Monday, 2 December 2019

Northwich (Is that a bomb in the car?)

Monday was a day of getting things done so that all we had left to do on Tuesday was pack.  Included in the job list was sawing up the remaining logs that we have collected from the canalside over the last few weeks and been storing on the roof.  The most important thing was a trip to the vets for the requisite re-entry tablets for Buddy and to get his passport stamped so he would be allowed back into the UK.  Goodness knows what the regulations will be next time we re-enter as yet another Brexit deadline will have passed.

After all the jobs were complete, and the car packed to the gunwales, we spent a pleasant few hours having drinks on Guy & Ardon’s boat.  Main topic of conversation being the different ways of life between the UK and Oz but also how we are now sharing a similar life living on the waterways of mainland Europe.

The port roundabout at the entrance to town
So, the big day arrived and all the lists that Karen had been preparing for the last few weeks came into play.  Until we move onto the narrowboat we are borrowing in January & February, we are going to be road rather than water gypsies, rarely spending more than a night in any one place.  This entails a great deal of planning for various reasons, e.g. each place will have different levels of amenities.  This leads to many questions like do we need our own bedding, what cooking utensils are available etc.?  This also means that the car has to be packed in such a way that the items we need first must be easily accessible.

Goodbye Châlons boats for three months
We are fortunate in having a 30-year-old ski box which greatly extends the storage space when on the road.  Packing was a success and the back seat didn’t have to be utilised meaning Buddy could stretch out in his own space.

Travelling by boat has many advantages and probably the best is that home remains the same even if each day we go to bed in a new location.  Travelling by road means that both ‘home’ and its environs change on almost a daily basis.  Of course, the main draw to return to the UK for a while is to see family and friends especially as the family is now extending 😊 

The cathedral is just behind our mooring
Being in north eastern France means we’re only just over three hours from the tunnel so we didn’t have to set off too early on Wednesday morning to catch the 11.20 train.  For the first time in all the years we have been using this route we were stopped by French customs for an x-ray search of the car.  This entails us and Buddy having to get out of the car whilst it is put on a conveyor that takes it through a large scanner.  Once through we returned to the car and had to wait in the middle of three lanes for a barrier to raise before driving off.

We waited about 15 minutes and all the while cars were going through the lanes either side of us as their barriers lifted.  Two guys then came over and asked me to empty the boot as there was a suspicious package there.  I knew straight away that they were referring to the empty UK propane bottle we were taking back to leave at Karen’s mum’s house.  These bottles are allowed through the tunnel with a limit of 57kg; if ours had been full it would only have been 13kg, so we knew we were within the limit.  The customs guys weren’t happy and went off to check the rules.  Two girls arrived after another ten minutes or so and they also weren’t sure so called up their manager.

When the manager finally arrived, he laughed when he saw the bottle and said we were free to carry on.  With the number of people who go caravanning and camping on the mainland we were really surprised about the lack of knowledge of the rules.  I suppose our bottle was larger than the normal camping gas bottle, but we cannot have been the first.

Back in the UK we went for a scout around Folkestone and Hythe.  Knowing these towns have a large density of Victorian buildings we spent a happy hour or so following one of our passions; VR boxing.  Living in France means we have been deprived over the last few months and we were rewarded by finding a dozen boxes in a small area.  In some towns the Victorian boxes have been replaced by more modern ones, but they seem to have been left alone in this part of Kent.

Not wishing to bore you with lots of pictures of post boxes I will, however, include a couple of interesting finds.

A Penfold type box dating from c1870
My favourite type of Victorian box, a lamp box
Many lamp boxes have been stolen over the years because when they are attached to lamp posts they are relatively easy to steal.  Because of this, the remaining ones have been placed in museums and replaced by modern lamp boxes.  The only Victorian lamp boxes still in use are those that are set into walls like the example we found today.

Another view of the lamp box
We spent the evening at Lauren & Lewis’s and some of our other children joined us too.  We did a few DIY jobs with Lauren on Thursday morning and then made our way to Wendover to stay with Ann, Karen’s mum, for the night.  We have our mail redirected to Ann’s house so the first and longest task was to sort through the mail that has built up over the last few months.  Unbelievably, in this technological age, there are still some financial institutions that insist on communicating via physical mail.  It has got to the point that when looking at new companies for savings or investments we will only consider those that will communicate electronically.

In the evening I received an email from the guys we rescued when they ran aground outside the port.  Not only were they thanking us again, but they sent us a link to their YouTube update for that week.  I think I mentioned it before because we were impressed that they have given up working for a while and are planning on sailing around the world.  They are posting a video diary each week of their travels and the rescue can be seen from minutes three to five after clicking on this link. 

We had a couple of appointments first thing on Friday and then headed north up the M6 to an Airbnb we had booked at Northwich for one night.  We were off to see one of Karen’s bands from the ‘70s, The Stylistics, at the Liverpool Philharmonic and the Airbnb was an ideal place to leave Buddy while we were off galivanting for the evening.

The Stylistics
Like the band we saw in Épernay last week, more for my benefit, these guys were also in their 70s.  The crowd loved them and many women who, to be fair looked older than Karen, couldn’t help but dance in the aisles even though the stewards (spoilsports) kept trying to get them to sit down.

We awoke to a frost on Saturday that was so heavy we thought at first it had snowed overnight.  After packing up and taking Buddy for a walk we drove to the Middlewich branch of the Shropshire Union canal to meet up with Dave, Karen’s cousin, & Barbara on their boat.  It was really strange being back to normal and seeing a narrow canal, narrow locks and nothing but narrowboats.  We had a good old catch up on our respective travels over the year and hope to meet up with them again in the new year before we head back to France.


  1. You’re now a multi-platform media star! Hope you’re enjoying being back in the UK? X

    1. Aaah, that explains a couple of things that happened today (you'll have to wait for the blog entry :) ). As for the question, let's wait until after next Thursday before answering. Love following your colour analysing xx