Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Last day in London - first day home!

When I left you last, we were on our way out the door for our last day in London.  Ellen and Philip had already left to go to the Victoria and Albert Museum to see the exhibit on quilting that I told her about when I went in June sometime - or was it May?  I'll have to read my own blogs to figure that one out!

We wanted to go to the Docklands Museum which is in the east end of London to finish up a tour that we took back in December when we were visiting Ellen and Philip to learn all the ins and outs of their house.  It's a great museum about London's history and I had gotten as far as the slave trade in the 1700's and wanted to finish.  To get to the museum, you take the tube to the DLR - Dockland's Light Rail.  This is a unique part of the London rail system and starts at the Bank tube station underground but comes above ground very soon and goes out beyond the Docklands area and beyond Greenwich.  It is an automated train and I felt sometimes like I was in Disneyworld on the tram.  If you are in the first car, you can sit right up front where a driver would normally be and watch where it is going.  Since it twists and turns and goes up and down, I said to John that this is the closest I would ever get to being on a roller coaster.

The museum opened in 2003 and is housed in restored sugar warehouses that were built in the 1800s.  It tells the story of the River Thames from Roman times to the present and I found it simply fascinating because so much of what I have read about England revolves around the river and London and it made a lot of history and historical novels come alive for me.  The displays are excellent and some are interactive.  You can walk the length of a model of London Bridge when it had over 100 houses and shops on it;  you can walk through an area that looks like the docks; you can  watch on screen an enactment of several shipowners in the 1600's doing business in a pub; you can read the names of souls that were transported in ship-holds as slaves to the hell they would be living in England and the colonies.  It is a remarkable museum that you should visit if you are ever in London.  We had a very nice lunch in the restaurant before we returned to see some more.  We could have eaten outside in the sunshine but it was very blustery and cool and we deemed inside to be much more comfortable.  By the way, admittance is free!

While there, we were reminded of the Museum of London which we had also been to before and decided at 3:00 to go on to that since it was open until 6:00.  It was only a 20 minute trip using the DLR to return to Bank and then switching to another line to go only one stop.  A five minute walk fighting the wind got us there. It was interesting to be there on our Fourth of July and see so much of where our heritage and history started.

We spent a good three hours in the museum and when we left the wind was blowing and it was very cool. 
 I was wearing shorts because it was much warmer when we left the flat hours before.  We headed to Hammersmith to meet Ellen and Philip for dinner at The Dove, one of our favorite pubs.  It's on the Thames River and is in the Guinness Records for the smallest bar in England.  Seats 4, I think, but the pub is a pretty good size and a lot of it outside on the river.

Well, we got there at 7 just as they closed the kitchen so we walked down the way to another larger pub.  Food wasn't as good and we were sitting outside for awhile until I couldn't stand it any more.  I was the only one in shorts and I was cold.  The wind was blowing off the river and it was in the 60's - on the 4th of July!  Don't think I made Ellen very happy, in fact she had to go outside for awhile during dinner because she was too warm!

Got home and finished packing.  I had asked Ellen and Philip to bring one of our suitcases from our attic with them -  what I thought was a brilliant idea - so we would have an extra because we had accumulated so many books and presents.  They said they really didn't need an extra bag but somehow when they arrived in London, it was stuffed!  It was a challenge getting everything to fit and in the right bags; in fact when we went through security, John was accosted by security for having sunscreen and the very expensive mustard we bought in Paris in his carry on.  They absconded with it!! 

We left early Monday morning, July 5th, for home.  John was really ready and I wasn't at all.  In fact, I'm ready to go again any time.  It's where I feel at home. 

Ginger and Bill picked us up at the airport and had a lovely little basket of goodies for us -items that we shared in England together, crackers, cheese, even a certain toothpaste I found in England.  We had a lovely hour or two with them and then took off immediately for our rental house that badly needed fixing up to put it back on the market for the next renter. Painted rooms, washed walls and woodwork, floors, etc.  Welcome home!!

