Back to reality

Our final leg of the canal journey took us through beautiful countryside, with glorious sunshine.

Peace and quiet

Friday started off with a gentle mist rolling down the canal. The sun was out and the sky was a clear blue. Other than the birds singing there was hardly a noise. It was so quiet in fact that when a hot air balloon passed overhead you could actually hear it. I live in a town, near a road and it is unknown for it to be so quiet.

There were fewer locks today, but the ones we passed through were very pretty and well kept. We moored up at Penkbridge, where we had a lovely meal at the Littleton pub, which was a short walk into town.

On Saturday we were up early as we had to make our way through the last few locks before returning our boat. We had a short stop off for breakfast before heading off home.

An American in Paris

Most of the weekend was spent washing and sorting out after our holiday. The weather was still beautiful, so we had all the garden furniture out and washed that too.

Later, on Sunday afternoon, I had booked to go to the cinema, to see An American in Paris, which had been filmed from the stage show. It was absolutely amazing!

The singing and dancing by all the cast was superb. It was a really great end to what has been a wonderful week.

Chugging Along

Our journey continued yesterday through the lovely countryside at a lovely steady pace. The weather was a little mor overcast and cooler, but it still stayed fine, so we were really lucky.

Goose wrangling

At the first lock we came across a couple of geese and their goslings that had got themselves stuck in th lock. My husband opened the gate and managed to gently shoo them along whilst someone on another boat tempted them with cornflakes. Luckily they all managed to get out of the lock safely.

We moored for the night at Fradley junction, where there were lots of boats moored up. The area is really pretty and we ate at the Swan Public House (aka The Mucky Duck) which is apparently the most photographed pub on the canal.  It was motorbike meet night, so there were loads of bikes and bikers outside. By this time the sun had finally come out and it was a beautiful evening.

On a go slow

This morning dawned bright and sunny again. We had to start the day by going through the swing bridge and lock at Fradley Junction. There were a number of boats waiting to go through the locks, so it took much longer than expected.

There were some volunteers helping at the locks, who were mostly friendly and helpful, however one of them was slightly condescending and proceeded to explain how to work the locks. Although I said that I had done plenty of locks before, he insisted on explaining step by step quoting the official health and safety regulations along the way. I managed to keep my cool and thanked him for his help before moving on to the next lock.

Me and my husband walked for quite a way over the next hour or so and were surprised when our friends didn’t turn up for quite a while. Eventually they turned up behind a a boat that was moving very slowly. We hopped back on the boat and before long there were three boats stuck behind the go slow. We asked him to move over, but he seemed oblivious and just kept pottering along. Eventually after explaining that he was going too slow and there was a queue of boats behind him, he pulled over to let us past. Unfortunately he wouldn’t let the others pull past him and they had to stay behind him for some time.

Later in the day at the locks and mooring point, we chatted to several people who had got stuck behind him in the course of the day. He had clearly caused chaos on the canal!

We moored up at Shugborough for the night. The sun was still shining and we walked to the farm shop where we bought supplies for the next day and had a coffee and cake at the cafe. It was then back to the boat for a cheeky prosecco before showering and going to the pub for tea. Another amazing day.

Where past meets present

The next leg of our journey took us out of Birmingham city centre, passed offices and industrial buildings. Straight out of Birmingham were 12 locks falling steeply out of the centre.

We travelled a short distance before coming to a second set of locks at Aston Junction. There were another 11 locks here. I walked the majority of this journey as there is only a short distance between the locks, so it was easier to walk than keep getting on and off the boat.

This is a very built up area and although the locks and canal is very pretty the route is surrounded by factories and busy roads. It’s amazing to see the old world canal wending its way through the city centre and modern industrial buildings.

Excellent team work

By now we had got into a really good routine for opening and closing all the locks. One to open the paddles, two pushing the gate open. Drive the boat in, shut the gate. Two then winding the paddles to let the water out to lower the boat. Push the gate open, drive the boat in, close the paddles and the gate.

Because it was such a lovely day and the pace of the boat is virtually walking speed, there was lots of time for banter and enjoying the sunshine, so it certainly doesn’t feel like hard work.

A pretty place to stop

Later the canal made its way back out into the countryside, with beautiful pathways, cottages and gardens. It was such a beautiful day that I again walked on the tow path. There were another three locks in this section too.

