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  • clivenmel

April 12th

Normal 0 false false false st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} Good Friday was anything but good!  It didn�t get off to a bad start � it just deteriorated!   First of all Clive had commented the night before about how peaceful it was at this mooring in Kintbury � I totally agreed with him apart from the fact that we were moored right next to the railway station and every now and again a train would roar past!  However, they were few and far between so they didn�t really disturb us.  When we got up on Friday morning I decided to go and check out the three car parks to see which would be best for Vicki to park the car in when they arrived later in the afternoon � it turned out to be the BW one right next to the canal.   When I got up to the bridge though this is the sight that greeted me!   Crowds of people and the local Scouts even had a refreshment stand set up in the BW car park, serving drinks, sandwiches and bacon rolls!  What on Earth is going on I asked myself � I hadn�t a clue!  So the only thing to do was ask somebody � the answer was �the 61st Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race�!  This is a brief description of the event from the official website: www.dwrace.org.uk   The Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race starts in Devizes, Wiltshire and finishes just downstream of Westminster Bridge in London, opposite the Houses of Parliament. The race has been held annually over the Easter Weekend since 1948.   The race is 125 miles long and has 77 portages. The first 52 miles are along the Kennet and Avon Canal, the next 55 miles are on the River Thames and the final section is on the tidal portion of the Thames.    The race is a severe test of skill and stamina which produces a memorable sense of achievement for those successfully completing it. The non-stop version of the race is the longest non-stop canoe race in the world.   I went back to the boat and fetched Clive, firstly because I thought he would be interested in watching some of the competitors coming through and also because I thought it would be a good idea to have one of the Scout�s bacon rolls for breakfast!  We hadn�t been there long, had just finished our rolls in fact, when we saw the first canoe coming towards us.  Where we were all standing was right at the side of the lock � the canoeists don�t go through the locks, they pull into the bank, climb out and lift the canoe out of the water then carry it along the towpath, beyond the lock, in this instance that also entailed crossing the road, then down the other side, put the canoe back ino the water, climb in, then set off again! It's called portage! Whilst we were standing watching them a couple of girls came running past with their canoe and the ladies who had been telling us all about the race informed us that these two girls were actually too young to participate in the race really but had been given a special dispensation as they are part of the Team GB Olympic squad!  Their names are Naomi and Isabel Smith � better watch out for them in 2012!  We were also told that James Cracknell was competing in the non-stop race so we would be keeping an eye out for him too.   Soon they were coming through thick and fast and there was lots of cheering going on.  We ascertained that the Juniors race the course over four days.  They have to be 15 years of age by the day of the race and they are allowed to camp each night and feed themselves but they can�t be assisted by their parents!  However, they�re allowed to be fed and watered at the  portage spots so there were lots of mums and dads standing around armed with boxes of refreshments and as their kids arrived they would run alongside them as they were carrying their canoes stuffing chocolate and biscuits into their mouths!   After a while of watching this spectacle we finally decided to go back to the boat and prepare for Vicki, Gareth and Indeia to arrive.  We stashed the guitars into the wardrobe and stowed everything we could away to make as much space as possible � there is not a lot of room on a narrowboat and it shrinks considerably when you add more bodies!   Eventually we got a call from Gareth to say they had arrived in the car park so I dashed out with ten pound coins to feed the meter � this meant the car could stay for 72 hours altogether.  We unloaded all the bags from the car and got everything on board then I put the kettle on and made a load of sandwiches for lunch.    It was great to see them all, especially Indeia, we do miss her a lot!   We were having spaghetti Bolognese for dinner, which only required the spaghetti to be cooked as I had made the sauce earlier.  So we decided to go for a walk along the towpath for some fresh air and exercise.  Gareth was in two minds whether to go or not but in the end he decided to come with us.  We had a lovely walk and saw another mother duck with lots of tiny babies � Indy was delighted!  At one point she pulled some grass up and threw it into the water and the ducklings shot across the water altogether and converged on the grass thinking it was something to eat � how do they know how to do that!   Then we walked back along the towpath and decided the pub would probably be open by now so we could have a quick drink before dinner.   After our drink we set off back to the boat � Indy was being a bit of minx and wouldn�t do as she was told!  I was getting extremely nervous because of the proximity to the water!  Gareth was a bit exasperated with her as she kept throwing her hair slide on the ground and just generally being a brat! (she was probably just hungry and a bit tired)  He was carrying her jacket, because she wouldn�t put it on, he was also carrying his own jacket over his arm.  Just as we arrived at the boat she threw her slide into the canal, Gareth bent forward to grab her arm to get her onto the boat, then disaster!  His mobile phone slipped out of the pocket of his jacket and managed to slip down an inch wide gap between the boat and the bank!!  I don�t think I need to convey here just how upset and angry he was � we all know how much our mobiles mean to us and how much info we keep on them!  