Now we have been home 7 weeks and it has taken me a full month to get back in gear.  I started working about 3 weeks ago in my design business and focusing more on MonaVie.   Wish me luck.  My dream for England is finished and now only memories.  On to a new dream.... I wonder what it will be.

Even more about our canal trip!

As I mentioned in the last blog, with Philip driving John got to relax and sit up front for the first time ever in our 4 canal boat adventures - which also gave me the opportunity to sit up front with John for the first time, also!

This was kind of a slow day, retracing our "footsteps"  (I only know one Person who would have had footsteps on the water, but I couldn't think of any other word!) back to our starting point to continue on to Bath.  Let me explain that a little.  On most canal boat trips, you rent your boat for seven days which usually is not enough time to go around a canal "ring".  You have to go 3.5 days in one direction and then turn around and come back to bring the boat back to the starting point.  It's not like renting a car and having another placeyou can drop it off when you're done.  You have to return it to your starting point.  On this trip we decided to go 1.5 days east to Devizes and the 16 lock flight called Caen Hill I've mentioned before and then return to our starting point and proceed west to the city of Bath.  So we are now on our 3rd day and we have a good deal of time to relax.  Bath is only 8 miles away and at 4 mph top speed, that's only two hours of cruising.  We've got three days left and we want to spend one day in Bath and since we have to turn in the boat by 9 AM on the last day, that day really doesn't count at all.  So one day in Bath, one day cruising up the river and then back toward the marina.  We're in good shape!

(I love John's photography and I think this is a magnificent shot of an incredible tree we saw along the way.  Sometimes you just have to look up to see God's beauty.)

The British Waterways prints and sells guidebooks for all the canals in England.  These books give a detailed map of the canal, where each lock is located, mile marks so you can judge the distances and where the tunnels and winding (turning) holes are located.  In addition, there is a description of the canal and its surroundings at each town.  It looks like they use the Ordinance Survey maps because each street and building, tiny as they be, are indicated on the maps.  They also describe the waterside and town pubs that are within walking distance which is how we decided that we wanted to walk into the town of Limpley Stoke to go to the Hop Pole.  To quote the guide, "Moor at Limpley Stoke Bridge, walk down to the railway bridge and turn left to find this popular traditional oak-panelled pub, featured in the film "Remains of the Day".  The building is at least 400 years old, originally the monks' wine lodge - it is now famous for its Hop Pole pies.  Real ale."  That mentioned "real ale" is critical!!

And so we climbed the hill to find the Hop Pole.  The interior of the pub is everything that you would expect, dark small rooms, low ceilings, paneling, lots of atmosphere, but we chose to sit outside where it was cool and we could look over the hills across the canal. 

We started talking to the couple sitting at the table next to us and who knows why or how but we ended up talking about race horses.  That led to him (never did get their names) telling us that if early the next morning we would walk up the hill from the canal and take the first left turn, we would come to a race track and we could watch the horses train.  Well, that sounded like a new adventure so early the next morning, John and I started up the hill.  Couldn't get Ellen and Philip interested so we went alone, camera in hand, of course.

Complaining all the way up the hill that we had gone too far, I just knew we had missed it.  John kept assuring and insisting we were going the right way, but even he suggested we turn right down a lane and look across the hills to see if we could spot something.  No, we couldn't so we returned to the main road and kept climbing.  Finally, we came to a break in the stone wall on our left and saw what appeared to be a race track.  It was blocked by a white van so we went around it and stood stood in front of it for awhile waiting for something to happen but since nothing did, we continued on up the hill feeling a bit more hopeful about seeing some excitement.  We came to a driveway on the left with old stone pillars on either side so we turned and walked up that for awhile until we saw a beautiful house up on the hill and some horses in the fields.

