Sunday 20 March 2011

A Gongoozling we will go

With everything going on with the family and things quiet on the house front Chris and I want to savour the cut once more.  The wish to walk the tow path again was tugging at us in an ever increasing rate.  So with no boat we decided we would have no choice but to be gongoozlers and with that decided to go for a walk along the cut into Chester.  Our eldest daughter Amy lives a few yards away from Chemical lock and so we parked the car at hers and made our way along the cut into Chester.

When we reach Chemical lock the Mill Hotel restaurant boat was just arriving.  Most unusual this boat as it has a rudder on the bow as well so they do not have to wind the boat for the return trip.  By the way the meal onboard is excellent too!

 We soon arrived at the infamous bridge of sighs.  History states that this bridge was used to walk the condemed prisoners from the prison to the gallows and they would sigh as they walked across.  You never see birds settling on this bridge and as you walk under the air suddenly turns cold and everthing goes quiet until you pass out the other side!  Now I'm not one for believing in ghosts and all that superstious stuff but I admit a few hairs did rise on the back of my neck.
There are a lot of new apartments springing up along the canal and this monument is in the gardens of one set of appartments.

 15minutes later we reached the Chester 3 lock staircase.  These are deep locks and not for the faint hearted.  We watched as two boats came down and make their way to the basin.

 After helping Somnia come alongside as the wind in the basin was making it difficult to moor and spending a few minutes chatting to the lovely couple on her we said our goodbyes and made our way back up the cut. There are not many boats here at the moment but that will change as the season progresses I guess.

The weather was not brilliant but it was dry and reasonably warm so we took our time enjoying the fresh air while marvelling at the Victorian workmanship on the water tower. It does not look much at first glance and you might be forgiven for thinking it's an eye sore but take a closer look at when you pass by it and you will see just how much care was put into the design and build for what is basically a large tank.

We got back to Amy's an hour later and had a welcome cuppa and a chat before heading home.  It felt so good to walk along the cut again and it gave us that little boost we both needed.  What a great day and I know both of us will sleep well tonight!

Wednesday 16 March 2011

On a lighter note

Whilst at Chris's mums we came across a parish magazine and we thought we would share these excellent recipes we liked the look of

Recipe for Mum's and Toddlers Flapjacks

Remove Teddy bear from oven and preheat oven
Grease shallow 19cm square tin
Remove teddy bear from oven again and say "No No"
Cream the butter
Take butter tub away from toddler and wipe down the cupboard doors
Mix together the sugar and oats and gradually work into creamed butter until thoroughly blended.  Remove small plastic dinosaur from mixture.
Take the butter away from toddler again and wipe down the cat.
Apply antiseptic and bandages to scratches.  Glare at cat.
Remove crayons from prepared tin and replace with mixture.
Press this evenly into tin with a round bladed knife.
Open oven, retrieve now smouldering teddy bear, and open windows and doors for ventilation.
Place flapjack mixture in oven, and reassure anxious neighbour that house is not on fire.
Bake Flapjack mixture at 220 degrees mark 7 for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.
While flapjacks are baking conduct swift neighbourhood search for toddler who disappeared out the door when anxious neighbour came in
Lift toddler out of muddy puddle next door
Take toddler home and on way through kitchen towards bathroom switch off oven
By time toddler has been bathed and changed the flapjacks will be cool and ready to eat.  This is a good time to discuss with your toddler about why the tub of oats would have been better left alone and not sprinkled around the living room carpet in a pleasing pattern.

