This Summer we will be really excited to welcome Barb's sister Anita and hubby John to England. In all the years we lived there together (1974-1981. We were there singly long before) and all the summers we have visited since, none of her siblings have ever visited us there. Barb's parents came twice and Rick, her nephew has been twice, but this is a stellar occasion for all of us.

We are renting lodges in Mercia Marina for the duration, near our boat Basil the King. Plans include London for almost a week, Liverpool for 3 days and St. Ives, Cornwall for a week. In June we plan to cat-sit for my bro Michael and sis-in-law Ange in my Ancestral Village of Woodchurch, Kent. Gotta get our cat fix! Planned visitors to Mercia will include our nearly-drowned friend Liza (see July 7th 2016) who is bravely coming back, and my boyhood friend and uncle (he's actually younger than I am) Richard and his new bride, Viv. We hope to see my high school mate Peter when we visit the West Country (he and his wife live in Devon). At the end of August we will join Mick and Ange and her family for a week's cruise around Slartibartfast's masterpiece, the Norwegian Fjords, before flying home.

Deck DamageAs usual, I am hoping to do some boating, Barb not so much. Basil boat has been badly beaten up by a bad winter. His deck board sags (left), another boater crashed into him and who knows what else I will find when we get there. Fingers crossed. Stay tuned for regular updates starting in June.

June 13th
Who would have thought, all those years ago when British Airways started the Phoenix to London direct flight using old DC10's, that one day they would fill two huge 747's daily? That's about 2,400 people flying back and forth between Phoenix and Europe. Now this year they have new competition in the shape of a daily Condor Airlines flight to Frankfurt. Condor Airlines is a German subsidiary of Thomas Cook.

BA Leaving
Earlier BA 747 flight departing, passes
 Condor Airlines Airbus on the ramp.
BA Arriving
Minutes later a second BA 747 (ours) lands at
Phoenix Sky Harbor Aiport.
Preparing to Depart on BA Flight 288
We had a somewhat bumpy but otherwise
uneventful flight to London. BA have
improved their cabins, particularly the
TV, but they need to catch up with the
Asian airlines. The food was terrible. I
had gnocchi that was so overcooked it had
and the sauce was dried to a
red crust. Barb
had an inedible 'filet'.

Managed to get some sleep, though, and next
morning we were rewarded by great views of
the patchwork quilt that is England (right).

We stayed one night in London and the next day (Sunday) I rented a car and we drove haltingly up to Derby. Haltingly because of a weird Citroen gearbox and, if I'm honest, my lack of practice with stick shifts. It was a gorgeous sunny day with fluffy clouds and England looks stunning in all its summer greenery. Now we are ensconced in Laurel Lodge at Mercia Marina. No rain yet, but it will come in the fullness of time. Basil seems to be in fine form so far. The solar panels kept the batteries topped up all winter and are now running the fridge as well. I dewinterized the engine today and it started up with nary a puff of smoke. Amazing. I have yet to tackle my bte noire - the plumbing system - which has been through several hard winter frosts. We shall see.

Dinner at Nadee on Monday night was sublime. If there is any French justice in the world, that place should have a Michelin star.

Few things are more depressing than a mid-week visit to a Midlands Tesco supermarket. Full of old grannies wielding shopping carts like battering rams, shelves of old produce dated tomorrow and high prices. But you gotta do what you gotta do and we did it yesterday. We were feeling right grumpy by the time we got to the checkout and I got an earful from Barb about not packing correctly, much to the amusement of the cashier. I must say, for all their faults, the Middle Earth people are unfailingly friendly and cheerful in spite of the dour post-industrial conditions in which they live. In the evening we went out to dinner with Gandalf, aka our friend Robert, the Wizard of Mercia. He, and a surfeit of wine, cheered us up enormously.
Laurel Lodge
Laurel Lodge (spot the Resident)

Basil in Dock. New Piazza Building behind.
Basil Looks Pretty Smart in Spite of a Hard Winter
The Marina Gets Lusher Every Year
Land Rover
I can only imagine what the guy (yes, it must be
a guy) who drives this eccentricity looks like.
Boot Inn
With Robert in the Boot Inn, Repton
I must say that it's great being here. Probably partly because I'm at home but also because Britain seems like a much kinder gentler place than America right now. There's a thread of common decency running through society here that has disappeared in the US. Sure, Britain has its problems but, watching a Brexit debate in Parliament last night, I was struck how little party infighting there is. There was vociferous disagreement (one MP was thrown out of the House) but all seemed to put the country's interest over partisan squabbling. The world of Trump and his nasty, petty politics seems far away.

June 17th
Had a bit of an altercation with an animal abuser yesterday while out on my bikeshare bike. He let his little dog loose to swim in the lake in front of a swan. Predictably, the swan attacked the dog. The man began hurling rocks at the swan.

Man: "F****** swans, I hate them."

Me: "Well, it's his territory."

