Sunday, 30 September 2012

What do I do now I've caught it?

What do I do now I've caught it
It shouldn't have eaten me soffit
I'd better now say
What happened that day
When that poor lickle fella done bought it.

It happened one day in the spring
When I heard from the loft a loud ding
A bit of a clang
Then a loud bang
I thought 'what the hell is that thing'

I ventured up stairs with a light
And expected a terrible fright
But when I got there
The loft space was bare
hmm this critter is awfully bright

I sealed up its means of escape
With brown paper and vinegar and tape
It'll not outsmart me
As you will all see
What measures I'm prepared to take

It wasn't a bird or a bat
Or next doors mangy old cat
Of course its the grey
Nut collector by day
I think I'm gonna need me a trap

Its not that I'm adverse to pests
Only ones in me loft that build nests
I will have to catch it
And maybe despatch it
Oh you do know how I like to jest!

With the trap from the shop now bought
And sights on the beast being caught
I waited it out
On me comfortable couch
For lessons to squirrels to be taught

Next day I inspected me trap
Two sad lookin eyes lookin back
Now what do I do
I haven't a clue
Squirrel, don't look at me like that

What do I do now its caught
Beyond this part I'd not  thought
What do I do next
Now I'm completely vexed
Practicalities like this should be taught

I called up the pest control chap
And explained what I had in me trap
It was bangin around
A gawd-awful sound
'I'll look in me book and call back'

'Page one suggests a good shot'
But a gun I'm afraid I've not got
'Page two's not for you,
and page three's just for me,
then indeed a problem you've got'

'Page four ahh yes a big stick'
A stick, I can't its too quick!
I don't know what to do
'The problems with you'
I hung up cos he was being a di plonker

I considered calling me daughter
When I suddenly thought of the water
I will have to be fast
Its pain shouldn't last
If I drown it I really mustn't falter

Now the drowning how should I deliver
As he sat in his cage all a quiver
What should I do
I know, the canoe
That's half sunk on the edge of the river

I drop the cage in with a splash
Poor Cyril stopped dead in his dash
He looks out of his cage
With no hint of a rage
My decision was maybe a bit rash

For the author the method's not right
Take him to someone you don't like
Maybe your teacher
Or some purvey preacher
And let out the poor lickle tyke

Inspired by someone I met in a pub but quite closely recounted to the details provided. Of course there is lots of this story I wouldn't condone whatever your feelings are to non native, invasive species in Britain. And as you can read in this link- here - the law agrees that its wrong.

Cyril, in squirrel heaven 

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Waiting for the river...

I think we were really lucky with the weather in Kinver and the evening cruise to Wolverly was a real treat. The next morning M/D popped over with goodies of shortbread and waffles yum :-) they also brought over Dad's (now my) guitar. I have been after a nylon strung classical guitar for a while, I've never really got on with my steel strung one (too many finger tips missing from an earlier career in kitchens). So I have signed up to an online e course that will involve me practising some pieces and then uploading the videos of my progress for critique from my fellow students. Quite a unique idea really and the course over all is five years long and completely free. Anyone with an old classical guitar who fancies joining in this is the website of the forum.  It was too wet to wander round Wolverley so onwards to Kidderminster for the night and to get some much needed shopping.

We decided to make a dash from sainsburys in Kidderminster to the bongo first thing the next day as the weather was OK. We didn't stop longer than the time needed to retrieve the bikes and store a couple of bits under the bongo seats. We were all waterproofed up but it didn't rain and we had a really nice trip to stourport.  Not too many boats around so we could plod in our own time.

M/D popped over about 10ish yesterday for a coffee in front of the fire before we went into Kidderminster to get a couple of bits and bobs. Dad wanted golf bits, mum some trousers for their hols in a few weeks, Deb some trainers and me... well I'm a cheap date :-) We had a great lunch out at a pub in the town centre. We were only looking for a quick snack out of the showers and dad had gone into a local cafe to see where we could go, just as I was looking  at an unusual sign on a pub wall inviting patrons to bring their own food in! Result! we bought food in the cafe (that didn't have seating) and sat in the pub with a beer. Win win. Later we popped over to their caravan for a paella which was great (dads signature dish) and even got a lift back to the boat afterwards.

