An operation, boat repairs and a good deed

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2018 by David Palmer

Over the August Bank Holiday I went sailing with the Sarah and Lee. They had practised their boating skills over a very pleasant but balmy summer and were feeling confident on the water, but on this occasion the wind was up and they felt that they needed dad around to show them how to cope when conditions were a bit more challenging. Things went well at first, but a small accident where Lee ricked his wrist while lowering the keel at the jetty prior to raising the sails proved to have unforeseen consequences.

Up until lunch the sailing went really well. The sails were full and Annie proved to be very responsive to the conditions, heeling over quite nicely and zipping along at quite a pace. It took Lee and Sarah a bit of time to adjust to conditions that they had not up until now experienced, but after a few panic situations they settled down into a routine that ensured that they could begin to enjoy finding out what their Catalina 22 was capable of. After a couple of hours or so on the water we returned to the shore for a very pleasant picnic lunch.

The afternoon sailing session did not go well. It is their way to motor out of the small bay where the craft are launched and then raise the sails when they are clear of other water users (canoeists, windsurfers etc.). This strategy works well when there is very little wind, but today was different!  Sarah and I struggled greatly to raise the mainsail, finding it impossible to haul a large area of canvas against a wind that was increasing rapidly. Annie was speedily being blown towards the dam wall and confusingly we had no control over the yacht, she wouldn’t come around into the wind despite Lee turning the tiller. Eventually, I realised that the motor was still on and we were blithely being propelled to imminent doom. With the motor switched off, Annie turned into the wind, and while Sarah gave it everything hauling on the mainsail sheet, I fed the canvass into the mast then took over and sailed her away from danger.

For the next hour and a half, Sarah and Lee took control of their yacht and practised in conditions that had now become quite challenging. I could see that they were beginning to work as a team and now understood that sailing requires 100% concentration and lots of preplanning/discussion of what you are going to do next. With lots of lessons learned and confident that Annie wasn’t going to founder in anything shorter than a hurricane we set sail for the jetty and Annie’s trailer.

As with leaving the mooring, it is their routine to drop the sails as they enter the small bay and cruise in on the electric motor. However, on this occasion, with the sails down the motor stopped some 100m from the jetty (flat battery). As we drifted slowly towards the shore, we had to call for a tow from the rescue craft on duty. There wasn’t enough time to raise the sails and make our own way before we grounded.

Tied up along side the pier, we called for the tractor to haul Annie out on her trailer. That is when we discovered that the keel was still down (we thought it had been raised) and as she was pulled onto the trailer, the two rear supporting hull pads snapped off. We eventually worked out that when Lee had ricked his wrist at the beginning of the day, that was when the keel cable had snapped and we were no longer able to raise it. It was a serious dilemma, we couldn’t get Annie out of the water with the keel down or put her on the trailer with two of the supporting pads missing. She was towed once again to a less used pier and made fast alongside, to remain there until we could think of a solution. As we left, I took one of the broken pads with me.

The trailer repair was a pretty straight forward task, but the raising the keel required a lot of thought. I returned a couple of days later with Peter. I had made two new pads using the one I had taken away with me as a template and I replaced them, while I did this Peter smartened up the trailer by painting it a very fetching grey.  I returned a few days later with Mia and replaced the front two supporting pads as they were in poor condition and it seemed sensible to replace them all.

That weekend while Annie was still in the water, Sarah and Lee took some friends for a quiet and incident free sail.

It isn’t possible to replace the keel cable while in the water, so we had to find a way to raise it in order to get it onto the trailer. Lee bought a long length of strapping and a ratchet connector to do the job, he dropped it off in Harborough for Peter and I to attempt it. It worked! By running the strapping under the hull until it caught on the dropped keel, we allowed it to sink a little way down the keel, then by pulling back we managed to tilt it to around 45 degrees. Keeping it under tension we brought the strapping vertical to the boat then connected the ratchet to the two ends and tightened further until the keel was squeezed fully up. The gods were smiling on us, I had expected to be there all day, endlessly repeating and refining the process until we either completed the task or gave up!

The tractor arrived with the trailer and she was soon back on dry land ensconced with her other chums in the boat park. How we replace the cable is a problem that requires further thought.

The beginning of September was a busy one for the Rothwells. The 2nd was Charlotte’s birthday, the 3rd was Charlotte’s and Suraj’s wedding anniversary, the 4th was Suraj’s birthday and Charlotte’s spine operation and the 5th was Lucas’s first day at secondary school and Ellis was in Year 4. They all went to the seaside and Wells-next-the-Sea for Charlotte’s birthday, it was a gorgeously warm day and besides being a break for them all, it was chance for Charlotte to get out before she becomes house-bound after her immanent operation.

Suraj had booked in quite a lot of time off work to ensure that he could look after Charlotte after the operation and on the day before, Sue and I had Ellis and Lucas to stay, so that she could hopefully get a decent nights sleep before. I took the boys that evening to Sarah and Lee’s for a fish and chip tea then we went to see the speedway at Leicester Lions. None of us had been before and I was probably the most excited, it turned out to be a brilliant night. It just happened to be the last meeting of the year, and their 90th year celebration. They hadn’t won a single meet and were bottom of the league and were taking on the champions, Somerset. And they beat them, even though they were up against the world champion New Zealander, Jason Doyle.

 

Charlotte was due to have her operation early in the morning and she was first on the list, however they couldn’t find a suitable vein for a cannula (she hadn’t slept and was exhausted) and she didn’t go into surgery until late in the afternoon. The procedure should have lasted around 1.5 hours but ended up being 4.5 hours. A very long stressful day! The surgeon was pleased with the outcome and when we went to see her the following day, though very sore and still in pain when she moved, she was able to left her right leg and rub her feet together, something she has not been able to do. She looked very tired but was feeling quite positive.

Suraj had the duty of seeing the boys off for their first day in the new school year and did a pretty good job, though Charlotte had prepared them well for school without her.

On the 7th Sept. we had Mia to stay for a few days while Lee and Sarah jetted off to Geneva for a break. They stayed in a lovely Airbnb property and appeared to max out on this sight-seeing and culture opportunity. I do believe that they were so impressed with the city, lake and life style that they wouldn’t mind relocating there (we’ll keep Mia then?)

On the 9th Sue and I took Lucas and Ellis to the Lubenham Scarecrow Festival. We go most years (weather deciding) but on this occasion I do believe there appeared to be more scarecrows, more attractions and more visitors than previous. Good news for the village funds and associated charities.

On the 11th Charlotte’s car was collected for its annual service from our driveway where it has been parked since last February. Annoyingly, the garage messed up the paperwork on the manufacturer’s warranty and later that day it was returned without its service. It is now booked in again for a date in November, on the positive side it did get driven and quite distance, something that has not happened for nearly 8 months. The following day my Fiesta went in for its MOT and passed again with flying colours, probably due to the fact that I had cleaned its inside for the first time in a year!

On the 14th I went for my last eye injection. I recently read an interesting article concerning the NHS and Lucentis (my medication) and was stunned to learn that it is £582 per injection! Thankyou Aneurin Bevin, without your vision (not a pun) I and many more would either be very poor or just plain blind.

On the 20th Mia arrived again for a few days. This time Lee and Charlotte are away with Lee’s extended family to celebrate his stepfather’s 60th birthday. There is 18 of them and they are staying in a cottage in Lincoln.

Despite Charlotte’s present predicament, she has always thought of others before herself, and no greater testament to that is the coming to fruition of a thoughtful and kind-hearted initiative she has been working on through the horrendous trials of the last year. Close to where she lives is a road bridge over the A14. It is a suicide hotspot and despite her own problems she determined to make a difference and set about doing something about it. Enlisting the help of friends, family and social media she proposed that sympathetic messages be displayed on the bridge in an effort to encourage the desperate and forgotten to think again. The week before she went into hospital, she, with friends and family displayed the messages that she had created on the bridge.

