Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Farewell “Chance” and THANK YOU!

The keys to “Chance” were handed over to the new owners a couple of days ago and we are to meet up with them shortly to familiarise them with all the various workings. We sincerely wish them the very same pleasure that we’ve had over the last six years on this very special boat.
We love this photo of “Chance”, taken by Carol and George from their boat “Still Rockin’” on the River Thames in May this year - and we happen to be waving goodbye as well!
We haven’t really left the canal environment as our recently purchased apartment in Manchester overlooks the first lock on the Ashton Canal. We can spy on the comings and goings below us and there was one boat recently that was familiar to us – nb “Ketura” with Chris and Christine on board.
We’d bumped into them quite by chance the previous evening on the towpath of the Rochdale canal but their very early morning start up the Ashton flight of locks rather stymied our chances of grabbing our windlasses from the cupboard (yes we’ve kept a set!) and giving them a hand.
Doug has acquired a uni-cycle (as you do!) and he had his first attempt to ride it just outside our apartment – in a quiet spot where some maintenance work was being carried out. The whole event was rather precarious and took place within yards of the canal! James stood by with the camera just in case there was a chance of winning £250 from “You’ve Been Framed”! 
Our friend Cris was on hand to help Doug before it was his turn to try his luck. He should have adjusted the seat height from Doug’s position though!
With the decorating and home-making all but finished we soon got down to one of our favourite pleasures - meeting up with friends. On this occasion cruise friends Margaret and Peter came to see us for the day and, after imbibing three bottles of Prosecco between us in our ‘pad’ (thank you M and P for bringing two of them!) we walked down to G-A-Y in Canal Street where, for £1.60 a drink, it was the perfect pit stop on our way to ………
…….. Albert’s Shed in Castlefield for a rather late lunch. The company was even better than the superb food and a splendid time we all had. After lunch it was a walk back to the ‘pad’ for coffee and cake before Peter and Margaret took their leave and headed home. As always, every hour was filled with laughter and we look forward to seeing them again soon.
Around most corners there’s something happening in Manchester and, here in Dale Street close to where we are, a new TV series called “Age Before Beauty” is being filmed.
There are various props and period vehicles around the place and occasionally ……..
…….. even some action! Here’s one of the stars – Robson Green, standing behind the truck.
Stars of the human variety are missing from this set but the superb 1967 E-Type Jaguar makes up for it a bit.
Manchester gets more than it’s fair share of rain but sometimes the sun shines and the city comes alive even more than usual. Here’s Doug looking rather suave and sophisticated on one of the first sunny weekends we had recently …….
….. and it doesn’t take long before we meet up with a few friends like Cris and ……..
….. Sammy who happened to be around when the camera was thought about!
The gay village surrounding Canal Street buzzes with activity well into the evening on such sunny weekends.
Canals and ‘boatie’ friends are never far from our thoughts and, in this case, not far from us full stop. We drove out to find this rather motley crew on their way to Liverpool! Here’s Mark and Sian (nb "Mochyn Du") and Del and Al (nb “Derwent6”) playing catch-up with us beside the Bridgewater Canal. Soooo good to meet up with these lovely people again!
Yet another canal fix – this time very close to home. We’d tracked friends Chris and Tim in their boat “Elusive” coming down the Ashton flight of locks and met them at “our” lock at the bottom.
It was a short distance to Piccadilly Village where they intended to moor up so Doug cadged a lift with Chris on “Elusive” while Tim and James walked beside.
It was a tight turn into the little basin but Tim managed it very well.
This last weekend turned out to be beautifully sunny again and perfect for Manchester’s annual celebration of the national transgender charity event – “Sparkle”. As usual, Canal Street was heaving with people enjoying each other’s company and promoting diversity in society.
Here are three happy people who’s company we enjoyed out of the thousand or so who attended the weekend’s celebration. 
And it was good to meet up with Chris and Tim (and their pretty little dog Peggy) again in the afternoon after we’d helped moor up their boat and enjoyed a cup of coffee with them afloat earlier. Great to meet up again guys.
Life has been rather hectic recently (what changes?!) but we seem to have settled into our “northern crash pad” rather well. We’re looking forward to spending time at both ends of the country, meeting up with friends, making new ones and exploring the north of the country in the future.  