We moored for the night in a lovely little clearing at Curdworth. This is a pretty little area, with a pub a short distance from the canal. Once we’d stopped we opened a chilled bottle of prosecco and enjoyed a lovely rest, before getting ready to go out for tea. The prosecco was well deserved after all those locks!

 

History, Concrete And Regeneration

Black Country Living Museum

This morning we awoke to another  beautiful sunny day. We had a lovely breakfast and sat outside with a coffeee whilst we waited for the Black Country Living Museum at Dudley to open.

The museum was amazing. When you think of a museum, this is not what you would expect. It is a living museum, with houses and community buildings set in 26 acres around the canal basin.

We walked around the houses, many of which had people in them to tell you the story of the houses and the family that lived there. I found it fascinating to see how people lived in the past. The museum has houses and shops dated from the 1800’s to post war.

The shops have staff in there who again tell you the story around the shops and the goods in there. There are other people wandering around in costume telling tales and helping people out.

There is also a working fairground, a school, a chapel, a mine, a pub and lots of industrial buildings. Many  of the buildings originated in the Black Country and were taken down and reconstructed in the museum. Even the tilted house, which came from an area of mine subsidence has been rebuilt with the correct tilt to recreate the subsidence.

We had a tour down the mine where the enthusiastic  guide, George told us all about the mine and the people who worked there.

We then had excellent fish and chips for lunch and of course had to buy sweets from the old sweet shop to eat later on. During the day the buses were running up and down the site and an occasional vintage vehicle passed by from the showroom on site.

Everyone that worked there was so friendly and helpful, giving lots of historical information and being genuinely interested in who we were and where we had come from. I would definitely recommend a visit here if you get chance.

 

Moving on to modern regeneration

Back on the barge, we thencontinued on to the Wolverhampton level canal and then the Birmingham main line. This took us through some very built up areas outside Birmingham, including travelling under a long stretch of motorway which was under construction, supported by scaffolding. The workers carried on working whilst we travelled underneath, causing a rainfall of watery cement to fall on the boat (and the driver)

Continuing further along we went through three locks. These were a little run down and were much harder to wind and open than the ones we passed through yesterday. Unfortunately as we were approaching the locks my friend stepped off the boat whilst it was moving and fell headlong onto the path. She is now sporting a lovely graze down her arm and knee.

We then carried on into Birmingham where we moored up at Cambrian Wharf right outside the sea life centre and the Birmingham Arena. This is a beautiful area which has had some regeneration and is lively and bustling. There are lots of bars and restaurants.  The buildings are beautifully restored and the area looks very smart.

Other than the slight mishap, it’s been another great day!

Back on our travels

Hi it’s been quite a while since I last wrote my blog. I feel that the first part of the year has kind of crept past mostly unnoticed.  So just a little catch up. Our eldest daughter is now working abroad in the show team for Thomas Cook. Our youngest daughter has now past her driving test and bought herself a car. Other than that nothing much has changed and life is ticking along fairly smoothly.

A leisurely four miles an hour

On Saturday me and my husband and a couple of friends set off for a weeks canal boating holiday in the midlands. It’s something I’ve always fancied doing but not ever got round to it.

We booked a hire boat from ABC Boathire and collected it from Gailey Marina. After unpacking our bags we were instructed on the daily maintenance of the boat, how to drive it and a quick practice with the locks, then we were off.

The first evening we travelled about 8 miles (at about 4 miles an hour), then moored for the evening close to the Anchor Inn, where we had a very nice meal.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m not a massive fan of boats. For the first day I panicked a little every time the boat rocked. I also really struggled to step from the boat to the canal side without worrying that I was going to fall in. I survived the first day! I actually really enjoyed it. I didn’t try driving the boat as it’s huge (62ft long) and I’m pretty sure I’d run aground or crash!

Locks, Locks and more Locks

Today saw the second leg of our journey. Me and my husband started the day by walking on the tow path, keeping up with the boat which was driven by my friend, ably assisted by her husband, the navigator.  After walking for about 4 miles, we jumped back on the boat for a short while before beginning the rise up the 21 locks  to take us into Wolverhampton.

The locks are an amazing feat of engineering and we soon got into a good team routine opening and closing the gates and using the windlass to wind the paddles up and down to fill and empty the locks. It took us about 2 1/2 hours all together with a short stop for lunch in the middle. It was a brilliant experience, helped immensely by the fact that it was a gloriously sunny day.

