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Ship's log 2009

I leave for England on Friday, so clearly it must be time to post about last year's adventures...

Friday 17 April 2009

A fairly typical day of school and uneventful plane flight for SJ. Did end up leaving Boston a tad late, due mostly to the fact that there was some sort of malfunction with the navigation system and it needed to be rebooted.

Rebooting consisted of sitting in total darkness on the tarmac for two whole minutes while they power cycled the entire plane and then waiting an additional nine minutes for the system to come fully online Some less confident fliers, sitting just in front of SJ, quite leery about the whole thing.

Late departure pushed the layover time in Toronto back to a mere 40 minutes but for a wonder, Toronto airport, once a mecca of inefficiency and red tape, had restructured their arrival system and for the first time SJ not required to collect and recheck her baggage in Canada.

Indeed process now streamlined for connecting international passengers and the airport itself quite nice. SJ quite taken by the origami on display at the gate,

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mostly due to the dragon one.

London flight also delayed but plenty of time even if it hadn't been. All told almost an hour late leaving.

Flight itself fairly routine though SJ and her seatmate engaging in almost stony silence for a change. Well, not entirely true, SJ had actually spent the last two days as sick as anything and airplane food her first meal in days, as such her seatmate forced to let her up to use the bathroom on a fairly frequent basis.

On the other hand, it also meant she managed some actual sleep, revolutionary. Also spent an hour or so watching a terrible in flight movie and quite annoyed to find herself landing at Heathrow at approximately the halfway point. Clearly she'll need to finish it on the trip home, let's hope they haven't removed it from their selection by then.

Flight had made up a bit of time but still a slightly late arrival into Heathrow. SJ with her usual trick of bypassing the masses on the moving walkways by walking along beside them far quicker and as such made it to the arrival hall at the front of the queue. 11:30am arrival meant that the hall was nearly empty so through immigration quickly.

SJ with her usual fabricated UK address aboard the narrowboat Cribbit. Clearly the problem with moving the boat from Poplar dock is that she's going to have to come up with something new for next year.

Luggage delayed a bit for whatever reason but eventually thru customs to find CJ waiting.

Saturday 18 April 2009

CJ had accidently parked in a parking lot belonging to a completely different terminal so quite the hike and some uncertainty as to whether we'd ever see the car again.

Off to Catslide, both RS and the parrot eager to see SJ and some initial catching up done over lunch. CJ with lots of interesting new things to show SJ, such as the automatic door closing system he'd rigged up with a series of weights and pulleys. Sitting room had also undergone significant renovation since SJ's last visit.

CJ's epic seedling enterprise also duly admired and the important function of dibbers and dobbers duly explained.

CJ also quite keen to show SJ

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his collection of neolithic bits

that he'd uncovered while working in his allotment. While a pile of rubble to the untrained eye, CJ insistent that he had all sorts of treasures.

Midafternoon by this time so SJ for a shower and nap while CJ headed off to tend to his allotment and RS to run an errand.

TW had arrived while SJ was napping so presents from America sorted. TW quite leery of the fiery hot sauce with which he'd been gifted and RS torn between excitement over the annual allotment of ziplock bags and the Catslide ornament that SJ had painted as a (late) xmas present.

CJ had been hard at work making pizza (and bread) while SJ was sleeping and it was already in the oven. Beer for CJ and TW and a vitamin drink for SJ which in the end was just a half one as RS scoffed the rest of it once she'd finished her own.

Pizza quite good, though the hot one not actually all that hot.

Off to the Royal Oak when dinner was over and as they had quite a

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selection of interesting beers on offer,

opted for a half pint of each for tasting purposes. Snobby beer commentary from CJ and TW but SJ only able to offer the somewhat less that useful observation that, "it's beer".

Even the dragon beer, a sure bestseller, garnered no more interesting commentary. (Though obviously it must have been the best based on its name alone, CJ and TW sadly preferring the Wychet.)

Home to bed, TW offering a quick refresher course as to how to stop the clocks.

Sunday 19 April 2009

Apparently despite being the superior beer the Wychet had one worrisome side effect, gas. Even through the wall this was evident as TW spent the entire night alternately farting and laughing hysterically. Fortunately he got up earlyish and SJ's sleep continued with less interruptions from that point forward until CJ decided it was past time she was up and about and wound the clock to drive her from her bed.

A bit of a change of plans for the day as Monday's tides weren't quite conducive to our needs, so plans to start the canal adventure portion of our holiday on Tuesday instead so no need to head to London until the following day.

Headed off to visit CJ's allotment on the other side of the village instead.

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Quite a large plot

and CJ had been hard at work for many weeks converting it from a pile of overgrown nettles

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to a very nice vegetable patch.

His patch was right in the center of the other allotments. Chosen this way in hopes that the various local animals would be full by the time they reached his veggies. He had not however counted on animals burrowing into the middle of the field and had been alarmed to see a giant rabbit hole in the middle of the neighboring allotment two days previous.

SJ of the opinion that this was a quite clever bunny and if she was a rabbit, she too would be sure to build her burrow in as close proximity to the grocery store as possible.

Despite CJ's clever precautions, his allotment was not in fact safe from critters,

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indeed his broad beans were quite a sight to behold

as some small animal had methodically serrated the edges of each and every leaf, leaving RS and CJ to conclude that they're planted some new variety of bean.

Stopped for a quick chat with frank, who apparently ran the local gardening club. RS helped him identify just what it was he'd planted in one of his enclosures (weeds and lettuce) and CJ detailed the items he was donating to the next weekend's plant sale. (Dibbers, an indispensable garden tool; dobbers, a oddity nobody knew what to do with; and lathe lessons so that people could make their own.)

Meanwhile discovered the Frank had not one, but two allotments, the second of which he possessed merely so that he wouldn't lose his prime garden side parking spot.

TW and SJ surprised to discover that the water spigot was located at the far side of the garden and shocked to see that CJ had not yet created some sort of fancy spit powered self-watering system. It would after all make for a fabulous column in "Little Old Man Weekly".

Home from the allotment but not before RS had discovered two lovely heather plants abandoned in the communal compost heap. Took these with us despite CJ's protests.

Quick stop at the pub for more Wychet and some salt and vinegar crisps then home for a guided tour of CJ's spit collection.

