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!

More Spring Market news from Captain Ahab

Barry didn’t get much of a chance to take photographs at The Spring Market last Saturday. Not that we’re complaining, he had a whole heap of folks interested in his boat-full of all things home-brew related.

However, he’s promised me there will be a selection of his exceptional photos available to post in the near future – from the festivals and our travels.

In the meantime, the incredibly talented writer and photographer Andy Tidy captured the atmosphere of the day marvellously.

Click here to read all about it – additionally for us, we get a few ego stroking mentions. Thank you Andy. We love you too.

Andy's photo of my self-painted flower power face

Andy’s photo of my self-painted flower power face

Helen did confide in me that Andy had spent a disproportionate amount of time chatting amiably to people around and about the site – including Barry of course! Well he had little choice really, and was suitably forgiven. It was, after all, his birthday.

And he’d been gifted with a £25 ‘voucher’ from his brother-in-law to spend at The Home Brew Boat. He’d also been one of the two lucky winners of the banner competition we held on Facebook, so he had £20 to spend from that too.

Yes, he was the originator of the ‘Get your kit off‘ part of the banner …

Get you kit off - the home brew crew

Get you kit off – the home brew crew

We’re on our way to The Floating Market in Alvecote for easter weekend. If you’re in the area, do come and see us.

One of only two ‘hand-picked’ boats – what a magnificent beginning

We did it!

Our first ever day of trading as ‘The Home Brew Boat‘, and ‘Funtastic Facepainting by Sandra‘.

And it was a wonderful way to begin our new journey at The Spring Market in Digbeth. We hadn’t realised until the day before that we were privileged to be one of only two ‘hand-picked’ narrowboats trading there.

Admittedly the weather could’ve been kinder; it was overcast and cool much of the day. On the bright side though, the sun poked his head out of the cloud cover intermittently, and most importantly it was dry!

We’d moored the night before below Camp Hill Locks on The Grand Union Canal. Not in a recognised mooring spot – but on the bollards which are there for boaters waiting to go into the locks we assume. But it’s ok. There was no notice saying ‘Don’t’, so we figured we could. And the delightful Sarah from The Book Barge, moored right next to us.

The only other option was ascending five locks to the facilities at Camp Hill, then descending again on the Saturday morning! A journey that would’ve taken a minimum of an hour each way, and one we wanted to avoid. We’d hoped to moor at The Bond, but sadly their security arrangements couldn’t allow it as we’d have been setting off the infra-red alarms all night.

The inspirational Sarah Henshaw - author of 'The Book Shop That Floated Away'

The inspirational Sarah Henshaw – author of  The Book Shop That Floated Away

Sarah bought her boat in 2009, and turned it into a floating book shop. Although the venture didn’t prove as successful as she’d initially hoped, she didn’t give up or give in. She left any comfort zones she may’ve previously been inhabiting, floated away on a six-month adventure, bartering her books for services she needed, and in the process wrote a book about it all.

What an inspiration to anyone with a dream to manifest. Sarah’s a living example of how dreams rarely just ‘happen’; they take visualisation, effort, commitment, fortitude – and a whole heap of passion, planning and self-belief.

So inspirational in fact, that her Book Barge has featured in The Huffington Post in an article on ‘The World’s Great Book Shops’, and on Friday and yesterday she was filmed by a cameraman from the BBC.

The BBC filming on The Book Barge

The BBC filming on board The Book Barge

Our boating buddies Helen and Andy, aka Captain Ahab and crew, were also trading at the Spring Market. It happened to be Andy’s birthday, too so we celebrated in the evening with an Indian meal.

Helen and Andy set up their stall for their Wild Side jams and chutneys – and so much more

Although we didn’t make mountains of money yesterday, we made enough to cover our expenses – and most importantly, we learnt a great deal about what worked well and those aspects needing a bit of fine tuning for future events. Life, after all, is a continual learning process …

Banner and bunting in place on the Home Brew Boat

Banner and bunting in place on the Home Brew Boat

Lots of folks interested in getting their kits off - The Home Brew Boat!

Lots of folks interested in getting their kits off – The Home Brew Boat!

I adored the facepainting, there was a couple of hours in the afternoon when I hardly glanced further than the people at the front of my table or the cute child whose face I was transforming. The hours of preparation and practice really paid off. I’ve kept my designs fairly simple to begin with, with  a vision of expanding as I gain more experience and improve my techniques.

Arm painting in action! Not everyone wants their face adorned ;-)

Arm painting in action! Not everyone wants their face adorned 😉

A huge thank you to those people who came to support us – especially our friend from NZ Gavin’s dad John, his brother and family (above), and our long-time blog reader another John, and a fellow professional photographer so he and Barry always have heaps to talk about.

I’m hoping to have more photos to publish tomorrow – from the master’s camera!