Saturday, 28 March 2015

Winter is Over?

Yes, it's official. We finally left Aston Marina this morning heading north. However, in the words of Ned Stark (Game of Thrones), Winter is Coming, since before we left we handed over a deposit for next winters mooring on the same pier. This is in anticipation of the same gang being there as well and matching the incredible fun we have had this year. Thanks to everyone who joined in and made it so memorable.
It was a tad windy as we left the pier with some rain in the air but we only planed to go as far as Stone for supplies before the cruise really begins on Monday.
Last week we had a few days in the south to catch up with friends and family. It was great to see everyone and we will see you all again in the summer.
Our cruising plans are not finalised yet but the plan is to head up the Macclesfield canal first and then head back for the Anderton Lift and the River Weaver later in the spring when the weather has warmed up a bit.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Watching the Eclipse

Yesterday morning there was an eclipse of the sun. The weather forecast was not optimistic about our chances of seeing anything, but we were prepared and hopeful.
On Thursday night the news told us that we could see ways to view the event by visiting the BBC website. On there were details of how to construct a very complicated viewer involving a cardboard box, some foil, and a quantity of parcel tape. The Captain, always the wag, said, " get started, you only have 12 hours before it starts" It was like something from Blue Peter. Needless to say, I chose the duvet option and went to bed. 9.00am we looked out to see the sun, with just the right amount of cloud cover to allow us to see a white disc with a bite out of one side. As the event progressed the cloud slowly cleared, however the Captain produced some tin foil with a pin hole and some white paper which allowed us to project an image of the eclipse and safely follow its progress.
As it unfolded the sun slowly disappeared until only a sliver was showing and the atmosphere chilled noticeably. It was quite a creepy feeling.
By 10.00 am it was almost over and we sat down with our second coffee of the morning, lucky that the weather allowed us to see this unusual cosmic event. The last time an eclipse like this happened was in 1999, the next not for another ten years or so.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Pastures new (for some)

It's getting to that time of the year when we are getting ready to go our separate ways. The jobs that have been put off all winter have now become urgent but, hey ho, that's human nature.
We gathered up in Spoons on Sunday morning for breakfast as a kind of a farewell, followed on Tuesday eve. for another farewell in the  Exchange, this time there were 13 boaters present, moving on to Spoons for Steak Club afterwards.
Ray & Diane finally made a break for it on Wednesday, heading south. Those of us who are still in Aston marina gathered on the hill to wave and shout good natured insults as they passed. We all hope to have the oportunity to catch up with them later in the year.
Yesterday the sun almost put in an appearance, prompting us to make a visit to Shugborough hall. Been there before but it is an impressive house and well worth another look.
The Captain needed to go to Stafford afterwards to collect his new specs. So, inevitably we ended up in Spoons for a late lunch.
A spur of the moment decision, prompted by a buy one, get one free offer on a flyer, led us to the Gatehouse Theatre getting two tickets for 'The Circus of Horrors'.
It was an interesting show. Not knowing what to expect, we think we enjoyed it.
The Captain seemed to be smitten by the girls in fishnets & suspenders but I can't quite say the sword swallower quite did the same for me. Still, for only a tenner each, it actually was a good evening.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

I Can't believe it!!!

Yes, it's true. Yesterday we spent the afternoon watching the rugby. Those of you who know us will find that hard to believe, but, since the rest of the gang were going, and as it was being shown in a brewery as part of their beer festival we tagged along.
Although, initially, we expected to be bored by the game, it came as a suprise to find that it was rather more entertaining than we had feared. It obviously helped that there were some fine examples of the brewers art on offer, some of the alcohol content needing a measure of restraint.
Rugby fans will know that Wales beat Ireland, and England beat Scotland, however it was the beer that won hands down. (Just a personal opinion).
Making room for the evening ticket holders, we weaved our way down the hill back to Stone where we had a fine meal in the Indian restaurant, finally getting back on board in an overpriced taxi around 10.00pm.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Tea for Two, or more?

