anticipation

Taxi to the station booked for 0630h on Monday morning (ugh!). Our annual boating holiday on the Norfolk Broads, and I’m more than ready for it. Local elections (I failed to be elected by 37 votes) followed by General Election (I’m printing 63,000 items for one of our target candidates) has left me pretty much in shreds.

I’ll largely be doing a “digital detox” (partly because WiFi is intermittent and charging phone/iPad is difficult, admittedly).


Birmingham visit

A trip over to Birmingham today, for the last session of the RSV Vaccine trial I’m on (though I may be invited for a follow-u pstudy of longterm efficacy).

It’s the first time I’ve used the newly-opened University station – cum – medical school. Poor signage, lots of wasted space, not a well thought trough building in any way. The old entrance to University station looks rather sad now … a picture through the bars of the security fencing.

common

An extraordinarily muddy and squelchy walk on the Common this morning. The blackthorn is in full blossom, patches of windflowers are dancing in a light breeze, and there are occasional patches of aconite. In a shady area, the first curled coppery shoots on an osmunda fern are visible, pushing up through last years leaves which, due to the mild winter, are unusually still green.




ouch!

Over visiting mum in hospital yesterday. There was far too much pacing around waiting for cancelled trains and missed buses and connections. I must stop doing that! I aim for 4,000 steps at this cold, damp, and miserable time of year … quadrupling that has left in a rather immobile and painful state this morning. Sadly, a trip to Birmingham for a meeting is needed.


jabs

Yesterday was my autumn ‘flu and covid jabs. I’d had to put them off twice – once because of a clash with the fortnight’s waiting time after RSV panel, and once because of having to be at Green Mount. The NHS app offered me a timed appointment for both as Spring Gardens pharmacy, so I went with that.

I’d forgotten how very depressing that part of Worcester is! Slum-clearance replaced by equally bad block housing pretty much still on the overcrowded historic streetplan, a massive car park facing onto the perimeter of the area, and the whole thing flanked by the dual-carriageway City Walls Road (an urban improvement project that only succeeded in making it quicker to go from one traffic jam to the next).

However, the appointments were running on time, the nurse was very pleasant, and she wrote down the vaccine details for me so that I could pass them on to Synexus (RSV trial) as requested. Then a walk across the grim footbridge, and suddenly back in the “nice” part of town – Reindeer Court – and then to the bus station.

Sadly, I reacted rather badly to the shots. In bed and asleep before 2200h, then waking with alternating sweats and chills about every hour through to 5am, when I finally achieved restful sleep. I felt very dehydrated: a glass of milk and half a pack of grapes around 4.30 fended that off.

Having woken just after 9, I was up by quarter to ten. Alendronic acid day, so no coffee until 1025 … and I didn’t risk bending down to light the fire until then, either. But I’m feeling rather better now, though the ‘flu jab arm (left) is still rather painful.

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!


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.


stroll

A hirple down to the River Evenlode this afternoon, partly along a footpath that’s part of both the Palladian Way and the Wychwood Way. The riverside field was full of the sweet scent of drying hay, and elderberries are hanging in the hedges. The occasional green hazelnut has fallen, joining the debris of last year’s shells by the side of the path. It’s all rather autumnal.





Over at Mum’s

After a fortnight in hospital, my Mum came out yesterday, so I’m over there for the weekend. Glorious pink Japanese anemones in front of the house! A walk on the common, where the bracken is just starting to turn colour and the rose-hips and the haws on the hawthorn are plentiful, though rather few sloes this year. Blackberries in all stages of ripeness, and still a few glorious harebells, though it’s getting late in the year for them.





Gah!

Over to hospital yesterday to visit Mum again – at least she’s now out of Emergency Assessment and in a proper Complex Medical ward. At some point during my travels I seem to have buggered up my right knee – it’s swollen and painful this morning. The combination of 3 train journeys, 2 long bus rides, 4 cycle rides (even on an ebike) up steep hills, or just the nearly 13,000 steps  seems to have been a bit much.

My next visit is not scheduled until Sunday pm (unless they take it into their heads to discharge her earlier!): unusually, there’s no Bank Holiday engineering work scheduled on the train route.  I’m in severe need of the couple of days at home with nothing pressing to do.