Thursday 31 January 2019

A Trip to Stone, family stuff and GOODBYE JANUARY!!!!!!!!

Oh you're still with me then? - that's nice... I wouldn't blame you of course for skipping on to more 'boaty, boating blogs right now'... I probably would have prior to 14th January.  Since however, I find myself some kind of 'extreme EM-PATH'...with the unsettling ability to feel the pain (or imagine feeling the pain) of other people in their own - actual (or perceived/imagined by my brain) purgatory).

It's not nice but I think it might actually be a good thing.

Anyway  - I'll try not to harp on too much about the rawness and shock at how things are at the moment... instead we'll have an update on boaty stuff. 

BEFORE then, I just wanted to say another 'thank you' to the many folk who've either commented on here (I've lost the option to reply individually for some reason) and those who've emailed either by the contact form on the website or direct to me at NB ELLIS's account...  I truly do appreciate your understanding and sentiments.

You'll recall, initially, booking a car hire had for a week had seemed almost as cheap as the 3 days we actually needed...  well that was the case until I added the excess insurances etc.  Having "sucked it up" as our Canadian friends would say,  we though't we'd make best use of the car and planned a few trips before it's return.  Thanks to comments left on here, I NOW know it's best to buy and annual insurance policy to cover this and it will save us loads in the future... If I try and look who it was told me, I'll end up losing this posting so if it was YOU - (and I should remember because I feel like I know you already) THANKS for the info... I looked into it and found a policy for just over 40 quid...

On Friday, we came up with a plan.  The first part of it was our friend Sally (of 'Wine Wednesday fame') coming over from Harrogate for tea and a few drinks and staying the night... well I thought that was the plan but it turned out she'd stay over with Sheree (the tall fire-engine blonde one)... so as it was, we re-created a 'wine Wednesday' on Friday night in the Stanley Ferry. 

Andy is STILL doing dry January and is going to keep it up as long through the year as he can - For obvious reasons MY commitment to it, has at best, been somewhat flakey this last couple of weeks - I'd not totally abandoned it... in fact, the last few days I've been back to it... actually finding it reduces how maudlin i feel when the evening drags on.

ANYWAY - after we'd eaten and Sally and I had drank a few bottles of something a bit nicer than the house stuff  (which is awful but for a fiver on 'wine Wednesdays' is tolerable, we went our separate ways until morning. 

Somewhere along the line, we'd arranged rather than Sally getting the train back to Harrogate on Saturday morning, AS we'd planned to have a drive back up north to see Cliff, we'd go that way and give her a lift.  THAT way, we could have a nosey around Sall's new house that we'd not yet been to.

Once we dropped her off (btw, she's got a LOVELY BATH that we hope to be in at some point) we continued the journey to my dads.  Ahem, he was out!

It WOULD have been an idea to phone ahead first to say we were coming but tbh, when I called the other day and got the answer phone - the message on it being 'Mum' it set me off into a blubbering wreck for an hour or so... ergo, I figured we'd take a chance.

As it happened, I sent my niece a message and we took the opportunity to go and visit the house she and her boyfriend (the vicars son) have just bought and renovated.  Only thing was, I couldn't quite remember where it was... add to that the  fact the roads have changed since I were a lad, it did mean quite an interesting tour of the North Yorkshire back roads - with intermittent phone signals preventing any meaning full exchange of directional info... no matter, we got there in the end they met us there for the grand tour.  Mum would be pleased to see them settled in and the house will suit them well.

We left and then went back to my dad's - who it turned out had been food shopping.  We spent an hour or so there and then returned to the boat... which of course was freezing as the fire had gone out. Only one thing for it... re-light it, put the heating on (and engine) and have tea in the pub whilst it warmed up.

Sunday's plan was to head down to  Stone to visit our friends Eddie and Wendy - (the ones we traveled with a fair bit last year) and take a look at Aston Marina where they've been ensconced for the winter.  It was SO lovely to see them and despite a few wobbles when we talked about our recent losses (Ed's mam died recently too), they were a tonic yet again...  They'd invited us to stay for the night but (wanting a bath) we ended up in the Stone house hotel... which was OK and not very expensive... nice bathroom. 

We had a good look around the Marina facilities and made the decision there and then that we'll come there December thru February coming...  We LIKE moving around but what with all THIS years stoppage season putting the kibosh on many of our plans, we may as well sit out the worst 3 months of the weather with the luxury of shoreline ... battery charging when not moving and during the time the solar is doing nothing, is a bit of  a bind.

Spending a few months on Shoreline ALSO gives us the opportunity (if finances allow) for us to have a "holiday" somewhere warm in January...  January now being my least favorite month of the year for obvious reasons.

When Monday morning revealed her self, we got up bright and early and set off down to Wolverhampton .  Andy's folks now live there and he's got an Uncle who's pretty much on his last legs (physically)...  it had been my suggestion to go and see him whilst he would appreciate it, rather than wait until a funeral. It's/it'd always been one of 'mum's' things...  I can't count the number of times she'd said "I'd MUCH rather people come to see me when I'm alive than traipse out to my funeral"... and she meant it...

