Fradley Junction, 0 miles, 0 locks
Having a bit of a lazy day today. It was misty again and not really conducive to getting out of bed, but last night John had suggested breakfast at the Kingfisher Café at 9am and I was just about up and ready in time. Although John was up, Rita and Freddie (their dog) were still slumbering, which seemed very sensible to me. I wandered up to the café, but they didn't serve breakfast until 10am and a little chat with the owner revealed that the nearest cash machine was back in Alrewus. Given that I didn't have much to do until 10 and given that Alrewus was, in the cafe owner's opinion, "only a 20 minute walk", I decided to pop back before breakfast. On the way I came across one of the boats whose crew had helped me through the Fradley locks yesterday and when I said where I was going, he told me not to miss the butcher's.
Turns out that at the speed I walk Alrewus is actually about a 40 minute walk (still faster than by boat though!) but it wasn't to cold and the mist made it seem rather special. At one point you could see the sun clearly in the water, yet when you looked up at the sky there was just haze. Thanks to John's directions I found the cash machine without problem and popped back to 'ave a butcher's at the butcher's, who by this time had a queue out of the door. Now I normally shy away from proper butchers, largely because I find they remind me too much of where meat comes from, but this place had everything. Vegetables outside, loads of bright red meat inside, fish over there, amazing 'Texas' steaks that I don't think I've got a pan large enough to hold, a bakery and a well-stocked cheese counter. And everything is local. Talk about freshness and low-carbon footprint. Actually, it probably doesn't have a low carbon footprint, judging by the number of people who go there in their cars. I bought sausages, bacon, Gouda with nettles, some sausage rolls, eggs and a loaf; then set off back to Fradley.
By the time I got back, at 11:20, the weather had improved and the sun was well and truly out. I was wearing layers, so I was a bit hot. John and Rita were going to be a few minutes, so I thought I'd make coffee and by the time I'd had that and joined them to walk up to the Kingfisher Café, it was 12:05, and five minutes too late for their breakfast. I was a bit cross about this—mainly at myself for wasting time having coffee which meant that we'd missed the breakfast, but also because I can't see that it makes any odds to a café what they're cooking, so why not offer breakfast all day? (I suppose the real answer is that breakfast is a loss-leader to get people in when they otherwise wouldn't and is priced accordingly; the rest of the menu is effectively not as good value.) John and Rita went for the double-egg, ham and chips; I got my 'revenge' by ordering a toasted bacon roll with extra sausage, egg, tomato and mushroom, and a pot of tea—or their standard breakfast all bar the beans and black pudding. It was delicious and filled me up nicely.
After more tea, we wandered round to The Swan for an afternoon drinkie and a bit of gongoozling (i.e. watching boats). I know what I'm like with booze in the afternoon, so I had shandy and it was all very pleasant sitting in the sun. I'd bought a book on knots in the shop next to The Swan and I don't know whether it's that I'm stupid or whether it was the shandy, but I was having a hard time understanding the diagrams. Another shandy later and it was decided that there was a dearth of boats to watch, so we went back home—John to take Freddie for a walk; Rita to read and me to 'play' with the washing machine.
On the way I bought a brolly stand that allows me to fix an umbrella to the tiller. I've wanted one of these for a while, although I'm not sure whether it'll be as useful as I hope. The one I've bought is basically two rings on a stick, with one ring 90° relative to the other one. One ring goes round the tiller, the other round the umbrella handle and they're tightened with screws. Seems simple, although perhaps a little inflexible. John showed me his brolly stand, which is a T shaped piece of tubing. The top of the T slips over the tiller and is held in place by two hand-tightenable screws, with the leg of the T pointing upwards and into which you put the brolly. It looks far better designed than the thing I've bought, but apparently the manufacturer doesn't exist any more.
When Sterling sent me a Pro Combi S to replace my old 1.5Kw 3-in-1 combi, they kindly sent me a 2.1Kw model. This meant that instead of standing no chance of running the washing machine without a mains hookup (given that my washer is 2Kw) I was suddenly in the running, although I hadn't had the nerve to try it. Today, I decided, was the day. It all went well enough at first—the engine started and I was running at a good number of revs, the sun was shining and the solar panel was doing its thing, and the washing machine was going round and filling with water as you'd expect. Then the alarm sounded on the inverter, I started to look worried and then it closed down and the washing machine stopped—full of water and my smalls. After waiting a moment or two to check fuses and the inverter trips, I reset it and off it went again for a minute or two, the washing swishing around in the little porthole and looking exactly as though everything was going well. Then the alarm sounded again, the inverter closed down and everything stopped. Thinking that maybe I needed more power, I decided to angle the solar cell so it was perpendicular to the sun's rays and I opened the throttle a bit more. After waiting a couple of minute to let it 'build up a head of steam', so to speak, I reset the inverter and crossed my fingers. After another couple of minutes the alarm sounded and it all stopped. Just at this point, John and Freddie returned from their walk and after a quick mental calculation, John pronounced that I was probably a battery short. This sounded reasonable to me, but what to do about getting my knickers back? John pointed out that it was probably the heater that was causing the problem and if I did a cold wash it might be all right, so I turned the thermostat from 30° to 0 and reset the inverter. This time it all carried on nicely, proving that there's just not enough wonga to drive the heater. John and Freddie continued on to their boat and my undies continued to revolve until the cycle completed.
I spent a little time fruitlessly trying to get onto the internet, then fitting the brolly stand (the ring is too large for my tiller), then finally giving Oothoon a wash down. Then it was time to go to the pub for dinner. I was in a very indecisive mood, so in the end I had a 'Berni Special' (that's Prawn Cocktail followed by Steak). No Black Forest Gateau on the menu, unfortunately, but there was Lemon Cream Dream, so I had that. I know it's not even vaguely healthy, but I also know that I'll be doing proper boating for the next few days and should work it off. Anyway, I was up and down onto the roof enough times trying to reposition the solar cell and I did give the boat a clean, which must count for something.