Wednesday, 12 November 2014

After Festiwool

the celebrations.

Hitchin Stitchin' members celebrated the success of Festiwool at the annual away-weekend.

We returned to Belstead Brook Hotel for a weekend of good company, good food, and a spot of knitting and nattering.

Many of the group's members used the spa and treatment facilities and the pool

Alicia had negotiated another good DBB deal at the hotel.

We were given the same meeting room and private dining room as last year.

We had dinner as a group on both evenings and Philippa provided the wine as a thank-you for the help members of the group had provided during her first venture into running an event.

Starter - roasted tomato and mozarella tart

The food was good, beautifully presented and served efficiently by attentive staff.

Yes, I was The Tart.

Lemon cheesecake

Dessert on the first evening proved to be my downfall - or, it could have been two glasses of white wine, followed by a flute of champagne in my room at a very late hour.

Custom House

After dinner, we were introduced to the interesting places of Ipswich Town by a tour guide, and on Saturday, some members went into Ipswich to see for themselves.

Belstead Brook flows through the hotel grounds

I stayed in the hotel, taking an after-breakfast stroll in the grounds in the lovely sunshine.

Last year, I stayed in one of the ground-floor suites, overlooking the brook - the bay-windowed suite on the right of this photo.

This year, I had one of the single rooms on the second floor. It was very nice, with a 'small double' bed. Unfortunately, there was no bath, just a shower. I really needed a soak after the exertions of the previous few weeks. I couldn't even use the spa as I'd forgotten to pack swimming gear. Things I thought I'd packed (alarm clock, sewing box) were missing. My brain was in a fog of packing and unpacking.

After my stroll, I retired to my room for some solo knitting. It wasn't until after lunch that the group re-assembled in our meeting room.

I took my Swift to the away-weekend as I needed to wind more yarn.

© Philippa Gregory

The second evening, we all dressed for dinner. After the ill-advised participation in all three courses the night before, I skipped the entree and opted for the cheese course instead of dessert.

Reeption Lounge

The only minor criticism I had of the hotel, which has been bought by the MGM group, was that the new wi-fi network was not fully functional. There was only one place where the signal could be seen, and that was outside the Willow Room, next to the bar. Reception staff were unaware of this but summoned a technician at my second compaint. The Boy Raymond explained that the system would be up and running in time for Christmas.

The next social event for Hitchin Stichin' will be our Christmas Coffee Morning at our home venue.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

We will remember them

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

Blood-swept lands and seas of red, 888,246 poppies, each representing a British fatality during WW1.

Remembering my Grand-Uncle, James Alfred Ryder MM, killed in action at the Battle of St Quentin,, 21 March 1918.

No known grave - remembered at Poiziers 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Been a bit busy lately

First there was Southwold

followed by the Thames Path

and a cruise.

Next came Festiwool

Gosmore Ladies' Christmas Fair

with a sequel in Gosmore.

Heading back to the Marina

Yesterday, it was back to the boat for  a 40 minute walk

Nature Reserve

on the Stanwick Lakes Nature Reserve trail.

lunch, and a spot of work,

Work was interrupted at times by the demands of the resident swans

View from the front deck

and other water fowl.

I took Ron for a walk around the lake to the river entrance to the Marina.

It's densely wooded with just one break in the trees with a view across the lake to the boats.

It really is a lovely location, close to home - an ideal alternative to our previous mooring.

Next up is an away-weekend with Hitchin Stitchin'. We're returning to Belstead Brook Hotel for a weekend of knitting and nattering.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Festiwool 2014

The New Atrium under construction

MWNN drove me to the venue - a wonderful re-build of the college building that had been damaged by fire some years ago.

There were lots of go'fers on hand to help exhibitors unload the contents of their stalls.

Festiwool. began early for Posh Knits, but not as early as the organising team who had spent most of Saturday setting up the event and were in place before the doors opened.

At 7.30am Exhibitors began to arrive. There were lots of support people on hand to help.

Sue Hayler and I have had lots of practice setting up, having 'done' the huge Hatfield Craft Fair for the past two years. In no time at all, our stall was ready.

We shared our table with another Hitchin Stitchin member.

April had knitted lots of pretty booties that atracted much atention and praise. By the end of the day, she had some commissions for booties for soon-to-be-new-arrivals.

At 10.30am, the Atrium doors opened and visitors started to arrive.

There were several members of Hitchin

Stitchin' selling
their wares.

For me, the highlight of the event was the fashion show. This was in two parts. Students and Super Model Daphne Selfe modelled vintage clothing from designers such as Jasper Conran and Jaeger. One student wore a woolen jacket designed for Steve McQueen.

Daphne Selfe looked graceful and stylish in all the outfits she modelled.

Then there was a display of re-constructed garments from the art and design department's students.

The stall next to Posh Knits was Turned on the Cut. A fellow-narrowboater, a marine engineer who lost his job when he lost his eye to cancer. He and his wife live aboard a narrowboat. During the winter months, he makes drop-spindles and other items in his 'shed'.