Man: "You wouldn't say that if you had seen what I saw. A swan breaking a dog's neck. There's far too many of them."

Me: "It could be said there's far too many dogs."

Man: "Yeah, and it could be said there's far too many f****** people, too."

The dog narrowly escaped, but it was close. He will probably think twice about swimming with swans in future.


The Swan in Happier Mood

Earlier in the day we said goodbye to Barbara's old friend Liza, who came by train to see us and stayed one night. We toured the marina on foot with her and she was able to thank Mike for saving her life when she fell in the water when she last visited in July 2016. We ate in the Boardwalk which has gone downhill a little but still cooks acceptable nosh.

Barb+ Liza
Barb and Liza in the Boardwalk
Chrissy Gift Boat
Chrissy (who runs the Marina store with husband
Graham) has opened a new Gift Barge.
Nadee, Holder of a Carter Star of Excellence

June 28th
Nearing the end of a ten day visit to Michael and Angela's house in Kent. After two days, they flew off to Slovenia and left us in charge of their two most excellent cats, Tigger and Patch. (Tigger is named after the tiger in "Winnie the Pooh"). The weather has been absolutely gorgeous, so we have been on excursions to Hythe and Folkestone on the coast. My brother Nigel, his wife Sandra and my sister Angela, nephew Jon, his wife Katie and their daughter Esme have all been over to see us in Woodchurch. Here are some photos:

Patch, in Formal Attire

The Street Where I (used to) Live

Cottage Blooms
The Village is Blooming
Henden House
Henden House, Reputedly the Oldest in

Cricket Match on Woodchurch Village Green
Mick, Sandra
                & Nigel
Michael, Sandra and Nigel
Feast Prep
Preparing the Feast
A Feast at Angela & Mick's House

Angela &
Angela and Barbara
My Brothers, Michael (left) and Nigel
Esme (21 months) in Movie Star Mode
Esme's Lunch
Esme Eating Lunch in the Six Bells Pub.

Pigarina and Pigletta Prepare
to Leave for Slovenia >>

Folkestone Leas
Barbara at The Leas, Folkestone

Hearing Aid
Barb's New NHS Hearing Aid
Leas Sign
Sign on the Leas

(except sign above)
Ship Inn
The Ship Inn, Folkestone Harbour

Inside the Ship
Inside the Ship Inn
Expert Kiteboarder in Action

Typical Tabloid Fare in the Daily Mirror


Cultural Note: The British Government, concerned about childhood obesity, is considering legislation banning advertising of junk food and drink on TV before 9 p.m. Prescription drug ads are already banned here and there is a tax on sugary drinks. None of this is acceptable in the USA because it would be a breach of the Constitutional right of free speech.

July 7th
At the end of our time in Kent we went to visit my bro Nigel and his wife Sandra in Canterbury. My sis Angela drove over from Walmer with her grandson Thomas and we had tea in Nigel's garden on yet another sunny afternoon. The weather has been superb - continuous blue skies and temps up to 30C (88F) every day. In the evening we celebrated nephew Josh's 25th birthday at Dems, a local Bistro which served excellent French-ish cuisine.

Next day we visited Rye, a medieval port on the River Rother. The sea has receded since the town was built but small boats can still access the harbour via the Rother estuary. Rye is one of the Cinque Ports - five ancient ports which were active after the Norman conquest of southern England. It is a quaint old town with tiny shops on cobbled streets and is built atop a hill with sweeping views of the coastline and the Romney Marsh. We wished we could take Anita and John there later when they visit but, alas, there is nowhere quite like it in the Midlands.

Nigel and Thomas
Nigel and Thomas
Nigel, Amber, Roger, Barbara, Josh and Sandra
in Dems, Canterbury

Town Crier
Rye Town Crier
Rye Gate
Old Town Gate
Old House
Old House 2
Old Houses in Rye (above and left)

Mick and Ange returned from Ljubljana, pleased to find their cats and house mostly intact, and we all went together to watch the finals of the Eastbourne Lawn Tennis Championship. This is a precursor to Wimbledon and lots of players warm up there for the Big One, as it were. It used to be a ladies-only (WTA) tournament but now it is also a men's gig on the ATP world tour.

