Wednesday, 31 December 2014

New Year's Eve

Another very cold night, although the forecast is that the next few will not be as fierce. Probably fell to below -5C and the marina was well frozen by morning. However we had no plans to do much today!

Late morning we began to think about filling the water tank but our tap was frozen still. We hoped that the sun woud thaw things out enough. Just in case, we brought the hosepipe inside , stood it in the shower tray in the hope that it too would thaw out.

After lunch we tried again but only a trickle.However, Christine talked a young chap from a boat nearer the bank who had just managed to fill up from the first taps. He kindly offered to lend us his hosepipe to extend ours which would not reach that far. (Our water tank inlet is right at the front of the boat, the farthest from the pontoon as we are moored)

Eventually there was enough of a flow through a nearer tap that we accepted the offer and with his help managed to connect up. By the time we had done this there was quite a good flow from the end of the long supply line!

With the tank finally re-filled we returned the borrowed hose and wrapped up warmly to walk down the towpath to the shops. Alas, Tesco (the nearer supermarket) failed to yield a newspaper although we did manage to pick up a couple of USB charger cables - we seem to need ever more of these. Either that or we must have left some behind at home!

We continued down the towpath to Morrisons where we found all of the remaining items we needed (we knew they did not have the USB cables as we looked there a couple of days ago) Time then to return along the towpath - still a pleasant day but the sky gradually clouded over, no doubt the reason why the forecast is not so cold tonight. However, will we be able to see many fireworks tonight as the new year is ushered in? In the past couple of years there have been plenty to watch, assuming we can keep awake long enough!

Sorry - no pix!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

A Very Cold Day

The title says most of what there is to report about today! The outside temperature was -3.5 at 9 am but the sun was again very strong and raised the daytime temperature to at least +3! The marina was also largely frozen over to start with and only partially thawed during the day.

Last evening, Jess had discovered that she enjoyed doing jigsaws on Grandad's tablet (even if it is not an iPad it does have some uses!). She remembered this and after breakfast asked if she could do some more. It seemed to amuse her also that the pictures were photos taken on previous boat trips!

We had to return the two girls home by mid morning as the family were going up to Oxford later to visit a friend who still lives there. We stayed briefly, enough to be shown Alice's newly re-furnished room - now at Middle School she really needed a desk where she can use her new laptop and also keep her books.

To make way for the new items, there had to be a wholesale disposal of old toys which have gradually accumulated over several Christmas's . . . It did not seem as if Alice, or Jess, noticed that anything important was missing - if they noticed at all! Ellie had done sterling work yesterday after the visit to IKEA, sorting out the least useful items and so there was a further trip to the tip!

Anyway, Alice seemed very pleased with the transformation in her absence. Probably the most expensive items were the chairs which will allow for much thoughtful swivelling.

We left them and walked into town to do some shopping. Christine was intent on ensuring that Mike bought a new coat - his Berghaus jacket has done extremely well for a number of years but is beginning to look used. We had previously identified that there is a Cotswold store in Windsor town centre that stocks this range.

We homed in on something very similar to the existing jacket and were on the point of buying it - we opted not to buy another zip-in fleece as the one we already have has not had extensive use, the jacket is normally warm enough on its own. However, Christine then spotted another rail of what seemed to be the same items but in the sale - £50 less and including a fleece! We were assured that the jacket was identical so that settled the matter. Mike also bought another base layer - they work really well in the colder season.

Christine wanted to call at Body Shop for some routine items that she prefers from their range whilst, dangerously, leaving Mike in Waterstones - with permission to buy! When she returned, after a further trip into M&S, she too added to the selection so we definitely have enough to keep us occupied for the next four days before we return home. For a change, time to ourselves!

We tried again to contact Iver but no reply - later we found out that Uxbridge boat yard should be open on Friday and also that the one where we are open on Saturday.

However, after we had returned to the boat and had a late lunch we decided that we ought to top up the fuel a bit so went to the nearby filling station and bought a can which was then filled with diesel. Not a large top-up but we can make further trips if necessary. If the freeze stays with us we may not be able to move the boat anyway! The forecast is that it should be warmer (or less cold) over the next few days before we return home.

