A Meandering Mann

Thoughts, quirky insights and experiences that occur before and during my year away.

Author: Maggie (Page 1 of 5)

Meanwhile, back at the Scoula del Cuoio

When I signed up for the course I noticed that they offered a three and six month course which ran concurrently, the six month course included learning Italian. I wondered, and inquired, whether we all went to school in the morning, and the language students studied in the afternoon. No, I was told, you go to school all day. 9.30 to 5 pm. With half an hour for lunch. Half an hour for lunch in Italy? What about siesta? No siesta, just half an hour for lunch. Now I tend to be a little late for things, but I am not late for school. Often getting there a little early, we barely take 30 minutes for lunch and are often there until 5.15 or 5.25. And we don’t stop. All day long. We work at our own pace, although we are all learning together. Some of the young women have experience with pattern making and sewing and are very fast. I have never made patterns before, and the lines have to be precise. I am used to working in inches, and eighths of inches, which I can pretty well visualize, but here it is centimeters, and millimeters, and those millimeters are tiny. Counting 2, or 3, or 4 is challenging to my eyes. And cutting from exact point to exact point without the ruler slipping…. is getting better.

The prototype is in the corner. The leather pieces are cut, deer skin as soft as silk for the outside, and a beautiful fine leather lining. From start to finish, seven days. So production has slowed down somewhat.

The Classic Bag. I made a very simple version, which I think looks a little like a 60’s air hostess bag.

It is constructed in two parts, the outside and the inside, and then sewn together, so everything has to match exactly, and underneath that smooth surface is all kinds of supporting structures. Linings, interlinings, bits of metal, tape to support stitching. I will never look at a bag in the same way again. The shoulder strap took me the most part of a day to construct, and of course I made it more complicated because I wanted a buckle to adjust the length.

Although we all tend to have a side project as well. Mine was replacing a wallet that I have had and loved for over 30 years.

I made it slightly bigger and added a small flap so that the cards I keep in it do not fall out.

I already know that when I make it again it will be slightly different, but I am very happy with it as a prototype. Of course two other people, my brothers in law, have asked me to remake their wallets. We do get attached to our things!

Martin’s wallet, well used.
It has four pouches. A clever design.

The prototype, made in Salpa, reconstituted leather, is also used for linings to give support to the finished item. We are on break for a week and I brought the leather pieces home with me to trim. However, we leave for Venice tomorrow, Monday and after that to Lucca for an overnight so not sure if I will get to it.

I am now in the process of making a bag called a Bugatti. Don’t know why, it doesn’t look like a sports car. It is another seven or eight day bag. And Sally has put in her order for a bucket bag which is the next thing that we make. The final part of her 60th birthday present.

Sally, choosing the dimensions of her bag.

Firenze fact. It is hard to find a Florentine in Florence voluntarily during August. Stores shut down, factories shut down and everyone heads to the beach. I have seen closures for a week, but most often for longer. As someone who used to own a clinic and store I find it amazing that they can give up the income and pay the rent while they are away and not go broke. But it is hot. 38C today.

Caio

Florence, the continuing adventure.

Hailey and Sandra. No mistaking they are mother and daughter, the same lovely smile

My first guests have already come and gone, and the week they were here disappeared in an instant. Although I have only been here four weeks it was fun to see Florence as new again through their eyes. And it was fun to be able to show them around a little bit using my growing knowledge of where things are. I used to think I had a good sense of direction until I traveled with my friend Brenda to Boston. I was just getting my bearings but she already and always knew which way to go, even though it was the first time there for both of us. I had to have a rethink of my capabilities. Here I have a well worn tourist map tucked in my bag. Now more of a security blanket than a necessity. Strangely I love imaps for driving, but find it frustrating when I am walking. I wonder if other people have the same experience.

How can you not take a photograph?

The closer you get to the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), the more expensive the shops become. The bridge is packed with 18k gold jewellery stores, and in the surrounding area pretty well every big Italian fashion house is represented. Gucci, Dolce & Gabana, Fendi, Giorgio Armani, Prada, to name a few, and although I will very likely never shop in them it feels “right” that they are here. Italian companies in an Italian town.

Ponte Vecchio, shops locked up at night, but still thronging with people.

