Half way already and loving Lichfield

Hard to believe but today we’re seven weeks into our fourteen week commitment with Calendar Club at The Three Spires Shopping Centre in Lichfield. Time sure does fly when you’re having fun …

Barry and I are working surprisingly well together, sharing time in the shop and ensuring we each have regular time out. We must be doing something right as we’re featured in the latest Bulletin to Store Operators as third in the country (over 270 outlets) for the number of feedback input from the till receipts we give. When customers go to the website and complete a short five-question feedback survey, their name goes into a draw to win a £250 High Street voucher.

Barry amused himself last week on one of my days away. A customer asked where ‘the lovely lady’ was; “That’s no lady, that’s my wife,!” he told me he chortled – said he’d been waiting years to use that line. Cheeky whatsit! Continue reading

A cracking time at Crick after a challenging start

Wow! What a wonderful weekend we had at The Crick Boat Show – in spite of a particularly challenging beginning.

Our arrival on Friday turned into a bit of a tense and troubled time, as due to what seems like a communication cock-up somewhere, we had no mooring booked on the harbourmaster’s list. A case of “You’re name’s not down, you’re not coming in …” 

We almost turned around and left at one stage it was so frustrating. With a lot of too-ing and fro-ing eventually Waterways World staff managed to get the powers that be to find a solution.

Discovering later we weren’t the only ones to experience initial mooring challenges helped in some strange way. It all got sorted out eventually, but it was something we hadn’t expected and things felt rather fraught for a while after such a long journey from Alvechurch in a short space of time.

NB areandare moored at Crick Boat Show

Our eventual mooring – not the best but better than the original nothing!

Moorings at Crick Boat Show 2015

The line of booked moorings at Crick Boat Show 2015 – we were right at the end of these and around the corner (nice and quiet!)

Crick Boat Show 2015

The boats we passed on our way through to find a mooring at Crick Boat Show 2015

Guests on board and surprisingly successful seminars

Our tickets for the show had been sent to Helen and Andy, so we missed the entertainment offered on the Friday evening. Not that we’d have gone anyway – we were busily writing a few notes in readiness for the ‘Floating Businesses’ seminar the following day.

Crick Boat Show programme

Crick Boat Show seminars programme

Shortly after we arrived at the Show late on Saturday morning, I met Halfie and his lovely wife for the first time – and Bobby Cowling, Waterways World editor. I’ve corresponded with them in the past, but not met them personally.

Crick Boat Show

Half, Barry, Half’s wife Jan, Andrew Denny (aka Granny Buttons/Waterways World Assistant Editor), Andy and Helen

Our seminar spot was just after lunch on Saturday, and drew in quite a crowd. We expected Sunday to be quieter, as it was later in the day, but there was standing room only once we got started!

Waterways World boating seminars

Waterways World boating seminars

Sunday’s seminar and heaps of interested people flocked in to pick our collective brains

We were astounded at the level of interest shown in the intricacies of setting up and running floating businesses.

We all highlighted the fact that it’s a lifestyle choice, not for the fainthearted and unlikely to make you rich – though admittedly I did pick Andy up on this comment and suggested richness comes in many forms. I frequently feel wealthy beyond measure living the way we do, with the freedom, flexibility and fresh air we experience.

The panel members had a mix of business and boating experience.

  • Barry and I running three businesses – The Home Brew Boat, Funtastic facepainting and Awakening Your Life Coaching – living aboard as continuous cruisers and needing to make enough to live on
  • Helen and Andy who run Wild Side, the hedgerows finest preserves, who have just downsized their bricks-and-mortar home in preparation for Andy’s early retirement next year when they plan to live aboard and trade for six-months of the year (unsurprisingly it won’t include the winter months!)
  • Paul O’Leary who is a waterways artist and recently began trading from his boat which he lives aboard
  • Sarah Henshaw who lives aboard her boat ‘The Book Barge‘, which she took out cruising for six months a few years ago and wrote a book about her experience (it’s an extremely entertaining read and thoroughly recommended ‘The Bookshop that Floated Away‘). Sarah is now Assistant editor at Waterways World, and continues to open her bookshop at Barton Marina on a Saturday.