We also thought it wise to top-up the water tank but alas although the tap was OK, the hosepipe was frozen and, although we started with a dribble, it soon ceased to flow altogether. Must have another try when it is sunny tomorrow!

Note: yesterday's photos have now surfaced, hidden in the wrong place, so later on we will add some to yesterday's blog, but first of all, dinner is ready!

Monday, 29 December 2014

Paddington (The Film)

Another very clear but frosty morning. Although the water in the marina was not frozen, there was a thin layer of ice on the canal and the jetties were covered in frost.

(Sorry no photos today - not sure what happened but the computer seemed to download as normal and then delete from the SD card but when we looked for them there was no trace! If you come back and see some pix then it means that they came to light later!)

Christine tried a new hairstyle for Jess.

However, as we set of for a walk to Tesco along the footpath, the puddles were quite firmly frozen - as well tested by the girls. We only bought a baguette and a newspaper, but felt a lot fresher after the walk.

Mike dipped the diesel tank and discovered that we really are rather low but the nearby place is closed until Saturday. We tried ringing Iver but then realised that they are not open normally on a Monday so we will have to wait until tomorrow to see if we are likely to run out of hot water!

After lunch we set off for Uxbridge, taking the 222 bus after walking to the nearest stop. Is is a very convenient service, every 7 or 8 minutes and right to the shopping centre.

As soon as we arrived we found the cinema and bought our tickets, just in case it gets full. Mike wanted to look for a new coat but neither of the possible shops had anything remotely suitable.

After calling at a specialist sweet shop (really to stock up Mike's depleted licorice store) we headed back into The Chimes and the Odeon cinema. After visiting the Candy King and the popcorn stall we found our seats and had just a short time before the programme began,

Although the girls had seen the film before - Paddington - they opted to see it again rather than the badly-reviewed alternative, Annie. (It seems that it is even more schmaltzy than the original, if that is possible, with worse music) Actually, the choice was really Christine's as she wanted to see a film that she would enjoy as well!

It is a classic British film, well made and with quality acting from a range of recognisable actors, led by Hugh Bonneville.

Time then to return to the bus stop and a quick ride back. It takes little more than half an hour from boat to shops (or vice versa).

Sunday, 28 December 2014


Although it had been cold overnight, it was a delightful winter's morning with almost clear skies. As a result we opted to walk to church in Yiewsley - it only takes about 20 minutes.

As before the church was both warm and welcoming. The vicar was away so the service, including communion by extension, was taken by the Reader (or Licensed Lay Minister as they are known in these parts). There were around 45 adults with quite a good number of children as well. the church rooms alongside the church are currently being re-built - perhaps by the time we come back to the boat in early spring we will be able to see it finished.

We had a few items to pick up from Morrisons - as the intended beef joint for roasting had been left in the freezer last night we thought that it would probably not defrost enough for tonight so Christine tracked down a small pork loin joint instead.

We were not scheduled to collect Alice and Jess until 4 o'clock so we had a slow lunch and then prepared as much as we could for the evening meal.

The girls were ready, packed and waiting so it was a short turnaround before we set off back to the boat where the TV was immediately sought! (We have learnt in the past few days that televisions are now things of the past as all the family now watch what they wish on-line. Jess found it a bit hard to understand that, on the boat, we have to be a bit careful about how much we download as it is only a mobile connection not a fibre land line!)

We did, howver, have just eough time to check on Geoffrey's state - he seems much recoverd from his escapade.


In the morning, the chandlery/boat yard was opne (ish!) so Mike bought a couple of bags of solid fuel. Just as well as what we had ran out the next day - goes rather quickly in the cold weather!

We also did a top-up shop at Morrisons - nothing terribly exciting!

In the afternoon we were invited to Windsor for tea - we had not know what sort of meal to epect so our shopping had included a stir-fry for the evening. Andrew had also been invited and arrived shortly after ourselves having driven back up from Devizes.

We were met with an apology that the planned pie hot meal was not available as they had been rather distracted. Geoffrey, their new ginger cat, had had a close encounter with a car, just as they were coming back into the house after having been shopping. They all watched as Geoffrey seemed to be hit head-on by the vehicle as he dashed across the road to greet their return. However, when the car had passed there was not cat - he had run off into one of the nearby gardens.