When I was a kid I loved the idea that old London Bridge had shops built all along it. It burned down in 1666 during the Great Fire of London and when they rebuilt it the shops did not return.

Ponte Vecchio, the famous view, with the Vasari Corridor across the top, allowing the Medici’s to get from their palace to work (ruling Tuscany and financing European monarchs) without being assassinated. It is one kilometer in length, snaking along on both sides of the river.

All during my time on Little Star I enjoyed hearing church bells coming across the countryside air. Often it was a weekday evening that I would notice the sounds, and the bells were tuneful and often went on for some time, stopping and then starting again. I imagined that it was the practice session for the bell ringers, to get it right for Sunday services. It was a far cry from the single bell that rang out from our village church on Sunday morning, a rather doleful sound, but that has nothing on the bells of Florence. I have been trying to find the right word to express the sound. Clamouring? Dissosant? Tumultous? Discordant? People are hauling on those bell ropes for all they are worth with no concern for how they sound, often two bells or more at a time, completely out of step with each other, and jangling on the ears and nerves. But they do ring at 7 am in the morning, when I need to wake up for school. They must follow the Catholic church services as they ring at times I can make no sense of, not being a Catholic.

San Lorenzo Market, now my regular Saturday morning market, buying what is in season.

I will bring all my visitors here. Markets, a connection not just to other markets worldwide, but to all markets through time. For some reason markets always make me think of the Silk Road, and traders moving their goods from China and India all the way to the Middle East and on to Europe, and goods going in the other direction. Meeting at markets along the way and trading. Spikenard is mentioned in the Bible, set in the Middle East, but it comes from the Himalayas.

The temperature in Florence has cooled down to the low 30’s now, so I am able to take more than small sips of the city when I venture out, but most people still seek the shade. The following two pictures were taken standing in the same spot, just in different directions.

Just over that shade line
Hardy people in the sun, mostly walking.

Notice the beautiful paving stones, these are relatively flat. Many around Florence are worn and very uneven. Watching where you walk is an absolute necessity to avoid a twisted ankle. I will have to take pictures of the street next to Sante Croce, which are the worst I have seen. I wonder if there is a disclaimer that we all commit to about not suing the city of Florence if we injure ourselves as tourists. North American cities would never survive being sued by trip and fall suits being brought against them if their pedestrian, or roadways, were in this condition. It is truly authentic, and I don’t blame them for leaving them they way they are. Definitely part of the character of Florence as much as the Duomo or Baboli Gardens.

While Sandra and Hailey were here we wandered along the banks of the Arno, abandoning a plan to climb up to the Piazzale Michelangelo because of impending thunder, lightning and rain, and having had to abandon climbing the Torre Palazo Vecchio, tower of the old palace, due to rain that began and ended and began again. They close the tower when it rains. As we walked along we saw a throng of people looking over a bridge to the water. This is what Hailey saw when she zoomed in with her camera.

We still do not know whether they were rescuing the dog, or if the dog was there to sniff out a body or ? We hung around for a while but gelato was calling, so we don’t know the outcome. Didn’t really fancy seeing a body being brought up. We checked the local news as much as we could but to no avail.

Firenze fact. The historical part of Florence is a Limited Traffic Zone. It limits who can drive in the city at various times of the day. Now being Italy it is a very complicated system, which changes between Sundays and the rest of the week, holidays, and between seasons. It only allows residents, taxis, delivery trucks and municipal (or subcontracted) vehicles, such as the garbage pick up from the designated boxes to drive in the old part of town. Which is great for pedestrians. Even if it is a roadway walking in the road is possible, which is essential to pass snaking lines of tourists as they follow their shepherds, I mean tour guides, listening to the guide through their headsets. I checked out a visitor site that emphasized that even if you made a wrong turn and ended up in a LTZ for one minute that they would find you and send a fine, long after you returned home. I had been planning to drive to Florence from Amsterdam because I was going to be bringing Zoey. As much as I miss her every day and wish I could still enjoy her wonderful energy I am glad I don’t have a vehicle here. However, there are enough scooters, vehicles and bikes on the road to keep us on our toes. I certainly wouldn’t want to be a driver trying to avoid tourists. Or tourons as a young man serving us lunch in Yellowstone park, right next to Old Faithful, called us back in 1983. The word has really stuck with me. It was, quite literally, the last day of the season, his last day of work, and he was letting off steam. Pun intended. Ciao.

