Monday, November 25, 2013

A Meeting With My Old Boss

We rendezvouzed with my old boss, Leigh and another workmate, Rocky at Sandon yesterday afternoon.  We first had a couple of drinks on the boat plus showed them a glimpse of our boaty lifestyle ...

The boss bought Elaine some nice plants ...

We then adjourned to The Dog and Doublet where we had a superb dinner and a few more drinks.  It was good to catch up with the guys and have a chat about work and how it was all going, which apparently is very well ... it is a fantastic business with virtually no opposition in Australia ...

We had a lovely cruise back to the marina in very chilly conditions this morning ...

The goose feathered jacket is now de riguer ...

The sheep were going walkabout ...

Nice belt on the cow ...

The doggies enjoyed themselves with a playfight ...

We made it back to the marina in time for Elaine to make up some nibbles for the boaters afternoon tea.
We had a very good turnout of 17 people, newcomers including the return of Elly and Mick (NB Parisien Star), Roly (NB Klara), Dot and Gordon (NB Ewn ha Cul), Rob (NB Name escapes me) and a Canadian guest, Barbara who is staying aboard NB Phyllis May II ...

When we got back to the boat we gave Barbara from Canada a grand tour of the good ship.  They are thinking of buying a narrowboat some time next year.

Tomorrow we are up at 5.00am to go to Manchester for the day ... Diane from NB Ferndale is kindly looking after the doggies for us - thanks, Di!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Shamus O'Blivion and the Megadeath Morrismen!!!

More on the title of the post later......

Friday arvo we went to early doors at The Plume of Feathers where we had a few drinks and burgers with Dot and Gordon (NB Ewn Ha Cul) and Diane (NB Ferndale)

A good afternoon and evening was had by all, but someone didn't eat their salad.....begins with a D and ends with a E!!!

We will all be together again soon in Aston Marina ... Dot and Gordon are holding out to the bitter end!

We have some very smart animals onboard the boat, Geoffrey does the washing and drying, here he is checking that the dryer is empty!

Saturday night we went to the middle of nowhere (The Railway at Norton Bridge) where we watched the most amazing band going under the name of Shamus O'Blivion and the Megadeath Morrismen... link here ... they play Celtic folk rock, we got to bed at 2.30am, what is closing time in the sticks?!!

It was a great pub with a new landlady who was on on her first night ... she is, as they say, very easy on the eye!  A dark haired Jayne Mansfield comes to mind!

This morning it was the usual late start, but we were soon out cruising on our way toward The Dog and Doublet at  Sandon......

...for a dinner date with my old boss and another old work colleague.  They have been over here and Amsterdam for a week or so, doing the annual trade show and buying trip, that I did for many years, the result of which made me fall in love with the UK again!

Geoffrey had a break from the washing and came up for some fresh air with Bombo, who does nothing to help around the boat apart from posing and looking pretty.

We picked up a hitchhiker on the way!  I know as much about birds as I do about  flutterbyes so what is it?  I have eliminated Sparrow, Seagull, Cormorant, Robin, Blackbird, any type of Birds of Prey etc etc etc.


Our plans have also started to take a complete and utter different direction, that doesn't include Spain or Australia.....I will blog about it later when we have made a decision, but then again........   

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Australia or Spain????

It was another very wet and windy night last night, although it had calmed down a bit when I took the dogs on a 1.00am walk around the marina!

I had to do some repair work on the bed today as some of the pvc sliders had broken, making the bed stiff to slide in and out ... it is a cross bed, not an angry bed!  It sits cross-ways across the boat but has a split mattress so it can be turned into daytime mode in about 30 secs. We had purchased some new sliders from B & Q yesterday, so today I fitted them.  Everything went well and it only took about one hour.

Ray and Diane popped round for a cuppa.  We bade farewell to Ray, he is off to Oz tonight for a few weeks.

Later in the afternoon I walked the dogs to Stone and back.  Elly and Mick (NB Parisien Star) plus Carol and Barry (NB Wintons Folly) were moored up down there ... I havn't seen them for about 9 months ... they gave me a wave through the boat window.

By the time I got back to the boat the sun had set, it was 16.30!!

It was nice and calm though but there was a fair chill in the air.

On yesterday's blog post I mentioned that we wrote down the pros and cons of living in Spain vs Australia on a scrap of paper whilst having lunch. Tom from NB Wherethebloodyhellareyou left a comment asking what our pros and cons were, so here they are ...

