apple pie

Quite a few windfall apples, mainly from Annie-Elizabeth but a few Worcester Pearmain as well – I expect that there will be a lot more after tonight’s forecast gale! A quick scrub-up, stewed, and made into a pie (sadly, bought pastry – I can’t make puff!) and a couple of turnovers put in the freezer.

rose arch

The long branches of Etoile d’Hollande reaching three or four foot above the rose arch were catching today’s gusty wind. I lost a previous rose arch in similar weather, so it was out with the long-handled pruners and a (very overdue) trim all round. The couple of rosebuds still on the plant have been stuck in a vase indoors  – more may appear, though the leaves are now turning yellow and I don’t think it will be one of the years it flowers until November.

RIP “the garden cat”

I haven’t seen the ginger “garden cat” for some ten days now. They’ve been very poorly of late, coming in to sleep under the round table for the past six or seven weeks, and losing weight rapidly. I had a fortnight or so of having to put a litter-tray behind my chair, as they weren’t managing to make it outside.

On Monday (11th September) they’d fallen asleep in the litter tray, on top of a pile of poo, and barely had the strength to go out through the French window when I opened it. I haven’t seen them since … a sad end to an animal that had clearly had a rough life, and was terrified of humans (though, four years after I started feeding it regularly, it would allow me within a couple of feet at feeding time). I shall choose to remember it, as a feral creature that came to trust me, and share warm spots in my garden and house.

Canal trip

posted retrospectively – I was waiting for Phoebe’s pics!

Friday 15th September
Phoebe and Will, in Sim’s car, had arranged to meet me at Cosford Station just outside Wolverhampton at 12.30. My train got in just after 12. Shortly after 1300, I got a text to say that there was a horrendous hold-up on the motorway, and they’d be an hour and three-quarters late. Oh, well.

Cosford Station is rural (on the very outskirts of the town), between RAF Cosford / the RAF museum and the barracks / accommodation serving it. There’s a small hut containing a cafe, but really nothing else. Still, I was able to have a bacon sandwich before the cafe closed at 4. In the end, I had about a three-hour wait, relived occasionally by the odd handsome flyboy or squaddie passing.

Will volunteered to ring Blackwater Marina and let them know we were running very late, with an ETA of 1645 – and we did arrive almost exactly then. Very nice and helpful guy checked us in and did the handover, training Will on the steering etc, and doing a short run up the canal with us before jumping off. As we were so late, we didn’t make it to our planned overnight mooring spot. Theo caught a cab to a bridge in the middle of nowhere … Bridge 67, which turned out to be the wrong bridge. Fortunately, only a hundred yards from the right bridge, Bridge 66, so with some playing with pins on Google Maps by him and Phoebe we all managed to meet up. The bridges are either side of the branch-off to the currently-being-restored Montgomery Canal.  Food was pizza (traditional for me on a boating trip, though Phoebe wasn’t aware of that when buying the food), so quick and filling and much appreciated.

Saturday 16th September
Sadly, the recently restored bank area proved not to be solid! We were all awake, but not yet into “boating mode”, when a boat came past at full speed – six or even seven mph, I think. The massive wash pulled the mooring pins out and the boat swung round to nearly side-on. Fortunately, I was able to start the engine after only five seconds warm-up, and get us back facing sensibly … Will took over after a couple of minutes while I face down a massive adrenaline rush!

A good day’s boating. We successfully did the only two locks on the route (New Morton Lock 1 and Lock 2), with Will on the tiller, Phoebe and Theo on gates and paddles, and me “advising”! There were a couple of bank stops to look for a shop – the first at a tiny shop-free (but very pleasant) village. The second was at Bridge 16, where the dual-carriageway A5 crosses overhead. A short and very noisy stroll took us to a Marks and Spencer in a service area, where chicken, more munchies and alcohol were bought.

Towards the end of the day was the glorious Chirk Aqueduct, followed very shortly by the Chirk Tunnel We got lucky, and there were no oncoming boats, so Will took us pretty much straight through. A short distance further we turned round in the Black Park Winding Hole, with Will managing it pretty well. We went a couple of hundred yards back towards the tunnel before mooring for the night.

Light was starting to fade, but we managed twenty minutes or so of fishing. At least, I did, catching three roach up to about 3/4 pound – Phoebe and Will were less successful, and by the time they’d recovered from the dreaded “tackle in tree” in was getting too dark. Supper, courtesy of Phoebe, was a mild chicken curry and rice. We stayed up until after 1am: a most convivial group and an all-round excellent evening.

Sunday 17th
I was a bit concerned about getting us back to the Marina on time – we needed to be in by 0900h on Monday so had to moor for the night fairly close to it, and had virtually the whole distance we’d covered on Friday and Saturday to do. Locks can get busy … so I asked for a fairly early start. Theo took us back through the tunnel and over the aqueduct before handing over to Phoebe for her first time at the helm. Probably not the best place, in retrospect: the canal is narrow and winds tightly round the edge of assorted hills as it leaves the aqueduct. As we rounded one tight bend, there was a sign for collapsed banks, with a couple of boats moored opposite and a boat approaching. Grounding duly ensued!