English, the international language of tourism

Here I am, in Florence, a uni-lingual person, making myself sufficiently understood to get along as most people associated with tourism have at least a little English.

When I was a young teenager I travelled with my family to the Netherlands. I remember being very impressed that the person serving in a small local store spoke English. I am pretty sure that the equivalent person at the store near my home was unlikely to speak other languages. French and German were only offered to “O” level students, not all secondary students. Dutch was not offered at all. Again, when I travelled to Iceland in 2007 it was normal for everyone to speak Icelandic, Danish, English and probably one other language. We were visiting a hot spring and talking to a mother and young daughter, maybe 10. The daughters English was excellent but she hesitated to speak because she thought her accent was not very good. I do not think it crossed her mind that we did not speak Icelandic.

I am attending a school where instruction is offered in Italian and in English. In my class there are 5 women from South Korea, one woman from China and myself. Our English speaking teacher, Ted, is from Singapore and the Italian speaking teacher, Mao, is Japanese. No one is speaking in their first language except me! Most of the teaching is done in English as only one student speaks Italian, and she has a lot of experience with sewing fabric already, so catches on easily. She is also amazingly proficient with an iPad pro, it is mesmerising to watch her. I use old fashion pen and paper to write notes. The technological divide in evidence.

At the teaching table, learning from Ted

It was an experiment on the part of the school to offer the course in July, August and September instead of September, October and November as it had been in previous years which I think accounts for the very small class. The usual number of students is closer to 20. We get a lot of individual attention and help and there is no real waiting time to use machines or ask questions. And we have room to spread out at our work stations. A privileged group.

We are still learning new techniques at a furious rate. Each new item that we make, actually usually two at a time, focuses on adding a new technique or two. Two at a time because there are variations, such as soft leather and stiffer leather, seams with piping and without. This week it was coloured edges, zippers and piping. It is quite stunning that we are producing finished objects so fast. I count eight completed projects in two weeks.

My first zippers on my first zipped bags

Do you notice the leather forming the ends of the zippers? That is because we made the zips. We had to remove the metal teeth with clippers, no easy job, put on the zip mechanism and learned two ways of finishing them, with metal, or as here, with leather. Not sure I will be doing that in my own studio.

First zipped pouches ready for sewing the seam
Week 2’s production

I haven’t yet quite finished doing what we were taught at the previous teaching time before we are called together for the next one. That is a goal I hope to achieve!

I have been exploring Florence in small sips, taking a new way to or from school, and going out on weekends. I say small sips because it is hot and I am not an extreme heat seeker. It is going up to 33C today, and 39 or 40 later in the week, but thankfully humidity is low, so shade really is cooler. A lot more civilised than Toronto yesterday. My friend Katherine told me that with the humidex the temperature was in the mid 40’s! The hottest day of the year so far. She was not planning on going outside.

When I reach a piazza I plan a route to get across it and back into the shade quickly. I could go round the edges in the shade, but that is where the curb side restaurants are set up, or people are huddled, seeking respite from the sun. The streets are filled with tourists wearing very comfortable shoes, loose clothing and hats, each person having their own individual Florence experience. Either following a tour guide holding a stick in the air like a sheep herder holding a staff, or in small groups, parents and children having an Italian experience, or couples doing the romantic thing. I know how I used to feel when I walked home from my massage therapy clinic in the Beach after work at around 8.30 pm. Sidewalks were crowded with people strolling, eating ice cream, pushing strollers and walking dogs. I just wanted to get home and it was trying. I can only imagine what it feels like to be a Florentine dealing with the invasion of tourists every day, and I am not sure it is possible to avoid tourists because the whole town is a tourist attraction.

A copy of David by Michelangelo in Palazzo Vecchio. No where near the beauty of the original in the Accadamia. The marble of the original really adds to its magnificence.

They sure get the scooters close together in these parking areas
Basilica di Santa Croce, where my school is attached at the back, along with a functioning monastery.