As I have mentioned before we would love to live in the UK but cant handle the winter, plus we can't get our Aussie pension in the UK ... but can get it in Spain.  The absolute ideal situation would be summer in the UK and summer in Oz, but there are two things stop that ... we don't have that sort of cash and you can't do it with furry creatures!

So this is OUR pros and cons list ...

Australia ... Pros
1. Great weather
2. Stable economy
3. Speak English, with a funny twang
4.Good but expensive health system
4. We have lived there for 30 odd years, we know it and it feels safe
5. Laid back, healthy lifestyle
6. Good pension 
7. Stable banking system
8. Have friends there
9. Good cafe society

Australian ... Cons
1. Very expensive to live
2. Expensive housing
3. Not animal friendly
4. Long way from UK family
5. World's worst drivers
6. Nasty spiders, snakes, ticks etc
7. Rugby league...they don't get football   
8. Crap pubs (apart from the Beach Hotel in Byron Bay)

Spain ... Pros

1. Great weather
2. Cheap housing, villa with pool and fully furnished £150,000!
3. Laid back lifestyle
4. Close to the UK and the rest of Europe
5. Fantastic motorways, new airports, hospitals etc
6. Animal friendly unless you are a bull

Spain ... Cons

1. Language and cultural barrier
2. Bureaucracy
3.  At the mercy of exchange rate, as our cash is in Oz
4. No friends or contacts
5. Spanish government volatile, could you lose your house or tax rules change.
6. Health system ... a great unknown!
7. Not a pretty country, as in harsh scenery

That is OUR list off a scrap of paper!

We still intend doing Europe in the motorhome as you cannot beat being there for a while rather than fly in and out in a few days ... but at the moment I would have to say Australia is in front.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Luddites Rule!

We popped down to Stone yesterday as Elaine needed some new boots.  There are only two shoe shops in Stone, one is closing shortly so was having a sale.  Elaine found a nice pair of boots straight away, although they weren't quite the colour she wanted.  So, she decided to check out the other shoe shop before buying them ... the other shoe shop didn't have anything she fancied so it was back to shop one, only to watch someone else buying her shoes....bugger!  They were the last ones!

Onto the charity shops we went ... there isn't a shortage of them in Stone!  I still find it sad that so many shops are shutting and being replaced by a plethora of charity shops.   I wonder if it is the economic climate or the ease of which you can online shop.  When we want to buy something generally the first thing we do is Google it to check out the product etc. but trying to buy the product in a shop is generally very difficult, as all that comes up on Google is to buy online!  It makes it easy, but the high street shops are suffering.  It also affects employment as the paid shop assistant is replaced with the charity shop volunteer.

Back to the shoe hunt.  We were just about to give up when we entered the last charity shop .... result! One pair of ankle boots, one pair of long boots plus a bonus Xmas jumper....£16.00...less than half the cost of the original pair of boots!

Wow!  We had saved some money, so what to do with the saved money?  Lets go to the pub with Ray and Diane ... so we did and it was grand!  It was strange sitting in a pub in daylight hours watching the kids going home from school, even stranger was a lady giving massages and various 'witchcraft' treatments in a roped off part of the pub!  Great idea I reckon, the Mrs goes for a massage, whilst the old man has a beer or two! (El here ... she was a Natural Therapist - like myself - so we had a lot in common to talk about and have booked myself an appt at her private clinic on Friday!  Didn't seem quite 'right' to me to have a treatment in the pub but it was a good marketing strategy!)

We also learnt something new from Diane in that you can record a TV programme onto a memory USB stick if your TV has the correct USB orifice.....more later! 

It was a special drink as Ray is off downunder for a while from tomorrow.  Bon Voyage, Ray ... and don't forget the Tim Tams (Deluxe Penguin bar)  ...
El Ray and Diane in The Exchange

It was a very cold night last night, with lots of frost around when I went on my midnight marina walk, but in the night it blew a gale and pissed down with rain.

This morning the weather was still appalling but we needed to get some odds and sods from Stafford for the van and the boat.  I am so glad we have a car, I wouldn't want to hang around bus stops in this crappy weather!

We managed to virtually find everything we wanted so decided to treat ourselves to a lovely lunch at Frankie and Bennys!  Whilst in the restaurant we wrote up a pros and cons list on a scrap of paper for living in Spain vs Australia ... at the moment Oz is in front!  We once planned a round the world itinerary on a beer mat in a pub in Byron Bay ... no joke!  We stuck to it too ... I still have that beermat somewhere!  England is definitely out of the running for a place to settle down in ... as much as we love the place the winter just sucks.  I think once you have lived for a long time in a warm climate it is very difficult to try and live in a cold climate.  When we lived in Oz we really thought that we would be able to handle the English winter......we have failed!