Thursday, 22 June 2017

A Couple of Days in the Lake District

Having finished all the decorating and settling in to our Manchester “pad” we took advantage of the kind invitation, by friends Pam and Geoff, for an overnight stay with them at their lovely home in the Lake District.


After a short journey (much, much less than we’re normally used to from the South Coast!) we arrived in the South Lakes at Pam and Geoff’s. They soon had us out and about in this gorgeous corner of England with drinks on the terrace of a hotel overlooking Windermere.


Then it was onwards up the eastern side of the lake to Bowness-on-Windermere and a visit to a rather splendidly named venue ……..


……. for cocktails.


Pam – we wouldn’t dare to make a comment!


And more cocktails!! – with Geoff, as the our chauffeur, on the non-alcoholic variety of course


Onwards then to Ambleside, at the northern end of Windermere, for early dinner at the lovely vegetarian restaurant Zeffirellis here on the corner. As the day drew to a close we headed back to their home for a charming relaxed evening (and a lot more laughs!).


The next morning we awoke to this fabulous view from our room and breakfast on the terrace in the sunshine.


Pam and Geoff decided to take us to nearby Cartmel. Famous for it’s racecourse and Abbey, we hadn’t seen a great deal of the village as we were last here primarily for the races.


Cartmel isn’t the only racecourse to traverse a road but this one does seem to have a certain charm about it.


Close to the racecourse is an opportunity to have a go at Segway and it was for this (after some excited discussion the previous evening about it) that we were here! We’ve both done Segway a couple of times but it was Geoff’s first time.


We’ve seen quite a few learners but never have we seen anyone take to Segway quite like Geoff. He was a natural!


These were excellent, and very new, machines with programmable speed and reaction restrictions but it wasn’t long before the tutor uprated them to full speed. Doug had a great half hour!


Here’s Geoff showing perfect control and stopping the machine on inclines.


Couldn’t help taking a picture showing some of the wonderful traditional stonework you can see around the Lakes.


After Cartmel and the Segway session we took a ten minute drive to Grange-over-Sands railway station. This stunning Victorian station was built between 1864 and 1872 (eight years is a long time to build a station, but there we are!), restored in the late 1990’s and is Grade II listed and a real gem.


A ten minute train ride took us across the awesome Morecombe Bay. A vast tidal area as far as the eye can see, it is so flat that the tide is infamous for coming in faster than you can run and has claimed many lives in the past.


We disembarked at the charming “estuary side” village of Arnside ……


…….. where we had lunch and watched the tide come in. Within 20 minutes this view towards the railway viaduct across the sands was completely covered by sea.


We enjoyed more stunning, and almost infinite, views across Morecombe Bay on our train journey back. This time the heat haze obliterated the horizon – giving the impression that the looming mass of Heysham Nuclear power station was floating in the air.


A close-up shows the power station looking as if it really was floating. (James was interested because of his background in nuclear energy but no one else was!)


Back at Geoff and Pam’s home Doug indulged in something he’d been looking forward to all day – feeding the sheep!


What a fabulous view these sheep have!


In Pam’s enormous and beautifully kept garden the rest of us were preparing tea …….


……. next to the lily pond. And, after tea, we took our leave and headed home to Manchester. We’ve always enjoyed the most wonderful hospitality when staying with Pam and Geoff and this occasion was no exception. Thanks so much both of you and we’re looking forward to your visit to us in the near future.


Meanwhile, back in Manchester, the weather turned (so we’re led to believe) quite abnormal and the sun shone, temperatures rose and people took to the grass areas wherever they could. In this case on the Ashton Canal Lock landing just below us.


We took to using our “garden”. We are immensely lucky to have a large garden area, complete with BBQ’s, planted boxes and REAL grass on the roof of the two story garage of the apartment block. This last weekend saw quite a few residents taking advantage of this lovely space.