Yesterday I visited the San Lorenzo Market, full of cheese stalls, meat stalls, vegetable stalls, truffle stalls, bread stalls and cafes. All the riches of Tuscany. It was a wonderland. It reminded me of the St. Lawrence market in Toronto, the covered market in Durham, the Borough market in London before it changed focus to street food, and the lovely Saturday market in my new home town, Owen Sound. This particular covered market is surrounded by stalls outside selling, you guessed it, leather. Down every street in Florence you are bound to pass a store or street stall selling leather. Clearly a substantial part of the economy is selling leather to tourists. And they do it with a vengeance. It is quite a skill to politely avoid being roped in to look more closely at something you have glanced at, because once they snare you, you are half way sold. So I will look more closely when I am ready to buy, but at my present rate of production, it won’t be very much.

Firenze fact. I have been very impressed with how much biodegradable plastic is used here, both for garbage bags and food bags. And at the San Lorenzo Market all the food was packaged in paper bags. Way to go Florence.

10,000 Hours

Courtyard leading to the Scuola del Cuoio, 2016

Some time ago I was listening to a CBC radio program where they were discussing what made a band successful in the long term. The person being interviewed believed it was a long period of playing together before a band became famous. He used the Beatles as an example. Long before they were successful in Britain, and subsequently around the world, they played gig after gig in Hamburg in the fall of 1960. Four and a half hours a night during the week, and 6 hours on Saturday and Sunday. They were honing their craft, both individually and as a band. He cited the 10,000 hour theory, which in part states that practice, practice, practice is an essential part of success in accomplishing goals. Of course there is great controversy about whether natural skill plays a part, but the old saying goes “practice makes perfect”. I am drawing comfort from the 10,000 hour rule at this moment in time.

This is my work station, the picture was taken in 2016

In the summer of 2016 I was touring Italy with friends and my sister Mary joined me in Florence, Firenze. She came upon the Scuola del Cuoio while visiting the Basilica Sante Croce, it is attached at the back. She insisted that I see it. When not entering by the Basilica you come through the courtyard above. On the left side of the courtyard was a large room with a beautiful vaulted brick ceiling and obviously a leather working workshop. I was intrigued. We visited the retail store and picked up a brochure about courses they offered and my mind began to plan a way to work a course into my retirement. It was one of those times when you see something and it just felt right. So here I am.

The course began four days ago and we have been learning techniques at a terrific rate, one could say “like hell bent for leather”. Sciving, or skiving, which I knew to mean playing hooky from school, or generally getting out of something that you didn’t want to do, now means reducing the thickness of leather at the edges allowing it to be folded more easily. Net now does not mean your income after expenses have been deducted, but the pattern that is the same size as the finished leather item. Several, maybe even four or five, times a day the teacher gathers us around to demonstrate a new technique or the next step in what we are making. By the end of day three we had produced our first item. I made a document case. I really didn’t want an eyeglass case, or a phone case, so I bigged it up. Made it a bit more challenging, but how was I to know that, not knowing much of anything at the time.

My first finished item, don’t look too closely.

We are experiencing an apprenticeship that would have taken years and years in times gone by condensed into 10 weeks. Which is why I take comfort from the 10,000 hour theory. By day three my mind was giving me some pretty bad self-talk because I wasn’t doing everything perfectly first time, or sometimes even second time. My ruler would slip while I was cutting, my measuring would be off my a millimeter or two so a pattern would have to be re-done. And then I had to get a grip and get realistic. It was day three. And I have just about 10,000 more hours in my life to practice before I am perfect. It helps to keep the bad self-talk down.

Tools of the trade. And some big scary machines, not pictured.

Firenze fact. You don’t put your garbage, recycling and organic waste out to be collected, you deposit it in bins that are placed fairly frequently around town. So when I leave in the morning I take a bag of recycling, or organic waste or garbage and walk it to the community bin. I am staying in the historical district, so I don’t know if this applies everywhere.

How far did we go?

