Saturday, 30 November 2013

Planes buses trains automobiles and a bit of walking

My last early morning walk with the dogs in  Millenium Oak Wood before heading back to FL.

"......Eyes burning like fire"

Easyjet flight and the bus from John Lennon Airport to Liverpool Parkway train station were uneventful. 

I had tried to book a ticket on trainline but was unable to as picking my ticket up from Liverpool Parkway was not an option on their web site. No problem, I'll get a ticket at the station when I get there. At the ticket desk I was told a ticket to Stafford was £29.50 but there was a problem on the track and I might not be able to get past Crewe, fare to Crewe was £9.50 so I bought that and got on the first train, which as the problem on the line was fixed was going past Crewe to the next stop Stafford and then on to Birmingham.  So when the ticket guy came around I asked him to update my ticket to get to Stafford. He said it would be cheaper to buy a single from Crewe to Stafford, £9 instead of £20 . I will have to remember that one if we do this trip in future.

Sue was waiting for me at the station to drive me back to FL, door to door 4 hours.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013


I got a flight to the Isle of Man today to look after our daughter for a few days who is not to well at the moment. Tonsillitis which she had last year and turned into Quinsys so I'm here to keep an eye on her and look after the dogs.

Sue is staying on the boat, so we stocked up with coal this morning and emptied the cassettes . I've been out walking the two Labradors this evening in quite mild conditions, they were two very good boys.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Knobs and The Bulls Head

The day started  grey and dry but picked up a little through the day. We popped into Homebase to choose the 11 knobs we require for the new cupboard doors. That done we decided we would drive over to Chesterfeild to visit Gill and Mike friends who earlier this year took on the Bulls Head at Holymoorside which through their hard work have transformed it into a very smart pub-restaurant, unusually keeping a local's feel to the place. The tastefully extended premises have already been outgrown on weekends and more room is being added in the near future. So if you are ever in the area pop in and say hello a warm welcome awaits all.

Sue is trying to stand on tip toes because Gill has just called her a "short arse"

Monday, 25 November 2013

17 Boaters in a shed

Cold and sunny outside but warm and sunny inside the boat. Not much done today, I've been a bit of a layabout although I did get the hoover out for a ten minute whiz around, the coal fire does create loads of dust.

From back home the roofer contacted me to say he will start work tomorrow, we are having a new flat roof put on the garage. We are having it done in fibreglass, hope it cures properly in this weather.

Sue did some baking for the boaters Monday afternoon get together, Blue Cheese and Grape flat breads which went down rather well,  recipe below for those who asked for it. We had a great time meeting up with new people and old in the 17 strong gathering and three well behaved dogs. I must remember to take my camera next week to catch the moment.

Get well soon Nikita who is poorly in bed with the flu at the moment, hope those builders don't make too much noise.

Paul Hollywoods Recipe for Stilton and Grape flat breads

500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
10g salt
10g instant yeast
30g unsalted butter, softened
310ml cool water
250g stilton, crumbled
24 seedless grapes halved
Olive oil for cooking
Put the flour into a large bowl, and add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other. Add the butter and three-quarters of the water and mix with your fingers to bring the ingredients together. Gradually add the remaining water, a little at a time, until you’ve picked up all the flour from the sides of the bowl. You may not need to add all the water or you may need to add a little more – you want dough that is soft, but not soggy. Use the mixture to clean the inside of the bowl and keep going until the mixture forms a rough dough.
Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and begin to knead. Keep kneading for five to 10 minutes. Work through the initial wet stage until the dough starts to form a soft, smooth skin.
When your dough feels smooth and silky, put it into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until at least doubled in size – at least one hour, but it’s fine to leave it for two or even three hours.
Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Fold it inwards repeatedly until the dough is smooth. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll each piece into a ball.
Make an indentation in each ball and put about 20g of crumbled stilton and four grape halves inside. Pinch the dough together over the filling and seal it.
Press each filled dough ball gently with your hands and then roll it out with a rolling pin to a circle, about 18cm in diameter. The grapes will burst and leak a little juice as you do this but don’t worry; use a little more flour to stop the dough sticking.
Heat a frying pan with a little olive oil over a medium-high heat. Fry each flatbread for two to three minutes on each side, until golden brown and puffy. Leave them to cool slightly on a wire rack, then serve.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Ghostly happenings in Stone boozer.

These clear sunny chilly days are really very pleasant. We wake up to a warm boat each morning courtesy of the red hot coals in The Epping Stove. After tea and bacon banjo's we cast off for the fuel pontoon, after filling we cracked through a thin sheet of ice at the exit to the marina turned right and right again into the entrance to the marina and moored back on our pontoon. That's a few hundred yards or so, the most we have travelled in FL since middle of September.

