Countdown to the new normal

Spring continues to show its head, even though the lovely sunny days are interspersed with some very high winds, snow and frost. On March 28th we welcomed British Summertime and lost an hours sleep. It is however lovely to have the lighter evenings and so longer days before we need to close the curtains!!

I do try to keep busy and have, in the past tried watercolour painting – not very successfully. So when I saw an advert for a painting by numbers kit for under a tenner, I snapped it up. It is a picture of a hare and it is absolutely absorbing, each time I try to put on all of one colour, today has been number 18 and while you are painting and close to the canvas it doesn’t seem a lot but when you stand away and can see the picture taking shape it is really lovely and gives such a sense of achievement. Can’t wait to see the finished article, whether it is ever good enough to ‘hang’ I’m not sure, maybe not.

We continue to have our regular walks and a couple of weeks ago followed a walk which my daughter sent us which took us in a different direction to our normal forays. It was advertised as 9 miles and we did most of it, just took a detour around one village instead of through it. We picked a wonderful day sunny and warm and ended up walking in tee shirts and sunglasses. Maybe then it was an even bigger shock when the following week our walking attire was waterproofs, woolly hats and wellies!!!

Our regular walk by the river along from the mooring is one of our favourites as there is always something to see, geese, swans, muntjac deer, hares, herons; marsh harriers and buzzards soaring overhead and we regularly see a barn owl out hunting.

Earlier this week we disturbed a heron and were surprised to see as it moved away that it had caught a huge rat. It put the rat down, but as the rat tried to run away the heron quickly picked it up again in its beak. It stood for sometime, as we did watching, with the rat in its mouth, almost as if it was unsure what to do with it now that it had caught it. It definitely looked much too big for it to swallow!!

We had a new engine fitted last summer and have been waiting for lockdown to ease to allow the engineer to come over and check the installation. He (Sam) came a couple of weeks ago and he and Martin took the boat out for a test run. Most seemed to go well except that there is a problem with the steering (not good!) and the new propeller we had fitted needs to be refitted at a different angle to provide optimum thrust. This means the boat will have to be lifted out of the water, propeller taken off and taken down to London (to the manufacturers), altered and then refitted. Martin is currently battling with lengths of hose and ‘things’ as he refits the steering mechanism. It is good for him to have a project!!!

We have also spent some time discussing our future and decisions have been made up to a point. We intend to get the required work done to the engine and drive mechanism and the we shall put the boat up for sale, our next move depends really on how long it takes to sell, but we will keep you updated.

Although on the face of it we don’t seem to have loads to do, we always stay occupied, even if it is reading, painting, going to Tesco’s or just watching the world go by. The days go by very quickly and Monday keeps coming round. Lockdown is easing and we sent for the free lateral flow home test kits, which we ordered on line and they arrived the next day, we have done one test and are both negative and we hope it stays that way. We look forward to our second vaccination and the continues path path back to the ‘new normal’. We have been luckier than many and not really adversely effected by Covid. One thing we do make sure of is that we laugh each day and so ensure our world keeps turning and our lives continue to be enriched.

Spring has sprung….

March has arrived and with it, albeit brief, sunshine, blue skies and that feeling of wellbeing it brings. They tell us that it is now officially the meteorological start of spring, so they must be right (whoever they are). It has to be better than the all weathers in one month we experienced in February; with rain, snow, frosts and gales. The winds I find especially concerning as we have wind turbines on the back of the boat which sound remarkably like jet engines revving up when it is really windy, also the groaning and straining noises of the mooring ropes I find unnerving. I have been known to wake Martin in the middle of the night and ask him if the sounds are supposed to be like that and he has (bless him) on occasion, gone outside in dead of night to check our moorings.

We are currently under the same lockdown regulations as everyone else, but luckier than many as we have no close neighbours and the only other people we see regularly are Steve, the boatyard owner, and the two guys who work for him and then anyone who happens to be at Tesco when we go shopping. We go for a walk most days and as it is generally such a quiet area anyway, we rarely see anyone else.