Tennis Sign
Grandstand Mural at Eastbourne

A Full House Awaits the Ladies Final

Caroline Wozniacki beat a young but promising
Aryna Sabalenka.
Caroline Wozniacki Serves
The Men's Champion Trophy went to Mischa
Zverev who beat  Luk Lacko in straight sets
It was incredibly hot in the stands just sitting and watching. God knows how the players coped with the heat, but they did. Afterwards we walked along the seafront and on the pier to cool off. We were very impressed with Eastbourne. It is beautifully decked out with flower filled formal gardens and people of all ages having a good time. It still has that certain air of faded Edwardian gentility shared by so many English seaside towns, but has been nicely spruced up and is livelier than most but by no means overcrowded. Of course, any town looks stunning under a blue sky, drenched in sunshine and fringed by an aquamarine sea.
Eastbourne Pier
On Eastbourne Pier

On the way home we ate at the Bull in Rolvenden, a classic country pub with a friendly laid-back atmosphere and good food. Next day we said sad goodbyes to Tigger, Patch, Ange and Mick and drove back up to the Midlands in heavy traffic.
Tigger at Tap
Tigger Prefers Water On Tap
"What Do You Mean, They're Not Coming Back
Until August?" (Photo & caption by Ange)
After the long drive round London on the M25 orbital, tunneling under the Thames and up Britain's busiest freeway, the M1, I had a brainwave as I entered the big green security gates at Mercia Marina. I suggested to Robert (the Manager) that there should be a big, colourful sign on the gate: "You are Entering a Different Way of Life. Please Slow Down." He thinks it's a good idea and says he'll do it.

We had one day off at Mercia before Nigel and Sandra arrived by train to stay two nights. Next day we actually WENT BOATING for a WHOLE DAY! Basil Boat purred up the cut in fine fettle to below Weston where we picnicked on the towpath under the shade of a giant oak, or some other tree.
Sandra, Barb and Nigel Shop at the Marina
Sandra and Nigel in the Boardwalk Restaurant
Mick &
We Met Up with Old Friends Cathy and Mick
on their boat "The Crafty Foxes"
Out on the Canal At Last!
Picnic on the Bank of the Trent & Mersey
Nadee at Dusk
At Dusk, We Moored at Nadee for Dinner
Nadee at Dusk
Sunset at Mercia Marina

The weather continues in sublime summer mode as we prepare to leave tomorrow for six days in Cornwall on the far southwest tip of England. We'll be back on July 14th.

July 16th    Cornwall
We got back from St. Ives, Cornwall after a magnificent six nights by the sea in the sunny Southwest. The drive down was only 312 miles, nothing much by American standards, but it felt very arduous. 5.5 hours to get there and 6.5 hours to get back because of heavy traffic. Our rented Citroen C3 Aircross is a very quirky car, the clutch and brake pedals and the gears are all very close together. Once I stomped on the clutch instead of the brake (do not try this on your car) and several times tried to pull away in third gear. In addition it is extremely underpowered and has weird design errors. The suspension is horrible, strange for a company once renowned for smooth riding cars. The doors lock when you approach with the key and you can't leave the windows open a crack in hot weather because the alarm sounds after a few minutes even if you lock the car. Doubtless some of this is due to my rusty stick shift and driving on-the-left skills, but I cannot recommend this car. On the plus side it is very comfortable as a touring car on freeways.

As soon as we arrived at the Pedn Olva hotel, the driving stress evaporated as we surveyed the vista of Porthminster Beach laid before us from our verandah. I'll shut up now and mostly let the pictures do the talking:
Pedn Olva
The Pedn Olva Hotel
We have stayed here before and love it.
Porthminster Beach
The View from our Balcony
Beach 2
Another view of Porthminster Beach
Beach Graffiti
England was Gripped by World Cup Fever.

The beach graffiti reads: "ENGLAND, IT'S
COMING HOME!". Sadly, they lost to
Croatia in the semi-final but they did well and
were fun to watch.
Lemon Sole
Porthminster Beach Cafe - Whole Lemon Sole
Sloop Inn
The Ancient Sloop Inn, St. Ives Harbour
More popular now than in the 16th Century
A Flower Among Flowers
Low Tide at Dusk
Low Tide at Dusk, St. Ives Harbour

One day we visited the Tate Gallery in St. Ives. The Tate has been recently extended and is built on the site of an old gas works, overlooking St. Ives' other main beach. The area has long been a magnet for artists not only for the stunning landscapes, lit by the best light in the land, but also for a rich history of smuggling, pirates and other crusty old seafaring characters. In addition to collected local works by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and others, we saw a special exhibition of Patrick Heron's paintings:
Sydney Garden Painting : December 1989 : II

Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve, 1951
10 - 11th July 1992
Ceruleum Sea
Ceruleum Sea : June 1961
On the second day we clambered aboard the Citroen and motored 50 miles along the A30 and some impossibly narrow Cornish lanes to the tiny seaport of Port Isaac. Here we joined a bunch of idiots who have seen the village 300 times before on TV but are addicted, like us, to the comedy drama 'Doc Martin'. This series about the curmudgeonly doc, who would certainly have targeted us all with his acid sarcasm, was filmed here. In the series it is named 'Port Wenn'. The locals attempt to live a quiet life of fishing and ruminating but are outnumbered by the hated hordes, many of whom are American. Barb asked one of the locals if they had finished filming the latest episodes and he muttered "I don't know, and I don't care", in more fulsome language.
Port Isaac
Port Isaac Harbour. The Doc's Office is Top Left

Barb Did Not Have an Appointment
Red Lion
The Golden Lion, Where We Ate a Good Lunch
- (in convivial company!)
Memo to Jack: We saw no giggles of girls shouting "tosser" or "Bodmin" at us, though we richly deserved it. We did have to drive past Bodmin to get to Port Isaac.