They'd travelled down from Nantwich (not in the boat) the previous evening. Noel and I swapped stories of life aboard and discussed the difficulties of cruising in France.

It  became clear to us that Posh Knits was not going to do much business. Most of the customers were fellow-knitters, so there was very little demand for ready-made goods.

We did sell a few items and Sue swapped a couple of shawls for goods from other stallholders.

Posh Knits will be at Gosmore Ladies' Christmas Fair, the Bull, on Tuesday evening with the remainder of our items for sale.

Everyone worked extremely hard to produce a successful event. Positive feeback from visitors started to pour in even before the event was over. Congratulations to the organisers and the support team

Monday, 27 October 2014

Photo Blog

of the final phase of boat repatriation.

From Oundle Marina

to Blackthorn Lake Marina

took six cruising hours 

I found it much less stressful than cruising the French Waterways but an eight-hour day was taxing on both me and MWNN.

The next project towards which I'm frantically working,  is Festiwool on Sunday 2nd November.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Phase 3 of the boat repatriation is now complete

Despite a major hold-up this morning at the first lock out of Oundle Marina (Lower Barnwell), we made good time cruising upstream between Oundle Marina and Blackthorn Marina.

The two Environment Agency engineers, who responded to our call for assistance, hand-wound the lock for us because there was a power-cut in the area. They assured us that there was full power at the next lock - and so there was.

There was another slight hold up as we were kept waiting for the fuel barge that was coming downstream with Ad Lib.

The trip took us just over five hours (MWNN had planned on seven). We turned into Blackthorn Marina at about 4.30 pm and moored at our new berth.

Across the lane from the marina entrance, is the path through Stanwick Lakes.

Ron decided he like this new mooring a lot.

Phase 2 of boat renovation can now begin.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

From Hampton Wick to The Thames Barrier

Today is the last day of TheD's 184 mile run. The last phase is through London I decided that TheD  no longer needed shadowing. She had a relatively late start to  the final 34 miles.

I left my hotel in Kingston-upon-Thames just after 10.30 am and headed for home.

View from Richmond Bridge

As I approached Richmond Bridge, I decided to stop for a rest and some tea. Parking was very difficult to find. There was nowhere to sit and drink my tea overlooking the river and within easy reach of the car.

I remembered cruising this stretch of the Thames over a decade ago. Even then, the planes going in and out of Heathrow were numerous and flying low as they made their approach.

Hangar Lane Gyratory

I had a stressful journey home, especially at the Chiswick Flyover section and negotiating the Hangar Lane Gyratory system.

The North Circular was chocablock and I was cut-up many times, particularly by commercial vehicles crossing lanes as they rounded corners.

Once on the A1M, the traffic thinned and driving was more civilised.

Garmin Tracking

TheD made good time, arriving at the Thames Barrier before 5pm.

Tomorrow is a rest day, followed by a weekend of boat moving.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

From Streatley to Kingston

via Maidenhead.

Thames Hotel

When I left MWNN and The Swan yesterday, I drove to The Thames Hotel, Maidenhead.

View from bedroom

The hotel is in a lovely location, overlooking the River Thames.

I took lots of pictures of the river and boats late yesterday afternoon.

Rude narrowboat helmsman

There was one very unpleasant experience as I took a photo of a narrowboat approaching the moorings. The helmsman swore continuously and told me to stop taking photos of his home. In all my 30+ years of boating, I have never been so abused. Most boaters are pleased to have their boats photographed

River is about 3 inches below the level of the walkway

The river is very high at the moment,

Autumn leaves on the Thames

but still beautiful, as always.

The squiggles are where TheD stopped for a few minutes

This morning, as I checked the Garmin tracking after breakfast, I spotted that TheD was approaching my hotel.

Rolling the trousers

I took my camera outside and saw that TheD was removing her long trousers. The temperature was about 9 degrees C, a bit chilly for shorts in my opinion.

TheD took off again without noticing me.

and soon disappeared towards the bridge over the river

I left The Thames Hotel at about 9.30 and had a horrendous journey to my next overnight stop at The Antoinette, Kingston upon Thames. I made the mistake of setting my Garmin Satnav to avoid motorways. Instead of taking the M4, I selected the A4 route and was held up crossing Slough (to be avoided in future). On the other side of Slough, I stopped and re-set the Satnav. A short distance on the M4 was followed by a slightly longer one on the M25, then a long approach on the A308 to the hotel, on the far side of Kingston.

After a very stressful drive, I was looking forward to a cup of tea.

Unfortunately, the hotel staff is international. Tea was served - a pot of hot water + teabags. By the time I realised this, the water had gone well off the boil (if it was ever on the boil). Luckily, I'd made a flask of tea before setting off and drank that with the hotel's milk and biscuits.

I am regularly disappointed with English hotels that do not train their staff how to make tea.

About 4.5 hours later, TheD passed , Hampton Court Palace about a mile from her hotel in Hampton Wick, across the river from Kingston.and just across the river from my hotel.

Tomorrow is the final day. The 184th mile is at The Thames Barrier.