We have had some old BW cards in the leccy cupboard since we picked up LJ. We had presumed that all the credit on them had been used, and we haven't really seen many opportunities to use them either. We are on the last mooring before the lock into Stourports basins and just the other side of the road is a BW sanitary facility. Usual Loo's and elsan but this one has a card operated laundry room as well. Deb tried a card and it appeared to have all its 20 units in place so we trundled back to the boat to get a load for washing. A few hours later, two loads of washing done and put through the drier!

Whilst Deb was washing guarding I used the time to do a bit of guitar practise (still finding string damping tricky) and experiment with the camera to see if the video mode is going to be good enough to post on the forum.

The sun is shining this afternoon and its great to see the solar panels topping up the battery again.

sunshine... last 

There is no more space on the moorings again today, I think that loads of boats are waiting for the Severn to lower from the red boards and probably head for droitwich. I have seen calmer rapids though so we will be keeping clear. Deb is having her usual cleaning catch up this afternoon and I think another curry is in the offing tonight. Maybe cooked on the hob as the last one a couple of nights ago was a bit of a juggle on the stove.

Pots are rice, Dahl, chunky veg curry and nann Style rolls in the ashes 

Saturday, 22 September 2012

I'm not gona moan about the rain, I'm not gona moan about the rain, I'm not gona moan about the rain...

Well if the previous day was a bit grey and miserable, yesterday was blooming I just couldn't help myself after all there is nothing more British than to moan about the weather.

We had moored up for the night at Leys Junction. Not a lot I can say about it really, it's a junction through an industrial estate with each plot having high concrete walls with razor wire on the top. I would presume for keeping oiks out but you never know, maybe there have been changes in the employment laws over the last five months.

Lock followed lock, drizzle followed rain followed drizzle. We stopped at about 3ish in a nice enough spot and it stayed dry enough to actually get the camera out, of course it started raining again as soon as we were off. We were both like drowned rats in our nearly waterproof waterproofs. But it was on the chilly side. We had the luxury of having the stove alight so could dry out a bit during our lunch stop. Warmed up with coffee and a stove top toasted sarnie of cheese, spicy mango chutney and a drop of mayo (half a chopped up chili in mine) we headed off in the direction of Kinver to over night.

Chilly outside toasty inside 
A nice place for a few nights if the weather was better
One of the redeeming features of this canal is that it is so clear. Quite a novelty really, on moored boats you can easily see the boats bottom plate and anodes. Soon tin cans on the canal floor were followed by just stones and weed, the landscape soon turned from pretty awful to beautiful. 

A much nicer stretch of canal than Leys Junction

Is this a location or a serving suggestion?

Definitely not as wishing well. 
As the weather forecast was ok we decided to spend today in Kinver and donned the walking boots for a bit of a hike. We were aiming in the general direction of the Kinver Edge rock housed but were glad that we went via some national trust land up through wooded hills and across heather lined meadows to an iron aged fort right on top of the hill. There were some great views right across Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. We could see the masts near the tunnel we had come through right across to the Malverns.

Hopefully stitch a few of these into a panorama pic when I get a mo
We continued down the hill to the rock houses making only one wrong turn (we were in no hurry and it was a nice afternoon for a walk). The houses were worth a visit and were only a few quid (or free with your NT card). We stopped for a well earned brew at their cafe before strolling back down to Kinver in the afternoon sun. We popped in for a couple of basics at the co-op to keep us going until we get to the next supermarket and headed back to LJ for a relaxing evening. Deb started a pork casserole to put on top of the stove and promptly forgot to put her scrumped apples in with it (never mind more for the pie tomorrow).

Rock feature in front of the rockery, in front of the rock house

Scrumper's cells

Have a break, have a ....

