April 8th

This year we are booked to go to London on June 11th, returning August 29th. After fixing up Basil boat we have blocked out a month's cruising. We so enjoyed last year's mode - no fixed itinerary, no planned route or destination - that we are to repeat the recipe for up to four weeks. If the weather turns nasty or the crusty old Skipper upsets the crew or just 'cos we don't feel like it, we will turn round, go back to base and do something else. 'Base' is again a lodge at Mercia Marina for the whole duration. This time it is Hazel lodge. Other plans include a week in Kent with my family and 6 days in our old favorite, the Pedn Olva Hotel in St. Ives, on the Cornish coast.  We are hoping to go to London for a few days also.

June 19th
Our A350 Arriving to pick us up in Phoenix

We flew over on June 11th on a brand new (delivered in April) A350. Very smart aircraft equipped with BA's new Club (Business) Class layout which, as noted before, is a radical improvement on the older version. The beds are even long enough for me at 6' 6". BA are very short staffed and the service was terrible, we didn't get dinner until 11 p.m. and it was the worst airline meal we have ever had, and there's been some stiff competition over the years! We had ordered Asian Vegetarian, expecting a nice tasty curry, but it was a collection of limp, soggy, spice-free vegetables and white rice. The stewardess said she was appalled when she opened it. Our plane was an hour late arriving in Phoenix and almost two hours late by the time we left. The Captain obtained a route change to take advantage of some favourable winds and we made up half of the delay by the time we got to London but then our gate was occupied by a disabled aircraft and we had to wait for a slot. Coupled with hordes of people in immigration and a passport reader which refused to read Barb's passport, we were hours late leaving the airport and arriving at Europcar. There I had my usual argument over insurance but prevailed and escaped in a Ford Focus station wagon (estate car). A350
Arrived at Heathrow, awaiting a Berth
After that, things began to look up. We had a friendly welcome at the Premier Inn which, unlike last year, was teeming with people. We ate well in the restaurant, served by a chatty Romanian with an interesting back story. Next day, the car absorbed all our luggage with ease and we lurched up to Willington. Lurched because of my rusty manual driving skills and some incredibly grabby brakes on the car. The slightest touch sent Barb hurtling towards the windshield. However, the traffic was moderate once we left London and we made the marina in 2.5 hours.

Mercia Marina has become an oasis of calm amid the madness of the Midlands. Robert (the General Manager) and his crew have transformed it over the years. It is a marina, nature reserve, wildlife refuge, sculpture garden, tourist attraction and thriving community all rolled into one. Even Basil Boat acts as a conservation zone for thousands of spiders wintering in comfort. The grounds are amazing. The trees have grown tall and there are shrubs and bushes flowering everywhere. I've never seen so many shades of green in one place. Flocks of birds fly overhead or sail upon the tiny waves, bees buzz around the hives and people linger and gossip everywhere. I really urge friends and family to come and visit while we are here. The East Midlands of England is not on most people's bucket list but Mercia is a little gem. As soon a we drove through the gates, my blood pressure dropped and I breathed a sigh of peace and tranquility. In the center is the Boardwalk, a selection of small shops and a couple of restaurants overlooking the water and boats. We ate in one, the Lotus, an Indian tapas restaurant and dined on small portions of exquisitely spiced dishes. I drool as I write.

As we left Lotus, two troupes of local Morris dancers and Irish dancers began rehearsing by the bandstand. We watched and I filmed for a while. An unexpected and perfect ending to our first evening.
                  and Boardwalk
Boats and the Boardwalk

Sunset at Mercia
Water Fowl
Neptune 1
'Neptune' by Alistair Farson

Rose Bush outside the Office
Neptune 2
Neptune close-up


Basil Boat booted up with relative ease. The engine started up without even the customary puff of black smoke. The sole remaining solar panel (one was stolen) kept all 7 batteries topped up all winter. The engine and thruster batteries are original, 15 years old, but seem in fine fettle. The water system flushed out clean and held pressure overnight. I've been using Elsan Fresh Water tank cleaner before and after the winter which seems to work well. A lot of green slime and debris used to flush out in past start-ups but the water was fresh and clean from the get-go this time. Even my nemesis, the marine toilet, worked on first flush.