HENCE the visit to Andy's family...  His Uncle treated us all to lunch and it was nice for them all to be together... to create a memory rather than a regret.    I won't lie - it was a bit grueling for me... my brain kept wandering off and I did have to make a break for the loos in the pub to blub.  No matter - point is, it was the right thing to do and Andy feels good about it.

After dropping his Uncle off, we went back to his folks house for (in my case) a Gin and we set off back up north around half 3/4 o'clock. 

ONCE again, getting back to a freezing cold boat (36 hours with no-one on board) so i was another 'light fire, start engine, turn heating on' and head to the pub night...

Tuesday was a day of chores with the car before returning it yesterday morning... another 10 bags of coal, diesel and heavy shopping etc.  We should have enough coal on now to take us to early April - after which we'll use the heating for cold spells. 

I've also  began working through my list of "jobs"... first thing was a quick water filter change...

and today... in fact in about 30 mins when the engine cools down enough not to burn me,  I'm going to change the oil and filters - it already being just over 200 hours since I last did it. 

I think tomorrow, we'll pull anchor and depart Stanley Ferry - to resume out planned jaunt up to Slaithwaite on the Huddersfield Narrow.  First things first... time for another cup of tea and a bacon sarny. 

Until next time...

Friday 25 January 2019

Back "home"... rushed cremation and revelations.

Before I begin this missive - I'm sorry if it turns out horrible or takes anyone reading back to a painful time in their own lives...  this place right now is pretty much my uninterrupted  sounding board. ... AND , by virtue of the automatic requirement to 'self edit' my thoughts before posting them, it hopefully oughtn't be too controversial.

We left Leeds on Sunday morning after a brief stop on the water river services station to top up with water, empty the black water (the pump out machine on the river being the best one in the area) and also rinse the roof down abit.  For a change, there was barely any wind and although a bitter cold day, the journey down stream on the river Aire was as pleasurable as it could be.  Admittedly we WERE going a little faster than we'd usually do - we really did just want to GET back to Stanley Ferry... well I say we - Andy would have been happy for us to stay in Leeds and operate from there for the forthcoming obligations.  That's an awful word... 'obligations' - but it's true... no one REALLY wants to "do" the things that have to be done but we KNOW we have to - however painful they may be.

It was all in all about a 4 & half hour chug... somehow we'd managed to knock 2 hours off our usual time.

Luckily when we pulled up, there was a space on the visitor moorings as near to an (unofficial water point) as you could get.  The downside being the amount of dog poo on the bank side... it really does irk me the amount of irresponsible/downright lazy, dog owners around.

Being back at Stanley offered a sense of relief - the river could do what it wanted now as we could walk to the car hire place and had folk around willing to help if called upon.

Trouble is, being "me" - I'm not very good at calling on folk for help... even an offer of a lift to pick up the hire car something I couldn't accept.... stupid really but there we go.  

I've bumped in to a few people who know us and just telling them why we're back seems to help... can't explain why - perhaps its some primordial need to share out the misery. I dunno.  I've not gone out of my way to see people yet ... it's nice to know they are around but I really dont want to make folk feel uncomfortable.... most of them (being older ) have already been there, done that and bought the proverbial t-shirt...  sympathizing with me will only make them re-live their own painful experiences.

On Wednesday afternoon, we set off  earlier than required to check in to the hotel in Northallerton and went via my parents home...  on arrival we found dad buggering around trying to copy some old photos of Mum to place at the village hall and crematorium.  He'd given in and we were no use so he used the originals instead.  

It turns out I'd made the wrong call on staying in a hotel - he'd have been happy for us to stay there with him but being a Yorkshire man, (and having paid up front) we went to the hotel anyway.

Whilst we were chatting, he told me whilst sorting through mum's diaries (she's gonna kill him for NOT burning them without reading them as instructed) he'd come across notebooks for my brother and I, which she'd used to record our child hoods - varying from new bikes, first dry night out of nappies to injuries and illnesses.  

The entries vary in their content but sitting reading them back at the hotel (complete with bottle of wine to hand) was actually really lovely... it going to show how seriously she took, and how much effort she put into being a mother.

My brother doesn't want his - something I think he'll regret later so I've taken it and will try and pass it on to him when he's had time to process his feelings.  

It's odd really - Joyce was very demonstrative and easily discussed feelings...  I'm able to express them (although I don't really like people touching me) but my poor brother can't seem to manage either...  we're all different and sometimes you'd think we'd had entirely different upbringings...  

I've reminded dad that he REALLY should not be reading through her daily diaries as she had left explicit instructions for him to burn them upon her death... suggesting / reminding him at some point in there, he's going to come across long since forgiven arguments between mum and ALL of us - that will cause him pain.    He gleefully quipped that he'd done has he was told for 51 years and right now it's giving him comfort... and that he's a big boy and if he's upset by something he reads, he'll take it on the chin (if aimed at him) or rip it out if it'll upset "us" in the future... She'll be furious but he HAS been warned.