The track ran alongside this house so we figured they must be connected.  Trespassing all the way, I'm sure, we continued up the drive until we saw about 8 horses but none were saddled nor could we see any human activity.  I guess we had been gone about an hour now and we thought that if these were the horses that were going to run, it was going to take some time to gather them, get them saddled, etc. and we might as well return to the boat.  As we were starting back down the hill, I said to John "Wouldn't it be funny if we would suddenly hear galumpaty, galumpaty, galumpaty (isn't that what horses sound like when they run??) on the other side of the wall?"  I no more said that than we heard galumpaty, galumpaty, galumpaty on the other side of the wall and I broke into a run to the van where we might see them and sure enough, here came a couple of horses tearing down the track.  Sure was a beautiful sight.  We decided to wait and see if any more might come along, hopeful because there was now a man standing up near the driveway where we had been before and all the riders had stopped to talk to him.  We figured as long as he was there, something else was going to happen!  Sure enough, about 5 minutes later here comes another group of horses.

I guess they didn't like our being there because the first rider, a woman, shouted at us as she went by "Would you go away, please!"  Very politely, of course.  I mean, we are in Britain.  So of course, we lingered only another moment or two and then left, having felt like we had quite accomplished our goal.

When we got to the boat and told Ellen and Philip our tale, Philip suggested that they could possibly have thought that we were spies for other horse owners who also raced.   Apparently, that kind of thing goes on in this very competitive and expensive sport.  That and a lot of gambling. 

One of our destinations this trip was the pumping station built in the 1800's to pump water from the Avon River into the canal.  This pumping station has a water wheel that is HUGE - and it's made out of wood.  If you are like me and can consider a wooden wheel beautiful, this one was a gem.  Volunteers now maintain the pumping station which is no longer functioning except once a week for tourists.  All the pumping of the water and the filling of the canals is controlled electronically.  Unfortunately, we only have two pictures at this site.  One is a closeup of part of the beautiful wheel and also the gears which are huge and I suppose to someone also beautiful in their own right.  I thought we didn't get one of the wheel, but....

...after looking at the two pictures which are so small in the thumbnail collection, I realized that John did not fail me!  He did get a picture of part of the wheel.  It filled an area about the size of a triple garage and twice as high!

After leaving the pumping station, we went on to our destination - the city of Bath, but due to the larger than normal number of boats - probably due to the fact that we were all stuck on one side of the Caen Hill flight because of the damage to one of the locks - we couldn't find a spot to moor and had to find a winding hole to turn around and go back about a mile to moor.

The Kennett Avon canal is reportedly the prettiest canal in England but I have to say that I was very disappointed.  There are three reasons for my point of view.  The main reason is that the sides of the canal are not maintained the way the other canals we have traveled are kept.  The British Waterways has let the sides of the Kennett Avon deteriorate to the point that the weeds are very high and thick on the edges and you cannot judge where the side of the canal is when you moor. This can be very dangerous when you are trying to get out of the boat to tie up.  If you don't know where the canal edge is then you don't know where the solid ground is and you have to jump off the boat onto solid ground or you go in the drink!  Not a pleasant thought because all the canals are only about 4' deep and filthy.  All the gray water from all the canal boats goes directly into the canal.  Not your bathroom waste, of course, but kitchen water, bathtub water, bath sink water all goes into the canal.  And then, of course, you have all the ducks and swans, and their waste does go in!  No controlling that.  The other canals we have traveled have metal siding along the canal sides which support the edges of the canals and keep the weeds from growing into the water.  It also makes it easier to mow right up to the canal edge.  Every canal boat has a plank that lays on top of the roof.   You can see it in this shot.

In all our boating trips, this was the only time we had to "walk the plank"  so that we could get off the boat safely.

The second reason is because the bushes and growth on the towpath side and the other side as well have grown up so high that it completely blocks the view of the scenery and you have to stand up on the outside seats to see the countryside.  That was a major disappointment.

 And the third reason is that I have never seen so many derelict boats in one canal.  Perhaps it is because the Kennett Avon is not a ring canal.  You go one way and then you go back.  Of course, how do you remove a 10 ton boat from a narrow canal that doesn't have a road alongside for a crane?  And if it is displaying a current registration you can't remove it anyway, even if you could!

There were some though that were very creative, this one being my favorite.  It looks like something a Hobbit would live in.  Click on the picture so you can see the carvings up close.

