Tuesday, 18 October 2011


So here I am again, at last.  I know it’s been a long time since I last blogged but we have been soooo busy boating and at various gatherings that I have been a little pre-occupied.  We have had an absolutely brilliant season this year taking Darley to lots of gatherings and having a real good time.  Back in July, after we left Alvecote, we travelled up onto the BCN for the Black Country Boaters gathering at Windmill End followed by Tipton community Canal Festival then the next weekend at the Black Country museum.  So I ask myself what is the recipe for an enjoyable time.  The answer is simple good company, good food, good liquid refreshment and something to keep you entertained between eating and drinking!  Last weekend had all these.  Oh what a glorious week end and firstly a HUGE thank you to Theresa and Roger Fuller for putting on an end of season party for family and friends, to beat all parties.  People came by train, bus, car, boat and one even came by horse boat.  Historic boats included, Darley, Aquarius, Victoria, Thaxted, Thea, Oakley, Dove, Kestral, Kangaroo, Monarch & Grimsby, Ibex & Ilford, Verbena, Tench, Trout, Ant, Touchwood and evn the steam powered Emily Ann.  Dawn had been in hospital the previous Friday for a second operation on her little toe removing a piece of bone and re attaching her tendon so was on ‘light duties’ which included sitting in the back cabin most of the trip up there and effecting her ability to make drinks or cook meals, (couldn’t get down the ladder into the hold to the ‘kitchen’ under the cratch)
 Only joking she did take Darley through all the locks giving me a chance to work them.  We went down to Darley on Thursday night after I had finished work and took fish and chips with us.  After a night’s sleep (2 hours, as I can never sleep first night on the boat) we were off at about 7.30am and tied up at Stone by midday in front of our very good friends Viv and Si off Monarch and Grimsby.  On Friday night we did what we often do and had a joint effort for our tea. Simon’s dad had given him a brace of Pheasant and a duck which Viv made into a lovely game casserole with wedges of crusty bread and Dawn had made a very large cottage pie.  When everything was ready seven of us piled onto the towpath with an assortment of seats and all brought our plates/bowls and fighting irons and just tucked in. (good food 1) Most of the other ‘boaty folk’ had walked down to Wetherspoons in stone for a meal and after we had eaten we joined them for a pint or two (good company 1, drink 1)  After this we all moved on to the Talbot pub in the town where we took over the whole of the bar area.  As we walked up to the pub we could hear the gentle strains of music drifting out into the street! It was Karaoke night. The locals were friendly , very friendly in Dave Ray’s case, (good company 2) the beer was good and reasonable (drink 2) and when once the alcohol kicked in, and the ‘singers’ got started (entertainment 1) the evening, and the pub, really started to bounce.  Dawn went into the other side of the room and collected some song requests and the song book to select something to sing, and the pub was soon being entertained by two disco divas(Dawn and Keith Browne) singing Islands in the stream.  That was it, the plug had been pulled, there’s no stopping us now! this was followed by many renditions of various hits from the decades from many of the assembled crowd including Matt Parrot, Rebecca Fuller, and a combined effort from almost the whole team of YMCA!  All too soon it was time to retire, but this was only the rehearsal as more ‘entertainment was to follow.   Saturday morning was spent polishing brasses by most as the glorious weather started to unfold. 
A mobile phone call announced that Verbena was on her way from Aston lock, about an hour away,  under power from Andy’s driving cob Danny, (entertainment 2)having horse boated Verbena from Great Haywood that morning.  We walked down the Stone flight to await their approach (stopping at the Star for a pint (drink 3) mob handed we worked Verbena up the flight with Thea towing Verbena up the final approach to Stone due to moored boats everywhere. 
After all the excitement it was decided that we would cause more havoc and head off for a jolly up to the winding hole then back to the boat yard where Roger assisted in turning the boats with the use of his pusher tug Prowler (Entertainment 3) 
Saturday afternoon and again the pusher tug was put into use ferrying everybody back and forth to the boatyard where train rides were the order of the day.  Roger has a narrow gauge railway which runs all round the boatyard with a signal box, 3 diesel engines, trucks, guards van and all the paraphernalia required for a fully operational system and a St Trinian’s hand pumped cart which Dawn and Viv immediately grabbed and spent the next half hour going round and round even managing to de rail it at one point. 
(entertainment 4) The afternoon merged into evening and a bon fire was lit around which every body sat chatting and drinking (drink 4) while the hog roast filled the air with wonderful aromas.  Pork baps with stuffing and beautiful crackling were the order of the day (food 2) entertainment being provided by four friends and family Dave Ray with his squeeze box, and two fiddles, a clarinet (although I never saw Rebecca actually blow a single note) and a flute (entertainment 5) The chatting, drinking and chilling out continued well into the morning with things finally finishing with the ‘ferry’ being shafted across the basin with the last of the revellers at about 1.30am.  Sunday morning and we were all at it again with another boat jolly down to the winding hole and back, Verbena set off back with Danny the horse and ferry rides in the afternoon across to the boat yard, this time to look at the fascinating old wood working machinery Roger has in his workshop (entertainment 6)for rapidly converting trees into usable planks and sized and planed timber.  In the evening, Roger fired up his old diesel road roller and demonstrated it on the car park to the yard (entertainment 7) as darkness came on Theresa went round and took orders for Chinese take away for all that wanted it and the bon fire was re ignited ready for a chill evening. Everyone returned later armed with more drink(drink 5) bowls/plates and cutlery.  We all sat round the fire in a big circle, the night slowly ambled on into the early hours again with Chinese take away, beer, and chatting and having a laugh.  At 8.00 am on the Sunday morning,  
Andycap and Flo off Dove had fired their Merganser up and were off up the Cauldon canal with Trout,  we had some breakfast and were soon saying our farewells to everyone and heading back to Great Haywood, content in the fact that we had had an absolutely brilliant time which included all the required elements, and not once did anyone bang ‘em about.