Thursday, 31 October 2013

Brum Beer Fest

Last night we went to the Birmingham Beer Festival. It was the opening night for CAMRA members only so it wasn't too packed. I have a bit of a phobia about crowds but there were only about 500 people there compared to 1500 when it's open to the general public so it was perfect for me and we had a really good evening.  This was the first time we've had glasses marked into thirds as well as halves and pints. The thirds are more sensible if you want to try lots of different beers without getting too wrecked.

There wasn't any entertainment on last night but there are groups on every night for the rest of the festival.  We could have played darts but never actually got round to it.

There was plenty of food available including huge bratworst sausages, burgers, curry, pork pies, scotch eggs and assorted baps - proper food to go with beer.

I really liked this jute shopping bag but as it got warm under the lights it started to smell awful. It must have been mouldy as none of my other jute bags have ever smelled like that so I took it back for a refund.

Today we filled with water at the top of Farmers Bridge Locks before moving to Smethwick.  C&RT have replaced the cast iron water stanchions with these flimsy new ones. The expensive padlocks are only held on by a small shackle which is easily unscrewed so I can't see then lasting very long.

We're now moored just above Smethwick Locks along with other members of the Birmingham Canal Navigation Society (BCNS) for the annual Bonfire Weekend. The canal is very shallow here and we couldn't get the stern anywhere near the bank but at least we got the bow in so that Chico doesn't have to walk the plank.

After mooring up and going to volunteer for tomorrow's work parties, we walked into Smethwick for a look around. It's a very ethnic area and the first building we saw was this huge mosque. There are plenty of "meat shops" (Halal butchers) and Asian sweet shops and the grocery shops all have market-type stalls outside with the fruit and veg being sold in bowls at £1 each.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Yesterday we went to the Jewellery Quarter. I haven’t been able to wear my wedding and engagement rings for quite a while so we’d decided to have them melted down and a new single ring made. I wasn’t sure what design I wanted but there are lots of manufacturing jewellers in this area so it seemed like the ideal place to start.

I wasn’t impressed with the first shop we went in. The sales girl couldn’t grasp the concept of what I wanted to do, although she assured me they could do it, said I didn’t have enough gold in the two rings to make one ring and that it would take over 2 weeks and cost around £250. She didn’t fill me with any confidence so we trolled round all the other shops in the area. After an hour I’d had enough and was just about resigned to giving up and coming home when the last shop we went into was totally different.

It was a large shop and we could see two jewellers working behind a glass screen. The sales girl was friendly but not pushy and when I found a couple of rings that were almost exactly what I had in mind the jeweller, Nigel, came out to discuss it with us.  I was amazed when he said he could do the job while we waited and we could watch every stage to be sure it was our gold and diamond he was using. You know that feeling you get when everything just seems right? 

He started off by removing the diamond and melting both rings together, on the counter in front of us, using a portable oxy-acetylene torch.

It felt really strange watching the rings that I’ve worn since our wedding 34 years ago disappear into a puddle of red hot metal.

The next stage was to make the gold into a bar which he could then work into a ring 

ready to tension mount the stone so it would be flush with the surface of the gold.

The finished article - the photos don't do it justice.

It was exactly what I wanted and took just over an hour to make during which time we’d been plied with drinks and offers of cake and generally been made to feel like valued customers.  I got him to do a couple of other little jobs, repairing my earrings and resizing and polishing Roger’s wedding ring and have commissioned him to make me a pendant using some scrap gold we’d accumulated over the years, you know the stuff, single earrings, broken chains etc.

And the bill?  To make the ring and do the repairs he only charged us £85.  It was a very pleasant, stress free experience and we’ll be using him again. It was only when we got talking to him properly after he’d done all the work that we discovered it was his shop and the lovely sales girl was his daughter. It just goes to show what I’ve always said… firms are always the best for service and value.

If you ever need good quality jewellery I can really recommend Nigel Lynall Jewelley. They are open every day except Monday.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Halloween Knitting

One of the blogs I follow is written by a lovely lady called Jenny who lives in Australia.  She makes some amazing things and often publishes her patterns for free use by anyone. I've made a couple of her projects in the past and can vouch for the patterns which are easy to follow.  I particularly liked her latest two patterns and as I know a few of you are avid knitters/crocheters I've asked her if I can give you the details here.

If you do give them a go I'd love to see the results.

The Storm of The Century?

Well they may have had a storm darn sarf but here in Birmingham we only had a bit of rain. I hope you are all safe and undamaged wherever you moored last night.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Black Country Museum

It was another nice sunny day again yesterday and we arrived at the Black Country Museum in time to nip in and get fish and chips for lunch.

The small chippy near the moorings wasn't open so we walked up to Hobb's Restaurant. It's not a restaurant as such, just a chippy with a side room lined with benches where you can sit and eat, so we took ours back to the boat.  The shop reminded me of one I worked in on Saturdays while I was still at school.

