It feels fabulous to be on the move again after sitting still in Worcester Marina since 1st December. Barry, as you can imagine, is in his element.
And I’m getting used to not having the electric hook and being unable to start the heating before we get up in the morning (time to harden up!) …
We’ve travelled from Worcester to Stourport on the fast-flowing River Severn, then on to Kidderminster where I made the most of the UK public transport system and jumped on a bus to mum’s this week to continue wading through the necessary paperwork to get everything in mum’s name and sort out the finances. I’m almost there …
A few memories of Worcester from the master’s eyes …
Higgledy piggledy buildings abound
Our favourite place to walk – Friar St
Still standing after all these years
A multi-storey black and white building – amazing!
Barry’s favourite pub – The King Charles House – they even had a loyalty card, buy 7 get the 8th one free, as if he needs any such encouragement!
The lock exit to the river – make sure the river level’s not in the red
A few locks to get to Birmingham!
Another way of seeing Worcester Cathedral
Lots of activity on the river
Sandra’s all kitted out in her life-jacket ready for the river trip to Stourport
A last look at the Cathedral on a beautiful blue sky day
Which arch shall we use?
A fast flowing river
The mooring we used a few weeks ago when our NZ friends were here – not so muddy anymore
A few desirable residences adorn the banks
Who lives in a house like this?
Rather majestic, unlikely to be anyone we know …
Swans in flight – a rare but powerful sight (and sound!)
The Camp House Inn at Grimley – where we’d planned to take our NZ friends in early February had the river levels been safe
To Stourport and Kidderminster …
Moored up ready for one of the big river locks
Entering Bevere Lock – one lock keeper on duty out of season who drove from lock to lock for us – though it was much quicker by car than against the current by narrowboat!
Another unknown large house near the river
I’d rather be travelling by boat …
What a spectacular cottage, I wonder if they realise how fortunate they are to live here?
Approaching Stourport, an eclectic mix of vessels
It’s a barren river bank without the leaves on the trees
The old vinegar factory just outside Stourport, and the upgraded concrete barrier opened September 2014 which helps to divert ‘dirty’ River Stour water from the Severn
Colourful bridge across the Severn – there’s not many road bridges
Back in Stourport, one of the best canal towns in England, a town built around the canal which opened in 1771. Prior to that there had been a small hamlet called Lower Mitton. By 1780 the town was expanding rapidly
The upper basin was closed when we arrived – the wall at the rear of the fairground, Treasure Island, was causing some concerns
The River King trip boat
As the upper basin was closed we had to negotiate the big double locks instead
Charming river-side cottages
Barry loves Stourport Basin!
Viaduct which carries the steam train travelling from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth
Arriving in Kidderminster
On Thursday we made the short journey to Wolverley, cutting through the orange stone walls heading towards Kinver, where we visited the famous ‘Rock Houses‘ on Saturday. Barry walked around them with his sister Jenny in 2013 while I was coaching a client by Skype, on the boat. They weren’t open that day so they weren’t able to peek inside. This time they were, and we did! Well worth the £3.60 entrance fee to National Trust.
We’re pretty confident, along with many others, that Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings Hobbit houses in Hobbiton, NZ, could’ve been based on the rock houses, as he originated Birmingham, the true ‘Middle Earth’. There’s definitely similarities as you’ll see from the photos to follow in another post.
On Saturday evening, we walked by torchlight, dodging the puddles, to The Anchor at Counsall, after moving a short way up the canal. Barry had been recommended by a number of people to visit this unique pub, opened in 1840 and owned by the same family for 70 years. They’d had a big day watching the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Landlord is apparently quite a fan of horse racing.
Yesterday we were in Stourbridge, and for mother’s day treated ourselves to a pie and pint at The Duke William, another delightful English pub. In fact Barry decided the steak and ale pie was the best he’s tasted in England. Considering it’s supposed to be a British speciality, we’ve been disappointed by most pies here – NZ pies could outshine most of them hands down!
UK visa challenges and opportunities
Staying at mum’s last week I was innocently listening to the TV with one ear (I generally avoid the box), while reading a book. Mostly the news holds little interest to me, but there was a feature on ‘BBC The One Show’ about the anomalies of the current spousal sponsored UK visa application process, since the government shifted the goal posts in July 2012 – unbeknownst to us until November that year when we’d already sold our house! We’d expected a fairly simple process, over two years. Ha! They changed it to five years, and included stringent financial requirements. Had I wanted to live in a house, or on a boat statically in a marina, I could’ve just got a job as a midwife in the NHS here. And met their requirements easily.
That was never my intention, and I suspect unlikely ever to be …
So my ears understandably pricked up at the news, hoping that by some miracle they’d decided to change the rules back.
No such luck.
The story featured two married couples, the wife of each was Australian, the husband British. Neither couple, through no fault of their own, were able to meet the new financial rules. The younger couple even had a small daughter. They’d met while he was in Australia, married and had a baby. Then he was diagnosed with a kidney problem entailing his return to UK for treatment. Anyway, I shan’t go into the ins and outs here, as to be fair I don’t really know them, but suffice it to say it seems that thousands of legitimate marriages each year are being denied entry to UK since this new ruling.
While I totally understand the British Government’s need to be seen to be ‘doing something’ about the number of people claiming benefits, it feels very much as though they have picked on the only people they are able to ‘control’ to do this. It is causing intolerable pain to loving couples, committed to each other, but unable to be together.
For Barry and I, we have a bit of an uphill struggle to deal with now. We will have the required cash savings of £62,500 available (we had it previously due to the sale of our houses in NZ, topped up recently by Barry’s mum’s legacy), and mostly in ISAs (tax-free ‘Individual Savings Accounts’ from those not from these parts) by April. It’ll have to remain there for a minimum of six months before we make his next application in mid-October this year.
We have a small ‘buffer’ amount, but otherwise it’s time to put our heads to the grindstone and make our businesses work. I’ve been a little preoccupied of late caring for dad. Something I shall never regret prioritising.
As anyone who’s started a small business is likely to testify, the first year or two rarely bring profit. Ours are no different! Mine especially haven’t received a high amount of energy and focus.
However I now live by the philosophy that we can always make more money, but we can never make more time …
Listening to the stories on the TV made me feel very humbled too. If all goes to pot and we don’t manage to tick all the boxes (and believe me there are many!) on the immigration forms, we have options that mean we can still live together in NZ, as I have permanent residency there obtained in my own right (unless they’ve been sneaky and changed the rules there too while we’ve been away!).
But boy it would be a wrench now to leave my elderly mum, and my daughters, and grandsons, and return to NZ within the next 12 months.
So we’ve been researching and making notes for a while about what boxes we must tick, to convince the powers that be that we’re a legitimate couple, who won’t be ravaging the public purse …