It took Adrian some time to crawl through various prickly undergrowth to track him done. Nothing seemed broken or missing but just in case Adrian took him off to the local vet who pronounced him bruised and very lucky!

Mike was introduced to Scratch a simplified programming environment for simple interactive animations ( which seems is popular with scholls and Alice was already well into. She showed her grandad how to use it and then left him to 'play' on his own! (yes, we know - photos from a laptop screen are nothing like a proper screen shot!)

Geoffrey's adventures meant that we had a cold meal - but there was plenty all round and some especially tasty bread. Just a tiny morsel of Ellie's brownie cake was left - by the time we had finished there was none at all left.

Alice is having her bedroom re-equipped as befits someone now at Middle School and in need of a proper desk - a good laptop arrived on Christmas day, another essential for homework these days.

As a result - so that Adrian and Joanna can go to IKEA we will have Alice and Jess for another couple of nights from tomorrow with the possibility of a cinema trip on Monday.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Boxing Day

Andrew had noticed that most of the brands of sofa companies had branches in much the same section of Bath Road in Slough. He was planning to replace his existing sofa and chairs which have done extended service!

After coffee, we all set off to check out what was on offer - along with the many others said to be heading to the shops today. Even so, we did not find traffic too much of a problem. All but one of the stores were next to each other - we saw so many it was not easy to remember where the possible choices were seen! We then went a mile further to Furniture Village to see if they had further choices.

Certainly the stores were expecting good business as they were all well-staffed with eager sales people. So eager that at the last store, once Andrew had decided which suite he was opting for, there was almost a fight between two salesmen - as one thought that he should have taken the order. In fact, about four staff had spoken with us at one stage or another so it was the luck of the draw which one happened to be in the right place at the right time. Well, actually not entirely luck as the one who lost out seemed to have a reputation for rushing from one customer to another, not willing to be patient. after all, this is not a purchase that anyone is likely to make in a hurry!

That done it was mid afternoon and as yet we had not had lunch! We need to call at Tesco for some bread and a paper so it was close on three before we ate!

The boat's built-in oven, which we had fitted last year, came off its retaining screws during the preparation of yesterday's dinner (at least it did not prevent us finishing the cooking!) so we also bought some 'grab and hold' glue to help keep it in place as we replaced the fixings. If this does not work then a larger task will be need to add much better mounting blocks.

The little task complete, Andrew headed off back to Devizes where he has an engagement this evening, but unless the threatened snow really does block the roads, we will all meet up at Windsor where we are invited for tea.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas Day

We went to the midnight service at St Matthew's Church in Yiewsley. The church was very full with many people who come just on these special occasions but it felt very friendly and at least it was warm! We have been here several times before when staying on the boat in the marina.

As we drove down and parked the car just a few moments away from the church, we were able to return to the boat quickly after the service. However, we felt the need of a Christmassy drink before finally retiring!

The morning gave a chance to prepare more of the components for tonight's Christmas Dinner - turkey and the lot! It was an almost cloudless day, chilly but not too windy. Some beautiful skies and trees in the sunshine, all though the day.

Andrew called about 11:30 to give us his expected time of arrival and indeed that was when he turned up at the gate. By then lunch was the next item on the agenda and finally our minds turned to a short Christmas Day walk. With nothing like the scenic views from the canal at Devizes, we ambled along the Slough arm towpath with a possible route in mind from the second bridge that would bring us back down the Colne Valley.

Alas, when we arrived at the point where the footpath should have crossed the canal - and a signpost still indicated - the bridge is no longer, having collapsed a year or so ago. There was but a precipice!

So, we turned back to the previous old railway bridge and picked up the London Loop footpath along the Colne Valley to the main road close to Iver - we could see the parish church just across a field.

The valley has many worked-out gravel pits which now form a series of lakes - this one called Little Britain as some people think its shape resembles Great Britain - needs quite a bit of imagination!