Retirement seems to suit us both and I generally have only one concern, which is that most mornings I wake up and have to spend several seconds deciding what day it is! Once that’s sorted I’m okay – not that it really matters because one day it much like another anyway!!

Covid is still the main talking point on the news and we were excited by the vaccination programme and its influence on the future for us all. We were keen to get ours, so when Martin got his invite letter we dutifully went on line to book an appointment – the nearest centre he was offered was Ipswich – 40 miles away! So he rang the contact centre who advised that they only had access to the same appointments, Martin also asked about me getting mine at the same time. Had I had a letter? he was asked, Not yet he replied. Then no he was told. We decided to wait until I got my letter. Amazingly enough it arrived the next day, so back on line, Ipswich again, back on phone to call centre, no appointments nearer available, but they told us to check on line every day as new appointments were being added. We did check several times, only to find Ipswich, Colchester (even further) and strangely enough Brighton were available (not exactly local!). Then the day after I checked on line at 10.30pm and lo and behold there were some local appointments, I tried to book but kept being told that one of the appointments I had managed to secure was no longer available, but it didn’t tell me which one! Martin then lost patience (unusual for him) and again rang the call centre, as he had previously established that they were open until 11pm. Hurrah… he spoke to a very helpful member of the call centre team who managed to book for both of us, our 1st and 2nd jabs in Norwich, probably 15 miles away. So we went last week to a very well organised centre, with lovely staff, both employed and volunteer, had our vaccinations and were back home within an hour. We both felt a bit ‘off’ the next day, but no big deal and much less awful then full blown Covid. We look forward now to our second one in May and to the road out of lockdown being a smooth ride back to normality, albeit not as we knew it.

Nelson’s County

I was interested to note when we first came to Norfolk and started exploring, before the second lockdown, that the signs on entering the county, advised us that we were in Norfolk, Nelson’s County. A brief bit of research revealed that Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson is seen as Norfolk’s most famous son. He was born in Burnham Thorpe in 1758, where his father was the rector. He was killed at Cape Trafalgar, Spain in 1805. He is remembered by a monument in Great Yarmouth with Britannia a top, some 144 feet tall and erected in 1819, some 24years before the better known Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square. There is also a statue , erected in 1847, in the Norwich cathedral close and other memorabilia i.e. his naval hat and sword can be found in the Norwich Castle Museum. Worth a trip I think once we can get out and about.

Passing our time……

Martin has taken up jogging again, I prefer something more ‘indoors’ and try to do some toning exercises or Pilates every day. What I do love is to read and we are lucky enough to have a mobile library in this area. Although it obviously hasn’t been operational for a few months they did allow us to ‘fill our boots’ (the librarians words) with books before the lockdown. I know a couple of people who read this blog are also reading fans so – a couple of recommendations:

Lido by Libby Page – a story about an unlikely friendship between a young woman journalist and an 80+year old woman which develops whilst the journalist is researching a story about the local lido which the older woman is trying to save from closing down. The lido has played a huge part in her life and she looks back at her life and love.

The Keeper by Graham Norton (yes the Graham Norton), makes a bit of a chilling read and is definitely a can’t put down, just one more chapter sort of book, leaves you guessing with its twists and turns.

I believe Graham has written a couple of books, so will be looking out for another when the mobile library finally starts the rounds again, post lockdown.

Wildlife

As I said we have the advantage of several lovely walks locally and we do enjoy getting out to see the local wildlife. One of our favourite walks runs part through the Somerleyton Estate and by Fritton Country Park. We had noticed that there had been some tree and general scrub clearance and the renewing, and building, of fences. We were, then, fascinated to read a notice which appeared at the start of the walk the other week which advised that the Somerleyton Estate was taking an active role in ‘rewilding’ the area. They advised that the plan was to introduce beaver, wild pigs, highland cattle and water buffalo to the woodland and fields in the area. We will watch the progress of this with interest.

What a difference a year makes….

As 2020 rolled over into 2021 I reflected on the fact that in January 2020 I was looking forward to retirement and the prospect of foreign adventures to come. We hadn’t heard of Covid and the future awaited.

As those of you who have followed our ‘journey’ over the past year will know this has not gone to plan (somewhat of an understatement?)

