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, 27 February 2014

Launching AreandAre and 'The Home Brew Boat'

It's the time of year when boaters who've moored up cosily in a marina for winter, are about to head back onto the system. Just in time for the snow if we're to believe the media! Yikes!

After 10 days in dry dock, Areandare was re-launched on Wednesday with a shiny new bottom - days before we leave Tattenhall Marina on Saturday. We plan to travel up through Chester and on to Ellesmere Port to visit the National Waterways Museum - we've not been that far up the Shropshire Union before. Following that we were looking forward to meandering along the Llangollen Canal again (it was our first journey aboard Northern Pride in April 2009), before heading further south, but sadly it's closed until 4th April due to preventative measures to stop a potential breach caused by the wet winter.

We're getting a few essential jobs done before we're back out on the cut, and relishing the remainder of our 'hooked up to electricity and water point only centimetres away' time!

Barry's put an extra connection linking the washing machine water tank to the main one, so if when we run out in the wilds of the waterways, miles from a water point, we'll be able to move the water from one tank to the other - rather than running out mid-shower as has been known to happen!

We'll buy another bag of coal so we have sufficient supplies to light the stove at the stern - where we may find ourselves snuggling in the evenings to come. The luxury of having radiators on any time we wish, especially first thing in the morning to lure us out of bed, will soon be a distant memory - a scary thought when they're forecasting frosts for spring! And the electric blanket each night we've grown accustomed to? Not a chance! Ah well, back to the trusty hot water bottle.

What's been the most priceless part of being moored here for six months, is lots of precious time with my eldest daughter and grandsons, as we're just a short bus ride away. What a wondrous blessing. It'll be painful to leave, as travelling back to Malpas from wherever we are won't be easy (or cheap!). Plus with two children under five, driving to us isn't a simple project. But I'm sure we'll find ways to meet up as much as possible. We've been so fortunate to have this time together after previously living in opposite hemispheres for most of 8 years!

And now onto the exciting news …

Launching 'The Home Brew Boat'

After many years of planning and preparation, we can now officially launch The Home Brew Boat' to the blog.

Before giving any more details, let me reassure anyone who may have concerns, we've followed due process (if you think we've missed anything though, please get in touch!).

We have permission from CRT to trade (Home Brew Boat, Facepainting and photography), appropriate business insurance and Public Liability, our official CRT Trading License will arrive shortly and be displayed proudly, and we're members of the Roving Canal Traders Association (RCTA).

We have two fabulous suppliers, and Barry's spent an inordinate amount of time on the website set up (check it out, there's all sorts of useful and interesting information about home brewing, as well as things to whet your appetite if you've never tried it - or did it decades ago and are curious to know how it's changed!).

We've made two sales so far, to people in the marina. And anticipating excitedly our first on-line sale!

We have a Facebook Page, with almost 100 'likes' less than a week after it was set up, and a new Twitter account (for Areandare). We'd love to link up with any readers there if you use such social media.

Where will we be trading?

We'll trade as we travel, while we build up related resources, like Barry's arrived-in-the-post-brand-new-today business cards …

But mostly, we'll trade at canal related festivals.

We were honoured to be 'hand picked' and approached to be one of 50 traders at the Birmingham spring market  The Bond, Fazeley Street, Digbeth on Saturday 12th April. That'll be our first ever trading festival, so if you're in the area do come along and say hello!

Following that, we've these events confirmed so far (click on the links for times):

There's a few others we're in the process of booking, all in the midlands or the north west.

It's fabulous to be part of a growing community of trading boats, helping to keep people interested in the Inland Waterways, and providing a way of supporting people to live this lifestyle whilst earning an income. It's certainly not for, or available to, everyone, but we're extremely pleased and proud to promote the 'working boat' concept, albeit in a much pleasanter way than in previous centuries.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Rain stops painting - but there's blooming daffodils!

Maybe I spoke too soon about the change of weather?

One coat of blacking went on yesterday, on a gloriously fine day. Sadly today there's been intermittent rain and even a scattering of hail, so no more painting was possible.

Getting the first coat on yesterday

It's our last week at the lovely Tattenhall Marina next week, but it's looking likely that we'll only be back on our pontoon for a couple of days. Ah well, such is life, we can't change nature. And our tiny challenge pales into insignificance when we imagine the people in UK whose homes are under water from the persistent rain of the current winter here.

Daffodils, snowdrops, crocuses and primroses

On a brighter note, spring is most definitely starting to show her face and colours. Last year the daffodils didn't bloom in many areas until at least April - and we're constantly being told how mild this winter has been.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Areandare has come out!

We've taken the opportunity of getting Areandare's bottom blacked before we leave Tattenhall Marina on 1st March, and Monday was the big day. It's the first time we've seen her hull, or probably anyone for a while, as we chose to have just an in-water survey before we bought her last April.