Entrance to the rock houses. When one neighbour moved out, next door just chiseled through to extend!
As the weather was so nice, the dinner slow cooking on the stove and forecast looking a bit iffy for tomorrow we decided on an evening cruise a bit further towards Kidderminster. Mum and Dad are taking part in an Eriba caravan meeting in Stourport on Severn so we have arranged to meet up over the next few days. Tonight though they are enjoying their anni present from my auntie Minn of a steam railway trip with a meal on board, sounds great and a brilliant idea for a pressie! Deb being a fan of both trains and eating out is most jealous.

Misty morning in Kinver

Sunny afternoon in Kinver

Tomorrow, a quick explore of Wolverley.

Friday, 21 September 2012

And were off...

Of course as soon as I had taken the tiller out of the cupboard down came the rain, not enough to worry us but just enough to gripe about.

Gap in the middle where we have been 

First step is to fill up with water. Not been to a water point for two and a half weeks! Deb collected about eighty litres in the two cans though during our stay. First load of washing was on whilst the tank was filling up. Not too far to go today though, we're really just moving this evening so we can get a better start in the morning. Our new mooring just for tonight is right in front of the 'Mail box'.

Early evening filling up 500L of water (took over an hour)

In front of the cube and the mail box

I was up and about quite early, there was no stirring Deb though. I was all dressed and ready to go when she finally woke up. We needed some milk so I popped to tesco's  and came back with coffee and bacon sarnie from a cafe in the mail box, not bad price at £2.95 each (and the coffee's were large)

The first leg of the journey was pleasant with the sun trying its best to make an appearance. This is the new navigation though (well new as in 1820's) and designed to be straight and functional, and a bit boring. Lots of really tall bridges though and a couple of aqueducts.


Rail bridge with station bridge behind

They could have built their motorway a bit further over

We were soon turning off towards the Netherton tunnel, all 3027 yds of it. Although the info sign says head height of 1.98m it must have been closer to double that. It also has a towpath down each side although I am not sure if I would like to walk through. I flicked the light off a couple of times just to get a feel of the darkness. There are frequent ventilation shafts which were spooky looking up into, and a bit wet!

Tunnel vent, oh and drip on the camera

Further than it looks, about an hour to get through

Hopefully they're for decoration 

An hour later we were out in the open in the very pretty Bumblehole. Sadly the pretty countryside didn't last for long and we were soon dodging half sunk shopping trolleys. We stopped for water at Park Head junction and descended a narrow but deep lock. Behind us and up through a couple of locks is the Dudley tunnel. Its slightly longer than the tunnel we went through and it is meant to be quite claustrophobic as well....oh and you can't use your engine, its either use the electric tug service or 'leg it' just as it would have been done 200 years ago.

Bumblehole junction

A couple of miles later saw us going down through a flight with our new friend John. He lives not too far away in Stourbridge and offers his help bringing boats down through the flight. He was rewarded with a big wedge of date and walnut loaf that I had made the day before.

First lock of many

Quite deep compared to what we're used to

Glad to have Johns help 

last one of the day

Canal planner suggested stopping just after the locks but neither of us were too keen so we continued to Leys Junction right at the top of a flight of 16 ready for tomorrow morning :-(

I should have asked John for his phone number!


We finally got to see the National Trusts Birmingham Back to Backs, at one point I didn't think we were going to be able to with our unexpected hospital visit.  

Last Saturday it was Mum's birthday and prior to James' hospital visit we were intending to travel down to see her, collecting the Bongo during the week, which we had left back in Minworth but of course this wasn't to be. Jess had arranged to go and stay with her for the weekend and made the lovely cake. Then Mum suggested her and Jess visit us instead on Sunday and as we were right in the City centre it was easier for them to get the train instead of driving, negotiating their way across Birmingham and then parking, much easier to get off the train at New Street Station and walk the 10 minutes or so back to Cambrian Wharf. Mum then treated us to a lovely lunch at Jimmy's Spice, which should have been our treat as it was her birthday!! But it was much appreciated - thanks again Mum. It seemed all too soon that we were walking back to the station to see them off on their train. It was an unexpected visit and lovely to see them both again.

