A VIF on board Areandare from Newark to Saxilby

Managing the more than 2,000 miles of Inland waterways of the United Kingdom must be a mammoth task. In 2009 and 2010, when we first ventured to live aboard a narrowboat and enjoy all these treasures, they were maintained by British Waterways (BW). In July 2012, the year before we returned, British Waterways was transformed into the Canal and River Trust (CRT); emerging as a Charity in July 2012.

Richard Parry took over the helm as Chief Executive in July 2013 (just a few months after we arrived ‘indefinitely’), to steer this new body forward. As with most things in life, you’ll never please all the people all the time. Many you’ll never please whatever you do, for whatever reason they decide. We’re all looking through our unique lens with a lifetime of differing viewpoints and perspectives.

Barry and I love Richard. From OUR experiences since that time. Hence the headline – he’s a VIP of course, in the real meaning of the word; but to us he’s a VIF – a Very Important Friend. Continue reading

A bostin weekend at the Black Country Boating Festival 2015

Having had three very pleasant kiwi visitor episodes in August and early September, the most recent lasting eleven days and nights, we’re understandably a touch out of synch on blog posting.

I also managed to squeeze in a long weekend in Brighton with one NZ buddy …

Visitors to NB Areandare

Anna and Andy just before they left us on Friday 12th September, after arriving on 1st September – the final day of the IWA Festival of Water

Barry’s handed over some stunning images of our trip down and up (I find it strange too, but that’s apparently how we did it!) the River Nene last month, so I fully intend to post those along with a few stories in the near future.

I did, however, want to update everyone as to where we’ve just been, and where we’re heading next …

Trading in The Black Country

There’s a very distinct dialect spoken by true folks from The Black Country. I’m mostly au fait with it having lived for three years in Kidderminster doing nurse training in the late 1970s, but Barry struggles to comprehend the really strong accents.

Black Country dialect

Here’s a great example …

We love the area and people though – and returning to Bumble Hole for our second consecutive Black Country Boating Festival last weekend was ‘bostin’! That’s a word I’d forgotten until we chatted with a fellow boater called Wayne yesterday when memories came flooding back. It basically means ‘great’ or ‘excellent’.

It’s purported that 80% of the words used in the Black Country are from Anglo Saxon descent – so in a nutshell it’s really more English than the language we’re used to!

Here’s a few more examples found on a google search to titilate your imagination:

  • “Bladdered” which means very drunk!
  • “Clammed” which means very hungry!
  • “Conk” or ” Yed” which both mean head.
  • “Donny” which means hand.
  • “Gob” which means mouth.
  • “Gawk” which means stare
  • “Riffy” which means dirty, unclean
  • “Suck” which means sweets
  • “Wammel” which means animal
  • “Yampy” which means someones a bit mad, crazy or daft in the head

Bumble Hole Nature Reserve, once a hub of industrial activity, is definitely worth a visit. Amidst the urbanisation of the area it’s a veritable peace piece of paradise.

Bumble Hole Nature reserve

The view from the top of the hill

Bumble Hole Nature reserve

Anna and I had a long walk above the canal before she and Andy left us last Friday

It was the 30th anniversary of the BCBF. Proudly organised and run totally by volunteers (they are AMAZING), it attracts over 10,000 visitors a year, and has helped raise over £100,000 for local and national charities.

The weather mostly held for everyone thankfully after so many people had put in such hard work to organise and attend the event.

For us, as well as a great trading opportunity, it was also terrific to spend precious time with fellow boaters and welcome visitors who came to specially to see us (sorry we forgot to get a photo Adele and Andy!).

Wild Side jam making

Anna visits Helen on board Wandr’ing Bark to watch her Wild Side jam making wonders

Stoning foraged damsons for Wild Side jam making

Andy Stoning foraged damsons for Wild Side jam making – following a recent ‘letter to the editor’ in Waterways World I thought I’d snap him in the act!

The Home Brew Boat at the BCBF 2015

Barry trading as The Home Brew Boat at the BCBF 2015 – great sales on the liqueur flavours, in fact probably the best ever!

The Home Brew Boat at the BCBF 2015

Always a huge footfall!

Wild Side at the BCBF 2015

Helen happily sitting in the shade selling her delicious jams and chutneys (‘scrummy yummy’ as it aptly says above her in fact!)

Golden Boyz Doggy Gifts

Sandra Willis all set up on Friday lunchtime to sell her Golden Boyz Doggy Gifts

The Glass Barge

First time we’ve traded with The Glass Barge – Pam and Andy Kallender,who welcome people on board their narrowboat to view their divine glass jewellery made in their floating workshop

Always great support from CaRT

Whatever anyone disparagingly says about the echelons of the Canal and River Trust (CaRT), we’ve only ever had positive experiences.