People on Board From – to Miles Locks
Sally, Trevor, Lucien and Dani Overwater – Chester- Overwater 47 26
Sue and Katherine Overwater to Kinver 48 48
Katherine Kinver to Saltisford Arm, Warwick 62 113
Mary, with guests Wendy and Dan in Reading Saltifsord Arm, Warwick to Bath 179 175
Single handed Bath to Great Bedwyn 42 56
Jane and Martin Great Bedwyn to Thatcham 17 26
Jane Thatcham to St Pancras Cruising Club 95 53
Single handed with guests Mary and Suzie at Camden Lock St. Pancras Cruising Club to Bridge 191, Grand Union Canal, Main Branch 19 3
Anne Bridge 191, Grand Union Canal to Fenny Stratford, 45 68
Jim and Karen Fenny Stratford to Banbury 65 42
Jim, Karen, Cathy, Les, Mary, Charlie, Ann Banbury to Cropredy to Banbury 10 10
Cathy and Les Banbury to Kidlington 21 14
Single handed Kidlington to Bossoms Marina, Oxford 6 5
John, Martin and Daniel Bossoms Marina to Lechlade 29 11
John, Martin and Daniel, with guests Julia and Carla as far as Kelmscot Lechlade to Oxford 30 11
Sally, Wendy and Derek, and their dog Blue Oxford to Banbury 27 17
Single handed Banbury to Napton on the Hill 20 20
Derek Napton to Atherston 41.5 9
Single handed Atherston to Stone 43.5 19
Sandra Stone to Sandbach  24 36
Single handed Sandbach to Overwater Marina 20.5 11


891.5 773
Single handed
124 136

Well, this looks a bit like a dogs breakfast! I wish I was more tech savvy because the whole spreadsheet shows the dates and the canals traveled, but I can’t even expand the locks column, never mind figure out how to get the other columns to show up when I cut and paste it over here.

The numbers are pretty impressive though, I think. Well done everyone, it was a great adventure from beginning to end, rain, sleet, thunderstorms, wind and lovely sunshine. Lots of laughter, great company and great food, with some culture thrown in from time to time.

The Secret Bunker

Taking leave of Little Star

Each time I have driven in and out of Overwater Marina I have passed “The Secret Bunker”. Sally and Trevor came to collect me and all my accumulated gear but we had time to finally explore the Bunker. It felt like an interesting continuation of visiting Bletchley, the 2nd World War code breaking centre. The Secret Bunker is all about what came next, the Cold War, the background of my childhood. The Bunker is dense with information, but not well curated. I have been very impressed with the curation of places such as Bletchley, Blenheim, and a few years ago, the Cabinet War Room and Hampton Court. As a child I and my siblings were dragged around from boring museum to boring museum. Specimens in a display case completely out of context with their everyday use. Then I went to exhibits at the Museum of Ethnology near Piccadilly in the early 70’s and everything changed. There was a Bedouin village and a street representing a market in north Africa somewhere, contrasting the different lifestyles. So amazing. So the bar is set pretty high these days. And I am sorry to say that the Bunker did not make the grade. Maybe it is privately owned, or underfunded by the ministry of defence, but it needs an infusion of Lottery money to transform it. I think it has an important part to play today.

I learned about ICBM’s (inter continental ballistic missiles) in high shool when I was 12 or 13. We did not practice nuclear bomb drills the way that my cousins did in Canada, basically hide under your desks, but it was always hanging over my, and I imagine many others, head. We never spoke about it. It was too awful and scary. The Bunker was all about detecting a nuclear attack should it be happening, and giving the public warning. 4 minutes warning. What were we supposed to do? To my mind, back then, no one would survive, and given what would happen to the planet, who would want to. But there were companies willing to sell you a fall out shelter.

My question would be, what happened if you were on holiday when the attack happened? Four minutes is not long enough even to get home from work. So there was all this elaborate planning to let the public know of the impending attack, and there were provisions for the people who were monitoring the attack to be safe underground, and there were systems to measure the fallout, but realistically, what was the benefit to the people who were just about to be vapourised?

My parents certainly never built a fallout shelter, and it was not discussed at home. We just lived with the tension of worrying that it might happen.

I think the Secret Bunker has a big role to play in education about a world under threat of nuclear war as we seem to be heading back in that direction at this moment in time. And how helpless we really are should it happen. How I would have loved to have been a curator.

Merry Meet, Merry Part, Merry Meet Again. Little Star’s crew and visitors

What a rich adventure I have had, not least because of all the lovely people that have joined me, for an hour or a month!

