Thursday 31 August 2023

Nottingham to Trent Lock. River Trent. Nottingham and Beeston Canal

Nottingham Riverside Festival fairground on the north embankment of the Trent is reported to be a mile long, and as it goes from Trent Bridge all the way past the footbridge, past the War Memorial and on to the end of the recreation fields, we reckon that’s an understatement.

Every means imaginable of parting punters from their money is squeezed into a seemingly endless brightly lit corridor full of terrifying rides, fast food and games of chance, with a constant soundtrack of deafening music, screaming and the thunderous rumble of hot rubber wheels. The air is thick with the smell of fried onions and diesel and every now and then you catch the sound of machinery at the very limit of its design capabilities.

We love a good fair, somehow the possibility of dying from either salmonella or in a horrific pile of mangled metal and neon lights just adds to the frisson of excitement you get when you hand your money and your life over to a dodgy looking chap in a straw boater. We scared ourselves silly on the Cyclone...

 ...{they never went anywhere near that fast when we were teenagers), had a very tasty Greek Gyros each, and on the Saturday night went to the big top to see Sound of the Sirens play their set. Hanna and Abi were brilliant, as always, with lots of banter and audience involvement. We had a little chat with them at the merch stand afterwards and bought their new EP set.

We all had little treats from the fair, River got her hand henna’d, Ann-Marie got some beautiful new earrings, and Dave got a new 1920 half-crown wedding ring. At close of play on Friday and Saturday evening there was an amazing firework display on the opposite bank of the river, one of the best we’ve ever seen, and a fitting end to a truly brilliant weekend.

On Sunday had a trip up the river, past the County Hall steps...

... then set off up Meadow Lane lock onto the Nottingham and Beeston Canal. We joined all the boats heading back to their marinas after the weekend and had to queue for Castle lock, something we’ve not done for ages.

We carried on to Beeston where we moored up with double pins as we’d be leaving Legend there for a fortnight while we went to France. It was just a short walk up to the station where we caught the train back to Nottingham and walked over to West Bridgford for another of Karma’s treats, this time Cinema in the Park. Disney’s “Robin Hood” was on in the afternoon...

 ... followed by “Top Gun; Maverick” in the evening. Wonderful!

In the morning Dave set up our automatic plant watering gizmo while River got packed up and Ann-Marie made a goodbye curry. After lunch we went back up to the station and waved River off before having a mooch round town, then home for tea and a really early night with the alarm set for 2 o’clock to get us on our way to Stanstead.  

At about 1am we were wide awake and waiting for the alarm, so we got up anyway. The plan was to repeat the airport-parking-charge-avoidance wheeze that we’d deployed at Birmingham and find some nice, on-street parking by the nearest train station to Stanstead. We figured we must have found somewhere to park when Legend was moored in Sawbridgeworth, so we’d booked return tickets on the first train from there and given ourselves a spare half hour to find somewhere we were happy to leave the car. Sooner or later, our nomadic lifestyle, persistent habit of jumping on aeroplanes, and abject refusal to pay exorbitant parking charges, will result in us having a folder full of quiet - but safe - urban streets under flight-paths all over the country. We’ll publish it when it’s complete and make a fortune!

The trip to Jussas went perfectly to plan and by teatime we’d hugged everyone, met Keith and Ethnie, and were in the pool.

Dave had been round the big field with the mower, and t’Woods had rocked up a day earlier than expected in their motorhome with two of their grandkids. That evening we all went into Montendré to the night market; a huge street party that happens every Tuesday evening in the summer in the middle of town.

There were a good fifty food and drink stalls and rows and rows of tables and chairs. Jan and Paul are old hands at this so we were there early and bagged two tables before the crowds turned up. It was a brilliant evening, lots of wine and great food, lots of chatting and lots of introductions to lovely French people. Oh, and there was a fabulous Heath-Robinson three wheeled wandering musical thingy going around as well.

So perfectly French.   

Apart from visiting our Grandchildren and our ex-pat friends, the other reason for our trip was a big party. Paul and Steve are both 70 this year and they wanted to have a joint party in the summer. Having it on Janice’s birthday meant even more reason to celebrate and they’d invited about eighty people from all over the place. Because there were so many guests staying over, six of us were accommodated in a very palatial holiday home nearby. Dave wasn’t drinking, so he took over the role of chauffeur and had a great time driving either a 2cv or the bus back and forth each morning evening.

