Narrowboat AREandARE

From the 2009 & 2010 tantalising tales, traumas and stunning photographs of Barry (photographer) and Sandra (writer) from New Zealand aboard NB 'Northern Pride', to the stories of their 2013 return journey, purchase of 'AREandARE', progress on sustaining their live aboard continuous cruiser lifestyle, and Barry's quest to gain residency and 'Indefinite Leave to Remain' in UK ...

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Making the most of the final few days ...

The last few days have been unbelievably wonderful, and today and the coming days are full on packing up the boat and completing as much DIY as possible.

Here's a rather large entry to keep you entertained!!  We'll post another one before we depart to southern shores on Saturday, and we promise to continue blogging from down-under ... 

   P1150503 Gary, Jamie, Sophie & Schalk working the locks to get to the pub on time!

Continuing with tales of our glorious wedding on the roof of Northern Pride, we just have to make another plug for the The Dog and Doublet - if anyone is looking for a venue for a function whilst residing on a narrowboat we'd highly recommend it; the atmosphere is so welcoming and the staff are really friendly and helpful.  Apparently they're hoping to obtain a photo from our wedding video to display, in the hope of encouraging others to use them as a setting - so look out for us watching you if you're in the area!

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Wedding shots from Barry's camera (taken by the groom himself!) - the ceremony on top of the boat were taken by others surprisingly enough - they'll be posted soon ...

After the informal reception we all went to The Station, what a superb upstairs room we had for the frivolities of the evening.  Keith and Layla run what must be the best pub in Sutton Coldfield and were extraordinary hosts, thanks guys.  Once again, Barry was off duty so the photos aren't available yet ...

Joy & laughter filled evening, the music was fabulous, with our first dance appropriately themed on the day - "You make loving fun" by Fleetwood Mac.  It was rare that the dance floor was empty, apart from the half hour of Pink Floyd and associated requests from Barry's playlist!  I wonder why?

We didn't open the cards until Sunday, they were all wonderful, but four particularly stood out - one from someone who reads the blog, posted to the Dog and Doublet; a hand made card by my niece who was a bridesmaid, a beautiful hand written poem by my friend Mandy and a specially made narrowboat card from friends in Scotland who unfortunately couldn't make it on the day, Jane and Gary.  We received an abundance of brilliant, thoughtful cards; too many to mention them all.

I am reminded frequently lately of a book I read a few years ago called 'The Celestine Prophecy'.  If anyone has read it they'll recall the final chapters envisage an end to the materialistic ways of the world, and an upsurge in people gifting to each other in a form of bartering system.  I firmly believe that the current economic climate will turn out to be a positive experience if we learn and reflect on it; it's time we stopped working all hours, spending money we don't have, on 'stuff' that we don't need - but we have no time, that most precious commodity, to enjoy the really important things in life.  Our wedding cost us less than 1,000 pounds - all inclusive!

We asked for no presents from guests (we have everything we need and more and couldn't possibly carry anything else back to NZ!), though suggested that they were welcome to give a small monetary contribution towards the buffet.  We did receive some very welcome cash to put in the bank to offset some of the overdraft, and other gifts were of a different variety also from the heart, and included:

  • Arlene made our wedding cake and it was wonderful - including a surprise of hand-made icing sunflowers and a Maori Triple Twist on top, along with its meaning of the bonding of friendship, new beginnings and the joining of lives for eternity;
  • Mandy went girlie shopping with me last Thursday then did my hair and make up on the day;
  • Kim did my nails and decorated the bed as well as doing her reading;
  • Linda and Viv decorated the room for the evening's party;
  • Maggie and Gary organised the venue and afternoon's reception;
  • Michael and Carol did us proud with the marquee, wine and food;
  • Sandra made contact with someone to do a free video;
  • Katherine organised a photo-message book in the evening;
  • Keith gave us his fantastic upstairs room at the Station;
  • Rachel, Sam, Jack, Leighton and Jenny did the DJ'ing and kept everyone dancing the night away;
  • Fred & Sarah bought us three Chinese Lanterns to set off into the stars for good luck;
  • Lisa had a chocolate cake made for my 50th. 

I'm sure there were more gifts throughout the day; it was mind-blowing and we just felt extremely blessed to have so many wonderful friends and family.

We eventually made it back to our hotel room around 3am - and were surprised to find red carnations on the pillows and a heart shape of pink rose petals on the bed, thanks to my amazing daughter Kim.

All-in-all we had a wondrous celebration and will remember each magic moment forever.