Unwisely,  six days later the Road Authority removed the messages, worried that they would be a distraction to drivers. This happened at the same time that Charlotte was in hospital and it created a media storm that the authorities couldn’t ignore. With flack coming from the MP, local and national radio and  newspapers. On leaving hospital she was interviewed by the press and radio on the issue and eventually the authorities had to bend to the feelings of the public and common sense. There is now going to be 8 professionally designed messages displayed on the bridge and a possibility that this may be repeated on others with similar problems in the area. That’s my girl!!!!

Charlotte-Bridge

Other news:

Jamie has sold his apartment (subject to contract) and he and Ashton have put in an offer on a semi-detached property in Desborough. Strangely this is the same property that Charlotte and Suraj were looking at when they first decided to move closer to the grandparents.

Sarah and Lee are going to Iceland in May for her birthday.

God bless the NHS. Sue and I have our Flu jab booked in for next week. We learned our lesson the hard way last Christmas and do not want to repeat that!

I had an email from Joan and Phil (Italy) a week or so ago mentioning that they were woken up by an earthquake. No damage done, but on checking the Earthquake website locator the epi-centre appeared to be in their garden. Now that is a claim to fame you wouldn’t want.

A reminisce:

Quite a while ago as a Year 3 teacher I was teaching in Wigston when a had a child transfer into the class from an inner-city school. He couldn’t read, didn’t know even the basic phonetics. It soon became obvious that he was just as bright as the other children in the class and though shy, he had a pleasant nature that you just warmed to. Determined to get his reading up to scratch I kept him in at lunchtimes, three time s week and gave him 1:1 tuition throughout the rest of the year. He never complained about his loss of lunchtime freedom and I used to enjoy chatting to him. When I met his parents they seemed supportive and asked if they could do anything to improve his reading. Besides ensuring that he had half an hour each night with his class reader I suggested that they subscribe to the Beano comic and sit and read it with him so that they would get some enjoyment from his reading too. At the end of the year he read as well as any of the children in the class.

On the final school day, it is customary and  hugely gratifying that the children often bring  a small present for the class teacher as a thankyou (from the parents). That year, the children had just left the classroom to start their summer holidays and I was helping stack the chairs in the classroom with the caretaker and headteacher, when the lad returned clutching a little parcel. I guess his parents had bought a little present as an after thought when they saw what the other children had done. As I thanked him, he asked me if I knew what was the best thing about this year. Thinking I was about to get some praise, and with  witnesses, I fished and said that I couldn’t think what. “Reading the Beano,” he said, “The Beano taught me how to read, without the Beano I wouldn’t have been able to read.” Deflated, I told him that I was pleased and wished him well in the future.

“There you are boss,” said the caretaker to the headteacher, ” Lots of money to be saved there, get rid of the teachers and subscribe the kids to the Beano.”

 

Away Days and a Reminisce

Posted in Uncategorized on August 26, 2018 by David Palmer

Shortly after the last blog our Mediterranean summer came to an end. On the 27th Charlotte, Lucas and Ellis arrived to enjoy Harborough by the Sea and cool off afterwards in the pool, before enjoying a family BBQ.

On the 28th July, Mia arrived for a few days while Sarah and Lee went to the annual fireworks competition which they go to each year at Stanford Hall.  It proved to be the last hot day of the summer, the following day the first rain for two months arrived in Market Harborough. We didn’t get much, unlike several other parts of the country which suffered from flash flooding, however we had enough to kick-start the very parched and brown lawn into growth (yippee, not!)

On the 31st Ellis had his 8th birthday. Prior to this, on the 25th, Sue and I took him to Macdonald’s for his favourite happy meal as a treat. On the actual day, Sue, Charlotte, Lucas and the birthday boy went to Gulliver’s Kingdom in Matlock. As Charlotte was unable to accompany the boys on the rides, Sue rose to the occasion and rolled back the years and with lots of determination, a few squeals and a thorough soaking, she survived and even says she enjoyed the whole experience! Possible parachute lessons as a 65th birthday present?

As well as Sue and I attending the Silver Screen at the Odeon cinema, Sue has also started to take Lucas and Ellis while the schools are closed to the Kids Cinema on a Thursday. She always returns with favourable reports on the films that she sees, obviously implying that I am missing out on a good experience, but I am not falling for that one!

On the 10th Aug. I had my second eye injection at the Royal in Leicester. I was in and out of the hospital within half and hour and this time there was no pain, or black holes in my vision and encouragingly the following day I noticed a distinct improvement in my vision.

It has become a tradition that I visit the castle in Caergwrle where my mother’s ashes have been scattered and where her commemorative bench is sited on her birthday (16th June), this year we were away in Canada on the date and afterwards we had been too busy with hospitals and supporting Charlotte with the boys to journey to Wales. On the 13th, Sue, Charlotte, the boys and I drove to the castle. We stayed overnight at the nearby Trevor Arms.  This year we had our picnic by the bench instead of up on the castle as Charlotte is unable to climb any steep slopes. We visited and Doreen and Aunty Josie to catch-up on family news before having a short walk around Maes Paes Park and settling into our accommodation for the night. On our return journey we first stopped at Alyn Park in Wrexham and then we visited the National Ironworks Centre near Oswestry. It is an absolute gem and worthy of a much longer visit than we had time for. A bonus for the boys was a free tub of ice cream. The sculptures are superb and beautifully laid out over a vast acreage, such a shame that we hadn’t the time to thoroughly investigate all the attractions. We shall return.

Sue has continued to ramble around the Leicestershire countryside with her U3A group, but unfortunately on a walk from Gumley on the 16th she took a nasty tumble (the laces caught in her boot hooks). She looked very shook-up when she returned home and spent a couple of hours on the bed to recover, but she was still stiff and sore for a couple of days afterwards. Coincidentally, while Sue was tumbling, I was taking Parky (the pigeon) to Charlotte’s for her to look after, the following day Sue and I were off to visit Devon with Ellis and Lucas. Unluckily for me, as I was carrying Parky down the steps in the back garden, Charlotte stepped on my trailing boot lace and I took an involuntary crash dive with the pigeon in my hand. Luckily we both survived unharmed, but how is that for a coincidence?

On the 17th and 18th we had Sarah, Lee and Mia to stay. To celebrate their wedding anniversary Lee and Sarah had a lovely day in London finishing with catching a performance of the Lion King.

On the 19th Sue and I picked up Lucas and Ellis from Rothwell before travelling down via a short stop for a picnic and a walk along the pier in Clevedon to Buckfastleigh in Devon where Pip and Paul live.

As expected, the boys loved the garden, it is steeply sloped with a myriad of secretive paths that meander in, through and around various plant and garden features (it took until the last day to discover the small 4th pond!) Over the last few years they have opened their garden to the public, but this year, due to some extensive globe-trotting they hadn’t time to ‘get it up to standard’, though I couldn’t find a weed anywhere.

The following day after breakfast it was decided that the beach needed a visit, so under an ‘iffy’ sky we set off to Bigbury-on-Sea. Our journey along narrow and narrower country lanes was not a good one, after first being significantly delayed by a juggernaut trying to make its way along a road that could only make progress if the stream of oncoming car drivers exercised considerable patience and backed up, squeezing into by-ways and gateways to enable the inconsiderate ‘professional’ driver to meet his deadline. I guess being in the ‘holiday mood’ contributed to the bonhomie and prevented the harsh words and bloodshed of road rage. Relief at passing the obstruction was short-lived as within a mile we met another clown attempting to navigate his articulated dominance over we fewer wheeled mortals. Again, it took great co-operation by the sensible to permit the insensible to make progress. As we eventually passed, I crossed my fingers that some where behind me, hopefully not too far away was another multi-wheeled donkey, but making his way in the opposite direction.