On Monday, as James has mentioned previously we spent the day sorting out the Bongo, cycling to collect it from Minworth, driving to Kiddermister and then getting the train back to Birmingham.

On Tuesday, after a lot of hassle getting through to the National Trust on the phone, I managed to book us into the Birmingham Back to Backs, it's not one of those things you can just turn up to like the majority of the Trust's properties but they have guided tours, which you have to book in advance. I booked us into the 3:30pm one and you arrive 15 minutes before to look around the exhibition first. 

Communal Courtyard with wash-house on the left

Two of the houses

The front houses with some being shops
The Back to Backs were built in the early 1800's and this is the last surviving court of them. They are houses built literally back to back around a communal courtyard with communal privies and wash-houses. There were thousands built in Birmingham around this time, with around 2,000 in this area alone. The National Trust have restored the houses so one is from the 1840's, one from the 1870's, one the 1930's and the final one from the 1970's. Each one depicts the lives of the former residents of that era and was set up exactly as they would have lived. They are three storey houses with one room on each floor with tiny winding staircases. It was very interesting to see how people lived and how they coped living in such a small area with so many people. In the early years the residents would have to trek to Ladywell to get their water from the well with buckets, these were big wooden buckets and were very heavy empty let alone filled with water, it would have been the children's job to get the water, there is now an Ibis hotel built on the Ladywell site. Later a communal tap was installed outside the wash-house and around the 1930's one single tap was install in each house. 

On Wednesday James had another doctors appointment for a blood, then we're off, leaving Birmingham..

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Soap Box...

Well this post was going to start in a completely different way, it was going to be...

Birmingham locks in desperate need of attention...

"We've passed a few dodgy locks, battered wharfs and sad looking water points over the past few months but this is getting ridiculous! But all of a sudden the overgrown lock starts to swell and grow before I realise its that stupid floating forest thing that's been, well floating around Birmingham. More like wimpy wood than floating forest."

But I thought if I was going to take the pi micky from someone's artwork then I should at least find out who did it to give a little credit (name and shame them!)

It didn't take me long to find a lot more dissatisfied comments than satisfied ones.

So what exactly is it? Artist Beth Derbyshire got a rusty old work barge and filled to the brim with an assortment of trees. Its being pushed by a small, smelly old diesel tug. OK so nothing offensive, nothing damaging and probably not much worse than a turner prise being awarded to an unmade bed. It has a couple of extras that look like it was all a bit last minute. You can almost imagine the conversion once it was filled...

"Hm bit shit isn't it, not very arty"
"I've got an idea, bung some speakers in and do a quick sound track on a loop!"

"Yeah nice one, a loop of sounds of the forest, yeah blending into diggers and dozers, an audio of deforestation! Cool!"

"Er no actually I was thinking interviews and thoughts from the local Afghan community with soldiers and family and stuff will be better"

Ooookay... and that's relevant how exactly. Good idea if the next stage is to ditch the trees and change it to a war torn landscape as a very vivid reminder and memorial to those who have and are still making the ultimate sacrifice. But as Terry Wogan would have said, 'is it me?' And to justify it further with another irrelevance "it looks a bit like the forest from Macbeth"

I am a peace not war kinda bloke, happy to avoid confrontation and conflict at any opportunity. Let the arty farty brigade move unmade beds into studios and fill barges with trees, I'm not paying for it, am I?


Its a joint 'venture' between the arts council Birmingham uni and CaRT (formerly British Waterways) the people who I pay my licence fee to and the people who should be out dredging the canals and repairing the towpaths! Surprisingly the arts council stumped up only 18% of the costs.

In my blog of a few months ago at hearts hill Wharf I had said that this historic site was in a worse state of repair than last year when we went through on our hire boat sarah louise. With leaking taps and crumbling wharfs this boatyard and surrounding workshops could be great. Of course it would take a lot more money than a small share of the costs of filling a barge with soil and trees wouldn't it and something like an education centre would need constant funding. How about a working boatyard with units rented out to local astisans then.