As usual I had trouble with the Lockgate
stove which is more of a piece of laboratory kit than a simple heating device. I have learned to drain off half a litre or so of diesel because the tank always gets water in it, reason unknown. The water sinks to the bottom and when it enters the regulator it clogs the needle valve. To my amazement there was no water in the diesel, but when I looked in the burner pot it was almost full of a mixture of water and diesel! How it got in there, I'll never know. Thank God I did not attempt to light it, the resulting pyrotechnics would have lived in canal lore for years to come! I swabbed it out with rags, lit the stove in the normal way (a touch of meths and a match) and it fired right up. But then my heart sank as it began to die out. Water after all? No, it turned out to be the on/off lever on the regulator. It would not stay in the 'on' position. I held it on with a rubber band and the stove burned hot and clean for a half hour or so. I will have to call Lockgate for a remedy. *
By then Basil's radiators were warm and the cabin toasty and I was tempted to curl up and take a nap. Meanwhile Barb had been slaving in the laundry and cooking a stir fry. It was a hard day today for us old people!
Basil on Berth

Hazel Lodge
Hazel Lodge ^ and Interior (right) >>>
'Hello Handsome" by Ted Edley

Racer Woman
'Racer Woman' by Beatrice Hoffman


Today was cool, but two days ago we had a 'heat wave'. Temperatures in Hazel lodge, which we have rented for our whole stay, touched 30C (86F) and it was humid. There is no aircon, so it was actually more uncomfortable than at home in Phoenix. It was 43C (109F) there when we left. Yesterday it was back down in the sixties but it rained most of the day. Today is dry. The usual unpredictable mix of English weather. Tomorrow I will return the car, Barb and I will load up Basil and, weather permitting, pootle off into the wild waterways of olde England.
* I later fixed the stove. I remembered that the regulator has a spillover compartment. If a sailboat boat heels over to an angle that would be unsafe for the stove, the spillover section fills with diesel and a float shuts the stove off. Not a usual problem in a narrowboat but the section was indeed full. I bounced the float to send the fuel back into the main regulator section and all was well.

June 24th

Busy prep day on Monday (20th). We loaded Basil with clothes and provisions. I returned the car to Europcar in Derby somewhat early. "Do you want to drive round a bit?" the check-in lady joked. "No!", I shrieked, "I hate driving in Derby!" - having just negotiated a labyrinthine one-way system, several huge roundabouts, a bit of motorway and other horrors in heavy traffic.
The relief of actually boarding a boat soon followed. We set off down the cut at 3 p.m. and got only as far as Willington before mooring at the Dragon. We decided to have an early dinner as we had no lunch. Barb had "the best fish n'chips" she ever had and I had an excellent cheese & onion pie slathered in mustard sauce.
The Dragon Garden
Back aboard,  we motored all the way to Burton-on-Trent, a distance of 5.5 miles and 1 lock, which took 2.5 hours at canal speed (20 minutes by car). Weather fine and sunny. The Shobnall Field mooring  above Dallow lock is a pleasant grassy spot lined with trees. Such a nice spot that we decided to stay another day there.
Shobnall 1
Shobnall Mooring (above and right)
Shobnall 2
Shobnall 3
Next day we sailed up to Branston, a mere mile and 1 lock up the Trent & Mersey canal. Barb walked around the water park (far right) several times.

A mystery from last year is solved: The giant construction site we saw last year now has now sprouted enormous distribution warehouses (right).