Unfortunately , a couple of days before the party, Janice tested positive for the dreaded lurgy and although she felt better by the big day, she still had two red lines on the test strip, poor lass. The preparations still went ahead, we collected tables and chairs from the Marié, put the
27 party tent up…

Paul: “Did I tell you this only cost 27?”

Everybody: “YES!”

… made cakes...

...and strung fairy lights all around the garden. Sadly, but understandably, by kick-off about two thirds of the guest list had dropped out, but the party was all outside and enough people still came along to make it a great evening. Paul got the big paella pan out and made a delicious ‘Stew with no name’ - a sausage and apple recipe that Frankie discovered and originally called ‘Sausage S
**t’ –  and served up with crusty bread it was a real winner. A good friend Denis is in a local band and they entertained us with Anglo French hits from the 60’s and 70’s.

They were terribly good, and got us all up dancing. It was a really lovely family and friends party.

Mirabelle plums were in season at the time so, due to the unwritten French rule of never turning up empty handed, the morning after the party we had about ten kilos of the things to deal with. Over the next  few days we took it in turns 
stoning a pile and making something with them, Ann-Marie produced a gorgeous mirabelle tart, a mirabelle and apple tart,

Jo and the girls made some mirabelle punch and a birthday cake for Jon. That evening was Pizza night, Paul made his signature dough, and Harry and Dave did the honours with the wood fired oven.

Great Fun.

For our last night in France we all went back into town for another night market. More lovely food, more happy people and more dancing to the band.

In the morning Dave did an early airport run with a bus full of bleary eyed party goers, then in the afternoon the two campervans packed up and got ready to pull out. Soon it was our turn, it’ll be next year before we’re back so there were lots of emotional goodbyes before we piled into the airport shuttle bus. Such a mass exodus was going to leave our little corner of France feeling really quiet for a while.

Another smooth flight and train ride back to Sawbridgworth, pie and chips in the car and a long drive home. Back at Beeston we found Legend safe and sound with added ripe tomatoes.

The Beeston parkrun course went right past where we were moored, making it the closest we’ve been to the start since Skipton. It was really big with about 500 people and quite claustrophobic at the beginning, but ok once it thinned out a bit, following the towpath and then back along Trent Valley Way. After that we set off for Cranfleet Cut via the services and the chandlery at Beeston lock. With everything emptied, filled and replaced, we cast off onto the beautiful river section up to Cranfleet lock. There were volunteers on duty at the lock so we were in and up and moored just before the railway bridge in no time. We cycled into Long Eaton for some painting supplies, then Dave got the sander out and keyed the right hand back panel ready for a second coat. By chance we had the gas locker open and noticed that it was a bit smelly in there. It turned out that the gas regulator was leaking, so until we could get hold of a new one we had to turn the gas off at the bottle when we weren’t using it. It wasn’t so much a safety issue, the gas locker is away from the cabin and vented at the bottom - just above the waterline - and as LPG is heavier than air it can’t accumulate to dangerous levels, but it’s expensive stuff and you really can’t afford to lose it.

In the morning Dave got the top coat on the panel, then went down to check out the pontoon moorings at Trent Lock. There was a space there, but by the time he got back and we’d got the boat down there, a little river cruiser had beaten us to it. We reckoned there was just enough room behind it to get most of Legend on the end, so we carried on upstream and turned round. What we should have done was come back past the pontoon again, turn below it and moor up pointing into the flow, but instead Dave decided to try mooring on the downstream leg. It very nearly ended in disaster, and it was only Ann-Marie’s quick mooring tactics that stopped us ploughing into the little cruiser. It probably looked quite slick from an uninitiated bystanders perspective, but it was much too close for comfort for us. There are very good reasons for not mooring downstream, the main one being that you have very little control of the boat. Dave has sworn to behave himself and heed the warnings in future.

We scaled up our design for the boat name using a grid on the back panel and Dave spent most of the following afternoon plotting it out. Half way through he needed a break from kneeling so we had a walk up to Sawley marina to get a new gas regulator. By tea time the design was finished, the gas was fixed and we’d had a cycle to Morrisons and come back with chocolate crệpes.

That’ll do donkey.




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