Another day we took the train from St. Ives to Penzance. The little train rumbles along the coast and along an estuary to St. Erth where we changed to a mainline train from London for the short but scenic ride to Penzance. For the princely sum of 3.05 ($4.05) Seniors round trip, this is surely one of the best value train rides in the country, if not the world. It will be a subject of my documentary "Great Value Rail Journeys", available after my death when it is finally edited. From Penzance we walked along the promenade to Newlyn.
Newlyn Harbour

Great Western Railway Train at Penzance

St. Michaels
View of St. Michael's Mount from Newlyn

Lobster Pot
Lobster Pot In Newlyn Harbour

(except Newlyn Harbour, top)
Cat Friend
Wherever We Went We Made Friends
A short hike from St. Ives took us to Carbis Bay, along the coast a bit. Here is the longest beach I have ever seen outside of Australia, miles of golden sand almost uninhabited by humans (or flies) even in this glorious weather. We had coffee in the swanky Carbis Bay Hotel (7 for two Americanos). I rode the train back because my arthritic ankle was really acting up, but Barb hiked back.
Carbis Bay
Carbis Bay

Black Cat
Black Cat Luck Along the Way
Flowers Grace the Trail
Is THIS the Best Value Train Ticket? (0.65p)
                      & Cats
Cottage Flowers and Cats, St. Ives
And so ended a memorable stay in St. Ives, Cornwall. We resolved to come back next year and stay in the Pedn Olva hotel for a third time. The room we had this year was tiny, though we managed fine and it had a great balcony, but they showed us a better room for next year. The food and wine was fine and very good value, not something you can usually say about holiday hotels. We ate steamed mussels, grilled hake, fish & chips, haloumi burger and desserts with clotted cream including a delicious gluten-free chocolate brownie. Yummie!

People who come to St. Ives are an interesting mix of working-class (blue collar) people and artistic types. The little train disgorges families who come for the day and leave in the evening, but quite a few stay on in the hotels.

Wife Sign
No Comment. Will NOT enlarge.
Barb Asleep
First Night Back - Barb Slept Well
Now we are back at Mercia Marina, preparing for a 3-day trip to Liverpool, home of The Beatles and the late Ken Dodd, among others.

Cat Boat
Two Cats and Two People Live Here
Tiller Pin
Tiller Pin on Precious Time
Rog on Bike
Back on My Bikeshare Bike
Donald Trump appeared briefly here, played golf, met the Queen and insulted the Prime Minister before flying off to Helsinki to cozy up to Vladimir Putin. He was carefully insulated from the hundreds of thousands of protesters who joined the largest weekday protests in the history of politics. Something to add to his "biggest, most wonderful" bag of accomplishments.
Meanwhile the British Government is in disarray over the impossible task of leaving the European Union without bankrupting the country. Theresa May must rue the day she ran for Prime Minister, a thankless job if ever there was one.

July 22nd
We returned from Liverpool yesterday after 2 nights in the Premier Inn, Albert Dock. 
The River Mersey
Narrowboats in Outer Albert Dock, Dwarfed
by the City Buildings

Hotel View
View of Inner Albert Dock from our Window
Albert Dock
Inner Albert Dock by Night

De Wadden
Old Dutch Trader, the De Wadden, in a Dry
Dock prviously used to Repair Slave Traders
The whole dock area, which was a hub of Transatlantic shipping in the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries and then fell into dreadful dereliction, has been immaculately restored. The old warehouses now house hotels like ours, shops, cafes and museums. The docks are linked together and connected to the River Mersey via huge sea locks and to the inland waterways system via the Leeds and Liverpool canal. So, if you have the time, you can take a boat like ours from London or Birmingham and cruise to Liverpool and mingle with seagoing craft in Albert Dock. This is one of the finest urban renewal projects I have ever seen. The old gritty grandeur of the docks and huge warehouses is retained but perfectly adapted to modern uses. Dock Cat
Ship's Rats and Predator on the Dock
Another tourist magnet is the most famous rock band of all time, The Beatles. There are Beatles crawling everywhere: Beatles statues, Beatles exhibitions, 'The Beatles Story' and the rebuilt Cavern Club, to name a few. We did our fair share of visiting these adulatory sites. We spent two hours at The Beatles Story (never thought I'd see my contemporaries in a museum), gawped at their statues and withstood the din in the Cavern Club for a few minutes. Loud music is everywhere - we were unable to find a quiet restaurant. One highlight was a special exhibition of John and Yoko's love story and work in the Liverpool Museum, entitled 'Double Fantasy'. Together, they tried to make our world a better place while doing what they loved. They left a lasting legacy and legions of fans worldwide. I was horrified when John was shot and this exhibition brought tears to our eyes all over again. What a terrible loss it was for all of us
Beatle Statues