The speed and proficiency with which a very heavy hunk of steel (Barry reckons around 15 tons) is removed from the water is incredible. We were actually on board while she was being lifted - most surreal!

Last Tuesday I got a phone call from the Marina asking where we were - there'd been some sort of communication mix-up as they had last week booked and we had this week. We're thankful they chose to go with our plans in the end - the difference in weather conditions couldn't be more stark!

Yesterday the gunk was scraped off the hull, along with the remaining surface coating (and the poor fresh water mussels!). Barry scraped the part from the gunnel to the rubbing strake  - for those that don't know, that's the line that takes most of the knocks and runs all around the boat about a foot below the gunnel. Are you impressed I know that? I actually had no idea, and had to ask Barry, and then do a google check for the spelling! The boatyard only scrape and black up to the strake, so it seemed sensible to do the remainder while she's out of the water.

In the meantime, we're living firmly out of the water, on a slight but very noticeable lean as the concrete slopes! It does ensure the water drains from the shower easily - there's a positive in everything!

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Ten fun and fruitful days - and a wet, windy Worcester!

It's been an interesting ten days, with two courses, two visits to the dentist (ouch!), a tick on my women's health check, three nights out, two nights with my eldest sister, catching up with lots of friends I haven't seen for years, and spending time with mum and dad whilst sorting a few things out for them. Phew!

I've succeeded in getting my mum as the main driver for their car insurance from 8th March, as my dad can no longer drive. Mum hasn't been the main driver for many years, so has no no claims bonus. When I tried to get myself on dad's insurance last year, with a company called RIAS, I was informed that as I hadn't lived in England for the past three years I was too much of a risk to be insured! Hilarious, as my dad at 93 seemed a far greater risk from my experience. Oh, and I had no claims discount for life in NZ, who'd accepted my UK no claims in 2005 when I arrived, but UK don't reciprocate. Why was I in the least surprised?

This time I took the opportunity to shop around a little, and got a great quote very quickly and simply from 'Saga' - who were quite ok with the fact that I'd been a renegade and lived in another country! RIAS quite happily let us go, without question.  When I phoned AgeUK for a quote, they said that because mum hadn't been the main driver for years, and had no no claims, they wouldn't insure her! Unbelievable! There must be loads of elderly women who haven't been the main driver for years and then need to get insurance. AgeUk are supposed to care for elderly people - it seems not in this case.

Hurrah for Saga!

Meanwhile Barry's been busy sorting things for his business on the boat. He tells me he was runner up at the shuffleboard contest last Saturday, and then again at the darts match at Scott's Bar at Tattenhall Marina on Thursday. I suspect he may've been losing on purpose, to maintain friendships! But then again …

My face painting course with 'Cases Faces' in Ormskirk, was fabulous! I've got most of the equipment I need to get started now, and I'm really looking forward to transforming children's faces magically and seeing their eyes light up when they see themselves as a tiger, a clown or maybe a butterfly? I just need to find some volunteers to paint their faces, take photos, and have a portfolio of my own creations ready.

I've always loved it when there's a face painter around at festivals, so it'll be neat to be the person painting! I've had a bit of practice on my grandson and his friends, as well as nephews, so it was good to learn more about the art of it and have a beautiful face to decorate.

 Me and Janet, from Cases Faces, with my butterfly face painted by one of the participants of the beginners workshop

My tiger - not bad I think?

I'm still working on a name for the business - does anyone have any ideas? I'm thinking of 'Magical Faces', but open to suggestions.

England is certainly turning on the charm for my first British winter since 2004 isn't it?  The memories of how long it lasts and how miserable the weather can be, is all coming flooding back to me! Excuse the pun - especially those who are marooned or suffering. Luckily in the Marina all is ok, and my family haven't been personally affected so far.

My parents are about twenty minutes drive from Worcester, and we drove there yesterday for my dad's podiatrist appointment. Fortunately it wasn't through town - we wouldn't have made it if it had been, as the main bridge was closed.

Hard to believe this is the same city we moored up at in June (see the post here). They're experiencing the worst flooding in history, with levels rising above the devastation of 2007. Mother nature can be very cruel.

Tomorrow I'm dropping in on Andy and Helen from Wand'ring Bark  - their land home not boating one. Just for a cuppa, a catch up, and to return a few DVDs they kindly loaned us. Then it's off to Ashbourne to stay with a friend I've not seen since 2009. Marvellous.

On Monday it's back to the lovely Barry, and AreandAre. By the time I get there she'll be out of the water and getting ready to have her bottom blacked before we venture back out onto the cut - two weeks from today!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Leaving Barry to fend for himself again ...

