the first day’s trading.

Helen and Andy, from Wild Side Preserves, were also trading. You’ll have guessed that we all get on well, enjoying each other’s company as well as learning heaps of useful tips from more experienced trade boaters.

There were only three narrowboats trading, moored above the lock. Our new neighbours and friends are Suzie and Dave, who sell baked potatoes, oat cakes, bacon sandwiches and a selection of hand painted canal ware.

Helen ready to sell her jams and chutneys

Helen ready to sell her jams and chutneys

Sign up to the email list

Sign up to the email list – marvellous marketing

Suzie selling her spuds

Suzie selling her spuds



The three trading boats looking lovely


Barry ready to use his kiwi charm to sell the benefits of home brew to the people of Stoke-on-Trent






A few working boats at the start of the walkway to the festival field

A few working boats at the start of the walkway to the festival field

The main festival was focussed around Etruria Industrial Museum, with a large collection of working boats stationed there.

We’ve visited this stretch of canal a few times, but not once has the museum been open. Sadly we didn’t get to visit this time either, due to being too busy trading! One day we’ll see what it has to offer …

Brewing on board and a brewers meeting

During my 48 hour boat-break pass last weekend, Barry put a home-brew beer batch together. I grasped the opportunity to capture the process for posterity Рand of course for this blog, The Home Brew Boat blog, and our Facebook page.

Experimenting with a new beer brewing method

Barry decided to try out Captain Ahab’s method. This involves commencing the brew in a sterilised bucket, then transferring into the pressure barrel half way through fermentation to complete the process and carbonate the beer at the same time. The brew is a ‘Bulldog Brew’ Triple Tykes,¬†described as “Smooth, strong, malty with¬†fruity notes and hints of¬†vanilla and toast. Perfect¬†balance between body and¬†bitterness with a clean finish.”¬†


Barry with his kit ready. Note the bucket was last used to make a batch of 5 day Ros√© wine, it’s multi-functional once you have one!


Step one – pour in the mixture …


The consistency you’ll see is rather black-treacle-like



Next, the water – it needs to be a certain temperature when it’s all added …


So Barry’s giving it a stir and checking with the thermometer …


Next up is the yeast – a vital component!


Mix it up and make it nice …


Last step for this part of the process, lid on and add boiled water to the airlock, now wait 5 days before transferring …

I’ll let Barry inform you how tasty the beer is once completed – I’m more a wine and cider person.

Meeting with fellow kiwi brewers and bloggers!

We were thankful I’d not left on Monday morning (which almost happened, dad wasn’t too good), as Barry would’ve left Great Haywood and travelled up to Stone for a delivery. Had that happened we’d have missed the opportunity to meet up with Andrew and his lovely wife Michelle from narrowboat Ashdown, who dropped in for a taste of strawberry cider. Andrew has purchased a kit from The Home Brew Boat and is loving making his own.

Andrew and Michelle previously lived in Christchurch, and moved to UK a couple of years ago. Andrew is originally from UK, Michelle from South Africa, and fortuitously gained her British passport five years after being married to Andrew. Oh those were the days! If only it was that simple now for Barry, though I can totally appreciate that the system may’ve been abused by some unscrupulous people at that time.

Michelle is an amazingly talented photographer, so do visit their blog and check some out.



Our next trading event

Tomorrow I’m heading back to the boat for a few days, and we’ll be trading at the Etruria Canal Festival¬†in Stoke-on-Trent. Do come and see us if you’re anywhere nearby. We can’t promise to be able to chat during busy times, but we’ll do our utmost to be friendly and helpful!

We’d love to hear how you’re getting along with any home brewing you may be undertaking, or if you have any queries comment below or contact Barry at barry@thehomebrewboat.co.uk