For all the pain he's enduring, he is managing to (at least appear) interject occasional black humor through his sadness... he can't bring himself to move her shoes from beside the fire place yet, but he HAS resumed "going to bed"  which can only be a good thing... NOT quite so good is the air-rifle he's got next to him on the bed that he's been trying to shoot a rat eating his bird food with out of the bedroom window - he's a terrible shot and thus far, the rat in the garden is looking rather well fed!  To be honest, I don't think he really cares ... he'll just buy more bird food - by spring it'll move on back into the local fields/woodlands.

I'm digressing - sorry.

We arranged to be come pick him up about 7.45 yesterday morning to give plenty of time to get to the Crematorium in Darlington for the 9.15 "slot"...

As it turned out, we both woke up about and unable to get back to sleep, got up and watched tv in the hotel .  Annoyingly - a combination of morning ablutions/soaks in the bath we ended up rushing around by 7am to depart.... SNOW had settled a little over night but nothing major - it was on the cards so on arrival at dads, we set straight off to Darlington.

In typical family style, we were first to arrive at about 8.20... with other members also turning up within minutes.

Trust me - yesterday morning at minus 2 degrees Celsius was NOT the day for hanging around  cemetery...  

Joyce had insisted for as long as I could remember, she DIDN'T want folk to endure the misery of attending her cremation - as far as she was concerned, she'd be long gone to nicer climes anyway so a load of people being sad in an uncomfortable place was the last thing she'd want on her conscience.

As it turns out, neither dad (nor the family) could go through with that and despite a niggle she'd be pissed off, many family members and friends DID brave the awful cold to show support to my dad.  

None of us were taking a lead and instead we just sort of hung around the car park awkwardly - not sitting in warm cars like any sensible folk would... instead shuffling from foot to foot on the slippery ground shivering and trying not to cry.

For me, it was all I could do not to blubber constantly - every hug or well intention ed greeting adding to the misery. I know it's supposed to be a comfort but we're British after all and stoicism is "what we do"...  it shouldn't be of course - but it's just how we function ... had we been a Mediterranean family, folks would have been throwing themselves on the coffin in the chapel and whaling with emotion... instead we do the next best thing.... form an orderly line and wait patiently for the doors to open.

by about 9, on the surprise arrival of my oldest (longevity) friend - (who'd I'd specifically NOT told when it was so as not to put any expectation on her to turn up... she's not long since endured the loss of her own mother and I didn't want to bring back the awfulness of it for her) I decided someone had better being the walk through the cemetery to the burners - I can't think what else to refer to them as....

Folk soon followed on and then we all ended up standing outside waiting for the doors to be opened - the waiting room (with a little warmth) choc-a-bloc already.  It seems ironic that a place which specifically uses fire to dispose of remains, doesn't have any outside heating!

(sorry - that might be too black)...  but we WERE all freezing...

The vicar (my nieces boyfriend' father) came out to greet us and his genuine kindness lightened the situation briefly.  We joked that Joyce would LOVE the fact she had her "own" vicar presiding...  and she would.

The undertaker appeared dead on (sorry for that) 9.15 and called the chief mourner (dad) in and my brother and I followed.  

The music dad had selected was being played - Van Morrison -" have I told you lately that I love you?" and we all shuffled in.

I was beside myself sitting down next to dad whilst the majority "stood" respectfully... I just couldn't a few seconds (which felt like an eternity) the rest of the congregation were also seated.

Holding my fathers shaking hand on my knee as he sobbed was the hardest thing I ever want to do.

I tried to force my brain to drift off and away from what was happening - looking at the coffin adorned with Freesias (mum's favorite flower) I just couldn't help thinking of her spending the last 10 days being refrigerated... she SO hated the cold.  During the "readings" and prayers I sort of zoned out - the Eulogy HAVING to be read quickly as the clock was ticking away to the next "slot"...  BEING a bunch of heathens, dad had picked "Morning has broken" to be sung - thinking at least folk know the tune and most of the words  so we'd not make too bad a job of it...  none of us had realized the organist obviously knew we had to speed things up a bit to get us out in time so it did feel rather rushed ... something which whilst good to a point, did feel a bit too conveyor belt like.

As the final prayer was being spoken, I heard a what I thought was a drilling noise and anger boiled up in side of how insensitive it was... only realizing a few moments later it was the electric motor on the curtains closing on mum.

The relief when the undertaker came back in to collect dad (although that wasn't easy either cause he'd ended up wedged in the corner next to me and "technically" needed to be out first) was enormous...  by that point, I wanted to run out of there as quickly as possible.

Walking out with dad and thanking the vicar ( I SO should know his name but I've not a clue) despite the pain, I felt an enormous relief - followed by guilt for feeling relieved.  

As the rest of the mourners followed us out , on our route back to the car park, we had to walk passed the "next group" of pained souls who were about to endure  what we'd just gone through - I couldn't help but feel so sad for THEM seeing our sobbing party coming out - with them about to be rung through the mill next....  Horrible.

Driving back it did feel so much better for a short while - we stopped off at dad's for him to change his nappy (his colostomy bag) AND for us both to neck a swift drink as courage to face the bun fight.

A wake was another thing mum REALLY didn't want - BUT that other people need....  I didn't reconise half the people there but did my best to mingle and thank them for supporting dad.  People ARE good and kind... and they DO want to show support for him...  he did so well - especially as it was an alcohol free event - I had a bottle in the car (Andy was driving) but despite wanting to "top up" I didn't - instead, enduring what had to be done.  