Tomorrow I'm off the boat for ten days, doing a number of lovely things, including:

  1. A Facepainting workshop in Ormskirk
  2. A visit to the dentist I've recently registered with close to my parents in Ombersley
  3. A night out with some 'old' (maybe previous would be a better word?!) school friends in Sutton Coldfield - I think a pub crawl was mentioned which could get messy remembering some of our antics in years gone by ...
  4. A night out with some ex-midwifery colleagues in Mere Green - catching up with some people I haven't seen since I left Good Hope in October 2001 after 14 years
  5. A ladies screening test (no need to mention which bodily part is involved I feel!)
  6. A two-day NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) course in Birmingham
  7. A couple of nights staying with my eldest sister Katherine in Lichfield
  8. A night out at a Tapas bar in Lichfield with Kath (due to a great deal via Amazon)
  9. Lots of days and nights with my mum and dad
  10. Taking dad to his chiropodist appointment in Worcester
  11. Visiting another ex-colleague, this time from my time at The Royal Free, in Ashbourne in the beautiful Derbyshire Dales
So I'm packing quite a bit in over a short time! It'll be my last hire car booking with Enterprise Wrexham for a while.

Barry will remain on board, he's not so good with being away from the boat - and he has plenty to keep him occupied!

We're in the process of setting up our new 'Wordpress' blog which will replace this one, ready to launch our new businesses. Our Trading Insurance and Public Liability is sorted, we've got the go-ahead from CRT, and now just need to get the license to trade (it involves printing and photocopying which I'll do tomorrow night). We've been accepted to join the Roving Canal Traders Association (thank you Michael!), and we're booking into lots of lovely boating festivals around the midlands and north west of England from Easter to the end of September.

It's a little scary at times, this living differently malarky, but we feel as though the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle we've been working towards for the past few years are starting to fit together and take shape.

Life is short, follow your dreams - don't wait until it's too late to start living is our motto.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Why reading a mesmerising book on a bus isn't such a good idea ...

Since we've been moored at Tattenhall Marina, I've been fortunate to spend lots of time with my eldest daughter, Lisa, and her two delightful sons. Not having our own transport, this has meant a return thirty minute return bus trip each time. I often use this time as a great reason to read on my Kindle.

Last night was no exception. I'd begun reading 'Narrow Margins' (how ridiculous is it that you can buy a book for Kindle for 39 pence?) on the bus ride to Malpas yesterday morning, and was really enjoying Marie Browne's writing style and her tale of their business crashing when Rover went bust and subsequent search for a suitable narrowboat to live on after being forced to sell their beautiful four-bedroomed detached home. Quite a stark contrast as you can imagine!

I was engrossed in the story of how they eventually bought (for a song) an ex-hotel boat, then realised neither of them had ever driven a narrowboat before - seems oddly unbelievable, but she somehow convinced me! 

I was thinking of Sue's comments on a recent blog post about some people's narrow-mindedness regarding those of us who live aboard, as Marie described some rather stuck up young people's conversation on a floating cafe (The Gongoozler) Marie bought her bacon sandwiches from ("I can't believe people actually live on these things"), and imagining what I may've said to them had it been me listening. She admitted to herself that a year previously she may have been thinking the same thing.

I'd reached Chapter nine, where they'd just began their journey from the marina at Braunston to their new mooring in Cambridge, after a day's instruction with Willow Wren Training. I do recall looking up briefly and seeing a building that wasn't totally familiar, but I thought it was just because of the darkness.

Then I saw the lights of the 'One Stop' convenience store I'd visited a couple of times on our way back from one of Barry's badminton trips to Christleton, and the reality hit me with a bang that I'd completely missed my stop! Only by ten minutes - but that ten minutes by bus is an awful long way by foot!

I called out in anguish and the lovely bus driver stopped. How foolish did I feel? "Sorry love, this is the last bus" was all he could muster in response to my "Oh goodness! What will I do?" I suspect that if I'd been the only person on board he would've turned around and taken me back to Tattenhall, but as there were another three people looking sympathetically back at me, that wasn't a possibility.

I got off the bus without a clue initially as to what I'd do. With a sudden realisation I was actually only a short walk from the canal, I felt a strange sense of relief that I could get 'home', albeit a lot later than anticipated! I phoned Barry, who'd already began to wonder where I was. Luckily by this time I was seeing the funny side of the situation.

So off I walked in the pitch black, the four or so miles along the towpath, with just an occasional light from a moored narrowboat. I decided against using the 'Map My Walk' app to record the exact length of the evening's exercise, thinking I'd be better off keeping the charge on my phone in case I needed to summon emergency assistance (I wasn't sure what that could've entailed, but I was very much out of my 'comfort zone'!).