Apparently CJ had gotten it in his head that he want to roast a goat on a spit at his summer party and to facilitate this desire,

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he'd bought a spit on EBAY

only to discover that it wasn't quite big enough

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at which point, he'd bought another.

As the instant you buy two of anything, you have a collection, spits

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three

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and four had quickly followed.

Because spits often need mending,

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he also had a bucket of spit-bits.

Some inquiry revealed that he actually had

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another spit in the house

as well as a

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meat fork and end irons for holding a spit in place at the edge of the fire.

Clearly pike's were a thing of the past, spits were the new thing.

A few other interesting little things to explore in the workshop.

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TW getting to try out the

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anemometer

and SJ

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to ring the bell that was once attached to the clock she so despises.

Some nice new additions to the garden as well such as a shed for RS

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and a sundial.

Some discussion as to the wisdom of using GMT (winter time) for the dial however as even setting aside the fact that the sun doesn't even come out from behind the clouds in winter, there aren't actually that many hours of daylight in a day and even if there were, nobody would spend them sitting in the garden.

Lots of little bits for lunch, including the leftover pizza that RS was so looking forward to eating while the rest of the crew was away. Nobody quite daring to touch it however until she went into the other room to take a phone call. Quickly exchanged the pizza plate for an empty one and scattered a few decorative crumbs across it, but as we were done eating long before she returned the effect was somewhat ruined.

CJ decided to

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"open the archives",

which basically consisted of opening up the loft in the upstairs bedroom and removing a random selection of odds and ends

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(including another spit)

for dispersement around the house before RS returned.

Had decided that the evening's entertainment would consist of a trip to the pub for the weekly quiz night so dinner put in to cook a bit early. Dinner itself an elaborate affair involving roast beef and yorkshire pudding (because having read last year's log, CJ a bit perturbed to discover that we only ever eat the same collection of things). Quite good.

Headed over to the pub and made ourselves comfortable at a table only to note a steady drip of water coming from the ceiling above, after some worrisome discussion as to which pub employee we'd least like to see come crashing through the ceiling, moved to another table.

Pub quiz itself fairly amusing, even if we were horrendously bad.

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SJ amused herself by illustrating

the team name on the top of each of the

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answer sheets (10 rounds of 10 questions)

and occasionally jumping in with the answer to something everyone else knew. As expected, hopeless on all sports and popular culture questions though CJ surprised everyone with his knowledge of "Take That" songs. SJ actually knew the answer to one of the sports questions (What country held 1st place in a sporting competition for 132 years before losing it in 1983?) and all delighted to write-in "Max Bygraves" in answer to some random football question.

RS kicking herself for just missing the question about Queen Victoria but TW came through with the date of the Chernobyl disaster and identified an "anode" as the answer they were looking for in answer to an incorrectly worded question.

TW insistent that the answer to "a highly explosive petroleum jelly," should be KY but SJ persisted in writing "napalm".

Alas with a two on the sports round, a three on popular culture and a zero on the "dare" round, not much hope for us despite managing the occasional eight points on the other rounds.

Came in dead last with 57 points. Our closest competitors had 77 and the winning team had a very intimidating 93. Slunk out of the pub with our tails between our legs, only pausing once briefly so that CJ could introduce SJ to Marcus, one of the locals. This because on meeting TW, Marcus had insisted that the two of them were the splitting image of each other. On meeting SJ he seemed convinced that she looked more like her mum. "That's not her mother," CJ said, point at RS. "He's quite the tiger," was Marcus' only reply.

RS to bed as soon as we made it home, but everyone else of the opinion it would be an excellent night to drag out the telescope. So out to the backyard with it and after some initial confusion where both CJ and TW proved they had no concept of the cardinal directions, managed to locate Saturn.

A very nice image and all quite pleased that TW had taken the time to make such a nice cardboard cutout to stick on the end of the lens. Rings quite visible almost completely side on and all pleased with how they were inverted where they passed in front of the planet.

Decided to swap out the telescope lenses to get a more magnified image, quite a trick in the dark. Fortunately SJ had her digital camera and was able to lend some illumination when swapping out the lenses turned out to require some on the fly adjustments to the main mirror. More importantly, she only blinded TW once by setting off the flash.

Hung out in the garden for awhile, CJ having trouble with the higher magnification due to his eyes and SJ having trouble due to the fact that Saturn proved to be a slippery little bugger, bound and determined to escape the frame of the telescope. CJ keen to demonstrate his bat detector alas too late for bats.

Inside to bed, TW once again suffering the effects of the Wychet much to his continued amusement though SJ, who hadn't been drinking, with some suspicion that it might not be the beer that was causing it.

Monday 20 April 2009

All told it would be an early start so TW up at 7am to do some daytime fiddling with the mirrors in the telescope, actually heading up to shower before CJ was awake. SJ, who had cleverly packed the night before, slept in a tad bit longer.

Headed off to Greenford (North London) to leave the car at Willow Tree Marina, our eventual destination and Cribbit's new home.

Short walk to the local bus station with all our bags then a scenic tour through town before eventually ending up at Greenford Station.

SJ quite impressed by the sight of a wooden escalator and secretly keen to ride up and down on it a few times but onto the train instead.

Got off at Chancery Lane and walked through the city for a bit before eventually fetching up at the Cheshire Cheese (rebuilt in 1667) it was one of the oldest pubs still in operation in the city and CJ quite keen to show SJ the stuffed parrot on display. SJ a tad leery as uncertain which kind of parrot she would find, the bird kind or the border collie type.

CJ also quite keen to have her bump her head, pointing her in the direction of the downstairs bathrooms which required visitors to perform the limbo if they wished to visit them.

All told the Cheshire Cheese not such a bad place for lunch. SJ with a steak and ale pie and CJ and TW with ploughman's. Lunch eaten in the old bar where a sign over the door proclaimed that only gentlemen were allowed inside. SJ not particularly concerned by this as not a gentleman in the bunch.

CJ struck up a conversation with the barman who was quick to inform him that he'd met someone else who lived on a boat in Docklands. CJ inordinately amused by this as the other person to whom the bartender had spoken was in fact CJ on a previous visit.

Continued our walk through London when lunch was finished. Crossed the Millennium bridge and ended up passing on the underground in favor of one of the Thames Clippers for the trip to Docklands.