The closer we got to our destination, the gloomier the conditions became, eventually resulting in fog/sea mist over the last few miles. However, after parking up above the beach, the murkiness receded offshore to intermittently shroud the headland and far off beaches, but thankfully not ours (the hazy sun shines on the righteous). We spent the next 3 hours doing beach things and having a picnic. The beach is popular and has quite a few water sport outlets to satisfy the cravings of those holiday makers wishing to play among the Atlantic waves. Not for me anymore, far too chilly! It was noticeable that most of the adults and children taking to the sea wore full wetsuits. Hmmm, how times change, as a child I remember splashing about in the sea all day with just swimming trunks on and yes I do remember getting cold but I ignored that because I was having fun and I would only be there for such a short time. How times change.

We returned to Buckfastleigh without delay and via a different route. A pox on all lorry drivers!

The following day Paul took a break from painting the external walls of the house and accompanied us to Cox Tor on Dartmoor. It was a complete contrast to the previous day, the sun had put his hat on and had certainly come out to play. It was hot! The Dartmoor landscape is famously bleakly beautiful and no more than on such a wonderful day. Arriving at the car park at the foot of the Tor we were initially disappointed not to find the anticipated, friendly Dartmoor ponies, but after a bit of exercise (and sweat) we summited the feature to find them there, munching nonchalantly on the already well cropped vegetation. Sooooooo friendly, not bothered by the growing numbers of people eager to stroke, scratch and even cuddle them.

We had  picnic lunch alongside a pretty bridge within the moor. Afterwards, we amused ourselves by constructing a dam across the torrent that Isambard himself would have been proud of. Great fun and a team effort!

Moving on we found another picturesque bridge with yet more inviting water gurgling and splashing into deeper pools. Sitting on fold-up chairs squeezed alongside the steeply sloping bank (the flatter spots had been taken by those who had been there all day) we watched the boys take to the water, Ellis bravely down to his underwear. After a little while, Pip and Paul left us to visit the dentist in Ashburton. Paul had broken a tooth and had an appointment to have it removed (he wasn’t looking forward to it).

We returned to Buckfastleigh via a brief stop off at yet another but deconstructed bridge over playful water.

Our final day in Buckfastleigh was quite a busy one. During the morning we visited the Butterfly and Otter Sanctuary, jus a few hundred metres away. A fascinating place, lots emerging and flying butterflies to see and feeding time with the otters was a delight. The staff member who guided us around the feeding otters was superb, very knowledgeable and quite amusing.

After lunch back at the house we walked the boys down to the Abbey, it is celebrating its millennium year but is always a stunning place to visit. The rebuilt Abbey gives us an insight into what those that were destroyed by Henry VIII must have looked like. We returned briefly to the house before setting off to do a spot of geocaching up on the hill in the grounds of a derelict church. We managed to find one geocache but failed dismally on one other.

That evening, around 8pm Pip and Paul took us back up the hill to a lane alongside the graveyard of the church we visited that afternoon. After climbing nearly 200 steps by way of a narrow dimly lit path, we saw the first of our quarry, Horseshoe bats flit randomly overhead. After a short while we started to see more and more emerge out of the gloom. A  great place to see bats; a lonely hill-top, next to a graveyard outside a derelict church (spooky eh?) After awhile we noticed we were not alone, another couple were watching the bats over a five bar gate into a field. A strange Devonian pastime? We joined them in the gathering dusk, until they quietly left, I noticed that they seemed not to cast a shadow, I wonder???

We left to return to Leicestershire after an early breakfast the following morning. We thanked Pip and Paul for looking after us so well and wished them well on their next adventure to South Africa at the end of September. Our return journey went without incident and just 3.5 hours later we were back to cooking ourselves and washing up etc. etc.

On the 25th Aug. Sue and Sarah travelled up to Salford to see Uncle Stan. I sorted out my car insurance, reducing the quote by £45 and then discovered that Jamie’s rabbit who I was looking after (while he conducted a seminar at the Langham Hotel in London over the weekend) had diarrhoea and had soiled itself badly. What fun, washing faeces off a rabbit! It was a first for me and even though the creature sensibly co-operated by remaining still throughout the process it will be the last.

Do you think this rabbit is pampered?

Jamie has had an offer on his apartment and it looks as if he and Ashton may be in their own house by Christmas. I wonder if the rabbit will get a choice of bedrooms?

Our house is alarmed, there are sensors at various locations around the rooms and this includes cameras inside and out. If triggered, the system will not only phone me, but send a text and an email containing a photograph. The camera that is triggered will also video what set it off and store it away safely. This is quite useful as I can also look remotely at what is happening and if (as occasionally happens) it is a false alarm, I can reset the system on my phone or tablet. While we were in Wales, the alarm went off at 13 minutes past midnight and a rather spooky video was recorded. I can’t explain it and on returning home a few days later there was absolutely nothing out of place. Have a look:

A Reminiscence

This is a story I related a couple of weeks ago to a friend while I was on a walk with Mia. It happened a long time ago, way back in the mists of time when I was a young teacher. He found it fascinating, I hope you do too.

I was teaching at a school in Belgrave, Leicester when the Headteacher received a call from County Hall asking if he would release me for a week to support an activity trip between two county schools. He agreed to and then informed me. It appeared that a school in Market Bosworth had linked up with a school that served RAF Cottesmore on the other side of the county to organise a week-long trip on motor cruisers on the Norfolk Broads.  Unfortunately, the organiser had promptly died of a heart attack (when you read on you won’t be surprised at that). County Hall was keen for the trip to go ahead and had trawled their records to see who had a sailing qualification and picked lucky me. I agreed to join the trip as long as Sue could come too. So, the head at Sue’s school got a phone call and he too agreed. You didn’t say no to County Hall in those days.

Prior to the trip I visited both schools and met the staff and children. One of the teachers who was at Cottesmore had previously worked at the school in Market Bosworth (that’s important to know). Accompanying adults were to be the Deputy Head and cook from Market Bosworth, the landlady from a pub in the town and the teacher from Cottesmore I had previously mentioned (a motley crew). There was to be 30 children on three motor cruisers and three sailing dinghies to be towed behind the cruisers. The itinerary had all been planned out for us, there was little to do other than be one of the staff (so I thought). The deputy and Landlady would  crew a boat of Bosworth children, the teacher and cook would crew one made up of a mixture of the two schools and Sue and I would crew one made up of children from Cottesmore.

The children were to travel to the Broads by train with the staff, but I and the teacher from Cottesmore were to drive down in a van containing everybody’s luggage and that is what happened. A good start.

As the cruisers were the largest on the river system the boat company gave each ‘captain’ of the boat an hours practical lesson on how to operate and steer the craft. As I was ‘experienced’ I was excused this so I sat on the dock and watched the others perform. They struggled, an hour was not enough, but that is all they got. It was obvious that they couldn’t cope with towing a sailing dinghy behind them so it was decided that I should tow all three. Appropriately, my cruiser had only been delivered that week and had not been governed down to 6mph and therefore was capable of towing three. Lucky me.

Before we set off, it was discovered that I was the only one able to read the charts, so I became the lead boat. Later in the day when I moored up for lunch, it was mildly amusing to find out that the other two couldn’t moor theirs. After half an hour watching fruitless attempts I eventually jumped on board as the boat passed by and moored it for them. That is what happened at every stopping place for the whole week; around 15 minutes before we had to stop, I opened up the engine and broke the speed limit, moored my boat, ran back down the river bank, jumped on board the first boat and moored it before doing the same for the remaining craft.