Despite good efforts by Theo, Will and Phoebe, the boat didn’t move much. Eventually, they ended up at the bow, pushing with the pole, and I took the tiller. Fortunately, the grounding was (as usual) close to the stern, effectively under the lowest point which is the engine. By putting the tiller on a hard lock, and revving the engine to max, I was able to pile up enough water against the bank to raise that part of the boat the necessary couple of inches to loosen it, and with others stopping the nose from grounding on the soft bank we managed to get free. I did continue on the tiller for a few hundred yards, but found it too much stress on my back – you have to stand forward of the tiller in case it hits an obstacle and swings round violently.

Coming back down the locks was in our favour. We did have to wait for one boat ahead of us to go down, then one to come up, before we went through. Fortunately we were going in the least popular direction – there was a queue of six boats waiting to come up.

Another stop at Bridge 16 – this time, I didn’t accompany the others up to M&S as my back was beginning to feel rather fragile. We continued on to just past Bridge 60 (the numbers change where the Montgomery Canal joins!) and moored up about 1630. Although it had been occasionally spitting with rain during the day, it now started raining continuously, though not heavily, so fishing wasn’t really on. A quiet late afternoon, followed by a rich and delicious carbonara from Theo, and another pleasant evening of sitting chatting over the table until gone midnight. I wasn’t sure quite how long it would take, and the directions for handing the boat back were to moor up outside the marina between 0830 and 0900 and let them know and they would take the boat back inside so we could unload. Apparently, hirers are not insured to drive boats inside the marina.

So, I got up just after 0700 to make a start on cleaning the boat and packing, and was joined by the others over the next 20 minutes. We set off at the crack of 0800 – boats are not allowed to run their engines between 8pm and 8am. The boat made fast progress, but the packing and cleaning slightly less so, so we moored for a temporary ten minutes to get everything sorted. As I’d feared, the area round the marina was pretty much moored up, but we pulled in slightly on the bend rather close to Bridge 59 (White Bridge) about 0845 and Phoebe went off to alert the marina team. We didn’t bother mooring properly, simply stood on the bank and held the ropes.

Ten minutes later we were moored up inside the marina, with a light drizzle again. A brief stop in the office, where I was refunded 17.79 from the fuel deposit as we’d only used 24 litres, and quickly into the car. The rain got quite heavy during our short drive to Gobowen Station, where we dropped Theo in rather a downpour, but largely cleared up after half an hour.  After a short supermarket stop I was dropped at Cosford, here I had time for a bacon butty and  coffee before catching the train. A quick change at Smethwick Galton Bridge, and I was home by about 1320. Chelsea-cat was delighted to see me!


A rather chilly Equinox morning reminded me that it’s time to take cuttings from the scented geranium to over-winter indoors. Sadly, I’ve been away a lot, and watering and feeding have been erratic, so there weren’t many decent shoots for cuttings … still, hopefully one of these will take root and survive to go in the pot next year.

Riso service

Aaargh! Furniture shifting and Riso-wrangling before breakfast, as the Service engineer is coming this morning “some time after nine”. The machine needs it: it’s coming up on the 2-million copies mark – actually 1,963,854 – of which I’ve done just over half a million, and it was last serviced four years ago.

Normally, I just need access to the front of the machine, so it just rolls out of the cupboard and rolls back again, but the engineer may need space all round, so it’s sitting in the middle of cleared floorspace.

Paroxysmal benign positional vertigo.

I had a call last Thursday, inviting me to an ENT clinic appointment today (Sunday). I’ve been waiting a year for this, so said “yes please”, even though getting to hospital on Sundays is a pain. There are no buses whatsoever! I didn’t feel like cycling, as was unsure if I’d be left feeling wobbly after the appointment, so cab it was. Including tips, £28 all told!

A ten-minute wait,a quick hearing test, and in to see the Professor. He confirmed that I have mild-to-moderate hearing loss (which I’ve had since I was in Scotland – fortunately, so far it seems to be pretty much on a plateau). A few quick questions about the dizziness, and he diagnosed BPPV (paroxysmal benign positional vertigo). He says there’s something called the”Epley manoeuvre”, which he’s not very good at, but it’s worth me learning to do myself as I seem to have recurrent episodes. Not to worry if I don’t get it quite right the first couple of tries, and I can do it every week if I need to. As I live on my own and have osteoporosis, he thinks it’s important to keep dizzy spells under control.

Feeling considerably relieved, I decompressed with a walk round Worcester Woods Country Park before ordering the cab to go home. Now investigating Epley Manoeuvre on Youtube!


After a summer break, the sound of the Riso fills the air again. I have to stay within earshot of it, in case of jams, breakdowns, needing paper or ink or whatever. This time, it was some 6,000+ bits of assorted stuff for a neighbouring Green Party. Twelve and a half thousand sides of ker-chunk, ker-chunk, ker-chunk …

Still, given my limited mobility and unsociable personality, it’s something I’m glad to be able to do.

ex playing field

A stroll on the Common again today. Sixty years ago, this was a playing field, used mainly by the notoriously-unsuccessful local Under Twelve-and-a-half’s football team. Then it had a couple of decades of being regularly mown. But for the past decade or so it’s been managed for wildflowers – a cut-and-remove once a year. This seems to be working – lots of Early Purple orchids in season, and the usual other flowers for this part of the world.