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  • clivenmel

Dec 15th

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Clive was just mooring up ready to fill up with water.  Off I went again and made it to the village shop and post office at about 11.50am (panting a bit!) ? the Post Office bit shuts at 12.00 noon!  Anyway managed to get all my foreign cards weighed and got all the stamps and Air Mail stickers for them plus all the second class stamps for my inland cards.  Then I did my shopping, paid by card and got ?30 cash-back.  Across the road from the village shop is a really great traditional butcher?s, so I popped over there and stocked up on protein and paid with my card.  Now I had two shopping bags, a bag full of Christmas cards and a load of stamps and air mail stickers and it was pouring with rain!  What to do ? aha obvious???go to the pub!  So off I trotted to The Old Plough Inn (lovely pub), bought myself a glass of wine and got settled at a table with all my cards and stamps etc in front of a roaring hot stove ? lovely!  I got my phone out to ring Clive to tell him where I was and it went straight to his answer-phone ? no signal!  Oh no!  I tried several times but to no avail, in the end I sent him a text message in the hope that it might sneak through.  A little while later a crowd of people came into the pub and sat on the next table ? they were obviously off a boat so I asked if they had seen a blue boat called Lady Arwen before they came up to the pub, they all shook their heads then one lady said, no, not unless her captain is called Clive?!  Yes I said, that?s him.  Oh he was lovely, she said, very kind, he helped us to moor up right in front of your boat!  I explained my predicament and they all started looking at their phones to see if they had a signal as they had left a couple of their friends on the boat and were going to phone them to see if they could get a message to Clive ? just at that moment he walked in the door!  He had set off up the hill to the village to see if he could find me and got a signal so my text came through!  So, we had a couple of drinks and some lunch and basically spent most of the cash I had got from the shop!  I had also miscalculated the number of stamps I needed for my cards so we went back to the shop, got more stamps, some wrapping paper and a bottle of wine (of course!) and I paid with my card, because Clive had come without his wallet!  The young man behind the counter asked if we would like cash-back?  Yes said Clive, we better have ?30!  Their pin machine wasn?t working and I had to sign a chitty.  Then off we went back to the boat with the shopping, after posting all my Christmas cards!   We had a terrible TV signal, no mobile signal and hence no dongle signal so that was that.  However we managed to watch Strictly on a very snowy screen and then the X Factor on a slightly less snowy screen, then back to Strictly for the results, then back to the X Factor to find out who the winner was ? I wept all the way through to the end!  Alexandra won, my favourite from the beginning!   I was so delighted that as soon as we got a signal I was going to download her first single, Hallelujah, onto my iPod!   When we awoke on Sunday morning it was definitely better than it had been over the last few days ? no wind, no rain, no ice - it felt positively balmy by comparison!  It was a little bit misty first thing but otherwise great cruising weather.  However the canal was a really strange colour, sort of like oxtail soup!  There had been an awful lot of rain the day before and the run off from the fields all ends up in the canals and rivers, it was really quite turbid.  Now that it was daylight and not raining it was nice to see our surroundings.  Braunston is synonymous with narrowboats and canals.  It is a very famous junction and there are sooooooooooo many boats here!  There is a huge marina, absolutely full and also lots of boats moor up here along the tow path.  I popped along to take a photo of the marina and was delighted to see the narrowboat Dover moored up here on the left, just in the entrance. Any of you out there who may have seen the TV programme ?Narrowboat? would know about Dover.  She was a derelict narrowboat hull at the beginning of the programme and was gradually and lovingly restored throughout the series and on the outside looks exactly like an old working boat from days gone by, however on the inside she is absolutely fantastic, very modern with beautiful fittings and all mod cons.  We watched the whole series from start to finish so it was really exciting to see her ?in the flesh? so to speak!   Anyway, that done, I hot-footed it up to the first of the 6 Braunston locks.  These locks are all doubles.  We haven?t encountered double locks since we left Yorkshire and I had to remember the technique of filling them gently without throwing the boat about too much.  It all went well and we were soon at top lock.   There is a little canal shop at the top lock selling all sorts of stuff from freshly baked bread to second hand books and also examples of Canalia ? this is the traditionally painted stuff like jugs, flower pots, kettles, coal skuttles and buckets etc.   We don?t have a coal bucket - for the last couple of months we have been using the bottom half of a large water bottle to carry the coal from the cratch into the saloon and it is looking a bit worse for wear!  So I nipped into the shop and bought us a lovely little painted bucket for our coal ? it was ?14.95.   Clive gave me two fivers from his wallet and the rest in change.  When I got back with my prize he was looking a bit puzzled ? ?Didn?t we get ?30 cash-back yesterday?? he said.  ?Yes, I did?, said I, ?but we spent it in the pub? ? ?no we got a second lot when we went back to the shop? he said.  I remembered then, but we couldn?t find it!  It wasn?t in his wallet, because he didn?t have it with him remember.  I didn?t have it in my handbag nor was it in any of our pockets!  Oh dear!   Anyway, on with the journey ? we soon arrived at the Braunston Tunnel ? after the Standedge Tunnel, piece of cake!  2042 yards long, but almost straight ? you can actually see the other end as you enter.  We had got about 2/3 of the way through when we saw a light at the end of the tunnel ? no, not the exit, another boat!  It was approaching very, very slowly and when we finally reached it discovered it was the crowd from the pub in Braunston ? there were 8 of them on a 57? boat and they were all celebrating one of their party?s 40th birthday!  They were delighted to see us again, all calling out greetings and wishing us a Merry Christmas (a bit surreal in the dark!) ? you really do meet some amazing people on the canal!    We soon reach top lock of the Buckby Flight and moored up to have a bit of lunch ? we couldn?t make our minds up whether to stay put (as there was a pub right next to the lock!) or whether to go down the flight of seven locks ? we ummmed and aaaahed and debated and finally at about 2.30pm decided to go for it.   There was quite a lot of water in the pounds after all the rain yesterday and it was getting more and more difficult to get the rear lock gates open as the water was pouring over them so it wouldn?t equalise.  However, with my earlier experiences up in the Manchester area I now knew to open the gate paddles, which reduces the resistance and with a great deal of shoving and heaving they would finally open!  I also think I have got a lot stronger on our journey ? I have muscles on my muscles now!  I also have backache!!!   We finally reached the bottom lock, which totally defeated me, muscles or not, I just couldn?t budge the gates, so Clive had to pull the boat in and jump off and help me, then we realised something??????????????????.   FULL CIRCLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   We were actually back at Whilton Marina where we had set out from all those weeks ago, on 1st September!  Incredible ? it was quite a weird feeling.  What a lot has happened since we set off, a lot of water under the bridge you might say!   We moored up for the night on the towpath next to the marina, with the M1 on one side of us and the railway line on the other ? oh joy!   This morning was fine again, a bit cloudy but again no rain and no wind.   We popped into the Marina office to see Andy, who had sold us the boat.  He was delighted to see us and commented on Clive?s beard!  We told him how pleased we were with Lady Arwen and about all the admirers she has had on our journey.  We also told him how battered she had got in the Standedge Tunnel!  We had a few little niggles like the throttle handle and the fact that my oven is very temperamental and keeps going out!  Unfortunately Richard, the engineer who deals with all the East West Marine boats is on paternity leave, in fact he was actually at the hospital where his wife was delivering their new baby girl!!  So, we are going to give him a break and get in touch after Christmas so he can come and sort our little problems out.   Once we had said goodbye to Andy we hopped back on the boat and I got on the phone to the village shop in Braunston regarding our ?30 cash-back that we didn?t appear to have.  Fortunately I had the receipt which quite clearly stated ?30 cash.  The lady I spoke to was very nice and asked me lots of questions including what we had both been wearing and what do we look like!  Some while later I got a call back saying they had found my till receipt, which quite clearly stated ?30 cash and they had also watched the CCTV footage for Saturday afternoon which showed Clive and I quite clearly and the fact that the young man behind the counter definitely did not give me my cash ? phew!  They are putting a cheque in the post to Vicki today.  Alls well that ends well eh!    After that bit of good news we set off ? saying goodbye to Whilton Marina again!  We continued along, sandwiched between the M1 and the railway again ? what a racket!  We stopped off in a lovely village called Weedon Bec ? after all the shopping I had done on Saturday I forgot to get onions!  Well everybody knows you cannot survive without onions!  Weedon Bec is a delightful village with lots of sweet little cottages and lovely old buildings.  Then back to the boat and off again ? we continued cruising until about 4 ish then moored up opposite a brand new marina at Nether Heyford.  We are staying here tonight so that we can get diesel and a pump-out tomorrow morning before we set off again ? that is if Clive can coax Lady Arwen to go in reverse ? she gets a bit uppity about going backwards!   One more thing - as you know Clive and I are quite interested in wildlife and we have been especially delighted with the variety of birdlife that we have seen on our journey.  We were absolutely thrilled this afternoon to see a Mandarin Duck ? you may recall that we saw a pair on our way down to Huddersfield from the Standedge Tunnel, but they were right across the other side of the canal and looked very tiny in the photographs.  Well this little chap today actually came very close, along with his pal - a Mallard, because we threw him some bread and I managed to get a really lovely photograph of him ? isn?t he gorgeous!   Enough ? I bet you have all fallen asleep!

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