So how long does it take to fill a barge with mud and trees, record some audio and start pushing it around the canals? I recon me and Deb could get it sorted in a couple of weeks, maybe a bit more if you visit forestry commission sites to try and wangle a hundred free tree saplings (as it happens Walsall Council donated the trees so £0 cost there then!). So the costs were at least quite low, right?

WRONG!.... Beth Derbyshire TOOK 4 YEARS, AND £50,000 to see her woods in a skip vision to come true.

From BBC website -

'The £50,000 art work, called The Rootless Forest, features trees that are planted onboard a converted canal boat.' - how can you convert an empty shell to an empty shell?

'She said: "The project took four years in development and I am relieved and delighted to see it finished. I can't quite believe it and I don't know what to do with myself." - knock on doors and tell old folk they need a new roof or driveway, I feel I've been comprehensively mugged!

'About £9,000 was funded by the Arts Council, the remaining costs were met by supporting organisations such as The Canal & River Trust and Birmingham City University.' - suckers!

Long sigh....Step down from soap box...exit stage left.

Monday, 17 September 2012


Jess went to see her nan for her birthday weekend last week. As we wouldn't be able to meet up with them this year they decided to pay us a visit by train which was a lovely surprise.

Pip always brings us something when she visits and as I have been a tad unwell it was a big bag of fruit this time (grilled figs with our toast for breakfast today)

Jess had made a birthday cake and bought a big wedge up for us but we were too full to try it yesterday after a big lunch and a walk back to the station early evening. After a long day today cycling to Minworth, moving the van to Kidderminster and getting a train home we have just had a cuppa and a slice of cake.

Jess would probably admit that her cake making was always a bit hit and miss in the past. Quite often eggy overcooked biscuity discs were sandwiched together with luminous icing - ok so maybe I am going back a few years.

This one was a good one though. Even on its fourth day still light and moist. The raspberries and orange almost making it more gateau like. All that was missing was the sun, the cake chilled and a glass of bubbly :-)

Watch out for a Jessie's patisserie opening in your town!


A weekend of two halves...

Part two...

Unfortunately I didn't make it back to the pub. I was in excruciating pain on LJ whilst Deb was watching the rest of 'Rose Red's' set in the Flapper. She looked after my pint for about an hour before heading back. By this time the pain had subsided some what but I still felt worse than I had after any of my numerous motorbike crashes. I was exhausted. I tried to lay down but couldn't; I tried sitting up but the lounge chairs recline just a little too much; I tried walking but constantly feel sick. The only thing close to relief was to open the bathroom Houdini hatch and stretch up through arching my back to relieve my digestive track and the cramp like pain in my back. We wouldn't be watching the ballet after all. Its going to be a long night.

I watch the moons transit across the night sky for the second night this week. There is not a sound outside, only one of the flats in the two closest twenty story blocks has a light on.

Exhaustion wins over at 6.30. At 8.00 I am awake again and sit in the lounge trying to regain enough energy to make the most of day two of the arts fest. My early morning pee confirms that I haven't been suffering indigestion bouts, at least not unless pissing fanta is a symptom.

Now female readers may not be aware that when us lads have a pee, very occasionally there may be the odd splashes outside the intended target area. I watched in mild fascination as the bowl steadily changed brighter and brighter, as orange as, well an orange really. Visit two to the loo does nothing to cheer me up either, an albino turd!!! That, I am pretty sure is not indigestion. I feel battered and bruised but OK really so I resign myself to waiting for Monday morning to book a doctors appointment and head, very slowly into town.