We are however now at peace with the fact that our plans have changed beyond recognition of those made early 2020 and way before. We remain in Norfolk and had good news in early December when Steve, the boatyard owner, said that although we had taken the mooring on a ‘short term’, six month basis, he would be happy for us to stay for longer if we would like to. We had made some enquiries yet again of other boat yards with regard to moorings for April, but had been unsuccessful. So when Steve made this offer he was probably pleased that social distancing was in place, otherwise I would probably have run up and hugged him! It was lovely to feel more settled, I know it was not what or where we envisaged to be our future but circumstances change and so must we. It is however very quiet here, we are the only boat on this pontoon, as long term mooring. We have access to several lovely walks, we are close to the seaside, when we are allowed to visit, (there is a lovely walk from Lowestoft to Kessingland, along the beach) and most other things we need are within a few miles. The thing we are furthest from is family and friends, but I know we are not alone in this difficult position

So December dawned and we like many others put up our Christmas decorations earlier than normal, to cheer us and others up. Martin loves to ‘dress’ the boat, and we treated her to some new lights, mainly because we couldn’t find last years strings (we did, of course, find them not long after our return from the new light buying trip to the shops!). This early installation was also taken down a couple of days earlier as we were feeling a bit ‘cluttered’, we do only have limited room after all and the only people benefitting from our lights, due to lockdown and no one going out, was the electricity supplier!

We had a lovely Christmas, very quiet, just us. We had, in early December been in Tier 2 and had vaguely planned a trip to see relatives between Christmas and New Year. Unfortunately like many others this was very quickly squashed by our going from Tier 2 to Tier 5 in a matter of 10 days. We did luckily get a meal out on Christmas Eve at a local restaurant, but had our plans for Boxing Day (my 65th birthday) cancelled – an outing to Great Yarmouth Hipppodrome Christmas Circus Spectacular – we were disappointed and I did suggest that Martin dusted off the unicycle and polish his juggling balls so that he could reproduce the show on the pontoon – not sure why but he wasn’t keen – bit selfish really as it was my birthday!!!

A couple of days after Christmas Martin was not feeling well – we called 111 and after a long phone call consisting of what appeared to be irrelevant questions and mostly Covid orientated we were advised that he probably had shingles and needed to be seen by a healthcare professional within 12 hours. The nearest Walk In Center we were advised was in Norwich, so at 5pm on the Sunday after Christmas we programmed the sat nav and set out to find it. We did find it quite easily and were only second in the queue, the staff were very helpful and efficient. The Korean nurse advising that shingles was very contagious and that he need some medication to help to reduce the severity of the virus. We found the only pharmacy open in Norwich after walking across the town, waiting 30 minutes in the cold only to be told they didn’t have stock. We would need to try another local pharmacy next morning. We walked back to the car and headed for home. On getting back to the boatyard we made our way to the pontoon which is accessed by a short up and over ladder over the flood wall from the yard to the pontoon. Martin reached the top first and let out a mild expletive, I though he had left something in the car, but on joining him on the top of the wall, found that there had been a flood tide while we were out and our route along the pontoon, was now at least 4 inches under water. Wellies were of course on the boat (spare pairs for the car have since been purchased!); so it was a case of shoes and socks off and paddle – bearing in mind that it is late December and this is river water – it was b****y cold!!

Our days are now mainly filled with box sets, walking and eating, Martin is almost fully recovered and we are half way through January; the Covid vaccine programme is up and running and we are hoping to get ours by possibly Easter, there has to be light at the end of this almost year long tunnel, doesn’t there?

Floating on Air

In the previous blog I mentioned finding out more about couple of local things of interest we have come across. The first one is the hovercraft, a neighbouring village is called Somerleyton, ‘Home of the Hovercraft’, I noted this on one of the first trips through the village and on closer investigation have found out that the inventor of the hovercraft, Christopher Cockerell, lived and worked in the area. He owned a boatyard in the village and developed his groundbreaking invention in the 1950’s. It was trialed on the front lawn of Somerleyton Hall, which is an impressive country house, open to the public (in normal times) and has had recent fame due to its being used as ‘Sandringham’ in the recent The Crown series.