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SJ quite impressed with the garbage eating barges.

"Just like being on Cribbit, " said TW helpfully as the Clipper set off at full throttle down the river against the tide. Not at all like Cribbit who in the same circumstances would be billowing smoke and steadily losing ground. A nice contrast to the next day's impending

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Thames passage.

Disembarked on a pier on the far side of Docklands and walked the final stretch, all marvelling at how much that section of the city continues to change. So very different than when CJ first came to London and the Canary Wharf building stood alone.

Delivered our things to Cribbit then off to the British Waterways office to acquire a licence for Cribbit. Amused by the poor receptionist who was having a terrible time pretending to be busy for the duration of the time it took to buy a licence and TW and SJ both horrified that Sue (the woman who sold us the licence) had for some reason committed CJ's phone number to memory. Easy Tiger.

People on the dock quite surprised that CJ was leaving as opposed to simply selling the boat where she was as most people quite convinced a mooring on Poplar Dock (for which the waiting list is several years long) could add an additional £10K to a boat's asking price. (Indeed, someone was attempting to sell a boat nowhere near as nice as Cribbit for £39K).

CJ however quick to point out that Cribbit had been a family member for the last 17 years and it was unlikely the either of his children would speak to him again if he sold her.

Headed back to the dock to fettle the engine. SJ quite horrified to learn that Cribbit hadn't been cruised in two years. This understandably adding to CJ's worry about the impending Thames passage and leading to

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no surprise that we had some trouble getting the engine started

and that our first attempt led to trails of smoke emanating from beneath the floor boards. "Oh never mind, its only smoke," said TW helpfully.

Further investigation revealed that the connection between the batteries wasn't sufficient for the load we were putting on it. So some rewiring was undertaken and before we knew it, we'd managed to get the engine to turn over.

Some time spent making things ship shape, leading to

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stowing the debris

that acquires from life on the dock and SJ swabbed the decks though Cribbit so filthy it resulted more in pushing the dirt around than actually cleaning anything.

TW screwed the VHF antenna down to the moldy old gangplank on the roof of the boat and took the time to read the directions for making a mayday call should such a thing prove necessary. SJ of the opinion that learning the correct wording was an unnecessary task as if push came to shove, she was unlikely to manage anything more coherent that "help, help, we're sinking".

TW and SJ took one last walk

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around the dock

to alternately admire and snark at boats. Inadvertently ended up in a conversation with a woman sitting on the stern of one of the dutch barges. "Do you live here? " she asked, "Not anymore, we're leaving tomorrow", "nice to have met you," the reply.

Headed off toward All Saints to acquire provisions for the upcoming expedition. All pleased to see a convenient Tesco about to open only a block from the dock. Quick to point out to CJ how convenient it would be.

Passed a toilet that had been abandoned on the side of the road. This lead to the inevitable discussion about street furniture.

Fairly quick zip around the market, SJ with a basket of her own in which she placed the necessities (such as chocolate buttons, sausage rolls and jaffa cakes) that CJ seemed to be forgetting. Quite tempted to acquire some Orange Tango, but it was on special, two for one and SJ unable to stomach the idea of drinking two bottles of the stuff.

SJ also horrified to learn that TW hadn't been joking when he'd made mention of cajun squirrel crisps. SJ quite excited to find a bottle of Fleurie wine, which while hard to acquire in France, easy to find in every grocery store in the UK. Purchased a bottle in BJ's honor.

Back to the boat, TW eager to

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revisit the toilet

now that we'd acquired toilet paper and all amused to discover that in the ten minutes we'd been gone someone had nicked the toilet seat.

This of course led to a discussion of one of TW's friends who has a penchant for stealing toilets and hopes to have filled the entirety of his attic with them by the time he sells his house. Currently he has three. More or less useful than a spit collection?

Provisions delivered to the boat, off to Stratford on the DLR for a curry. A nice one where CJ was fairly well known as years ago he had chosen it as the location for a team dinner and he'd been frequenting the place ever since. CJ quite smug to report that while he'd met with some initial reluctance when he'd first suggested curry for the meal, he'd quickly squelched it by offering eel pie instead.

Excellent food but SJ and the waiter completely unable to understand each other. TW amused to note that when asked where she's from, SJ now replies "Boston," instead of with the name of the state. Some disagreement as to which would be that more well known location. Either way the waiter (who had actually never heard of Boston, quick to assure her that it was no doubt a nice place).

Ended up with a free beverage (a beer) for some unknown reason then next door to the pub to meet up with Ben and Ali (two of TW's friends). Six unknown beers on tap and a special one-third pint promotion. So a

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third of each for sampling.

Even SJ in agreement that it was mostly dreadful, saving the high praise of "it's beer," for the stuff that Ben had cleverly started with. For her part, Ali was drinking a raspberry beer that in addition to stinking to high heaven turned out to be quite dire.

The worst of the lot was "Duffy's Revenge" however. Thank god we'd only acquired a third of it. Pawned it off on Ben, and TW and CJ turned their attention to the more palatable option.

Meanwhile SJ quite enamored with the 1/3 pint glasses and as it didn't seem right to nick just one, three of them were pocketed in the course of the evening.

Back to the boat, CJ informing us that in addition to having the RFID key for the dock we now also needed the code for the combination lock. While he gleefully informed us that it was an important date in British history, he refused to elaborate as to which one.

Monday 20 April 2009

Early(ish) awakening as we needed to make the tide. SJ a bit more sluggish then the rest of the crew who attempted to galvanize her into movement with a loud conversation about what a nice breakfast food jaffa cakes are. As SJ fairly certain CJ doesn't consider Jaffa cakes nice at the best of times, she refused to fall for it and was horrified to discover later in the day that they'd meant it and gobbled half the box. Clearly this won't do.

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Ben arrived just in time for the tide

so we started the engine (with only a few minutes of protest), slipped our mooring line

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and headed out of the dock.

SJ, in her customary spot on the roof, given the task of documenting the outward voyage and quite upset to discover that sometime during the preparations to leave, she'd shattered the LCD screen on her camera. As her camera didn't even have a viewfinder, this proved somewhat problematic. Nothing for it but to point the camera in the general direction and hope. Lack of quality more than made up for by sheer quantity.

