I always enjoy my chance to watch paths, tracks, and roads disappear at the horizon line.
I’m planning an exciting trip with another couple for next fall. It’s a boating holiday unique to England and parts of Europe, called canal boating. Everything about the English branch of this subculture is different from what most Americans think of when they think about boating.
The boat used is called a narrowboat. It’s like a long, thin steel barge designed for use as a houseboat. It can be 45, 55 or 65 feet long but it is always only 7- feet wide. It has a small diesel engine that can go up to 5 miles an hour. You steer with a single rudder in the back of the boat. This would not work well on the ocean or a lake, but you are floating on a totally calm, 20-foot wide canal that gently winds its way through the countryside of England.
The boats are usually painted with colors and designs specific to the canals. They are surprisingly spacious, with a living area and kitchen, full bathroom and sleeping areas. The boats sleep from 2-10 people. Some have a separate eating area, like a banquette but the smaller boats just have a table in the living room.
Tom and I have spent three weeks on the canals of England for two excursions. Both trips were just us, which is easily doable and enjoyable. Many retired couples in England buy a canal boat and choose to live on the canals during the open season from April through October.
However, this kind of traveling lends itself to traveling with other couples or groups because there are plenty of tasks for everyone. My first canal boat experience was in 1987 with four adults and four children ages two, seven, eight and nine.
We brought bikes so anyone could cycle to a nearby town or through the countryside. The advantage of having at least 3 adults is that there are many locks throughout the canal system, which take physical work to get through.
One person has to drive the boat into the narrow lock and it goes a lot faster when you have two adults manning the lock-machinery. It can be done with one person on the ground but it’s slow and tiring for the lock operator.
The experience of just puttering down the canal is peaceful and relaxing. You can go through all kinds of scenery. There are suburban stretches with beautiful, manicured homes along the canal; there are areas of farmland with fields and cows, sheep and horses. There are woods and marshes as well as more urban areas. Each route is different. This is a vast canal system that wends its way through much of England and Wales.
Once you are on the water, you’re fully independent on the canal. You can do what you want when you want. You can pull over and stake the boat down whenever you choose to eat, relax, sleep, walk along the picturesque canal or enjoy the local sights. There are numerous pubs to stop at for a drink or a meal (the food is really good).
There are nearby towns to walk around or shop for food. There are also museums and other local curiosities that are worth a stop. We toured the Wedgewood china factory, which was fascinating. We also saw one of the rare underground ‘bomb shelters’ from the 1950s which was designed to house the local government in case of a nuclear war.
When you pull over to stop, you’ll usually find other boats and end up chatting with other boaters. There are also lots of dogs and cats on canal boats and they are also very friendly. We had a cat come into our boat and sleep with us one night.
Driving the boat and manning the locks are a form of constant activity for people who like to be doing something all the time. But there’s also plenty of downtime for those who prefer to put their feet up and relax with a good book or listen to the fabulous BBC4 radio station. It has all kinds of programming, much like our TV stations. News, talk shows, game shows, dramas, sitcoms, continuing series, all high quality.
For the nature lover, you’re usually in the middle of nowhere but for the homebody, you’re always ‘home’ in your boat.
If you are traveling with other folks, make sure you can spend 7-days together most of the time. You have to make lots of decisions as a group. You need to decide where to stop, for how long, where to eat or what to cook. Someone has to be the driver and the others need to manage the locks, and so on. On my first, family trip, the 2 dads were both alpha males and spent most of the time arguing over everything! One of the kids asked why the dads were acting so childishly.
This can be an amazing vacation, with something for everyone. I’m planning my fourth canal holiday because I just can’t get enough of this immersive, unique vacation.
So what do you think of this quote? Aside from the reference to tenses, is it true?
“The past is always tense, the future perfect.”
I would be more inclined to say that our past was always perfect and the future is both tense and mysterious. Especially now. Our future is frankly looking pretty damned grim. So grim that I spend an inordinate amount of time not thinking about it.
I would like to see one sign that all humans world over would get together and make a serious effort to fix our planet. But I don’t see it. I don’t see any signs of any kind of cooperation. Not between supposed allies or enemies. I don’t even see governments taking the future of life on earth (for people) as serious, not if it costs someone a few extra dollars.
Honestly, we the people care, but them the people who make the trash and poisons? They don’t care. They really don’t care. The government doesn’t care. Obviously.
I’ve been hoping against hope that somewhere there would be a little glimmer of a better world to come, but I’m not seeing it. I’m seeing the opposite and not just here. Everywhere.
Oh, the joys of living in an oncoming disaster. What fun!
At least we got some pictures. It has been a while since we went out and we aren’t going out again soon. It’s simply too dangerous. But we did get some pretty pictures.
A kayak on the Blackstone River. Dressed in blue and in a blue kayak. And the water is blue … Just your basic blue day in early summer.
What better way to spend a warm summer day than in a kayak in the river, soft breezes blowing over the water.
Our valley is full of rivers. Mostly, it is full of the Blackstone which winds its way down from the Worcester hills to its end in Newport, Rhode Island. Incidental to its biggest river, are several substantial tributaries including the Mumford in the heart of Uxbridge and a few others.