Branston is the original home of Branston Pickle (Probably understood only by Brits)
Water Park
 Yesterday we arrived in Alrewas for a two-day stay as the weather has turned showery. Alrewas is one of our favourite canal villages. It has three pubs, an old-fashioned butchers and a small Co-Op supermarket. Last night we ate at the William IV pub. I had a very disappointing meal but Barb enjoyed her broccoli & stilton soup and a baked potato slathered in baked beans and cheese, a pub staple. Alrewas is a pretty picture village, so here's a photo essay:
Moored in Alrewas, conveniently close to the
All Saints
Alrewas Church

The River Trent Meanders through Alrewas
Cottage Thatch 1
Thatched Cottages (above, left, right)
Thatch 2

Wllliam IV
Inside the William IV
Family Fun at the table next to us in the George
A strangely English phenomenon. Put your junk
outside and invite people to drop payment in a
box outside the front door.
June 28th
Next day, we continued southwest down the T&M to Fradley junction where the Coventry canal turns off south. Once again we stayed  two nights in this iconic canal spot. There's no village here but lots to interest the canal buff. We walked around Fradley pond, a reservoir teeming with ducks, blackbirds and other birds. The weather has turned cooler. Ken and Robert joined us for dinner on the boat.
Fradley Mooring

Dragonfly Bench (for Kids?)
Fradley Lock

Roger, Barb & Robert at Fradley Pond
Ken in Reflective Mood
Next is a beautiful stretch on remote wooded canal through Wood End lock and on to the conurbation of Handsacre, Armitage and Rugeley. Sadly, the pretty lock cottage at Wood End has been compulsory purchased by HS2 (the high speed rail line), the owners evicted and the cottage boarded up. HS2 was due to cross the canal here at a height of 2 feet above the water, until it was pointed out that canals cannot be closed to navigation except by an act of parliament. Now it will cross closer to Rugeley but the cottage remains abandoned, a relic of bureaucratic overreach.
Shadehouse Mooring
Moored in Fradley Wood above Shadehouse

Traditional Working Boat 'White'
Painted Boats
Painted Boats Passing

White 1
White's Cabin
Fradley Wood
RugeleyTonight we are holed up in Rugeley (left), awaiting a band of rain to pass. There is a huge Tesco and a Morrison's by the canal so we will provision Basil tomorrow.

June 30th

Tesco proved to be a huge icy warehouse of a supermarket. Scored a huge discount on wine and stocked up on the basics - yoghurt and creme fraiche for me, veg and fruit for Barb. Britain has been hit by the same level of inflation as the USA but shopping and particularly eating out is cheaper here.

After the rigours of shopping we left Rugeley and ventured out into the most scenic stretch of the T&M. As we left Rugeley there is a right-angled bend which took us over Brindley's famous aqueduct over the River Trent, an engineering marvel of the 17th Century. Then along the 'Trent bank' with sweeping views of the Trent valley below. The wooded hills of Cannock Chase, ancient forest and hunting grounds of kings, gradually looms closer as we sailed north west. We stopped overnight at bridge 70 and walked down to Wolseley Bridge where we ate at a good Indian restaurant, Shimla.

At times the Trent was right next to the canal as we entered the woods leading up to Great Haywood, where we watered and pumped out Basil's toilet tank before turning left down the Staffordshire and Worcester canal, affectionately known as the 'Staffs & Worcs'. We moored at Tixall Wide just a half mile down. The Wide has and interesting history. The lord of Tixall Manor did not want the canal to cross his property but reluctantly agreed if the stretch through his grounds was turned into an ornamental lake to grace his estate. The Manor and His Lordship are long gone but the imposing gatehouse overlooking the lake remains. The lake is now a pleasant wilderness lined with reeds and is a haven for wildlife, birds in particular. We turned, moored for the night, and I spent a restful couple of hours lounging on deck and taking video of passing boats. I had an episode of A-Fib the night before and coupled with indigestion from the Indian food, I thought my end had come. Tixall restored my spirits, if not my fatigue. I resolved to live each day to the full in case one day IS my last!
Tixall Wide
Tixall Wide
The Trent from Wolseley Bridge
Great Haywood
Great Haywood Junction
Tixall Wide
The Old Manor Gatehouse
July 8th