My wonderful husband walked from the opposite direction and met me after just over an hour. I'd fortunately packed our torch, so was at least able to see where I was putting my feet - Barry used his keen photographer's eyesight to find his way in the dark, only stumbling a few times. 

He did however have his new walking boots on!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

So we win again!

Barry's been getting to know our neighbours in the Marina over the past few weeks, and yesterday invited them to Scott's Bar for the quiz night. Their response was that they were rather good at quizzes, and they didn't disappoint - thank you Liz and Andy, our current affairs knowledge is rather sparse but you definitely made up for it!

We won the quiz, with 40 and a half points (I think the closest to us was around 35), though admittedly Barry and I probably only contributed less than 4 of those points! When we got the answers, I realised I'd said out loud one of them but not written it down, so I could've contributed another point!

Here's the question, no googling, what film is the pub 'The Slaughtered Lamb' in? Heaven knows where my brain had it hard-wired from, but strangely it knew …

That's three wins on a Saturday night, out of about a dozen - so they're definitely threatening to eject us from the Marina and possibly contacting the visa authorities. But only in jest, they're lovely people and we'll miss the camaraderie of the boating community here.

Many people who we chat to who live 'on land', look at us in astonishment when we say we live on a narrowboat. If you've never done it it can be challenging to understand what the appeal could be. Those of us who have, or do, know that this way of living differently, and more simply, can bring a lot of joy into every day life. But admittedly it's not for everyone.

We do love Tattenhall Marina, and will miss it when we leave - less than four weeks left now of our winter mooring.

A recent calm day at the marina, with Beeston Castle in the background

So many different shapes and sizes of boats

A flock of seagulls recently visited us

How do they not bump into each other? Incredibile

Saturday, 1 February 2014

More views of Sheffield - this time from the master's lens

A rare treat today, I can post some of Barry's photography.

Sadly Barry left his camera in Fred's car when we walked around the town, so the only shots we have of the centre are the few I took on my iPhone previously posted. 

We do however have lots of delightful waterway-related images to share - appropriate really for a boating blog!

Firstly though, there's an image specially for Gavin - can you pick out which are the three pub stops on the way from the bus station?

'Pub stops of Sheffield' T-shirt that Fred produced for Barry on the morning of our departure - what a treasure he is

Fred and Sarah's gorgeous home, on the edge of the Peak District National Park

Kelham Island Quarter and Kelham Island Museum

The rain graciously relented last Sunday afternoon for a few hours, so we were able to explore the area around the River Don and Sheffield Canal Basin.

An old warehouse opposite Kelham Island Museum - sure to be renovated at some point in the future and converted into housing

A huge 'Bessemer converter', England's largest, which was used to produce steel by blowing air through molten iron

A 'Yorkshire' dart board in the museum pub 'The Millowner's Arms', contains no trebles - we've seen a similar one called a 'Manchester' log-end board - and there's also a 'London Fives' variation - click here for a bit of dart board history

Sarah, Fred and Sandra all wrapped up in their down jackets - and Sandra's newly bought furry hat to keep her ears warm and snug!

The River Don and Victoria Quays

The 'Great Sheffield Flood' occurred on 11 March 1864, following the collapse of the 'Dale Dike Dam', destroying 800 houses, as well as destroying or damming most of the Don bridges upstream of Lady's Bridge, and killing 270 people. There's been a more recent catastrophe invoking the river, more of that later …

Water can be a formidable force, as unfortunately we're discovering again in Somerset, following the wettest January for more than quarter of a century.

The River Don, embraced by a variety of old and new buildings - the water levels were noticeably high

Very fine tile-work on this building along our walk ...

… spoilt somewhat by the advertising! 

Marvellous mosaic work in the canal basin

Private moorings in the basin, and a few retail outlets

The Straddle Warehouse, built across the water for extra storage when there was no other room to expand

The Terminal (or grain) Warehouse - now converted into flats, and with a resident craft workshop narrowboat 'Crafts Afloat'

Panorama of the terminus of the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal, dating from 1814

The 'Merchant's Crescent', a very quaint row of terraced houses which are now offices

We ended the afternoon with a pint at the infamous 'The Fat Cat' (sadly we forgot the photo!), winner of numerous awards and frequented by many TV and sports personalities, and a marvellous olde worlde public house that's fortunately resisted the lure of modernisation. It's not owned by the big breweries, preferring it's own brewery - hurrah for 'home' brew! In the more recent flood of 25th June 2007 (two months after Barry and I were in England and blessed with the hottest April since records began), the River Don burst it's banks due to the excessive rain which caused extensive flooding to the building. This time the raging water took two human lives, far less than 19th century event but sad nonetheless.  Not on the same scale of importance of course, but the Fat Cat lost 40,000 pints of beer! 

A fine city indeed Gavin, Fred, Sarah and everyone else who can proudly call it their 'home' town.