Friday January 25th 2013 - Foxton basin, Leicestershire
Well, Happy New Year everyone! Ok so its a bit late but this is the first blog of 2013. Before I start I am sorry to say that our web provider has once again decided to "improve" the format so I am now unable to centre photographs or resize them or anything - if it ain't broke why fixt it - I wish they wouldn't keep doing this!!!
The last blog was done on December 19th before Christmas just as we had installed Lady Arwen in her berth at Debdale Wharf Marina. We managed to pack all our clothes into a new pull along hold all that we had purchased from Argos in Market Harborough, it was a bit like a tardis, amazing how much stuff we got in it and it didn't feel all that heavy either. We also each had "hand luggage" - Clive's for things like the laptop, camera, leads etc and mine for the sponge bags, jewellry, slippers, make-up etc etc (well a girl needs her stuff!). So Saturday December 22nd arrived and it was raining! We had ordered Spotty Dog Taxi's from Market Harborough to come and pick us up and sure enough he turned up in timely fashion and we were soon on our way to the station. I had booked the train tickets on my phone app and we had collected them at the same time as the tickets to Leicester when we went to see The Hobbit, so all we had to do was board the train. The first train arrived spot on time and we were soon on our way to Leicester. The first change was very painless, we got off the first train, waited on the platform for a little while and the second train arrived, on time and took us to Derby. However there was a bit of a hold up in Derby and our connecting train was delayed by about 40 minutes but it eventually arrived and we headed off to Leeds then finally the last train from Leeds to Huddersfield, where Gareth picked us up. Apart from all the changes it wasn't a bad journey and we had reserved seats on the second and third trains so didn't have to fight for a seat, all in all it was quite a success.
We had been in contact with our good friends Martyn and Cani Smith by email prior to Christmas and they had informed us that they would be in Huddersfield over the Christmas period but the only day they could see us was today! So we piled all our luggage and ourselves into Gareth's car and headed off to The Foxglove pub on Penistone Road. It was great to see them both again and catch up on all the news. We spent a couple of hours with them then Gareth drove us into Huddersfield as we needed to pop to Sainsbury's for a few bits of pieces to take away with us, mainly wine! After that he took us up to Clive's parents' house. We said goodbye to Gareth then, after giving him his Christmas presents to take with him. He was off down to Grantham to spend Christmas with Vicki and Ben.
The following day, December 23rd we started packing all our gear and all Mum and Pop's gear, including Mum's wheelchair, into Pop's VW Polo - it was a tight squeeze, in fact there were a couple of items that just wouldn't fit at all! So we then drove up to Clive's sister Carol's and helped her and Ivan pack all their stuff and all their daughter Chloe's stuff into Carol's car. Poor Chloe was already in the car, in her wheelchair and we just piled everything all around her - bless! She was very excited about it all though and couldn't wait to set off! There was a little bit of room left in the end so we managed to squeeze in the few things that wouldn't fit in Pop's car, then we were off!
We arrived at Centreparc's in Penrith a just over two hours later and then we sat in the queues of cars waiting to get into the park itself. It wasn't too long before we found our cabin and got everything unloaded, then the cars had to be taken back to the big carpark for the duration of our stay. The cabin itself was great, proper home from home, it had everything we needed and was very cosy. After we had unpacked everything and got sorted out we decided to go and explore.
ic: Wagons l
When we got back Ivan and I (designated chefs!) set to making the tea. Carol had bought a huge lasagne and an equally huge meat and potato pie with her, we plumbed for the lasagne. I can't believe actually how much food we had taken with us, besides everything for the Christmas dinner itself we had brought everything to feed us all (7 people) for a week and I mean everything! We had two fridges, each with a freezer compartment and believe you me we needed every scrap of space. We had also brought enough drink to sink a battleship!
Christmas Eve dawned and Ivan produced a fine brunch - one of his specialities! Then we got Chloe and Mum all togged up and into their wheelchairs and we set off down the Centre to watch a pantomime - Aladdin!
A bit blurry but you get the idea!
As soon as the performance was over we headed back to the cabin to have an early tea because we were going out again! We decided that it would be a good idea to book some transport for the wheelchairs as it was quite a walk to and from the centre so Carol, Clive and I set off walking and the transport came and collected Mum and Pop and Chloe and Ivan and delivered them to the Centre a short while after we had arrived! The event this evening was a carol service. As we arrived we were all given a mulled wine and a mince pie, just to get us in the mood! All the entertainment was put on by the same bunch of people, sort of the equivalent of the Red Coats at Butlins. I have to say they were very good indeed. The carol concert was lovely, everyone was given a song sheet and we all joined in singing the usual traditional carols with gusto, it really got us into the Christmas groove. By the time we arrived back at the cabin we were all tired out and it wasn't long before we were all tucked up in bed.