The weather by now had turned pretty dismal. Also Basil's domestic alternator, which charges 5 110AH batteries to power all the boat electrics except the engine and bow thruster, began to act up. It emitted a noise like a strangled chicken and cut out intermittently. Having had to wring chickens' necks in my youth
, the sound gives me the creeps. I removed the belt, checked the bearings and even changed the belt but nothing worked. I found that by running the engine more frequently for short periods I could keep the batteries up. However, a total loss of power would be pretty catastrophic. No lights, no toilet, no fridge, no freezer, no water and worst - no Wimbledon on TV. For fear of losing power altogether we decided to head back home. On the way back we stopped at Wolseley Bridge and ate a vegetarian Sunday Roast (not good) in the Wolseley Arms. Occasionally we regret going vegetarian but so far we have not slipped.

Next we stopped in Rugeley (depressing as ever) briefly and then at Bridge 62 where we took on water and I backed through the skew bridge (a hairy experience) to moor right outside the Ash Tree pub in Armitage. We were closer than the car park! A very cosy, pleasant pub with friendly service and good food. Then to Wood End Lock, where we stopped overnight and I took more photos of the desecration caused by HS2. On to Fradley Junction again, where pre-alternator, we considered venturing down the Coventry Canal for a while. Instead we overnighted there and continued next day to Alrewas. A pleasant afternoon, in improving weather, strolling down the Trent, followed by dinner in the William IV. Robert joined us there. Ken is in Victoria, Canada visiting his brother.

Today we arrived at Shobnall Fields, Burton-upon-Trent. Struggled mightily to moor Basil. A howling wind whipped under the trees and blew the boat diagonally across the cut, despite our desperate attempts, hauling on the center line, to try and reel him in. We finally succeeded and here we are in one of our favourite places in fine sunny weather. The wind is already abating as we watch Novak Djokovic play Cameron Norrie in the Wimbledon semi-final. Sadly, he lost. The endless repeats of the same old Djokovic movie are getting old.

Tixall Wide
Wide Sunset
Tixall Wide Sunset
Tixall Lock
Tixall Lock on the Staffordshire & Worcester
Barb Deep in the Weeds
Tamburo, a Classic old Wooden Launch.
In the back cabin, a musician played a violin
as I passed by.
Barb, hard at work in the Galley

Poor Man's Buckby Can on Basil's Rail
George the
Barb makes friends with George the Dog
Moored at Wolseley Bridge
Ash Tree
Barb at the Ash Tree Pub. Basil outside
Wood End
Wood End Mooring
Wood End
Wood End Mooring
Wood End
The View 'upstream' from Wood End
Wood End
Wood End lock and the fenced off, repossessed
Lock House
Fradley Picnic
Picnic at Fradley Pond
Fradley Again
Moored at Fradley Again
Bridge 46, Alrewas
Barb is Hard at Work at Branston Lock
Shobnall Fields Again
Boardwalk Interior
Convivial Scene in the Boardwalk Bar and
Restaurant, Mercia Marina
Basil's alternator died altogether yesterday but we managed to get back from Shobnall (above) in 2 1/4 hours and before the fridge and freezer shut down from lack of battery power.  We went to the Boardwalk last night. Good food and wine and the place was hopping. No sign of a recession so far! Boris the Clown has resigned and the Wimbledon men's final is later today. Barb is busy tackling huge loads of washing and I have started odd jobs on the boat.
We will be here in Hazel Lodge until July 23rd when we go to London for a few days. Probably nothing much to report until that!