CJ with a pile of photos of his arrival at Docklands nine years previous

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as it was an entirely different place now,

eager to have outward bound photos to compare.

Escorted from the dock through docklands by a small British Waterways boat. This so that we didn't accidently blunder around a corner into a larger boat coming in the other direction as had once happened to CJ the one time he hadn't been given as escort. In the early days the escort boat had been a trash barge but all pleased to find it had been replaced by something less smelly.

Lots

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to see as we

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wound our way

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through the buildings,

Ben and TW both of the opinion that window washing must be the worst job ever and TW quick to point out an older barge by the name of "Viagra".

West India Lock conveniently divided into sections so that they needn't operate the entirety of it for the likes of us, still an enormous lock, though due to the tide only a small drop. Joined in the lock by a British Waterways boat that was on its way out to practice man overboard drills. As all the folk aboard carrying a tad too many electronics to be the one going over, some speculation that they were following us in hopes one of us would do the honors.

Out of the lock and on the the Thames proper. Sadly no need for them to open the road bridge for us. Greeted by the sight of the

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Millennium Dome on the far bank. "Wait, didn't that use to be visible from the dock?"

Thames unusually calm but CJ still not willing to relax. TW with strict instructions that as his lifejacket was just for show, should he fall in, he should attempt to inflate it manually. TW of the opinion it would probably be better to just ditch the thing and swim for shore.

Thames remained fairly calm, and even the Clippers were polite, giving us a wide berth and not attempting to capsize us with their wake. Canal boats after all were not intended for choppy water. TW quite pleased to actually manage to overtake a clipper (if only because it was in the process of mooring) and Ben insistent that should it come to a head to head battle, we should just go underneath it.

Somewhat perplexed by a few

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particularly horrendous looking buildings

along the shore. Who'd want to live in one of those?

A surprisingly uneventful Thames passage (for perhaps the first time ever, even the exhaust pipe only went under water once or twice) and TW quick to point out just how strong the tide was as he made the final turn into Limehouse (he had to aim for a spot significantly upstream to make the turn).

CJ relaxed visibly once we were safely inside the lock.

All amused to see the lock keeper force the gates open with five inches to go ("5% head," said TW). Headed up

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Regent's Canal

and as East India and Limehouse were the only two automatic locks of the trip, we were on our own to operate the rest.

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First lock not too bad though we were visibly rusty,

a fact made worse by the fact that nothing (warps, windlasses, keys, etc) were quite where we expected them to be due to Cribbit's enforced exile on Docklands.

If we thought the first lock was bad, it was nothing compared to the second which we flummoxed completely. Unfortunately also rather a lot of bystanders at the second lock, so plenty of witnesses to laugh when TW misjudged the flow of the sluices, causing Cribbit's bow to swing round broadside to the canal. Failing to notice that the sluices needed to be unlocked before operation and missing the mooring rope completed the picture. "We were crap," CJ declared.

Came across (and mowed over) what can only be described as a

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floating fruit basket in the third lock.

Apples, oranges, pears and flowers. How odd, usually it's coconuts.

Not to worry, 1st coconut spotted soon after then two more fruit baskets in various states.

Tied up for a nice lunch of humus, peppers, cheese and sausage rolls. SJ dead pleased with the

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"Cheese Grab Bag".

Ben left soon after and we continued up

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Regent's Canal.

Worked our way up

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past Victoria Park

with a small construction boat

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but he soon left us

as despite the fact that he had us to work the locks instead of single handing it, we were content to

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toodle along

and he'd been at work since fairly early and was eager to get home.

SJ forced to disturb some teenagers who were smoking pot and groping each other at one lock and CJ ended up having to ask an Aspergers kid to move from his perch on a lock gate so that we could open it, resulting in histrionics. Oops. Quite amusing as his father had first tried to get him to move so that SJ could cross the lock. "The lady wishes to cross," he'd told his son. Lady? What? Where?

Teamed up with a guy in a smaller canal boat and worked our way up the the mouth of Islington Tunnel with him. Decided this was the best place to stop for the night and ended up mooring doubled up with him.

He seemed to know the area and directed us to a nice real pub by the name of "The River Queen". Iced tap water for SJ and lots of it! Something a tad bit stronger for CJ and TW. Loitered in the pub for awhile. Amused by their "sorry we're open," sign and attempting to decode the one that read "sriatspu lounge" and fled only as it neared time for the evening pub trivia to commence. No way we were going to embarrass ourselves with that again.

Fairly close to

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Angel Station

(with all the assorted sights) so headed in the general direction of the Moroccan restaurant that CJ likes. A bit of trouble finding it (mostly because CJ convinced we'd passed it) but found it eventually (and only just in time for CJ and SJ to race up the stairs to the bathroom). Food itself very good. CJ with the rabbit/artichoke and pea tagine (mostly as he was fearful we might otherwise somehow fail to acquire rabbit). SJ with the lamb and prune tagine and TW with the fish tagine. All extremely good.

Coffee when we were done. TW sensibly opting for an espresso while CJ tried the traditional Moroccan coffee as he wanted to encourage them. Not going to be making that mistake again.

Call from TW's friend Ian just after we left the Moroccan. He was in Angel and looking to meet up. As he'd just just bought himself a drink at a pub when we found him, abandoned TW with him and CJ and SJ headed back to the boat.

Not at all the way we'd come, but SJ's sense of direction as spot on as ever and boat quickly located. BW key needed to get in to the moorings at that hour and so CJ forced to wait up for TW to return.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Up and all hands on deck for

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Islington Tunnel.

Cast off and actually ended up standing by and waiting for a bit before heading into the tunnel as we couldn't quite decide whether or not there was another boat already in there and if so whether she was a single or double beam boat.

Finally realized that while there was another boat in there, it was one that had only just cast off from a mooring a few hundred feet in front of us and as such was moving in the same direction. Into the tunnel!

Islington both fairly dry and fairly wide so no need to huddle in the center of the cockpit under full rain gear as some tunnels require.

Tunnel cleared SJ headed off to take a shower while CJ and and TW worked through the first lock of the day with the boat that had cast off ahead of us. Other crew seemed a bit unfriendly and uncertain whether they wanted us to join them in the lock (although why anyone other than us would want to work a lock (let alone a flight) alone when you could have help, remains a mystery.)