After lunch we could see a large plume of very black smoke coming from the museum. It smelled like a steam engine so, thinking it would be a traction engine, we went back in to see what we could find.  It was coming from this building. The photo doesn't actually show how thick and black the smoke was.

I wouldn't like to be the one stoking that engine!

We also popped into the Rock and Fossil shop where I was tempted by this replica dinosaur skull. I thought it could sit on the shelf and keep an eye on Chico but Roger didn't fancy it.

We've been to the museum before but have never seen the trolley buses running. As it was almost closing time there were a few running, taking visitors back up to the exit.

I was pleased to see one of the exhibits was a replica cottage, complete with allotment garden and pig pen.

It was nice to have a quiet mooring spot again. Wolverhampton moorings are secure but VERY noisy with all the traffic and we didn't sleep well on Thursday night

It's Grand Prix qualifying this morning so we'll carry on again as soon as it's over. We need to get a mooring in Birmingham with a decent TV signal ready for the Grand Prix in the morning. I'm lucky that Roger only follows the GP. He doesn't bother with any other sports so our boat is a football and rugby free zone.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Doggin on the Twenty-one!

I thought that headline would get your attention.

It's been another lovely day and we had an uneventful trip up the Wolverhampton 21. That is until we got to Lock Sex (6). More about that in a minute though.

We started off up the flight at 1.00 and the first few were full so needed emptying, but then we met a couple of boats coming down so that made Roger's job easier. I'm back to steering again as the one lock I worked the other day took it's toll and proved I'm not as fit as I thought I was.

Autumn is well and truly here and the trees and bushes have started showing their spectacular colours.

So, as mentioned earlier, we had a pretty uneventful trip until I was half way up lock 6 and a youngish couple came and sat on the lock beam behind me. I didn't pay them much attention at first but Roger signalled for me to look back at them and I got a bit of a shock. He was sat on the lock beam and she was sat on his lap with her legs wrapped around his waist getting rather amorous. They seemed oblivious to us and were getting more and more raunchy. Once we'd left the lock I glanced back, as you do, and she had her jeans round her ankles and they were going at it with some gusto!  At 3.00 in the afternoon and with people walking along the towpath too!  Brazen pair........... I felt like shouting "get a room".

We got to the top of the flight without any further incidents and were greeted by "sounds of the city".....Wolverhampton Station tannoy announcements and a couple of ambulance and police sirens.

After nipping into Broad Street Basin to dump the rubbish and fill the water tank we're now moored for the night on the main line ready to carry on again tomorrow.

Penkridge Market

There was no lie-in for us yesterday and we were at Penkridge Market by 10.30. If you haven't already been it's definitely worth a visit just to see the poultry and produce auction.

There were lots of cages of birds, everything from tiny quail to large turkeys, even some mallard!

There were crates and crates of quail, hen & duck eggs for eating and plenty of live eggs for hatching too. After the poultry sale there was a general produce auction selling bin bags of windfall apples, allotment flowers etc. etc.

We didn't buy anything from the auction, I was under strict orders to keep my hands in my pockets, but we did stock up on fruit and veg. It was unbelievably cheap. A lot of the non-food stall holders were complaining that there was still no money about and nobody was buying anything. One stall selling coats had Trespass waterproof ski jackets at real knock-down prices and I got myself a nice bargain. Earlier in the year I bought some new waterproof pants which I stowed away in a safe place till safe that I now can't remember where I put them so later today I need to raid the cupboards under the beds.  If I don't blog for a few days you'll know I've been sucked into the black hole that lurks down there.

After lunch we set off again on our journey.

It was a bit windy but very bright and sunny and we enjoyed a pleasant afternoon cruise through Gailey to moor in the middle of nowhere just before Coven.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Breakfast the lazy way

Last night we moored at Weeping Cross and yet again the rain over night was torrential. It was still a bit grim this morning so we decided to do something we've never done before and went to the pub for breakfast.  It was one of those Crown Carvery pubs where you can get a roast dinner for £3.79. They also do an "all you can eat" breakfast for £3.99 and while it was a bit like a transport caff nosh-up it wasn't too bad really. We won't be rushing to find another one though. By the time we left at 11.30 they had already stocked the hotplates with roast joints and an assortment of veggies was being kept warm under the heat lamps. I would imagine that by the time they opened for lunch at 12.00 it must have been a bit shrivelled up.

We set off straight after breakfast and Roger finally decided I was fit enough to work a lock - my first this year.

He only let me do the one lock but there are plenty more due in the next few days so hopefully we'll get back into the routine of sharing locking & steering. I find it quite boring steering all the time, I'd rather be up at the lock gates having a gossip with anyone who's waiting.

There's no place like gnome..............

The rain stopped and the sun came out just as we arrived at Penkridge so we moored below the lock and went into the village to stretch our legs and do a bit of shopping. We're going to the famous market tomorrow.

This is the Old Gaol

complete with stocks.

Penkridge is mostly full of modern houses but this old one was quite beautiful. It looks like it must have been thatched originally.