We were really looking forward to having Benny with us. It was excellent timing that we were not far away and in touch just as he got a free weekend. I had thought he would want to visit when it was warmer, but despite it being winter and a bad forecast Sunday, he was still keen to come. He has been with us on summer holidays before where the conditions are different in many ways and few people are keen to visit or travel by boat in the winter.

We had something of a comedy of errors leaving the marina not knowing about tokens for pump out and a token or fob for the gate to go round to the reception to get one for a gate too but had friendly help. I was assured I did not need to stay at the office to pay as the guy doing the diesel filling had a card machine. Turned out the machine didn’t work and he had to phone reception to dictate my card number to them. All staff and boaters were very friendly, patient and helpful throughout.

Benny wasn’t arriving until Friday evening so we made use of the good weather and the need to fix my phone, to cycle to Derby. After a pleasant route on country roads, we reached the town centre, where we could look for the shop that Shane had located on a map. Just as I reached the pedestrian shopping area I saw, and heard a a man playing the bagpipes, a sight much more familiar in Edinburgh, but unexpected in Derby. I was to be surprised later in the day by seeing a different man walking on the towpath, also wearing a kilt.


Busking kilted Piper, in Derby town centre, with extra woollen knee covers!

The location of the store had moved so there was a bigger search for a shopping centre and finding the shop within it than expected but in a trice, the guy found in the advanced setting that we needed to select 3G 4G while it was set at 2G which was fine for the previous provider. Shane did not have this problem when he transferred as his phone had a “select most suitable” default setting. So many settings!

Shane waited patiently outside while I navigated the shopping centre and then I had a whistle stop tour of the cathedral. 

Derby Cathedral
Derby Cathedral
Inside Derby Cathedral

Now chilly from standing around and knowing we had some guest prep to do, we returned to the boat and safely stowed the tandem. The cheerful chap in the neighbouring boat saw me outside when Shane was inside and shared with me the quip “I didn’t like to tell him you weren’t pedalling on the back” – a variation of the regular line, shouted to Shane “She’s not pedalling on the back”.

Benny and I both did tests – negative, hurrah! We went to meet Benny from the train. Shane went to the platform and I popped to the shop. Benny surprised me when he appeared in the shop, just as I was getting milk. I am not sure Willington is used to hugs in the dairy aisle. We stocked up on beer and we walked back to the boat. On the way Benny explained how he had managed to break his collar bone recently cycling and was told not to do any dangerous sports until mid February which we calculated was Monday, and he had already broken a rib falling while climbing a stile on a walk. Now walking down the towpath in the dark carrying a rucksack seemed like a dangerous sport! Keeping Benny furthest from the water and using torches, we made it safely and had a fine evening of catch up chat, laughs, food and beer.

Benny had thought it possible the boat would just be moored up all weekend, so it was a bonus to get a little trip on Saturday. With his boating experience he was happy to drive from the start and get to grips with the diesel charging and the hybrid display screen, which Shane enjoys explaining.

Shane relaxes with a drink, safe in Benny’s experienced helm hands

Benny was not going to get the chance to indulge his interest in insect life, with it being winter, but he did get an excellent view of a kestrel hovering in a field then coming over the boat and hovering again above the canal, near the bow. It was struggling a little to hold still in the wind. It is the best bird of prey view I have had from the boat.

Benny had been prudent enough to bring thermals but hadn’t really believed he needed them but after a while in damp windy drive, he decided to give the driving a break to actually put the extra layers on. A light rain started just as we reached a place with mooring rings and when we were all ready for lunch. Warm and full we had another half hour to go to get to Burton on Trent so Benny got a few photos. He managed a selfie and I tried one too. Not my finest hour, so perhaps I should have accepted his offer to share his more flattering photo. We are all happy though and I am looking like my mum, so no complaints.


Cheer in the chill

There was only the one lock. I wasn’t sure if jumping off the boat and using a windlass was also a dangerous sport. Shane offered that he could drive or work it (or neither if he wanted) and he risked the winding and pushing and came to no harm. There were some swans in the side wash where we had seen ducks the other day. One was snoozing while we worked the lock but moved out when the boat passed by. It’s a nifty action getting their necks down low to pass under the bar a few inches above the shallow water.

Swan ducking under the sideways barrier

We moored at the now familiar rings by the park in Burton upon Trent,  a nice spot for watching the birds. We rounded off with a quick noodly stir fry, followed  by Christmas pudding, at Shane’s behest and Benny’s whole hearted agreement. We hadn’t had an excuse to use it and half each was too much but thirds was fine. We stayed up much too late.

Today (Sunday) was rainy all day as forecast so we stayed  and continued putting the world to rights,  ranging over many topics and observing the pigeons courting and long tailed and blue tits flitting. Fortunately the rain eased in the afternoon so it was not a very wet walk to the station where he got a direct train and also luckily Benny noticed Shane still had his small back pack with “all the important stuff in” just before stepping on the train! We are all looking forward to meeting and boating again. The sun might even be smiling on us next time.






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