Saturday, 30 November 2013

Don’t forget your toothbrush.

On Thursday, apart from fitting the new freezer and washing machine we spent the rest of the day packing 3 large suitcases.  Yesterday we were very kindly taken to Southampton by our kind neighbours Michelle and Nigel, to embark on the P & O cruise liner “Aurora”.


We had a lovely lunch with Nigel and Michelle in Southampton before we got on the ship.  Boarding went swimmingly – we have a great cabin, the ship is extremely well presented and impeccably maintained.  Our luggage was taken from us when we arrived and 1/2 hour later we were in our cabin with our luggage. Great!


It’s not the biggest ship in the world but you certainly can’t see the other end!


We didn’t get any pics of the whole ship before we embarked  – we’ll have to wait until we get to our first port of call for that.  This is the aft end.


As the sun set we (or rather the ships crew) got ready to leave.


Before we could leave the terminal though, Cunard’s Queen Victoria needed to leave her berth ahead of us.

Getting our cases unpacked (and the 28 shirts, which James folded yesterday, and six suits hung up!) we realised we’d forgotten to pack our toothbrushes and so we waited for the shops to open at 6 o’ clock to buy new ones before going to dinner last night.  Dress wise it was an informal evening thank goodness and we got on well with everyone on our table of eight.

We have a sea day today with our first port of call, La Coruna, coming up tomorrow morning.  There was quite a bit of swell during the night but surprisingly, now we’re in the Bay of Biscay, things have settled down.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Licenced already.

We’ve had a manic couple of days –replacing both the freezer and the washing machine (it never rains but it pours!) 


However, on Tuesday we were very surprised to receive next years boat licence 3 working days after we’d posted it.  That must be a record – or can somebody beat it!


Not much else to blog about until tomorrow but yesterday we took a walk along the sea wall – it was so calm and still you could have heard a pin drop.  The sea was the same colour as the sky so the horizon was impossible to detect and a hundred yards off shore, in the mirror calm sea, was this lone fisherman loading his catch into his dinghy.  Picture book stuff or what.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Sloe-ly does it!

We’ve been hunting for more sloes this last week to increase our stock of sloe gin for next year.  We know it’s late in the season but they’re as rare as hen’s teeth on the Manhood Peninsular (that’s the historic, and correct, name for this little bit of land that sticks out into the English Channel).


We thought the Chichester Canal might bear fruit (literally) but it didn’t.  However, we did enjoy a bit of walk at the point where the road cuts through the canal and stops the passage of craft from Chichester Harbour to the city quay.


There are plans to install a lift bridge so that the whole canal will be navigable from one end to the other.  Until then, this little patch of reeds will continue to grow next to the road and the trip boat from Chichester Quay will have to continue turning and going back.


Today our sloe hunting luck was in and we found a stash while on a walk in Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve.


Taking a break from harvesting we walked up to the old quay at Sidlesham.  Boats once sailed up to this point from the open sea but nature has a way of changing things when it wants to.  We believe there used to be a tidal mill at the quay here.


The weather was glorious today and the views over this vast area of natural harbour were wonderful.


Getting back to harvesting,  the sloes became increasingly difficult and painful to reach - and the brambles didn’t help.  Thank goodness one of us is long enough!


Back home and the  fruits of our labour:  one we made earlier (going a nice colour already) and todays efforts which need another litre of gin between them.  It will all be worth the badly scratched hands when we enjoy a glass or two with friends next year.

We’re looking forward to being afloat again at the end of the week but it wont be on ‘Chance’ this time.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Perfect party in the pub!

Last evening we took Olly to our favourite Indian restaurant in the village to join friends Philip and Neil for a meal.


Olly, Phillip, Neil and Doug enjoying after dinner drinks at the New Asian Spice – after which we popped across the road to The Seal pub  ………..


……. where we were delighted to find more local friends Andrea and Ally and Nancy and Zoe.  One wonders what story Olly was telling Doug as Andrea and Ally are definitely finding something funny.