Beatles Photos:

Statues in the dock area (above)
Poster for the Double Fantasy exhibit (right)


Double Fantasy
Bed Piece
"Bed Peace" tableau (above)
and detail of the guitar that John played
at Bed Peace and decorated (below)
Peace Wall
Peace Wall (Public Graffiti)

Imagine Lyrics
Naive but Powerful Lyrics to Imagine
We also visited the Slavery Museum, the first and only one in Europe. Liverpool played a big part in this sordid piece of human history. Many of the slave ships were built, owned and crewed by Liverpudlians. Slaves were transported in the ships' horrific holds, shackled together and rocking in their own vomit and excrement. Many did not survive the transit from Africa to the Caribbean and the American colonies. If too many survived, the ship's Captain would sometimes throw slaves overboard to claim the insurance.

The Maritime Museum was a little disappointing. Liverpool has a rich history of seafaring, not all of it sordid. The stately ocean liners departed from here to New York and now about 70% of trade with North America passes through Liverpool's new container ports. There was little of this in the museum, though, just two exhibits dealing with the Titanic and the sinking of the Lusitania in WWI.

The Mersey ferry has been plying the Mersey estuary for 150 years. It still is an important service but is also a tourist attraction. We sailed over to the Wirral peninsula and disembarked to look at the remains of an old German U-Boat which was sunk in 1945 by a Halifax bomber using depth charges.
Slavery Museum
Inside the Slavery Museum

Ferry View
Liverpool Cityscape from the Mersey Ferry

We could have used a couple more days in Liverpool. We were somewhat exhausted by the end of our visit. The drive back to Mercia was only 88 miles but took over 2 hours because of dense traffic and road-works on the M6.

I would love to come back here by boat and moor awhile in the docks, but sadly that will probably never happen. It's a two week cruise from Mercia one way and lots of big locks on the way.
Liver Building
The Liver Building
Liverpool Cathedral


July 28th
Carol&KeithWe spent a week on and around the marina after returning from Liverpool. The weather continues brutally hot, over 30C every day. One day the high was 36C (97F) which felt worse than being in Arizona as we have no aircon in the lodge or the boat. The news is full of the excessive heat all over Europe, Japan, China and North America. We had dinner with our friends Carol & Keith (right) in the Boardwalk one night and next day visited them and their dog Lucky on their boat.

Barb and I went out on the boat for two days, traveling the Trent and Mersey up to Barton Marina and back. It was pleasant enough in the mornings just tootling along with Basil's windows and doors all open wide, but it was really too hot to work locks or do anything at all after 2 p.m. Yesterday the weather broke and right now it is grey and pouring watery stuff. We are hoping for a happy medium when Anita and John come next week. We are going to London on Monday (30th) and they arrive there on Wednesday.
Lucky With His Teeth In
Cows in Heat
Cattle Sheltering from the Heat
River Dove
Cruising on an Aqueduct Over the River Dove

Almost Home - Moored in Willington
Aug 12th
A hectic couple of weeks prevented this diarist from scribbling. We went to London by train from East Midlands Parkway because there are no trains from Derby to London while the station is being reconfigured. I got horribly lost on the way and we found ourselves on the M1 heading south and could not turn back for miles. Then I repeated the error going north. Result: missed train. We caught another 45 minutes later and luckily the conductor accepted our tickets for the wrong train. We hauled all our bags on the Tube to Waterloo and walked to the Premier Inn, County Hall in the searing heat as the 'heat wave' continues to blast the British Isles. One day the high was 36C (97F) in a city largely bereft of air conditioning. Fortunately, in spite of a notice to the contrary on our bedroom wall, the Premier Inn is now so equipped. Next night we went to see 'Tina- the Musical' at the Adelphi. Adrienne Warren, who plays Tina Turner did a great job and the music is great, of course, but the acting was a little stilted and, well, nobody can compare to the real Tina.

We duly met Anita and John (Barb's sis and brother-in-law) at Heathrow for their first ever visit to the UK and shepherded them back via the TFL Connector train to Paddington and a taxi to the hotel. Once again, I will clam up and let the pictures talk:
Tate Panorama
Thames Panorama from the Tate Modern
With Anita and John at Heathrow Rail Station

Outside the County Hall Theatre where
we later saw Agatha Christie's
Witness for the Prosecution
Eye Eye
Premier Inn, County Hall (left) and the
London Eye at Night

Parliament is shrouded in scaffolding due to
major renovations. Only Big Ben's face is visible

(except panorama, top)
Thames by
The Thames by Night

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
(Rebuilt on the South Bank by Sam Wanamaker)