After a very short walk along the road we came to the canal Main Line towpath alongside Cowley Lock - a boat was about to go down (perhaps having allowed its steerer refreshment at the lockside pub - and then another arrived to come up. Busy!

Back down the towpath to Packet Boat lane and thus the marina gates - just over three miles. Time to think about dinner, watch an old movie (it's Christmas so they must be old!) and sort out which bottle of wine to begin with!

We forgot to mention that when we arrived a few days ago we realised that nb Chance was now moored next to us. However James and Doug are not aboard - although they are usually prolific bloggers (, they seem to have dropped below the blogosphere horizon since they returned from their last cruise! We usually manage to just miss each other - will this be another occasion?

The above blog was - of necessity - written before we settled down to dinner, but here are a couple of pix of the turkey roast added on Boxing Day. (To make up for the fact that there are no photos for that day!)

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Eve

We took the girls on a short shopping trip - just to top up our stores for the next two days! The local supermarkets are open again on Boxing Day!

After a quick lunch we drove them back home to Windsor where Ellie had just cooked one of her famous Brownie cakes. It was still warm, even hot, from the oven. Delicious. She and her mum even added nuts to a portion for Mike - even more delicious!

Time then to walk to the nearby All Saints Church where Jess had been in her school nativity concert a few days ago. This afternoon was their annual Christingle service - the church was pretty much full with hordes of young children along with parent, grandparents or any other sort of relation!

It followed what has become a traditional form, even though it was only introduced in 1968 by the Childrens Society as a way of highlighting the needs which year-long it seeks to meet.

The children all sat at the front to hear the Christmas story being told and then later queued up to receive their Christingles which, briefly, were lit (but had to be extinguished soon after - health and safety rules OK!)

We then walked back to their home where we soon departed and returned to the boat. We plan to go to the midnight (ie 11.30!) service at St Matthew's Church in Yiewlsey. however we will report on that as part of tomorrow's blog (whenever it gets written)

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


Today was the reason why we came up earlier than in the past few years. Some little time ago Christine had spotted that a new production of Cats was starting and there was a matinee for this afternoon. Ellie had also opted to join the party.

We had arranged to meet Ellie on the train which she was catching from Slough, stopping at West Drayton at 11.35. This would give us plenty of time to find the theatre and have some lunch. Just as well we gave ourselves time as it turned out!

We arrived at the station to discover that there were signalling problems and the previous train had been cancelled. Ellie texted to say that it was already rather full and, as the time for it to arrive neared, the display showed a later and later time. In the end it was only about 15 minutes late into Paddington but very, very  full. At one later stop some people almost could not get on. But they did have a large pushchair!

The Underground to Oxford Circus was uneventful but we quickly discovered that although there are plenty of places to eat close to the Palladium, all were extremely busy. We opted to queue at Bella Italia - although more than busy the staff were very friendly and we eventually settled down at a table for all five of us. at least there was plenty of time for us all to study the menu so that we were ready to order when our server arrived.

Waiting for food
The food was appreciated all round and everyone went for something different - Alice was very clear that her choice was spaghetti bolognese!

Time to find our seats
Over then to the theatre which by now was very crowded around the entrance. After finding the right doorway we gradually made our way to the auditorium and found our seats in the centre of the stalls.

The two smallest were also able to have 'booster' seats (no, not just big sister's lap!) which gave them a better view. taking photos inside the theatre, even before the start of the performance, is not easy with a pocket camera so this atmospheric image will have to do!

The production had very high values, with lots of detail both in costumes, props and the way in which every member of the case contributed.

The interval provided, of course, an opportunity for an ice cream! also a chance to pretend to be a Cat.

And then on to the second half. Some of us thought that this part was even better than the first half! All too soon we reached the main version of Memory and then how to Ad-dress the Cats.

We were left with plenty of memories of our own, especially the energetic dance routines and the powerful music and singing. We were all very please indeed that we had manged to meet up for the experience!

Outside the streets were packed - late night last minute shoppers along with the usual rush hour meant that the first entrance to the Underground was almost entirely blocked! However, we did find another and once down stairs it was less fraught. Only then did we really realise just what might have happened if we had become separated!

