Firstly Christmas - for the first time for several years both our son and daughter and their families were to spend the festive season with us. The grandchildren range from 14 to 6 and all eat well, so a lot of food was required - we were to be 11 in total. A lot of preparation was done in the month before and I am glad to say that all went swimmingly well and a great time was had by all. Our son, daughter in law and their three children arrived Christmas Eve.
The necessary preparations were made before going to bed - supplies for Father Christmas and his reindeer
The obligatory photo by the tree - three youngsters with high hopes that their stockings would be nice and plump in the morning.
Many hands make light work and the dining and sitting room furniture was swapped round, so we could lay two tables to enable us to all sit down for our lunch together. It all worked very well.
We were all together again the next day which included a good walk at Lickey Hills Country Park with a great play are to let off some steam before heading back home for yet more food (yes we moved the furniture round yet again!).
The next highlight came in early February when we drove up to Nantwich to collect Jaq from nb Valerie. A trip that had been planned for quite some time. Her directions were perfect and it was an easy stroll from where we parked to find her waiting at the door of her boat.
The following day Jaq and I went off for a girls day out - first to a National Trust property - Baddesley Clinton, Lapworth. It is a fine moated building with an interesting history and worth a visit if you are in the area.
A kind lady snapped the two of us together
We had lunch in the cafe and then walked out to the church which, again, is worth a visit. As you can see it was a fine day albeit cold.
The snowdrops were a delight to behold
Before returning home we went to a place called Jinney Ring, near Hanbury, where there are a selection of craft outlets. We spent quite some time watching this very talented glass blower. The violin maker was another highlight.
The next day we all went to Droitwich
Chris took Monty off for a walk whilst Jaq and I did the historic trail around the town - again another worthwhile thing to do if you are down this way. I have written about the trail before - if you want to know more then please go and look HERE.
Our final stop was The Gardeners Arms for a splendid lunch.
On the way home we called in at Crafted Boats (formerly Pinders) so Jaq could see our boat for the first (and we hope not the last) time. One day we will meet on the cut.
Rushing forward quite a few weeks - our daughter in law brought her three children down to stay with us arriving last Tuesday (their Dad is away on business) for a few days. On Wednesday Jo, the children and I headed off to Birmingham on the train on a thoroughly wet and miserable day. Our first aim was to visit the library which I have seen from afar on many occasions, but never visited. We arrived at 10:40 to find it does not open until 11:00, but fear not there was a coffee shop to provide hot drinks to try and warm us up. To our amazement shortly after we arrived a queue had formed and by the time people were allowed in it was quite long. In 2014 the library received 2,414,860 million vistors making it the 10th most popular visitor attraction in the UK. The only downside at present is the amount of work taking place with large parts of what was a wonderful space in Centenary Square blocked off.
We decided to head for the top (9th) floor first - even going up the escalator is quite awe inspiring.
An equally so looking down.
The views from the top floor are far reaching - well they would be on a clearer day.
One floor down is The Shakespeare Memorial Room. This was designed in 1882 by John Henry Chamberlain for the first Central Library. It has moved twice since that first library was demolished. More information about this room and the library can be found courtesy of Wikipedia HERE
On this level you can brave the elements and venture out to enjoy the views and the garden.
You can even see a small part of the canal as it heads towards Gas Street Basin.
After lunch we walked over to the Back to Backs - a National Trust Property and the last surviving back to backs in Birmingham. Another visit I would thoroughly recommend - our guide (Jean) was superb - she involved the children from the outset and answered all their many questions with great patience and in great depth. There is only one room where you are not allowed to touch anything- in most you are encouraged to touch and try things out and at one point she even asked the children to 'top and tail' on this bed which used to sleep four boys.
I was most surprised to find that the vegetables were real rather than plastic!
We learnt the amazing story of George Saunders - an immigrant who was a talented tailor but was unable to find work due to terrible discrimination. He eventually set up his own business and was so successful that he ended up with three shops in the back to backs which he left to the National Trust when he retired in 2001.
Like boaters when one visits historic houses the 'facilities' just have to be discussed and in this case tried for size!!
Playing was positively encouraged.
Upstairs, once the tour is over, is a very interesting exhibition. I found these statistics fascinating. Looking at the percentage spent per household on health and schooling then and now, made me wonder if we paid a bit more now things might be better?
Finally there was an opportunity for a bit of dressing up. The end of a very successful day.
We arrived at the boat yesterday with a fully laden car. We are glad we only live 20 minutes away as we discovered we had left behind one large blue Ikea bag with the bed mattress topper, underblanket and one of the two single duvets we use! Today we spent four hours doing some voluntary lock keeping at Stoke Prior and were kept busy for most of that time. I also received my first lock related injury of the season - the windlass slipped off the spindle and crashed into my shin. Arnica to the rescue!
If all goes to plan we should leave Droitwich on Saturday 14th April for our grand tour - Birmingham, Fradley Junction and Trent Lock and we will go up and down the Erewash. Back at Trent Lock in early May we meet up with Sue and Ken on nb Cleddau and we are off to Nottingham, Newark, Lincoln, Boston, across the Wash to Kings Lynn and then to Bedford (via we hope The Lark, Little Ouse, Whissey and the Cam) for the Bedford River Festival in mid July. Our return will be via the middle levels and the Nene. We will part company in early August at Gayton Junction as they are going north and, we think, we will head down to the Thames (to make the most of the Gold Licence) and get to Lechlade this time before heading for home via The South Oxford Canal and the Grand Union. Our challenge for the year - to beat the 39 visitors we had last summer!