It was nice in a way - I just couldn't bring myself to eat or drink anything though...  my stomach in knots.... catching up with cousins , friends of the family and a couple of odd uns I had NO idea about, was as good as it could be.  Inside, I was screaming for everyone just to bugger off so we could leave too - however, mum would have been pleased I'd manned up and expressed thanks to those who have been there for her in her recent times of need .

I WAS going to write some letters today thanking people who made a difference do mum AND have been there for dad...  however, having written this,  - hopefully to give myself some closure on yesterday,  I'm now balling my eyes out again...I will do them over the weekend.  We're going up to see dad at some point again tomorrow - he doesn't know it...  Today HE has taken one of his brothers to my Uncle Lewis's funeral...  he died a few days before mum . Perhaps selfishly, there was no way I could go to that one.  

Dad WANTED to though because it turns out from our recent conversations, that Lew and Marion( his deceased older sister) were the first people Mum and him "told" when they began dating - mum had been divorced and as Cliff was from a catholic family, their relationship HAD to be a secret until he was 21...

Different times.

Anyway -   last night... we got back to the boat...  drew breath and kicked off our shoes - having spent the day wearing the Xmas socks Joyce had bought for us... no one (well apart from possibly her) will ever even have known!

Until next time...

Saturday 19 January 2019

Ducks lined up... extortionate car hire and child labour!

Here we are then... in a state of limbo - where time has stood still and things are out of my control.

It's not a feeling I'm comfortable with or even vaguely familiar... and to say it's unsettling, is an understatement.

Since my last visit here, it's been a very frustrating and lonely time on the boat....We traveled from Skipton to Bingley (in the rain - which was handy as on occasion it hid my tears somewhat) and then had to sit and wait for our (amended) booking to go down.  I understand the need for crt to organise their work force out of season but it didn't stop the feelings of frustration and despair. 

The sun at least did come out whilst we hung around the tip of Bingley so the solar panels could do a bit to earn their keep - it's been a whilst since we've had any decent light for to be putting in 10 amps made  a change from their pathetic output of late.

Whilst we were there, Andy set to and made some proper side fenders - using the NEW rope we'd bought in Skipton when we filled up with Diesel and Coal on  Monday morning at Pennine Cruisers.

Whilst he was doing that, I was trying to arrange car hire and a hotel near (ish) to my parents home so as to make the journey up there shorter next week.    Car hire in Skipton had been easier using a smaller firm but with less additional cossets.... Hiring from Europcar in Wakefield turned into a whole lot more expensive operation....  it costing the same for a week as it does for 3 days!!! - well that's the "hook line" anyway... by the time you added an additional driver (90 quid more please)... damage waiver to reduce the excess from 1400 quid down to something sensible and include windscreen/tyre cover (another 70 quid) it ended up at 355 quid.... and that didn't even include breakdown cover!!!

 I suspect, had my brain of been working properly , I'd have been able to find something better/cheaper but it was all I could do to book the bloody thing as was - I still need to get the printer working to provide "printed proof of address" ffs.

The place in Skipton was happy with out NI numbers and looking at our online banking on our phones.

Hmmmf,   anyway - it's done now so we just need to get back to Wakefield and then all the ducks are lined up.   We had thought about hanging around when we get to Leeds and using that as a base but to be frank, Wakefield "FEELS" like home... given how pathetic I'm being at the moment, I want to be somewhere that feels comforting... somewhere I can walk around and bump into people who know me. It's also handy for picking up things from the house - along with coal,diesel etc. too.

It did occur to me to stay with dad the night before -  SORRY - rewind.  He sorted out the funeral on his own... not wanting to burden either me, his siblings or my brother... BUT I think it might be too emotionally draining for him having us around... preferring to grieve in private if given the chance.

 We're chatting for about an hour a day though - something which is totally alien to both of us but mum would be so pleased.... even my brother and I are communicating like adults - another thing she'd want AND which was requested in her letter from beyond the grave.

Cliff is doing his best not to break down during conversations - as am I but quite often there are silences on both sides whilst we try and compose ourselves as a result of a shared memory or oppositely, unknown story to the other party.  It's weird but good.  I never realized what a sensitive man he is... something else mum would be pleased to know was happening...  

Oddly, even though I firmly don't believe in "a better place", heaven or whatever else you want to call it, BECAUSE she did, I'm hedging my bets a bit and having random conversations with her ...  bonkers really but it's harmless and just in case she WAS right,  it would give her comfort.  

He's not getting much peace though because being part of a large, well known family, (not to mention the death notice going in the paper) - folk are telephoning him all day... WHICH whilst difficult for him, HAS to be good for him to know he's cared about by so many.

ANYWAY - yesterday morning, the lockie arrived at the top of Bingley and although we were booking in for 1pm, offered to work us down an hour or so earlier ...  so off we went - an American family were hanging around the locks so Andy roped them into helping with his side of things... I wasn't really in a chatty mood so being on the back of the boat on my own suited me.

