Monday 18 June 2012

Llangollen and Shroppie. Ellesmere to Middlewich.

Before we dragged ourselves away from Blake Mere, Rob (another cuz) and Tracey, along with their beautiful kids, Charlotte, Rebecca and Vincent, came to visit us for the afternoon. Rob is off to Afghanistan next month so it was good to see him before he goes. They joked that as a family they have a “Window of Acceptability”, but we thought they were perfectly well behaved. And the kids were pretty good too. Boom - tish.
After they left we went up to the car park and found a little Rebecca sized pink wellie where their car had been, so as we were going to Wrexham for an oil filter anyway(more about that later) we took it with us with the intention of dropping it in at their house. By coincidence they went across the front of us at a T junction, so we followed them till they stopped at some traffic lights. Unlike London, where getting accosted by people at traffic lights is a regular occurrence, it doesn’t often happen in Wrexham, so when Ann-Marie jumped out, small pink wellie in hand, and appeared in their passenger window, Tracey nearly had a heart attack. Later on, (after what is now known as the Oil Filter Incident) we had a counter-visit, ate lots of yummy cake and pushed our own window of acceptability to its limits. It was great to see you guys, as ever, and lovely to have you on board. There are still many miles of the Welsh canals that Legend hasn’t been to so we’ll be back this way at some time. And it’s handy to have an excuse to return to Blake Mere.

On the Monday after that we returned to Audlem in the car for the day to see yet another cuz, John, or more precisely his daughter Hannah, who along with the rest of The Sound of the Sirens was performing at the Audlem Music Festival.
And very good they were too.

In yet another case of ‘Right Place- Right Time’, the Crewe Ducks (the local Citroen 2CV club for Crewe, Nantwich and beyond) were having their summer camp at Wrenbury on the 8th & 9th of June, just when we were passing through. Although we no longer own a 2CV we’re still in the club and through it, over the last twenty-odd years, we’ve made some of the best friends you could hope to meet, so we were very excited about being able to spend time with some of them. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to arrive at a camp under our own steam, and we’ve never, ever brought a double bed and central heating to one before.

The act of getting there brought home to us this lesson: While much of the time we seem to have a charmed existence, lady luck isn’t always wearing our colours and it pays well to err on the side of caution. Also, that even a charmed existence can be undermined by a complete numpty.

The Oil Filter Incident. Our Lister has needed an oil change for a few weeks. Oil filters are available from chandleries - at a premium, but if you know the part number you can get one from any motor factor. While we were at Blake Mere, and without discussing it with Mission Control, (always a Bad Idea) Dave came over all impetuous, drained the oil and in order to find the number, took the old filter off by sticking a screwdriver through it. After he’d taken this irreversible step rendering the engine useless for the time being, Ann-Marie pointed out that it was the Friday afternoon before the double bank holiday and that maybe he should have waited. Huh? So it was that we found ourselves in Halfords in Wrexham at nearly five O’clock, where we hoped they’d be able to match the number to one of their own. They couldn’t, but good news – their supplier could. Bad news – not till Wednesday. That meant that we’d have to stay put for now then go to Wrenbury on the Thursday; a bit tight compared to our usual leisurely meanderings but still perfectly possible. By then it had gone five and everywhere else was shut, which is when we went off to Rob & Tracy’s followed by a Jubilee weekend on our boat, looking out over our lake and chatting with passers-by. God, we suffer for our art. On Wednesday morning Halfords duly rang to say that it would be in the shop that afternoon. Off we went, a few hours on the free wi-fi in ‘Spoons, then round to Halfords to find out that their system was down and that none of the orders from the weekend had turned up. Sorry. Would tomorrow be any good? Dave went round to Unipart, who cross-referenced the number to one of their own and sold him two, from stock, for half the price, in about thirty seconds.

So, on Thursday, bright overcast and early we donned the waterproofs and set sail for Wrenbury; the weather forecast was dreadful - and correct. The rain, rain, rain, came down, down, down. Ann-Marie was very good about it, hardly mentioning the fact that the day before had been quite pleasant.