Gareth�s phone also had lots of photographs of Indy from when she was a baby right up to present day, plus lots of videos he had taken of her.  He was absolutely devastated!  I whisked Indy out of the way and got her settled on the boat � she was very upset herself by now as she realised something bad had happened and that daddy was very, very cross!  By the time I got back up to the stern Gareth had stripped to his underwear and was in the water desperately trying to find the phone in the hope of retrieving the sim card with all the data on � he was shivering and blue!  The water was very, very cold.  In the end we had to almost drag him out of the water because he didn�t want to stop searching for it.  I dashed inside and got the shower ready so he could warm up and get clean straight away.  While he was in the shower I made a Heath-Robinson affair using my sieve strapped to the boat-pole with Velcro strips and Clive trawled with it but all to no avail, in the end after about half an hour we just had to give in � its gone.  Gareth is absolutely distraught � he had so many contact numbers on it, including companies he has been applying to for jobs etc but it was the loss of his photos and videos that has upset him the most.  He said later � �I just knew I shouldn�t have gone with you this afternoon, I had a bad feeling, I should have just stayed on board and read my book�!   Let this be a lesson to all of us � back up your phones!  Gareth thinks he may have transferred some of the photos onto his pc at home � let�s hope so.   Well you would think that things couldn�t get worse � you�d be wrong!  About midnight as we were all settling into bed Vicki needed her reading glasses and we discovered to our horror that she had left her handbag in the pub!  Everything but her mobile phone was in it (that had been in her pocket) � car keys; house keys; wallet; iPod etc etc!  Gareth got up and got dressed again bless him and hot footed it along the tow path and over the bridge to the pub but by that time it was all shut up so he came back empty handed!  Needless to say, none of us slept very well that night!   Saturday 11th April - The pub�s phone number was actually in our canal book so I phoned them in the morning as soon as we woke up and sure enough they had found her handbag � phew!  Clive went and fetched it straight away and Vicki was very relieved to be reunited with it.  A little while later after breakfast we decided to head off to Hungerford.  Gareth was very subdued and stayed inside reading but Vicki and Indy (resplendent in her dayglo orange lifejacket!) came up on deck whilst we were cruising and even came to help at the lock. There were lots more canoeists coming along the canal on their way from Devizes and I have to say they all looked ever so tired!  You have to admire anybody that takes on such a gruelling endurance race!   We soon arrived in Hungerford and managed to fill up with water first of all.  Vicki went along the towpath to suss out the moorings and came back and reported that there was just enough space left for one boat!   We quickly stowed the hose away and set off again and just managed to sneak into the moorings before another boat came along � phew that was close! It really is a lovely mooring, right in the middle of the town with a village green next to it.  Indy had a lovely time feeding the ducks and swans with Granddad � we were laughing at the size of the swan � it was taller than Indy!   After that we left Gareth on board reading and the rest of us went off to explore the centre of Hungerford and do a bit of shopping.  We had planned to have a snack lunch and then go out for a meal in the evening at one of the local restaurants however we came across a takeaway up in the town and decided that we would all prefer to stay on board and have a Chinese, so that is just what we did and it was lovely.  Soon after we had finished our meal Clive was looking out of the window watching out for bats and showing them to Indy � I don�t think she has ever seen a bat before!  However whilst they were bat-watching another canoe came past in the dark, each of the canoeists were wearing headlights!  There were people standing on the opposite bank waiting for them and we heard a plaintive wail from the canoe �I�m soooooo hungry� Bless!   Easter Sunday, April 12th � as I had mentioned earlier, Vicki had left the car in the BW car park back in Kintbury, which was right next to the station.  There is also a station next to the canal in Hungerford and we had checked out the train timetable a couple of days ago and knew that there was a train from Hungerford to Kintbury at 12.50 so the plan was for Vicki to catch the train back to Kintbury then drive back to Hungerford to pick up Gareth and Indy.  So, once we were all up I made bacon rolls for us all for brunch � this was actually Indy�s second breakfast as she had had cocoa pops earlier!  Once she had eaten her bacon roll we gave her her Easter Egg, she was delighted!  Then she sat with her daddy and watched an animated Japanese film by Hayao Miyazaki called My Neighbour Totoru that Vicki had downloaded onto the laptop for her � she was enthralled!  It was wonderful just watching her face, mind you these films are absolutely enchanting, absolutely nothing like Disney films.  She actually watched it right through once last night and twice this morning!   It didn�t take Vicki long to fetch the car.  Well the train journey was only four minutes!  She came rushing down to the boat to say she was parked on double yellow lines so we would have to get the bags loaded quickly, however a few minutes later a parking space became available so we didn�t have to panic.  Then all too soon it was time for them to go!  We said our goodbyes and finally waved them off on their journey back to Cambridge.  We got back on board and looked at each other � both knowing exactly what the other was thinking � we love them to come and see us and we really enjoy the time they are with us, but it also nice to have the boat back to ourselves!  We will miss them though � we always do and we really look forward to their next visit � don�t know when that will be?  Hope it�s not too long.   We will be moving on tomorrow � not far though, we are in no rush!    

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