It made their day and was a brief distraction for us.

Whilst chatting with the lockie, he mentioned there was a booking down Newley locks on Saturday morning - we were booked in for Sunday.... SO, we decided to phone the CRT office and check we could piggy back onto it and share the locks...  that was agreed as it too was a 57 foot narrowboat.

THAT meant a bit o a schlep to Rodley - well not normally but because it's dark so early it meant by the time we'd worked out way through Dobsons Stair case and the swing bridges in Apperley Bridge, we arrived in darkness.

Not ideal but it did mean only a 45 min hop to the top of the Locks this morning to be there by 9am.

On arrival this morning, we spotted the boat we towed down into Leeds on our previous jaunt up here...  NOW resplendent with their BRAND NEW ENGINE.  They came over whilst we were in the lock and it was lovely to have a quick catch up ... hopefully next time we see them we can share a beer or whatever.

IT did feel nice bumping into a couple of familiar faces - I've been feeling a bit lonely of late... MORE so since mum's death so seeing Martin and Jayne was most welcome.

We've continued our journey today and will over night in Leeds before an early start downstream tomorrow - subject to the river not having a paddy...  All being well, we'll be "home" tomorrow and draw breath.      I DO hope these uncontrollable fits of tears begin to lessen their frequency though ... they're exhausting - as is the inability to sleep.  I'm BACK On Dry January though after Monday night's (acceptable) lapse but boy the temptation /need is stronger than it's ever been.

Tomorrow's another day...

Until next time...

btw - a heart felt thanks to those who've said nice things... I know it's crappy and no one knows WHAT to say... but I suppose this "right of passage" so to speak has happened to (or WILL happen to) everyone else too.  Thank you x

Wednesday 16 January 2019

An Elf is for Life - not just for Christmas...

We're still in shock  here - for the first time, living on a boat without access (easily) to a car has been pants...

On hearing of Joyce's death, instinctively I wanted to get in the car and go to my father...I suppose that's why I crashed out of Dry January so spectacularly in the early hours of Tuesday morning...  Gin on this occasion should not have been the drink of choice but Andy's parents had visited at the weekend and we'd bought some in for them.  

It's been a rough couple of days - we hired a car yesterday morning... Andy driving as I had WAY too much gin still floating around my system... and set off to meet dad at the hospital - he'd gone back to (with his sister Ali who was taking her husband for a blood test) to see if he could collect the MCCD thingy...  until 4 am yesterday morning I had not even heard of such a thing.  Anyway - he couldn't get it because they hadn't decided on the cause of death yet.

On speaking with Ali, given our eta, we changed our route and met them back at the parental home.

It was awful - Cliff was/remains, a crumpled and crushed frail super hero ... I can't find the words to describe the situation.... I know many folk have already endured this and as such, feel it inappropriate to wallow in my own self pity... suffice to say, whilst neither of us could do/say/act anyway to help each other, it was some kind of comfort... AND something mum would have appreciated us both trying.

Oddly, I'm finding myself referring to Joyce as mum at the moment... I think because saying her name feels harder than "mum",  Strange.

I know this is personal stuff, but this is my blog after all -  Anyway - Cliff got out the address book and I started making calls to people who she'd want to know....  that was awful too - barely making it through the calls before i crumbled and blubbed..  folk are kind and tolerant though and I did have some nice conversations with people I've not spoken to for 30 years - one old dear remembered me by the fact at a "village dance/disco" many , many years ago, I'd noticed she wasn't dancing and invited her to do a St Bernards Waltz with me... I have no memory of this but it sounded like the sort of thing I'd have done as a kid and did make me smile through sobbing.

About lunch time, hospital phoned to say they'd had a meeting and agreed a cause of death as a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs) and asthma... there was mention of a mass in her lungs but given the outcome, no point in looking for a cancer diagnosis... which is a relief - knowing she was "more ill" won't change a thing and without a shadow of a doubt, I have complete faith that everyone involved will have tried their hardest to keep her alive/bring her back.

That meant we could go back down there (it's about 15 miles away) to get the med cert.  Walking in to the hospital with my dad was the hardest thing ... i wish I'd left him in the car and gone in for him... poor man.  Armed with the cert we then went to the registry office.  I'd phoned ahead and made an appointment for 2.30 - we were an hour early but I used to work for the council and decided to chance my arm at going in early.  Leaving Cliff with Andy in the car, I went in and came out half an hour later with the death certificates and form required to release mums body to the undertakers.

I must say - the registrar couldn't have been more kind, patient and supportive .... I know it's their job but I couldn't do it and all credit to her.  I actually filled in the "customer care survey" card in the back of the folder...  I forgot to post it of course and got a call from the car hire company this morning asking if I'd like them to post it for me... having left it on the passenger floor well - doh! 

When we got back to dads, (that feels weird writing) I logged in and did the "tell us once service online...  if you've not heard of it, basically it's a government thing whereby you can select parts of a persons life that exist in the government/authority ether and close them down.

It's probably a very good idea but it really hurts doing it... each box you tick, blue badge, library card, bus pass etc (not that she had a bus pass) feels like you are deleting her ever existing.