July 29th
The alternator saga continued. I bought a new one as the cost is not much more than refurbishing an old one. As far as I can tell the dead one only needs new brushes (about $10 online) but I don't have the tools necessary to do the job. Streethay Wharf, the 'engineers' on the marina are unable to do the brushes ("we don't get into that much detail") or even refurbish alternators or even, as it turned out, move the pulley from the old to the new. So I installed the old original alternator which has a checkered history. It died in 2011 and was repaired, then died again a few days later (see 2011 journal). The engineer who fitted it claimed that he put it on his boat and it worked fine. It took me two days to alter the mountings and make a new wiring jumper but, to my amazement it fired right up. It has yet to be tested under heavy load but it looks good so far. It is a much bigger unit (150 amp) than the new or dead 95 amp models. Now I am the not-proud owner of 3 domestic alternators, one faulty, one new without a pulley and one in service.

After that
we went to London for 3 nights. We always enjoy an annual trip to the 'Big Smoke', now pretty smokeless. Gone are the days of my youth when the smog was so thick that you couldn't see across the road. This year's visit was a mixed bag, however. We stayed in a brand new Premier Inn in Paddington Basin where we moored Basil in 2008. This time we went by train. The hotel is modern but curiously for Whitbread (the company that owns Premier Inns) very badly designed. But it was at least very quiet and the bed was superb. On the first night we went to the Garrick theatre to see The Drifters Girl. It was really bad - probably the worst thing we have ever seen in London. Bad script, wooden acting, awful renditions of great Drifters songs. As we left in the intermission we were offered re-entry tokens. "No thanks," we said, "we are not coming back". We were immediately accosted by a group of drunken girls who implored us to return, saying the second act is much better. We left anyway.

Prior to that we ate in the adjacent Garrick Arms pub. It is a Greene King brewery pub, usually a reliable brand, but this one featured raucous loud house music, terrible food from a limited menu and a seething mass of punters crowding in. We should have left but we had made a reservation and were afraid we would not be able to get in anywhere else. A horrible evening altogether.

Next day was much better. We met my brother Mick, his wife Angela and our mutual friend Liza at the London Shell Company's restaurant barge The Grand Duchess moored in Paddington Basin near our hotel. We had a pleasant lunch and afternoon wandering around Little Venice and the Regent's canal.

On Monday we sat by the Thames near the Houses of Parliament, watching the boat traffic and the strollers passing by on a steely grey day. We ate at Dishoom in Kensington. Excellent Indian Tapas food. I think the food at Lotus, on the marina, is as good but Barb didn't agree though the decor and atmosphere at Dishoom is certainly much grander.

On Tuesday we returned to Derby. The train was packed due to an electrical failure on the East Coast mainline. Our train was part of an alternative route to the North East, Leeds and beyond. We were lucky to get seats. We sat next to a British Airways 777 lady pilot who told some interesting flying tales.
London Skyline
London Skyline from the Thames North Bank
Paddington Basin
Paddington Basin
(Premier Inn is one of the high rises in back)
Little Venice
                  Avenue Bridge
Warwick Avenue Bridge
Premier Inn Room

The 'View' from our Room on the 14th Floor
(mostly into people's apartments - sadly no
naked ladies)

London Shell
Lunch Pack at the London Fish Company
Barge The Grand Duchess
(L-R Barb, Liza, Angela, Mick)

Ladies Man
Ladies Man
Marylebone Station, one of the best preserved
of the Victorian London stations.

Waterloo Bridge and East London Skyline
Line for
Queue for the Popular Dishoom Indian Tapas

Dishoom Food
(Clockwise from lower left: Naan bread, Paneer Curry, Tandoori Prawns, Chutney tray and Bombay Potatoes)
American in London
An American in London
My overall impression of England is that it has been hit even worse by the aftermath of Covid than the USA. The crowds have returned, inflation is as high but the shortages are much worse. Heathrow is a total mess, with vast lines at immigration, cancellations and poor service. The railways are being hit with waves of one-day strikes. The hospitals are overwhelmed and understaffed with long lines of ambulances waiting for beds. Staff everywhere are revolting against meager pay raises. The shortage of staff in restaurants, hotels and the National Health Service is acute. The latter will lead to premature deaths and rising infant mortality.

