Sunday, August 29, 2021

Up Up And Away!

 Last December I wanted to buy Al a really unusual Birthday present so after wondering for a while I decided on a hot air balloon ride!

Unfortunately due to the lockdown, we couldn't go until now, so on the 23rd of August we took to the skies and it was brilliant! I had to ring after 2pm to make sure the flight was going ahead because obviously if the weather was bad we wouldn't be able to fly. The weather was excellent so the flight was going ahead at 5:30 that evening

We had to meet at the Boar's Head pub in Nantwich, the balloon would be taking off in the field next to the pub. I have to admit I was feeling a bit nervous as well as excited. I needn't have worried it was great! The pilot and ground crew turned up at 5pm unloaded the basket and balloon and started filling the balloon with air from big fans, once it was semi-inflated they lit the gas and the balloon rose up, it was huge a lot bigger than I expected! We had all been told which compartment we were to climb into so as soon as the pilot gave us the go-ahead we all had to climb in. There were 4 compartments for the passengers and one for the pilot, 4 people in each and the pilot in the one in the middle with the controls I was amazed that there were so many in the basket, 17 in all! No wonder the Balloon was huge it would have to be to carry us lot! 

The Balloon starting to inflate!

Looking up into the huge cavity of the balloon! 

Once the balloon was fully inflated the gas jet shot a huge flame into the balloon to enable us to fly and fly we did! It took off gently and floated up and up It was the most surreal feeling the views were stunning, we were so lucky with the weather too. Once the balloon reached a good height the gas was turned off and on intermittently, when it was off it was so peaceful and tranquil. I said to Al it must be the nearest you could ever get to feeling like a bird.



                                                           We were off!

We could see for miles, even the Liverpool skyline could be seen in the distance. The patchwork farmers' fields stretched for miles and miles it was breathtaking. The farmhouses and animals all in miniature it was like looking down on model villages. All the vehicles were tiny, tractors, cars, and the ground crew in their jeeps all looked like dinky cars on a child's playmat!

We flew across the Cheshire countryside for just over an hour. when we were low we could see people waving which was lovely and of course, we all waved back and shouted hello.

The whole of the flight was fantastic but one of the highlights for me was flying over a marina filled with boats, it was a lovely sight. I wasn't sure which marina it was until I found out later it was Overwater Marina at Audlem. I posted pictures on a boaters Facebook page in the hope that people would be able to spot their boats from the unusual aerial view. I was thrilled when not only did people spot their boats one lovely boater snapped a picture of our balloon and was kind enough to post it. That was lovely for us to see what we looked like from the ground.


                                                            Us in the air!

Another lady messaged me from the marina asking if they could use my photos on the marina Facebook page, of course, I was honored that they wanted to and said yes of course they could.


                                            The lovely aerial view of  Overwater Marina at Audlem.                             

Once we were coming to the end of our flight the pilot had to look for a suitable landing site. The thought hadn't really occurred to me that he wouldn't have a clue where we would land as it depended on which direction the balloon would take us. Once a suitable landing spot was decided he opened a huge vent at the top of the balloon to let the air out so the balloon would fall gently towards the ground. We then had to all hold tight to the looped hand ropes bend our knees and prepare for landing! We were told on the odd occasion the basket would tip on landing so we would all be on our backs but it only tilted precariously then popped upright again, we were down safe. The pilot was great and looked after us all so well.

I was fascinated to learn that wherever the balloon landed we would have to stay put until the ground crew contacted the farmer that owned the field to get permission to be there, once permission was granted then, and only then could we disembark. In the rare and unlikely case that the farmer wouldn't grant permission, we would have to take off again and find a kinder farmer! We were told most farmers were amenable and would be thanked and gifted a bottle of whiskey. Once landed we all mucked in rolling the balloon up so it could be loaded onto the trailer we were then all driven back to the pub in the landrover's to pick up our cars. We hadn't realized just how far we had travelled in the balloon until we saw how long it took to drive us back to the pub!

All in all, it was an amazing experience and I urge anybody to try it. Al and I loved every minute it was magic!


The lovely Balloon we went in.


                        The little yellow balloon in the photo above was our pilot's son who was training to be a pilot himself.  We flew with Wickers World and the pilot and crew were lovely!


Saturday, June 26, 2021

 Liverpool And Sink!

No, we didn't sink in Liverpool!