On Wednesday afternoon Sue from Festina Lente organised a bun fight at the 'Dog and Doublet' in Sandon. It was quite a refined affair, with Earl Grey tea in bone china, dainty sandwiches, minus the crusts, and some delicious squares of fancy confectionary. This of course was just for the female members of the crews. The boys went thier own way, meeting up in Stone for a scenic tour of some of the well known hostelries in the town. Starting off in 'the Star', and finishing in the 'Royal Exchange, via a couple of pints in the 'Swan'. Us 'ladies' had a great afternoon doing what ladies do on such occasions, eventually heading for Stone to meet up with our Captains in the 'Exchange'.
It was with some trepidation that we peered through the window at our usual seat, but there they all were, mostly upright and looking quite sensible. Seems they can be trusted out on thier own.
With all that tea sloshing around inside us we were only to eager to exchange the foil wrapped leftovers for something in a glass.
All that remained was to finish of the evening round the corner in 'Spoons' for something to eat.
(It was the Captains made us do it). Well, dainty sandwiches can only keep one going for so long!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Sent to Coventry

Yes, we were literally, sent to Coventry.  Nearly a year ago we bought some tickets to see ' the Unthanks' at the Warwick arts Centre. Having been fans of this folk group for some time, it seemed the perfect oportunity to see them live on stage. The plan was to cruise down to Warwick, stroll  into town, and make a day of it. Of course, when the tickets arrived we discovered that the venue is actually in Coventry at the University.
Changing tack somewhat,  we set of in the car on Sunday morning to first drive down to Long Itchington where some friends are fitting out a wide beam at the Colecraft yard. It was great to catch up with them and see the progress since we saw them last summer. It will be an impressive boat when it is finished, the space on board is staggering.
Leaving them to their work we had a fine Sunday lunch in the Two Boats, before driving off to Coventry to find the venue for our concert. I wonder how we used to manage before we had SatNav's? It directed us straight there and into a multistorey car park. Sally Satnav might sound like she is nagging but she does the biz.
Being one of the first to buy tickets we had the choice of seats, opting for the middle of the front row. It was perfect, the stage being only a foot or so high, it was like being on stage with them.
For those who are not familiar with the Unthanks, they are two sisters from Northumberland, backed by piano, trumpet and strings. Look them up on YouTube. Their blend of traditional and modern is unique.
After the show we moved out to the foyer where members of the group sold us the latest CD, and Becky and Rachel Unthank signed the cover for us.
It was nearly 11.00pm by the time we left, just in time to hit the closure of the M6 for overnight roadworks. The detour took us through parts of the midlands we knew by name only (Walsall), before rejoining the motorway and arriving back on board Oakapple at nearly 1.00am.
It was a long day but well worth it.

Monday, 9 March 2015

A P***S Up in a Brewery?

Yes, it seems you can organise a p**s up in a brewery. This one was set up by fellow boater, Rolly, who arranged for us to have a tour of the lymestone brewery here in Stone on Friday evening.
We were collected by a minibus and delivered to the premises, built a 100 or more years ago as a rival to the Joules brewery alongside the canal.
There was a bar set up outside the brewing room with a selection of the fine ales which are produced there. Our entry price included unlimited sampling and we set to with enthusiasm! We were shown the brewing process and our host explained the details, interspersed with some colourful anecdotes.
Also included was a helping of 'Lymestone Lobby' a kind of stew, which was served with crusty bread. It certainly stuck to our ribs and helped to soak up some of the delcious ales we consumed. Lovely!
All to soon the minibus was at the door to deliver us back to Aston Marina, although some of the Captains couldn't resist getting out at the 'Three Crowns' on the way past. My Captain managed to resist the  temptation and stayed on board the bus, thus gaining some brownie points from the girls but, I suspect, losing some from the rest of the Guys!
On Saturday there was the monthly farmers market in Stone, so we all made our own way in, eventually meeting up in the Royal Exchange, (in lieu of friday eve maybe?), for delicious chip butties. After our enthusiasm at the brewery the night before, the guys were fairly restrained with the pints but we all had a good laugh.
In the next few weeks we will all start to go our separate ways to start the cruising season. Those of us who have put on a few pounds over the winter may see that as a blessing.
As a start towards that event, the Captain has at last started to catch up with some of the jobs which are overdue. The first was fitting some new stern fenders. Not before time. The new one has only been in the locker for three years! This week there should be a new fender for the bow.

Monday, 2 March 2015

She Loves you, Yeh, yeh, yeh!

It has been quite a packed week, what with our outings earlier. The usual Friday gathering was followed by a trip to Stafford on Saturday evening with Dot and Gordon to see  the Mersey Beatles.
We started  by visiting the 'Butlers Bell' for food and a pint before making our way to the Gatehouse Theatre for what was a super evenings entertainment.
The Mersey Beatles used to be the resident Beatles tribute band at the Cavern Club in Liverpool until they found the touring was becoming more lucrative. The performance was spot on, the sound and look just like the real thing (forty or so years on of course). A must see for any Beatles fans or anyone  in need of a sixties fix!
After a lie in on Sunday morning we walked into Stone for coffee, got soaked walking back to Oakapple, and cooked our usual Sunday roast  before settling down in front of the fire. Mmmm!