Today we caught up, quite by chance, with Chris and Christine on nb “Katura” who were with a group of boats heading for a CRT organised cruise on the Huddersfield Canal. We had a lovely chat with them but forgot to take a photo (!). Poor form it has to be said but very nice to see you Chris and Christine.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

All Change! – a Northern “Crash Pad”.

It’s been a while since the last blog entry but there are good reasons for that. It’s been rather a hectic few weeks for us as, three weeks ago, we took ownership of an apartment in Manchester. We have always enjoyed our visits to Manchester and had great fun with what the city has to offer. We can now stay for longer periods and catch up more often with the friends we have in the area now that we have our own “pad”. It will also allow us to explore the north of England and Scotland a bit more than we have.


Our building is a bit unusual and stands next to the Ashton Canal (with the Rochdale Canal not far away either!)


We look down on the first lock of the Ashton flight ……..


…… and can see boats approaching – usually having just climbed the “Rochdale 9” lock flight from the Bridgewater Canal at Castlefield. We have windlasses at the ready (should we be around) to help friends up through the Ashton Flight.


We had a welcome break from cleaning and decorating when an old friend of James’ contacted to say she was in the city with a friend. It was just a case of slinging on some ‘glad rags’ and heading off to Canal Street for a very long overdue meet-up with Jen (middle) and her friend Elspeth.


We took over the apartment only a couple of days after the horrendous suicide bombing at Manchester Arena where 22 people lost their lives. St Ann’s Square became the centre of the city’s grief and also the scene of the National ‘one minute’ silence for victims of the London terrorist attack just a week later.


We joined the many who paid their respects for all the victims of the two attacks ……..


……. and we were joined by a large contingent of police who also attended to pay their own homage.


St Ann’s Square became filled with tributes of all kinds.


On a lighter note we took a couple of days off from our labours and went up to Blackpool. Although very windy during our brief stay the sun shone through for us.


Blackpool hasn’t a great reputation these days but, in our experience, the town  and seafront are very clean and tidy and there are some interesting buildings and good architecture to be seen if you look around. The Opera House in the Winter Gardens is said to be the second largest in Europe.


The main reason for our visit was to attend the first night of “Funny Girls” summer season show. Housed in the old cinema it is (in our opinion again) the best value-for-money entertainment in the country. That evening we, and our friend Cris, were to enjoy a really good time!


But, before “Funny Girls”, we enjoyed a good walk along the seafront and around the town. Millions of £’s have been spent over the last few years on sea defences and marvellous improvements to the seafront – and Blackpool  can still boast three piers.


The new trams are a great improvement but we felt a little bit sad that the old, noisy, wooden ones were gone.


All the piers are in very reasonable condition but sadly not appreciated as much as they should be these days.


The flag atop the famous Blackpool Tower was at half mast as a mark of respect for the recent atrocities in Manchester and London.


The massive Tower, and it’s supporting building which holds the awesome and beautiful Tower Ballroom, the Circus and much more, is truly a national treasure.


The promenade is wide, clean but, on our visit, rather windy!


Walking out to the end of the Central Pier provides a marvellous view towards the north pier and the Tower. The vast beach area, at one time, used to be crowded with holiday makers ……..


…….. and the view to the south was equally deserted!


Well, Thursday evening came and our prepaid (£3.50) tickets got us in to the most hilarious and entertaining evening at “Funny Girls”. The main entertainer and choreographer, Betty “Legs” Diamond, hosts six or seven cabaret shows and ends with a stunning finale. Unfortunately on this evening (being the first show of the season!) the costumes hadn’t arrived so we were given a further cabaret. 


Betty’s boys and “girls” give a very energetic 10 minute performance for each cabaret.


The performances are basically a take-off of popular musicals and shows and Betty, the consummate performer, is very clever and very funny.


Between each performance we have time for chatting and socialising and an opportunity to request songs from the obliging, but rather sarcastic, DJ “Zoe” – seen here receiving a request from friend Cris.


Friday morning arrived after a wonderful and late Thursday night (!) and, before we left, we partook of a scrumptious Blackpool breakfast fry-up in the sunshine. A great end to a great stay.