I had a short turn at driving the boat, but it wasn’t massively successful and I had to concentrate so hard to keep the vote in the centre of the canal. I soon handed the tiller back.

Our journey ended today at The Black Country Museum. We moored up there for the night and then had a short walk to an amazing pub called Mad O’Rourkes Pie Factory. The pies

 

were amazing. I had allotment pie which was topped half with pastry and half cauliflower cheese. Amazing food, ooh and I had a sneaky violet gin too.

All in all a superb day. Looking forward to visiting the museum tomorrow and then travelling on a little further.

 

February Already!

I haven’t written a blog for a few weeks, as I decided that I was only going to write it once a month. Before I realised, we are suddenly in February, already six weeks into the New Year.

January always seems a long month. Maybe its because we look forward to Christmas and New Year so much that January seems to stretch on forever. Maybe it’s because people start new regimes like dry January, or following other New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps it because the days seem dark and cold and spring seems such a long way away. Whatever the reason, January is now gone and the daylight seems a little bit longer, which always make things feel a little bit better.

February brings Shrove Tuesday and the beginning of Lent. Quite often I have given something up for Lent, usually biscuits or chocolate, or something else that is really hard for me to stop eating. This year however, I read quite a lot about giving up sugar, so on the second week of January I decided that I was going to do 5 weeks of giving up processed/refined sugar. It’s really hard to find any kind of ready meals that don’t contain some kind of processed sugar, or artificial sweetener.

The first few days were quite hard, but now it is getting a little easier. It has stopped me snacking quite so much, as a lot of the things that I normally snack on are sweets, biscuits and cake, so I find that as I can’t have those I don’t bother having anything else.

I can’t say that I will give it up forever, as I think it is a big ask, but I definitely feel a bit better and hopefully have got out of the habit of fancying something sweet on an evening, or finding any excuse/reason to have cake or biscuits.

I’ve also been worker back nearer home for the last couple of weeks, which has allowed me to walk to or from work. This is a 4 mile walk, which is quite hilly, so it is a good start to the day.

We have also started to do some walking on a weekend. We set up a what’s app group between a few friends and family, so that if anyone is planning a walk, they can invite others along. This has been more effective than trying to plan a walk around a weekend when everyone is free, as this is sometimes impossible.

We I think  that that’s just about it for me. Let’s see what the next few weeks bring.

 

 

 

One Year On

Well it’s now a year since I wrote my first blog. I’m happy to say that I’ve really enjoyed it for the most part. There have been some weeks when I’ve struggled to know what to write, but that was meant to be part of the challenge, so that each week I would do something interesting enough to write about. So I hope I haven’t bored you too much.

I’ve decided to carry on writing my blog again this year, but just once a month, except of course if I go off on any interesting travels and I will keep you up to date with those.

A year in review

In the year that I was 50, did I achieve all the things that I wanted to do? Probably not, but the things that I didn’t achieve are still achievable this year and it was actually a really great year.

There were lots of celebrations, including my 50th birthday, my eldest daughter’s graduation, my youngest daughter’s 18th birthday and the birth of my niece’s first baby.

I walked lots of miles, I di lots of park runs, but didn’t manage my first 10k as I had intended, due to being unwell. Maybe I gave in a bit too easily after that and have not really kept up with my fitness,

I lost over 2 stone…..and then put most of it back on again.

I saw lots of shows at the theatre,. Some that I have seen many times before that I really love and some that I have not seen before, but I really enjoyed all of them.

I got to go on some amazing holidays in America, Spain and also some beautiful parts of England too.

I also set up my own business from my hobby, which is still a work in progress, but who knows how that will go

So all in all I think it’s been a pretty good year.

A year just begun

So what about this year. Well I haven’t made any resolutions, but as usual I plan to get fitter and lose weight as I always do. Other than that I just want to keep my life interesting and worthwhile. I want to work more on my business, but still keeping it small at the minute as I still have a full time job.

I have some travel plans already. Certainly different to last year, but hopefully just as interesting.

I will also set myself some challenges, probably another long distance walk and I will keep up with the park runs and Tingley run fit

An unusual start

So just to get you up to date, as I have missed my blag for a week or so. We had a great New Year’s Eve with my brother and his family coming round for a meal. We played games and quizzes and laughed till our ribs hurt.