The invention of the hovercraft changed the way travel was undertaken, over land and water. In 2010 a memorial column was erected in the village to commemorate the inventor and his invention, it is an impressive view. The unveiling was accompanied by a fly-past of a Spitfire in honour of the work Christopher Cockerell had undertaken for Bomber Command in developing a new radar system.

So although I don’t want to stay here forever; I am finding that there are people and things of interest around whenever you go and it all adds to the greater understanding of the make up of an area and its people.

And so…

Brexit is now signed and sealed and this has had an influence on some of our potential future plans, so back to the drawing board – we are getting quite good at this and we have lots to think about – I sometimes say to Martin – that it would be simpler if we did not have choices in what we do and where we go (Brexit, Covid etc. aside).

Life carries on and so do we…. until the next time

Big Skies……….rainbows and stars…

Well we are some 6 weeks into our Norfolk life and I have to admit that for the first couple of weeks I hated the area and everything about it – I felt dreadfully homesick – I have lived in Nottingham for 40+ years, so this was a move away from my comfort zone and an effect on me and my mood that I hadn’t (possibly naively) expected. I did miss family and friends dreadfully; although I do speak to Olivia every week and my friend and ex work colleague Fran has kept in touch every week. Bless her!

Martin has been less effected by the move but has been empathetic to my feelings, saying that we could move on or back if I wanted to. That was a lovely gesture but I really knew we had to give this a chance.

We had thought that Norfolk was reported to have a good climate and some of the best weather in the UK, wrong!! It rained almost everyday for those first weeks and this didn’t help our feelings of isolation.

One highlight in that time was to see our friend Lesley, who was having a few days in Great Yarmouth with her daughter and grandsons. We met up with her and had a good catch up and I think that seeing her saved my sanity at that time. Thank you Lesley!

Luckily we have good moorings and Steve who owns the boatyard and the pontoon we are on is a really lovely man and has been a great help to us. He looks after, maintains and restores the wooden boats with masts and sails which are an original Broads boat. They do look great but have to be meticulously maintained and looked after and I think probably sometimes find themselves at odds with the Broads plastic leisure craft.

When we first arrived the river was busy with boaters of all kinds, but has since become quieter with little traffic after half term, and then to nothing during lockdown.

We have been finding our way around, but in those first couple of weeks it was very strange and we needed the sat nav just to get us to Tesco’s!!

There was a point too when I needed a dentist and after a few phone calls found a great on in Great Yarmouth, who sorted out the problem quickly and efficiently. Things seemed to be getting better.

We love walking and, especially during lockdown, try to go out every day. We have discovered a few local walks and in doing so have also discovered the local post office (based basically in someone’s front room!), the mobile library (I feel lost without a book to read) and we have discovered some history about the area, the links to Nelson, The Crown and the hovercraft (all of which I need to research more and will share my findings at a later date).

The lane which leads to the boat yard is also a public footpath and we noted from our map that the path went around what is known as Haddiscoe Island, literally a triangular piece of very flat land with the River Waverley on one side, River Yare on another and a very straight ‘cut’ length of water on the third side. We decided one Sunday morning to walk the footpath which was marked round the island. We had cruised that way in the boat and Martin reckoned it would take us about 3 hours. So we packed a flask, a couple of slices of cake, donned our walking shoes and set out. It was a lovely day and during the whole walk we only saw 2 more people – as time went by, we knew why – it was a lot further round the island than we thought! A lot further!! We passed a couple of windmills and 3 or 4 houses. Rivers don’t go straight and as we set out on the home stretch, along the River Waverley we could see where we needed to be but it was a much longer way following the curves and bends in the river. There was a point when I did stop and ask Martin what time it got dark as I began to wonder if we would be home before then. Luckily we made it back and when we Googled the walk as we relaxed back on the boat with a cuppa, we found it was 12 miles+!

There are ups and downs in all walks and in all times of life and we do get through however we might feel at that specific time… So why big skies – well this is what the southern part of Norfolk is known for, and yes they are and are quite lovely when the sun shines from them…..

