Archive | May, 2014

The Phone Call

27 May

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The phone call came at 5:30am. “Sorry to call you so early…” I’m told it began. My recurrent insomnia already had me pottering about downstairs but Neil was asleep. In fact I was just thinking I could probably crash out for another hour or so when the loud voice boomed from the bedroom. Neil wakes up quickly.

Abu Dhabi is three hours ahead of us in the UK so it didn’t take many guesses to realise this was the call we had been waiting for. Neil is to fly out to AD at the weekend “to take up [his] duties”. I got back upstairs in time to hear him ask when his wife would be able to go out. “Later, later” the short reply.

So there we have it. It’s on. He’s going at the weekend. I’m not. Grinds teeth and pulls hair out. 

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No News

25 May

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It’s been a couple of weeks since the last blog. There’s a reason for that, namely Nothing to Write About! We knew it could be a while before we heard anything from Abu Dhabi but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

The fact that we could have been off in the caravan isn’t lost on us either. Mind you, this is mitigated by the dismal weather. Yes, we’ve had a few good days and it’s been a real pleasure spending time in the garden. The wisteria is out, providing deliciously-scented, dappled shade.

It all looks a lot neater thanks to umpteen bags of bark and gallons of Roundup. The only area that remains untouched is the tiny fishpond, still choked with leaves and algae but home to a happily breeding pair of frogs and their squirming offspring. It’s also the drinking source for the bees that have made their home in the roof space of the house. If I sound a bit casual about that last statement it’s because we can’t do anything about them and have been told to plant fruit trees and enjoy their not-so-distant buzzing. 

I have resigned myself that this uphill battle against nature is unwinnable. If I didn’t enjoy the pottering about in the garden I’d abandon it now. But while we wait it’s good to have something to do. And the geraniums should be out soon.

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Gone Sailing

12 May

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I don’t think a canal boat for a week quite hit the spot for Neil. The whistle in the rigging was calling to the sailor inside. So when he got the opportunity of a few days on the Irish Sea he jumped at the chance. Did I want to go, too? Not for a second.

Anyone who has read the forerunner to this blog will know that I have never considered myself a “real” sailor. To say I am a fair-weather sailor is to understate the situation. Even if PassageWeather is forecasting light winds and the Daily Express says that summer should arrive this week (that must be right, then) I’m not tempted. It has taken me the last 18 months on dry land not to cringe when I hear the crescendo of an escalating strong gust.

Don’t get me wrong, I could definitely be tempted by another stint in the Greek Islands. I could even contemplate, without running for the hills, the possibility of buying a boat in, say, Spain and sailing her to Greece again at a leisurely pace. But seafaring in British waters in May? Please! Are you out of your mind? I was wearing every layer I could get my hands on last week and that was just on the inland waterways!

So, with the windscreen wipers on full speed, I dropped Neil off at the station to catch a train to Southport. Bon Voyage, darling. I’ll keep the house warm for you.

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This picture by Leroy Neiman really captures.., well, why I’d rather stay home. 

 

 

Canal Progress

4 May

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It has to be said that after the first 24 hours on a canal boat I was thinking we’d made a mistake. It is not as relaxing as you might think. In fact my neck hasn’t been so painful with tension since the Meltemi in the Aegean.

Sure, you’re tootling along at a couple of miles an hour but then “stuff” gets in the way – tunnels, road bridges that you have to stop the traffic to lift (complete with an obnoxious cyclist) and ruddy great lumps of tree that get stuck on the bow of the boat to name but three. Then, of course, there are other boats that moor along the banks, sometimes two abreast, drastically narrowing the available space and there’s always another boat coming the other way at this point.

More than all this, though, is the fact that if you’re at the helm you can’t relax for a second. Let your attention wander and your nose is into the bank before you know it. Canals are not very wide, they are shallow at the sides and they don’t go in straight lines. After five hours of this we’d both had more than enough. We moored up and headed off down the tow path on foot.

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Things seemed to turn around after this. We checked out the next couple of lift bridges and what would be our first lock. Here we met Jeremy who works as a volunteer on the canal helping out on the locks outside his lovely old cottage. His help and enthusiasm made all the difference. And, to be honest, so did the glass of chilled white he gave us when he invited us to join him by his fireside.

Today has left a totally different impression. Some 30 locks later we’re enjoying ourselves again. Jeremy was there to help us through our first couple of locks and it was all pretty straightforward from there. Going at little more than impulse power was far less stressful for me at the tiller and I actually took pleasure in being in sole control of the boat. Neil says he enjoyed the physical exercise involved in opening and closing locks along with the walk between each one. He’s expecting aches and pains tomorrow though!

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It also meant we had chance to look around, appreciate the scenery and the wildlife while chatting to other crews also going through the locks. You forget how friendly boaty types tend to be.

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With the weather forecast not looking promising from tomorrow onwards our opinion of this canal holidays could all change again. But for the moment we’re chilling.

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A Little Diversion

2 May

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May is such a lovely time of year here in the UK. The jaunty gold of the daffodils and dandelions has transformed into the dusky sapphire of the bluebells and the acid yellow of the rapeseed fields. And every weekend is a bank holiday. Or, at least, that’s how it feels.

Normally, I don’t like to venture far from home on these weekends what with the congested roads, teeming beauty spots and overpriced everything. But with our departure from these shores imminent, if as yet still to be settled, we thought we’d better make the most of our remaining time here. So we’re on a boat again – a canal boat.

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The weather forecast has, of course, deteriorated from when we booked just a couple of days ago. In fact it’s decidedly chilly and dull if not, as yet, actually raining. We’ve come prepared with our wet weather gear and sailing boots but I’m rather wishing I’d brought the old thermal base layer! The boat comes complete with all mod cons, though, including radiators that make it very warm and cosy once she’s battened down for the night.

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I have to say it’s good to feel that gentle rocking again and get re-acquainted with a tiller. What came as a surprise but really shouldn’t have was how it’s possible to leave everything out on the work surfaces and the vase of flowers in the kitchen. I’m guessing we shouldn’t be tilting over at a 45 degree angle as we’re cruising. Well, if we are something is very wrong!

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