It’ll be interesting to see what transpires in the future as a direct result of the seminars – I’ll keep you posted!

Music and cheer at Crick

Having Helen and Andy staying on board Areandare is always special, and last weekend was no exception. Of course it included a few obligatory games of six-handed-rummy. That game of either luck or skill, depending on whether Andy’s winning or not!

It also would’ve been rude not to partake of a pint or two of the wide range of beer and cider on offer, and listen to some of the musicians.

Crick Show beer tent

The Crick Show beer and music tent

Sampling the beer at the Crick Boat Show

Barry and Andy sampling a beer or two at the Crick Boat Show

One of the highlights for many people was Hazel O’Connor who headlined on Sunday evening.

Taking Andy, Helen and I mesmerisingly back to our youth (though not Barry, it seems Hazel didn’t get to Gisborne, New Zealand), she and her all female ensemble gave a very powerful performance.

Andy originally felt they’d be best to leave in the late afternoon and not wait for Hazel who didn’t start until 2110hrs. I was hitching a lift back with them, which entailed an hour’s drive, ready to travel to my daughter’s this morning.

He wasn’t staying, that is, until he and Barry spotted her warming up on stage and he managed to get some really amazing photos of her – and he’s also certain she caught his eye and beckoned him to stay!

The photos are already on his blog so do check them out, as they’re far better than my attempt …

Hazel O'Connor at the Crick Boat Show

My best shot with an iPhone – Hazel O’Connor at the Crick Boat Show

For many people the Crick Show is about looking at boats – as we see them all the time and have no interest in buying another one, that part passed us by, especially as you had to book in advance to get inside any of them (which Helen and Andy did so they could plagiarise kitchen storage designs) …

 Where to next?

That’s a very good question!

I’m now at my daughter’s in Malpas, having time with my gorgeous grandsons.

Barry I believe, left Crick yesterday afternoon heading north. I return to the boat sometime on Friday at a yet to be determined location. Our next planned boating festival is in Middlewich the weekend of 20th June. In the meantime I’ll be facepainting at Throckmorton Airshow in Pershore on Saturday 6th June. Barry will be line-manager which will be amazing – and a fellow facepainter is coming to share the event alongside me, as ticket sales of 15,000 felt rather too large for one person to handle.

Being human on the waterways

It’s an infinitely fascinating life living on a narrowboat, cruising and trading on the canals as we do.

Unfortunately the weather’s been attempting to drown us with squally showers and intermittent hail, with a dash of sunshine thrown in to keep our spirits up. I’ve had to keep my waterproof trousers and coat on, as well as wellington boots. I even wore my thermal long sleeved top under my clothes for a couple of days as it was so cold.

Travelling down south wasn’t on our itinerary this year, so it’s been a delight to unexpectedly return to canals we’ve not seen since 2009.

Consequently the captain has been in his element snapping away, and he’s given me some images to share (there’s a few more to come from Tardebigge but I’ll save those for another post) …

Hatton flight

Descending the Hatton Flight – you don’t see a guy wearing shorts (on a rainy day), and carrying a surf/wave board very often in these parts!

Hatton lock Flight

21 locks in this flight – 79 on our journey to Crick!

Cape locks

It’s getting busy down here – waiting for a boat to come out of one of the Cape locks …

Grand Union Canal

Turners Green, we’re now on the Grand Union Canal just south of Kingwood Junction

Shrewley Tunnel

Entering Shrewley Tunnel – Barry gets a break from driving. There’s a horse tunnel to the side, which if you walk along takes you to a suburban street which you walk across to get to the path to the other side of the tunnel

Shrewdly Tunnel

Shrewley Tunnel through Barry’s eyes

Ball's Bridge

Looking towards Ball’s Bridge as we continue towards the Hatton Flight

Hatton Locks

Huge feeling double locks with monster sized gates and stiff paddles – our mooring for the night on Monday

Cottage window

A cottage window catches Barry’s eye

Evening light at Hatton Locks

A calm and colourful evening light at Hatton following a diverse weather day

Hatton flight

Starting out Tuesday – loads more locks to get through!