We had less of an agenda for day two. I certainly wasn't in the mood for skiting from one side of town to the other so we stayed for a few hours in the old town end. The sun was warm but there was a stiff breeze again today. We saw a masterclass in coping with the wind from a young Chinese guitarist who was faultless and coped well with her surroundings saying she was more used to concert halls and this was the first time she had played on a bandstand in the wind competing against the Paralympics on the big screen and the dance tent the other side of the square. The sound engineers rallied round with extra mics but she didn't realise for a while that they had sorted a dedicated voice mic and kept announcing the next piece by bending down and talking into the mic at her right knee. Street artists, bassoon choirs, more classic guitar recitals, folk bands in symphony hall and quintets of saxophonists followed with an evening pause for a rest back on LJ. We wandered back up to the main stage for the last hour or so and the bands were great but I was aching and hanging by now.

Which GP to choose when you are in the middle of a city? I decided in the end on an NHS walk-in centre in the basement of boots chemist near the bullring. My thinking was that for a quick walk-in appointment at least be able to help with a surgery if needed, possibly even calling and making the appointment so I wouldn't have to go through the process of trying to book an appointment on a temporary basis when I really needed to see someone today. The nurse was very helpful and probably glad to see a patient that hadn't fallen over drunk, got a blister or sunburn or needed the morning after pill! She said she had a good idea of what I was suffering from but said it would need further investigation. She packed me straight off to city hospital A&E department a few miles out of town.

The procedure and team at the hospital were great. They told me not to eat and said I would be assessed by the pre-surgery team. Blood tests and lots of waiting followed before I was told I would have to be admitted for further tests.

Anyway it wasn't indigestion but gallstones lodged in my bile ducts causing the pain. I soon started to feel better once the intravenous antibiotics had kicked in but wasn't able to eat anything until the surgeons had decided what to do. I had a comfortable night and even though I hadn't eaten the previous day and very little the day before that I wasn't really in the mood for food. With a dead iPhone and a pair of trainers too keep me company (by now it was too late for Deb to bring me anything back) I managed to snatch a few hours kip before the 6am tea trolley came round.

I was told I would have to have the gallstones removed asap but that would involve the little grabbing device going down my throat, through my stomach out the other side and into the bile duct which didn't sound like much fun. Luckily an ultrasound scan had shown that the duct had cleared and I would be ok to leave by early evening. I managed to grab a quick meal of poached fish an hour or so before leaving. I was a little disappointed that the meal I had ordered on the tick list sheet was for the following day so some poor old sod would be having naan bread Dahl and rice the next day. Good job I hadn't ordered the Caribbean salt fish with rice and peas!

Although we will be carrying on our journey I will have to drive back for a few appointments here next month possibly staying in to have the offending diseased gallbladder removed.

Definitely a weekend of two halves!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

A weekend of two halves...

Part one...

We had decided to go to the earlier part of the opening ceremony of Birmingham arts fest last Friday. There was a band due to be playing on the main stage at 6.30 then the opening act at about 8.30 repeated at 9.30.

The opening band was, I guess an Asian fusion band but this is what a press release says on their web site - "Brooklyn nine-piece party-starters Red Baraat are thus far the most exciting local prospect of this short year, a fiery blend of raucous Indian bhangra and funky New Orleans brass. The result, needless to say, is completely riotous. Their debut CD, Chaal Baby is an unstoppable blend of Bollywood hijacks and funk freakier than anything Madlib picked up on his trip to India." 

I quickly learnt that the term I had been using to describe some of the dancing wasn't so much of a derogatory term after all. Soon after the drummer (I think it's a dhol) guy introduced the act 'Red Baraatt' he wanted to get us all up dancing and said 'you know how do it, reach up in the air and screw the light bulb!' - no need for Jess to keep telling me off now, if its good enough for them, and Obama (they were at the whitehouse playing for the President two days before) its good enough for me. I must say they were very good though, a kinda mix between Asian and Jazz and bollywood really, very energetic and individually great soloists as well.

Trumpet on steroids

Everyone was multi talented 

Soon after Red Baraat had finished it was time for the Mandala. A story told through Asian and, I'd guess, American street dancing with very clever 3D light sequences using the town hall as background. I was glad that we went to the first performance as the square was getting crowded now, every direction people were leaping up and gesticulating to friends on the other end of their phones to come and share the last square foot of a step with them. A great night, and a contrast for Jess who was at a friends rock gig the night before and headed to a weekend of drum and bass and techno (gives me a headache thinking about it) 

Saturday morning we set Jess off on her train to Winchester via Banbury, London and somewhere in Buckinghamshire for her partying and headed back up to some of the stages in the centre of Birmingham. 