St. Pauls
St. Paul's Cathedral from the Tate Modern
The Shard - Tallest Building in the EU
Borough Market
Borough Market
Borough Market
Seafood Stall in Borough Market
Anita's Birthday
Birthday Girl
Anita's Birthday
A Highlight was Anita's Birthday at Da Mario
Restaurant in Covent Garden with most of my
family in attendance. Small Italian place with
great food
My arthritic ankles were acting up so I took a boat to Greenwich and explored the Cutty Sark (an old Tea Clipper) and the Royal Naval College while Barb, Anita and John went to Portobello Road Market and also saw where Barb used to live in the early 1970's.
Cutty Sark
The Cutty Sark
After an illustrious career transporting tea from
India and wool from Australia (when it set the
sailing ship record of 70 days from Sydney)
the Cutty Sark is now high and dry as a
museum in Greenwich.
Captain Carter at the Helm (he wishes).
Fine Collection of Figureheads at the Cutty Sark

We also visited my old BBC mate Colin.
Here he is with Barb outside the Adelaide
Pub in Teddington where we lunched
On August 4th we traveled by train with Anita and John back to Mercia Marina to show them the REAL England (or at least one version of it). London is a giant seething cosmopolitan mix of cultures from all over the world and no more representative of Britain than New York is of the USA. The Midlands is proudly blue-collar working class and predominantly Anglo but with many immigrants from Pakistan, India and the Caribbean. Anita and John were impressed with the peace and quiet of the marina. While they were here we went boating for a day and visited Chatsworth House, the stately home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. What the Duke of Devonshire is doing in Derbyshire I was unable to adequately explain. We also went to Matlock Bath, a pretty little town in a gorge of the River Derwent.

Aboard Basil
Aboard Basil

John did most of the steering and was very
good at it - a natural narrowboater.
Anita Tries the Helm
Barbara at Chatsworth.
We hung out in the Capability Brown Garden
while Anita and John toured the 270-room
house and grounds
Pastoral Perfection - the Derwent runs
through the grounds at Chatsworth


The Derwent Again at Matlock Bath
While they were here we ate out every night. None of us were very impressed with the Boardwalk, it has really gone downhill. A & J finally had fish and chips at the Dragon in Willington and were so impressed we had to go back and repeat the experience. The Dragon has been the butt of my sarcasm in the past. They once served me a pulled pork sandwich which consisted of a smear of pork on a huge bun. I sent them a photo of a real one upon my return to the States. I have to revise my opinion now, though, the food there is excellent. We also ate twice at Nadee and it did not disappoint.

It was really sad to see Anita and John leave. I was so terrified of making another navigational error on the way to East Midlands station that I dumped them there 45 minutes early. They managed to return to Bellingham without too much aggro except for weather delays of about 1.5 hours at Heathrow.

Could this be a Texas Longhorn?
(Seen by the canal in a field full of assorted cows)
Now we are lonely and stranded in our lodge, decompressing before our cruise to the Norwegian Fjords at the end of August. The heat wave is definitely over and the weather has reverted to British summer - cloudy and gray with intermittent rain but quite warm.
Aug 20th
We did manage one short last cruise before winterizing Basil and packing up to leave the Midlands. This may well be our last canal cruise together as Barb doesn't like the Midlands and doesn't care for boating much anymore. My arthritic ankles, particularly the left one, have deteriorated markedly and we may have to sell the boat next year if I can't get some relief from the docs over the winter and if I cannot get cruising help. To that end, I am getting a valuation done tomorrow *. Very depressing, but all good things must come to an end.

In spite of the clouds hanging over us, real and emotional, we had a pleasant 4-night cruise to Alrewas and back. It is one of the most attractive villages on the canal system and sparkled in the dappled sunshine. We stayed two nights and ate both nights at the Crown Inn because The George, our usual haven, is closed for restoration. I have high hopes for the Crown but it is a work in progress. The new managers, Claire and Andrew, are really trying hard and the food is imaginative and excellent but the service needs improvement. The staff are too busy laughing behind the bar or striding through the restaurant avoiding eye contact with the customers. Menus sit on tables alongside empty glasses for too long before anyone notices. Andrew is a former cruise line chef and produces dishes which are a cut above the usual pub fare, though those staples are listed too. We both had trio of pork the first night, excellent. Next night, I had Mediterranean flatbread which was loaded with grilled veggies and really good, while Barb had a steak. Her steak was grossly overdone even after a long friendly discussion with Andrew about how she liked it (pink, no blood). We were presented with dessert menus and ignored by the vacuous young staff for ten minutes before we managed to flag one of them down. Another ten minutes produced no dessert so we deserted, paid up and left.
Below Branston
Moored Alone below Branston Lock in
Sight of the Needwood Forest
Branston Sunset
Dusk at Branston

Awaiting Release from Tatenhill Lock
The Trent Flows Across the Canal at Alrewas
Alrewas Lock

Old Working Narrowboat Crewed by Self-
Described Nutcases
Alrewas Lock Bypass Weir

Moorhen and (Day Old?) Chick

Crowded 48-Hour Moorings at Alrewas


Barbara's Tormentor Waits to Woo-Hoo
Her Tonight
Aug 23
Ian from the New and Used Boat Company came to value Basil and basically shot himself in the foot by persuading me not to sell. I told him the reasons - my arthritis and Barb's increasing dislike of boating - and he said "I would get a new one". For an instant I thought he meant a new smaller boat, easier to operate single-handed. Then I realized he meant wife. He said he has been boating for 50 years and would "never give it up". He was 10 when he started with his Dad. He has a prenuptial agreement with his wife that he will never have to sell his boat.