By about 4. we'd done all we could do .... I offered to call the family undertakers for dad but he was adamant he'd sleep on it and do it today.  

Rewind a bit- when we dug out mum's birth certificate/wedding cert to take with us, we found letters addressed to the people she loved most...  dad and I didn't dare open them at the time... both choosing to do it later.

We left about 4- half 4, and set off back to the boat in Skipton.  That back road with Andy driving in the dark was interesting!  I think my teeth marks in the dash will bounce out in time.

Last night  ... even after the hellish day, when we did get back, I resisted the urge to have a drink and instead, took a sleeping tablet - I have some in stock as a long term insomniac... to be honest, I was so exhausted I was already falling asleep before i popped a pill but it was good to feel assured of  an unbroken night...  which I luckily had.

WHEN  I reached out the other night - it was self indulgent of me and whilst I regret not being stronger, I am SO humbled by the kindness, support and thoughts of 'strangers' ... they don't feel like strangers though... the boating community feels like family... knowing that people empathize with you - especially those who have experienced far harder things, REALLY is a comfort...  Boaters ... and boaty enthusiasts, REALLY ARE A GOOD BUNCH!

Thank you for caring...

Oh - I nearly forgot...

As soon as we arrived yesterday... dad dashed into the other room and came back with the xmas presents Joyce had bought but been unable to give us... they'd planned on meeting us in Skipton for lunch before Christmas but was too poorly to make the journey...  nothing important ... a cheery "little Elf" Xmas hat for Andy which apparently tickled her and today whilst we chugged on towards Bingley (we're scheduled to go down the 5 and 3 on Friday now) he wore it in her honor.

Until next time...

ps - sorry ... the fonts re all over the place... a bit like me today.

Tuesday 15 January 2019

RIP Mum....

This was a post that was NOT supposed to happen yet...

Life and the Grim reaper however had other ideas!

It's late - I'm halfway through a bottle of gin (Dry January ended for me spectacularly  a couple of hours ago) and Andy is in the land of nod... not out of uncaring ness... just necessity - he can sleep... I can't.

Rewind a couple of days (and forget the post I was gonna do to bring anyone reading this up to date)...  Saturday night I got a call from Cliff (that's my dad - my brother and I have always referred to our parents using their names.. right since primary school when I got a bollocking by the headmistress for calling mum Joyce) to say that Joyce (mum) had been taken by ambulance into hospital....  long story short, he's been looking after her for years and covering up how poorly she'd become.... a combination of dementia, arthritic decline, bad new knees and various other things...

Great we thought - (illness a side) - it would give him a break since his major surgery and recovery and it would be an opportunity for her to be PROPERLY assessed - in the hope that perhaps help would be provided ... in spite of Cliff's reluctance to accept it....

I've spoken with my dad more in the last couple of days than the last 30 years.... - and despite the circumstances, it's felt good.

Today however - when I phoned about 7.30 for an update on mum - I got the answer phone... on which I left a message asking for an update and call back later...

Not much after, I received a call from my cousin Rachael.    Rachael was looked after by mum in her early years as my aunt worked and mum didn't... ergo, Rache is my "little sister" .... As yet, I don't know the ins and outs but from what I can gather - mum took a turn for the worse in hospital after dad had left to go home... he was called back and she died.  Some how, my dad got in touch with his sitster -  My heroic Aunt Ali,  who then got in touch with Rache /Ken my brother and as Ken was heading to the hospital , Rache offered to call me.

It all feels a bit ... surreal.  The long and short of it is, that mum has  died, dad is alone after 51 years, I'm stuck in Skipton without a car (gonna hire one tomorrow) and I have NO idea what to do or how to feel....  actually that's not true - the feeling bit is easy - I feel totally awful ... none of this" Numb" shite folk mention... I'm raw to the point I can barely see the screen.

I'm writing this because I don't want to burden anyone who loves me - and I'm SO, SO lucky to have people who do....    Nothing they can say or do will take away whatever this feeling is - so I will try my hardest not to trouble them....  Andy is sleeping - he's out of his depth too.... but his heart is willing and just knowing he would try his best is succor.

I phoned my mums only (to my memory ) living relative - her brother ....and broke the news to him earlier....   there may be distant cousin's somewhere but that will have to wait until later.

My brian is going bonkers and I'm hoping this gin will kick in soon - it's not showing much of  sign yet though.

anyway - here is the last photo I took of my parents together when we celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.... there's lots more to say - my brain really is going nuts, but  this is a boating blog ... and although life/death IS part of boating life - perhaps I should wander off and look  at charging regimes or something less painful.

Mum - we loved you and hope you ended up where you believed you would


Monday 14 January 2019

Are we mad?

I  was gonna write a blog posting but after travelling from Foulridge to Gargrave in yesterday's wind, I've not yet recovered enough... suffice to say it was VERY windy... VERY cold and VERY wet!

Oh and Greenberfield pounds were empty!... hmmf

Until I defrost....

Monday 7 January 2019

East Marton to Foulridge...

So then - ignoring yesterday's disappointment, it's time for an update.

You'll recall our plan to move on from the "wiggly bit" on New Years day...  before we did that, we thought we'd have a walk to try and find 'the perfect' mooring spot before chugging off...

