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 ...

Saturday, 17 August 2013

In opposite hemispheres - but for how long?

Well this is strange, Barry and I are in different hemispheres for the first time since 2009, when he left UK to visit his dad in NZ.  We've been apart numerous times since, when I've been working away from home for a week or two, or when I've been on holiday - but not this far.

We have no idea how long it'll be for.  It could be as little as two months, or as long as six! Yikes! I'm hanging out for the minimum and visualising the UK visa successfully gained within six weeks of application, and the shop selling in around the same time. Then Barry just needs to find a flight back to UK - we have enough air points with Malaysia Airlines between us for a one way ticket, but he'll just need to secure and book a seat.

Barry waiting for the first leg of his five (three trains and two planes!) to New Zealand

Areandare is safely ensconced at Tattenhall Marina now until 1st March - I'm with my parents until next Thursday helping out with a few bits and pieces, so I've not had a lot of 'spare'-time to miss Barry yet. I've decided it's better to be 'excited' about the fact that we've got this far, all the paperwork for the visa is with Colin from 'ivisas' now, and all will go to plan.

AreandAre about halfway along the pontoon in the middle

We only had one night aboard with a hook up - what a luxury that is! And we had a couple of drinks at Scott's Bar in the marina - met a few fellow moorers, but only temporary ones. I'm sure there'll be plenty of time to meet others over the coming months.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Bloggers at Barbridge and checking out Chester

This evening, Saturday 10th August, we're moored just a few metres from the entrance to Tattenhall Marina in Cheshire, ready to enter tomorrow and get everything sorted ready for Barry's departure from these shores on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday we had a most pleasant evening in Barbridge with Tom and Jan from Waiouru, swapping UK visa tales and frustrations. Tom's application has been sent off for his 'Indefinite Leave to Remain', so fingers crossed he's successful.  We've yet to pass even the first hurdle, though hopefully have everything in place now - apart from the six months of Barclays Bank statements showing the required funds in place, which should be at my parents house when we arrive on Monday.

Jan, Tom and Sandra aboard AreandAre

Tom and Jan were travelling some of the Shropshire Union canal towards Chester on Thursday, and we timed it perfectly to share a few locks with them. It still amazes me how the majority of men do the driving (and whilst stationary fit in a lot of chatting!), while the women work the locks. I don't personally have a problem driving, but I do enjoy getting the exercise of the locks so tend to do that more. 

Barry and Tom gossiping working hard in the lock

Approaching Chester on Friday I took a turn driving, and Barry did the locks. Sitting watching at one of the double locks was a middle-aged male, who applauded as I 'expertly' drove the boat in through one of the two gates (he appeared incredulous that a woman could do so!). It then it seemed to take an inordinately long time to empty the lock. They're quite slow filling and emptying along here, so I didn't think too much about it - until I saw a sheepish Barry walking swiftly back to the top gates - he'd left the paddles open which amused me greatly! He needs more practice methinks ...

We spent a couple of days exploring Chester - but really only touched the surface of what will be our 'local' town until spring 2014. What a marvellous place. A historic and fascinating city, with scintillating stories of Roman invasions and conquests, which we'll savour getting to know better.

Eastgate Clock, built to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, unveiled in 1899 - the second most photographed timepiece in the UK after Big Ben

Yesterday we walked the still intact city walls - with the benefit of an 'App' on my iPhone called 'Chester Walls Quest'. At strategic points along the way you get a commentary/video detailing some of the events that occurred there, and lots of written information too. Then you get a 'Quest Challenge' to answer, and points are allocated. Great fun, and it certainly livened up and boosted immeasurably the history lesson! We ended up number 45 out of I don't know how many fellow contestants who'd gone before us. Below are a couple pictures along the way (sorry, none of Barry's as not yet edited ...). One of these was uploaded along the route into the Quest - Barry's impression of a fearsome fighter in the Amphitheatre ...

Chester's main shopping street from the wall - an eclectic mix of amazing architecture

Whilst in the city, I took the opportunity to contact someone living there I used to work with at The Royal Free in London. I hadn't seen Elaine since 2003 - and it was as if the last decade didn't exist when we got together. Elaine and John very generously took us for a delicious meal in the Artichoke Bar and Grill in Chester's 'Canal Quarter' - such a treat thank you both!

John, Sandra, Barry and Elaine

We discovered they've enjoyed many canal holidays over the years, and even at one time had a share in a narrowboat.  So it's very likely they'll join us next year at some stage - possibly to do the Rochdale or Huddersfield Narrow, as Barry and I would love to do those and they're on their list too!