February 2019

My sister Sally who has gone above and beyond with her help, collecting things for the boat and ferrying me to the boat and then bringing summer stuff and taking winter stuff back with her. And my nephew Lucien, my steering coach.
Trevor, Sally’s sidekick.
Dani and Lucien conferring. A candle in a gin bottle for mood lighting.
Katherine and Sue arriving
Sue driving. Happy as a lark.
Diver, Zoey’s favourite toy, she had to come along.
Katherine on the towpath. Our first al fresco lunch, in February!
Katherine, enjoying helming

March 2019

My sister Mary who joined me for March. We navigated the first stretch of the Thames together, along with the heavy and stiff locks on the Kennet and Avon canal.

My first cousin, once removed, Wendy, and her friend Dan. They joined Mary and I for a couple of hours in Reading.

A star on Little Star. My great nephew Ruben.
He had to bring his parents, nephew Edmund, and wife Laura holding the phone!
Laura, Ruben’s Mum.
Getting ready for the Anti-Brexit march. Mary with college friends Suzie on the right of the picture, Sarah on the left. Suzie later visited the boat in Camden

Suzie and David’s son Jamie and his wife Helen with their son Robin stepped onto the boat for very short visits in Bath. I visited them at their home in Frome, pronounced Froom!

April 2019

Sister Jane on board in April
Martin, Janes’ partner, came on board for a weekend. Don’t know why I don’t have a photo from then, but here he is at a wine tasting at Big Head winery last summer.

Jane was on board for the return trip along the Kennet and Avon and the second stretch on the Thames.

May 2019

Anne Chetwynd with the prizewinning maple syrup that broke when the pound ran dry and the boat listed violently
Anne, very quickly comfortable with the locks

Then came cousins, from the Oakden branch of the family, Mums sister’s children.

Cousin Jim and wife Karen visited for the first week of May. Jim is Wendy’s uncle, they live in Fernie, BC so this was a great way to get to know them

Karen broke her leg while skiing in January and lost her walking stick in the canal. We could not recover it. Here she is holding her temporary walking aid, a glove and apron over a stick.

We had a mini family reunion in Banbury, the Manns and Oakdens.

From left to right, Jim with Mary, Ann and brother Charlie, and Cathy.

Sally, with cousin Cathy and husband Les. Cathy is aunt to Wendy.
Sally and Les

Next were my Hastings neighbours, Martin and Daniel, and my cousin John from Dad’s side of the family.

Julia and Carla

June 2019

Derek and Wendy, friends of Sally’s came for a few days, along with Sally, then Derek came back by himself to get more of a taste of narrowboating.

Last, but certainly not least, Sandra. One of my earliest massage clients and now friend.


Rain in June, persistent rain

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Yep, it is raining, and it has been for quite a while. Oh for the days in February when we had a picnic beside the Droitwich Canal, or similar days in March and April, and May. It has been a very dry winter and spring, and I have been the glad recipient of wonderful unseasonable weather along my canal journey, but the tables are turned, and it is wet, in June. The month that I anticipated summer clothes and sandals is actually rain gear and the heat on in the evening to dry it out for the next day. I sincerely hope it is better for my last crew member, she is one of my very first clients from the early 80’s, who is joining me this weekend.

Who could resist a boat named after them? If I was to do this again, perhaps it would have to be a Maggie boat, but I have enjoyed Little Star. Such a lovely name. She reminds me of The Little Engine That Could. She just chugs along and gets on with it, at her own speed. But what about a boat named after a country:

I caught this on the fly, between rain drops and picking up garbage, rubbish in English English, from the canal.

This is two days worth from the Coventry Canal and the Birmingham and Fazely Canal. That is only the stuff that I grabbed while I am also steering the boat. Such a sense of achievement when I grab it, such sorry when I miss, or can’t reach it, or it is on the other side of the boat. So, there is an organization from Australia that is promoting plasticfreejuly.org. And on the BBC on Monday was War on Plastic with Hugh and Anita (that is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani) who are exploring reducing our use of single use plastics. It has got me thinking and thinking as I drive along, grabbing plastic, mainly plastic, out of the canal about how I can re-train myself about single use plastic. And it really does come down to re-training ourselves. So watch this space for future workshops on making your own re-usable vegetable bags when I am home in Owen Sound.