He also told me the story of a customer who came to sell recently. Ian asked "Why do you want to sell? I just sold you this boat 4 years ago." The man said he never liked to traverse the same stretch of waterway twice. We agreed that we both like to revisit places we love: Tixall Wide, Alrewas, Trent Lock and many others. A man after my own heart. Food for thought. He enthused about Basil's layout and condition and valued him at mid 70,000s.

On the left is our new visitor, Delilah. She sought us out last year when we were in Oak, again this year in Laurel and now she has found us here in Bay Tree. She comes in at least twice a day for a cuddle, struts around the house and finds different places to curl up. She is completely unafraid of anything it seems, sure of her superior position in the world. I went to see her 'owner', Tracey, who lives on a wide-beam barge fairly close. She says Delilah is a former Lithuanian beauty queen. She had two litters for a breeder. The second litter 'did not turn out well', so she was spayed and adopted by Tracey and her husband. She is a "Highland Straight" because her ears are not folded like a Highland Fold. One parent had folded ears, the other straight. We are honoured to serve.
Mon, Aug 27th
On Wednesday we are off on a Norwegian Fjords Cruise with my brother Mike, his wife Angela and four of her family. We have been busy packing up and winterizing Basil.

Heard this morning that Arizona Senator John McCain died. The BBC aired a far from fawning tribute, pointing out his numerous policy shifts on subjects from campaign finance reform to immigration. But he was an implacable foe of Donald Trump  and basically a decent human being. There should be an interesting election in Arizona.

This will be my last regurgitation from England. There won't be time to write from the North Sea, so I will post some pictures after we get back to the USA on Sept 9th.
There's a Nip in the Air as we Prepare to

CRT Logo
This is the Ridiculous New Canal and River
Trust Logo. Looks like any other amorphous
corporate generic logo. The previous one,
featuring a swan under a bridge, at least bore
some relevance to the waterways. This was
designed by some company that knows
nothing about waterways.
Sept 15th
Back now in the searing heat of Phoenix (41C when we landed, same as when we left). Here is an account of our Norweigan Fjords Cruise:

We were intending to unwind in Woodchurch for a day before we shipped out, but a cataclysmic event occurred. As we were approaching the Thames Crossing at Dartford on the M25 (London Orbital Freeway) at about 2 p.m. we suddenly ground to a halt and became a speck in a huge traffic jam. After a couple of hours we discovered, via local radio, that two trucks had collided and were blocking the entire motorway. Almost simultaneously another accident in the anticlockwise direction caused a diesel spill which closed the road in that direction. We were stuck for hours before help arrived to clear the freeway and then we had to drive east because all roads into London were blocked. I found a pub/restaurant where we had dinner and I was able to book online the last room in a nearby Premier Inn. It was 3 miles from the pub to the hotel and it took over an hour to drive there including some hair-raising and illegal driving on the wrong side of the road. Every road within a ten-mile radius of Dartford was locked solid. The crossing was closed for 16 hours and 200 motorists had to sleep in an Ikea warehouse overnight. We were lucky to actually have a comfy bed in a hotel at about 9:30 p.m.

Next day we got away early and everything was moving again, so we easily made the cruise departure from Dover in the afternoon. There were eight of us in the family group (see near end of page) and we left our car in Wye and boarded a bus to get to the docks.

The cruise ship, Fred Olsen Lines' Boudicca, was much nicer than we expected. Several people we know had rubbished Fred Olsen. One said "If you've been on Oceania and rated it five stars, Fred Olsen is minus one star". Boudicca is an older ship but beautifully designed and well maintained. It actually looks like a ship and not a floating apartment block. The cabins are larger than the equivalent Oceania cabin (260 sq ft vs 175). The staff were unfailing friendly and professional, the food was fine, sometimes excellent, and a good time was had by all. F.O. does charge for things that are inclusive on most cruise lines, but then the initial cost was much cheaper and the drinks are reasonably priced. Most of the passengers were British with a smattering of other nationalities. Barb was the only American! One of our party of eight, Eleanor, suffers from cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. The staff were great with her. There were 660 of us (880 is the max) and 372 crew aboard as we set sail from a steely grey and dismal Dover. However, the weather soon cleared and we saw no more rain until we approached Dover again a week later. The Fjords were mostly basking in sunshine or speckled with fluffy clouds.
Fjord View
After a day crossing the North Sea we explored
some fjords on the way to Eidfjord (above, right
and below)
Fjord View
Light and Shade
Light and Shade
Eidfjord Mooring
Next day (Sept 1st) we moored at Eidfjord..
..and walked up a salmon river
Lake a pretty lake.

