Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Aldermaston (soon be back in France)

Karen & Buddy bringing Ceilidh up Aldermaston lock
It seems like the last three weeks have been spent with family so we really must get around to catching up with friends before we leave the UK in a few weeks 😉 Mind you, it’s all been necessary stuff; for example, I went up to Yorkshire to see my dad and also spent a day moving Cat out of her flat in London ready for her move to Spain.

Although we’re in the tail end of storm Ciara, the rain I encountered whilst in Yorkshire was far heavier than during the storm.  We have our car serviced by the village garage and the deluge started during my walk to go and pick it up.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared for the weather and Buddy and I got absolutely soaked, worsened by the splashing from passing cars driving through puddles.  Without a spare pair of trousers, I had to drive back to Aldermaston wearing them – I didn’t feel, as the only occupant of the car, I would get away with driving with no trousers on.  They were still wet when I got home, and I blame that on a cold I picked up that lasted over a week and prevented us from seeing Ellis.

Ellis, at nearly seven pounds, has now doubled his birth weight and is still a week away from his due date:

We don’t really want to mention Karen’s back but suffice to say a couple of train trips to London to see a specialist in Harley Street seems to be putting her in the right direction.  Mentioning trains, we have been catching them quite regularly to see our Reading daughters – to be honest, it’s to see our grandson but we don’t tell Sophie, Lauren and Polly that. 

We use Lauren’s address in Caversham to have things delivered and last week we picked up the waterways guide for the Luxembourg and German areas we will be travelling this year.  Unlike, guides for France, Belgium and Holland we couldn’t find any guides that have English text as well as the principal language.  I know it may not seem a problem, but important items can get lost in translation which could be crucial, especially on large rivers with commercial traffic.  Oh well, at least Sophie is a fluent German speaker and will be at the end of the phone.

A page from our new German guidebook
The guidebook looks to be very detailed and each page is plastic coated which hopefully we won’t need to take advantage of during the summer months.  The guides are clearly not designed for narrowboaters as they are so large; they would be much more at home on larger vessels.  I know when we first saw a French guide we thought it was big, being twice the size of our UK ones, but the German one is double the size of the French ones!

A3, A4 & A5 sizes
One thing I will need to get Sophie to do before we venture back to the mainland is a translation of the phrases I know we will need when communicating on the radio with German lockkeepers and suchlike.  Notice I say mainland rather than Europe, that’s because, like President Macron, I believe we are still Europeans.

Jo has come down from Edinburgh for a couple of weeks as she is determined to get an apprenticeship at Saville Row.  She has been lodging with different friends in London and stayed with us for a couple of days, so she was able to catch up with her sisters too.  So far, she has been really successful and been offered work experience by a couple of the houses she has visited.  It really shows that turning up in person gets her further than sending random emails.  

Jo with Ellis
As you can imagine there are still red boards up on the River Kennet, so we are still unable to go cruising. Our only option is to go down to Aldermaston Wharf and back as we are on a non-river section.  Fortunately, there is a water point at the wharf and also a sanitary station where we can do a manual pump out, so at least we get the chance for a short cruise. With yet another wet week coming up we decided to fill up with water on Monday before the supply became critical.   

Storm Ciara didn’t seem to affect us as much as some parts of the country and only a few small trees had come down but nothing to stop us going to get water.  It was still really windy but at least it was lovely and sunny when we set off.  A tree had come down across one of the lock gates preventing us from opening it but as we only need one of the two gates open it didn’t hinder us.

Tree across balance beam
We pulled up the short wharf arm for services and while I was outside getting ready to do the pump out Karen caught my attention by knocking on the window.  She had noticed a kingfisher perched on a branch next to the boat.  It seemed to be watching us with great interest.  Amazingly it stayed there all the while we were doing our jobs and also during a late breakfast we had before setting off again.  It flew off several times, always returning to the same branch to studiously watch us.

There is a recessed step in the back deck that collects water when it rains.  The water runs through a drain hole, into a pipe that runs into a large water container.  When Ken was showing us over the boat before we borrowed it, he said we wouldn’t need to worry about the container filling up as he so rarely has to empty it.  He (we) clearly hadn’t realised how much rain we were going have over the last few weeks as, when I checked it before heading back up the lock, it was practically full!

It won’t need emptying Ken said ðŸ˜‰
It wasn’t the easiest of manoeuvres to get back out onto the mainline and into the lock as the wind had really sprung up again.  We managed it in the end even if it took a lot longer than it would normally have done and we were also lucky that there were no gongoozlers around to watch the spectacle.

We got back to our original mooring spot unscathed and moored up between Murphy and Ajax again.  We were now facing in the opposite direction having decided not to go up and turn around first.  The next turning point is where the cut leaves the river and the flow was too strong to risk doing it.

On Monday we cruised one mile through two locks.

Before I go, I have to mention something that happened when I moved Cat out of her lodgings in London last weekend and it was so Catherine that I know she won’t mind us mentioning it.  We packed the car up with all her belongings and drove up to Wendover to leave them with her Grandmother while she lives in Spain.  Cat stayed in Wendover overnight and I drove back to the boat.  As I was taking my stuff out of the car, I noticed her phone on the floor.  As she was flying out in a couple of days it was rather critical that the phone was returned to her.  We were up in London the following day for one of Karen’s appointments, so Cat also came into town to pick up her phone.

It was good to see her again and we walked to Paddington rather than catching a tube so that we could look for VR boxes on the way (none found!).  We were just saying goodbye to Cat when she realised she couldn’t find her foreign currency debit card.  It was panic stations for a while as she went through her backpack, but it turned out to be a false alarm as she found it had slipped down to the bottom!

Cat having goodbye cuddles with Ellis
Hopefully, in the next blog update we can report that Cat has found a job in Barcelona 😊

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