So this is our last night 'on the cut' for a while - I'm going to spend it with Barry now - see you all again soon! And do drop me an email if you're going to be passing by over the coming six months, it'd be lovely to see you. 

I'll keep you updated as to Barry's progress and the happenings on the boat as and when ...

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Barry's last week in UK for a while ...

We haven't moved far since our last blog post - as we haven't far to go!

Mooring in Middlewich on Friday, my daughter Lisa collected us on Saturday for a weekend with her, our son-in-law and gorgeous grandson. We visited the Cheshire Ice Cream Farm, a fabulous fun place for young children, and just a five minute walk from Tattenhall Marina where we'll be mooring until 1st March from this Sunday. So of course we went for a look and we're very happy with our choice and looking forward to 'settling in'. Well at least I will be - Barry will get to see it on Sunday night and then we have a hire car from Enterprise collecting us on Monday morning. I'll spend a week with my parents, then return to the boat alone which is going to take some adjustment but will be fine.

We have almost everything in place now for applying for Barry's UK residency visa, and our man in NZ, Colin from 'ivisas', has begun the form filling and booked Barry's biometric testing in Auckland for next Thursday, a few hours after he arrives there.  His eyes may be a little red after all the travelling!

We have an appointment in Chester for Thursday with a Notary Public to verify I am who I say I am, and for that we pay about sixty pounds!  We should have all the bank statements ready at my parents house next week as evidence we've had the amount needed in our account for six months, then all that's left is Barry's two passport sized photos.

I'm handing over to Barry once he's left - let's hope he succeeds in his application (which will cost NZ$1,745  for the application, plus NZ$1,000 to employ ivisas to ensure we get it right first time, plus Barry's flight there and back, plus all the paperwork and time) and returns soon.  Colin did inform us we could 'fast track' his application in ten days - if we want to pay another NZ$500! Er, no thanks! Anyway, Barry still has to sell the shop and catch up with his nearest and dearest who are all very much looking forward to seeing him again.

Today we're moving just a few miles and two locks to Bardbridge, which we expected to take us less than two hours. We bought Northern Pride from the boatyard at Barbridge in April 2009, so it'll be good to see the canal there again. We started out at 12, it's now almost 5pm, and we have yet to go through the second lock! Admittedly we just stopped for diesel, gas, a pump out and a water fill-up, but we've never experienced queues like there are here on the Middlewich Arm, nor as many hopeless hire boaters taking an age to negotiate the locks.

About ten boats ahead of us

In the lock at last - following a hire boat driven (badly) in and out of the lock by a young girl of about 12, while her father walked the towpath - incredible!

We're meeting up with Tom and Jan in Barbridge this evening, and splashing out on a couple of drinks at the local pub - to swap visa tales and traumas! He was fortunate to get in before they changed the rules to five years.  Reading their blog post from yesterday, we can sympathise with the complexity of the UK visa process he and Jan are also experiencing.

It's very challenging to understand why it's so difficult to get Barry a UK residency visa.  We've been together seven and a half years, his father and grandfather both fought FOR ENGLAND, in Europe, having travelled all the way from NZ, in the first and second world wars respectively. Oh yes! And New Zealand is still a British Commonwealth country.  If anyone can enlighten us why we have to jump through so many hoops, we'd be most grateful. 

However, it is what it is, and we know it's bigger than us so we're just ticking the boxes and spending an awful lot of money in the process.

We're hoping nothing happens to my dad while he's away, as, without the visa, he can't return for six months ...

Thursday, 1 August 2013

AreandAre - truly living up to her name!

Once again blogging has taken a back seat while we make the most of the company of many friends on board AreandAre.

When we first put in an offer for the boat in March, we weren't sure how to pronounce the name, and when I telephoned I asked to talk about a boat called 'air-and-dare'.  The woman at ABNB boats wasn't sure what I was talking about until she exclaimed "Oh! You mean R and R?"  We've since been informed that when she was initially built, the owners painted the words aReandaRe so that the Rs stood out - if anyone reading knows any more details, we'd love to hear from you ...

Anyway, I digress.  For the purposes of our journeys on the waterways, we'd like her to be known as a place for 'Rest and Relaxation', away from the busyness of most people's every day lives; a place of calm and slowing down, yet also incorporating a sense of fun and adventure.

We've welcomed Freddie, who travelled to us from Sheffield and stayed 16th to 17th July; then Kerry and Tony from Gisborne, NZ, a few hours after Freddie left until 25th July; and last but definitely not least, Rivka and Richard (also from Gisborne) collected me from my sister's house in Lichfield on Sunday 28th, and stayed until Tuesday 30th.