Toadstool encountered at Eidfjord

Early Cruisers
Early Cruise Passengers
(Actually "The Goblin Tastes the Brew"
by Nils Bergslien in the Eidfjord Art Museum)
This diary is uncensored except that Barb has to
approve any photo of her before I publish it. She
did not like this one but I like it, because it tells
a story. The story may be in your (fevered?)
imagination, but it's a story nonetheless.
This is the posed and sanitized version that she
prefers. I am hoping to hold my own on this.
As you can see, I did.
Riding the Bus from Flam
                              Ride 3
A Waterfall at Every Hairpin Bend
We cruised overnight to Flam where we moored on the dock close to the town centre. We boarded a bus for a ride up to the town of Voss, high in the mountains. The trip was exhilarating - through tunnels, up mountain roads, over bridges and with breathtaking views in every direction. Our guide told a joke about a Flam bus driver and a Priest who both died and reached the pearly gates together. St. Peter said to the driver "You may enter the Kingdom of Heaven immediately, but the Priest must wait awhile." The Priest protested "But I have always served God. I have encouraged people to go to church and to pray and I have given long sermons in praise of God!" St. Peter replied "Yes, but many people slept through your services and did not pray, but when the driver drove people round the mountains near Flam, everybody stayed awake and prayed fervently to God."

Tvinde Falls
Rest Stop at Tvinde Waterfall
The bus ride ended at Voss (above), where we boarded a train to Myrdal. There we changed to the famous Flamsbana Railway, a candidate for the world's most scenic train ride. The track descends 867 metres over 20 km to Flam. An incredible feat of engineering involving massive tunnels, bridges and grades of over 1:18.

The Flamsbana Wends its Way from Myrdal
to Flam


* Photos by Michael Carter
The Train Stops at Kjosfossen Falls
At Kjosfossen Falls (left) the train ground to a halt and we dismounted to view the falls. Suddenly, the air is rent by eerie, thunderous music and a sprite appears from behind the rocks, dancing to the music. This is the Huldra, a mythical woman who is beautiful (except for a cow's tail), and who lures men into the forest and pleads them to marry her.
If they do, she loses her tail, becomes ugly, and gains the strength of ten men. The hokey Huldra (in red, just visible in the photo), we later learned, was played by a man in drag!

Pigarina and Pigletta Enjoyed the Ride

Early Flamsbana Locomotive in the Museum
Adjacent to Flam Station
We could have used more time in Flam, there is so much to see and do there, but we cruised on through more beautiful fjords to Bergen, arriving next morning, Sept 3rd. Bergen is a big, busy city with an attractive port rivaling Sydney or San Francisco.
Bergen Panorama
Bergen 1
Colourful Bergen Architecture (above and right)

(except panorama above)
Bergen 2
Funicular 2

We rode the modern funicular (left) to the top
of Mount Flyen where there are spectacular
views of the city, restaurants, trails and goats.

View of Bergen
View of Bergen from Mount Flyen
Two Old Goats (and Barbara)
Piggies at Bergen
Good Thing Pigs Can Fly
(Photo by Angela Carter)

Grill Group
The Bramleys, Finns and Carters at The Grill
aboard Boudicca (bathed in infrared light).

From left: Eleanor (Jackie and Peter's daughter)
Peter Bramley, Me, Barb, Jack Finn (Angela &
Jackie's Dad), Angela & Michael (my Bro) and
Jackie Bramley.
Our fellow family cruisers presented us with
this professional photo of us in fancy dress.


After one more day crossing a calm North Sea, we docked in Dover on a damp and dreary morning, finding it much as we had left it. Sadly, our cruise had come to an end, as all good things must.
A real sadness is that Eleanor had contracted a throat infection during the last few days aboard and was running a fever. The day after she got home she had to be rushed to A&E (ER) with pneumonia and a collapsed lung. She is in hospital fighting for her life as I write. We are all hoping for the best and I will add a postscript when I know more.
White Cliffs Welcome
After the cruise we visited Richard (my friend and 'Uncle' who by a quirk is actually younger than I) and his new wife Viv at home in Goudhurst, then spent a day with Michael, visiting my sister in Deal. After that, a final day in London before flying home to Phoenix on Sept 9th. Our summer was over.
Cristo Art in Hyde Park, London
made from 7,500 oil barrels
With my Sister Angela in Deal
Mayfair Pub
Barb in Ye Grapes, Mayfair
Fly Bye (the Summer Did) (Photo by Barb)
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