Christmas Day - again Ivan produced his famous brunch and then we got stuck in preparing the Christmas feast. I prepared the turkey and Ivan did all the veg. Unfortunately Carol wasn't feeling very well at all, she had developed a nasty cold and sinusitis overnight but she soldiered on.
Carol decorated the table and it looked lovely.
Finally it was all ready and we sat down to dine.
When we were all thoroughly stuffed and everything washed up and tidied away we settled down in the lounge to open our presents. We had decided weeks earlier that we would do a Secret Santa again, like we did last Christmas. Everybody pulled a name out of the hat and we each bought one present for one person. It was a really good way of doing it and everbody seemed very happy with their presents. Well except for Chloe, she was delighted, she got lots of presents because she had brought some with her from other people too! It all got a bit too much for some people though, Carol was feeling pretty rough again by the evening and Mum, well Mum was just tired out!
We had a quiet Boxing Day, just stayed in the cabin and relaxed and ate!!
One of the highlights of being here at Whinfell Forest Centreparcs was the fact that it is a Red Squirrel conservation area and we were absolutely delighted to see several of the during our stay. Especially when some of them actually came onto our balcony when enticed with Ivan's best quality muesli and carrot trimmings! We also spotted a weasel! The birds were wonderful too and we spent quite a bit of time sitting in chairs looking out through the patio doors onto the balcony whilst Coal Tits, Blue Tits and Long Tailed Tits fed on the muesli and a few Chaffinches paid us a visit too. Sadly the Weasel was too quick for us to get a photo but the squirrels were very accommodating and posed nicely for the camera!
The next day, Thursday 27th, was pretty quiet as well until the evening when we were booked in for another show at the Centre. This time it was Music Legends. It was a brilliant show, very well done indeed. Fantastic costumes and excellent singing, once again put on by the same troupe of "Red Coats". There was Michael Jackson, The Supremes, Oasis, to name but a few. We had a great view too as we were on a table right down at the front with nobody in front of us, it was great.
Again its a bit blurry but it was taken with my phone!
Once again we were all tired out when it was over and headed back to the cabin and bed. Although everybody except Clive and I did their packing first!
Friday 28th December 2012 - the end of our holiday at Centreparcs. We got all the luggage packed into the cars again (a lot easier this time as there was a lot less food!) and finally said goodbye to Whinfell Forest and headed back down the motorway to Huddersfield.
Clive and I had planned to stay in Huddersfield until after New Year's Day so it gave us a chance to catch up with various relatives and friends. Pop had very kindly added Clive onto his car insurance and let us borrow his car so we could get about. We managed to visit Clive's Uncle Francis (Pop's elder brother) who is 99. I took my iPod with me and managed to record him telling Clive some stories relating to the Morris family as Clive has been researching the family tree for quite some time now and he wanted to fill in a few gaps. We also went to visit his Auntie Annie (Pop's eldest sister) who is is just coming up on her 95th birthday! She had been in hospital for a few weeks before Christmas but was now on the mend thankfully. It was great to see them both.
I had a bit of a panic attack after reading an email from the Canal & River Trust one morning which stated that there had been a landslip into the canal at Debdale Embankment and that navigation was closed! I immediately phoned the CRT and asked where exactly the landslip was in relation to the marina and was very relieved to hear that it was a little further around the bend in the Leicester direction, meaning that we could still get out of the marina and get to both Foxton and thence to Market Harborough - phew!
On New Year's Eve Clive and I decided to take the opportunity to go to the cinema again, this time to see The Life of Pi. It was awesome, a wonderful film and with it being in 3D it was just incredible. An unusual story but I have never read the book, I think maybe I should! When we came out of the cinema we decided to call in at my nephew's on the way home. It was good to see Nick & Sam and their children; Jamie, Molly and Daniel and as it happened my sister Thelma (Nick's mum!) was there as well. We stayed with them for a little while then drove back up to Mum and Pop's and watched the New Year in on the TV.
We got the train back to Market Harborough without any delays this time and were soon back on board Lady Arwen. She was a bit chilly but we put the central heating on and Clive lit the stove and before long we were as warm as toast again.
Clive and I made a New Year's resolution this year - to lose weight! Our daughter Vicki is getting married at the end of April and I for one do not want to look like a stranded whale as the Bride's Mother! So we have embarked on a new regime with the help of My Fitness Pal (which helps you count your calories) and Endomondo (which tracks your exercise and tells you how many calories you have burned). We have settled into it reasonably well and are both losing weight I am delighted to say! If nothing else it is helping me with portion size as I did tend to overdo it a bit! Anyway, watch this space, hopefull we will both be slim and sylph like in time for the wedding!