After watching England get beat in the RFL world cup semi final by NZ it was still sunny and no wind so I washed down the roof and the starboard side of the boat. Unfortunately the pontoon didn't dry out before it got dark and it froze and made the pontoon slippery in places. Ralph who shares our pontoon was not home yet so I was quite concerned to catch him on his way to the boat to warn him. Luckily I did catch him on his way over the bridge to the mooring and asked him to be extra careful stepping on to the pontoon. Note to self don't wash the boat if the the temp is going to drop below zero.

We didn't fancy cooking so it was off  to Weatherspoons for our tea, I had steak & kidney pie chips peas and a pint of Ruddles, Sue had ham, egg and chips and a mug of tea total price £9.99 ....hahahahah.

A pint of Titanic Plum Porter and another mug of tea in The Royal Exchange where we witnessed a table of mature ladies absolutely stunned after one of their drinks flew of the table and on to the floor. They were adamant that none of them had knocked it of the table, the bartender who came to clear the mess up stated that it was the third incident of its kind that evening. Spooky

Friday, 22 November 2013

Stone exercise

A nice sunny chilly day today. First job of the day was to buy a couple more bags of coal, this time Sue came with me, it was much easier with a push and pull team especially over the bridge.

Rob came as promised to get the final measurements for the carpentry work required. The units he will build off site and plans to have them installed before Christmas.....great we can't wait.

Since we have had the car at the marina we have got out of the habit of walking, so today we decided to walk into Stone along the towpath for some much needed exercise. Along the way we spotted Parisian Star two days out from her winter mooring at the marina, Mick and Elly were onboard so we had a bit of a chat, plus we got an early Christmas present of a tinnie cooler all the way from Aussieland... thanks again guys.

In Stone we headed for WH Smiths as Sue wanted  to get birthday cards and batteries. A coffee and sandwich in Costa's, a quick trip into Morrisons, a look around the Co.op and we were on the road back to the marina. The walk back took around 45 minutes which is a bit different to the 15 minutes the management here told me it took to walk into Stone. Technically they are probably right but to get to anywhere in Stone you would want to go to I.E. the shopping centre it's a lot longer walk... just nit picking.

Tomorrow will give the boat a good wash and take over to the fuel pontoon to fill with diesel.

Thursday, 21 November 2013


Had a visitor from the Isle of Man today, Angus detoured from the ferry on his way to Manchester to come and say hello. Sue baked a cake and we had a catch up over tea and sandwiches.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Bacon Banjo?

Woke up this morning to clear blue skies and bacon banjo's. We decided we will go for a 22" TV so it was of to Curry's in Stafford to have a look at what is available in that size. Ended up with a 22" Samsung Smart TV but had to go to Stoke to get it as Stafford didn't stock it.

I have just set it up and the  'smart' bit is it will connect wirelessly to the mifi and has BBC and ITV iplayer application pre installed.

While I have been busy with  the technical stuff Sue has taken herself and her book down to the laundry room to do some washing.

I have been asked why a bacon sandwich is called a banjo, here is one explanation from the Urban Dictionary.

A Bacon and fried Egg sandwich with a very runny yoke.
As you bite into the delicious hot Bacon Banjo and the runny egg bursts sending a jet of yolk shooting out of the sandwich and down the front of your clean shirt/jumper.

As an instant panic reaction you move your left hand (which is holding the leaking sandwich) out to your left holding it around shoulder height. With your spare right hand you dab franticly at the yoke running down your top trying to remove the egg before it stains.

This stance mirrors that of a banjo player strumming away.
We tend to call any sandwich a banjo, egg in or not,  brushing crumbs of your shirt gives the same effect.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Marina Monday

Today the weather has been on the dull side with showers, although quite mild, the sun did make an appearance for a short period after lunch.

This afternoon we joined in for an enjoyable Monday afternoon tea/drinks get together with fellow boaters which is held in one of the Cedar houses near the bistro. A good chin wag and laugh was had by all while we all told of our adventures during the 2013 cruising season. Various different ales were on show in the bottles and cans around the table along with some tea cups, Sue took a flask of honey and lemon as she still has a niggley cold, I took red wine. Cakes and pastry's supplied by all kept the munchies at bay.

The carpenter rung and is coming  back at the end of the week to do the final measuring up for the TV unit and cupboards etc. before then we have to decide whether to keep the 19 " TV we have now or go for a slightly bigger one at 22".