We saw so many different styles of artist and genre's of music, it was unreal. One of the things I really liked is that the same stages were given to all levels. The all girl dance act that we saw first was on the same stage as the Musgraves (V popular on radio 2 at the mo) on Sunday night! Two young brothers with a small set of drums, guitar and a couple of song books were given a hall in the museum alongside opera singers and Birmingham Choir. 

It wasn't all singing and dancing though, we saw a great preview rendition of 'Allo 'Allo which was fantastic and a really talented classical guitarist, again in the peace of the museum. The city centre was heaving and some venues had to turn visitors away. After something to eat we headed back to LJ to dump some of our kit, get a warm jumper for the evening and catch a bit of a comfy sit down as we had been on the go about nine hours by now.

We were going to head to the pub next to the wharf to see some of the acts that they had in their bar and gig lounges before heading back up to the stages and see a bit of the royal ballet that we had both been looking forward to. 

Unfortunately a couple of sips into a pint of lager and lime saw the start of what I thought was another indigestion attack. As the last one on Tuesday was so bad I headed back to the boat as fast as I could to get to my comfort zone leaving Deb at the pub.

View from pub terrace - LJ in the background

That's enough for one blog, Part Two coming soon...

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Birmingham art festival...

We had a very pleasant few days with our guest blogger who after a couple of relaxing days is off to a party on the Thames this morning followed  by clubbing and a train back to a friends house at about 10.00 tomorrow morning! Maybe I'm glad I'm not 21 again after all..

We finished our little get together watching the opening of the Birmingham art festival. A packed square saw a fantastic band from New York getting the crowds going. Think an eight piece Bangra/Jazz band and you won't be too far off. Their last gig the day before was for Obama at the White House!

As soon as it got properly dark more crowds tried to squeeze in with lots of people standing up and waiving at friends to come and occupy the last square foot on the steps. Then the Mandala performance started. Photos to follow as soon as possible.

It will be about 10.30 by the time jess is walked to the station and we are back up by the canal. We then have a choice of no less than 285 live performances over the day, as well as markets and workshops!

Where to begin.....Coffee and a bacon roll!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Guess the Guest Blogger...

As a visitor on board Lois Jane I've been given the privilege of writing Mum and Dads blog from the last few days. Okay so it wont take that long to guess.

I got to Birmingham after a long day at work and a 2 and a half hour train journey which I am not used to, so arrived a little dazed at about 9pm.  My first thought was "it's very quiet for the second biggest city in England" but it was a nice surprise. The walk to Lois Jane wasn't too far, about a mile, which was better than expected although to get onto the Wharf I had to do a little maneuver around the fence over the dark murky canal, something which I was apprehensive doing, as was Mum as she didn't want a hysteric 21 year old daughter on her hands if I had fallen in, but I luckily made it safely round.

It's a lovely little Wharf and its great to be close to civilization which is a nice change to my usual visits consist of walking a few miles to get anywhere. I've been very surprised by Birmingham, its a lovely city with plenty to see and do, not quite the modern concrete jungle I was expecting.  It's  very picturesque with amazing buildings old mixed in with new, I've been quite taken a back by the Cube, a massive modern 26 story tower block consisting of restaurants offices and apartments looking over the city.  Not being used to being somewhere with such tall buildings I've often found myself stumbling into people trying to look up at them, which is not good for me as the 'one that's prone to falling over'. 

