Stoke Works (Buddy’s blog)

The other day I said I couldn’t write a blog if I didn’t have pictures and my eldest daughter, Sophie, disputed this.  Thinking about it she is right as the blog she wrote for her students when she did her PhD hardly ever had pictures in – funnily enough it did feature Buddy more than once but I doubt I would have had the faintest idea what point Sophie was trying to make at the time.

Apart from a bad selfie that I took in Hobbs in Leamington Spa yesterday I haven’t taken any pictures for the last two days so Buddy said he would write the blog for me to ease me into the idea of a picture-less diary.

  • It must be a weekday as Karen is showering at 5.30 in the morning – she just doesn’t realise that I need to sleep from 5 in the evening until 9 in the morning to look this good.
  • Must be nearly time to get up as Neil is having his second cup of coffee outside whilst getting the tomato plants out of the cratch and onto the roof.
  • He’s back in now, having his second breakfast, but has been disturbed by a knock on the door.  It’s those funny people, Murray and Lyndsey, that he met yesterday and spent ages talking too when we could have been walking and chasing sticks.
  • They’ve gone at last but I don’t understand why they asked if they could have pictures posing in front of the boat.
  • Ah good, it looks like we’re off for a walk as Neil’s put his boots on.  Oh no, he’s putting the tiller arm on – we must be having a cruise – I don’t know why he thinks I like cruising – it’s a bit too close to the water for my liking.
  • What’s this, we’ve moved about 50 feet and he’s stopped already.  I get it, we’re at a water point.  They don’t seem to realise that if they didn’t shower and do the washing so often that they wouldn’t need to keep getting water.  Mind you, how often do they wash my bowl and coat?
  • Good, the water tank’s full so now we can get going again.  I hate that long green thing as it sometimes sprays water over me so I feel a lot happier once its curled back up and in its bed.  But what’s happening?  He’s only reversing back to where we came from so no cruise after all.
  • A walk at last and it looks like we’re doing that circular walk that takes in a couple of railway footbridges.  I love those as I can show how agile I am running up and down the steps really quickly.  Trouble is there are those stupid stile things at either end that have wire across the gaps so I can’t leap through.  It’s such a song and dance being lifted over these things - it’s even funnier when both of them do it as they try and pass me over without dropping me.
  • I’m glad the sun is out as we are obviously going to the butterfly meadow but, oh dear, I can see its been mown.  Neil is not happy as he does not see a single butterfly – a few days ago it was teeming with them here.
  • It’s the afternoon now and I know I don’t get fed until 5 but I pretend I’m hungry from any time after 2.  It’s great fun seeing how early they will give in to me.
  • It’s Wednesday morning and for some reason they are both up early.  Neil must be taking Karen to work which is bad news as it means he will have the car for the day.  I hate the car and they do realise it as I make myself sick to try and stop them but it doesn’t seem to work.  I wonder where he’s dragging me off to today?
  • Oh goody – we’re off to the vets at Leam – I get lots of fuss and treats there!  But wait a minute, it’s the annual check up and I hate having that kennel cough vaccine up my nose even though I know I’m getting a treat afterwards.
  • It looks like Neil is going to do some shopping afterwards which is always good fun when he manages to get me into shops.  It’s amazing who lets us in – once we were allowed into a Pret a Manger in Oxford – so many crumbs on the floor!   
  • Oh well, he’s left me in the car instead.  At least I can catch up with some sleep.
  • Home again and Neil’s got those playing cards out again.  He must be preparing the hands for tonight’s bridge evening in Stratford.  At least I’ll have some peace and quiet for the evening.  It’s so funny, as they don’t like leaving me and Karen always insists on leaving a light on for me when all I want is the dark and to quietly sleep on my own.
  • Hmmm.  I’ve just realised what may be happening.  The visit to the vet was a bit last minute – I heard them talking about getting the jabs up to date before they go to San Sebastian this weekend.  That must mean I’m going to one of those hotel places.  They’re Ok as I get to meet lots of new dogs but they are so noisy at night that I don’t sleep properly.
  • No doubt I’ll be dropped off on Thursday and I’ll do my normal trick of looking really excited and not even turning around to say goodbye when I’m led to my kennel.  It’s such a laugh ,as Neil and Karen get quite upset about leaving me but are in two minds as they know I’m happy.

Stoke Works (nice cruise there and back)

Did I mean to be here?

Monday was forecast to be the best day of the week and as we needed to move this week, Buddy and I set off for a cruise in the morning.  Monday is also washing day so it worked out well, as it meant the washing could be on whilst we were cruising.  We need the engine on to power the washing machine therefore it’s more efficient to do it when we are cruising rather than moored up.

I set off just at the wrong time – a couple of boats were going down the Astwood flight in front of me so every lock was set against me.  Anyway, as it was a lovely morning it didn’t matter and I took my time, chatting to the passing walkers.  At the fourth lock, a boat was coming up so it meant I could go straight in once they came out.

Waiting for a boat to come up so I could go down

You may have read the other day that we are facing the wrong way.  A couple of weeks ago I went up to Stoke Wharf to get a pump out, turned around, and came back to our spot opposite the Boat and Railway.  This meant that we had to find somewhere to turn again and get back to facing the right direction.

There was a winding hole after the fourth lock but it didn’t seem well used – I suspect winding holes aren’t often used in the middle of lock flights.  It was quite silted up so I wondered whether we would have managed to turn our old boat there as she was 13 feet longer.  This explains the picture at the top, we are in the middle of turning.

As we had just come down the locks I thought that they would all be set for us on the way back.  No such luck, I had forgotten we had passed a boat at the fourth lock down. 

The locks on the flight have been repaired many times over the last two hundred years. The coping stones are a mixture of modern, precision cut stone, old railway engineering brick style and original coping stone bocks about eight feet long.  How they used to move those massive blocks is mind boggling – it must have involved pulleys and a lot of brute force.

Lock showing the different coping stones used over the years.  Right side has the modern blocks.  The left has the engineering bricks and one original block closest to the camera.

Going up the locks involves a different routine for Buddy. As we go into the lock he leaps off onto the lock steps and runs to the top of the lock. 

Buddy leaping off the boat onto the lock steps

I don’t bother using the steps on single locks but wait until the boat is in and then climb up the lock ladder.  On wide locked canals like the Grand Union then I tend to use the steps, taking a line with me which I then have to lift over the open lock gate before tying off to a bollard.

Racing me to the top

We moored up opposite the Boat and Railway where we were two weeks ago.  We will probably stay here until we go up the Tardebigge flight towards Birmingham in a couple of weeks.  It’s really quite handy as we are next to a water point and also a spot where Karen can park the car.

During our afternoon walk we met two delightful retired couples on holiday on a time share boat.  We had a long chat, exchanging stories of trips both domestic and foreign.  They were particularly interested in our current lifestyle.  They were sort of nomadic in that they have lots of holidays, including one on a narrowboat each year, and several houses abroad so don’t feel at home at any particular place.  One couple were white South Africans so I can understand that having had to leave their home country would make them feel like that.  The other couple, Murray and Lyndsey, were keen adventurers so of the type where it’s not natural to have roots.