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Autumn Internationals

Finished the glazing today but didn't go to the pub to watch the England V All  Blacks game as Sue has come down with a rotten cold. We will watch it on BBC after the event, will try and keep away from hearing the result in the mean time. Watched Wales beat Argentina earlier and the Irish against the Aussies is just about to start.

Fitted the new chimney and cleaned up all the tar the old one had made on the roof. Will put a picture of it on the blog tomorrow.

The joiner contacted me today to let us know he hasn't forgotten about us and the design and costings should be completed this weekend, so that sounds promising after all the carpenters that have let us down this year.

Friday, 15 November 2013

The Dogs Bollocks

Put the secondary glazing on the remainder of the hopper windows, just the porthole's to do now.

Had to drive to Fazeley to pick up the new Chimney from The Little Chimney Company and what a well crafted piece of kit it is, we are very pleased with it. The business is run from a narrowboat by live aboard boaters who cruise the canals all year round towing a workshop behind them.

While in Fazeley we popped into the Three Tuns where we sampled a glass of the Dogs Bollocks a seasonal craft beer from the Wychwood brewery, not sure why it is so called although in the tasting notes it does say 'with a hint of nut's'.

Will be watching the England V New Zealand rugby match at the pub tomorrow, hope they can up their game against the mighty all blacks.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Somerset to Staffordshire

Left Somerset at 1000 hrs and had a clear run up the M5/M6 arriving back at the boat at 1300 hrs. First job was to light the fire, then we  installed  secondary glazing to the side hatch and one of the windows, we will try and complete the job tomorrow.

Got a message to say our new chimney is now ready for collection so we shall pick it up tomorrow.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Street, Christchurch, Bridgwater.


Went into Street to do some shopping, Street is a modern Mendip town about a mile up the road from Glastonbury, it has a major factory outlet centre and is where Clark's shoes were first made.


Spent a nice evening in Christchurch Dorset with  my lad Andrew and his three lovely children Francesca 8 , Jayden 5 and  18 month Kate. Francesca kept us amused with her question and answer session on the history of the Tudors, Jayden with his football skills and fast car knowledge, while Kate kept us on tender hooks with her no fear furniture climbing routines.


Had a drive down to Bridgwater, a walk along the canal in the sunshine and lunch in The Boat and Anchor Inn. I had a couple of glasses of Butcombe bitter which will easily make it into my top ten ale's of the year.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Surrey to Somerset

Left our good friends in Shepperton and drove  to Somerset to visit the mum-in-law Betty where she treated us to an excellent Sunday lunch at The Rose & Crown and a glass of Palmer's Best Bitter. We will be here for a couple of days and will be returning to the boat with the secondary glazing, dehumidifier and a kitchen storage basket that we had delivered here.

Betty's kindle has given up the ghost after three years of daily use, so I contacted Amazon at the telephone and they agreed to replace it free of charge. Amazing Amazon !

Where's Wally


We were up at 5am to a frosty morning the walk to the car park was quite treacherous. The M6,M40 and M25 were all clear for an easy run south.

Met up with Glyn and Chris for the short train journey to Twickenham  where we had our first pint of Guinness in the Cabbage Patch traditionally a rugby fans first port of call on match days, several others were consumed in the stadium bars.

Where's Wally

Although England ran out easy winners  there second half performance was a bit disappointing. They will have to up their game when facing New Zealand next week.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Joiner at last

Finally we have got hold of a carpenter, he has been on board today to help decide on the best way to proceed with the the layout of the units we want built. Rob was very enthusiastic and helpful with his experience and suggestions . He will be in touch when he has worked out the finished design and quote.

I gave the stove a good blacking this morning, we were going to take the boat across to the fuel pontoon but it's started to rain so we will leave that for a better day.

We have got tickets for the England v Argentina game at Twickers tomorrow so we will be up early to make our way south.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Chimney's and The Royal Exchange

Awoke to blue sky's and sunshine which lasted most of the day. So got on with some outdoor jobs first we put the bow and stern fenders on. Then I resealed the chimney flue to the collar as the old sealant had perished and we were getting the odd drip running down the outside of the flue inside the boat. Hopefully this will clear the problem.
I am in the process of commissioning a bespoke stainless steel chimney to be manufactured as the cheappo one we got from midland chandlers at the Crick Show is a bad fit and is letting watery tar condense in between the double skins which then runs out from the bottom of the chimney and makes a mess on the roof paintwork.

We won't be able to light the fire until the sealant has cured. A last minute decision saw us in the Poste of Stone, a Weatherspoons establishment where we had fish chips and peas and steak & kidney pudding with chips and peas, a pint of Ruddles and a pot of tea all for under £14. This is the first time we have been to a Weatherspoons pub and we were both pleasantly surprised at the price and standard of the fayre on offer, we will be having a few more cheap nights out here me thinks.