As I mentioned, we had to turn around and go back a mile or two to find a place to moor for the night.  That meant  that we got to go through this charming tunnel twice in about an hour.  We ended up mooring within walking distance of a grocery store and that was good. 

We had a wonderful show of hot air balloons that afternoon.

This one looks pretty low here - and it was - but it did manage to increase its height and miss the trees!

That evening John and I went for a walk back to another intriguing pub, another George Inn.  We only walked through it having eaten on the boat so we will enjoy it on the way back.  We also walked to the church across the driveway, not an exciting one (we're so spoiled) so no pictures!

The next day we headed for Bath with our fingers crossed that there would be a mooring spot across from the city near the weir and Pultney Bridge.  Coming into Bath,  you have to navigate the second deepest lock in England - 19 feet.  It had me a bit unnerved in preparation for this trip but it turned out to not be that bad, just a lot more work.  You have to be careful while the water rushes in because all of a sudden the force of the water pushes your boat sideways across the lock to bang into the other side.  It was suggested to us by an experienced boating couple that we possibly have another boat in the lock with us, which we didn't, so we wouldn't get banged around so much. When we came out of the lock, we had to take a "sharp" turn to the right to get to the mooring spot near the weir.

Luck was with us and we were able to park there right alongside the watering point which was very handy.  (Watering points on the canal are the locations where you stop and fill up your water tank every day, especially with four people on board.  If you run out of water, that's no fun at all.)  The view here is so pretty.  You are down from the bridge as you can see here and across from the Abbey which you can't see but we could!  It's a five minute walk to the Abbey and the Roman Baths which are across the bridge and into the square, so you are right in the middle of all the activity.

 We arrived in Bath fairly early in the day - around noon, I recall - and everyone had a different agenda.  Philip and Ellen wanted to stay on the boat, which I will admit was tempting because it was so relaxing.
 Sorry, Ellen, you're back there behind the wild flowers we picked a few days before, but you're there and enjoying the reading hour.

John wanted to roam a bit and go back to the Old Green Tree pub we had visited with Ginger and Bill

and I wanted to go to the Assembly Rooms.  I couldn't get in when we were here before because they were setting up for some sort of reception and all you could do is peek in the rooms.  They had a troll in the hall who wouldn't even let you get close to the rooms' doorways, so it was really less than a peek.  I was pretty determined to get in and as you will see, I did!!  Even though they were setting up for another reception.

It's fun to have visited a city in England and go back and feel like you know where you are going and where the major landmarks are, so it wasn't hard to find the Assembly Rooms.  It also helped that there were signs along the way!   This is one of my favorite streets on the way to the Rooms.  Turn left at the top and right at the end of that street and there they are.

When we were here about a month before, we took a walking tour.  Some of you might remember that episode.  It's dated May 23rd on the blog index page.  One of the places we were taken on that tour was at the end of that left turn off this street and in front of a Georgian town house right near the entrance to the Assembly Rooms.  The front door of this house is decorated with wrought iron fencing whose purpose is to enclose the entrance to the lower quarters where you would have the kitchens, servants etc.  The tour guide pointed out a winch that rotated out over the basement entrance and out over the front entrance walk.  The lady of the house's sedan chair was stored in that area under the front door stairs.  The winch's purpose was to hook onto the top of the sedan chair, lift it out of the basement's entrance and up onto the front walk.  The lady would enter it, her footman would lift it, and off she would go to her destinations.  Upon return, of course, the sedan would be lifted and lowered down to be stored under the stairs once again.   Ah, the luxury of modern travel.

The Assembly Rooms are off one of the three spokes out of the Circus,  that grand circle of buildings that is one of Bath's most famous landmarks.  Believe it or not, we don't have any pictures of it even though we ate at The Circus Cafe off one of the spokes twice with Ginger and Bill, and their B&B was off another spoke and once at the Cafe with Ellen and Philip.  However, there is a wonderful website where you can scan the whole Circus.  It is:  (You might have to cut and paste that.)  After checking that out, scroll down to the bottom of the page for a spectacular aerial view.  Look closely at the left hand spoke where the buildings stop, unlike the other two, and you can see the Assembly Room building at the left edge of the picture, the townhouses behind it where the lady with the sedan chair lived and if you look closely, the B&B that Ginger and Bill were in - the shorter building at the end of that side of the Circus on the far side of the street right alongside the Assembly Room courtyard.  (Whew! Long sentence!) Prime real estate!!

