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 ...

Thursday, 30 January 2014

The wonders of the blogosphere

It never ceases to amaze me, since we began our boating blogging in April 2009, how wondrous  blogging can be. 

Through my ramblings, and Barry's incredible photography, we've met some fabulous people that I'd mention individually, but I know if I did it's highly likely I'd miss someone out - so I won't as I'd hate to offend anyone! But those reading who've met or been in touch with us, know who they are. We're blessed to have you as a part of lives, thank you for getting in touch, or shouting a 'hello' as we pass, and for sharing our journeys and magical memories.

And thank you to those who haven't yet been in contact, or commented on any posts - we hope one day to hear from or meet you.

I posted yesterday about Barry's unusual feet, which it appears are not so unique. The lovely 'Mich' commented to say she too has challenges to get shoes to fit, and has passed on a website for 'Pavers', which we'll check out for future reference - and it turns out they have a shop in Chester, a twenty minute bus ride away from us! Well fancy that! This morning a woman at the Marina who I go to Zumba Gold with each week, says her son has a similar problem. Sharing is most definitely caring!

When we posted about our hire car dilemma, Andy and Elly kindly offered information on annual hire car insurance that we took up, which gives us peace of mind rather than paying silly amounts to Enterprise each time (though they are wonderful in most other ways!).

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

A successful shop in Sheffield - and a visit to our suppliers!

On Monday evening we returned to AreandAre from a wonderful weekend in Sheffield visiting Fred and Sarah (with intermittent sightings of their two teenage sons!), friends of Barry's (and mine since 2007) who spent a year living and working in Gisborne in the early 1990s, long before Barry and I met.

The journey to their amazing home entailed driving in the dark and wet along Snake Pass, the main route from Manchester to Sheffield, which resembles said reptile with its preponderance of twists and turns - as well as hills and adverse cambers (sloped bits!). It was hair-raising motoring for me, due to the number of vehicles 'needing' (needlessly!) to race along at way faster than the 50mph limit. It reminded me of the 'main' road north-west out of Gisborne, called 'The Waioeka Gorge'. Another drive I wouldn't relish on a miserable winter's night!

Boots for Barry
Since we've been in England, I've often despaired at Barry wearing the badminton trainers, bought as a birthday present a couple of years ago, for general walking. Now the ground is so soggy and muddy, I'm concerned they'll be ruined if he continues.

So why not just buy some walking boots you may ask?  Good question! It's not about money, because I'd rather he had some instead of destroying his sports shoes. You'll have little idea how challenging it can be to source a pair of shoes, never mind walking boots, that will fit Barry's feet - everyone except his son Tom who has a similar problem! He has what are affectionately known as 'Hobbit' feet, which he could've capitalised on for a (walk-on!) part in The Lord of the Rings - with no need for cosmetic enhancement. I'm not sure if the photo adequately shows the predicament …

Barry's 'Hobbit' feet, photographed at his birthday party December 2012 - the hair was a guest's add-on feature!

Comparing feet - Barry and Tom's 'stand' out somewhat!

Fred was fairly confident we'd find some boots at a new store from France, called 'Decathlon', which had recently opened in Sheffield, stocking a large range of outdoor clothing and shoes at discount prices. After trying on around a dozen possibilities, and seeking assistance for our plight, alas it was not to be. 

Next stop was 'Go Outdoors', where Fred felt certain we'd find success. Once again though, despite trying many different boots, and having a modicum of success with getting help from the overworked assistants, none came close and there was just a "Ouch, no, they hurt" every time from Barry.

Finally we visited Clarks, who have an amazingly efficient customer service, and eventually he put a pair of size 11G waterproof black leather GORE-TEX  boots on and said "They're not too bad"! The young female assistant probably wished she'd had a boisterous five-year-old rather than a 58 year old, plus supporters, eager desperate to find something to fit!

