A time of interesting journeys

It’s been a while since I’ve written – apologies for my/our absence on the blog.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve been avoiding writing a post – things went a little awry recently, and it’s taken me a couple of weeks to work through the fog and begin to see things clearly again …

Life consistently brings twists, turns, and unexpected challenges to us all. It’s the meaning we take from these, and the changes in direction we choose, that makes a difference to our future.

I’m aware I’m waffling a little, as I consider the words to publish as an update. Continue reading

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A splendid birthday weekend at Parkhead Canal festival

I’m only a mere ten days late posting about the sunny smiles that lit up our souls at the Parkhead Festival, on the last weekend of September …

Birthday celebrations

I have to admit to feeling a little disappointed when we’d booked into the event, knowing it was my birthday weekend. But I sucked it up gracefully. After 55 years on the planet, I guess birthdays aren’t quite as exciting anymore. How wrong I was!

I knew we’d be trading alongside Helen and Andy, with their Wild Side jams and preserves, so we’d be certain of a modicum of merriment, and a game or two of six handed rummy in their company. I wasn’t disappointed.

Then a couple of weeks beforehand, my adorable younger daughter said she was travelling up from Brighton to spend the weekend with us, and unbeknown to me had planned a visit from a dear friend on my birthday morning.

And to top it all off, my delightful oldest daughter and two grandsons visited for the day on Sunday. So it wasn’t the most restful of celebrations, but it was definitely filled with love and laughter.

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Arlene, Sandra and Kim

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Home baked chocolate cake from Kim, and cup cakes from Arlene who runs ‘Baking Dreams Come True

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What do you call a collection of chocolate? Galaxy from Barry and Lisa, dark chocolate from Helen and Lisa. It’ll last me weeks – yum!

 Parkhead Canal Festival

The experience of arriving at this event by narrowboat was memorable in itself. Ascending the three locks to the festival site, we had helpers guiding us, whilst chatting amiably about the festival and what could be expected. Narrowboats were plentiful – apparently over the weekend there were 72 on the site of which 27 were historic working boats.

We had two boats breasted up alongside us – that was a first for us! It’s quite unnerving when you’re lying in bed to feel the boat swaying as people climb across your cratch!

I think for me, Parkhead would go down as my favourite of the three Black Country boating festivals. It felt so focussed on the history of boating, and you could sense the camaraderie of the organisers and boaters as many re-connected. It’s a bi-annual event which may make a difference.

There were a number of highlights over the weekend, including:

  • A horse drawn butty demonstration. ‘Carolyn’ towed an 8-ton boat up and down the three Parkhead locks.
  • ‘The Great Dudley Duck Race’ where 1,000 plastic yellow ducks were released by the Mayor of Dudley into the pound between the top and middle lock. My grandson and I were at the finishing line, witnessing a bit of a debacle as there was some miscommunication to the paddle operators. We’d heard them saying to drop the paddles, but apparently they meant ‘drop them half way’ – so the ducks slowed down to such an extent that there was a group congregating at the end and it was literally anyones guess which one scooped the prize – no chance of a photo finish when the numbers aren’t always apparent! But it was great fun, and the announced winner received a four-day holiday on narrowboat ‘Cecilia’.
  • A ‘legging’ demonstration a short way into and out of the Dudley Tunnel on Saturday, loaded with 20 tons of coal. This tunnel boasts being the second longest in UK (if you discount the fact that it’s a little disjointed in places!).
  • At 3pm each afternoon there was the opportunity to join a 2hr electric, battery operated boat trip through the tunnel (no diesel engines allowed due to lack of ventilation), visiting the limestone mines and then being coached back to Parkhead.
  • A beer and music tent for the general public each day, selling ‘Leggers Ale’, brewed specially for the festival. On Friday and Saturday evenings, the festivities were only for boaters with their red armband on. We went on Saturday night and were entertained by a rather bawdy band called ‘Dr Busker and the Wild Rovers’. Apparently they’d toned it down somewhat from 2012 when around 50% of the audience walked out in disgust – there’s a photo below of Barry laughing raucously at one of their ditties!
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Carolyn shows off her finery along the towpath

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The Home Brew Boat trading on a cloudy but mild Saturday

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Helen and Andy with their Jam Butty

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Spectacular colour combinations and reflections

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Dr Busker and his Wild Rovers delight the audience with their slightly below the belt ballads

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Barry is beside himself at one point, tears of belly laughter rolling down his cheeks!

