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September 29th 2012 - The Anchor Inn, Shropshire Union Canal

Well we have had many ups and downs since the last blog! What a month its been!

We finally tore ourselves away from Chester and headed back along the Shroppie to Nantwich.  It was a fairly uneventful trip apart from me sustaining an injury at one of the locks on the way!  I was just lowering the rear paddle when my hand slipped off the windlass and it spun round very fast and whacked me on the back of my right hand - OUCH!  I was wearing gloves at the time but it still managed to break the skin but more to the point I thought it had broken a bone!  It was sooooooooooo painful!  The back of my hand became very warm and the pain was really bad, however I plucked up courage and started to wiggle my fingers and after a few minutes I was able to continue working the lock and was soon back aboard.  I took some pain killers and eventually it settled down.  I was expecting to have a gorgeous bruise to show for it but nothing materialised, just a very slight discolouration of the skin.  It has however left me with a distinct lump on the back of my hand!

We did have a chance encounter at another lock further up the flight.  Just as we were approaching one of the locks another boat passed us going the other way, I recognised the name of the boat immediately -The Golcar Lily!  Joyce, the lady who lives on this boat is a friend of Clive's Mum's!  We have never met before but there was an article in Canal Boat about their boat, which we read with interest, knowing of the family connection and of course the connection with our home town of Huddersfield.  All we managed to do was shout across and say hello, however by the time I was ready to start emptying the lock they had moored up and Joyce had trotted back along the towpath to the lock to have a chat.  It was great to finally get to meet her.

We finally arrived in Nantwich, it took us almost ten hours!  We just managed to squeeze into the last available mooring just before the aqueduct.  It wasn't an ideal spot, for a start it was on a curve and secondly, because it was just before the aqueduct, it was a bit of a bottleneck and we kept getting bumped by boats trying to pass each other!  However, it was all there was so we just had to make do.  We contacted our pals Heather and Les to let them know we were back and they suggested we go to their house the following evening for a meal, they came and picked us up and had a great time.  The meal was gorgeous, as usual and lots of wine was imbibed!  The following day Clive decided to go to the chandlery to get a few bits and pieces so he could do an engine service.  All I wanted to do was get the laundry done so I quickly packed up all the dirty clothes, stripped the bed and headed off to the launderette.

A while ago we brought two of the breakfast bar high chairs from our house to use on the stern so that we had something to sit on whilst cruising.  They were always just a wee bit high and the tiller arm used to catch on the tops if Clive was doing a hard turn.  We then bought a rubber mat for the stern, which being about an inch thick raised the height of the chairs even more and they were really getting in the way.  When I returned from the launderette I learned that Les had paid a visit to the boat with his saw (and Teddy the Shitzu) and the chairs are now two inches shorter all round!  Thanks Les, much appreciated.  The bits sawn off the legs will also come in handy as kindling the next time we light the stove! 

Around 4.00pm that afternoon Clive got a message on his phone, it was from our good friend Barry Collings.  We were absolutely devasted to learn that his wife Shirley had passed away that morning.  We were both in total shock, it was the most terrible news.  Shirley was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma after a routine operation back in 2003 and she has fought it tooth and nail for the last nine years.  She did a lot of research into the disease and became very knowledgable indeed on the subject.  So much so that she was invited to speak at the UK Sarcoma Society Conference a few years ago.  She gave her presentation to doctors, nurses, oncologists and other people suffering with sarcomas.  She was astonished to learn about three years from diagnosis that gynaecological tumours were not tested for hormone reception like breast tumours and asked why.  She was told that they just weren't tested.  So, she asked for hers to be tested for oestrogen reception - the test took place and it was discovered that it was indeed oestrogen receptor positive!  This was very worrying as she had been taking an oestrogen only form of HRT for the last three years, something which she would never have done had the test been performed immediately after surgery!  To cut a long story short Shirley campaigned for gynae tumours to be tested in future and she got her wish, many hospitals are now doing just that. Shirley's "gremlins" came back time and time again, she had several major operations and cycles of chemotherapy, losing all her hair twice.  She just kept fighting and wouldn't give up.  However, in April of this year she reached the end of the line after a trial of chemo backfired and made her very ill.  There was nothing left to offer her.  We knew that her time was now limited but had no idea how long it would be and so were completely caught off guard when Barry's text message arrived.

Our lovely friend, Shirley Collings 01/03/1953 - 28/08/2012

We stayed in Nantwich for another day and then headed off down the Shroppie.  We moored up at the bottom of the Audlem lock flight, its a lovely peaceful spot where we have moored before.   There was a really spectacular sky later as the sun was going down, I couldn't resist a photo!

Audlem sunset

Saturday 1st September 2012  - Four years ago today we set off on our maiden voyage aboard Lady Arwen!  That morning, Shirley and Barry came to see us off at Whilton Marina in Leicestershire.  They brought a bottle of bubbly, a lucky horseshoe and wooden spoon painted in canalia and a Captain's hat for Clive.  It was also their wedding anniversary - today would have been their 39th. 