Of course the 11H would have been even better, but sadly there was no stock of them anywhere in the country - maybe they've all sold out, though the more likely scenario is Barry's feet are rather unusual and there just isn't a call for such a wide fitting!

Barry finds shoes that fit - hurrah!

Burns Night
We were invited to accompany Fred and Sarah to celebrate 'Burns Night', at a friend's home on Saturday 25th January - the Scottish poet Robert Burn's actually birth day! Apparently there's recently been a big surge in acknowledging this occasion in UK - and in Dunedin in New Zealand it's quite a big thing too. I was sat next to a cardiologist who'd lived there for a year during his internship. 

A fun evening, no photos sadly, but it included incomprehensible renderings of Scottish poetry, the welcoming of the haggis and eating of such (it was delicious!), Scottish salmon, and copious quantities of a variety of whiskies. I'm not a whisky drinker, in fact even the smell makes me nauseated - Barry's the same, but being a bloke he felt obliged to try it and did so twice! He says he still dislikes it, but it felt like the proper thing to do at such an event - bless him!

Sadly the weather wasn't kind enough to us to allow a bracing walk in the Peak District on Sunday, despite us both finally having suitable footwear! 

My youngest daughter did her psychology degree in Sheffield, during 2002 to 2005, so I've visited the city of steel many times in the past.  Barry and I made a short visit in 2007, but he'd never been into the town before. As well as Sheffield Steel production, it's also known for the movies 'The Full Monty', 'Brassed Off', and sadly the Hillsborough disaster

We enjoyed a stroll around town on Saturday, visiting Kelham Island and the Sheffield Canal Basin (Victoria Quays) on Sunday. We hope to moor up in the basin at some point on our meanderings, but it's one of those canals with a long route just to the town, then you have to turn around and go back - so it'll depend upon timings.  

Barry took some photos which will be far superior to mine, and hopefully he'll get from his camera in the next day or two so I can post them! In the meantime, here's a couple from me ...

The Town Hall in Sheffield with a couple of dodgy geezers in front ...

… and looking towards the train station

Suppliers of the future
On Monday we visited the two suppliers of our new business venture, in Chesterfield, and even collected some stock! We have the go-ahead from CRT now to trade from the boat, so it's full steam ahead!

Sadly, or fortuitously depending on how you look at it, Barry suddenly realised he'd left his new boots in Sheffield while we were in Chesterfield - so we detoured and returned to collect them, and enjoyed a very different Snake Pass experience in the fading daylight.

We used a hire can once again from Enterprise - it's fascinating driving a different car each time. This journey was in a Honda Civic - very nice to drive. After returning the car on Tuesday morning, and filling up with petrol, I worked out that using public transport would've only saved us £22.77! Not having the hassle of getting a bus to the station, carrying bags, changing trains half way, having to be collected and then taken back to the station, is worth way more than that!

Thanks again Enterprise Wrexham, they're such a friendly and helpful group of people, it's a pleasure to hire cars with them and be ferried from and back to the Marina each time. What an amazing service. If only it wasn't an extra £10 a day to insure Barry to drive too.

There'll be more about our plans in the coming posts, which may or may not be on Wordpress by then, watch this space ...

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Six weeks left - and counting ...

… well at least Barry is! That's how long we've got left at Tattenhall Marina, sitting (mostly) still, with an electric hook-up, a water point a few feet away, a pump out and diesel across the water, a great bus route a few minutes walk away, weekly events/games night at the Marina Bar, etc. 

So we currently have such luxuries available as:
  • diesel heated radiators on whenever we want (sadly no solid field stove in our lounge/dining area, only in the Boatman's Cabin at the moment) 
  • the electric cooker and washing machine whenever we need them rather than only when the boats moving or with the engine running
  • the luxury of long hot showers anytime (well almost, but I'll come to that!) as we have a calorifier for water heating, and 
  • power on tap to charge all our gadgets!
I never imagined I'd like love being in a Marina, rather than moving around the system most days. But I am okay to admit that I do - and shall miss it.

