Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Turtle Aloft

Here we are, waiting for our plane at Heathrow. Robin just discovered this bank of computers - WOOHOO. I wish they would let us post from the security queue.

The plane leaves in about 40 minutes, I think.

I'll have to look at Robin's calendar to piece together the happenings of the last few days. When we got back to Hungerford, the library was closed, so I didn't get to go online there again - but I was able to turn in the last book I had borrowed. It was called The Jane Austen Book Club. It was funny. Yesterday at the Oxfam bookstore in Reading I bought a copy of The Time Traveller's Wife. I'd never heard of it, but it's turned out to be very intriguing, and somebody here at the airport has already asked me how I like it, so I figure I'm probably the only one who's never heard of it.

Last night we were moored at Woolhampton. A boat came up the canal, being sailed solo by a lady in her mid-70s. She apparently lives on the narrowboat full time. She started out from Reading on this trip, having said she absolutely would not do the Kennet without crew. She started out with a crew - another woman - but her crew promptly came down with a killer cold and had to go home - so this lady is sailing up the canal, throwing herself on the mercy of other boaters when necessary, and doing very nicely. She is an inspiration to us all.

We actually arrived in Woolhampton the day before yesterday, and left the boat there yesterday while we took the train to Robin's old regiment's museum. It was a great day.

Oops - gotta fly - about to run out of coins.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Home at Last

Well, sort of. We're in Hungerford, just for the afternoon. Hungerford is the canal town that has come to feel like home to me. I know my way to Somerfield's (supermarket), Boots (pharmacy), the library (I have a card), the laundromat, and several other important places. Our boat is still in Great Bedwyn - three hours away by canal, five minutes by train. We came in by train today to do some shopping and get to the library, which was just as well, because it's positively pouring outside, and just sitting on the boat would have been a little dreary. Tomorrow we'll sail in and take our place at the municipal moorage. Most of our weather has been fine, but we've had the odd interruption like this.

Since I last posted, we've been everywhere. We did rent a car and drive to Cornwall, where we watched nephew Steve compete in the championship speedway race (He didn't win, but he didn't expect to, his competitors being the cream of the crop. He did very well, but appears to have broken his foot in the process.) David and Sheila then came on board for a couple of days, then left at Devizes. We hooked up with another boat to go down the Caen Hill Locks. We were very fortunate in that the people on our buddy boat were old hands at canal boating and had done the Caen Hill flight many times. Accordingly we whizzed through there very efficiently. Near Bath we were joined by our friend Alan, who had come all the way from Scotland. He stayed with us for about four days and helped get us back up the Caen Hill flight.

When we got to Bath, I made my way to the library and asked to use the computer. I was given fifteen minutes, of which I spent five just getting into the v-e-r-y s-l-o-w system, which then wouldn't let me in here. Hence the long space between posts.

I think I've finally got the hang of doing videos with the new camcorder, but now we've run out of space on our mini-dvd and can't get a replacement until at least Devizes (Monday, I think). Next trip, I think we'll have to bring twice as many.

We've had a couple of pub meals, the most notable at a place called The French Horn in the village of Pewsey (tuna steak). However, the friendliest pub we've found was at Wilton, where we stayed last night and the night before. The Swan is about a 20 minute walk from the canal. It's one of those traditional pubs full of dogs and old soldiers. Last night we won one of the prizes in the Thursday night meat draw - a tray containing four Cumberland sausages, four rashers of bacon, two eggs, two tomatoes, and about 30 mushrooms. This morning's breakfast was superb.

The day before yesterday, we took the path from the canal to the pub alongside a duck pond, through the village - but we discovered that there was another route home, along the Roman road, so we went that way - Roman roads are very straight, but they take no notice of hills, so the walk was a pretty good cardio workout. Yesterday morning we took the same road back to the village and detoured up to a huge windmill. I'm definitely getting my walking in - and Robin isn't doing too badly himself, in spite of the cold he caught from me and couldn't get rid of. He finally went to a doctor in Devizes and got some antibiotics, so he's on the mend now, just as my back starts to give out from all this winding and pushing (I'm sleeping sitting up now - practice for the plane ride home) :>(

Sunday, we're expecting a visit from David again, this time bringing his daughter and granddaughter for the day. We'll be giving him back his phone then (and speaking of phones, I've been out of range most of the trip. Tomorrow, when I'm back here again, I'll try making a couple of calls to friends in England.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

There and Back Again

We went all the way back to Newbury this morning, rented a car, and came back to Hungerford - all before lunchtime. It's amazing how fast you can travel by train and car.

Aboard the train, the conductor wore a box on a belt. When I had paid our fare, she punched some buttons on the box, and out slid our tickets, neatly and silently. It reminded me of that scene in the new Stepford Wives where the husband asks his wife for $100. She opens her mouth and out come the bills. There I was, giggling on the train.

Our car is a little blue Fiesta, which I have sworn not to drive. Driving in England. Ptui.

We have the rest of today to relax and enjoy the sights of Hungerford, or maybe take a drive around the region. I've picked up a handful of tourist leaflets here at the library.