Boris the Buffoon has been deposed but, like Boris the Spider, is hanging on to power by a single thread of his web as his acolytes and partners in crime fight for leadership of the Conservative party. His Royal Clownship maybe over but his tattered government lives on. Where are the great statesmen/women when we most need leadership?  It looks like the odious, pale Thatcher-imitating Liz Truss will be anointed by the Tories in the Shires. It's looking more and more like that Decade of Despair here, the seventies. I fear for my country.

Our next trip to Cornwall was hit by one of the railway strikes tomorrow. We would not have been able to travel down to St Ives, a distance of over 300 miles. To our amazement, our friends Robert and Ken offered to drive us down there. We refused this generous offer at first but now they have got a room in our hotel, the Pedn Olva, and will stay the night so it should be a lot of fun and we accepted gratefully, hopefully graciously. The drive will probably be a nightmare but I hope my innate pessimism will be unfounded. Stay tuned...

August 10th
Low Tide
St. Ives Harbour at low tide from the Pedn Olva Hotel

The drive to Cornwall was about as much fun as a person can have cooped up in the back of a car for hours with a gaggle of garrulous wits and raconteurs. Robert got us to Bristol and Ken drove to St. Ives. The trip took 7+ hours with one stop at the Severn View Services in Bristol, access to which involved a circuitous loop along two other bits of motorway.

Upon arrival at the Pedn Olva hotel we began to relax immediately. We managed to score a room for Ken & Robert and a coveted car park pass. The hotel has the same old stunning views over St. Ives harbour and the Atlantic, the same old friendly staff and the same poky but comfy rooms perched on the same old cliff. The cliff is marginally older than the building above, but probably not by much. We had noted with alarm that the restaurant menu was 'limited due to Covid', normally a bad omen, but the food was as good as ever and we ate dinner there on most of the six nights we spent in Cornwall.
Pedn Olva
Pedn Olva Hotel (big white building,
top left) and Porthminster Beach.
View from the Hotel Terrace

Bank of Flowers on a walk to Carbis Bay.
The sub-tropical Cornish climate nurtures
flora found nowhere else in Britain.
Dinosaurs still inhabit the Area
Three Grockels* at Carbis Bay Rail Station.
Photo by Ken.

*Cornish slang for tourists, named after the waddling, red-faced clown Grock.

Naff Hat
Naff Hat

Robert took a lot of stick for this hat, culminating in its 'theft' by his 'friends'.
He took it all with his usual aplomb.
Discarded shells and legs of spider crabs.
There were thousands littering the rocks and
beaches. The crabs shed their shells annually
at this time and grow new ones. Local
boatmen told me they had never seen so many.
Robert and Ken liked St. Ives so much that they stayed a second night, but about 200 yards down the road as the Pedn Olva was full. We had dinner together again that night and said "Goodbye and thanks for all the driving!" They are a lot of fun and we always enjoy their company. They left early next day and made Nottingham in about 5 hours where Ken had a reunion with an old friend from Brunei. Then he went sailing. Ah, the boundless energy of youth!
                      at PednOlva
One of the delights of Cornwall for me, at least (Barb - not so much), are the little branch railway lines which amble through beautiful valleys to villages and towns along the north and south coasts. The St. Ives line from St. Erth is probably the most famous and the terminus is right next to the Pedn Olva. All of them have escaped various cost-cutting episodes over the years, starting with the infamous Beeching overhaul of British Rail in 1965, and are now thriving. The railways are now run by numerous private companies undergirded by Network Rail which maintains the tracks, some stations and infrastructure. The Cornwall trains are run by the Great Western Railway which stole the name of its famous 1800s forbear but not much of the glamour or service. The mainline trains from London to Penzance are slick, sleek and fairly fast, but gone are the fine dining cars, the observation car, the porters and the elegant ladies in First Class. By contrast the branch line trains are slow and short (4-6 coaches) and have no First Class but have a certain 'Thomas the Engine' quality about them, minus an actual engine. They rumble along through some of the best scenery in England. Some of the forests seem as wild and untamed as in Neanderthal times. Fares are cheap, we never paid more than 7.50 pounds for a day return. A few of the little stations are tended by volunteers who provide flower butts galore and have restored the buildings and signage to the old GWR standards. 

