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To risk is to live!

Sunday, 30 September 2012


I managed to stay on the mooring for over a week after our return from Devon before getting itchy feet. Last Thursday we slipped our mooring and drifted off down the Coventry Canal.

We stopped at Hopwas. This is a little gem of a place. The village is well blessed with pubs by the canal, one being ‘The Tame Otter’. This is not a cheap place to visit but the food is excellent and the surroundings very convivial. But what Bonny and I really love about this area is the forested hill between the village and our preferred mooring point by the fields. It is actually part of the Willington army firing range, with a myriad of paths, hollows and dead ends and it is also a paradise for squirrels! There are lights and signs to warn when firing is actually happening but I have never seen them activated.

It is quite an ancient woodland…ancient trees

There are no roads here and so Bonny gets to run wild in the woods and I get to worry whether I will ever see her again as the squirrels lead her ever deeper into the woods in a relay race! But so far she has managed to find me again and her joy is a wonder to behold. When we return from our walk she collapses for a while…

sleepy girl

or watches for any stray wildlife passing the boat…


The River Tame passes by our mooring and has topped its banks in the recent rain, flooding the fields – again. Fortunately the harvest is over.

Tame flooded fields

I have also come away to do some thinking. It is not pleasant on the mooring at present, for reasons I have mentioned in the past. I am also feeling that I need to make some decisions about my immediate future. I am still leaning towards working through the spring and summer and having autumn and winter off. It occurred to me that I could perhaps find some work somewhere on the canal network – for a hire firm or boatyard or marina and take my boat up to wherever that work was. It would give me a break from the domestics on the mooring and I would have greater scope to find work. I might even give my cv to CaRT (formally BW) as I wouldn’t mind being a seasonal lock keeper or any other job on the canal for that matter. Whether they would employ a 50 something female is another matter!

If the situation on the mooring gets any worse I would reluctantly consider leaving the area altogether and finding somewhere else to moor. I’m not there yet, although just before I came away Mr Angry’s partner’s dog jumped all over Bonny on two occasions which upset me. It’s not an aggressive dog but very solid and seems intent on dominating Bonny by squashing her. Bonny, not being at all dominant just lies there being squashed but it scares her. On both these occasions I had to lift Bon up until the woman came and fetched the dog – with no apologies either time. I can cope with being bullied but I won’t put up with Bonny suffering the same!

Still, it all seems unimportant once we are cruising, so perhaps I just need to do a lot of that!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Back where we belong

Bonny and I returned to our mooring last Saturday after a fantastic 15 days in Devon. I was rather worried that we had been so spoilt by being in a house that it would make us a little dissatisfied with the boat.
When I first arrived back, the canal was heaving with boats and it took me over an hour to ferry all the contents of my car to Don’t Panic, crossing the lock, I think, 6 times. I was very tired after that and the long drive and so I looked on my ‘bijoux and compact space’ with a rather jaundiced eye. However, the next morning I got up to the birds singing and the sound of a Lister working boat engine chugging by and suddenly all was right with the world.
Bonny doesn’t seem to be missing Devon either as she is happy rooting around in the hedges of our mooring. Mind you, dogs seem to be able to live entirely in the present moment, so missing something doesn’t seem to enter into their experience. She has been well behaved so far and so we have risked some off lead walks. We had a lovely one this morning as we arose to the first frost of the autumn. The sun was just rising and mist was hanging over the canal. I wish I had taken my camera, it was so beautiful. Bonny of course was less interested in the aesthetics than in trying to chase any number of squirrels up trees!
So, I have had my big cruise and my trip to Devon, so now it is about time to decide what to do with the rest of my life – or at least how to finance it. Having done my sums, I think I could eke out my savings until I receive my first pension by working either a winter job or a summer one. Then I would still be able to go on long cruises. The question is do I go and work in a shop when they take on extra staff over the 4 month Christmas period or do I take a summer job from say April to September where there will be more choice of the type of work and cruise in the winter?
There are advantages to winter cruising although obviously the weather can be limiting. Also it means that I don’t have to get up in the dark and come back in the dark and still have a dog to walk, water to fetch, a fire to light etc etc. In the summer, things are generally easier and I would have time to do my chores as well as work. Then again, cruising in the summer can be lovely with sunshine and warmth (except when we don’t get a summer like this year!) Then there is Bon to consider. She is used to being left on the boat, but not all day. I would think I have more chance of finding some sort of outside job in the summer months where perhaps she could come too.
Well, I have various dates in my diary for enjoyable things to do in October so I’ll take some more time to think about it!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Bonny and Maisie