The nuptial bed!  Bless Kim for going to so much trouble; very romantic

On Sunday and Monday, my 50th birthday became the focus - my daughters, along with my parents and sisters, had organised a blanket to be made with photos of me through the ages.  What a special gift to treasure.  After a leisurely lie-in and cooked breakfast, we chilled in the hotel lounge all day with my family on Sunday, had a snooze and then a swim and sauna, before dinner with a couple of friends also staying there - Den and Jill who'd almost had us thrown off the waterways back in July on the River Trent!


Kim and Joe had given Barry some bottled chilli beer (Black Death) to try - can you imagine what beer with chilli's in tastes like?  And would you even wish to more's the question?!  Barry and Den accepted the challenge and managed to polish off one bottle easily (though Den at one point did try drinking it through a straw so his lips weren't so tingly!), but when Barry attempted to open the second one unfortunately it must have been bottled too early and it exploded upwards in an uncontrollable fountain, spraying the immediate area with beer which may be ingrained in the furnishings by now (avoid room 312!).  Barry laughed so much he had to sit down; the second time in less than 24 hours that he'd been so tickled by events bless him!


Jill & Den and the dodgy beer drops on the curtains - looks a little sample-like in the glasses don't you think?!

The weather has been settled now for a couple of weeks and is set to continue for a while longer - it's really amazing!  We made the most of it on Monday; following a chilled breakfast in bed we had a walk around Penns Lake Road where I lived from age 5 to about 13, and then around the lake where I used to play with my friends around 40 years ago - it was like going back in time.

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The conference suite at Penns Hall


Sandra's childhood home; a little different now, but holds many happy memories


Penns Lake


One or two fishing rules


Penns Hall from the lake

P1150576 Sandra reminiscing

P1150578  P1150584  P1150595  A final drink in the bar and scan through the many cards we received before returning to Northern Pride

We arrived back on the boat in the afternoon, my sisters new man Pete very generously offered to give us a ride and we gratefully accepted!  After a swift pint with him, we boarded our boat and commenced tidying the boat and getting the washing up done from Saturday, focussing also on packing and sorting our 'stuff' for a couple of hours. 

One of our guests had gifted us a bottle of champagne that we relished with some strawberry liqueur boat brew and strawberries from the roof.  This unsurprisingly made me a little tipsy, or should I say 'mellow', followed by a delicious dinner at the Dog and Doublet with Kath, Pete and my good friend Arlene.


Dave and his large horse, sorry, dog (whose name escapes me, sorry Dave!), came to see us and drop of some photos - thanks mate!


How about this for a friendly, welcoming ambience at the Dog & Doublet

On Saturday friends of ours had given us three Chinese Lanterns and we set two of them off on their travels.  Tonight we let off the third one, and as we were lighting the wax a random bloke from pub came out same time and began lighting another one - when I asked him why he was doing it he said "look at the message on the lantern" - on it was clearly written 'I love you' - it was the most surreal experience I've ever had, I was so spooked by the coincidence.  When Barry went into the pub he asked the man what it was all about and his response was that he'd been present on Saturday, and having the lantern in his car, he wanted to do something for us, not realising we were doing exactly the same thing.  Once we'd gotten over the weirdness of the situation, two lanterns once again were sent into a late evening sky with the most breathtaking cloud formations, at one time it looked as though there was a woman's face in them.

We mislaid a present for my birthday from Barrys daughter and asked the Station if they'd found it, but all they had was a '50th birthday wishing spell' - we're not sure who had left that but collected it anyway and I conjured up the ingredients and made some birthday magic on the towpath ...


 Eye of toad and blood of newt

P1150614 Do you see the face?

P1150616 Next morning, Barry's favourite tree reaches out for a final embrace before we leave

P1150618 Barry and Jamie planted sunflowers for the ceremony, bless them, but they haven't lasted long

Today, Tuesday, we've moved on past Fazeley junction, and Barry has been grinding on the other side of the boat and put the rust killer on ready for two coats of paint over the next couple of days.  Meanwhile, once I'd caught up with my hotmail messages (around 90 emails - luckily I worked out how to put on a vacation response last week!) and facebook, I sanded and varnished the windows inside.


Curworth top lock has a very friendly dog living there who loves to watch the passing traffic

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Signs of autumn as the leaves fall from the trees into the canal


Lots of boat work going on!

This evening, the crew of 'Captain Ahab's Watery Tales', Andy and Helen, have been to visit and we had a delightful meal and convivial conversations.  I know Helen from her days as a midwife, and have only recently caught up with her through facebook where we discovered our mutual blogging and all things canal-obsessed men! 

