Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Freshness of Cropredy

Though the air temperature is up to nine or ten degrees today the thick grey cloud overhead, leaning heavily on the dark roofs of the village houses opposite us on the tow-path, has so far not encouraged the Sun to show his face.

But in spite of strong blustery squalls of rain hammering on ‘Futurest’s roof and cratch-cover as they pass swiftly across at regular intervals, the bells of the small but ancient Cropredy Parish Church ring out defiantly as I write, calling the faithful to Sunday Worship, as they will have done for centuries.

Furthermore notwithstanding this particularly bombastic phase of the weather, Spring continues to strengthen, and the flowers are plentiful and flourishing. The abundant Primrose smiles gratefully at the bounteous supply of rain while the bright yellow Daffodil happily dances and ducks his way defiantly through the vicious mêlée completely unvexed at the petulant climatic behaviour.


Young Lambs

Since arriving home after our Winter tour we have had plenty of time now to re-accustom ourselves to our old relaxed way of life. The warm temperatures and exotic fauna and flora of the Southern Hemisphere now seem dreamlike almost and certainly far away. I repeat myself I know by saying that I thought it was all amazing and I still feel most privileged to have been able to experience the marvellous event. My life has been enriched. But it’s surprising how soon one becomes comfortable and appreciative of one’s current surroundings. Since we have moored here Janis and I have walked many miles along the numerous local footpaths and bridleways. There is so much to see and appreciate along these marvellous thoroughfares. New life is beginning again all around us and while recently born Lambs play excitedly and with such apparent confidence before doubt creeps in again and they have to dash back for the definite certainty of mother’s teat, the hedgerows and trees offer their bursting buds ready at any moment to bounce forth into the luxurious Summer colours we know so well.


Janis in contemplation of Primroses at Great Bourton


On Monday we leave this happy place and travel the short and familiar length of the Oxford Canal into busy Banbury where the following week the two little ships have an appointment with Tooley’s Dry Dock for their regular clean up beneath the waterline. After that we press on southwards towards Oxford and Reading for the Kennett and Avon Canal. The English Summer once more has everything to offer.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

From Luscious Lyrebirds and Lilies to Delightful Dunnocks and Daffodils

The transition was quick; well, twenty five hours of flying swept swiftly past as we in our aeroplane chased the Sun towards the western horizon. We never did catch him however as there was an extra nine hours of time that Janis and I had to add on to our day to bring us in line with the massive difference between Tasmania and UK to which it would take us about a week to become fully acclimatised. Nevertheless the change was quick. One morning we were basking in tee-shirts and shorts enjoying the southern summer and the following one I was putting on my large overcoat again that I had tediously carried over my arm from aeroplane to aeroplane for the previous three months. It was all most confusing.



Colourful Parakeets  at Surfers Paradise


But we were home after a very momentous three months which had all gone as smoothly as clockwork. Because of my previous travels in the Merchant Navy I had always considered myself a worldwide traveller but this time I saw sights and heard sounds that I had never experienced before. Apart from the earlier sea cruise around the North Island ports of New Zealand, the hundreds of miles that Janis and I journeyed on the West Coast of the country as well as those in Queensland and Tasmania were all parts I had never visited.



Large nocturnal Spider (web not visible)


We finally said goodbye to Janis’s sister Sharon on Wednesday 23rd February when she was kind enough to give us a lift from Burleigh Heads to Brisbane Airport through thick morning traffic. From here we were taken by Qantas down to Hobart where we picked up the local city shuttle which delivered us directly to the door of the Hadley Hotel in Murray Street. This accommodation was first class and in complete contradiction to the somewhat adequate but nonetheless comfortable facilities offered by the back packers hostels we had experienced up till then.



Tame and friendly Ibis


On the Friday the celebrations began for the Blue Star Line Reunion and carried on for the whole weekend. On Friday evening we old shipmates got together at a bar on the Elizabeth Street Pier, where our ships used to berth in their heyday. This was a getting-to-know-you-again time for me as I hadn’t met some of the ‘middle aged’ gentlemen there for around fifty years.



Deep in the Springbrook National Park




A Crimson Rosella


On Saturday evening there was a sumptuous dinner during which the memories came flooding back. Generally there was an exchange of these as things I remembered about our relationships my old friends had forgotten and similarly I was being reunited with experiences that had in turn totally slipped my memory. But all the reminiscences, as they should be, were happy ones and we had a great time. Even the wives and companions seemed to enjoy themselves and Janis of course, in her usual manner, soon began to mingle with great ease.



A dark blue Bindweed (?)

On Sunday morning the weekend event came to a close with a boat trip around Hobart Harbour. The weather was fine and remained that way as we made our fond farewells, promising to meet again at the next reunion in Christchurch in two years time.

We arrived at Heathrow early on Tuesday 3rd March and ironically it took us as long to travel from there to Warwick as it did from Singapore, where we briefly stopped for refuelling, to London. At Marylebone Station we experienced our first travel hiccup of the whole three months. Because of various stoppages along the Chilton Railway line we had to shuffle all our belongings from train to bus, back to train and then bus again before our final two minute train journey delivered us to Warwick from Leamington. Phew!



My hardy little Adventurer on the Hobart boat trip


But now, at last, our body clocks are back to normal, we are  at beautiful Leamington Spa having covered the two miles from Kate Boats in Warwick yesterday morning. We are on our way south towards the Kennet and Avon Canal for our Summer Cruise, though before then we stay in Banbury for a while to have ‘Futurest’ and ‘Roots and Wings’ dry docked at Tooley’s.


Croci in Jephson Gardens, Leamington Spa



Small Crocus with a big welcome home

It is lovely to be home; to hear and see all our familiar friends. Though there is a thrilling feeling at experiencing exotic Lyrebirds, sweet Frangipani blossom and exciting Kangaroos, it is wonderful to be loudly shouted at again by Mrs Mallard, to experience the sight of newly born lambs as white as snow and listen to the thin and tinkling ‘tseep’ of the Dunnock as he darts in and out of the hedgerows. Finally as I enter the Saloon of ‘Futurest’ there before me is a vase of smiling golden Daffodils happily promising the arrival soon of a fabulous English Summer. For what better welcome home could any man wish.



Smiling Golden Daffodils