Either way they beckoned us in and what we had initially mistaken for standoffishness turned out to be deafness on the part of the Captain. Worked the Camden flight with them but without the usual spectators to line the banks. Not a goth to be seen at the goth lock and no real druggies hanging around the druggy lock thought there was one man lounging on an open lock gate who was happy to move at TW's request. After dealing with the teenagers who kept clambering back onto the lock gate to neck every time she paused the day before, SJ not feeling quite as charitable. Instead with great visions of opening the bottom sluices causing the top gate to slam closed dumping the man into the canal. Apparently TW never has these kinds of thoughts.

A small audience at the top lock but

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hardly anything compared to a normal day

when they line the rails. Almost disconcerting.

Moored the boat as soon as we'd cleared the lock and told to move by a tourist boat as son as we'd made fast. Apparently despite the mooring rings (and chain) this was not a legitimate mooring spot, so moved slightly further up the cut and did it all over again.

Despite a few hopeful moments

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as CJ dangled over the stern,

he did in fact fail to fall overboard. Pity.

Boat moored, we headed off to wander around Camden Market. Lots to look at as always and TW quickly deciding on a few purchases.

SJ intrigued by a number of shops so a second lap through the market was taken, this time with only TW for company.

Wandered the market for awhile. TW quite liked the artsy robot T-shirt store but apparently they only sold (very) small shirts and had no other sizes. Eventually SJ was convinced to try something on by a shopkeeper and while the item in question was prohibitively expensive, it inspired her to seek out similar items at other stores. Eventually SJ headed back to the boat with two purchases. TW and CJ immediately set to teasing her about what she could possibly have bought in Camden Market.

Lunch in the stern.

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No more locks to navigate

so windlasses put away and enjoyed the trip, taking us through the London Zoo, past Regent's Part and

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Little Venice.

Did pause briefly briefly in

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Little Venice

to dispose of the trash and the dead battery before continuing on. Lots of odd things floating in the canal including a TV, a bicycle and a plethora of coconuts but not stopping again until we made it to the Sainsbury's that had been out turn around point three years prior.

CJ nipped in to acquire provisions while TW cleared out the weed hatch, no actual weeds but a great number of small muscles stuck to the bottom of the boat. Meanwhile our coconut count had made it 24.

Took the

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official holiday photograph

somewhere along the way and then continued on to Perryvale ,

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crossing an aquaduct

and then further on until we found a

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nice spot

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to moor along the bank

to await our dinner guests. Beer for CJ and TW and vitamin drinks for SJ while we waited. SJ and TW taking a brief walk along the cut to see

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a boat with a dragon on it

and a giant wooden pigeon.

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TW, who hates pigeons, was not amused.

Tom and Jason showed up soon after, all dressed up in suits and ties. What kind of boat do they think this is? Continued a bit further down the canal, Jason given an opportunity to helm. SJ having trouble taking him seriously due to her recollection of the rather amusing story that CJ had regaled her with two days prior.

It seems Jason (who is RS's nephew) had gone on an internet date a few months previous. As the girl in question considered herself "old fashioned" she was not interested in going back to his place or having him at her's, but she professed to enjoy sitting in front of a fireplace. So Jason suggested they head to his uncle's canal boat and managed to blag his way onto the dock though apparently he'd been willing to swim if necessary.

Quick call to CJ to find out where the spare key was hidden, CJ assured him it was in the usual spot in the chain locker, completely forgetting that he's moved it temporarily a week or two previous. Apparently Jason emptied out the contents of the chain locker while his date looked on before finally giving up in defeat. (As it had apparently been a fairly bad date anyway with the girl insisting he pay for everything including some very expensive cab fare, uncertain why he bothered.)

Either way, his credibility was somewhat shot. Nice lasagna dinner in the gathering dark, only disturbed once by a neighboring boater wishing to borrow the BW key for the water point.

Bid our guests farewell just before 11pm (Jason forgetting his tie) and settled in for the night. TW and CJ's suggestions as to what SJ had bought in Camden now so outrageous that SJ convinced she needed to go back there to buy something more interesting as her own purchases now seemed positively dull. (As illustrated by comments such as CJ's that there was a CO2 tank below if she needed to blow it up in a hurry, TW's assertion that he wasn't sure her boyfriend would enjoy his new gimp mask and that all the rust would cause her to clank.)

Thursday 23 April 2009

All up early to move the boat the last bit. SJ sitting on the roof in her pj's much to TW's horror. CJ of the opinion that it was the doc martins that completed the picture.

CJ and TW taking turns with the shower (TW managing to drop not just the soap, but everything), while we were underway and before we knew it we were turning into WIllow Tree Marina.

Cribbit's new mooring in the inner marina which could only be reached through the operation of a lift bridge. As lift bridges,

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one of SJ's favorite canal side inventions,

she hopped ashore to take care of it. A very slow bridge to lift but despite that SJ didn't actually manage to force any (foot) traffic to a halt.

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Kind of takes all the joy out of it.

Met Jim, one of the marina employees (a retired gentleman who was also a resident) and maneuvered Cribbit into her new berth. Alas she stuck out a bit too far so Jim had us move her to a slightly different spot. While slightly problematic, as reverse has never been one of Cribbit's strong suits, this perfect for CJ as the house he was now to moor in front of had the type of garden that indicated that it was the home of an older gentleman who liked to putter and wouldn't mind if CJ had to work on boat repairs. This fortunate as over the course of our cruise, we'd identified a laundry list of tasks that needed to be seen to.

TW and SJ quite pleased to spot a final coconut (#26) floating in the water right off Cribbit's bow.

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The homecoming coconut, clearly a good sign!

Quick tidy of the cabin, empty of the fridge and disposal of garbage and we were off to Hastings by car.

Call to Alex determined that we were ahead of schedule so us to great lengths to slow down. Said lengths involved stopping at a farm stand to buy asparagus (and fiery lobster crisps).

Inquired as to the existence of a local brewery or good pub but the woman at the farm stand wasn't particularly knowledgeable about such things. Eventually she came up with a pub suggestion and we headed off there to acquire lunch.

This time BLT's ("that's not bacon") for TW and CJ and a ploughman's for SJ. Beautiful outside so sat at a picnic table eating and talking until we decided we'd slowed down sufficiently.