We're ashamed to admit that we completely missed the opportunity to take their photo - even though Andy took one of us by the boat name which he's posted on his blog - what are we like?  I think we're just so overwhelmed and in awe of our recent experiences and the whole journey we've been on in the past six months (that's now sadly coming to an end) that our brains are a little jaded - so sorry you wonderful people!  Now we'll HAVE to catch up with you next year!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Simply the best!

Just a quick blog entry to keep you all up to date.

Saturday's wedding was just the most incredible experience; it was even better than we could've wished for.  The sun shone, the sky was blue, there was not a whisper of wind and no boat traffic on the canal during the ceremony.

I arrived early as we were told it took at least 30 minutes to get here from where we were all staying; when in fact we arrived at 1545 - surely a bride should be late not early!  We had to hide in the car park so as not to be seen!  Barry apparently had only got in the shower at 1525, around the time we were getting into the taxi at Penns Hall!

The ceremony was perfect, though for some reason I'm still not entirely sure of the bridesmaids all got onto the roof of Northern Pride along with Barry, the celebrant, Jamie and I - three of us were dressed accordingly in trousers (as we were the only ones who we'd planned to have there) as the others had been led to believe they wouldn't be risking life and limb and were adorned in pretty dresses and heels!  It was very lucky that no other boats used the locks or came past during the service, as if they had we would all have had to crouch down to prevent any mishaps!

Barry had grinded and painted below the rim of one side of the boat, and had to turn it around before mooring at the Dog and Dublet around 2pm bless him.  It certainly looked very shiny!  He'd also had a trip to the barber's since I'd left last Monday, and had a hair and beard trim and was wearing a white short sleeved shirt - he looked very handsome on the roof as I walked along the red carpet - in fact I thought it must be another man as I couldn't focus without my glasses on!

The ceremony was magical; Kim was rather overwhelmed having to vocalise her reading to not only the 70 or so guests, but members of the public as well, having a quiet drink, who gathered around to discover what the occasion was - bless her!  Barry managed to say his bits and read out his vows with just the occasional impromptu joke, and I almost managed to get through mine without shedding a tear or two.

There were many people taking photos, and Barry did a fantastic job getting a group shot which we'll get onto the blog over the next day or two (yes he photographed his own wedding group shot; that will surprise no-one who knows him!); just bear with us as we've only just got back on board late this afternoon (and it's been my 50th birthday today!). 

More to follow soon ...

Thursday, 24 September 2009

One, Two miss a few = Thursday

Having had three full days 'on land', I'm beginning to feel like I can go out in 'normal' society once more without looking like a mad boat-woman!  It's not a problem when you're only socialising with fellow boaters (because we all have similar challenges!), but on my wedding day I'd like to feel like a queen not a wicked step-mother!  I shall become one to Barry's children Jamie and Tom, hopefully there'll be no wickedness ...


Don & Irene, Sandra's mum & dad at lunch at The Dog & Doublet

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A few pictures of the Dog & Doublet

P1150408P1150415  P1150422 and the hay field - 'cause I like it...

P1150427 The next lock up from the pub

Barry has been working hard getting jobs done on the boat bless him - fancy leaving him on the boat alone, what a dreadful first mate I am!  My mate Dave came gave him a helping hand yesterday on the end of a paint brush, and I'm informed they got lots done in between a few beers!

Barry took the boat back to Tamworth to do the painting etc. It's closer to amenities and hardware shops there, and will be able to pick up Jamie from the station tomorrow. He stopped on a quiet section of the canal on the way back to do some grinding work, very thoughtful.

  P1150443 One of the pretty little gardens beside the locks on the way back to Tamworth

P1150449Fazeley Mill 

P1150453 The familiar Fazeley Junction

P1150456 Dave starting a bit of painting - Thanks for your help Dave

P1150462   Nice chilly start to the day with quite a heavy dew

P1150469 A couple of old working boats heading through Glascote Locks


The autumn colours getting richer every day

Our English wedding day is likely to be an surreal experience; we're having a Humanist ceremony ( which will be unique and personal to us as well as humorous (how could it be anything but with Barry partaking?!), and the sun's showing promises of shining down on us as we stand on the roof of Northern Pride for the ceremony.  Our guests will be an array of family and friends from across the country; we're so looking forward to the madness and merriment that we'll all be experiencing together.

We'll be back on the boat together on Monday, my 50th birthday, for our final few days and to safely moor up, before returning 'home' to Gisborne, New Zealand.