We had a wonderful weekend in terms of socialising and trading, and fully intend to return to this fantastic festival in 2016 – so long was Barry’s next UK visa approval in November 2015 proves successful!

Post Parkhead journeys

We’ve been down and up the Wolverhampton 21, visiting Oxley Marina to book in a multi-fuel stove fitting. It’s going to be a messy job I feel – luckily Barry managed to negotiate the job to be carried out when I’ll be on grandma duties during the school holidays at the end of October! Now we just need to buy a suitable stove …

While we were sorting out the finer details, we heard the toot of a horn and were delighted to see the lovely Pam and Terry on Rooster’s Rest cruising by. I haven’t caught up with them for ages, last time our paths crossed I was off the boat, so it was great to have a good chat and a hug or two.

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Pam and Terry, from NB Rooster’s Rest

Our whereabouts now and in the near future …

Last weekend I was with my parents, in between a night out I’d arranged to get together with some ‘old’ school friends, and had a fantastic day at the ‘UK Face and Body Art‘ convention at the Copthorne Hotel in Dudley. I’ll be at mum and dad’s again this weekend, then have a few weekends ‘free’.

We’re now tootling around the Birmingham Canal Navigations for the foreseeable future, many of which will be virgin territory for us, as our next event at The Bond in Digbeth, their autumn market, isn’t until Saturday 25th October.

Today we travelled along the Walsall Canal, descending the eight Walsall locks. We were reminded at times of the Rochdale Canal, with the shallowness and amount of debris attaching itself snuggly to the prop regularly! The heavens opened as we moved through lock seven, and thunder roared, but we continued undeterred – thankfully I was prepared with full waterproofs on and wellies!

The sky’s cleared now, it’s a Harvest Moon tonight, and we’ve decided to treat ourselves to a delayed anniversary and birthday meal somewhere amongst the delights of Walsall …

Five years later – Yes Dear

Today is the fifth anniversary of Barry and I’s first wedding! Maybe that sounds a little odd to some folk?

Family, friends and regular readers will know we were a little greedy and had two weddings, one in the northern hemisphere on the roof of our previous narrowboat Northern Pride, on the Birmingham and Fazely canal, at The Dog and Doublet, Bodymoor Heath. This wasn’t an ‘official’ or legally recognised ceremony, as we would’ve had to jump through far too many bureaucratic hoops to achieve that. We had an outrageously flamboyant Humanist celebrant, who made the occasion very special and personal. And around one hundred gregarious guests – I was also commemorating my 50th year on the planet two days later so it was a double party that night.

Our second marriage to each other was in December, on my favourite beach in the whole world, back in Gisborne.

Helen and Andy, from Wild Side, are moored next to us at the Parkhead Canal Festival ready for a weekend of wonderful trading – and tonight they’re coming round for a celebratory meal.

And the weather forecast for the weekend is looking quite splendid – we’re expecting big crowds, as well as my two daughters and grandsons.

Yes dear

On our inaugural narrow boating trip in 2009, we made friends with a number of fellow boaters. One such couple were Dave and Jan, from ‘NB Yes Dear‘, who spend the summer months aboard and return to their home in Stoke-on-Trent for the winter.

We’d not seen them since that trip, though caught a couple of glimpses recently but not been able to catch their attention.

Yesterday we finally managed to spend some time with them as we were both at The Black Country Museum

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Hurrah! We had a lovely catch up over coffee and a few whisky tastings – home brew boat flavour mixed and Dave’s Glenfiddich.

Parkhead Canal Festival

We’re here until Sunday evening, so do come along and say hi if you’re anywhere nearby, we’d love to see you.