Fri 19th June
We had a short notice meeting at 10am to sort out what was happening with visits from the local school. We had four boats open: Remus, Gospel Belle, Essence and Ultreya. John Froggatt arrived, and was superb escorting the children from boat to boat, asking them questions as he did so.
James was asked to organise the afternoon visits, so he appointed a group leader for each group, and gave each leader a list of the boats in order. He wielded a football rattle to signify the end of each seven minute session. It seemed to work well.
Impromptu team meeting
Children visiting the boats
Off to the next boat
We all walked up the hill to St Chads for the official team meeting, and we went through what was planned for the rest of the mission. What we had thought was us delivering a folk night at the Three Tuns on Saturday, we were now told was also a karaoke evening! Clarification needed.
Over twenty of us ended up at the Red Lion for a meal. The service was fast, and the food was good.
No boating today
Sat 20th June
Hopwas to Fazeley
We did not take part in the men’s breakfast, as we figured that some boats needed to leave earlier, to avoid queues at the sanitary station in Fazeley.
The forecast was wet, but we managed to cruise in the dry, seeing a green woodpecker and some goldfinches in the short one-hour cruise to Fazeley.
On the way to Fazeley
We emptied cassettes and rubbish but decided not to bother with water as there were people waiting and we had enough.
We moored opposite the Three Tuns, where there was a small thicket for Hugo to explore. We visited the new wool and craft shop in Tolson’s Mill, which was excellently presented. Hazel bought some wool for a hat, and was given the pattern and decorative roses for it.
We then went to see the landlord at the Three Tuns to find out what was happening this evening. He wasn’t there so we waited for him for 45 minutes. We did notice a sign saying “Open Mic” on the third Saturday of the month.
While we were there, John Halford came and found us to say that we were wanted for a sound check on the stage in the field. “Stage?” we said. “Sound check?” We hadn’t realised that we were meant to be singing in the Millfield at this open air event. We thought it was going to be stalls and games. So we told the bar lady that we couldn’t wait any longer, and we went to collect our instruments from the boat.
By the time we arrived at the field the PA man had gone for lunch. There were four mics set up, as well as a puppet theatre. The man from Peel Puppets gave us the running order: Puppets first, followed by dancers, followed by dogs, followed by us for 15 minutes, followed by more puppets.
Event in Fazeley Millfield
We got our instruments in tune and eventually we had our sound check. It had been raining intermittently, so we tried out “Rhythm of the Rain”, whereupon John and Jan heard us through the speakers, and came to join us. We tried “Oh When the Saints”. When we had finished, and were wandering round the stalls, people were saying “Are you going to sing again?” “Yes, that was just the sound check.”
When we finally sang, we chose Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, the Banks of the Ohio (with a short gospel message attached), Tell the world Jesus Christ was his name, and Everybody’s gonna be so beautiful in heaven. During the first song we had a heavy downpour of rain, and everyone rushed into the shelter of the gazebos opposite, which meant they could all hear us. During the last song the PA system failed due to the rain. It was only off for a minute or two, and by that time the puppets were ready to go on again.
We took our instruments to the Three Tuns, where we were able to speak to the Landlord. We discovered that they were expecting us, and we would sing as part of the regular open mic night. We would have four mics. We then moved the boat across the canal and moored outside the pub.
Colin was the organiser and “resident” singer, and he started off with some very loud material, none of which we recognised. Then he arranged the PA for us and we sang four songs. It was hard work, as many people were not there for the music, and were in loud conversation. Some were doing a tour of CAMRA pubs. However, there were two or three who were listening and responding, and one requested “Streets Of London”. We said we could do it in our second set. After our set Colin sang again for 45 minutes before getting a young lady up to sing. Again she had to battle against the loud volume of chatter. When we asked Colin if we were to do a second set, he said we wouldn’t be needed as he had a lot of people to get on! We decided to leave at that point, as conversation was difficult and our voices needed protecting.
We moved the boat back across the canal where it a little more peaceful for Hugo.
0 locks, 3 miles
Sun 21st June
We started the day with the usual mission-style 8am prayer meeting, where we led a couple of songs without PA. We were given news of Ernie, and were told it was doubtful if he would be at the baptism service as he is in and out of hospital having chemotherapy.
8am meeting in the Litchfields garden at Fazeley
However, Ernie was determined, and he was there at the baptism service, six years on from when he became a Christian at a previous mission in Fazeley. It was very moving to see him being helped in and out of the pool.
On screen so everyone could see
We had been asked to bring our own picnic afterwards, rather than bring and share. There was still a bit of sharing going on, particularly with those who hadn’t brought anything. Sandra had provided strawberries and scones, and there was a baptism cake. It was good to see Alan and Geraldine Ensink there. It was Alan who had finally led Ernie to the Lord.
Henry, Jack and Lin
Chris and Diana
Later, after a short visit to the local Tesco, we went to Tolson’s Mill Café for tea and questions.
Tea and questions at Tolson’s Mill
We had the evening off.
No boating today
Mon 22nd June
At the 8am prayer meeting today we planned the mega school visits – 240 children in small groups, visiting three boats each, with six available boats. James was in charge in the afternoon, and every group had a leader with an itinerary, all carefully planned. All went well until one group went to the wrong boat, and one group of kids had no boat to go to. A quick request to Jubilee had it sorted out, with a group of kids on board and a talk being given at 30 seconds notice.
Visitors on Kew
School visits in Fazeley
Don and Celia arrived after some business visits to foreign places.
No boating today
Tue 23rd June
Fazeley to Glascote
At the 8am prayer meeting, the word was given by Adrian Dann. It is good to have some people taking part who are new to BCF missions.
Some boats went to Bonehill Bridge for more school visits.
Before setting of for the next mission place, many boats had to use the facilities. We were waiting for another boat to finish, and pass us before reversing up there. When the boat drew alongside, we saw it was Balmaha, with Mo and Ness. We haven’t seen them since we first met up with them on the Fens four years ago.
Mo and Ness on Balmaha
When we finally made it back to the facilities we discovered that the Elsan disposal unit was blocked, with a notice attached saying it would be fixed in 24 hours. “24 hours from when?” was the important question. Thankfully some urgency had been given to it and it was sorted within half an hour.
As we were not needed for the infants visit later, we set off for Glascote, hoping to avoid a long lock queue. We crossed the River Tame on an aqueduct.
When we arrived at the locks we discovered Balmaha, Ultreya, Mistol, in front of us, with Solar Kingfisher and Essence following on behind. David Brennand spent a lot of time on the locks helping us all through.
At Glascote we were all moored up in a long line.
Cider with Rosie went past – the guy knows Mick Wilson, who fitted out our boat.
Next: part 2: Glascote to Tamworth