Back to the car and soon enough we'd arrived in Hastings. Scenic drive into town taking us along the Promenade and fetching up just behind a very old and very ugly apartment building that resembled a cruise ship docked in port. Indeed when Alex first bought her house, one of the comments she received from someone who couldn't understand why she was moving to such a derelict building was that "at least she'd have a nice view of the ocean once the cruise ship left port".

Said piece of property, called the Muse, had obviously been undergoing a lot of work, albeit slowly. Nice large studio downstairs for Alex's art work as well as the main bathroom, and upstairs a kitchen/living room, a music room (featuring both a stage and a bathtub) and a combination bedroom/bathroom.

Alex quite pleased to see us and quite quickly the three of us were installed on the couch in the kitchen being introduced to Doris and Sammy, a pair of seagulls that for all intents and purposes lived right outside

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Alex's kitchen window,

and listening to Alex explain that while it was easy to keep a flock of seagulls, it was hard to keep just two.

Introduced to Peter and headed out on a walking tour of Hastings soon after. Started down by the beach and eventually made our way into the shopping district. Alex and Peter split off to acquire a waling stick for Alex who was walking with a pronounced limp while CJ, TW and SJ set off to visit Bung Ho, a brewery supply store. Alas Bung Ho was closed so back to meet up with the rest of our party, stopping only briefly to peer in the window at The Dog's Biscuit (because CJ quite enjoys "seeing the dogs with bibs sitting at the counter to eat their tea"). Also visited a crazy antique store that featured rooms stacked to the ceiling with miscellaneous stuff and featured a narrow path through which you were to traverse its three story maze. As it also featured a stairwell of vintage pinup "porn" and a selection of miscellaneous "stuffed" animals, CJ and TW quite pleased with the place.

Met up with Alex and Peter and did the charity shop circuit. CJ quite pleased to acquire some golf balls and two putters for the miniature golf course he plans to build in the garden in time for his summer party. SJ and TW disappointed to note that without something specific to look for, charity shops not nearly as much fun.

TW did however find several Rod Stewart LP's which Alex expressed joy over, exclaiming, "perfect we can bring that with us to the hairdresser next time he gets his hair done". This in reference to Peter who heads a Rod Stewart tribute band and whose current appearance so closely resembles that of Rod Stewart that it's not uncommon for him to be asked for an autograph.

Polite inquiry revealed that Peter had not in fact looked like Rod Stewart when he and Alex had first started dating and Alex refused to comment as to whether she would have started dating him if he had.

RS's train not due to arrive for another 45 minutes so into a bakery for tea (coffee) and cake. Then Peter home while the rest of us waited for the train.

Back to the house (via the promenade) with RS and her stuff then into the car and off to acquire fish and chips (and mushy peas) for dinner.

SJ and CJ sent in to make the purchase, then off to sit on the beach to eat. Beach comprised entirely of rocks and

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ended up leaning against a large mountain as we ate.

Beer and wine brought from home completed the picnic.

SJ and TW wandered a bit when dinner was over, SJ keen to climb the stone hill and TW juggling stones. SJ in conversation with a kayaker who had been out fishing but who having not yet caught anything from his boat was at a bit of a loss to figure out what he would do with it should his luck change.

RS the only one with any left over dinner and threw it to the gulls as we were preparing to leave, they descended en masse so nothing for it but to flee the scene.

Back at the house, sorted out email before heading to the local pub. Alex quick to introduce SJ as her American niece and TW as her Welsh niece. As TW neither Welsh nor a niece, hard pressed to decide which was the bigger insult.

Brits quite pleased with the pub and its characters. TW even ending up having an "interesting" conversation with "Psychiatric Patrick" in the bog about the use of canaries as an early warning sign of needing to pee.

SJ meanwhile not really in the mood to spend an evening in the same way (this as SJ dislikes the taste of beer and finds the frequent pub visits horrifically boring), so SJ home to spend the remainder of the evening in relative quiet, checking her e-mail and napping on the couch.

Rest of the crew returned sometime just after midnight and off to bed. As SJ's allergies unable to handle the lingering cigarette smoke in the music room, quickly determined that she should sleep on a mattress downstairs in Alex's studio. Just room for said mattress in a narrow crevice between the work table and the flat files so SJ quite content although Alex somewhat mortified by the idea of her guest sleeping in such cramped quarters. Considering there had been a spare bathtub in the music room, SJ secretly convinced that she'd gotten off easy by sleeping in the studio.

Friday 24 April 2009

Blueberry pancakes (straight from America) for breakfast. All disappointed to see that there were no actual blueberries in them then amazed when they suddenly appeared once Alex added the milk.

It had been decided at the pub the night before that a purpose was needed in order to renew interest in the Charity shops so crazy dress for crazy golf the order of the day. CJ, TW and RS off to acquire suitable garments while SJ and Alex downstairs to ransack Alex's studio for the purpose of purchasing art.

Specifically Scott, a good friend of SJ's, had recently gotten married and as Scott had long expressed interest in several of the examples of Alex's artwork that decorate SJ's apartment (going so far as to suggest she leave several pieces to him in her will), it was decided that a piece of his own would be just the thing for a wedding present.

As SJ not the type to simply buy such a thing for someone's home without express approval, she had enlisted Jo, his wife, in her scheme. Plan called for SJ to email images of the various options to Jo who would then chose which one she wanted. Scott was to be kept entirely out of the loop so at least one of them would be surprised.

Wandered around the studio taking photos

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and then forwarded them to Jo who replied.

oh this is HARD! I went through them all and (if you care) identified seven that I like a lot.

Three of them though I really really really like: Is there any way you could measure them and let me know how big they are? I know where I would put them but hope they wouldn't be too big.

And maybe if I narrow it down to two, I could just buy one myself.

Due to the size restrictions on the place she intended to put it we were able to narrow it down to two and as Jo was completely unable to chose, SJ

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acquired them

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both.

Amused to note that Jo had chosen the one CJ was more interested in and that the 3rd piece that Jo had been tempted by was to be given to BJ. So now the real problem was deciding which pieces SJ herself wanted to buy. SJ, no more decisive than Jo, ended up with far too many.

CJ, TW and RS returned just as the purchases were being finalized so lunch (soup) was eaten and the morning's exploits discussed.