The train ride back from Paddington to West Drayton was rather smoother than this morning and we bade farewell - until tomorrow - to Ellie who was returning home whilst the other two returned to the boat with us.

After having had a good lunch we were all only into  a snack - sausage sandwiches for three of us whilst Alice opted to accompany her sausage with a few oven chips!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Girls Arrive

We made a rather slow start to the day! We had some shopping to do before Jess and Alice were due to arrive. There was some indecision about timing but finally it was agreed that Adrian would bring them around three.

A quick trip down to Morrisons provided all that we needed for the next couple of says - apart from a replacement sink plug, for which we had to visit Wilkos nearby.

What we did discover was that around £10 of electricity credit had been used over night so after the girls arrived we quickly bought some more top up from the marina office, not wanting to be without any power over Christmas!

A little later it transpired that we had switched the inverter on the wrong way - to the normal inverter position rather than the shore line setting. It still provided light and power but clearly at some cost! Now seems much better.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Back to the boat

We drove up to the boat today.First, we had a Memory Friendly Service to organise - or actually that is Christine's job and Mike only attends to the technical set up! It was well attended and some new faces - everyone seems to appreciate it, especially carers whose partner has gradually found it much harder to remember things in the short term.

We had loaded most things into the car the day before (Mike was singing in a concert in the evening) so there was not much left to do on Sunday other than the contents of our fridge.

The road was reasonably free with no delays, only a short comfort break at Leigh Delamere. It had been a rather grey day so dusk arrived early. Nevertheless, we were at the boat just after five o'clock.

All was well except that the lights did not come on despite being hooked up to a shore line. We started up the engine which gave us some light to investigate. The credit on the supply had all been used up but we had purchased a card just before leaving last time so were able to top with that and all was OK.

It was not especially cold so we were able to warm through quickly and to heat up the shepherd's pie made last week and brought with us.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Packet Boat

Today's Canal - Grand Union Main Line (and Slough Arm)

The day started with quite heavy rain but, in contrast with the forecast which promised that it would continue until lunch time, it dried up around 10 and was again warm and sometimes a little sun broke through - but not too strenuously!

We had moored overnight above Widewater Lock as we had identified this as the best place from which to find a church - at Denham Green, a thirties/fifties suburb which grew up to take advantage of the nearby rail station with services into London. Even so, it was over a mile away but we had also discovered that there is a bus service that would take us most of the way, even though it was only one stop!

The stop to go from was just at the bridge over the canal and, perhaps even a minute or so early, the bus duly arrived and our bus passes again proved to be of great value! Having also 'walked' the rest of the route on street View it was not difficult and only took about five minutes to find the small church. Built in the middle of the 20C as a multi-purpose hall, it is a daughter church to the main parish in Denham.

There were only 15 of us there but we received a really warm welcome. A Service of the Word, it was led by a lay person but a retired priest preached. It was a congregation that, although generally elderly (made us look quite young!) clearly enjoyed a thought provoking talk. After the service we stayed for coffee and again were made to feel really welcome. As we were about to leave, one of the ladies offered to give us a lift - and also a guided tour of Denham Village thrown in as well. All in all, it felt a much more genuine Christian community than some places we have visited.

Back at the boat we changed fairly promptly so that we could set off through the remaining four locks and five miles to Packet Boat marina where we are leaving the boat for the winter, as we have done in the previous three winters. It is convenient for London and Windsor.

Just below the first lock, the Horse and Barge pub looks forlorn. Its owners are still looking for new lessees but it is a long way from returning to an active life. At least its name will live on as the designation for the bus stop we used earlier!

Almost every proposed crossing of a canal by the HS2 route seems to be marked by an opposition sign. Just a short distance away is the bridge that carries an existing railway and which everyone now seems to take for granted. After all, it was the stretching of the central London Underground right out into the countryside that stimulated the growth of places like Denham that were otherwise quite isolated from the capital.

Once again, at Denham Deep Lock, we were reminded that however often we pass along a canal there is always something new or changed to see. In this case, just metres above the lock Fray's River (a part of the River Colne) passes under the canal on a short aqueduct.

This otherwise uninteresting photo is included because of the beautiful patterns of the reflections from the water.