Which brings me to magnet fishing. This really is a thing. My friend Sue sent me links to YouTube about it which were amazing, but I saw one today on the canal. He had found mainly big stuff.

You can tell by their clothes that it was not a hot and sunny day
The graffiti isn’t bad, but it is the bike and scooter he found.
Finally, a lonely windmill in the south
Gorgeous poppies
Those beautiful yellow irises

Just in case you are feeling too sorry for me I had a break in single handing for a few days. Derek really wanted to do more narrowboating so while his wife was away in sunny Spain with my sister Sally for a preliminary 60th birthday celebration he came back to the boat. He took the helm, and it rained and rained and rained. On his second night the wind was so strong, gusting from every direction, and the rain was so heavy that I could not sleep. It was the worst night storm of my whole adventure and I am glad he was aboard. So every day we heard about how wonderful and sunny it was in Spain and we got soaked. Him more than me. But in my defense I cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner, and got a lot of paper work done. The detritus of our lives that collects and collects until we have to do something about it. Not surprisingly a tree came down over the canal as a result of that storm and we had to halt at about 3 pm. We booked dinner in a local pub and walked there at 5.30 pm and by the time we came home, about 8 pm it was done. Well done, sub-contractors of the Canal and River Trust.

You may have to enlarge the picture to see the tree
Iconic canal bridge. This would have been for the horses to change from the towpath on one side of the canal to the other.

So many pictures….

Daniel at the helm on the Thames
River Thames, Longworth. It is supposed to be a video, but doesn’t appear to be.
John holding the boat steady in a lock on the Thames
Lawn daisies at the Trout Inn
Trout Inn at Tadpole Bridge
Martin and Maggie
The lock keepers look after the gardens. Some have very green thumbs.
Haunting
Wisteria in Lechlade.
Is Tonka Toys a world wide brand? They made or still make small trucks and cars for kids.
I love the drama of the clouds
Kelmscott Manor
Greylag Geese with chicks, or could be White-fronted Geese
Crops agrowing, barley? Oats?
Try pronouncing that….
Kingston Bagpuize, Georgian Manor with Redwoods
Trying the Manor life on for size.
Memories of Morse
Hertford College
Bodlein Library. One of their sites. They have the right to a copy of every book published in the U.K. Maybe Dad’s published PhD thesis is buried on one of their shelves. All of Harry Potter?
Christ Church
Oxford Pride
Returning from a concert in Oxford
Worcester College Quad, side one
Worcester College Quad, side two
Worcester College Quad, side three. What a place to go to university! What a sense of entitlement it must engender.
Me again
University Church of St Mary the Virgin. That is a mouthful, and was she a virgin?
View from the spire
All Souls College
Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Anne Hathaway’s childhood home.
John, Daniel, Martin. Daniel lost his sunglasses…. had to buy these.
Going to look this up. A lot about plastics in the papers this week. I have been treating myself to the Saturday Guardian. I know, it contradicts my desire to bury my head in the sand about world events.
Derek and Wendy
Had to end with this. Yep, glad it is not recorded, anywhere.

The kindness of strangers and those wonderful volunteers.

Cygnets. Mom and Dad were close by.

It has been an amazing experience to have traveled through the seasons as well as travel the canals. I began in darkest winter, literally dark by about 4 pm, but I could see right into the distance during the day – there were no leaves on the trees. And hardly any boats moving on the canal. As we moved into spring the birds began to mate, and build nests. And the flowers came and then the leaves on the trees. So many daffodils! A personal favourite. And then the lambs and chicks came. It is almost impossible not to count how chicks or cygnets there are in a family group, and it is quite a challenge. They skitter all over the place, it is as if they hydrofoil, they paddle with their feet so quickly that they rise up out of the water and wizz along the surface. They almost seem drawn to passing in front of the boat even though Mom is on the opposite side. Then they chirp like crazy trying to find her after they are on the wrong side. I have had to abandon coming in to a mooring because one was between the canal side and the boat. Finally it scampered away, if you can scamper in water.

Now the grass is even greener, the fields are filled with crops including rape, which we call canola, and the trees are in full leaf so my view is limited unless there is a break.