Once lunch was over, the crazy clothes came out and TW and CJ had outdone themselves as usual. Apparently Charity shops really are more fun when you have a purpose.

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Pink neon trousers and a matching floppy hat for CJ

which was well complimented by a tail coat and cummerbund that Alex happened to have on hand.

Meanwhile TW had managed to capture the look of a

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golfing outfit

completely with argyle socks pulled up over his golfing trousers. This is to say that he would have looked like a real golfer if not for the fact that his outfit was a mismatched hodgepodge of red and pink plaid.

RS had acquired a flowery shirt with a straw hat into which she's stuck a silk rose. Other than the hat not really that "crazy" and for SJ they'd acquired an ugly orange wool skirt. As the skirt alone did not an outfit make, and really if you're going to do it, you need to do it properly, SJ passed the skirt on to RS

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(as it complimented the rest of her outfit quite well)

and instead conspired with Alex to assemble an

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outfit.

Decided that her Camden purchases would be quite useful and in combination with a raid of Alex's closet, ended up with a sparkly black and white skirt worn over jeans (with Doc Martens). She also had a black shawl slung around her shoulders over a corset and affixed with a plush purple rose. Around her neck she wore a jangling belly dancing scarf and in her hair a wide silver ribbon.

Alex ended up in a

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peacock dress with peacock feathers in her hair.

We were a

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right sight

and oddly Peter in no hurry to join us for our golfing expedition.

Headed out by car. Amused to note a number of drivers and pedestrians doing a double take as we drove by. As traffic was heavy it took awhile to make it to the golf place and we'd been properly gawked (and whistled) at by the time we arrived.

As the golf place was right by the beach, decided that a

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group photo of us on the beach

would be just the thing. Fortunately a German tourist sitting at a picnic table with his wife and daughter was already reaching for his camera. So despite the fact that he was "deaf, blind, armless and legless," we had him take photos of us on the beach.

Headed to the

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crazy golf course to purchase our tickets

and the woman at the counter quite eager to know what the costumes were for. "It's crazy golf," CJ responded as if that were the most logical answer in the world.

Color coordinated our golf balls (mostly). CJ with the pink, Alex the blue and RS the yellow. TW and SJ a bit confused however and clearly should have swapped.

First hole a

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good one for TW, a hole in one.

Oh dear. But he quickly proved that he was just as bad as the rest of the family. For all our enthusiasm for the game, we weren't exactly good at it. Alex hands down the worst though understandably as she had never played crazy golf before.

Despite the presence of a windmill, crazy golf not actually all that crazy

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but a good time none the less.

With five people, we played through quite slowly but despite waving the other teams through, everyone else quite content to watch us.

Peter stopped by briefly to observe and Alex's game improved tenfold while he was watching, forcing the rest of us to shoo him away.

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Lots of photographic evidence of

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our folly,

so much so that all the camera batteries started dying.

Final hole offered the chance of a free game (and mocked you if you failed). Alex perilously close to winning a free ticket. "Careful, we don't want to have to play again," cautioned TW.

Meanwhile we seemed to have acquired quite the audience, a whole slew of young children, mouths agape excitedly asking each other why we were dressed up.

"I'm not dressed up," said TW.

Off to the pub when we were done. SJ adding up the scores in the car and discovering that far from having the high score, she'd won. And with 57 points, not only had she won, she'd tied our pub quiz score. Clearly we were crap at both of these activities and worse, as winner of the crazy golf extravaganza, she'd won the prize and was informed in no uncertain terms that she was not to return home without it.

Somehow the pub we ended up at wasn't Alex's local one, was she embarrassed to be seen with us? Some head turning as we walked in but quickly ensconced in an out of the way booth. Guy who was himself dressed up (as an explorer circa 1920), commented on our outfits. "What do you mean dressed up?" asked CJ, "this is normal".

Hung around for a bit then headed home, Alex running into a friend as we were leaving.

Quick detour to visit a cash machine so that SJ could pay for her art purchases, then back to the house, albeit a tad too late for CJ who has a smaller bladder than even SJ.

Surprisingly late by this time, everyone but RS back into their usual clothes and just time for a quick check of e-mail before dinner. CJ and TW back to the pub (this time to Alex's local which they were convinced was one of the best pubs they'd ever come across), but all the girls staying home.

Initial plan called for SJ to give Alex a crash course in Dreamweaver, but program refusing to load so SJ of little use after all.

CJ and TW back surprisingly early (or everyone else up later than intended). SJ providing TW with an impromptu tour of Alex's studio before bed as TW now tempted to buy some art of his own.

TW, having the same problem as SJ, quite a number of pieces he liked including one that appeared to be unfinished on one side, "no problem," said Alex and she whipped out a container of paint to fix the problem.

All to bed soon after. SJ being kept awake by a trio of drunks who had stopped just outside the house, right on the other side of (what was apparently a very thin) wall.

Through their conversation the three men quickly distinguished themselves as three unique individuals. Man #1 was an emotional wreck all torn up about the fact that he suspected that his girlfriend Kate was cheating on him and he was insistent that he had to know the truth, had to see for himself.

Man #2 was drunk but still possessed of some basic common sense. His part of the conversation basically involved trying to talk sense into his friend and keep him from doing something rash. He was also quick to assure his friends that he at least was certain of what was going on and proof was unnecessary.

Man #3 had recently been in a fight and had a broken finger. While he didn't say much, this was an important consideration because each time Man #1 evaluated the situation, he would make mention of the fact that man #2 was drunk and man #3 had a broken finger. Man #1 would often go on to apologize for the broken finger as it was somehow his fault.

Their conversation dragged on and on for ages on the other side of the wall, lapsing into silence only when Man #1 demanded that the three of them spread out and surround Kate's house. SJ spent quite a lot of time hoping that they hadn't accidently mistaken Alex's house for Kate's.

Saturday 25 April 2009

Up later than expected, TW buying rather a lot more art that he had expected before we said our goodbyes and started the journey back to Catslide.

SJ had realized only that morning that she hadn't as of yet done anything about acquiring postcards. This somewhat problematic as not a lot of time to spare. Problem conveniently rectified by a pile of art postcards just inside the studio door. Cards in question featured a painted image of two fish that Alex had done somewhat recently. "Take as many as you want," said Alex.

