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May 25th 2010 - Hampton Court Palace

Sorry for the delay in blogging, we've just been too busy enjoying ourselves!  To cut a long story short, we wended our way down the Grand Union from Rickmansworth to Cowley Lock and moored up for the night.  We were extremely close to a pub so decided to pop up for a swift one dinner.  The following day we carried on down through lots more locks to Brentford and finally got there mid afternoon on the Thursday.  I have to say I was very relieved to shut the doors on the last lock and climb back on board.  I really do enjoy locking but one can have too much of a good thing and my poor, arthritic knees are really suffering!  Since leaving Milton Keynes we have negotiated 78 locks on our way to the Thames, not including the gauging lock at Brentford, the Brentford Lock and Teddington Lock - the reason I exclude these three is that the first one is an electric lock so I only had to exercise my thumb and the second two were manned and I didn't have to do anything!

We actually stayed in Brentford for three days, moored opposite the ultra-modern GlaxoSmithKline building.

Moored in the shadow of GSK!

  I put the laundry to good use and now have a boat full of clean clothes, towels and bedding - lovely. The nice thing was that as the weather was so gorgeous we put the whirlygig washing line up on the stern and I managed to dry the majority of the laundry outside in the sunshine.

Clive phoned the Brentford lock-keeper on Saturday to find out when we could go through the locks and he was informed that the lock would be opened at 09.30 Sunday morning.  So, knowing we were leaving in the morning, Clive decided to take me out to dinner!  We walked down the towpath and over the bridge to a lovely Italian restaurant called Siracusa, which was very close to the gauging lock.  All the patio doors were open and some of the tables were outside, our table was almost outside and it was a lovely sunny, warm evening - a bit like being in Italy really!  We had a lovely meal and really enjoyed our evening then headed back to the boat and bed - early rise in the morning!

So Sunday morning we were up in good time, breakfasted and ready for the off by 8.45am.  We cast off and headed down to the lock and there was another boat in it just going down!  Finally it was our turn and we shared the lock with a small cruiser.  The couple on board told us they were actually taking their boat to be sold as they were having a narrowboat built instead, it should be ready for their maiden voyage just before Christmas!

After a short cruise we arrived at Brentford Lock and joined the queue waiting to go through, three more narrow boats and the cruiser - busy, busy!  Finally we were through the lock and out onto the Thames.  It was an absolutely beautiful morning and the Thames was sparkling in the sunshine, it was great to be back on the river.  At this point we were actually on the tidal Thames and had to make our way up to Teddington Lock, a cruise of about an hour and a half, then once through that lock we were safe from the tide. Compared to the locks we are used to on the canals, the Thames locks are huge!  In Teddington Lock the boats were packed in like sardines - three abreast!

Three abreast in Teddington Lock!

It was amazing how busy the river was, however not really surprising I suppose, it was Sunday morning and the sun was shining after all!  Everyone with anything that could float was out there, from tiny canoes to huge paddle steamers.  The ones that caused us problems though were the little sailing dinghies, we met a whole flotilla having a bit of a competition - poor Clive didn't know which way to steer!!!

Obstacle course!

We really enjoyed our cruise up the river in the sunshine, it really was lovely and hot.  When all said and done, if only we had weather like this all summer, nobody would need to go abroad, we have it all here!  Anyway, we eventually arrived at our first destination - Kingston upon Thames.  We found a lovely mooring and soon had the boat secured.  You have to have your mooring ropes much slacker when on a river to allow for changes in the water levels, unlike the canals which rarely differ, if anything they get shallower!

There was a good reason for being in Kingston, my cousin Graham lives there and has done for many years.  The last time we passed through Kingston, last year, we were hoping to meet up with him but discovered he was up in Huddersfield visiting his mum, my Auntie Nellie!  I phoned a couple of days ago to let him know we were coming and it was his partner, Jill, who answered the phone.  "He's not here, he's in Tenerife" - oh no!  However it turned out he was arriving back on Sunday night so I would contact him then to make arrangements to meet up.

Clive and I decided to go for a walk into Kingston town centre, which was just across the bridge from where we were moored.  It is a very compact town and everything was within easy walking distance.  We found a Sainsbury's and did some shopping then on the way back to the boat we stopped at a riverside bar and sat on the terrace watching the people and the boats going by, it was lovely.

One of the things that we find very strange being moored on the river is that the boat rocks everytime another craft goes by!  Especially some of the really big boats as they create a huge bow wave which by the time it reaches the bank where we are moored its like a tsunami!  I rather like the rocking motion actually!

We had a very restful day on Monday.  Clive spent most of the day on the stern reading his book.  We had the pram hood up but all the windows were rolled up so it just acted as a sunshade, it was really lovely and warm and sunny.  After lunch I decided to go for another wander around Kingston - I had forgotten to buy celery the day before and we also wanted some nice crusty bread to have with our salad at tea time.  So I left Clive reading his book in peace and wandered back over the bridge.  I was also looking for a vital piece of equipment - a watering can!  I didn't want a great big one, just a nice little one, well that was easier said than done!  I trailed from shop to shop and nobody had what I was looking for, well unless I wanted to pay the Earth for one!  Finally, I found a Wilkinsons store and they had lots of different kinds of watering cans, large and small, plastic and metal.  I found just the thing and it cost me all of £1.98!!

Dinky watering can!

I managed to have a quick chat with Graham during the afternoon and it was arranged that he and Jill would come to the boat for about 6.15pm but unfortunately Jill wouldn't be able to stay long as she had a prior engagement - tap dancing class!  They duly arrived on their bikes and came on board Lady Arwen for the guided tour - they were most impressed!  There again, our visitors usually are.  I am not really sure what people imagine living on a narrowboat is like but once they have been on board and see how lovely our floating home is they always seem surprised!

Jill had to leave soon after seven but Graham stayed all evening.  We had a great time chatting about the family, our kids and what they were up to and also discussing our family history.  I showed him the Weir family tree as far as I have got and also lots of old photographs of our various forebears.  Finally Graham decided he had better be going and we said goodbye but hope to catch up with him and Jill again if we ever come down the Thames again (I'm sure we will - we love it!).

Today, Tuesday, Clive was up at the unGodly hour of 5.30am - he couldn't sleep!  I must admit I was quite restless myself, it was just too warm in bed, I definitely think its time we swapped our 15 tog down quilt for the summer weight one!  I however managed to go back to sleep again - Clive made himself a cuppa and had some breakfast and left me to slumber!  Finally, about 9.00am I dragged myself out of bed!  Clive soon had the pramhood down and the engine on ready to set off, whilst I quickly got dressed.  Our plan for today was to cruise up to Hampton Court Palace, where we know there are some good moorings.  My niece, Alison and her husband Mike and their little boy Harry, are coming to meet us and spend the day with us.  It only took half an hour for us to do the short cruise from KIngston and we are now moored up right by the palace itself waiting for Ali, Mike and Harry to arrive - they are stuck in traffic at the moment on their way from Enfield!

Our next port of call will be Windsor.  On Thursday we are meeting up with an old friend from way back, Stuart  Ellam, who now lives in Windsor.  Stuart is a musician and when we got married (37 years ago in September!) he played the organ in the church for our wedding!  We are really looking forward to seeing him again.

That's all for now folks!

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