England in the winter !
Byron Bay in the winter !

Finally to the Luddite bit.  We don't have a USB socket on the boat TV, but we discovered that the van TV had one, so we fitted the stick and hey presto it records!!!  Oh so simple, no more missed Dr Who!
Why didn't I know this?  We have only ever recorded programmes on video tapes, so I guess we are a little behind the times !

Tonight as I type this drivel the boat is rocking in the wind.  It generally doesn't move as we are well sheltered in the marina - it must be a real bugger in the open.  Meanwhile Elaine is sitting in one of the comfy chairs in front of the fire, making jewellery and worrying about our resident sheep in the marina being cold and wet!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Aston Marina Boaters Tea Party

Woke to a rather grim day weather wise today, but the boat is lovely and cosy and warm.

We started the day by doing one of our favourite jobs, clipping all the cats claws.

Here is Geoffrey all wrapped up so he can't bite and scratch us ...

It was then a quick run up to the local Aldi to get some supplies for the Monday arvo Aston Marina tea party!

We had a good turnout of twelve people....

.....there are a few hardy few still out there cruising.....

.....they will all be home to roost in the next couple of weeks.

There was a good amount of nibbles, tea, coffee, beer and wine!

Subjects discussed were shit, toilets, penises, wigs, Wales and of course boating travels and tales from the glorious summer cruising.

Farewell to Ray who is off down under Thursday for a few weeks, safe travels me old mate.

Same again next Monday 14.00 hrs!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Visitors FromThe Big Smoke

It was a cruisey day today, well it is Sunday!  We did the normal morning walk with the doggies then I fitted the new leisure battery to the van, and that was it!

Elaine's old friends from Saudi and Australia, who have been living in London for the last many years, (probably around about eighteen or so?) paid us a visit this arvo.  It was great to catch up with them and thank them for making the big trip!  Elaine would especially like to thank Pam for the big box of goodies that she brought for her :)

By the time they set off for London again neither of us could be be bothered to cook, and as it was Sunday we nipped down the local 'Spoons for the sunday roast ... bloody good it was too.

Tomorrow we will be our first Monday boaters' tea at the cedar hut on the marina ... looking forward to it!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Odds and Sods

I finished off painting the cratch yesterday ... if the boat wasn't a live-aboard it would make a very nice conservatory area with a table and chairs etc.  It would be a lovely area in the summertime - but at the moment we fill it with coal, wood, kitty litter and pushbikes etc!  It also has the hold underneath which we fill with spares, tools, paint, anchor and ropes etc, that way we can have a nice uncluttered roof.

Later in the day Elaine and myself did a few more little jobs on the van ... the dogs came along to hang around and look cute.

One of the things I wanted to check out was how easy was it to get at the spare wheel, as it has a bike rack attached the the stern of the van......

.... piece of cake!  You drop down the bike carrier, remove the cross brace with a phillips screwdriver and voila - one brand new spare!  I even noticed that it had a small hose attached to the valve that connects to another valve under the rear valance, so you can check the pressure without pulling off the cover etc.

I also checked out the one house battery as I want to add another one of the same type.

This is our marina parking spot, very handy ... saves putting in some storage yard.

Ray and Diane (NB Ferndale) came over to the van for a chat and we decided that as it was a Friday it would be rude not to go down to the Swan for a few swift ones!  Very nice it was too, they get a good crowd down at that pub.

Back to the boat in time to watch England vs Chile in the footie, say no more :-(

Today we went to Stoke to pick up the new battery for the van.  In a moment of madness, we then decided to have a look in 'Go Outdoors' to check out zero gravity recliners for next summer.  (Elaine wants a Lafuma chair as, when we finally settle down, she can use it as a mobile Reflexology chair - so we had to test out all the angles of all the chairs .... yawn!).

As were were in Hanley we popped into the shopping centre .... what a mistake!  It was full of Christmas shoppers, it was horrific - on many levels!  We couldn't wait to escape and head back to the tranquility of Aston Marina.  I dropped off Elaine to the boat then went down to the pub to watch Engand vs The All Blacks ... England got a bit closer than I though they would.

We have also booked up a campsite in London (Crystal Palace) in mid December, so we will go down for a few days to check out the Christmas spirit in London ... can't wait as we just love London. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pikeys In Macclesfield

As promised, yesterday morning we woke to our sea view in Llandudno ...

