We arrive in Briare and find ourselves allocated a mooring alongside a huge old barge which requires a certain amount of gymnastic ability to get to shore and back again. The weather remains mild and sunny and we spend our last few days worrying about the security of Bluegum when we leave – although everyone says there is no problem and there are plenty of people around to deter any potential burglars. We also get stuck into the business of ‘winterising’ Bluegum. This is a mysterious process which we have been given lots of conflicting advice about! We settle in the ‘middle’ with Simon Piper’s advice (he built it after all!) by shutting off the waterpumps, draining the pipes and making sure the aircon unit and the generator are fully supplied with anti freeze. We cross our fingers about everything else. We have a lovely meal with Maggie and Nigel in the local restaurant and they offer to keep an eye on ‘Bluegum’ whilst we are away. We hand over a set of keys and head off early Sunday morning for our ferry crossing. (We have looked forward to Nigel’s emails providing us with regular updates to learn his latest name for our boat which always has some tenuous link to her name.)
Before heading north we spend a couple of days visiting Daniel and Jonathan in London and take a trip to the Tower of London. Then up to York where Simon and Joanne have kindly rented us a bedroom and we settle quite quickly into new routines – dog walking, decorating and relaxing. Some unfortunate health developments mean Charles has to have an operation in January which sadly means we also have to cancel our anticipated trip to South Africa for Charles senior’s 90th birthday.
Ebony has been sitting in Whilton Marina since May and so far we haven’t had one offer. The staff there are very nice, tell us how everyone thinks it’s a lovely boat, tell us how many other boats they’ve sold just this week but don’t seem to be doing anything much to actually sell ours! We decide we have lost faith in them and look for another broker who might do a better job. So, on 15 December we don our thermals, woolly hats and gloves and set off to move her a few miles and 12 locks up to ABNB brokerage at Crick.
It’s wonderful to be back at the tiller and working the locks again and we enjoy a lovely couple of days back on board. We are annoyed to discover however that our eco fan and three tiller pins have been stolen whilst moored at Whilton Marina, presumably by prospective buyers!!!
Everything is working fine and we just miss the last passage up Watford locks. No matter – we moor at the bottom and head out for a great meal in a warm and friendly local pub before returning to Ebony. Sally makes an executive decision to make up the bed in the saloon to get the benefit of the stove which we keep burning over night.
Next morning we are up bright and early to climb the flight of six locks as soon as the lockie arrives and we get to ABNB just before our 11am appointment. The staff are very attentive and the boat examiner is very thorough and we leave with a really good feeling that we have made the right decision.
Christmas arrives and we do the usual – overeat and drink too much! But it is a lovely family occasion. We have also enjoyed catching up with family and friends so for the month leading up to Christmas we have been socialising most nights.
Charles goes into Harrogate Hospital on Monday 12 January, has his op and is discharged on Wednesday – which seems amazing considering one kidney was removed. We stay at Paul and Shirley’s for a week or so and Charles makes steady progress. ‘Nurse’ Sally lays down the law (no drinking, stretching, lifting etc!) and is amply rewarded by being allowed to inject Charles daily with stuff to prevent blood clots which she enjoys enormously. (Weird or what!) Dad’s 90th takes place without us but we manage a couple of Skypes and it is wonderful to see that the rest of the family are at St Bernard’s Peak with him to celebrate. We will be there in the not too distant future.
In a moment of madness and being inspired by Simon; Sally has signed up to run the York marathon in October so has started training in earnest. As would be expected she had to buy suitable matching clothing and of course a decent pair of running shoes so if nothing else she looks the part!!
We return to Simon and Joanne’s, looking forward to the appointment with the surgeon in a couple of weeks and hopefully the all clear to get back to France! Sally is especially excited about the prospect of getting back to the boat as we have ordered our new settee and after eight months of searching she has finally decided upon some material to replace the seat covers in the wheelhouse. In addition she has apparently made some essential purchases to meet the different colour schemes in the different rooms: mauve bed throws and cushions for our bedroom, blue throw for spare room, new set of pans and she is especially pleased with her green whistling kettle and matching toaster – and these are only the items she’s told Charles about. Think we might need a bigger boat. 🙂