A brief resume of where we've been lately
We've travelled through the Harecastle Tunnel - a short distance behind the hire boaters we met - an experience in itself as their boat bounced from wall-to-wall all the way through; we had a lovely lunch with Freddie at a local pub and returned to discover AreandAre stranded across the canal as her mooring pins had been pulled out of the ground by a passing boat (we suspect speeding by, but let's not cast aspersions!); we've had the most glorious balmy summer days and nights with Kerry and Tony and travelled on canals and places we've not previously experienced, such as the amazing Anderton Boat Lift; we've meandered along the River Weaver and had another BBQ; wandered around a couple of gorgeous villages; re-visited the Barton Swing Aqueduct and had the honour of watching it open once again; we've visited a national Trust Stately home (Dunham Massey) and extensive gardens twice - but not once paid to go in (there's enough grounds with fallow deer roaming to keep you happy for an hour or two); we've moored in the centre of Manchester (we loved this experience in 2009, especially the gay pride parade) and met up with Pauline and Ray (who surprised us in Gisborne in January 2011), re-visited Salford Quays where I finally got to spend time enjoying the Lowry Gallery; and now we're almost off the Trent and Mersey and onto the Middlewich Arm - where at Barbridge Junction in April 2009 we bought Northern Pride.

Photo gallery ...

Waiting in line for the Harecastle Tunnel

Barry jumps aboard to rescue a stranded AreandAre!

Barry and Freddie chill out on the towpath

Doing a spot of locking - so much for R & R!

Kerry and Tony's visit

Tony shows off the beer glass and bar mat we were given at his first British pub in Middlewich!

Kerry and Tony's first ever authentic Sunday roast beef and Yorkshire puddings!

The amazing Anderton Boat Lift ...

The River Weaver 

Relaxing after dinner with a home-brewed red wine - magnificent!

Tony holds us steady in the big river locks

Swans and cygnets cruising along

Barry and Tony take charge of the BBQ, while Kerry takes up her usual pose!

Delightful villages along the route ...

A gorgeous garden in the village of Grapenhall

One of the two pubs in Grappenhall - well worth a visit

A short walk from Grappenhall to the Manchester Ship Canal!

In the stocks at Lymm

Lymm - a very quaint place

The Barton Swing Aqueduct

The canal closes at each end and swings over the Manchester Ship Canal - an incredible sight

The Liverpool to Manchester ferry - an extra trip due to high interest - lucky for us!

Re-visiting Salford Quays

Barry and Tony relaxing in the cratch at Castlefield Basin

An eclectic mixture - a railway bridge, Hilton Hotel, historic buildings, canal bridge and narrowboat

Not a bad place to be - a peaceful haven right in the middle of Manchester!

Catching up with Pauline and Ray

Rivka and Richard's visit

Dunham Massey

The old Mill House dates from the early 1600s and is one the few working mills left in England

Fallow deer roam freely

Comings and goings
I left Barry for a few days last week as our boxes finally arrived from New Zealand at my sister's house in Lichfield.  It was great timing as was able to attend a retirement party for a colleague I worked with at Good Hope Hospital over a decade ago, and caught up with lots of lovely people I haven't seen for years. I squeezed in a visit to my mum and dad too.

We've been asked to submit articles and photos of our journeys to the Gisborne Herald Weekender supplement, and the first one's been sent off today - along with a handful of favourite photos from the 2009 trip. Sadly we're not being paid for this, but one never knows what opportunities may eventuate, so we decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth and embrace this chance ...

Barry has less than two weeks now before he returns to New Zealand in order to apply for the first round of his spousal sponsored UK residency visa. If all goes well he'll be back before we know it (but it's unlikely to be before mid-October).  If it doesn't - well we'll cross that bridge if we come to it.  He'll also be selling 'ezimade', as without doing that we have no capital to start another business here! We have a couple of interested parties, but if you know of anyone wanting to live in paradise and buy themselves a thriving business, do get in touch.

We're booked into Tattenhall Marina, a few miles south of Chester, initially as visitors from 11th to 25th August, then as 'permanent moorers' from 1st September until 1st March 2014. We chose Tattenhall for their facilities and location - very near my daughter, son-in-law and grandson. In fact we discovered yesterday the bus from Tattenhall goes to their village of Malpas in twenty minutes - fantastic!

This is likely to be the last of the 'big blogs' of 2013, as we won't be moving far again now until spring 2014. We've certainly managed to pack a lot of awesome sights and experiences in the four months we've been back on the waterways, and I'm certain (hopeful and thankful) there'll be many more next year.