We had a fab few days in the Salthouse Dock, weather was amazingly kind, long sunny days! The fifth trip through on the link for me. First time for Al and he really enjoyed it even after having to do all the bridges and a few locks too! It's just lovely to relax in different surroundings for a few days made even better by the lovely weather.


                               Tickety Boo nestled into the bank for the night before heading to
                                the Melling bridge the next morning.                                 

Mr and Mrs Canadian goose and brood and Al waiting to go down the locks at the Eldonian village.

                I love going through to Liverpool, it's
                such a lovely trip.
                                              The dock was like a mill pond and the weather was glorious!

It has always been lovely going through to Liverpool on the boat but I loved the fact that Tickety Boo is all newly decorated and spic and span I am so pleased with her new look, she is once again my, or should I say our, pride and joy! To top it all Al has now fitted a new sink in the bathroom, to say I am thrilled is an understatement. I have mentioned before that for 16/17 years I have put up with a sink in there that I have never really liked, a stainless steel oval salad bowl! Having a new enamel sink set in a new vanity unit has given the bathroom the overhaul it desperately needed. Plus Al has finished off the trim in there, installed new lights and new flooring that was left over from the galley. The lights are Led now and are so much brighter. We have plastic paneling in the bathroom and would highly recommend it after 17 years it still looks good and is so easy to keep clean.

                                No room for hand soap on the new sink so a soap dispenser instead.



                                            Vast improvement from this! 

To say fitting the sink was a bugger of a job is putting it mildly, poor Al had to build a plinth to raise the sink so it would self drain. The new unit was in and out like a fiddler's elbow but Al being Al sorted it and it looks great! If I had half of Al's patience I would be blessed! So now the bathroom matches the rest of the revamp in the boat and just to finish off nicely I bought a new microwave as the old one was well past its best. The microwave being for the Galley, not the bathroom!

               I didn't want to spend too much on the microwave. This was just £57 in B+Q. Bargain!                       


We did the old dock tour while we were at the Salthouse, I have done it before so I knew Al would like it too. It's under Liverpool One and is fascinating so I recommend it for anybody going through to Liverpool on their boat, you can book it online and can be booked for a party of six or under. It was the first functioning dock in Liverpool and was what helped Liverpool thrive and become the great city it is today.  As you walk from the Albert Dock towards Liverpool One past the fountains you will see a well-like structure which is a window looking down into the old dock, I often wondered what it was so now I know!

We really look forward to doing the journey again. We had some lovely meals while in Liverpool and of course some retail therapy! Looking forward to our next venture out on the boat!


Saturday, May 01, 2021

Back On The Cut!

Well, we finally got back out on the cut and it was lovely!

Our Moorhen lodgers had left but sadly out of the eight chicks only three survived and left the nest. On reading up on it on google it's quite common for only a few of the chicks to survive. Thinking about it all the years I have been on the canal I have never seen a Moorhen with more than three or four chicks so it must be quite common that not all of them survive. It's really sad but that's nature I suppose.

I spent a week getting the boat cleaned inside and out before our trip out and it felt so nice knowing that we can now take the boat out as and when we want. It seemed like an eternity waiting for restrictions to be lifted but finally, we were off out!

Parbold is a favourite place of mine to moor overnight, it's not far but feels like we have travelled a long way. It's perfect when we only have a weekend off as we can get there and back in no time and it's so peaceful and picturesque. It was Al's first time there on the boat and I think he is a firm fan of the place now too.

We stayed in the Marina on Friday night then set out on Saturday and headed for Parbold. The weather was absolutely perfect which made our post lockdown cruise even better. We planned on maybe stopping at a pub for a bite to eat, but we enjoyed the boat so much we were quite happy to eat on the back deck in the sunshine.

I am ashamed to admit I don't really do locks. In all the years I have had the boat I have always been at the helm so have never needed to learn. Al is becoming quite good at steering the boat and his confidence is building more and more each trip out. Once he is confident enough, he will take the boat into locks so I really need to start doing the locks too!

There is a deep lock in Parbold and Al had never done one so this would be his first. The plan was to moor at the bottom of the lock then go and gongoozle to watch how it was all done. It turned out that a couple we met at one of the bridges was going through the lock, so I asked if Al could do the lock with them. I knew he would grasp the concept straight away and he didn't disappoint which was just as well as he had to lock me back down! He did it perfectly and I felt very safe considering he was a lock virgin so he is hired!!


