Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Arrival at Warwick

We are drawing towards the end of our voyage, moored now on the towpath opposite Kate Boats. During the week one lovely morning I brought ‘Futurest’ along the one and a half miles from the Lidl Mooring and then enjoyed the walk back in the bright but low sunshine to transfer ‘Roots and Wings’ as well. We hope to remain here till 1st November after which Kate Boats  can take us in for our winter moorings.



‘Futurest’ on her way to Warwick


Janis has been away for a fortnight weathering hurricane gales off Ireland on the ‘Stavros S Niarchos’ but arrived back here yesterday none the worse for her eventful voyage but filled nonetheless with exciting tales of derring do.

During the same period on another beautiful day (we really have been very blessed  with the weather this year) I set off for Stratford-upon-Avon on the bus to see my brother. Though there was no Shakespeare this time to which I could look forward Stratford Music Festival was in progress that week and we were treated to two wonderful lunchtime recitals at the Guild Hall on the first day by a talented pianist who played sonatas by Beethoven and Chopin as well as Debussy’s ‘Images’, while  on the second a cellist and pianist presented us very beautifully and artistically  with a programme which included Rachmaninov. On the evening in between I accompanied David and his two companions Patricia and Edmund to Carlucio’s Restaurant where we enjoyed a meal accompanied by a group of jazz musicians called, ‘The Swing Museum’, cleverly portraying the music favoured by Stephan Grappelli and his ‘Hot Club of France’.

Then on Saturday last I travelled down to Brighton by train to visit Millie and my grand daughter Delilah-Rose, staying the night with them. Rupert, Delilah’s dad was there as well and we had a great time together with the girls.



Brighton Pavilion



Rupert and Delilah-Rose on the pier



Brighton and Hove looking westward


Otherwise I’m living quietly at this time of the year simply awaiting our winter moorings. However last week I bought myself a new computer, an Asus T100  notebook (for anyone who’s interested), programmed with Windows 8.

‘Honestly it was there just begging me to buy it’.

Actually my old laptop is still quite serviceable except that it is rather heavy to carry around and only has a nominal battery endurance of two hours. However it had taken me six years to become completely familiar with ‘Vista’ on this one whereas now I have a much lighter and smaller version; easier to carry around, with a nominal battery time of eleven hours…. Wonderful. But hopefully I shan’t have to struggle for another six years becoming familiar with ‘Windows 8’.

We shall have to see. This is the first blog posting with the new machine so hoping that all goes well.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Autumn at Leamington Spa

Presently I am on my own.

On Saturday Janis left ‘Roots and Wings’ once more in my care, and caught the train to Southampton, where she joined the brig ‘Stavros S Niarchos’ for a fortnight’s cruise. She sails regularly on the ship and in spite of a mild ‘mal de mere’ she says she enjoys it. I am sure she does.


Stavros S Niarchos

The brig ‘Stavros S Niarchos’ of the Tall Ships Youth Trust


However on the previous evening my son Rupert paid us a visit from Bristol and meeting the National Express coach we were very pleased to see him. It was one of his rare visits and even though Janis had to leave the following day, Rupert and I nevertheless had a great time together on our own until he left on Monday morning on the coach back home.


Leamington Spa Station with Janis….


On Saturday morning he and I joined Janis on the train for one stop only, as far as Banbury, where we spent the day at my old home town and met up as arranged with my younger son Alex. He was visiting the family dentist for one of his annual check ups (I shall be going shortly as part of my annual health MOT at this time of the year) and it was a wonderful opportunity to see both my men at once. We reminisced a great deal as usual while we walked around the town but Banbury hadn’t really changed at all from a year ago when I was last there.


….with Rupert….

Alex had to return to his home in Bath later in the afternoon while Rupert and I returned to the two little ships at Leamington.



….and the three of us


As a result;

Presently I am on my own.

But I’m not alone. I am sitting in a busy pub called the ‘Benjamin Satchwell’ in the Parade at Leamington and yes, you’ll have guessed right; it is one of two Wetherspoon hostelries in town.

I am sitting here, with my back to the large but silent television screen, studying the clientele happily chatting, some loudly others more secretively, whilst eating their burgers and chips in great style and the two waitresses must sleep very well at the end of their shifts each day, as they walk for miles delivering non-stop, heavy plates of food.

At intervals between the study, I write this blog and in spite of this apparent distraction, I find the atmosphere of the pub very conducive to writing. But the real incentive I have to admit is the fact that I can publish to the internet on completion via the free Wi-Fi available. It is so much easier and quicker than on board ship using my mobile dongle.

Outside the late Summer has departed and Autumn has arrived; yesterday high winds battered ‘Futurest’ and heavy rain pelted the roof and drummed volubly on my cratch cover. I stayed huddled inside all day with just a quick dash ashore to buy some milk at Lidl. But during the weekend it was still fine and Rupert and I enjoyed our numerous walks around the town.

The distinctive architecture of Leamington New Town remains the same and though the beautiful villas that used to house the wealthier middle class are now shop fronts and offices, the captivating Regency charm is still present.

The grey squirrels in the Jephson Gardens were as tame as ever and eagerly took offered acorns from our hands to dash off immediately to bury them furtively in the well manicured flower beds. How the gardeners must curse them, especially if the acorns germinate. 

The large Victoria Park alongside the gently moving River Leam is also pleasurable to the senses. The damp fragrance of Autumn is stimulating enough and while the numerous trees have not yet shed completely their golden leaves there are enough on the ground beneath the branches to give a substantial depth of cover. 