Another detail not spotted before: the old wartime defensive pill box built into the end of a bridge just below Uxbridge. One wonders just what detailed planning suggested that such structures would actually be useful in the defence of the realm. Still, they did at least give the appearance that the government of the day was doing something to protect its citizens!

At three o'clock we turned onto the Slough arm at Cowley Peachy junction, but only for about 50 metres! Christine jumped off at the entrance to walk around and identify our mooring and point it out to Mike as he reversed the boat onto the pontoon as the end of this year's cruising.

We quickly set about boat cleaning - Mike was especially designated to clean the newly painted roof - so that it once again looks as if it is newly painted! We made good progress and packed most things into the car ready for tomorrow's journey back home.

5.2 miles - 4 locks

Saturday, 1 November 2014


Today's Canal - Grand Union Main Line

We were a little disappointed to awake and discover that it was raining. However, before we managed to set off it turned dry and very quickly bright blue skies appeared and stayed with us all day. again, it was amazingly mild. Later in the day we passed places where we remembered last year having trees brought down in late October gales!

The day was unremarkable until we reach Batchworth Lock - just a succession of locks spaced out just under a mile apart. It was, however, very pleasant cruising and the autumn colours remain part of the attraction, very varied with some species still retaining green leaves but with the most rapidly turning colour and falling into the water or making the towpath that bit more soggy!

The Grove is now an expensive country house hotel but the golf course seemed to be well used even this early in the day.

Just around the corner is the Grove Mill. Now converted into apartments it was clearly once a very impressive working mill. Some elements of the history can be found in the conservation area description (

Immediately after the next bridge, the converted cottage was originally built for a canal worker whose job was to keep the water courses clear.

Iron Bridge Lock (the bridge is not longer iron!) is in the middle of then popular Cassiobury Park and, coming through at this time of each year, there are many different autumnal views.

Below Cassio Bridge Lock is the high level railway bridge which is the last part of the Metropolitan Line spur to Watford. The last mile of this line is not well used but work is expected to start very soon on the Croxley Rail Link that will take the Metropolitan Line to Watford Junction. This will not only assist commuters but also give many people in this part of London access to main line services without having to go into the centre. It is planned to be complete in 2017.

Croxley was once a major industrial site, developed around 1830 by John Dickinson who moved much of his production down to here from Apsley. (see for an aerial view) The brand name Croxley was once synonymous with high quality writing paper and envelopes but as far as we can see the name lives on only through imports from South Africa. No sign of Croxley Mill can be seen from the canal and has been replaced by a large housing estate, like so many redundant industrial sites.

The weather was now at its best for today with almost no cloud at all.

We reached Batchworth on schedule - with water and elsan just below the lock. To the west of the main lock is another which connects with the River Chess. as the lock is permanently chained up, we have never had a chance to see how far it is navigable but the lock seems in good condition.

Whilst Mike completed the servicing - the rubbish bins are a good 150m around the corner, no doubt to make it easier for the collection truck - Christine walked to Tesco. Mike then took the boat the short distance to Frogmoor Wharf which is now as good mooring for the supermarket. A new art panel has been added to the otherwise blank wall.

Stocker's Lock is very much in a rural setting, even though the outer reaches of Greater London are never far away.

Immediately below the lock is the large Stocker's House, originally for the collector of coal duties when the toll point was moved here from its initial location at Lady Capel's Wharf. The history of coal dues was a complex story as different financial interests sought to defned their monopolies. What changes?

Between Coppermill Lock and the next bridge is a strong cross current from one of the rivers that feed the canal. Clearly a popular site for canoeists! Although the flow could be felt, it was not as strong today as we have sometimes found it.

At Black Jack's Lock a three-generation family were taking a keen interest in the operation and the two young girls were delighted to be given the opportunity to take part!

We were now having to think about possible church options for tomorrow morning - having failed on the past three Sundays! We did not have enough time before sunset to reach Packet Boat today so, although it was only just before 3 o'clock, we pulled onto a good mooring just above Widewater Lock. The church is about a mile away but along a good road and there is the possibility of a bus for some of it!

8.5 miles - 11 locks