P1630845

Hatton locks

It’s always best to share a lock whenever possible – saves on the work and water!

Canal side cottage

A picturesque cottage by the canal – is this a clematis?

Cape of Good Hope pub

What a quaint pub we sadly didn’t get time to visit, especially discovering that it’s actually run by a group of kiwis! Sorry Steve, Steve and Emma and the Cape Crew!

NB Areandare

Hovering as we wait for another lock to empty …

The week so far has been amazing – and it’s only Friday! There’s still the weekend to come which holds much promise – expected and otherwise I’ve no doubt.

Meeting fellow boaters

Not long after we started our journeys on Areandare, we met Leonie and Ray from ‘NB Firefly’ at Calf Heath. They’d been blog readers for a while and had arrived in UK in April 2013 ready to do their own narrow boating and blogging adventures. Originating in Napier, New Zealand, they lived in one of the closest ‘big’ towns to Gisborne, Barry’s home town. Hard to imagine here in England, but that’s a three-hour drive along a mostly winding, single lane highway.

I had a coaching client Wednesday morning, and Barry had a Home Brew Boat order delivery to make. Shortly after finishing my call, I heard the engine of a passing boat and a knocking on our roof. Peeking out there was Ray and Leonie standing on the back of their boat, with a couple of their friends from NZ. They’d already seen Barry and had a chat.

NB Firefly crew

They were all enjoying a final trip on Firefly, delivering it to the new owners. Like Paul and Elaine, from NB Caxton, they’re now the proud owners of a motorhome and are planning a European adventure in the near future.

We wish you lots of happy times exploring the beauty of our neighbouring countries.

Mooring a while later in Braunston, I heard a knock at the side hatch and saw a couple standing with Barry. I looked carefully for signs of recognition but am ashamed to admit I had no idea who they were!

Andy and Sue from NB Festine Lente who have been regular commenters on our blog for many years. Barry met them previously on one of the (many!) times I’ve not been on board. They’ve been cruising for two years now, popping back occasionally to their home on The Isle of Man.

Andy and Sue NB Festine Lente

Braunston Marina

Braunston Marina

Braunston Marina

Braunston Marina

Braunston Marina

Braunston Marina

Feeding the swans

Before we leave Braunston we saw these gorgeous cygnets – Barry the swan whisperer!

We enjoyed a few drinks with Andy and Sue at The Plough in Braunstone on Wednesday evening, then last night moored up nearby and continued getting to know them convivially on the towpath and aboard Areandare. What lovely people – so envious of them being retired at similar ages to us and having an income!

Chilling on the towpath

Chilling on the towpath

Then again, if we weren’t trading on board we wouldn’t have met so many people or been in the news …

Humans of the Waterways

You may recall a blog post from Middlewich in April (click here to read), when we spoke of meeting Alice and Adam from Manchester? Their organisation had been given a 12 month contract by CaRT to produce stories of ‘Humans of the Waterways’, and we chatted to them at length about our journeys.

We’d almost forgotten about this until Barry opened up an email yesterday morning and saw our faces smiling back at him!

We ARE the faces of the current CaRT newsletter, and the most recent story from the Tumblr Blog – http://humansofthewaterways.tumblr.com. They’ve written an inspiring piece about us which is very timely as we approach Crick and our upcoming seminar ‘Running a Business on a Boat’ alongside Sarah Henshaw of The Book Barge, and Helen and Andy Tidy of Wild Side.

Screenshot of our 'story'

How fantastic!

There’ll be much more to share with you from the coming few days so watch this space.

Next week I’m back up in Malpas granny sitting while Barry moves Areandare back up north slowly. Our next event is Funtastic Facepainting at Throckmorton Airshow on Saturday 6th June – though we’re definitely not arriving there by narrowboat!