And there is nothing quite so pleasurable at this magical time as swishing noisily through a deep carpet of fallen leaves in the Autumn.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

In Contemplation of City and Country Life

City life is wonderful and whenever Janis and I are in touch with it we seem to have great difficulty in dragging ourselves away. The theatres, the concerts, the museums, the art galleries, all breath-taking in their artistry; the architecture, both simple and grand but all beautifully planned, the parades, the street buskers and the myriad of people in general, each with their unique behaviour and dress; the beautiful products in the shops making it so easy to spend money, which has been hard earned and saved (or maybe borrowed). All this draws Janis and I like moths to a light and makes it extremely hard to leave this complicated decadence of civilization.


DSCN1351  Outside Cathedral

Birmingham’s Cathedral…..


….with its Pre-Raphaelite Eastern Window


In contrast, the Hyatt Regency Hotel


But after a few days of this concentrated culture, the stress of it all begins to tell as well. The lonely impersonality of it and the continuous hubbub and selfish clamour all day and night of loud traffic and noisy people, the stress of rushing from one place to another (and yes Janis and I, when we are there, like two pieces of helpless flotsam, are caught up in this whirlpool of anxiety too) is so unrelenting and overwhelming that in the end one needs to move on almost for sanity’s sake itself. 

In particular Birmingham suffers from a distinct lack of animal life, any of which which would make life more relaxed. That is apart from Sapiens, animal enough on his own I dare say; he has really made it his own domain. There are no birds; even the faithful Mallards, normally always present whatever the threat, have given up here, as well as the hardy grey squirrels. Unusually domestic cats and dogs we saw nothing of and even the more unpleasant rodents appear to have deserted the city.

Birmingham with little litter appears to be clean, clinically tidy and entirely civilized.

We enjoyed it for a time and had visitors while we were there which made our life even more fulfilled. Ray came to see us again and we were delighted to see my friend Nushara and her friend Benchamas briefly while they were over here from Thailand. My good friend Robin and his wife Jan, visiting from Australia called on us as well, alas for too short a time. He and I sailed together on a trip to Australia and back, more than fifty years ago and still we reminisce about this special voyage on the ‘Gladstone Star’.



Nearly in the country again. The guillotine stop lock at Kings Norton


But in the end we dragged ourselves away and finally we let go our mooring ropes in the morning of Sunday 28th September. But we had only moved a few yards, as far as Old Turn Junction by Brindley Place when we encountered a police barrier. For a few minutes I had the delightful company on board of a police officer called Sarah just to make certain that I didn’t attempt to get off the boat anywhere in the vicinity of the International Convention Centre where the Conservative Party Conference had just begun that day. Alas all too soon I put her safely ashore on the other side of the Gas Street Basin and I was able to carry on. My little New Zealand companion on ‘Roots and Wings’ was equally impressed I think with her company in the form of a handsome hulking great policeman, built like an ‘All Black’ forward, which was very appropriate.

Shortly, in the vicinity of the Edgbaston Tunnel, my attention was drawn towards the towpath when ‘Futurest’ was overtaken by three burly joggers in line. The one in the centre looked familiar and then he smiled (or was it grimaced) at me and managed cheerily to say ‘Good morning’.

I said ‘Hi’ to him in return or something as similarly eloquent and  it wasn’t till he’d passed that I realised that I had been exchanging greetings with our Prime Minister David Cameron.

I nearly shouted after him ‘Go, go, go Dave’ but thought better of it in the end thinking he or his men might not appreciate my erudite but doubtful advice.

That was our last excitement in Birmingham. Soon the two little ships were in the country again. We turned left at King’s Norton Junction on to the very rural North Stratford Canal.

It was good to be surrounded by hedgerows again colourful still with Blackberries, Sloes, Crab-apple  and Rose-hips; to breath the fresh air and smell the heady fragrance of Nature. The trees were still luxuriant with their summer growth though it was now changing colour. Once more, as happens every year at this time, I was amazed that there could be so many variations of green, brown and gold in our spectrum of light. We were treated more extravagantly than ever on this occasion for even though the colours were of Autumn the weather remained steadfastly, day after day in late Summer. Though darkness approached so much sooner now, the resulting sunsets and evenings were splendid.



Peaceful mooring at Lapworth Locks


We forgot our hell for leather dash in the city and were able to relax again. To witness totally natural events around us carry on the same as they had for centuries was a revisited pleasure. The Mallards and Canada Geese still conversed in their pairs or groups assiduously in the language that only they understand but which we often guess at and the cattle grazing so contentedly soon put us at our ease. Even the pungent farmyard smells were what we needed to relax after the total pollution of the city.

We took our time and in the middle of the Lapworth Locks Janis and I loosened up even more for a couple of days. Following well used footpaths, we walked cross-country, in perfect weather, to the National Trust properties of first Packwood House and then on the second day to Baddesley Clinton House. The extensive gardens at each especially were filled, even at this late time of the year, with a riot of colour and we felt physically caressed by the heady fragrances all around.



Gorgeous Dahlia at Packwood House…..


DSCN1377  A bee at work

…… and a riot of bright colours


DSCN1400  Baddesley Clinton House

Baddesley Clinton House


DSCN1403  Another bed of gorgeous Dahlias

Dahlias at Baddesley Clinton too


Janis through the Lock gate


DSCN1417  Looking down the flight

Looking down the Hatton Flight


By the time we reached the Lidl moorings at Leamington on Sunday last for provisions our composure was back to normal. Our lives had been rewarded yet again.

We were back however in civilization.