On the first evening I was concerned about the sleeping arrangements on board the boats, particularly the one crewed by the cook and teacher, so I quietly had a word with the gentleman to discover that while he was at Bosworth school he had an affair with the school cook (her daughter was in his class). As this was frowned upon, County Hall moved him out of the school to Cottesmore (they did that sort of thing in those days). Hence the link and a continuation of the affair. Who am I to judge I thought? Later on in the week, as I was sitting alone on the deck after our evening meal (admirably cooked by Sue), the teacher came over and asked if he could sleep on our boat, it transpires that he had an argument with the cook and she had kicked him out. Unsympathetically I told him no and sent him on his way. This incident was to rebound on us all at the end of the trip!

One afternoon, as we were moored up at a chandlers taking on fuel and water, I was sitting on the quay watching our last cruiser being filled while a sailing cruiser was tacking vigorously back and forth across the river making its way up-stream. In horror I watched the craft fail to tack in time and it rammed its prow straight into the side of our boat and stuck there. After many apologies by the skipper of the boat and a swapping of hire details we eventually managed to part the two craft. The next couple of hours was spent while waiting for the engineer in the chandlers to fix the hole with fibre glass, he left me some spare, “Just in case,” he said. I was to need it a few days later.

As previously mentioned, I am towing three sailing dinghies behind. The rivers on the Broads can at times meander very sharply across the flat landscape and navigating a large 12 berth cruiser around these can in itself be quite a problem, but with three dinghies behind I am literally twice the length again. When the children ran into the cockpit to tell me that the last dinghy was sinking, I discovered when I moored up that there were submerged posts just off the bank on the last bend I had rounded and one had ripped a hole in the hull. Thank you Mr Chandler, an hour later I had repaired the hole and we were back on our way.

The children selected on my boat were a hand-picked bunch of RAF reprobates. They had been everywhere, seen everything and had little self-control, though on reflection they were the least of my problems, except for one incident. We were on the river leading to Great Yarmouth Marina, it was a gloriously warm Bank Holiday weekend and there were lots of craft on the river. Our little flotilla proved to be a bit of a log jam for some other river users as crocodile fashion we made our way along the watercourse. As with a car, I had a rear view mirror, I noted that a small speed boat with four teenagers was attempting to overtake us all. I watched as they eventually managed to squeeze their way past the other two cruisers only to then crazily weave from side to side behind my mini-fleet. I could see lots of waving of arms but thought it just the exuberance of youth as there was no way he could get by. As we entered Yarmouth Marina they took their opportunity and on full throttle, engine screaming shot alongside, gesticulated, then cut straight under my bow. I slammed the engine into full throttle reverse and stopped the boat dead in the water in just a few metres. The little speedboat disappeared rapidly among the many other boats, then in horror I saw the bow of the cruiser behind, being steered by the Landlady, ride high in the water as she slammed the throttle, full on forward as she bore down on me! I had over the last few days been giving the staff lessons and how to control their boats, hoping not to have to moor them each time we stopped. She had obviously remembered that to stop the boat fast she had to put on full revs, but forgot that she had to use reverse as well. I watched as in slow motion, she realised what was about to happen (sink three dinghies and slice the back-end off my cruiser) and she turned the helm violently away, slewed to the right and hit the marina quay, on full revs driving the front of the cruiser up and onto the quay itself, scattering a packed audience of tourists. I remember there being quite a lot of applause at this. The Harbour Master had witnessed what had taken place and was soon there sorting things out. The front of the cruiser was smashed but luckily above the water line and it was soon pushed back into the water. Despite me reassuring the landlady that the boat was covered by insurance and that it would be repaired at no cost to us, she was so embarrassed that she insisted that she pay for the repair and it was done that afternoon as we spent the afternoon on the beach.

I found out later the reason why the speedboat had  weaved erratically behind, then cut me up on entry to the marina. My little cherubs from Cottesmore had emptied the onboard refrigerator of eggs and tomatoes etc. and had great fun lobbing them from the back of our craft at the teenagers. Great fun, but breakfast lacked a few essential elements for the rest of the week!

We did have a very worrying incident.  One night, we were anchored in the middle of a Broad, instead of our usual mooring alongside the river bank. That afternoon I had been out with the children in the sailing dinghies, teaching them how to sail, it had been a fun time, though I found it quite tiring after I had worked my way through all thirty and was looking forward to sleep that night. It was not to be!  We had eaten our evening meal, played a few games in the main cabin and were getting ready for bed when one of the girls had severe difficulty in breathing. She was not a known asthma sufferer, but this was certainly an asthma attack. I sat with her outside on the back of the boat talking and calming her down as we had no inhaler aboard. Mobile phones had not yet been invented and we were half an hour sailing from the nearest shore and then probably a little more before I could find a landline. It must have been a full hour before her breathing returned to normal, she was one scared little girl and  I was one scared adult trying not to show it. Eventually she fell asleep, but I am afraid I didn’t, worrying about what might have been and still could happen. The following morning, I acquired a spare inhaler from one of the children on one of the other cruisers and slept a lot easier the following night.

Eventually, the week drew to a close and we returned our craft back to their owner (a little worse for wear). All that was left was to catch a train back to Leicester, but that would have been too easy! It had been planned that I would travel back by train and the cook would accompany the teacher in the van with the luggage. While waiting on the platform with the children, I became aware that there was a huge argument going on between the illicit lovers. As the train was pulling into the station I saw her grab something from her partner and throw it across the train tracks, then ran off. As the children were boarding, he rushed up to me and explained that she had run away (I knew that!), but that she had thrown the van keys over the track, which were now on the other side of the train. Brilliant! I told Sue to get the children back to Leicester, I had to stay and find the keys . This was not going to look good to parents I thought, glad I wasn’t at either school.

First we looked outside to see if she was anywhere to be seen, no luck. It was then that I was told that the argument was over an old boyfriend that lived nearby, he had turned up at one of our stopping points and she had gone off with him for the night. He thought she had probably gone to his place, but he did not know where. I was glad that my life was nice and simple. Next, we crossed the train tracks and with the station master (who couldn’t help smiling when he heard the story), looked for the keys. We couldn’t find them and the van was locked. We walked to the local police station to find it closed. We used the phone outside and was assured that a constable will arrive presently. He did and took us back to the train station (he couldn’t help smiling when he heard the story). Magically he opened the van and started the engine. The constable professed that he thought he knew who the man was that the cook had gone off with and asked what we would like to do with the situation.  Though my fellow professional wanted to leave things as they were I was not of the same mind. I pointed out that though she looked as if she had thrown the keys, we could not find them, so she may not have and may still in her possession and as this was a hire van, that could constitute a theft. I asked him to apprehend her and find out what she did with the keys. We then drove back to Leicester and did indeed meet the train with the luggage and as far as I know, the parents were none the wiser (unless the little ones told?)

The constable did visit the occasional lover and found him rather disgruntled, he had just returned from work to find his car gone and was glad that the police had turned up, he was keen to report it stolen. The cook was stopped by a patrol car on route back to Bosworth. I am afraid I know nothing else on this affair other than I was told quite few years later that the cook and the teacher were now married.

You couldn’t make this up, could you?

 

 

Eye, eye, standby

Posted in Uncategorized on July 26, 2018 by David Palmer

Full recovery from our journey took a few days, but through necessity we plunged straight back into routine and the British weather obliged us for once by remaining sunny and warm; the lawns got mowed, the pool was returned from green to blue and the allotments were watered and weeded.

Sue visited Holdenby Hall on the 19th with the U3A History Group for a spot of Victoriana and followed that up the following day with a trip to the cinema with Charlotte, before enjoying an outing with her rambling group 24 hours later treading the fields of Leicestershire under what appears to be up to now, permanently blue skies.

On the 20th I took a phone call from the Doctor’s Surgery. They had previously attempted to call whilst on the road in Canada with the results of a recent health review, but I put it off until I returned to the UK (just in case it was bad news). However, everything was fine and there was no need to start taking a multitude of pills that quite a few of my friends seem to have been prescribed after their health review.