Speaking of the library, I got a temporary card yesterday, because I saw two books I couldn't resist. The first was called The Used Women's Book Club. I figured that the title alone merited a look. Unfortunately, the author can't construct a sentence to save his life - but I still think that's a great title. The other book is called MERDE Actually, and it's very funny, actually. I'll take it with me and return it when we come back from Bristol. I may also take one that I came across while I was waiting for my turn at the computer just now. It's a Sophie Kinsella book called The Undomestic Goddess. At this rate, I may never get around to finishing the books I carried all the way across the ocean.

I almost forgot to mention the hedgehog- the stunned one from yesterday afternoon. When I was returning to the boat last night, I saw him again. He'd made it all the way from the churchyard to the school, several doors down, and was plodding along the road. Three people were watching him, concerned that he might wander into the road and be run down. We all decided to form an honour guard, just in case, but the hedgehog apparently had no interest in crossing the road. He ignored us all and just kept plodding. By now, he's probably on the high street somewhere.

Friday, September 08, 2006

This comes to you from Hungerford, a lovely town in West Berkshire. I've walked from the canal, through the churchyard, down the narrow lane and out onto the high street. Robin is back on the boat, checking out the television, probably, if he can stop watching the moorhens and ducks that are hanging out a few yards away. We both walked downtown earlier this afternoon, again through the churchyard, where we met a (normally nocturnal) hedgehog who was obviously confused about the time.

I haven't yet found a place where I can upload my Word document to a computer, so I'm going to have to wing it -

Day 1 - September 6.

Our journey started with a bit of fun. We flew Baxter Air from Nanaimo to Vancouver. Neither of us had ever been on a float plane before, so we were a little apprehensive. As it turned out, it was the best part of the trip. No. That's damning with faint praise. It was better than that. In the company of the pilot and two other passengers, we flew at 500 feet over the strait, and it felt like 50. We were doing 110 miles per hour, but seemed to be crawling. We saw ducks under the water (well, Robin did.), lots of fish breaking the surface, and generally great scenery. It felt to me like riding in an old jalopy, but up in the air. I'd do it again in a second.

We lost a day somewhere over the Atlantic, and frankly I hope we don't find it again. It was pretty awful, although British Airways did provide toothbrushes, tiny tubes of toothpaste, and warm socks - and the food wasn't bad. The bad thing was the overcrowding. They really, seriously need to remove at least a third of the seats. Then there was the unremitting thirst.

Well, anyway.....

We landed at Heathrow after circling for an extra twenty minutes, and brother David was waiting for us. He drove us to Aldermaston by way of a supermarket, so this time we started our canal trip with food and drink aboard - definitely the thing to do.

David came with us as far as Thatcham, learning the ropes and giving me some much-needed help with the grunt work. Then he hopped off, caught the train back to Aldermaston, and drove home. We kept going almost to Newbury, then had to stop because we were too exhausted to continue. It was about then that I remembered - the last time we did this, the time that was so wonderful - we were not sick with colds and suffering from jet lag.

Day 2 - September 7. We sailed just into Newbury, did a little shopping, ate brunch, watched the locals feeding the dozens of swans and their ducky hangers-on, then sailed on to Kintbury, where we spent last night.

Day 3 - September 8. That's today, isn't it? We left Kintbury in the company of a privately owned narrowboat, the Amber Moon, whose operators have spent the last four months on the canals. With their expert help, we made it to Hungerford in only a couple of hours, and there (here) we'll stay until Monday, or at least our boat will. We will take the train back to Newbury tomorrow to pick up a rental car, and on Sunday we'll meet David and Sheila at Padstow in Cornwall for their son Steve's motorcycle race (and now for something completely different!).

This last part of the trip has been the most scenic so far - partly because it is scenic, and partly (mostly, I suspect) because we're beginning to work our way back into the land of the living. At some point this afternoon I realized that I wasn't dizzy, wasn't retiring to my bed between locks, didn't feel as if death were lurking behind my eyes somewhere. In short, my jet lag is abating. Hallelujah! I'm starting to enjoy this!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Tomorrow is the day

Much as I love our Turtle, and although I would drive it to England if I could, that's just not possible - so we're flying over, then spending our three-week holiday on a floating version of the Turtle. I've started this blog to tell you about our adventure.

We will be flying out of Nanaimo tomorrow at 2 pm by float plane, then from Vancouver to London Heathrow at 6:10 pm on whatever British Airways is using. Robin bought a camcorder yesterday, so we should be able to make some movies, to which I shall try to post a link. At the very least, there will be stills.

We have rented the Bedwyn Lock, a 53 foot narrowboat, from Reading Marine. Our plan is to sail up the Kennet-Avon Canal from Aldermaston to Bristol and back. We will take one day away to drive to Cornwall for a motorcycle grass track race, but other than that, we will be on the water for the entire three weeks. Various family members and friends will come to visit us on board, where they will learn the fine art of opening and closing locks (and provide me with some welcome help).

As it appears I may now carry my laptop along, I'll journal every night and post whenever I get the chance.

p.s. - a special note to anybody who uses Mozilla Firefox to navigate: If you want to look at the Reading Marine site, it's best to use Internet Explorer instead of Firefox. That way you can see the links within the link, including pictures of the Bedwyn Lock. I'll try to remember to mention the problem to the proprietors when I'm in Aldermaston. Maybe they can do something to make their site more compatible with systems like mine.