When you walk into the Assembly Rooms building, you are greeted by a receptionist who directs you down the hall.  At the end of the hall, maybe 30 feet long, the hall splits into 3 rooms.  The one on your far left is the ballroom and the largest with five of the most magnificent chandeliers you will ever see.  They are about 250 years old and were taken apart and hidden during WWII.  Good thing since the Rooms were bombed.  The ballroom is a soft blue with a touch of green in it and all the trim and cornice adornments are a soft, creamy white.  The large Octagon Room is at the end of the hall, painted a sunny yellow and has some very valuable portraits in it.  The Card Room where the men  used to play - guess what? -cards is now a cafe tastefully painted in a soft green and the Tea Room which is on your far right is kind of a pinkish color.  I have found another most engaging website that will give you a virtual tour through these magnificent rooms and you will see more than I did while visiting.  Go to and click on "Assembly Rooms" in the upper tool bar.  Then click on "View the Assembly Rooms tour" and enjoy! It's truly amazing.

I went to the Rooms the second time we were in Bath because they were setting up for a reception in the Ballroom the first time and the troll at the door would not even let me peek inside!  When I arrived this time, they were also setting up for a reception and had a tape barrier across the main door but I went in anyway.  I figured all they could do was throw me out and they did!  But at least I got to go in and look for awhile before they figured out that I didn't belong there.

We met Ellen and Philip at The Circus Cafe for dinner enjoying a sidewalk table until it started to rain and then moving inside, so we got the best of both worlds and a progressive dinner.  Upon leaving, we entered the Circle where we went and stood in the middle amongst the trees that were never supposed to have been there and clapped three times!  That's fun because it echoes, a little treat that I'm sure few no about.  Back to the boat for a good night's sleep.  Or was that the night John fell out of his bed?

The following day was our last and we decided that since we had the time we would keep going in the direction we came which would take us down the Avon River.  We were no longer in the canal, in fact it turns into the river just as we approach Bath.   It felt quite different boating down a wide river rather than a narrow canal and since we were still in the city we passed a number of interesting buildings and warehouses.
This plan also helped us get back into the deep lock. 

Because we had to be at the marina the next day at 9 AM and we wanted to find a mooring spot near there, we decided after an  hour to turn around and head back.  This gave us the "opportunity" to go through the deep lock again and having done it just the day before, the anxiety wasn't as bad.  "The anxiety is worth than the reality" is one of my favorite phrases.  It gets me through some scary stuff as it did this here.  Actually, this time it was kind of fun.

The areas in the picture where there is foliage are actually the doors that will swing shut behind us after we get far enough into the lock.  Looks pretty, doesn't it?  Almost like approaching a waterfall.  When the paddles are raised in the locks by the gears we turn, the water will rush in, fill it up and we will exit at the other end 19 feet higher into the canal.  Since most of these locks are over 150 years old, it's like traveling through a living museum.

We found a good mooring spot not far from the marina and walked again to The George Inn for lunch.  It's really a wonderful pub with all it's little rooms, low ceilings and atmosphere.  We enjoyed  a great meal and a pint before moving on.

We also saw a charming party of high school students all dressed up as if for a prom taking a boat ride from there for tea!  The boat was open on the sides and canopied with a large table in the center for serving.  I imagine you wouldn't catch many of our kids doing something like that!  They looked like they were having a wonderful time.  Here the hostess readies the boat for her jubilant guests who were celebrating their high school graduation!

We found a spot to moor and it gave us the opportunity to meet several interesting people with interesting jewelery attached to their bodies and faces.  They were actually quite nice and a couple of them support themselves with businesses they conduct from their boats - legitimate businesses I might add.  One makes elaborate knotted bumpers for the boats; it's almost like macrame out of heavy roping and is an art he chooses not to reveal or pass on to anyone at this time.  His bumpers are works of art, truly.