We decided to go shopping before setting off up the flight, so armed with shopping bags we headed up the towpath to the Co-op and stocked up with as much as we could carry!  Once back aboard and the shopping unpacked and stowed away we set off up the flight.  It took us about two and a half hours to do thirteen locks and we moored up before the last two as the moorings there are good and there is a good TV signal - you guessed it, its a Grand Prix weekend!  We soon got settled in, I made some lunch and Clive settled down to watch the quallies. After that I went for a shower and Clive set off down the towpath to The Shroppie Fly (pub) to meet my sister Thelma, who was coming to stay with us for a few days on her way back from her post-Burwell travels down South. ( I didn't go to Burwell this year - first time I've missed since 2001!  It felt a bit surreal knowing it was happening and I wasn't there!).  After my shower I also headed down to the pub and we all had a meal together before heading back to the boat later.  On Sunday Clive watched the Grand Prix then Thelma got her fiddle out and played us some of the tunes she had learned at Burwell.

On Monday we set off to Market Drayton.  Thelma came with us and helped me with the locks, which was great.  We moored up adjacent to Tom's moorings for the night then Thelma and I went for a walk up into the town and checked out all the charity shops!  After dinner we got a taxi back to The Shroppie Fly in Audlem as it was folk night.  We had a really great evening with some great tunes and songs.  There was a brilliant fiddler there called Don who lives on a narrowboat in Chester (I think) who gets to the Shroppie Fly folk club only very rarely.  The amazing thing is that we have been four times and Don has been there on three of those occasions.  I was delighted that he was there this time as I knew Thelma would really appreciate his playing, he really is very good.  At one point I was playing a tune called Billy's Breton (from Billy Connolly's Musical Tour of New Zealand CD) accompanied by Clive on guitar, just as I finished Don came over and asked if I would play it again - he accompanied me on his fiddle and it was absolutely awesome, mind you I had to concentrate very hard indeed as he was harmonising!  I was dead chuffed I can tell you.  When it was all over we piled ourselves and our instruments into Thelma's car (which of course was still in the car park) and drove back to the boat.

Clive wanted to stay a while in Market Drayton, it is where his mother's family, the Meakins, come from and he still has relatives who live here.  He has been researching his family tree for some time now and still had a few gaps to fill in on the Meakin side so wanted to pick his cousin Jean's brains whilst he was here and also pay a visit to the local cemetary for further information.  On Wednesday we had a walk up into town a  Clive wanted to go into the library to get info about the cemetary, also it was market day, the reason Drayton got its Market status!  We strolled up and down the main street looking at all the market stalls and just through the passageway from the library in the little square was a gazebo and under it lots of owls!  Needless to say we had to go and have a look at them - I love owls!  Thelma had the opportunity of holding a beautiful American Barn Owl, there was a magnificent Eagle Owl, with huge talons, a Long Eared Owl, a tiny little Burrowing Owl and a Tawny Owl - here are a few of the photos I took:


             Clive with Long Eared Owl


                                                          Magnificent Eagle Owl - just look at those talons!


Thelma with American Barn Owl      

After the owls we went and had some lunch and then I found a man with a stall selling rugs of all different sizes and shapes and there was a perfect, long thin one that would just fit at the side of the bed - bargain at £5!  

The next day Thelma left us and after a night at a friend's home in Market Drayton headed back to Huddersfield.  We stayed put and spent the days relaxing, playing games, reading, etc etc - we have got relaxing off to a fine art now!  We did have a night out with Jean and Glyn who picked us up from the boat and took us to The Wharf at Goldstone, a few miles down the canal.  It was great to see them both again.

We booked the boat into Tom's moorings for a week and got her safely installed and plugged into the electric supply on Friday September 8th.  We also booked a hire car from Tuesday for three days.  Clive went and picked the car up on Tuesday evening and then first thing on Wednesday morning, September 12th, we set off for Milton Keynes to attend Shirley's funeral.  We arrived at the crematorium and soon spotted some very old friends from way back when - Jane Crowther (as was) and Pamela Gill (now Milnes).  We reckon that it is about 39 years since we last saw each other!  Jane was one of Shirley's bridesmaids!  We were very glad to see them as apart from Barry and their kids(!) Melanie and Noel and Noel's wife Vicky and their little boy, Cameron (the apple of Shirley's eye), we didn't know anybody!  The service was lovely and really not too sad, in fact we did share some giggles from time to time as some of Shirley's escapades were mentioned.  It was also very humbling when the eulogy was read, which outlined just how much Shirley achieved with regard to sarcoma's and their treatment.  She touched the lives of many people, some that she never even met but her strength and tenacity affected them nevertheless.  I feel very proud to have been one of her friends. We both sincerely hope that Barry will not be a stranger and hopefully he will come and spend some time with us on board Lady Arwen.  He loves to fish so is most welcome to bring his fishing tackle with him and see if he can hook himself a carp - as long as he throws it back, wouldn't want to eat anything that came out of the canal! (Can you eat carp?)