However, just prior to flying to Toronto I had noticed that I was having problem with the sight in my left eye, part of my vision was becoming increasingly distorted. Some 30 years ago I had a similar problem with this eye and after laser surgery removed the problem along with around 30% of the vision in that eye I adjusted to the quirks of seeing the world slightly different. By and large my brain and good eye would fill in the missing parts of an image during most situations, but this was not the case whilst playing sport etc. Playing squash became pointless as it wouldn’t take my opponent long to find out that I had a problem with a ball that came directly at me from off the wall (I couldn’t gauge where in space the ball was), things happened too fast and my brain had little time to compute its position from just one angle of view. I gave up squash. Tennis proved to be a less of a problem as shots directly at you are rare and the distance the ball had to travel gave my brain a chance. I would play the occasional air-shot and look a bit of a fool but the rest of my game was ok so opponents would never guess.  Catching a high ball in rugby would be a problem, but experience gave me an edge, so I was rarely underneath one and carried on enjoying the game for many more years. Golf was peculiar, when the ball is driven off into the distance, I have to concentrate really hard as to where it is going. If I lose sight of it for a brief second I am usually at a loss as to where it has ended up. Quite frustrating, and often results in a lot of hunting and lost balls. Though I love the game, I rarely play golf mostly because few of my friends enjoy the game and unfortunately all of them still work. Playing pool creates a different problem, I will occasionally catch the end of the cue against the ball prior to playing a shot as I can’t gauge the distance of the cue tip from the ball accurately enough (unless I really concentrate). I blame the beer for such lapses and smile sweetly at opponents enjoying the free shots I give away. Driving is fine, as regular visits to the opticians over the years have confirmed, though for the last couple I have had to resort to driving glasses, more due to the fatigue my eyes suffer from concentrating, rather than any loss of view.

Normally, when I first began to notice fresh distortion, I would have checked it out with the opticians straight away, but made the hard decision to delay as I feared I may lose my driving licence just before I was required to drive in Canada to see Gwenda. Luckily, there was no further deterioration and despite having to adjust to driving on the wrong side of the road we had no problems as the distorted part of my vision was filled in by my good eye and on the occasions I tested my vision with my left eye alone, the issue was off to the far left of my sight and remained small.

On the 26th I went to see the optician and as expected she requested an urgent appointment with the eye department at the Royal Hospital in Leicester. The vision in the left eye had reduced significantly from my last eye test, but surprisingly it had improved in my right. She could see no issues on the retina so suspected that the problem lay behind. The hospital rang a few days later and an appointment was made for the 9th of July. Sue drove me to the appointment as I knew I would be having drops in my eyes that would blur vision and prevent safe driving. After a couple of hours of ocular examinations, and an injection of dye to highlight problems, it was decided that I had fluid build up behind the retina and a course of three injections was needed. Thankfully my vision was assessed as being ok for diving. I had the first injection on the 12th. It is not pleasant having a needle go into your eye, but it is interesting seeing the chemical flood into your vision. I was concerned that I had a circular black hole in the lower part of my vision where the needle went in, but thankfully after 24 hours it disappeared. I was given antibiotic drops to take for the next five days, and apart from some soreness for a couple of days everything went well. It is early days, but I believe there has been a slight improvement to my vision, two more jabs to go!

Quite a while ago Sarah had seen a specialist for a problem that she had been having with her eyes. Some of her lashes were growing inwards and would require attention if more serious problems were to be averted. At around the same time as I was seeing the optician about my own eyesight, Sarah underwent laser surgery to remove the offending lashes. The procedure seems to have been successful and hopefully the remaining lashes have learnt their lesson, and will grow in the right direction from now on. They have been warned!

Charlotte continued to struggle with the pain from her two slipped discs, looking after a husband, two children, a cat, countless chickens and a home has not been easy for her and she has relied heavily on a large selection of pills to try to keep her family life as normal as possible, but it has been horrendously difficult and without strong pain killers it would have not been possible. Sue and I have helped out when possible but the situation has taken its toll on the whole family. Matters weren’t helped by an unsympathetic and unprofessional local pharmacy which reduced her to tears when recently she attempted with Sue to arrange the delivery of some medication. The officious attitude displayed was compounded by some outrageous comments from one of the staff in the hearing of all those present. A complaint was made to head office and an apology received, but quite rightly I do not think that  Suraj is leaving the matter there. Battling debilitating pain, lethargic GP’s and a NHS system that through overload has gone into slow motion has made life hard for our daughter.

Not long after this unfortunate episode, Charlotte had another MRI scan and an appointment with the specialist. It was obvious that the spinal injections had not worked, the scan showed that one of the discs had turned black and the other was grey and on its way to the same condition. She was offered a choice of an operation or continued physiotherapy and a life of painkillers.  She chose to have the operation, though there are risks involved with this route. Because she has been suffering for so long and that her discs are deteriorating she has been placed on the ‘Urgent’ list, this means she may be called for an operation at short notice, so the family is now on standby to get her into hospital when called and cover what ever needs to be covered during and after the procedure. Recovery will be around 6 months, but I guess may be longer. In preparation for the operation she has stopped taking one of the strongest (but addictive) painkillers, Tramadol. The first week of abstinence produced the expected withdrawal symptoms but she coped well, proving she is a very strong individual. As a family we will help her pull through this awful situation and reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

*Since writing this blog Charlotte has been given a date for her operation. It is the 4th Sept., the same date as Suraj’s birthday. Fingers crossed that is a lucky omen.

On a much lighter note, though ‘football didn’t come home’, watching England progress through to the semi-finals of the World Cup was not the tortuous affair of previous excursions into this competition. At times they played well, produced the results they should have done and though they eventually lost to the Croatians, they weren’t a disgrace and I do believe they were the better team, though not the strongest (we can work on that). For once it was nice to host a BBQ for friends and watch an England soccer team not lose in the quarter finals. Especially as I had purchased a new HD, 3D cinema projector to watch the matches on! On an even lighter note I watched the semi-final along with Paul, Peter and an awful lot of more  sophisticated real ale connoisseurs at the Langtons Beer Festival, held at the Langton Micro Brewery. Apart from the match result, the accompanying music and refreshments were first class and ample.

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On the 25th of July, I took Jamie and his friend Bill to East Midlands Airport to catch a flight to Rhodes. They hired a car while they were there and managed to get around the island enjoying the same kind of weather as we were experiencing in the UK. I picked them up just after midnight a week later.

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Recently we seem to have been hitting a period when the electrical items around the home have decided to play up. First one of the ovens in our double oven died and this resulted in the purchase and installation of a new one. Next, the kitchen fridge decided to struggle to keep food fresh so, after cleaning out the filter, repositioning the face-plate and cutting down the base board to allow a greater flow of air and lowering the temperature control, things improved somewhat, but as the temperature for the last month or so has  been well into the 20’s, we decided not to replace it until cooler times and see how it performs then. Annoyingly the dishwasher came out on strike. It refused to finish its cycle and filled up with water. Again, I stripped it down, cleaned all the filters, flushed the piping and in gratitude for a bit of pampering it is now working fine. On a personal note, my mobile phone decided to play up. It is a windows 10 phone and I love it, but with an increasing number of updates it is running low on memory and is now becoming unstable. Unfortunately, it won’t permit me to reset it to free memory so I have bought a new one, a Sony Experia XA2 ultra running Android. Finally, with such high temperatures and no forecast end to the oppressive heat in sight, the air-con in my car began to struggle, so into the garage it went for a re-gas and now I drive in comfort. I wonder what will be next?

As in 1976 we are going through a rare period of dry and hot weather conditions. The lawns are yellow and brown, the soil is heavily cracked and the poor farmers, like me, are struggling to keep their crops watered. The cattle and sheep are eating the hay and silage set aside for their winter feed and we are beginning to get hose pipe bans around the country (but not in our region yet). On a more positive note, there appears to be an abundance of fruit. We have so many black currants that Sue has put a sign up at the end of the driveway and is selling punnets of them for 50p. Black berries seem to be dripping out of every hedge and I have never seen them so large, I am expecting a bumper harvest of grapes.