The St. Ives line is probably the prettiest of all as it sticks to the coast with sweeping views of the estuary at Lelant, Carbis Bay and finally the last spectacular view approaching Porthminster Beach and St. Ives itself. We traveled this almost daily as it was our connection to the rest of the system. From St. Erth the mainline connects to the other little branches. We rode two of them, from Liskeard to Looe and from Truro to Falmouth. Looe is a working fishing port on an estuary. Falmouth is reputedly the third largest natural harbour in the world and is the deepest in Western Europe. At this time of year both are major tourist destinations. Cornwall is thronged with families carrying mountains of beach equipment and trailing bunches of snotty screaming brats with faces daubed with ice cream. Falmouth carries the load better than most places.
Looe Branch Line Station at Liskeard

(still using old-fashioned token system to avoid
head-on collisions on single track lines)
Welcoming Sign at Looe Station

Looe Gull
  Venerable Old Fishing Boat in Looe
Lelant from the St Ives Line Train
Carbis Bay
Carbis Bay from the Train

Antique Semaphore Signals at St Ives
(they must be listed monuments or something,
but they still do the job!)
In Falmouth we visited the expensive National Maritime Museum which was a huge disappointment. I was expecting it to be as good or better than the Canadian equivalent in Halifax which we visited in 2019. I was also expecting it to be free like most other National museums. It houses a collection of Olympic quality racing yachts and not much else. It is mainly aimed at the above snotty kids, with hokey exhibits on sea monsters and mermaids. Nothing about the rich maritime history of Falmouth apart from a workshop restoring some old small craft. From here we took the ferry to St. Mawes which was a lot more fun.
Truro Station, change here for St Mawes
Perranwell Station on the St Mawes Line
Falmouth Harbour
National Maritime Museum
New and Old. Supertanker and Tall Ship
                        Mawes Ferry
The St Mawes Ferry runs every 1/2 hour or so
St Mawes
St Mawes


Typical St Mawes Street and the Victory Inn
 High Tide
Back at St Ives - High Tide
Dusk Falls over the Harbour
Flocks of Seagulls trailing a Crab Boat
Another Dusk Shot
After our 6 days in Cornwall we took the six hour train journey back to Derby via St Erth, by mainline GWR to Plymouth and then a Cross Country train to Derby via Bristol and Birmingham. On this one we booked First Class and were mighty glad, for Standard Class was packed to the aisles like a Covid incubator. There were never more than 10 people in our coach and we spent the 4 hours reading, looking at the scenery, eating junk food and giggling insanely.

Now we are back in Hazel lodge. I picked up a car, much to my disgruntlement, but we need transport for the rest of our time. We are going to Kent to see my family, then back here for a final week before we fly home on August 29th. We are entering the second major "heat wave" of the summer. Temps are expected to crest at 35C (95F) in the next few days. The use of hoses is banned in most parts of England and Wales (but not Scotland) due to water shortages. Nothing to do but huddle indoors with the windows shut and the curtains drawn and read books and write journals. Luckily, it's been cooling down overnight.
Girl on Train
Girl on the Train
August 11th
The heat is also affecting the canals. Many are closing due to water shortage. I went for a bike ride to Stenson this morning and the grass is brown and withered. Plenty of water in our stretch of the Trent and Mersey, the weirs are still running,
Stenson Lock and Cottage (now a Tea Room)
So many Flowers on a Boat!
The Hudson Tug Baltic
(used to be our neighbour at Mercia)