We also had some curious visitors who were interested in what we were having for dinner.

It wasn't important to them that they were not invited to the dinner table!  The top of the boat was just fine.

                                                    Some of them were quite tame.

Having dinner with ducks and dogs was an appropriate and lovely way to end a beautiful week outdoors on the canal.  Having friends along like Ellen and Philip just made it that much more enjoyable.

During the ride back to London, we drove to Devizes so Philip could see the Caen Hill Flight.  It is a wondrous sight and I'm not the least bit sorry that we couldn't get there to do it!!  I've heard it takes an entire day to accomplish and you do get a certificate for completing it.  Looks like once you got started you wouldn't have much choice!

 On the way, we passed one of my all time favorite pubs from a trip way back when - The Waggon and Horses located near the stone circles of Avebury.  It was an old haunt of Charles Dickens and he must have been impressed with it because he featured it in "The Bagman's Story" in The Pickwick Papers.  We didn't stop however, much to my disappointment.  It is a true classic, to the point of it being featured on the cover of English Country Pubs by Derry Brabbs.  Sometimes I wonder if the British are fully aware of the treasures in their country.  I guess we are the same way, though, always traveling somewhere other than our own back yard.

I'm soon to say good by to England again.  Only one more day after we get home this evening.  It's always hard for me.  I sometimes feel more at home here than I do in my own country.  I think I must have had a previous life somewhere over here.  That would explain it!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

More about our canal boat trip -

The first night we were out, Ellen wasn't feeling well and didn't join us at our first pub, The CrossGuns.  This pub is situated at the end of the Avoncliff Aqueduct which crosses over the Avon River.  The pub and aqueduct are pictured below.

The next morning John and I followed a public footpath that headed down toward the river and discovered this little haven of bird life and fauna.  The fact that there was a blue heron there leads me to tell you a lovely story that has absolutely nothing to do with England.  (Those of you who know me, I know that you are now shocked!)

When my father passed away on March 15, 1978, our son Jesse was a week short of 12 years old and my father and he had been very close, especially since he had been Jess' role model all his life until I married John when he was seven.  My parents lived on a lake near Pinehurst, NC and a day or two after Daddy died, a blue heron appeared on the dock next door and stayed there all day long.  I finally said to Jesse, "Son, that's your granddaddy."  From that time on for about twenty years, I kid you not, wherever I went, a blue heron would appear, even in unlikely places like the mountains of NC and Kenya!  Well, what seemed unlikely to me, anyway.  Someone is bound to tell me that those are also natural habitats for herons but I don't know that and they seem unusual to me.  It got to the point that we no longer said "Oh, there's a blue heron!"  No, it got to where we said "Oh, there he is." when one would show up.  After 20 years, he finally stopped for about 10 years until about two years ago when he returned.  It's nice to have him back...

The next day we stopped in Bradford upon Avon, a lovely village with a magnificent tithe barn owned by English Heritage.  A tithe barn was where medieval farmers stored a tenth of their harvest that they were required to give to the church.  I have seen one other in Lacock and this one is even bigger.  They are magnificent buildings.   John took an amazing shot, I think.  The bright light at the end is an open cross-shaped window.  There are two "porches" on either side under which the wagons would pull up to to unload their tithe, a porch being an entrance with a large roof over it. 

The tithe was actually a tax paid to the church which just about governed everything in those days.

Bradford upon Avon was a textile town and that is where it got its wealth.  There were textile mills and weavers in the 17th century and it was a very wealthy town.  We explored some of Bradford, walked a narrow pathway where there were weavers' cottages, crossed the town bridge, one side of which was built in Norman times (11th-12th century), gazed in awe at the interior of a small Saxon church.

The information office volunteers said if your time is limited go to the Saxon chuch which is 1300 years old and not the Norman, it's only 900 years old! We didn't go to the Norman church and now I regret it.