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Sue has been out several times with her rambling groups, but due to the heat she has often come back exhausted. I have been out each day on my mountain bike, because I go off road and the ground is so hard it has taken its toll on my trusty steed. Over three days I had 8 punctures! Not thorns, but splits in the inner tube due to the rock hard uneven surface, riding is similar to holding onto a rampant jack-hammer at times. On a couple of occasions I had to call Sue to come and pick me up in the car when the inner tube split, was replaced by the spare that I carry and then this one split a few miles on! Events came to a head on one particular day when I inflated the tyres to make them more solid to try and solve the splitting problem and after a few miles of rough going, the inner tube burst through the tyre wall without splitting. Counting myself lucky I deflated the tyre, inserted the inner tube back inside and reflated it. Further on into my route for the day I was descending at speed down a disused railway bank which necessitated a sharp turn at the bottom to avoid a hedge. My disc brakes decided not to bite on hard enough and I buried myself in a rather nettly and thorny bush. After extracting myself, pleased that I wasn’t too roughed up I tracked along a freshly mown green lane, to bury the front wheel into a deep hole that was hidden by a covering of grass, being catapulted over the handle bars was more embarrassing than painful so after checking the bike was ok a set off again. Within 200m my rear wheel locked and I slewed to a stop. Dismayed, I  found that the derailleur mechanism had mangled itself into the spokes so badly that I couldn’t free it to allow the wheel to move. Sue had to come and fetch me again. It took three days in the bike shop and a brand new set of gears to put her back on the road. So far (touch wood) we have had no more incidents. I will never again complain about muddy tracks.

Usually, I look after Mia during at least one day in the week when either Lee or Sarah work in Northampton and she accompanies Peter and I to Bridge 61 at Foxton Locks for lunch (usually Yorkshire pudding, sausage, mashed potato and mushy peas covered in thick onion gravy, heaven). With the recent temperature being so consistently high, like all other furry/hairy animals Mia has suffered in the heat. I have to ensure that she has frequent drinks and at every opportunity she finds shade and sits or lays down to recover. In this heat she is no lively bouncing bundle of mischief. I do feel sorry for the cattle and sheep we pass on our ambles, they are also clearly suffering and in many of the fields there is little shady sanctuary to be had.

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Jamie has his apartment up for sale .

When he has viewings he brings his rabbit Maddy here, wisely he wants to give potential buyers the impression that they are purchasing an apartment not a hutch. We house Maddy in an old chicken coop of Charlotte’s and I have extended it with a wired run into a hedgehog box. I am not sure what she thinks of the situation, but she just sits quietly under the shade in her cage. She can be quite petulant, sometimes she will turn her back on you when you approach and at other times she seems eager to make contact. Unfortunately, we do not heave any of her favourite food (iPhone leads) and she has to make do with lettuce, dandelions and carrots.

As the schools have broken up, on the 23rd July Sue took Lucas and Ellis to the cinema as treat. They saw Sherlock Gnome, their reports were quite favourable but I profess to being dubious about that. I think Arthur Conan Doyle would turn in his grave. The following day, Sue went to see a more adult film at a Silver Screen session, before meeting up with me at Charlotte’s. I took Sue, Charlotte, Lucas and Ellis to Geddington ford for a lovely picnic. The boys played in the ford while i cooked sausages on a BBQ. It is a beautiful and historic spot, very popular with the locals for picnics and indeed it did get quite busy. The weather was gorgeous and we vowed to do it again. I had parked near the Eleanor Cross in the centre of the village and after packing up we went to read its associated information board. While I wandered over to look at the church I got engaged in conversation with a local resident who was very keen to relate the history of the village to us. Half an hour later, filled with fascinating facts and anecdotes we eventually managed to extract ourselves from our new-found Canadian friend. Sue and I would have loved to continue chatting to this very knowledgeable gentleman, but the heat was fearsome and the boys were getting restless, so we retired to The Star hostelry across the road to quench our thirst and cool off.

 

Sue and I have noticed a three-legged cat visiting the garden over the last week or so and today our next door neighbour Viv called to see if we knew anything about it. Apparently she has been watching it in our garden and was very concerned, she brought around some cat food to feed it. It is her intention to take it to the vets tonight and see if it is chipped. In the meantime Sue has bonded with the rather sad little creature by feeding and watering it then giving it the obligatory fondle. I have to admit to having my fingers crossed that the owner will be found and it moves on, or in this case, hops on.

Update on cat: The following morning Sue took it to the vets where they scanned and read the details on its chip. The owner lives just a few streets away, but when the vet telephoned they were out. The cat remained at the Vets. However, later that day whilst I was walking Mia in the park I came across a young pigeon that had fallen out of its nest. To save it from the many dogs that were around loose, I picked it up and took it home. It is now being looked after by Sue and I. We keep it in the hedgehog box that last week had Maddie in residence. It’s getting three meals a day and seems comfortable with the situation. I gauge that it is only a week or two from being able to fly, so our guest is temporary.

After my morning cycle through the parched fields around Harborough I decided to catch up with a bit of paperwork in my refreshingly cool study. First job was to go on-line and claim back some tax that the Inland revenue had overcharged me. Next I complained (on line) to my pension provider asking them to explain why they had reduced my payments by £13 a month. I moved on to research a cheaper energy provider than EON were forecasting for the next 12 months. I used the Citizens Advice website to compare providers. I was shocked at the number of companies there were, pages and pages of them. All of them cheaper, so I opted for the cheapest of all at over £260 less. They had good reports on Trust-pilot so we shall see. I finished off the bureaucracy by researching a cheaper car insurance quote for Sue. The whole rigmarole didn’t take long  and I did manage to keep my cool during the whole process, but I still preferred ‘the old days‘ when we didn’t have endless choices to make and companies trying every ploy imaginable to squeeze a few more pounds from you. I do feel sorry for those , not computer/internet savvy, life must be increasingly expensive!

Lee, Sarah and Mia have been improving their sailing skills over the weekends. They have felt confident enough to take top the water without their Admiral, the only challenge being the heat of the sun as there has been very little wind for several months now.

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When Sue and I go away for a holiday I always make a video of our escapades, here is the latest one of Canada:

 

 

 

Midland to Toronto and Home

Posted in Uncategorized on June 18, 2018 by David Palmer

Breakfast of cereals, toast and strong coffee preceded a 10am start to a long day travelling. It was predicted to be hot 28+, but the morning had the sun struggling to break through high cloud.

As we left Midland heading south the traffic started to build up, reversing the trend of the last couple of weeks with more cars than juggernauts. The towns we passed through had populations in the 10’s of thousands rather than just a few hundred that we have previously been experiencing and we could tell that it was a Saturday as lawns were being mowed and cars washed on drive ways. The closer we got to Toronto the more industrial it got and the four lane highway that had been previously snaking its way through fields and the periphery of townships began to take on the feel of approaching a very busy city. No letting the mind wander now, road signs had to be read and the volume of traffic began to squeeze on our little Nissan Rogue.

We changed our plans repeatedly on the journey into the big metropolis. First we were going to stop in Barrie, then we were going to stop in a park near Pearson Airport, but finally we decided on just getting the car back to base. We filled up with fuel a mile or so away from the rental car park and then dropped the car off.

Inside the terminal we found where we could store our luggage and then bought return tickets on the UP Express train into Union Station, Toronto. The journey took 25 minutes and just had two stops on the way. It conveniently disgorges its passengers next to the CN Tower.