Nadee Bakes in the Sun
Stenson 2
Stenson Wilting in the Sun
August 12
Last night we went to Ken's place in Nottingham for dinner. Not only is he now an esteemed Professor, he is a great cook and excelled himself with this meal - Salmon en Croute with roast potatoes was just the second of four courses.
Mercia Heat
Meanwhile, Mercia Continues to Swelter in
the Heat
Salmon En Croute
MasterChef Ken with his Masterpiece
Ken's Cat Tiger
(Footnote: Sadly, this was the last time we will
ever see him as he died on October 8th, 2022)

Bye Tiger
Saying Goodbye to Tiger
August 27th
Our final outing was to Kent to see my family. We rented a car and drove down the M1, M25, over the Dartford Crossing, now so permanently gridlocked it's unfit for purpose, and down the M20 to Ashford. The M20's southbound carriageway has been converted to truck lanes to handle the backup to Europe caused by more stringent customs requirements post-Brexit. We saw few trucks but with north and southbound traffic crammed into the northbound lanes, there were long delays in both directions. The whole trip took 5 hours.

We stayed with my brother Michael and his wife Angela in the family ancestral home of Woodchurch, a village about 12 miles from the coast. My mother's family go back here to the Norman conquest, 1066, or thereabouts.  We fought the soporific effect of Woodchurch with a grueling succession of family events that Angela organized for us. We went to the Marlowe theatre in Canterbury to see 'Girl from the North Country' a Depression era play set in Duluth, Minnesota with music by Bob Dylan, the Nobel Literature prize laureate and 60s troubadour who has provided the soundtrack for my life. We first saw "Girl" last year at the Old Vic in London where we were underwhelmed by the production.
A lot of work has been done in the meantime, however, and the Marlowe production was a thoroughly superb theatrical experience. I resolved to read the script because it was delivered rapid-fire by a large cast of characters and I could not understand some of it, but what I could I liked.

My nephew Josh and his lady Amber took us out to a cozy Italian restaurant, Pinocchio's, also in Canterbury, and we had lunch at my brother Nigel and Sandra's house and another dinner at Cafe du Soleil with most of the family including my sister who came over from Deal. We also had a nice lunch with friend Viv in the Three Chimneys, Sissinghurst. We also met Ann Bourne at Sissinghurst Castle and afterwards spent a riotous afternoon and evening at Mick and Ange's house with her sister Jackie and two of her friends, who arrived pre-loaded from a wine tasting. As climate change takes hold, vineyards in Kent are becoming more and more viable.

Phew! I'm exhausted just writing about this trip. Now we are back at Mercia Marina clearing out the lodge and packing up. The weather continues balmy and mostly dry - the best summer weather we have had since we started coming here in 2007.
Michael and Angela's Cats -
Patch (left) and Tigger (above, with Ange)

3 Chimneys
Viv and Barb at the Three Chimneys
(above and below)
3 Chimneys
Nigel & Sandras Garden Party
Garden Party at Nigel & Sandra's House

Nigel & Sandra's Garden
Nigel & Sandra's Garden (detail)
Nigel & Sandras Garden
Nigel & Sandra's Garden (detail)
With Josh and Amber at Pinocchio's
Amber, Barb and Josh
Giant Moth visiting Woodchurch
Cafe Du Soleil
Family Dinner at the Cafe Du Soleil, Canterbury
(L-R) Rog, Ange (sis), Sandra, Michael, Ange
(sis-in-law) Barb and Nigel

Cafe Du Soleil Paella
Final Fish n' Chips
Barb tucking in to a final fish n' chips
Homeward Bound

All in all it was a great summer. The best
weather we have had yet (apart from the two
short 'heat waves'). We had a smooth ride
home in another (or maybe the same) A350.
Unlike the outbound journey, the food and
service was excellent.