On the way back to the car we popped into the Royal Exchange for a nightcap, I had a glass of Titanic Steerage , Sue had another pot of tea, this is a smashing pub with a good atmosphere, log fire and the Staffordshire 2013 Camra pub of the year. This is deffo the best pub we have been in in Stone.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Google Barges

Went to Newcastle under Lyme to see about secondary glazing for our windows. Left our measurements with one company who promised to phone that afternoon with a quote.
To have something to compare the quote with we went to B&Q and priced their perspex sheets and roughly worked out to £350 to buy the sheets to do the job, but then I'd have to cut them myself.

The afternoon came and went and no quote was rung through. So on to the Internet and found a company that would do it all for £172 delivered. Thats for 6 hopper windows 5  discs for the port holes and 2 front  door windows all made to measure.


The quote came through this morning £180 to late now should of stuck to their promise.

Couple of jobs done today

First I had to get the hack saw out and modify the 12 brackets that hold the open top hopper windows so the secondary glazing will fit then I wired up a socket in the electrical cupboard, this will be used for charging the engine battery while on shore power, and for plugging the dehumidifier in the bedroom.

I see Google are using Barges now and keeping their purpose secret , perhaps they are going to do a street coast view of the whole world.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Guy Fawkes


We went into Stone to find a boozer that had Sky and was showing the England v Australia rugby union game. After trying a couple of pubs the bartender in the Star said to try the Lamb which we did  and spent the afternoon having  a couple of drinks and an excited Sue shouting at the TV. England won 20-13 so we were happy when we returned to the boat. We didn't get the storm the other day but when we got back to the boat the satellite dish had blown of the roof and was lying on the pontoon.

In the evening we had an enjoyable time having drinks and a super unexpected buffet aboard courtesy of hosts Paul & Elaine and friends Ray & Diane and Jim and Joan on NB Two Jays. We all walked up to the fireworks display in the nearby park where there was the biggest bonfire I have ever seen at any firework night event, as well as the dummy going up in flames, for reasons unknown  Dr Who's phone box was atop the pile (don't tell Skye or Clare). The firework display was really quite good for a small town like Stone.


This morning we had a visit from Mark and his daughter Lexie, Mark is a friend and ex-colleague of Sue's from her time in the Shepperton branch of Barclays some 17 years ago. Mark was up north visiting family in the area, Lexie's nan is a Stone resident. Sue went to meet them at the car park and they all got caught in a hail storm walking back to the boat, they were all a bit sodden when they arrived. They stayed for a cup of tea, catch up and a tour of FL. Regrettably, I missed a photo opportunity forgetting to whip the camera out to snap our guests.

Sue cooked us a roast chicken dinner and baked bread and a fruit cake can see we may be putting on a few pounds over the winter as we are not exercising while travelling.

We needed more coal so in between the showers I took a trolley to the on-site shop and bought two bags, price is a bit steep at £11.95 a bag. The trolleys at the marina are quite flimsy and it was hard work pulling the 50kg load especially as it had started to rain, so head down hood up, off I went pulling the load behind me. It wasn't until I got to the facilities block that I found one of the bags had a large hole and most of its contents were now dotted along the path all the way back to the shop.....Bugger. Took me another 15 mins walking back and forth with handfuls of wet coal before I could head back to the boat.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Utoxeter Races

We didn't get any trick or treaters knocking on the hatch, the security gate must of kept the buggers out.

Today we have been to Utoxeter Race Course to watch the horses. Weather was rather dull and showery but the horses didn't seem to mind and put on a good show for the packed grandstands. Sue did well with each way bets on 2 winners a second and a third. I had one winner and a second along with a hog roast bap, chips and a pint of Pedigree Ale. A good day out and our winnings  paid for the whole days entertainment apart for the entrance fee of £18 each.

Last time we went racing the bookies used to write up the odds with chalk on a board and give you a ticket with a coded number on it, you were never sure how much to expect back. Now with  these electronic bookies the receipt they give you has the horses name with the odds and the returns information if you win. Better for the punters especially the novice ones like us. 

It's all a bit sanitised though, bookies of old were all a bit furtive and dodgy looking in the way their darting eyes kept a close eye on the Tic Tac man and competitors boards, and changed the odds with a deft swipe with a dusty thumb while snatching the coins from your hand, now it would appear that anyone can become a bookmaker, second in from the right is a young teenaged girl.

Came home to a nice warm boat with the aroma of dinner cooking in the range...superb.