With the risk that this is turning into an animal blog rather than a boaty type one, I thought I’d show you a few photos of Bonny and Maisie getting on:
Bon and Maisie 002
They started off with a bit of a gap between them.
Bon and Maisie 005
Getting closer!
Bon and Maisie 001
This one is Maisie playing with Bonny’s ball and chain. This is something I made up myself to help Bonny not run off but still be free to mooch about. It is the long lead from an old retractable lead, attached to a large ball with throwing loop attached. As long as she is dragging this around, she doesn’t run away, even though it’s not tethered to anything. I really should patent it!
The only problem here is that every time Bonny moves, Maisie jumps on the string and holds onto it, jerking Bonny to a halt. Her confused face is a delight!
Bon and Maisie 006
They both compete for my lap as soon as I sit down – which is lovely as Bonny has never shown very much interest in having a cuddle before!

Friday, 7 September 2012

From hero to zero in 12 hours!

Oh I was so pleased with my little Cairn heroine that I decided to take her for a long walk around the beautiful Tamar Lake this morning. We set off at around 7.20 and parked up for the walk about ten minutes later. The sun was shining through a low mist and the lake was beautiful and all was right with the world. I didn't bother with a car parking ticket as I would be back before everything opened up at 9am.

Taken moments before Bonny took off - calm before storm!
I walked Bonny across the dam, got onto the circular path that runs the 3km around the lake and let the little darling off her lead. She immediately ran through a gap in the fence and was gone. I hoped she had just seen a rabbit and would run back any moment - after all she was in an utterly strange place and surely would want to stick with me. But no. Oh I saw her often enough as she dodged in and out of the gorse bushes, shrieking with excitement and causing a rabbit rout.

So I started using all the strategies I have learned for this situation. I walked away on the path for a while. She followed me, but on the wrong side of the fence, with no way to get through. Once I realised that, I returned to where she had gone through, but she just saw that as an invitation to carry on hunting rabbits. I tried walking past her and on down a hill in the same field, so she wouldn't have to find a way out. That worked until I reached the other end and found there was no exit. She, having followed me, worked this out just as I did and by the time I turned to look, she was haring (forgive the pun) back off up the field. This went on for several hours.

I had arranged to have lunch with my former supervisor today and that piled on the pressure as I hadn't brought my phone with me. Added to that I was without money and so couldn't pay for the parking. Fortunately I met some friends at around 10.30 in the same field and they paid for my parking, bought me a bottle of water and promised to phone said supervisor when they returned home. They did try to tempt Bonny out to join their dogs but with little success.

By this time I had climbed a very steep hill at least six times, walked across the dam twice and down the lake path many more times, all to try and get Bonny to follow me without success. I was hot, footsore and seriously peeved with her. Then a young man approached and asked me if I'd lost a small grey dog because there was one running around the car park! Somehow she had got out of the field and crossed the very large dam without me spotting her. I ran over there as more cars were arriving all the time and Bon has little car sense - especially when she is out of her head as she evidently was - acting like a wild creature.

Sure enough, there she was, hesitating near my car. Whilst I stood still working out what move to play next, she spotted me and ran off into a plantation alongside the car park. I couldn't follow her into the undergrowth so I stopped. There is a cafe at the carpark and I was desperate for a wee, so I went in. The friends I met earlier had already informed the very lovely oriental woman running the cafe what was occuring and she not only let me sit in the shade, but gave me a free pot of tea as well.

By the time I had drunk my tea and had a wee around 15 minutes had passed and no Bonny. As I walked back out to the carpark I was just in time to see her jogging off down the drive towards the road! I yelled at her and she dived into an adjacent field. I lost all self control, vaulted the gate and ran straight at her. She ran off down the fence line with me in hot pursuit. I just couldn't let her get to the road or all would be lost. Panic gave me the necessary energy and I cornered her by a patch of nettles and with no hesitation, rugby tackled her to the ground! The time was 12.30 - exactly 5 hours after she ran off. I had missed my lunch appointment, my feet were in agony, my hands were nettle stung and my blank blank little dog was filthy, covered in burrs and limp with exhaustion. As I carried her back to the car she tried to lick my face and generally acted delighted to see me! As if I had been the one who had disappeared for 5 hours and not her.

I really do not understand Bonny at all. Once she has run off like that and not returned when I call, it's as if she then feels she can't come back because she has been naughty. She then gets into a total panic and the result is the 5 hours I have just described. As usual, when I finally do catch her, she then acts as if she is so happy to see me - as if she failed to recognise it was me chasing her all morning! So it's back on the lead for walks again. That's so sad as I really thought the cruise had finally put paid to all this palavar.
Wild thing!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

My Heroine!