The lambs are growing up, it is amazing how fast they grow, and their moms have been sheared. Who knew sheep have such long legs. Sadly, the wool is not used commercially, it is too coarse. In this age where we are trying to reduce our use of synthetics it is sad that we can not find more use for this natural fibre. Sheep that give good wool for weaving and knitting are from sheep specially bred for that and are not usually used for meat.

I have never seen a lamb or sheep kneel to eat before, but this one nibbled in this position and walked on his knees to reach new grass. Hilarious.
Leaves on the trees and men in boats

Each year this group of men get together to travel the Thames, virtually from the source, but I am not sure where they end. They have all made their boats by hand, although some were not using them this year. One used his feet, like a paddle boat. He could read while he traveled!

On the Thames between Lechlade and Oxford

I am in the middle of a stretch of single-handing and it never ceases to amaze me how much help has been to hand every day. Lucky lucky me. When you have crew and someone helps you out at a lock it is a bonus, when you are single-handing it is invaluable and you really appreciate canal etiquette. What is canal etiquette you may ask? Well, it is a lovely thing. If you arrive at a lock that is already in use you take over closing it and the people in the lock move on. This works whether you are going in the same direction, or opposite direction. I have been single-handing for three days, and every day I have had help at the locks. Today is a perfect example. I was just pulling Little star out of a lock with ropes when a boat showed up behind me. It was the first lock of 9. They took over the lock and I drove to the next lock. I set up the lock, e.g. fill it with water, as all of them were empty on arrival, open it and drive my boat in and close the lock. By which time the boat following would have arrived behind me. The top paddles would be opened, and the lock emptied, and they would open the gates and I would drive to the next lock and repeat the whole process. In the pouring rain. Yes, it is June 7th and it feels like March or April, not early summer. Now, I got to the last two locks, and low and behold, there were volunteers. No fair weather volunteers either. They were all wrapped up in rain slickers and they helped me through to the end. The Napton locks were in the bag, now for a long stretch with no locks.

Beautiful yellow iris, they grow everywhere along the canal side.

After a hot shower, and several hours figuring out the route back to my home base, Overwater Marina, I went to the local pub, The Folly Inn, to back up all my devices, and hopefully all the pictures that I was having trouble with would be sorted out by icloud, and, of course, to have a drink. And in the pub were the three people on the boat behind that were helping me.

John, Glenda and Torbin from narrowboat Isla

All from Perth, Australia, doing a couple of weeks on the canals. So of course a round of drinks were bought for them and we had a lovely chat after I got my devices sorted out and a bit of this blog written.

Opportunistic flowers, although I am sure they would not have chosen this location

I sat down at a table that has an electrical outlet, necessary for all that backing up, and at the same table were a couple with a greyhound. Turns out they are fostering him, his name is Alan. He dislocated his hip and after a while was given up by the dog racing people. There was no treatment for the dislocation so his body has done the best it can to stabilize the joint and he is under weight. They are re-habbing him for adoption. Turns out they are both trainers for guide dogs for the blind. Talk about pulling on my heartstrings. Zoey was a failed hearing dog, and she dislocated her hip. I think Alan will land on his four paws with a good family.

Alan, just 9 months old
Alan, hard to get a good picture in a confined space
This is the first time I have seen anything that even begins to look like Zoey.

It is getting busy here in the pub, I am at a table that has been booked for 7.30 and they have arrived so it is musical chairs at the moment as we all get sorted out, the couple with Alan have moved tables and I need to evacuate. So more later.

Something I keep meaning to write about is the number of houses that have pv (photo-voltaic) panels on their roofs. Now I know that it takes good government subsidies to get a huge uptake in innovative technology that is quite expensive but I am still impressed. Sometimes a whole flock of houses situated together are covered with panels. It warms my heart to see all of these mini power stations generating power. I wonder how many panels it takes to put one coal burning power station out of work, and how many more for a nuclear power station. And wind turbines are common here, but it seems more in the north than the south. I haven’t seen too many from canal, but I have seen lots of high tension wires with their massive pylons appearing to march over the countryside and I know I would prefer to see elegant windmills. Apparently traditional windmills were seen as an eyesore when they were first built and now we treat them as tourist attractions.

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