Richard Parry, the Chief Executive, is one of the friendliest people we’ve met on ‘the cut’, and has arrived at almost every canal-side trading event we’ve been at in 18 months – remembering they’re held at weekends this is a tremendous achievement and we really appreciate his support.

Tony Hales Cart Chairman

Barry and Tony Hales CaRT Chairman, with just ten days left before he steps down from the role

Richard Parry, CaRT CEO

Barry with Richard Parry, CaRT CEO – we think he’s been to every trading event apart from a couple since we’ve been in business

Where to next?

Lots of our fellow traders are off to Titpon this weekend for their annual event. Having been unsuccessful in communicating with the organisers earlier this year, and  been specifically invited to trade at the bi-annual Huddlesford Heritage Gathering in Lichfield, that’s where we’ll be moving towards from tomorrow.

I’ve got a few (online) Life Coaching clients booked in along the way, so we’ll be spreading the journey out in between sessions.

Happily I’ll be facepainting in Lichfield as well as Barry selling his home brew wares – I wasn’t able to at the BCBF as they have a gorgeous colleague who returns each year as she’s a local resident. Having been in contact with her through Facebook, it was a pleasure to meet and chat with Louise (aka Painting Pixie) on Sunday.

We think it’s going to be a rather soggy journey heading north east – autumn is setting in and bringing cool weather with her. Almost time to light the fire!

The Home Brew Boat’s first and last festivals of 2014

Before our initial six-month narrow boating adventure in April 2009, Barry spent months voraciously reading waterways related blogs. One of the main ones he relished was Andrew Denny’s ‘Granny Buttons’. We were understandably thrilled to meet him in person on our second venture from NZ to UK, in May 2010, when we fortuitously moored next to his boat one evening, and, after phoning him, despite not being on board, he got in his car and drove to see us.

Andrew hasn’t written his intriguing and incredibly popular blog for over two years now, mainly due to time constraints since he became Assistant Editor at Waterways World. His snippets of on-line wisdom are missed, but his contribution to the publication are many fold, and we enjoy hearing his tales of the latest news ‘on the cut’.

You’ll have gathered that we hold him in high esteem, and have been fortunate enough to meet up with him a few times since returning ‘indefinitely’ in 2013.

Last week we were delighted to discover him in Birmingham at the same time as us, and we enjoyed a couple of evenings together.


Enjoying a drink and a catch up on board Areandare with Andrew


An autumnal evening in Birmingham, snuggled up next to nb Granny Buttons

On Thursday evening we met Andrew at a ‘Wine Merchant and Tasting House’ in Birmingham, called Loki’s. With over 900 fine wines available to purchase, all way out of our price range, we got to sample one of their 24 in-house ‘tasting’ wines. I had a rather delicious Pinot Noir from New Zealand, my favourite.

I may be biased, but the wine Barry makes on the boat comes a very close second to it, and for a fraction of the price, but it was lovely to be out drinking fine wine—thank you Andrew.


Andrew and Barry walking through Great Western Arcade after our little tipple at Loki’s (the arms around each other was for the camera—I think!

The Bond – first and last festivals of 2014

Shortly after we had set up The Home Brew Boat earlier this year, we received an unexpected email from Jenny, one the organisers of The Bond, Digbeth’s ‘Seasonal Markets’, inviting us to come in April 2014 to The Bond Spring Market. We were honoured to be one of only two boats at the event, our companion being Sarah Henshaw on The Book Barge, during her book launch tour for the laugh-out-loud funny and extremely well-written ‘The Book Shop that Floated Away‘.

The Spring Markey was my first foray into Facepainting, and The Home Brew Boat’s inaugural event.

What a long way we’ve travelled since then!

We didn’t get to their summer market, but as we were going to be in the area we contacted Jenny to see if they had a space for us at their autumn market. Fortunately they had. It’s quite a different atmosphere to a canal festival with only two boats visiting and trading.


The sun shone intermittently to keep the crowds coming

And guess who showed up for a chat?

Yes, Richard Parry, CEO or CaRT! We are incredulous that he’s been at every single festival we’ve traded at this year. Whatever some people may think about CaRT, and what’s going well or needs improvement, I challenge anyone who doesn’t believe in Richard’s commitment to the waterways of the UK. We love him, thank you for your support and we hope to chat again soon.


Richard Parry chats with Alison Tuck, from Da Vinci Crafts


A great location, Barry was kept busy talking about his favourite subject all day!

Yesterday we travelled back up the 19 locks to Birmingham, and today Barry will be heading to Wolverhampton where he’ll be descending the 21 locks alone, and heading to Oxley Marina. I’m off to Malpas on grandma duty until Saturday.

My hope is that by the time I return, there will have been a multi-fuel stove fitted in our living area, as well as a part of the wall dividing that area and the kitchen cut away so I’m not so cut off from guests when they’re on board.

I suspect the most likely scenario will be a boat full of work-in-progress, we shall see!