                                              A silhouette of my new " Lockie"  :)

Tickety Boo started the first time after so long sitting idle she didn't let us down apart from a squealing belt. It was slipping and making a bit of a racket but after a short sharp blast of power it soon stopped and the rest of the trip was trouble-free.

                                             So nice to be out again.

It was such a lovely weekend and bliss to be out on the cut in the glorious sunshine. Typical of me after a lockdown I wanted to be in the middle of nowhere! Most people after lockdown want to party and go where there is lots going on but I was more than happy it was just Al and me in the beautiful countryside.

         Some lovely gardens on the way through Burscough.        

                                   Plenty of liquid refreshment, and why not?

      A lovely view from the Galley window, nice to wake up to.

My new job is brilliant, it doesn't feel like a job at all. I only do an hour or so in the morning from 8am and the same at three pm doing the school run with a lovely little boy, he is adorable and so well behaved. He goes to a fabulous school called Bluebell Park, he goes in with a smile on his face and comes out the same. I have all those hours in between the morning and afternoon run to do with what I please, it's bliss. I can spend lots of time going to the boat and being in Al's lovely house too. I feel like I have retired early!


                     Masses of Bluebells in Parbold.

Doing this job has really opened my eyes to just how many children have learning difficulties of varying degrees. Bluebell Park is an amazing school and caters for all the children's different needs. To be honest it makes me feel quite humble. I feel quite honoured to be working in such a caring worthwhile job.

So our next adventure! I thought I would try and book a passage through to Liverpool for a few days at half term in June. I didn't think for one minute we would get in but surprisingly there was plenty of slots. Another first for Alan and I am sure he will love it. You see such a different world travelling along the Canal to Liverpool and staying in the Salthouse dock is great. Nice to just meander into town shopping having nice meals and being able to have a drink without worrying about getting home as home is in the dock! I am really looking forward to it.

So now I have a Skipper and a Lockmaster onboard what more can a girl ask for! Oh and being the star he is he painted the engine bay too....don't know what I did to deserve him!

I have ordered a new vanity sink unit for the bathroom so photos to follow once fitted. The Bathroom on the boat needs sprucing up a bit to match the new decor in the rest of the boat so a few tweaks here and there and it will. Looking forward to tidying it up, new coving trim around the top of the walls, new flooring that will match the floor in the Galley and new fan and shower led lights, oh and a hand wash wall dispenser... get us!! There won't be enough room on the new sink for a hand wash so a wall-mounted one will solve that problem. I can't wait to have a porcelain sink in the bathroom, I have had a stainless steel "salad bowl" for far too long!

It's May Bank Holiday weekend so a nice three-day break. Household chores have kept me busy today as Al is working so now all chores out of the way a free day tomorrow to go boating!

It's a huge relief to feel that things are slowly getting back to a near normal. I have always loved and appreciated the boat but now more than ever after lockdown.  Having somebody special to share it with too. Life is good!

            ( For those who don't know to Gongoozle or be a Gongoozler is to watch boats and activities on the Canal especially at Locks)

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Life In Lock Down

Who would have ever thought we would have been subject to a pandemic lockdown! People have coped in different ways, but it has sadly been a struggle for most in varying degrees. I just count myself extremely lucky that I have been able to spend lockdown with Al. I have said before, I miss the boat at times but would have missed Alan more!

 Choosing to stay on land during the lockdown was in my mind the best choice. It made it difficult to visit the boat as I chose not to be classed as a liveaboard for the duration of the lockdown so wasn't able to just pop in as and when. Living in such a beautiful home with Al has been really lovely, and being together 24/7 has just been proof we get on so well. Above all it has just felt comfortable and right...can't speak for Al on that score but he has put up with me!!

 Now restrictions have been lifted it was a relief to be able to go check the boat which I did at the soonest opportunity! My neighbour on the mooring had informed me that I had an uninvited guest onboard! A Moorhen has decided to make her nest in the most awkward place on the boat! We use the stern door to go in and out, we have bow doors obviously but they are locked from the inside! This is where they have decided to build their nest!
I was a bit nervous knowing I was going to have to run the gauntlet of a very protective Mum or Dad Moorhen, apparently, they both sit on the nest. As much as I didn't want to disturb Ma and Pa, I needed to pass them just once to get into the boat after that we will use the bow doors for the duration of the pending new family!