However, much of that may have to do with the cold, dark and damp of a British winter - though admittedly it's not been too bad so far (at least that's what I'm told, it's been pretty yuck compared to what I've been used to in NZ for the past nine years!).

So by the time we leave, the evenings will be lighter, the daffodils will be sprouting, there'll be buds on the leaves of the trees, and people (including me!) will begin to 'feel' happier.

Signs of spring are beginning to appear

Our festive season
It's been a few weeks since I last posted a blog - Xmas Eve in fact - apologies readers! 

We had a busy but fun-filled festive season, travelling almost 900 miles around England visiting family - very different to last year when I was in Bali with my daughter Kim. So blogging hasn't been my top priority - I'm aiming to post more regularly in future so the posts aren't so long.

Here's a selection of a few magical moments ...

Kim saw mummy kissing Santa Claus Barry at Scott's Bar on Xmas Eve

Bucks Fizz for breakfast on Xmas Day? Don't mind if I do

How many cracker hats and reindeer horns can I fit on my head?!

A day trip to Port Issac, Cornwall, where (much to the annoyance of many residents apparently)  they film the UK TV programme Doc Martin, starring Martin Clunes

The Doc's house is to the right of Barry

From Devon and Cornwall to Brighton - strong winds and high seas this year for Kim's birthday in early January

A variety of fabulous venues were visited for Kim's birth day - here Kim and Barry are feeling a little cheeky at a quaint coffee shop called 'Marwood' where they say they do 'Kick Ass Coffee and Life Changing Cake' - love that description!

 And here we are at 'The Office' a Gin Bar, serving a selection of over 30 different types of gin. Barry was in his element, but seems a little overshadowed by Kim and I!

Back to the Marina
We returned to AreandAre on 7th January, and it was a relief to unpack and get sorted after so many different stops. 

Luckily we'd had an upgrade in our hire car. In fact, strange as it may sound, I changed the type of car a couple of weeks before we picked it up, and it cost 70 pounds LESS to get a Class D than a Class B that I'd booked in September - and then they upgraded again for some reason.  I have no idea how it happened. Maybe it's because I booked early initially, and they hadn't had as many bookings as they'd thought they would for Xmas? Or because we've been regular hirers recently. Who knows, but somehow we received a Vauxhall 'Insignia', which had a huge boot that we turned into a mobile wardrobe! 

Our unexpected Xmas present from Enterprise!

Shower challenge and another win
Just before Xmas Barry decided to take our shower apart (not the best timing!), as the seals weren't so fabulous at the bottom, and there'd been some leakage. It meant we had no working shower from a week or so before Xmas, until last week. Fortunately there's a walk in wet room type shower in the Marina, but it's a few minutes walk away, in the cold, so the usual daily shower went awry. Once again, thank goodness for being here.

However, we may be asked to leave before long if we don't watch out. We went to the bar the Saturday we got back, where there was a darts match on a recently fitted board. By some incredible stroke of luck (on my part, not Barry's, his was through sheer skill), the final players were a couple of kiwis which didn't go down too well! So taking the money home was then a forgone conclusion - obviously I had to let him win (!) as I'd already had my first place a few weeks before in 'Play Your Cards Right'.

Barry plays his darts right

Almost ready to launch
We're now just waiting for CRT to agree to our proposal for our businesses before we can apply for a Trading License, and then we can announce what we'll be doing on the blog.

We have a draft travelling route for 2014 on paper, which is still subject to change, but nevertheless feels very exciting - even though it'll mean moving back onto the cut.  I know I'll love it once we're out, it'll just be odd not being close to my daughter and grandchildren for a while again, and all the 'luxurious' amenities.

I'm also seriously re-considering starting a new blog with 'AreandAre' in the url, and moving to 'Wordpress', as we're both using that for our business websites and it seems to have more features and support than Blogger.

So there's lots to keep us out of too much mischief in the coming days, weeks and months ...