Nancy, a very talented canine artist, and Philip both in a fit of hysteria.


We were delighted to meet Chris for the first time last night – here he is with Zoe.


Zoe tried hard with this shot to accentuate the height difference between Doug and James – pretty good attempt Zoe!  Nancy is determined not to be left out!


Doug, Nancy, James and Phillip – it was impossible to find a straight face during the evening, even for a second


More smiles from Olly, Ally, Doug and Nancy.


A rose but certainly not two thorns – Phillip with Zoe and Nancy.

Well – our impromptu party in the pub was a real hoot and it was brilliant to catch up with so many friends in one go.  A fine but late evening was had by everyone.  Thanks guys and girls for the pleasure of your company and nice to meet you Chris.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Entertaining at home!

James now has temporary crowns on two teeth while he waits for the proper ones in a weeks time.  Choosing to go private for what will be quite a bit of restoration work, it’s going to eat up all his pocket money for the foreseeable future.  With laser eye surgery also planned for early next year it’s a bit like trying to keep an old car on the road!

Changing to a much more interesting subject, yesterday evening we were delighted when Ollie (from nb Queen Maeve), who we cruised with for a while in the summer, arrived to stay with us for a couple of days.


Last evening we enjoyed a marvellous steak and kidney pudding with dauphinois potatoes and vegetables followed by lemon parfait in brandy snap baskets drizzled with raspberry coulis - all produced by Doug.  With enough Shiraz and Rioja to float a boat, all of us passed the evening with great ease.  (James did all the clearing away!) 


After a very late night (3 o’ clock in the morning!) We took a much needed walk to the village High Street, taking the long route along the beach there and back.


On the way back the sunset from the bottom of the road looking towards the Isle of Wight was its usual splendid self.


In contrast the view in the opposite direction at the same time could have been in a different part of the country.  It was from this beach that they launched some of the Mulberry Harbours, used for the D Day landings, during the Second World War.  It’s hard to imagine such action then when we enjoy such tranquillity here these days.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Home James and don’t spare the horses!

We left Paddington Basin this morning to return ‘Chance’ to Packet Boat marina and get ourselves back to Sussex.  We’ve had six brilliant days in London, a few very late nights (and mornings!), we’ve seen much and met some interesting people.  What could be better, …………..


………. apart from getting the engine started, heading for a three point turn at the end of the basin ……………..


…………. and heading out onto open water (well, imagination can be useful sometimes).


Little Venice was peaceful and looked very attractive with the last of the foliage.


Although it was sunny the cold was pretty raw for James on the back off the boat so a supply of hot mulled wine made all the difference!


They say we should never assume, and we thought we might have the canal to ourselves on a very cold November Tuesday, and although these were the only two boats we saw, the canal took on quite a busy appearance at this one spot.


Further along the Paddington Arm we got this photo (which we didn’t manage to get last time just after the storm) of this very large tree which just missed the boat in front but caught the one behind!


Turning onto the Grand Union Canal at Bulls Bridge, it was Doug’s turn on the tiller (after getting all the packing up done) while James started the clean down of the boat.  It got his circulation going again after 3 hours at the stern and also saved us some time when we got back to the marina.

With ‘Chance’ semi-wintered for the next month and the car loaded, we had a slowish journey in the rush hour back to Sussex (it made us very appreciative that we don’t have to experience it every day).


Our purchase of Trappers hats in the spring seemed a bit superfluous at the time but they came into there own for the first time today.  We couldn’t have been luckier with the weather this last week so we’re really not complaining about a little 4 1/2 hour trip in the cold back from Paddington.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Last few days.

We’ve had a great couple of nights out over the weekend.  Saturday we had a fun time in Soho when we met a group of teachers from Yorkshire who were down for the weekend to meet up with friends in London (no photos –sorry).  Sunday was a miserable day weather wise, dull, cold and drizzly,  so it was a case of staying in and keeping warm for most of the day.  The evening, however, wasn’t wasted. 