Once again, we got a bit carried away - this time in our wellies and ended up doing just under 7 miles (there and back) - WHICH took us to Greenberfield locks ... or more precisely the moorings just at the bottom of them after the bridge.

It really was a lovely day to be chugging.... and

rather a nice place to spend a few days actually and we really enjoyed being the only boat around... well I say only, another DID dump there but the occupants then went off and we never saw them again.

Whilst here, the old batteries once again did their "crash rapidly" thingy...  showing as 66% when we got up but after just an hour of the webasto doing it's thing were down to 40% and then went RIGHT down to 10v - ... nothing for it but to change them and whilst I was at it, decided to give the gear box an extra oil change ... to be truthful, JUST to try out my new 22mm spanner I'd treated myself to before Christmas and nothing to do with Andy's 'more aggressive' selection between forward and reverse than she's used to when I captain - HONEST!

The amount of stuff dumped "stored" in the engine bay is quite amazing.

To many boaters, 15 months out of a set of batteries would seem horrendous - BUT given we live aboard full time, have a fridge freezer running 24/7, run 2 laptops, 2 phones,3 TVs plus guests which leave their Ipads and the like plugged in over night etc. they've not done too badly for what really were the cheapest lead/acids I could get - from memory all 4 (130ah each) came in at under 300 quid...

That said, lets hope the new ones do better - they probably will now that we've got to grips with a decent charging regime... famous last words.

Anyway - the solar will soon begin to kick back in again as the days get longer and in a couple of months, we'll have forgotten all about HOW long the nights feel at the moment.

So - once the batteries were installed, we ran the engine for a couple of hours and THEN started up the generator ... continuing to charge until the current dropped to less than 1amp... deciding by then the new batteries were as fully charged as they are ever likely to be.

Next day, we had a wander up the locks and in to Barnoldswick - it's actually a gem of a place... although we passed through several times in the past, we've never explored....  I managed to cash in (if that's the right term) a prescription for my blood pressure pills etc JUST on the day my monthly card expires and we also topped up with supplies from the Coop.   On route back, we met a boat coming down and they turned out to be "The Fender Knot" from Facebook.  Having got chatting about my previously (failed) attempt at making a side fender from our old centre lines, a while later there was a knock on the side hatch and Neil was there with some bits of rope to give us a demo of how he does it...

What a smashing bloke - it was really kind of him to make the effort to explain how he does it and also gave us a note of a book to buy to learn more rope skills - and no... it WASN'T 50 shades lol.

Having spent 3 nights moored at the bottom Greenberfield, we then set off up and on towards Salterforth.

The levels in the pounds were a bit low but we didn't need to run any down .  Once at the top, we filled up the tank utilized the time that took, to make use of the showers... which btw, are the cleanest (2nd to Ripon) we've come across - probably because the canal has been closed for so long and no one has been using them... either way, they were clean, hot and well heated.

Chuggin on, we stopped on the visitor moorings near the "Anchor" pub at Salterforth .
The plan (if we have a plan) was to spend a few days there and explore- however, TV signal dictated otherwise and we chugged on to "this side" of Foulridge tunnel and have ended up moored within hosepipes reach of the water point and a few steps to the facilities block - which (unlike Greenberfield) Is NOT the nicest!!!

On the plus side, the weather has been mild enough for Andy to clean the side of the boat down and I've done a bit of touching up of the paint work...  not ideal weather for painting I admit but I get sick of looking at scratches after a while...  it's stayed on and dried which is all that matters - we're NEVER going to be a member of the "proper shiny boat brigade"!

Yesterday, having struggled with cabin fever, we went off for a walk to Colne - via the road... not a bad hike- about 6 miles all round.  The reservoirs seem to have plenty of water in them which is good so fingers crossed this year doesn't see a repeat of 2018's drought...

On route back, we spotted one of the vent shafts from the tunnel - never seen one from the other perspective before.

Once back on the boat, Andy decided he'd try and make a mini fender from some para-cord (part of my emergency kit)....

to be fair, he seems to have mastered it thanks to Neil's tuition ... as a reuslt, the "old" centre lines have now been through the washer and are currently drying in the shower - in preparation to be made into larger side finders...

Until next time...

Sunday 6 January 2019

Cancelled booking for Cruise 4 - Llangollen (Pontcysyllte Aqueduct) :-(

I was planning to do a 'proper' blog tomorrow morning but we've just had a disappointing email - our First cancellation.

A couple who'd planned to join us from America for Cruise 4 from Nantwich to Llangollen (  have had to postpone their trip for this year...

It's a shame but beyond their and our control.

I've updated the website  (which is causing problems all of it's own at the moment thanks to godaddy  which I'll explain another time) and also entered on the hotel boating website as "late availability" - We hope someone else will be able to come along with us and given the route takes us over the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct - one of the wonders of the waterways world, will keep our fingers crossed for a new booking soon.

Meanwhile - AS we're still doing Dry January ... (is it STILL only the 6th???) we'll drown our sorrows in a lime and soda.... Hmmf!

Until next time - probably tomorrow!...