Perfect, fish cards for everyone!

Packed up the car and said our goodbyes. "So long and thanks for all the fish," SJ yelled as we pulled away.

Whatever road we were driving along, clearly fairly new as the sat nav hadn't a clue where we were. "Fatal error, undriveable route, press ok," its only comment on the situation.

Liz and Courtney set to have dinner with us that evening so some coordinating to do. Liz quite willing to pick up Courtney as they only lived a few blocks apart but despite speaking with Courtney only 10 minutes earlier, unable to get ahold of her as CJ had the wrong number programmed into his phone and had deleted the call log. Managed it eventually.

Spent the majority of the drive recording notes for the log.

Stopped to acquire asparagus at the same farm stand we'd visited on the way down, a very popular place. Stopped again so that CJ could use the bathroom and once more when we reached the end of the trip at the station so RS could retrieve her car.

RS headed home in her own car so the rest of us set off to do the food shopping. After another quick bathroom break for CJ, we wandered around town.

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SJ quite amused by the name of a local hotel.

Visited the butcher where we acquired a rabbit. No pie this year, rather the evening's menu called for BBQed bunny rabbit.

Ironically despite being the proud owner of any number of spits, not a single one actually operational.

Acquired some steak (and a sausage roll) then to the grocery. SJ seizing the opportunity to do her yearly shopping and stock up on the necessities like chocolate buttons and Branston pickle.

This year her mother in need of poppadums and SJ pleased to find a bottle of Fleurie wine.

TW shocked to learn that BJ not in need of her usual supply of Bournville chocolate and insistent that SJ buy her at least one bar, just in case.

SJ upset to discover that the store was missing the one thing she wanted to bring back for Jeff. Apparently this was a high end store, this the only possible explanation for the shocking lack of "cajun squirrel" flavored crisps.

Fortunately CJ in need of petrol and TW of the opinion that the petrol station would have them.

This indeed the case and not only did they have cajun squirrel they also had a plethora of equally intriguing flavors such as chocolate and chili, duck and hoisin, builder's breakfast and and onion bahji. Better yet, they were on special. Pooled their shrapnel and ended up with quite the selection.

Off to visit a local brewery next, to acquire supplies for the evening festivities. CJ with a vague idea of how to get there, but he'd clearly learned the long route as it seemed to involve a lot of doubling back. Did glimpse the windmill or at least the scaffolding around it and all amused to see "The Pheasant Free House". Clearly the owners quite pleased with themselves for having managed to get rid of all the pheasants.

Brewery closed, probably only just, so back to the house. One last stop at the local to see if they'd sell us a bottle but they hadn't any spares.

Home with an hour to spare. Unpacked the car and SJ repacked her stuff in preparation for leaving while

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TW started the grill.

All done and just time to sit in the garden and write postcards before the cousins arrived. Very satisfying to send everyone the same card.

Hung around chatting for a bit while TW operated the grill and CJ took care of the potato salad and vitamin drinks. Shockingly he made Courtney one without the vitamins.

Dinner itself quite good though all of the opinion that the BBQ bunny would have been better on a spit!

The cousins quite intrigued by all the talk of spits, so off to the shed to give them the proper (if somewhat abbreviated)

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spit tour.

TW quick to point out a spit that we'd somehow missed before.

All amused to note that not only were the spits entirely non-functioning, not a single one of them included the all important spit bit without which even a working spit engine would be useless. The likelihood of roast goat at the summer party looking worse and worse.

The full garden tour and some assorted seedlings for Liz and TW, then lounged around in the living room for awhile and detailed a few of the week's highlights for the cousins. Liz in need of heading off to another party. Some discussion determined that Courtney would stay and TW would run her home on his way to Birmingham in the morning.

Said our goodbyes to Liz then settled down for the now traditional end of week slide show (poor Courtney). Lots and lots of photos to look through and other than the crazy golf, not a single one of interest to anyone who wasn't there (as evidenced by Courtney's gentle snores).

CJ and RS to bed when the show was over but SJ, TW and Courtney awake and talking about all manner of things until 3am.

Off to bed, TW once again laughing due to gas and upset to realize that he'd wasted an entire week of excellent farting by not recording a single one. Apparently he has a website where he collects and archives such sounds.

Fortunately SJ had cleverly packed her things before the cousins had arrived so off to sleep fairly quickly.

Sunday 26 April 2009

5:45am wake up time and lots and lots of alarms set to ensure SJ didn't miss it. Not a worry, SJ out of bed the moment it rang and downstairs waiting with her bags by the time CJ came to wake her.

Said goodbyes to TW and Courtney, both of whom promptly rolled over and went back to sleep despite grand plans of their own to hit the road.

Fairly uneventful drive to Heathrow. SJ quite amused to see a pheasant walking across the garden of one home. Clearly that was not a "pheasant free house".

Made it to the airport, CJ finding the correct car park this time and checked in without issue. Said goodbye and SJ headed through security. A bit of time to wait before they announced her gate, as the inbound flight had apparently been delayed, but before long, ensconced in her seat and on the way home.

Quite exhausted but determined that before she took a nap she was going to finish her movie from last week's flight. Really upset to discover they no longer had it, now she's going to have to rent it.

Seatmate not much of a conversationalist so alternately napped and journaled, eventually making it to Toronto.

Her usual trick of rushing through the terminal to beat the crowds to the immigration line for naught as the luggage proved delayed and her stuff was among the last off the plane.

Navigated US immigration and customs, rechecked her luggage and headed through security with only minutes to spare before her plane was to start boarding. Fortunately (?) it was delayed.

Boarded eventually and quite clear that the pilot was determined to make up time. Literally flew around the airport as we rushed to the runway, indeed so breakneck was his pace that he was forced to use his flaps to keep the plane firmly on the ground.

Quite worth it however as he made up a lot of time. 45 minutes late leaving, 5 minutes late arriving.

Jeff was waiting at the baggage claim, Jamba Juice in hand. Fortunate, as SJ an exhausted wreck only just capable of retrieving her baggage and stumbling to the car.

Sleep the very second she made it home in the form of a four hour nap. Emerged briefly for dinner and to give Jeff

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his crisps

then back to sleep by 9:30 and not stirring again until it was time for work.

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