A bit late now but useful recipe for next Christmas

Christmas rich Fruitcake

I cup of water
1  cup of sugar
4 large eggs
2  cups of dried fruit
I teaspoon of salt
I teaspoon of baking soda
I cup of brown sugar
8 oz. (225 grms.) nuts
Juice of I lemon
I bottle of whisky

Sample whisky to check for quality. Take a large bowl. Check whisky again to be sure it is of the highest quality. Pour one level cup and drink. Repeat!
Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar and beat again. Make sure whisky is still okay.
Cry another tup. Turn off the mixerer.
Break 2 eggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the dried fruit. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers pry it loose with a drewscriver.
Sample the whisky to check for tonsisticity. Next sift two cups of salt — or something — who cares?
Check the whisky.
Now sift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.
Add one tablespoon. Of sugar or something. Whatever you can find.
Grease the oven. Turn the cake tin to 180°C (350°F) Gas Mark 4.
Don't forget to beat off the turner. Thrown the bowl out of the window. Check the whisky again and go to bed.


Best Laid Plans

Unfortunately I had to fore go my trip on Towy. We got a phone call from Chris's mum just after my last post informing us Roy has taken a turn for the worse and had only days left. Naturally Chris and I dropped everything and took off to Essex so she could see him. I stayed away from his bedside for fear he would catch my cough (I'd never forgive myself if that happened) and Chris spent some quality time with him.

We're relieved to say Roy is still hanging on and it may be weeks rather than days but he is definately in a bad way, we think Chris's mum is so stressed about him she does not know what day it is, but we are preparing for the inevitable we know will come soon. He is dosed to the hilt on Morphine so is pain free and comfortable, if a little drowsy and occasionally way with the fairies.

Towy made the trip without me and had a lovely run in bright sunshine, making the trip in 3 hours. My friend Dave helped out as he was also going and only put her aground once :-)  She is in the museum basin with the other work boats for now. Stewart tells me the plan at Easter is to take her down the Manchester shipping canal, cross the Mersey into Liverpool so hopefully I can help on that trip.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Greatly honoured and humbled!

After having had an awful week with my cough that is finally subsiding by chance I have been given the oppotunity to do something I have always wanted to do this weekend!

I have always wanted to travel on an old traditional work boat on the canal and thanks the the Chester Heritage trust my dream is going to come true.  I am to help move wooden hulled NB Towy (CLICK) for more information  from Chester Basin to Ellesmere Port Narrowboat museum this weekend.  My grateful thanks to Stewart Shuttleworth for organising this for me

The narrow boat Towy was built by Fellows, Morton & Clayton Ltd at Uxbridge in 1938, one of a batch of eight new motor boats designed to work between Stanlow Oil Refinery on the Manchester Ship Canal and the Midlands. Like her sisters, the Towy was named after British rivers, the 'T' names signifying craft built or acquired in that year; other 1938 craft included Tweed, Tay and Tees, while the 1937 boats included the 'S' craft Stour and Spey). The batch was completed in 1939 with the two 'U' boats Usk and Umea.  I have had the good fortune to stand on the deck of Stour myself. 

The Towy was an 'oil boat' for many years, carrying loads of up to 19 tons of fuel oil from Stanlow refinery (actually thats where I currently work) to Langley Green, and taking about three days for the 80 mile trip. It was the custom for Claytons boats to work in pairs, and the Towy usually worked with the 1930 butty Kubina. These two boats were home for the Berridge family - Mr & Mrs Leslie Berridge and their six children. The long-distance oil traffic ended in 1955, and Towy thereafter became a 'day boat', taking loads of tar from Birmingham area gasworks to the works of Midland Tar Distillers at Oldbury

   Claytons withdrew from canal operations in 1966. It has often been said that the introduction of North Sea Gas finally killed the gas works traffic but the chronology of natural gas discovery and utilisation does not entirely support this theory - in fact, the change from coal to oil fuel in many local gas works, together with the building of the M5 Motorway through Claytons' depot at Oldbury were far more important factors. 

Now almost fully restored Towy is often used as an educational tool for school children to learn about life on the waterways and working narrowboats.  She travels the Cheshire canals stopping on her way to provide a hands on classroom for many youngsters to get a feel for how it was.  A fitting end for a lovely old gal and I am really excited to be getting my chance to move her on a stretch of canal I have yet to travel on.  It truely is humbling to be allowed to handle a rare peice of history from the very place where I work.  I can't wait!

Watch out for my next post with, hopefully, plenty of photos.