We thought we had better head back to the boat as I had run out of drugs, purely for medicinal purposes of course.

We took a detour to Rhyl on the way ...

Where Bombo found some lovely birdshit to roll in ...

Like Anglesea, Rhyl was also shut ...

Is anybody out there ?????? Nah - just a dirty dog!

We stopped off at Runcorn to catch up with a couple of friends from Australia who are now living, and are renovating, a house in Runcorn.  It has views over the River Mersey and Manchester Ship Canal but I forgot to take photos!

We also passed a castle, as you do!

We stopped off in Macclesfield to see Elaine's dad and pick up a lot of mail and bits and pieces he had for us.  It was getting late so we decided to stay for the night in Macc.  Oh goody a nice bed to sleep in, I thought!  No, says Elaine, we have to sleep in the van in case someone breaks into it and nicks the cats!!!!  As long as they don't nick the van that's fine by me, says I!   So - as I knew I was fighting a losing battle - we slept in the van with all the animals on some waste ground behind Burts house ... we are Pikeys!

We were up at 7.00 am this morning and were soon on our way back to the boat.  Once there we soon unloaded all the gear and animals back onboard.  We drove down to the local shell service station where they had a jet wash machine.  I had been cleaning it for about 15 mins and spent about six quid trying to make it gleam again, but to no avail as the equipment was crap.  Some nice chappie in a BMW pulled up and said he has a motorhome about the same size and  recommended I go to the local car wash in Stone; he said the Polish lads will clean the whole thing including the roof for £20.00.

We were off!  Five mins later, the lads were into it whilst Elaine and I went into town for a cuppa.

They did a really good job, well worth the £20.00 - it was a very muddy truck from our recent adventures!

When we got back to the marina, Elaine cleaned up the interior of the van whilst I painted the undercoat in the cratch ... see it is a boaty blog after all!

As regards one of our next adventures, we noticed there is a campground in Crystal Palace, which we would like to try to get down to before Xmas to see the London Xmas lights ... we know for certain that London will not be shut!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Anglesea Shut!

We left the Hendre Mynach caravan park this morning and drove back to Barmouth ...

There weren't many people about yesterday, but today is was deserted, we were the tourists!

Barmouth was surrounded by mist, but the temperature wasn't too bad, it was positively balmy!

We took a walk along the deserted brealwater ...

Looking across the bleak harbour ...

Somewhere across there is Carol and George's (NB Rock n Roll) old cottage ...

Bombo was loving being around a beach, as ever ...
Photo: Paul and Bombo playin on Barmouth beach!

This is exactly what we wanted the motorhome for, to see the other parts of the UK that you simply cannot do in a narrowboat.  Although it was bleak and misty is was just so spectacular ...

I must do the train trip one day, it goes all the way up the coast ...

We really had no plans, so we decided to go to Anglesea.  As you may know from a previous blog, where we met Kate in London as she was waiting to give birth to the future Monarch ... she thoroughly recommended it and said it was well worth a look ...

When we are out in the boat Bombo assumes the position in the life ring on the hatch, in the van it is Elaine's knee and asleep!

The scenery through Snowdonia was world class, and very very wet!

Some of the roads were very narrow!  We were going through a little village when we met a truck coming the other way - it was a very tight squeeze and took a fair while whilst we squeezed past each other inch by inch.  After pulling the mirrors right in, it was 'fag paper width' stuff, remember this ain't no steel narrowboat, I ain't scratching this baby!

Now where were we?  Oh yes, we arrived in Anglesea and basically it was shut!  Kate didn't tell us that bit - all the sites were shut for winter, so we ended up on the side of a mountain above Llandudno. We rang the only caravan site that we could find open whilst we were 'moored up' in Llandudno centre ... the chap tried to give us directions but eventually drove down to escort us up to the site which was on his farm.  It was a good job he did as we would never have found it!  We are in the middle of nowhere but apparently we have a sea view in the distance ... we will have to wait till daylight to see if he is correct.

We will head back to the boat tomorrow via Macclesfield.

What we have learned on this inaugural trip is that we must plan a bit more to check what sites are open!  (Mind you, we did do that originally ... just that we got bogged in the first one!)  You can just imagine it in summer, it would be the dead opposite with all the sites full.

We will also do a bit of wild camping in the future, but this trip I just wanted to check everything worked on the van, and using the shore power in case it didn't, as in HEAT!

Very, very pleased with the van and Elaine is loving sitting in the warm with no locks to do!