We drove up to Grantham after the funeral to spend a couple of nights with our daughter Vicki and her fiancee Ben.  It was good to see them both again, its been quite a while since we last saw them.  We went out for a lovely Thai meal the first night, very yummy indeed.  The next day we drove to Cambridge and went to visit our house.  We were delighted to meet our newest tenants and we were happy to see they are looking after the house very well indeed.  We then went to visit our old friends Jim and Jean Hysom and spent a couple of hours catching up with them over lunch, it was good to see them both.  We returned to Grantham and Vicki cooked us a lovely meal - Smoked Haddock Risotto - nom, nom, nom!  We also spent a hilarious evening playing a great board game called Articulate, a fast talking game where one person has to describe the thing on a card and the other person has to guess what it is!  Great fun.  We left Grantham the next morning and drove back to Market Drayton.  We did a quick trip to Morrisons before returning the hire car then brought the boat out of the marina and back onto the towpath.

The following day we decided to go and fill up with water and move the boat further down the towpath.  It was amazingly busy along the towpath, never seen so many narrowboats here before, there was only one space available and we just managed to squeeze the boat in, nearly needed a shoehorn!  There was a boat moored just behind us called Maid of the Mist and whilst Clive was tying up I got chatting to the owners, initially about their satellite dish, I wanted to know how efficient it was (we only have a TV aerial and Freeview at the mo).  Clive particularly wanted to have a good TV signal for tonight because it was the opening show of Strictly Come Dancing!  However, due to the position of the mooring with a bridge right in front and large trees at the side we weren't holding out much hope sadly.  The couple off Maid of the Mist introduced themselves, Graham and Jean Bevan and the dog, Jack (a lovely little Jack Russell).  As I was explaining about the TV signal Jean immediately said that if we didn't have a signal we were most welcome to join them on their boat and all watch it together.  That is exactly what we did - immediately after tea we went round armed with a box of wine and we had a great evening with them.  Its a bit weird really, we found we had a great deal in common and as we each recounted some of our escapades over the years Graham figured we had been living in a parallel universe - it does seem a bit that way!  Over the next few days we had coffee with them a few times and also kept Graham entertained whilst Jean was with her daughter in Shrewsbury hospital providing them with a new grandson, Harrison James Cameron Bevan who weighed in at a whopping 8lb 15oz! We are all now friends on Facebook so will most definitely keep in touch and who knows might bump into each other again on a canal, somewhere, who knows, hope so!

Jean, Graham & Jack aboard Maid of the Mist

After another week of doing not much of anything, we prepared for yet another trip off!  Lady Arwen went back into Tom's moorings and we hired another car, this time to go up to Huddersfield.  We drove up on Monday evening and arrived at tea time.  We stayed with Clive's Mum and Dad and it was good to see them both.  We all went off to town for a bit of an outing on the Tuesday afternoon and I bought a new pair of shoes!  Gareth came for his tea on Tuesday evening, it was great to see him again.  On Wednesday morning we drove up to Slaithwaite to visit Waves Group, where Gareth has been working for the last few months, its such a wonderful place.  I may have mentioned it before, however it is a day care centre for adults with special needs and it is just an incredible place and the staff are incredible people, they do a wonderful job.  I am very proud to say that Gareth has also been making a difference up there over recent months.  He has been teaching drums to some of the members, he has also helped to build a polytunnel in the Waves garden - a huge polytunnel I might add!  He has now taken on the role of a one to one daytime carer for a young man with Down's syndrome - this is a complete change of career for Gareth and we are very proud of him indeed.  After lunch we said goodbye to Clive's parents and headed off down the road once more.  Again we did a quick detour to Morrison's before handing the car back and then brought the boat out of the moorings and back onto the towpath again.  On Thursday we were invited to Jean and Glyn's for tea.  Glyn picked us up on his way home from work and drove us to their house.  We had a really lovely roast dinner, it was so good I had to have seconds!  We had a great evening with them and then they drove us home to the boat.  Hopefully they will catch up with us again before we get too far away.

We finally left Market Drayton yesterday and cruised down the Shroppie, through the lovely Tyrley Locks, closely followed by another six narrowboats - can't believe how busy the canal is at the moment!  We finally moored up just shy of The Anchor Pub, a wonderful boater's pub that has been run by the same family for over 100 years!  Its not like a pub at all, more like somebody's home - Olive's - where the front rooms are used by the punters and the bar is just a wooden table really.  Olive has been serving the beer from a jug, which she fills from a barrel in the cellar, for years but I believe that recently, due to modern hygiene standards, she has had to install a pump from which she now fills the jug beforepouring it into the glasses!

This morning dawned bright and sunny - its our 39th wedding anniversary!  We might just celebrate at The Anchor tonight with a wee drinky poo.  We may well take our instruments with us too as there are often other folkies there on a Saturday night, fingers crossed.

Until the next time......

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