Here is a brief summary of what January and February held for us.
Building work in progress near the canal basin
We spent New Year in Suffolk with Maggie and Clive, being careful to treat the speed limits with respect this time. We enjoyed their company as usual, and had a relaxing few days.
Hugo seems to be OK when we go away. We set his automatic feeder, and leave an electric convector heater on keep the cold away. He is always pleased to see us when we return.
Hugo spends a lot of time in the office
We have two elderly people living on a boat in the canal basin. George is in his late nineties, and has Alzheimer’s. He is meant to be the carer for his wife Ruby, who had her 100th birthday. We all celebrated in the clubhouse, and enjoyed seeing all her cards, including one from the Queen.
We have had some cold days, and there has been ice on the surface at times, but nothing very serious so far. A light dusting of snow twice, and a centimetre once, which didn’t last long.
We have made some excursions into the countryside and discovered the Ashridge Estate and the Bridgewater Monument, where there are lots of walks and views.
We went to Chesham Folk Club and sang a few songs at their singers night. We discovered that there is a good folk music scene in the area, with a singaround session at the Queens Head in Wing every two weeks, and another at the Half Moon at Wilstone once a month (where there was a power cut, so we sand by candlelight). They are a friendly bunch of people, with some talented musicians among them.
Half moon at Wilstone
Inspired by this, we went to Reading to buy a guitarlele for Hazel. This, as the name suggests, is a cross between a guitar and a ukele. It has six strings, and has similar chord shapes to a guitar, except that it is like playing at fifth fret. She is now trying to transpose some of the songs we do so that she can play along in the correct key.
While we were in Reading we took the opportunity to visit David and Frances Hawkey in their new home in Newbury and John and Barbara Froggatt on their boat in Theale. We are making good use of our car while we have it.
We have become involved in a life group with the church, where we discuss the message from last Sunday’s sermon. This is a good way to get to know a few people better than we could on a Sunday morning. This church has welcomed us warmly and we feel we would like to return next winter.
We have been taking part in the worship practices at the church. As we are not here for very long, we are not leading the worship on a Sunday, as it would change all the dynamics of the worship band. However, to be part of the practices is a real privilege, as we can keep up to date with new songs. Even the practices are special times of worship.
The church also runs a café, called More+. We volunteered to paint the walls of their new storeroom, and spent several hours getting very cold as the door had not yet been put on and there was no heating. Since then the floor has been laid, the door has been put on and the storeroom is now is use. We have also helped behind the scenes with an Alpha course they are running in the café.
Sadly we have had two funerals recently. Patrick was someone we got to know on the Droitwich mission in 2013, and he had something related to asbestosis. There was a good number of BCF members there in Burton Joyce near Nottingham, to celebrate his life and to support Elaine.
The following week we were in Fleet for Doreen’s funeral. Last year we cruised the Basingstoke Canal, and we spent some time with Doreen and David, and attended Fleet Methodist Church with them. Once again, as is often the case at a Christian funeral, there was a real feeling of celebration as we remembered Doreen’s life.
Having a car gives us opportunities to go to other events and we went to Abbotts Langley for a concert put by the Melrose quartet. We saw half of them in 2011 in Northampton – Nancy Kerr and James Fagan. They have teamed up with two others and they have intricate arrangements of folk songs and tunes, many of which they have written themselves. Fiddles, concertinas, guitars, bouzouki and harmonies. Great.
We put on a “cream tea with songs” event at the canal society, and we performed for about an hour, with folk songs and boating songs There were about thirty people. Very successful. Hopefully it might have paved the way for a carols event next year.
James has bought a wildlife camera, to find out what walks along the towpath when we are asleep. There is a learning curve to achieve before any photos get shown around. The camera is still in its box.
We had a BCF social event at the Bells of Ouzley at Runnymede. Again – it is useful to have a car at times.
The annual Canal Ministries conference took place in Stone, at Shallowford House. As usual it was an excellent time, with teaching based on John’s gospel. Hazel and I led the music, and were really blessed by the response. This year there were three couples added to our number: Tim and Tracey on Sola Gratia, Rob and Tricia on Mistol, and Chris and Sally on Kairos. It was good also to have Roger and Mirjana Garland with us for some of Saturday.
Hazel’s Dad, Arthur, appears to have had a minor stroke, which has left him a bit confused and less mobile. He is 91 in March, and lives on his own in a 2-bed terraced house which only has one toilet and that is upstairs. Thankfully he has wonderful neighbours, Julie and Brian, who get his shopping, mow his lawn and keep an eye on him.
Snowdrops and crocuses are out, with daffodils almost there. The sun is shining and March begins next week. We plan to leave by boat on 22nd March, heading north up the Grand Union, then south down the Oxford Canal to the Thames, and downstream to London. Blogs will be more frequent when we start moving.