There is a canal lock in Bradford and a considerable amount of activity takes place around it as in many towns that have locks.  People like to gather around and watch.  Some like to help.  It's great fun.  But you still have to crawl across yourself to get to the other side!

Another feature of the canal system is the swing bridge.  This connects roads, public footpaths, farm lanes, etc. that have to cross over the canal.  They are very easy to operate, you just unhook or unlock the ring and post at one end of the bridge, usually the swinging end, walk to the other side and push on the arm which swings the bridge over to your side.  The boat passes through and you swing it back, walk back across to the tow path side of the canal and get back in your boat.  I say they are easy to operate but on a previous trip when the canal went through the middle of town and the swing bridge needed to be unlocked with the British Waterways key you are always given and it wouldn't unlock and swing (it was electronic), we had town traffic tied up for awhile.  I'm sure they loved that.

We've got a couple of good shots of Philip and Ellen manning the swing bridge. 

For us, one of the best things about canal boating and the pubs is talking to the people you meet.  There are many pubs along the canals that started up when canal boating was a job and not a vacation.  John and I love the pubs - as I am sure you have figured out - and the pubs along the canals range from those you would never find because they are off the beaten path as is the canal or they are right in the middle of a town and popular because the canal runs through the town.  A really nice pub we came across the next day was The Barge Inn in Seend.  We came by it around lunch time and since there was a place to moor and we were hungry we stopped there for lunch.  Moored under a beautiful weeping willow tree was a boat with four women aboard who work together and boat together every year and this year they were celebrating the recovery of one of themselves from breast cancer; and I mean they were celebrating!  Here they are reenacting Titanic!  We crossed paths with them all week.

 Well, something pretty awful with this blog happened last night (Tuesday, July 13).  I had put about two hours writing time into this chapter and with the click on the wrong key, it all disappeared.  In disgust, I practically threw the computer aside but with rationale taking over, I laid it gently aside and told it where it could go.   So now I must start over because some of the most enjoyable parts of this canal trip happened at this stop over.

Lunch was very nice there; the facility was picturesque, so we decided we would boat down the canal to the base of the Devizes and turn around and come back for the night.  It turned out - and we knew this but not quite where - that one of the locks near the Devizes 16 lock flight had been damaged and that we would not be able to get as close to it as we would like because of the repairs being done.  The flight was completely closed but that didn't bother us since we had not planned to do it (it would take about 5 hours to complete I understood), we just wanted to see it.  When we got as far as we could, we moored and walked on the towpath only to find out that the towpath was also closed and there was nowhere to go.  We spent a pleasant 15 minutes or so talking with a widowed gentleman who lives on his boat and he was effectively "trapped", would be stuck where he was for a couple of weeks.  Fortunately, he could walk to the very nearby marina for water and to the road to shop for food.  He had been living on his boat for a year; sold his house, just about everything he owned, bought the boat to live on.  His children live in England but don't visit much and he got tired of watching the "telly" and sitting around.  Not the first we had met with the same story...

Luckily, our boat had been moored across from the marina which gave us enough room to turn around.  Doing a U-turn in a narrowboat requires a wide space in the canal because of its length.  There are areas specifically cut into the sides of the canal called winding holes.  (Some pronounce this with a long i; we understand it to be pronounced with a short i as in "windy".)   You sort of back into the hole realizing of course that when you are in reverse in a narrowboat it cannot be steered, than once your stern is back near the shoreline of the hole, you put it in forward and turn it around.  Not as easy as it sounds and John does it very well as he does most things.

Upon returning to the Barge, we found that we would be lucky enough to get the mooring sight under the willow tree and behind the Titanic ladies.  What a lovely spot.  We had dinner outside on the canal and not only was the food good but so was the company of Ellen and Philip and the two parties that sat at the table beside us, the first a couple of guys that lived nearby, the second two couples also from the area. I'm can't recollect how we ended up inside having dessert but England must have been "spitting" on us as Ellen calls it.