The Cube

On Wednesday after my most comfortable sleep ever aboard LJ we spent a lazy morning aboard before we headed towards the farmers market on New Street.  The best thing about visiting is always the home made food, in this case it was rolls with foraged blackberries dad had made into jam YUM! The market was quite diverse selling anything from handmade burgers and sausages to Caribbean lunches which smelt very good.  We then headed into the center to the Bull Ring, probably the biggest shopping center I've ever been in. Just before the entrance there's a massive bull with one foot raised, Dad saw the perfect picture opportunity for mum to lie under the bulls foot, which would have been very funny but she refused.  I don't blame her there were lots of people around. After a wander around the center and the cheapest coffee I've ever had at just 50p a cup from a burger van we headed back via the farmers market to pick up something to put on the BBQ. We had very tasty Dexter Beef burgers, home made coleslaw made by mum and a potato gratin type thing made by dad, I sat at my new spectators seat and watched over the breakfast bar. The burgers were probably some of the best I've ever had! After dinner we went for a walk towards the Mailbox along the canal and had a coffee in one of the 4 Cafe Rouge's the city has to offer. 

Thursday we went on another adventure into town and went into Birmingham's vast museum and art gallery.  It's quite a mix of different things from different eras as I'm used to going into specific museums, none the less it was very interesting and we spent half the day in the beautiful building which looks over Victoria Square and Chamberlain Square.  It boasts art and pottery from as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans all the way to modern day sculptures. By the time we came out it was about 3.30PM and rehearsals for the Arts Festival had started to take place on the stage in Chamberlain Square. We headed back to the boat to chill out before heading out the evening to Birmingham's famous Balti Triangle and Ladypool Road.  

Mum and I took the rare opportunity to do some hair dying as there are some Water Ways facilities near by, despite the fact they are rather disgusting we headed over there to rinse her hair so we didn't use all the boats water supplies.  When we returned mum said she wanted to try a new do, so I put in the curlers I had bought up, it looked rather funny, but did the job and whilst out at dinner mum randomly commented "I feel like I have lots of hair" job well done I think!

Mum looking like a 60's housewife

By about 8pm we were ready to go so started our 2.5 mile walk to the Indian restaurant dad had picked out, Al Frash. Al Frash claims to be the restaurant that invented the Balti so therefore it was mandatory we all had one. Along with that dad ordered the biggest naan bread I've ever seen, the large family size. when the waiter put it on the table my eyes nearly popped out and the waiter had a little snigger to himself.  Never having stayed this far up north I have never seen anything like it. The food was all very impressive I would probably go as far to say the best curry I've ever tasted! However with another 2.5 mile walk home at the backs of our minds our spirits were soon dampened slightly by the trudge home.  Luckily we made it by 3 minutes to get the last bus back closer to the city center meaning only a mile left to walk with very full bellies.  


My last full day visiting Lois Jane, Birmingham and off course parents has been very relaxing.  We headed into town again and went to an old Victorian arcade, Great Western Arcade by St Phillips Cathedral.  The Arcade was originally build as a go between between two train stations, it was very pretty and had been recently restored so it was easy to see exactly what it would have looked like in the late 19th century when it was first built.  

We are heading to the first performance of the Arts Festival tonight in Chamberlain Square, a 3D performance by Mandala which I think is a mix of Indian music and dancing so should be very interesting! And as always I've bought the beautiful sunshine with me :-)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

A few more pictures of our journey up to Brum...

The first lock is the hardest

A surprising rural stretch between industrial estates

A goose joined us for a stroll, and even refused breakfast!

Heron escaped us by flying to the top of Cincinnati roof

Heading under an industrial unit

Nope, not got a clue what it is

1820'S bridge under 1970's bridge

Still even got the old iron corner protector with deep rope gouges 

You don't get much more industrial than that! Looks like a level of a computer game

No way were getting through there

Rubble and car seats exposed

Possibly old grinding wheels, I know they we're used a lot in many Sheffield foundations

A bit more water, ducks now making use of the car seat

One of the four narrowboats we saw all day 

See, traffic cones in pairs again

 Refilling  the pound

Quite a side wash from some of them

Heading under the railway station

Cuckoo wharf 

locks under flats and offices

Last few semi underground ones
Deb catching up - nearly there now

We've arrived! 14 days free mooring