The plan was to wander around the city centre, have lunch and then return to catch our flight, and that is what we did. The area around the tower had changed dramatically from when we visited it 30 years ago. The large marshalling yards had been developed into a train museum, Ripley Aquarium, shops and eating houses, it was much improved and today it was packed with people, many of whom were off to see the Toronto Blue Jays play the Washington Redsocks, they were passing through the centre to board buses taking them to the game, dressed in their patriotic shirts of blue.

We had lunch in a restaurant just a block away from the tower. As we were leaving there was a strange beeping noise, when Sue asked what it was, a rather disinterested waitress told us it was a fire alarm. As we exited onto the street, several fire engines turned up, horns blaring away, nobody moved in the restaurant, it was a false alarm. I suppose this must happen often. We next took a walk down to the ferry port where we sat on bollards, watching the water traffic pass by, glad of a cooling breeze from the lake, the clouds had disappeared and the sun was slowly turning the city streets into a furnace.

Sufficiently cooled we headed back towards the centre, stopping at a bar to escape the heat and quench our now considerable thirst. Continuing our way back to the station we were passing Ripley’s Aquarium when I spotted a security guard running out of the building holding a fire extinguisher. What I had taken as smoke from a BBQ or outdoor fast food stall was in fact the outside of Ripley’s on fire. He soon quenched the flames, but where were the fire service when you need them? The fire began on a wood chipped flower border against the building, probably from a discarded cigarette.

We returned to the airport, picked up our luggage and then waited a while for our check in desk to open. We were passengers no. 2 & 3 in the queue. After security, we sat in the bar and had some more refreshments before making our way to the departure gate which for our flight meant a short ride in a bus to the other side of the runaway where we waited inside a building used during busy times. Shortly after we had sat in our seats to wait for the gate to open, Sean, Domini and Caitlin turned up. We chatted about our various Canadian adventures until we boarded the aircraft.

The plane departed on time at 10.45pm. I slept a great deal of the flight, but Sue felt ill and spent some time up front with a stewardess cooling down as she was overheating. She had an attack of her Golfer’s Leg; the last time that happened was prior to a flight from Vietnam.

Caitlin was met by her mother at Stansted and said her goodbyes; we made our way back to Harborough in Sean’s car via a traffic jam near Huntingdon, arriving home at 2pm.

As it was Father’s Day the rest of the family had planned a BBQ at Sarah’s house in Leicester, but this was rescheduled from noon to 3 pm. We arrived there very tired at 3.20 pm. Lee’s parents and grandmother were there as well as all the Palmers. It was a chilly afternoon but the rain held off. Sue and I were both back home just after 8 pm and crawled into bed, two very tired bunnies.

Sudbury to Midland

Posted in Uncategorized on June 16, 2018 by David Palmer

We had an abortive start. We left the motel at 9am eager to get on the road as it was a gorgeous day promising to be good for sightseeing. However, with our destination inputted into the Satnav, the screen suddenly went into night mode just a few hundred metres down the road and I couldn’t see anything on the screen in such bright sunlight. I pulled into a side road and attempted to reset it, but for some reason it wanted a Wi-Fi connection to find our destination. We returned to the Motel and parked outside the office and picked up the signal. It was then that we realised that we had forgotten to fill up with fuel, the gas station being 5 minutes down the road in the opposite direction. It is not wise to start a journey in Canada of several hundred km without a full tank as the distance between opportunities to do so are quite large. Thank you Satnav, we love you too. After filling up with petrol our conscientious little bit of technology behaved impeccably.

First stop today was an impromptu pull in to the French River Information Centre. We were the first visitors of the day and on entering the centre to check out what the place could offer two inquisitive Brits, the receptionist suggested that we first do the trail to the rapids which the fur trappers (Hudson Bay Company) had to negotiate. It wasn’t too challenging she said and would take an hour or so.

The trail began with a poster warning us to be careful of the rattlesnakes. Plunging into the forest it became apparent that we had to follow the blue circles, thoughtfully pinned onto trees at regular intervals. It was decided that Sue looked out for blue circles and I looked out for snakes. We soon found out that the local mosquitoes were looking out for us! We both soon made switches from tree branches to discourage the little darlings. The path at times was over a mass of tangled tree roots and at others over and between boulders, but all the time it was through thick undergrowth. It was hot, sweaty going and with attacks of swarms of bugs to distract, there was always the danger of slipping and turning an ankle. Eventually we heard the thunder of the fabled rapids and after another hundred metres or so we broke through the trees to find ourselves on a rocky promontory above them. It was difficult to gauge which was the better, the view before us or the lack of bugs whirling around.

We descended to an information board situated on the rocks next to the rushing wall of water. I couldn’t help but smile when I read that the rapids were originally controlled by the French until a couple of brothers turned up called Kirke and took possession of them. However, it is still called the French River. We stayed quite a while discussing how you could possibly canoe over such a turbulent torrent , we found several very old metal pegs drilled into the rocks that would have helped in some way, but quite a lot of lives must have been lost on this section of river.

For some reason, the bugs didn’t attack so much on the way back. Perhaps the switches had taught them a lesson they didn’t want to repeat? On seeing the receptionist again I inquired as to whether sending tourists down the trail to see the rapids was their way of ensuring that the mosquitoes got fed. She smiled.

We spent a little time looking at the exhibits on fur trapping inside the centre, but though well displayed there was little substance, so we moved on towards Midland.

Our only other stop was for a pleasant fish and chip lunch at a roadside restaurant. We spent some time talking to the owners, who were very interested in the Royal Wedding and were in despair of Donald Trump. For once, they didn’t appear to have any relatives in Britain or indeed had even been out of the country. They seemed very happy doing what they did, and they served up the best fish and chips I have had in a long, long time.

They next section was a bit of a drag. A gorgeously sunny day, beautiful scenery passing by, little traffic and I was feeling tired and had enough of driving. I was glad when we arrived at our accommodation for the night; The Knights Inn (good name eh?)

After a bit of a rest we took a walk to nearby Little Lake. A lovely amenity for the town. Shallow beaches, warm water, lots of squirrels and trees, plenty of benches to rest weary legs and a vender who sells the largest ice-creams ever! We discovered a new sport and it is brilliant! They call it Disc Golf. Around the lake and through the park we kept seeing strange posts with chains dangling down into circular tub like structures, what were they for? Then we came across five guys practising for a big competition there tomorrow. They explained what they were doing. They had to throw a disc into the tub, from a concrete slab which was 100 m or more away, through trees etc. The disc is really a heavy flattish Frisbee. They use a driver disc (the heaviest) to start with, then they switch to a putter disc (lighter). There is a white circle around the tubs which if the driver lands inside, they can then use the putter from the edge of the line to spin it into the tub. It looked very popular, there were quite a few groups practising. I would have loved to have a go.

We wandered back to the hotel, then drove down to the harbour area to see the locals promenading and the boat owners firing up there BBQ’s for the evening meal (very civilised).

We went for our own evening meal at probably Midland’s smartest restaurant. I was still wearing shorts as it was such a hot evening so the management placed us at a table away from the other guests and nearest to the toilets. I took their point and was on my best behaviour. The food was really good and when they realised that we were not riff-raff, they treated us well.

Later in the evening, we packed and made our plans for returning home, realising that we are due to attend a family BBQ on Sunday, unfortunately we discovered that we don’t land back in Stansted until 11.15 am and with a 2 hour drive afterwards, it may mean that we may not make it. We shall see.

Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury

Posted in Uncategorized on June 15, 2018 by David Palmer

Our destination today was Sudbury, the Satnav indicating a journey time of around three and a half hours and the sky promised good clear day. We left the motel just after 9.30am after any rush hour traffic had gone.