A couple of weekends ago we decided to go and visit Vicki and Ben in Grantham as we hadn't seen them since before Christmas. We moored the boat in Market Harborough and booked a hire car for 24 hours. We drove over on Friday evening, it didn't take long. We arrived at their house just before they both got home from work. We all walked to the Muddle Go Nowhere, their local and had a meal. The following morning we drove into Grantham and had a wander around the town. I managed to get a much needed new quilted mattress cover for our bed! It was great to see Vicki and Ben again, not long now to their wedding, I can't wait! We returned to Market Harborough and handed the car over and there was just enough light left for us to cruise to our favourite spot out in the countryside and moor up. However a couple of days later the temperature plummeted and we decided to head to Foxton basin before we got frozen in out in the middle of nowhere. We managed to nip back up to Debdale to pick up diesel, coal and get the loo emptied before heading back into the basin again where we moored right outside the Bridge 61 pub! We have been here ever since! We know we have everything we need here, the little shop, a water point and the pub if we wanted it, however due to our calorie counting we have not been going to the pub! We have had a couple of walks up to the little farm shop in Foxton itself to get fresh veg etc and then on Tuesday we managed to get a Tesco delivery, which was very welcome indeed - we had run out of wine! Looking at the long range weather forecast we are hopeful that it is going to start warming up again early next week and if the ice thaws we will be able to be on our way again.
From the top of the Foxton Staircase looking down towards the basin where Lady Arwen is moored.
The snow has been very disruptive all over the country and although it has not really inconvenienced us very much it did actually disrupt some plans we had. We were due to go to a gig with our friends Jayne and David Stanton, in a place called Wing, which is just South of Rutland Water here in Leicestershire. It was one of the tutors from Burwell, Sam Pirt (accordion tutor) in his new band The Hut People. Sadly it wasn't to be - although Sam and Andy managed to make it to Wing from the North, the country roads around here were so bad and so dangerous that Jayne just daren't risk driving on them and we don't blame her one bit! Maybe next time Sam.
There are three other boats moored in the basin besides ours and one of the boats moored opposite us has a cat on board. Clive has been watching it as it sits in the galley window looking out onto the frozen basin where there are a lot of ducks and a swan. The other day he looked out and was highly amused when he saw this:
Before we set off again we are having another trip up to Huddersfield, sadly to attend a funeral. When we were at Aspley Wharf Marina last winter we were moored next to a narrowboat called Invicta. The couple that lived aboard were Brian and Sue Badminton. We had met them before on our first visit to Aspley in September 2008 and had also met them on the canal a couple of times. Brian appeared to be in perfect health when we arrived at Aspley in September 2011 but shortly after that he started being unwell. Firstly he was diagnosed with diabetes and promptly started cutting down on his sugar intake, which of course meant he lost weight. He also started with a cough around Christmas time, as did I but Brian's didn't get better and unfortunately his turned out to be cancer! Brian sadly lost his battle on January 16th. He was a larger than life character, a musician (of multiple instruments, guitar, fiddle and keyboard) and singer. His genre tended to be American blues, country and humorous stuff like Jake Thackeray songs. During our time in Huddersfield we used to go to The Sportsman with Brian on a Wednesday evening, this also happens to be my sister Thelma's regular folk club too so we would all be there together. Brian and Sue used to spend several months in the US regularly too, they have a big campervan with a Harley Davidson on the back and have spend many holidays touring the States. He will be sadly missed by many people. Sue has arranged to have his wake in The Sportsman on Monday and we and several of the folkies will be taking our instruments with us to play him on his way. Our thoughts are with Sue and their family at this very sad time. We will also be thinking about Sue on September 29th this year because believe it or not Brian and Sue got married on the very same day as us in September 1973 so this year is the 40th anniversary of that momentous day.
RIP Brian Badminton
This great photo of Brian (which I have borrowed from their website: https//brianandsuesukcanaltour.blogspot.com ) was taken up at Tunnel End, Marsden after he had made history. He and NB Invicta had come through the Standedge Tunnel under their own steam (or diesel!) with a pilot (Fred) to guide them. This was the first time a narrowboat had come through the tunnel without being towed since 1944. Brian was the pioneer and since that time narrowboats have been allowed to cruise through the tunnel unaided, with a pilot, for the last couple of years. When we came through the tunnel in September 2008 we had to be towed by an electric tug and the boat was bashed against the rough hewn stone interior all the way through, her paintwork was a right mess when we arrived at the other end!
Well that is about it until the next time. We are not sure yet where we are going to go after the big thaw, it will all depend on the weather. We would really like to head back to Cambridge for a couple of months but it will depend on the water levels as the waterways in East Anglia ar all rivers, not canals. Canals have sluices to allow the water levels to be regulated, rivers don't have that luxury! So, watch this space and all will be revealed in the next blog.