I always knew Bonny was clever but tonight she proved that, not only was she intelligent, but brave and persistent as well.

I have already reported that she and the resident Devonian cat Maisie were getting on better than anyone expected, but what I would never have guessed was that Bonny would risk my displeasure to rescue her!

Maisie is a stay at home cat. She would prefer to curl up on a lap than be hunting in the undergrowth. She also eats about once an hour – or at least comes looking for something that regularly. Today, as usual, she spent the majority of her day with Bonny and me. She disappeared at around 4pm and since it was sunny, I assumed she had gone off to bask somewhere. I gave Bonny a last walk at 5 and then fed her. I was a little surprised that Maisie missed this exciting time of the day, but assumed she would be along.

Bonny had had a morning out at the seaside (her first experience of the sea) and several small walks since so it was high time she settled down for the evening as usual. I was also pleasantly tired and so became quite irritated when Bonny refused to settle and instead kept going to the front door and whining, with the odd loud yap thrown in. Several times I took her back into the lounge and told her sternly to stay put. Even when I ate my supper – usually a time when I have her undivided attention, she paced between me and the door with an almost human expression of impatience on her furry face.

I washed up, took Bonny outside for a last wee and because I was cross with her, made her go in the opposite direction from where she was pulling me. I then tried to relax in front of the TV, but was distracted by Bonny acting like she had ants in her pants and by an increasing concern about the missing Maisie.

OK, I know now I was being very slow, but I never imagined Bonny was trying to tell me something – that only happens to owners of Lassie and the like. But eventually I said to her, ‘Where’s Maisie then?’ I think if she could speak English, Bonny’s response would have been along the lines of ‘Wow, better late than never, Thicko!’ She jumped up at the door and barked. I slipped her lead on and this time let her go where she wanted. it wasn’t far. She went straight to the door of the annex – newly built for my host’s mum but not yet occupied. Immediately I guessed what had happened. Earlier in the afternoon I had let someone in to check the fire alarm and I assume that Maisie accompanied them unseen and was locked in when they left. Sure enough a sad little face popped up at the window and as soon as I got the keys and opened the door, a grateful, hungry and stressed little cat streaked out.

The really amazing thing is that as soon as we got back in the house, Maisie approached Bonny and rubbed herself right down Bonny’s side, for all the world like a gesture of thanks. Bonny gave her ear a lick and then, exhausted, retired to her bed where she stayed for the rest of the evening. How did Maisie know who to thank? They may have been tolerating each other well, but there had been no physical contact up to that point and I didn’t think there ever would be.

I was so impressed that despite me yelling at her and dragging her away from the door, Bonny persisted until I finally got the message.

Bonny Lass – my little heroine!

who me

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


I have been in Devon since Saturday afternoon, after a horrible drive down through endless traffic. I forgot how it feels to be in a traffic jam and how rude and pushy people can be. We arrived to sunshine which promptly turned to rain for the next couple of days, but I don't care! It is so lovely here. The house seems huge to me and the joy of running a tap or flushing a loo  or, best yet, having a bath, can only truly be appreciated by those who live on rationed water and have to dispose of their own poo!

Bonny loves it too and is currently stretched out on the wooden floor, not two feet away from the resident cat who, I was told, can be feisty or down right bullying to other animals. Well, Bonny's submissive nature seems to have won her over and although they aren't quite sharing a bed, there is definitely a thawing in their relationship! I have also been introducing Bonny to some of the walks I used to take Brandy, my beloved Labrador on. I sometimes feel that if I just turn round quick enough I would see his grinning face and wagging tail!

It is unbelievably relaxing not to have to keep a constant eye on my consumption, whether it be power, Internet data or water and I really appreciate it. I am already noticing though that I feel a bit disconnected from the basics of life. Everything is provided for me; power generation goes on miles from here, the water flows endlessly through pipes I have no access to, and who knows where the contents of the loo ends up. That all frees me up to do other things, but it is an unfamiliar feeling to have faceless people providing for me what I have become accustomed to providing for myself and I'm not sure I would like it for any length of time. That's not a worry though because there is no way I could afford to live in a house and pay the sorts of bills people pay for these privileges!

I have a full list of social engagements while I am here and have found it very touching to discover how many people want to catch up with me. I finished my church career here and it was an incredibly painful time, but this visit is reminding me of all the good things and particularly the good people here. It is, in some sense, redeeming Devon for me and it's good!

Sunset over Bradworthy wind turbines