Unfortunately New Year did not begin so well with the news of the death of my mum’s cousin. She was 98 years old and had had a great life. When we were children we would spend a lot of time with her and her husband and they took us to lots of different places. So a sad day, but a life well lived and she will be remembered fondly.

On 2nd January my dad was taken into hospital and over the following days other people in the family were struck down with a sickness bug, including me. I also contracted a severe case of conjunctivitis, which is slowly clearing up now but has not been much fun. I have to say a big thank you to my husband, my brother and his wife for doing all the running around once I was ill, as I’m not sure how my mum and dad and my girls would have managed without them.

So hopefully we’ve put the sickness behind us and can crack on with the New Year.

I guess considering the last week it has to get better!?

 

 

 

 

Crafts, Carols, Christingle and Christmas

Crafts

Well I haven’t written my blog for a couple of weeks now, but I have been really really busy. After advertising my handmade crafts on my Facebook page, I was then invited to attend at a craft fair. On 10th December, I went to the fair at Cliffe castle in Keighley. It was an extremely cold day and heavy snow had been forecast. Luckily it didn’t snow too heavily, just enough for it to be Christmassy.

I sold quite a few of my handmade items and had a lot of interest for the future. As a result of this, I’ve had the confidence to set up a website and start advertising online. As I still have a full time job, it is only a small business at the minute, but I’m hoping to build it up over the next few years and hopefully when I retire, it will be a good project to work on and earn a little extra money.

If you want to have a look at the website, it’s https://www.mezzycreations.co.uk

Carols

I hadn’t been to church for quite some time, so last week, as it is now getting nearer to Christmas, I went to two services. The first one was “Nine Lessons and Carols”, which is exactly what is says on the tin. The carols made me feel really festive, the choir sang beautifully and the readings made me think about the true meaning of Christmas.

Later in the day, I went to the Christingle service. I’ve always loved this service, where everyone receives an orange (representing the world), with a red ribbon around (representing the blood of Christ), four sticks with sweets (representing the four seasons and fruits of the harvest) and a candle (representing Jesus, the light of the world). Once everyone’s candle is lit, the lights are dimmed and there is a lovely atmosphere whilst carols are sung.

The money raised goes to https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk, which provides support to children in the UK. This is particularly poignant at this time of year, when I really appreciate how lucky I was as a child and how lucky I am to be able to provide the things that my children need.

Christmas

So now with only a couple of days left to Christmas, I’ve now finished work until next Wednesday. My husband has done the cleaning and food shopping and I’ve bought all the presents, although there are still a few left to wrap.

I used to get quite stressed before Christmas and want everything to be perfect. Maybe it’s a sign of age, or just an acceptance that there’s no such thing as perfect, but this year I’m looking forward to having time at home with my husband and daughters, for our parents to be well enough to join us for Christmas lunch and a little bit of rest and relaxation too.

For everyone else who celebrates Christmas I hope you have a good one, whether its frantic and exciting, or peaceful and restful. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you get time to spend with your loved ones or just find time for yourself.

https://www.mezzycreations.co.uk

I was nominated for the Leibster Award by #My Musical and writing life. I have followed her blog for quite a while, as I enjoy reading about musicals and other people’s view on them.

I had never heard of it before, but once I got reading about it I found it quite interesting. A lot of the blogs that I read are around theatre, music and also weight loss and some travel blogs.

Part 1 – A Blog that I love that is not my own

I really like #Hayley Slims. I like the positive tine that she has around her weight loss and the other things that she includes in her blogs. She sounds very much like me in the way that she views her weight and the fact that she posts about slimming world, which was really helpful for me in losing weight.

Part 2 – Random Facts about me

  1. I love to read and like all sorts of books, particularly those that have been recommended by someone else. I have a kindle, which I use when I’m travelling, but I still love a paper book.
  2. I love crafting and am currently setting up my own craft business
  3. I love walking and when I go I know how much good it does me and I know that I should do it more often
  4. I have always wanted to travel on a sleeper train
  5. I love Christmas, but not all the commercialism around it
  6. I hate driving in the snow and ice
  7. I love shoes!
  8. I love baking, but then I want to eat it all, so don’t bake very often
  9. People dropping litter really irritates me
  10. I’m not keen on travelling on boats, but love flying