At Grindley Brook there was the inevitable Thursday-when-all-the-hire-boats-come-back queue for the locks. Lots of wet holiday-makers in wet shoes with wet dogs and wet children holding wet ropes. This year, across the globe, in countless photo albums with “Our Holiday Afloat“ written on the front, there will be at least one photo, and probably many more, entitled “Bedraggled!”
While we were waiting we got chatting to a lady who told us that they’d delayed their departure from their marina for a month this season because of the awful weather, and had we done the same? We told her we were live-aboards and we’d just done our first winter on the cut. “That’ll explain the sou’wester and the proper weather gear, then.” She said. “You’d think so,” said Dave, “But this is the first time I’ve had to use it in anger. Winter was a walk in the park compared to today.” We got as far as Povey’s lock and gave up. We lit the fire, hung our stuff up around the boat and put a film on, while outside a proper storm wore itself out.

On Friday Karma decided that enough was enough and smiled at us again; we were through Povey’s before eight, through the next three in something close to sunshine, had a free pass through the lift bridge at Wrenbury and were moored up right outside the Cotton Arms Pub just before it started raining again. Bob on.

On Saturday afternoon it stopped raining, the barbeques got rounded up, the camping chairs came out and it was just like the old days; a happy group of people sitting around in a field, sharing a barby and few beers, swapping stories and generally chilling out. In such a relaxed atmosphere we found ourselves inclined to revive the ancient tradition of Dave’s Pancakes.

Short history lesson. In a previous life, Dave was a chef in the RAF, a handy thing to know if you need a lot of people feeding in a hurry. Eons ago, when pubs used to kick you out at eleven o-clock, a bunch of drunken 2CV campers would congregate round the back of Dave’s van clutching a plate a-piece onto which he would dole out pancakes as fast as was humanly possible. (And with a Coleman petrol stove going full whack on both burners under two frying pans, that’s quite fast. He has been known to double that up and do four at a time, but we found that the queue couldn’t cope.) Inevitably the name Pancake Dave stuck, and Saturday seemed a very fitting time to bring him out of retirement.
Ann-Marie rustled up lemon juice, sugar and some of her delicious home-made crab apple jelly for fillings. What’s not to like? Thank you to Pam, Brian and all the other Crewe Ducks. We thoroughly enjoyed your company and had a lovely time.

Dave had a dentist appointment the following Tuesday and we’d fitted it in with a visit to Chloe & Shandy at Daventry and went there on Sunday afternoon. Their new house is really beginning to feel like a home now. Dave went with Shandy to pick up the shed that Janice & Paul had given them as a house warming present. They came back in a van as it was too big to fit in the Punto. Who’d have guessed? There then followed the ritualistic Male Bonding Session known the world over as “Building a shed with your future Son-in-Law.”
They wanted to move some paving slabs to the front of the house to make another parking space and despite making a brave start and getting wet and muddy, the rain finally put the mockers on it. We stayed in their spare room till Wednesday morning when we thought it was about time they had their new home to themselves. They make a lovely couple, and it was good to see them both looking so happy.

Back on board Legend, in what can only be described - compared to what we usually manage - as a headlong dash, we went from Wrenbury, through Hurleston and Barbridge junctions and down to Middlewich, and did a car shuffle, in less than twenty-four hours.
That put us nicely in Middlewich for the Folk and Boat Festival.
We hadn’t really planned to be there for it, but our very good friends, Brian and Ann Marie were going to be there and we hadn’t seen them for yonks. Between them they run the fuel boat Alton on the T&M, Mac, Peak Forest and Bridgwater canals, the river Weaver and pretty much everywhere else in north England. As well as the chance of weekend in their company, we needed some diesel and a couple of bags of coal before we go up to the Ribble Link and onto the Lancaster Canal at the end of July, so it all fitted together beautifully. We had a very enjoyable evening in the Boar’s Head on the Friday night where we caught up on the last couple of years and picked their brains about the River Weaver, which we think we’ll probably go onto for a couple of days next week. The Anderton Boat lift is just up the cut from here and it would be a shame to go past without having a go on it.
Here's a couple of photos from our boat at Middlewich FAB 2012


Sarah said...

This is like reading a good book, except I know a lot of the characters. Brian and Ann-Marie were possibly the first 2CVers I ever met.

Dave and Ann-Marie. said...

You're too kind Elizabeth, we're glad you enjoy it. What we want to know is how you manage to find the time to read it! B&AM are an inspiration to us; they go out on their delivery run come hell or high water, living in the back cabin of Alton for two weeks at a time, and always have a good word and a smile for everyone. Lovely people.

Pangbourne to Sutton Courtenay. River Thames.

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