 The next morning I got up very early and went for a walk.  I left the Barge grounds and walked up the road and found myself in what felt like a Jane Austen novel.  Fields off to my right with horses and sheep, a man walking across it with his dog sniffing away far behind, stone houses to my left with beautiful gardens in full bloom, chickens in one yard, ducks in another and another horse far back in a corral.  A young mother passed me walking her son in his red shirt and navy shorts and her daughter in her stroller.  Two cars also passed me - ruining the Jane Austen aura - with children in red shirts inside.  Because it began spitting again and I had no "brolly" - and no camera ! Fool... - I headed back to the canal boat to find John doing what I call his periscope routine.  He was standing in the hatch at the stern and turning his head around left to right, right to left looking for me.  I convinced him he must come with me to see what I had found.  With equipment in hand, we took off down the road again taking pictures of what I had seen.

The woman with the two children who passed me before answered yes when I asked her if there was a school nearby where all the children wore red shirts.  She said yes and if we would continue up the road about 10 minutes we would pass it and be in the village where there were beautiful old homes, a lovely church and a village shop.  So we continued on and came to Seend and explored the church.  It was lovely, she was right.

The inside was cathedral in style but smaller and at about every other pew there was a tall - maybe 7-8' - candelabra holding three candlesticks and an enormous brass chandelier holding three tiers of candles.  There were discreet electric  CFLs intermittently atop the columns and today the sanctuary was lit naturally from the windows but I would love to have seen it lit solely by candlelight.

We were accosted by two very friendly border collies who chased after us as we came out of the church and walked down its lane.  Friendly owner, too.

We went on to the village shop where we bought homemade bread pudding and ate it all on the way back.
We arrived back at the boat at 10 to find Ellen and Philip - much to their own astonishment - just awakening.

Outside the pub there were a number of picnic tables and as John and I were taking advantage of the pub's free wi-fi, we noticed an elderly couple arrive.  She appeared frail and speaking loudly.  He was gently guiding her to a place at the table.  I thought "What a pity - dementia."  Boy, was I wrong.  When they sat down, I noticed that she put her knees between his and was soon rubbing the inside of his thigh with her knee!!! We went over to meet them and they turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.  They both were in their eighties and had been good friends in their late teens, early twenties.  She lived in Lacock, one of my favorite villages (Google it, you'll love it,too!) and he used to walk her to work or school, I never got that part straight.  He had to leave, maybe for the war, and when he returned she was nowhere to be found.  Actually, she was in the area and had married.  Sixty years later - yes, sixty! - he tracks her down, they are both widowed and she remembers him.  The romance begins.  I asked them how long had they been married and she merrily said "We're not!  We're living in sin!!"  And that was when they told us the story I just related to you.  She was animated, flirty, and constantly touching him as if she couldn't believe he was there.  He was bantering in contradiction most of everything she said because some was so outrageous!  What fun they were and so alive.  I really had never met a couple that old having such a good time and so much in love with life and each other.  When the pub opened, they asked us to join them for coffee. By this time, Ellen had joined us so she got Philip and the six of us sat inside and chatted about music and England and Lacock where she lived all her life.  Well, used to - four months ago she moved to Melksham to be near him and "No, we're not living in sin.  I just like to say that!"  Can you imagine leaving the village you have lived in your eighty years to be near your love - at eighty!!!  While we were sitting at the table she was holding the index finger of his right hand and kept rubbing it until he said she was going to rub it off.  Her response?  "I just can't stop fiddling with him!"  We had to leave but when we got to the first lock, I told John I had to go back to get a picture and their addresses.

When I got back to the pub - about 1/2 mile - they were outside and as you might notice in the picture, her skirt was over his lap!  I came up behind her and said sternly "What are you doing??"  She jumped and he said "The wind blew her skirt in my lap!"  Yeah, right!!  Are they not adorable?  I think they are priceless.  Someone needs to tell their story - maybe it will be me....

Philip took over as skipper of the boat.  He hadn't shared with us that years ago he had taken boy scout troops out on narrowboats and when John found out how well he guided the boat, for the first time in our four canal boat trips, John was able to leave the stern and be up front and relax like all the rest of us. 

Where you get to look at scenes like this:

Move on to the next blog for "even more about our canal boat trip".