So..

‘When it rains we look for rainbows and when it is dark we look for stars‘ – both of which we have seen an abundance of here and so this is the new mantra for our Norfolk life so far.

Moving east highs and lows!

Monday morning dawned and we were up bright and early in order to carry out the final checks and packing of our possessions and the final ‘wrapping up’ of Heavy Metal to keep her safe and protected during her journey to Norfolk on the back of a lorry. It was quite exciting and all went well, the lorry arrived spot on time, the boat was loaded easily and we set off on our car journey to Norfolk, with waves and good wishes from the Redhill Marina crew, to start a new chapter of our lives.

We had, early the previous week, rung the Norfolk marina where we had booked the lift to take the boat off the lorry and put her back in the water, to check that all was good. When Martin spoke to the woman in the admin/reception office she confirmed the lift and also said that they had a mooring available for us if we wanted it. Now we did have a temporary mooring agreed with a boat yard just over the river from the marina but this new mooring would be in a marina, have all the facilities of a marina, and would be long term, so we said ‘Yes, please’. Moorings around the Broads for a boat of our size and draft are few and far between so we were really pleased to have secured this one. In order to be fair we called Steve at the boatyard and thanked him for his offer of a temporary mooring but that we now had the promise of a permanent ‘home’, or so we thought!! He was fine with this and wished us well.

On arrival at the marina that Monday morning we booked in at the office and asked to look at our promised mooring berth, it was then that the bombshell was dropped, ‘Oh no it isn’t vacant yet. We are waiting for the current person to let us know if they want to keep it or not. They have paid for it up until April, and although we don’t think they will be back, we can’t let anyone else have it until they give us proper notice’.

This was not what they had told us over the phone, and each of the two women in the office seemed to be saying that it was the others ones fault that we had been misinformed – not helpful or apologetic at all. They said they would try to ring the gentleman and try to get an answer from him re his future intentions and let us know.

It was like your worst nightmare, we had arrived in Norfolk, the boat, all 30+ tonnes of her, was on its way on the back of a lorry and we had nowhere to moor it. Basically we were mooringless or strictly speaking homeless. As I said the staff at the marina were very far from helpful, neither of the women would take any responsibility for their mistake. I felt physically sick and very upset. The yard man at the marina, who by the way, was very helpful, advised us that he did not even know we were expected and he was currently moving boats around to facilitate some dredging in the marina basin. Brewery and p..s up came to mind!! Martin, bless him, assured me it would all be okay, but I couldn’t see how. A few deep breaths later we decided we needed to go and speak to Steve who had previously offered us a mooring, throw ourselves on his mercy and hope he hadn’t let the spot to anyone else in the last week.

Steve became our saviour and my hero, in the matter of minutes, he was wonderful. He said the temporary mooring was still free and ours if we wanted it. We agreed that we would stay on a temporary mooring at the marina overnight and move to his pontoon the following afternoon, tides permitting.

We were very relieved but I still struggled to see how the staff at the marina could just say ‘Well, we haven’t been able to get in touch with him today, but we will keep trying, and let you know’ Not sure what they expected us to do as a 30+ ton boat needed a home and would need to come off the lorry as soon as it arrived, in about an hour!!

This whole scenario thoroughly spoilt our first day in our new home county and has most definitely clouded my view of the area since.

The following day we were to move the boat to Steve’s mooring, across the river. Some of you may recall that we had a new engine fitted at Redhill and we had been unable to test it until now, so it wasn’t silence we wanted to hear when Martin turned the key, but silence we got, as nothing happened when he did; only tumble weed and silence! At this point we did begin to wonder if it could get any worse. Luckily Martin had a contact at the engine suppliers who advised him of a couple of things to try and eventually, the engine began to make the right noises. During the maneuver to reverse out of the temporary berth Heavy Metal came into contact with one of the plastics boats close by. You have thought we had almost sunk Royal Yacht Britannia rather than just scratching the deck of a small pleasure craft. As I said my state of mind and mood was not good due ; due to the unhelpful attitude and shrugs we had received from the marina staff and the uncertainty of having a home mooring, consequently when the man whose boat it was started shouting and glaring, I did feel I had to point out, politely, that it was an accident and that no one had died!! We moved the boat, sorted out insurance details and proceeded out onto the Broads. We needed to take a longer route round to Steve’s to avoid a low bridge and coincide with the tides. The weather was terrible, rain and mist, looked like December not September, my mood was about on a par with the weather, maybe not that good actually! Usually Martin and I are good together, we don’t tend to get upset over the same things and so compliment each others moods generally, not today, we were both upset about the slight accident, some of the people we had encountered and the general experience of our first days in Norfolk. Few words were spoken on this trip.