We hadn’t gone far when we made our first stop in Bruce Mines, we passed a small museum and after a quick turn-a-bout we found it was open. It was a small local museum housing artefacts from the areas’ main industry, copper mining (hence the towns’ name), it also contained lots of eclectic items from local residents. We donated $7 and were given a personal tour by a well-meaning lady who she said was standing in for the usual guide. We were kind and ignored her lack of knowledge or presentation skills and chatted and smiled appropriately. We were thankful that we have at last found a museum open, before July 1st! We spent around 3/4 of an hour browsing the exhibits, but probably the most interesting aspect of the visit was taking place outside where the local Mennonites were passing driving in their carriages and dressed in traditional garb. They were going to the large superstore across the road. Our guide wistfully informed us that they owned many of the farms around and much of the land; I suspect there may be issues there.

Moving on we put quite a few miles under the wheels before stopping for lunch at a Chinese/Canadian restaurant.

The traffic was light all the way to Sudbury and good driving apart from a couple of roadworks where the workers were beavering away replacing the road surface. Unlike the UK where roadworks are controlled by a traffic light system, here they prefer to have people waving flags and holding Stop/Go lollipops. The seemingly odd thing is that these controllers are usually women or indigenous, but mostly both. I wonder if there is a bit of ‘ism’ going on here.

We found our accommodation ‘The Richard Lake Motel’ without any problem, checked in, unpacked the car then set off to find Sudbury’s ‘Big Nickel’. It is the world’s largest nickel and is located outside the Dynamic Earth Centre which is a technology museum with a tour of a nickel mine thrown in. Unfortunately, we were severely delayed by city traffic and arrived at 4 pm to find the museum was closing; the last group of visiting school children were exiting as we approached the entrance. We photographed the ‘Big Nickel’, read all the information boards around the site and then joined the heavy traffic to make our way to plan B, Moonlight Beach.

The beach is situated on Moonlight Road within Moonlight Park and I guess is at its best under moonlight, but under sunlight it is pretty good too. The lake is flanked by very impressive and expensive properties, probably making it THE place to live in Sudbury. The beach itself is golden sand and contains lots of play equipment to amuse small children. We bought a couple of huge ice creams in a small cafe above the beach and sat licking away at a picnic bench watching a growing number of people enjoying the facilities. Cones demolished we took a walk to the other side of the bay, climbed a rocky outcrop following a small path to another small bay. We were fascinated by the many large hairy caterpillars apparently basking in the sun along the route. We eventually worked it out that they had emerged from the weird cobwebby nests clinging to the junctions of branches in the bushes all around us. On our return to the car, the beach had considerably filled up with families bringing their small children to be tired out before bedtime.

Returning to the motel I discovered that somewhere on our travels I had lost the room key, reception provided a new one without having to pay for it, phew. We enquired as to the location of a decent restaurant and then found it, just 5 minutes away by car. The meal was excellent but more notable for an item of food that we didn’t choose. I named it ‘Death on a plate’; it was potato chips covered in cinnamon sugar and fried, two large scoops of ice cream placed on top and the whole lot covered in chocolate sauce. In discussion with the waiter we learned that the concoction contained 1450 calories!!! He seemed amused that the UK now has a sugar tax on such things.

On the way back to our accommodation we stopped to admire the sunset at Richards Lake, before watching TV until zzzz’s.

Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie

Posted in Uncategorized on June 14, 2018 by David Palmer

A very pleasant night’s sleep was brought to an end by a thunderstorm and torrential rain around 8am. We were reluctant to make an early start to today’s adventure, hoping that the rain clouds would move on. By the time we did load up the car, it had gone 10am and it was still raining and a decidedly chilly 7 degrees! Our host during last night’s splendid meal was Trinidadian and had informed us that she had lived in Wawa for the last 30 years as on the journey between Sault Ste. Marie and Wawa she had fallen in love with the country and had decided to make it her home. Sue had looked up to day’s route and discovered that it is listed as one of the 9 best road trips in North America. It didn’t look very likely that we would be seeing it at its best today.

For the first half hour we saw very little of the beautiful coastline we were apparently following other than the occasional bay seen through rivulets of water marching across window glass.

When the rain eased we took the opportunity and pulled into one of the beauty spots along with a couple of other travellers. Oooooo, it was chilly, but the view at Old Lady’s Beach was pretty good, even under a sombre sky. Clouds whipping low over waves seemingly thrashing each other in a race to the beach, gave meaning to the story outlined on an information board we had parked next to, of the foundering of a large iron-ore freighter in the 1960’s during the worst storm ever recorded on Lake Superior.

Though the rain didn’t return for the next section of our journey, we had been warned that this route was often susceptible to fog and that is what we got. Thick, dense fog that reduced vision at times to just around 50m or so, slowing our progress and ensuring that eyes were fixed on the grey murkiness ahead and not on the presumable pleasurable scenes passing us by in slow motion.

We stopped (to rest the eyes) at a Tourist Information Centre, situated on the banks of Hades. Well, it could have been, the surrounding forest merging into writhing, swirling grey, green cauldron fumes, while the beach promised to deliver Charon and his ferry boat through the blanket of fog just a few metres off-shore. However, it was lovely and warm inside and manned by friendly rangers eager to discuss bears. We confessed we hadn’t seen any. The interactive displays were pretty interesting and held our attention until the journey beckoned and we drove off again along the ‘road to nowhere’.

The fog eventually gave in to the returning rain and around lunchtime we pulled into a Cookhouse for some vittles’. Local white fish from the lake and fries from a field somewhere, gorgeous! As a bonus, on leaving we noticed that hummingbirds were sipping from a couple of hanging feeders. Of course we photographed them (they were unconcerned at our presence), what stunning creatures they are. So fast, so small, so sweet!!!!

Those little birds were the essential element to break the spell that had marred our journey so far. The sun came out; we could see where we were going. However, we then met a series of road works that at times slowed our journey to a stop, but eventually we arrived in Sault Ste. Marie and the Satnav talked us directly to the Holiday Motel.

After checking in we drove off to explore. First was Bellevue Park, a pretty patch of green that jutted out into St. Marys River. After parking up, we discovered why the unusual wispy clouds were whizzing across an otherwise clear sky, it was blowing a gale! The river was glinting in the sunlight but white horses were galloping madly across its surface. And it was cold. We did a full circumnavigation of the promontory, glad on the lee side that we were out of the wind. On the other side of the river was Trump country, we could see lines of RV’s parked up along the opposite bank; you could easily swim across, but not today. We came across a box attached to a post that vended free poop bags for dog owners, how novel, what a sensible use of local taxes. With initiatives such as this there is often a HOWEVER, and there is one here. The park (and river) is home to several hundred Canada Geese, and they also poop, and it is as large as a medium sized dog poop. Goose droppings were everywhere! Good try Sault, but you need a goose education programme to run in parallel.

Next we drove to the other side of the city to visit the International Bridge, St. Marys Island and Whitefish Island.

The bridge is the border between the USA and Canada. Considering its importance, there appeared to be little traffic traversing this huge structure, on average a vehicle every 30 seconds.

The two islands are linked and are a 1st Nation Heritage site. After parking up we crossed the large ship canal onto St. Mary’s Island and then walked up to the bridge. The wind had now dropped and though late in the afternoon it was quite warm. Bridge photos taken we set off on the island trail. We came across some fly fishermen, in waders casting for fish in the main river. We dallied awhile, hoping we would see a fish landed, but were disappointed. Further along the trail we met a red winged blackbird, he was keen to chat; tweeting, chirping and screeching at us as we walked along. We reciprocated and he responded. No idea what the conversation was but it lasted a good ten minutes before a passing walker broke our conversation. Next, we came across a beaver lodge, a local explained that it was their winter lodge, the summer one was across the river and that is where they had their young in the spring. Yuppie beavers eh?

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The walk along the trail took up the rest of the afternoon. The Heritage site is well designed and was thoroughly enjoyable, it really brought the history and the nature of place out in its info boards and I am sure is a huge asset to the citizens of the city. They seem to use it well.

On returning to our accommodation we a meal at a fast food outlet in the city, before settling own free the evening watching some TV.