 So on Monday, I did just that. On arriving at the boat Mr or Mrs Moorhen was sitting on the nest. I, as quietly as I could stepped onto the stern, the Moorhen immediately jumped off the nest so I quickly stepped over the nest  opened the door and got in! The Hen was fiercely protective and let me know in no uncertain terms it wasn't happy to be disturbed! It left the nest but didn't leave the stern and made a real threatening growling noise with it's beak wide open ready for the attack! I have never entered the boat so fast!! Thankfully the Hen got back on the nest and happily settled down again, I did worry that the nest and eggs would be abandoned once disturbed but all is well!

 Surprisingly the boat had fared quite well after being left for so long. I had been really worried it would smell damp, but it was fine, just a bit dusty and the woodburning stove needs some attention to the seal on the roof. As we have all summer to sort that it's not a major problem. If needed we can use cental heating if chilly. It's been a long haul but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel! I think we still have a way to go and I for one don't feel confident that we won't have a third lockdown, I am hoping upon hope we don't!

 My situation has changed quite a bit during the lockdown. Apart from the fact it has just proved we have a strong relationship that can withstand a pandemic or any other curve ball life throws at us it also made me re-evaluate my life, not my relationship, I have never been happier . 

 I decided after an episode in work it was time to think about moving on. I hadn't planned to do this quite so early I intended to stay working in retail a bit longer but an incident in work, which came as a bit of a kick in the teeth, made me realise I could either stay in a job I no longer had respect for and be miserable or do myself a favour and get the hell out. A scary prospect after working there for 16 years but out of respect for myself I bit the bullet and left. It saddens me that it was brought home to me just how unappreciated you are and how indispensable you are too! Regardless of how long you have worked for a company, you are just a number. I felt sadly let down by my immediate management which upset me greatly, I decided for once in my life to make a stand and stick up for myself! It wasn't a nice situation one I never want to repeat. It did teach me a valuable lesson...people you thought were friends and not just work colleagues are not friends at all, I have to add not all my work colleagues let me down the genuine ones didn't which was nice.

 So in a nutshell a bad situation turned into a blessing! I now have a completely different job and I absolutely love it! It makes me very happy, fewer hours and all school holidays off with pay! Finally, I feel like I am in a worthwhile job. I go in with a smile on my face and come home with a smile on my face, something that was sadly lacking in the latter months in my old job. So even in a pandemic, I am still living my best life. A really lovely, lovely partner, great family on both sides, a fantastic new job and so so much to look forward to and Summer is on the way! The pandemic has made me just appreciate all the more the things we all just took for granted.

 When things do get back to the new normal when we can do all the things we love to do I will never ever take them for granted again! I have always been grateful for my boat and my life but even more so now than ever!

 So it's off to the boat again today because I can! I have new Venetian blinds to fit to replace the old ones. I made the mistake of buying pvc ones which look great but over time the sunlight makes them so brittle resulting in them snapping when I try to clean them. I have changed to aluminium that are so much easier to clean. I was always puzzled as to where all the black spots were coming from on the blinds only to realise it's Spider poo!! Now it never entered my head that it could be that until I read about it on a boating forum. It got me to thinking, I suppose they have to do it somewhere, did I think they had their own bathrooms somewhere? I just wish they hadn't chosen my blinds the buggers! It does wash off easily but really, use your eight legs and go poo somewhere else!

 I can't wait for Al and I to take Tickety Boo out again, it's been too long, even longer to wait now until baby Moorhens have left the nest but hey ho ain't nature a wonderful thing!

 Ironically, the first thing I want to do is chug off to the middle of nowhere, moor up and enjoy the solitude. as much as we can't wait to eat out, go shopping, go to the pub theatre and have holidays again etc we are staying out of the way until the mad rush calms down! Everybody will want to do all those things it will be chaos!! We are happy to wait till the novelty wears off and you hopefully won't have to queue for everything!

The one thing we both can't wait to get back to is dancing, we miss it so much! Going from dancing a lot to hardly at all is making a huge difference to our waistlines but then most people we know have suffered with this too! The sooner we can get back the better. Soon we hope! 

 Sadly not everybody has got through this pandemic unscathed a fact we all know far too well. We like a lot of other people have lost somebody dear to the virus as many many families have. My heart goes out to people who have lost loved ones or suffered any other consequences caused.

 So let's see what the next few months have in store for us. I am off to lose myself in boaty world for a few hours and try and forget the mad world we are living in at the moment. Being on the water has always had the ability to take me away from everyday worries, it transforms you away and I will always love that about it.

 Stay safe everyone.