We arrived at Steve’s (my hero) and with his help, got safely moored up, he made us very welcome, which was amazing had we had really messed him about. Suffice to say we have been happily ensconced here since. Unfortunately this is only a temporary mooring and we will need to move in April. This in itself is a worry as I’ve said mooring for boats of our size are rare.

I have had a couple of big time melt downs in the the past couple of weeks and have probably not given Norfolk much of a chance. The weather has been mostly wet and miserable so far and so we haven’t had much opportunity to get out and explore. Just need to wait until it stops raining……….

Suffice to say we have still to hear anything from the Marina about the promised mooring.

Countdown is on……

We are counting down to our departure from Redhill and looking forward to a change of scenery. It is really quite good when you can move and not have the hassle of packing and unpacking, whatever we own is on the boat – the whole package!

We had a lovely few days in Bristol , lucky to get good weather and we were able to see all the things we had wanted to – including SS Great Britain, which was fascinating; learnt all about Isambard Kingdom Brunel and what an amazing engineer he was and way ahead of his time. We also visited the Clifton Suspension Bridge, another of his designs, which he unfortunately did not live to see completed, again amazing piece of design.

We have also taken time to reflect on our time here and in the main we have enjoyed it, although now we are ready to move on.

Our experiences of Redhill have been many and varied – here are just a few captured in pictures that we will take with us……… will miss those cooling towers!!

now Norfolk – here we come!!

September already…

Okay so who stole 2020? September already and what have you done? You all know what we have or have not done. We are on the final leg now of our stay at Redhill and in many ways we won’t be sorry to move on. It is a strange place.

In the meantime we have just about caught up on most of the jobs we had on the list. So much so that we have given ourselves some time off in the last couple of weeks to catch up with family and friends. We’re even treating ourselves to a few days away later in the month.

One of the best things here has been the variety of wildlife a few examples are below.

What next?

Well things have progressed and the engine is installed apart from some electrical works, for which we have had to employ an electrician to undertake and are now at the mercy of his schedule. I have reached Chapter 4 of my novel and am enjoying drawing on past experiences and people to ‘furnish’ it!!

In other areas circumstances have overtaken us and due to some unforeseen events we have had to rethink and reschedule our plans (nothing new there!). We should be getting quite good at this now!

We will remain at Redhill now until late September – Heavy Metal will then be loaded onto a lorry and transported down to Norfolk where she will be lifted off the lorry and back in the water. We have secured a mooring on the River Waveney in Norfolk, a few miles from Great Yarmouth. We are planning to stay there for at least 6 months and from there we will be able to access the Broads and even have a jaunt out into the North Sea should weather conditions and confidence allow during the winter months. Finding a suitable mooring in itself posed problems as we appear to be ‘too big’ for most of the Broads marinas. The Waveney is a tidal river so I’m sure there will be ups and downs (at least twice a day!) as it is not something we are used to.

Our foray across the Channel and into Europe is on hold; it may still happen but we have had need to leave our options open at the minute. If it does – then great – we will embrace it, if it doesn’t, then we will think again, regroup, change direction, whatever…………..

Life is strange and continues to challenge us at what feels like almost every turn at the moment; but we will be okay and although we may not have the adventure we had originally planned – we will have an adventure – be together, be stronger.

I will continue to blog over the next weeks and months, and will also put up photos of our journeys, surroundings and the wildlife, and I will try and make it interesting and fun (we do laugh a lot despite everything life throws at us) – if you want to come along and see what the future holds…. you are most welcome.