As we’re nearing the end of this short break we went to good old Compton's and met up with a few friends that we’ve had some great times with in London this year.  Here’s Doug (in mid laugh as usual) with Sid and Steven.


Today we needed some exercise and decided to venture towards Kensington.  We had a nice lunch in one of those wonderful old London pubs and, on leaving, we passed the lovely Brompton Oratory.  We had a quick look inside (glorious woodwork and marble, polished to within and inch of its life and certainly worth a look – no photos allowed) before going on to visit ………



……….. the Victoria and Albert Museum.  James has been to most of the museums in London over the years but not this one. 


Being far too big to see everything we plumped for European sculpture and Raphael paintings.  Sadly there was no photography allowed of the most wonderful (and huge) collection of Raphael artwork which is on loan from HM the Queen.


The architecture of the courtyard is surprisingly different to the main frontage of the building.


Back inside, the collection of Rodin sculptures were amazing – especially this stunning one of St John the Baptist.


Walking past the fabulous Natural History museum, which we’ve been in many times, but we couldn’t  resist a peep inside ……


…… to make sure they’d done the dusting.


We chose the route through Hyde Park to walk back to Paddington.  The trees are in the last stages of showing off their autumn colours but it was still worth seeing.  It’s turned much colder over the last couple of days but we’ve been so lucky to have such good weather for this last week.  We’re heading back and putting ‘Chance’ in the marina tomorrow as James has an expensive dental appointment in Chichester to attend soon.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Thanks Adam!

After a fairly late night last night this morning seemed to disappear before we knew it.  However, our friend Adam texted to say that Hampstead Road lock at Camden has been drained for maintenance work and gate replacement and is “open” to the public.  So, apologies for a very technical blog this time but off we trotted, eager to see the bottom of a lock (sad perhaps, we know!).


The bus took us quickly from Paddington to busy old Camden – it was a pity we weren’t on one of the super duper new Route Masters – they really are fantastic.  Comfortable, quiet, great design and you can get on and off when you want.  So good to see so many are being brought on line.


We booked ourselves into the first ‘slot’ available for trip down into the lock – it was very busy and, with 16 people per trip, the slots became full very quickly.


A view of the construction site from the footbridge.  At present the canal is still technically open by using the second lock although there’s very little traffic at the moment.


Wow! Looking towards the top gates, you can see where the lower water line is normally.  There was nearly a meter of silt and debris to be cleared to uncover the original two hundred year old floor of the lock.  The brick floor was in great condition, the sides of the lock were refaced about a hundred years ago.


The bottom cill with the new gates in place.  Each gate weighs two and a half tons and replace the previous twenty year old ones.  They are made from sustainable English oak and cost (if we can remember what we were told) more than £30,000 the pair. 


The maintenance crew found quite a lot of “treasure” during the clearing of the silt.


The bottom gates are fitted with new plastic paddles with PTFE slides to make them much easier to open.  We were reminded that they can still come detached if they’re dropped! 


It was marvellous to be able to see how and where the water comes in at the top end of the lock.  There’s a brick culvert on either side over two feet in diameter so “us boaters” can now understand why our boats can be thrown around by the huge force of water when the top paddles are opened.  During this maintenance period the seepage water is continually taken away by the sump pump so that the public keep their feet dry.


We were well looked after by the C&RT staff and volunteers and they spared no expense getting us safely in and out of the lock.


The temporary dam of wooden beams works very well at keeping the water out at the bottom end.


A view from the lock edge of the lovely new gates.

It was a real treat to go down into the lock and see the full structure and workings and we complement C&RT on their efforts at giving the public a chance to do something so special – and we have to thank Adam for his timely information which allowed us this special treat.

We had lunch on the hoof in Camden Market, where there’s more food choice than you shake a stick at, and then we walked over to Kings Cross for a lunchtime drink in a nice little pub we discovered a while back, close to the canal museum. Tonight we hope to enjoy some London Saturday nightlife in Soho.