Tuesday 1 January 2019

Long walks, New Year Peace and Dry January...

Well here we are then - it's over for another year... barely noticed it.

When I sare "barely" I mean THANKS to not having to face driving into supermarket carparks or shopping during peak hours that is..  it IS very hard to get away from even still.

So then... since my last waffle on here, we've mooched around a fair bit and to be honest, I was looking forward to departing from Skipton - don't get me wrong, it really is a lovely place, it's just very difficult NOT to spend money every time we leave the boat... bars and shops keep featuring and as our funds are limited until later in the year, it needed to stop.

BEFORE that however, we had guests arriving for a Boxing day dinner.  We'd decided on roast pork and it was all going swimmingly well, everything cooking nicely until with very little warning I took ill with a sickie bug ... it did take the edge off things but I can only think I must of put my hands to my mouth after salting the pork before a thorough washing ... NOT like me at all as I'm usually obsessed with washing after touching raw meat.  Still, it didn't put too much of a dampener on proceedings but it DID Mean Andy had to step i and finish off dinner - I couldn't eat for 24 hours (although I managed to keep a couple of gins down ) and it was lovely having guests again.

Guests who are now friends and NOT just because they came armed with a '12 days of Christmas Gin set'... HOW well do folk know us now?

Once our guests departed, we hung around for another day as we were keeping an eye on a boat for some new boaty friends who'd gone to visit family for a couple of days - heading off before they were back wouldn't have been cricket.

Their returned timing was perfect though as for the first time in ages, the day we decided to leave, we'd encountered a long (well it seemed like long) night trying to ignore the exuberance of drunken youth on the tow path - twice.   We're really NOT miserable old gits but a group of drunken youths sitting on a bench, near your bedroom window for hours in the middle of the night can get a bit wearing.... at no time was their behavior threatening, it's just at my age (and after being poorly) I need my beauty sleep  - something that's hard to achieve when you're laying they listening for a drunk to fall into the canal and knowing you're gonna have to rescue them.

NO Matter - next day, once we'd filled up the water tank, we set off for Gargrave.  It was Andy's turn to skipper - actually it was probably mine but he was in a sulk about how hard the first swing bridge is to open so it was easier for ME to do it!

Before we left however there was just time for one more visit to the "Reverse Vending Machine" that Morrisons had been trialing for a few months...  we spotted it back in October and since then have been saving our plastic bottles rather than binning/recycling them as they award 100 "More points" for each bottle returned...  5000 of which turn into a £5.00 voucher - ergo, since October we'd accumalted 20 quids worth of plastics - not to sniffed at AND as good a reason as any to pick litter up as we womble around.

It did feel good to be moving again - we'd been tied up for 9 days I think... probably the longest we've stayed in one place - other than our home mooring that is.

We'd initially planned to stay at the bottom of Gargrave locks but decided to  go up the first couple and tie up near the services block.  IT did feel odd being the only boat up there - usually in the summer when we're there it's chocca.   On the plus side however, it did mean we could stay within hose-pipes reach of the water point and not block either the winding hole or the lock landing - RESULT.

Whilst there, we also - a rarity for us, made use of the shower... it's not actually listed as being there but it is,  is heated and works fine - it's one of those silly "posh" looking square rain heads  (so you can't give your 'up and unders' a proper rinse but it does the trick none the less.

As usual of late, Cabin fever (for me) soon set in so it was decreed we'd go for a nice long walk to get out in the day light for a few hours.  "Google" on my phone, led me to believe that Malham was only about 5 miles away so we packed a picnic and set off on the road - we could have gone cross country but given the mud, decided road walking would be easier....

Of course, my phone seemed to be reporting distances as the crow flies so what we thought would be at max a 10 mile return hike, turned into a 14.72 mile hike...  W'd HALF intended to walk up the cove but decided that would be a step TOO far - as it stood, we even contemplated stopping in a B & B for the night and walking back the next day! - HAD funds allowed in all truth, we probably would have done lol.

and my backup plan failed too...

Blisters a side, it was good for us to be out in the air and light (although admittedly it was a bit dank and miserable lighting) and never have we been so relieve to get back to the boat to soak our feet.

New Years Eve morning, we set off again and headed up through Bank Newton locks - during which it was time to take down the Xmas lights (which are now in the bin as they got trapped in shutters/doors etc) 
It was a colder day than the forecast had suggested but as we chugged along, the fire was certainly mult-tasking... cooking onion soup, baking spuds and proofing (proving?) bread.

HAD the tatties been smaller, they'd have been in the ash pan but they wouldn't fit - AND as the fire was running quite hot, they'd have been burned to a cinder in with the coals.  As it happens, they cook just fine on top (so long as you turn them regularly) and after a few hours, give a steam baked spud with a caramelized skin - quite nice.

We moored for NYE, on the wiggly bit before you get to East Marton - nice and quiet... or rather it would have been were it not for the wind slamming us into the shelf quite a bit during the night.  

Today, we're going to move on a short while and hopefully find a deeper bit with less concrete to clonk into... it's DRY January now so sleep is going to feel a bit harder to find as our bodies get used to the missing demon!

Happy New Year btw ...

Until next time...