Part 3 – Questions from My Musical Theatre Life

  1. If you had the ability to sing any song from a musical flawlessly, what would it be and why? – I would love to be able to sing “Tell me its not true” from Blood Brothers. This is an amazing song at the end of the show and so emotional
  2. Which musicals do you think deserve a shout out? – Starlight Express – This was one musical that I was never over bothered for seeing, but when my daughters school gave a production, I thought it was amazing and really started to like it
  3. If you could dance the choreography of any show, what would it be? – I’d love to do Billy Elliot – The dancing in this from all the cast is amazing
  4. Favourite composer? – Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil – for Miss Saigon and Les Miserables
  5. Who’s your favourite musical actor/actress – I don’t really have one. I would never go and see a musical with a particular “star” in it
  6. What show should get a Broadway transfer in 2018? – sorry struggling to answer this as I don’t really know which shows are currently on
  7. What’s one unpopular musical theatre opinion that you have? –  Musicals need a good storyline
  8. What’s you opinion on the tony Awards? – I don’t know much about them, I tend to look at the Olivier’s in the UK
  9. What do you think about musical movies? – I was brought up on them. I would watch them with my mum when I was a girl, particularly the older ones like Carousel, Oklahaoma, Oliver etc –  I loved them all and it was away of getting to know the music. I don’t mind them at all, but would still prefer to see a live show
  10. What’s your dream cast for your favourite musical? – I would really struggle to choose a favourite musical. As for a cast, I prefer one without stars and hate it when “celebrities” get parts above genuine musical theatre actors.
  11. Do you have any dream roles and why? – Nancy in Oliver – I love her string character, Mrs Wilkinson in Billy Elliot- such a great comedy and forceful character

Part 4 – Tag other bloggers

#authentically fifty

#Hayley slims

#beauty beyond bones

#the dancer runner

#cooking without limits

Part 5 – My questions

  1. What music would you listen to if you wanted cheering up?
  2. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?
  3. What would be your favourite place to walk or run and why?
  4. If you won a million ponds, what would you spend your money on
  5. What is your favourite item of clothing that you own and why?
  6. If you were invited to a fancy dress party, what would you wear?
  7. Who is your favourite character from history and why?
  8. If you were told that you could not eat a particular food ever again, which food would you miss the most?
  9. If you could live in any famous house/building, where would you live?
  10. What is your favourite food to cook?

That’s it from me. I’m not sure whether I’ve completed this correctly or not, but it’s certainly been interesting for me to do.

Thank you for nominating me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling Blessed

At the time of writing this blog, I am patiently awaiting the arrival of my great nephew. He is due at the weekend, but I guess that it could be any day now, so the anticipation is growing. This is my niece’s first child and my brother and sister in law’s first grandchild. My niece’s partner already has a boy, who is definitely part of the family, but this is the first baby that we have had for a few years, which is always exciting.

Santa’s little helper

One of the reasons that I feel particularly blessed this week was because I got to see my eldest daughter in London. I had gone to London for a conference and luckily had some free time in the evening. She is currently working as one of Santa’s helpers (I’m not sure she’s an elf, as she’s quite tall), so I was able to go and see her at work. She seemed very happy, along with all the other little helpers.

As a bonus I also got to make a snowman and see Santa in his grotto. I may be a grown up, but there is still something very magical about Christmas, particularly seeing the little children’s faces light up at all the twinkling lights and snow scenes. I know that it’s probably still a bit early for Christmassy things (1st December is probably my limit), but sometimes you just have to take the opportunity that is handed to you.

 

 The Book of Mormon

Also whilst I was in London I finally got to see “The Book of Mormon”. Now I know that this is not everyone’s cup of tea. It is very inappropriate in places and some people may find it offensive, but I have been wanting to see it for ages. Luckily I got to go with my daughter and my friend from work.

I thought that it was hilariously funny. The singing and acting from all of the cast was amazing. It takes the mickey out of lots of different musicals along the way, as well as poking fun at religion. Although I think that for me, there was a moral to the tale, whether that was what was intended or not. I think the moral was that it doesn’t matter what religion you are, or what you believe in, but if you are giving people hope and help, then that is better than converting them to a religion that they don’t really understand and then walking away and leaving people in poverty and danger.

I would definitely see it again if I had the chance, but if you are easily offended, don’t like bad language or feel that religion is not meant to be humoured then I would give it a miss.