Hard to say if they are creeks or smaller rivers, but lots and lots of water from tiny little streams, to large lakes, to big shallow ponds beloved by swans and geese for nesting.
On this very hot day in July, thoughts tend to turn more to cold showers than romance … but it will get better.
By Monday, the heat will break and then it will be a normal hot summer. Or, so we hope. Because the weather has not been anything like normal in quite a while and I wonder if it will ever be “normal” again.
I took more than 2000 pictures in May, but June, not so many. Part of that was taking down the bird feeders. I really miss the birds. I got a few bird pictures early in June before I emptied the feeders. I didn’t realize how much I counted on being able to take great pictures without driving somewhere or even trekking outside with the camera.
But on the other hand, Rich Paschall came to visit from Chicago and it was great. To finally meet someone you’ve known online for many years was a huge treat. Despite it raining the entire time he was here, we still managed to get outside to take some pictures.
Mostly, it has rained. We are hoping to paint our deck. Owen power washed it, but we need two days of dry weather and then a third to do the painting. We have yet to get three non-rainy days in a row. We live in hope.
The pictures which follow are mine and Garry’s, taken whenever and wherever it wasn’t raining. We tried to cover as much territory as we could. Not bad, all the wet weather considered!
Rich, Marilyn, and Garry by the Blackstone Canal
By the Blackstone in Smithfield, Rhode Island
Tom and Ellin, Marilyn and Garry in the Marina, Connecticut
Birds and Squirrels
About The Changing Seasons
The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.
If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:
The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):
- Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
- Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
- Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them
The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):
- Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
- Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
- Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.
If you do a ping-back to Su-Leslie’s post, she can update it with links to all of yours.
It didn’t happen if you don’t take any pictures. Well, that’s not exactly true, but as a photographer, that’s how I feel about many events. Which doesn’t mean I always take pictures. Much of the time, I don’t feel like taking pictures. I just want to enjoy the event and not be the photographer.
This wasn’t one of those days. We had hoped to go out yesterday, but it rained all day. This morning, we woke up to a bright blue sky and we said “Okay, this is it. Let’s do it. So while I packed up my camera, made sure Garry had a live battery, figured out which lenses I was taking and off we went to the canal.
And halfway there, it started to rain. Plop. Plop. Plop.
“Maybe it’ll stop,” I said. There were still patches of blue in the sky so it could clear.
By the time we got to the canal, it was pouring. It briefly slowed down, so we started to get out of the car. The pause changed instantly into a downpour. The rain gods were still with us. We turned around and started to head to dinner, but made a brief stop at the Crown & Eagle, which is a restored cotton mill which has been repurposed into a senior living facility. It’s a particularly beautiful location with the river behind the building and its own canal full of water lilies in front.
The sun came out.
We turned around and went back to the canal. By then, it had started to drizzle, but it wasn’t pouring. Rich and I decided to take a chance and get out. I was wearing open-toed sandals — not the best footwear for a muddy rainy day by the river. And while my camera is water-resistant, none of the lenses I had brought were water resistant. I picked the 50mm prime because at least it didn’t have any electronics in it.
We took some pictures … and finally, Garry decided to come and shoot some too. He was worried about getting his hearing gear wet … a not unreasonable concern. That’s really expensive equipment that we absolutely can’t afford to replace. But he couldn’t resist the opportunity.
We had about 10 minutes before it started to rain again and if you look, you can see the rain falling in the river. We headed back to the car as quickly as we could with all the gear on the muddy, gritty path which apparently had been really messed up by the constant heavy rains we’ve been having for months.
Then, we really did go to dinner, which was great and I had tempura. Yum!
Of course, as we finished dinner, the sun was shining, the sky was bright blue. These are the longest days of the year and I wished we could go back and take just a few more pictures.
But it was getting late. The dogs needed feeding. Moreover, if I was going to post these pictures, I had to download and process at least a few of them. So here they are. All that rain has made everything bloom like mad. It really does look like a rain forest!
I need to go take some new pictures. I feel a bit lost without the birds. They have been my mainstay since last November and now, they are gone.
We’ve had a couple of beautiful days, but I didn’t get outside to shoot. Now, there are going to be three or four more days of rain coming up, so there aren’t going to be more pictures until the weather clears.
I might have to go and process a lot of pictures that are just sitting in folders, waiting for my magic touch.
On a sunny weekend along the Blackstone River in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, we took out our cameras and took pictures.
Garry posted some of his photographs a couple of days ago. I decided to see if I could make mine look a bit different. I’m playing with the impressionist filters, trying to get a painted feeling, yet still retain as much of the photograph’s details as I can. It’s an interesting balance and I don’t know if I’ve quite gotten what I’m looking for yet, but I’m working on it.
And so on a particularly warm and bright June day, we took ourselves down to the Blackstone in Rhode Island.
Not knowing what we would find, this time we met two kayakers. Each had his and her own kayak, one blue and one red. There was a lot of discussion about whether to paddle up or downstream.
A general consensus existed that there wasn’t very far upstream one could paddle … that it was too rocky or possibly too narrow, but they decided to give it a try anyway. I don’t know how far they got, but it was a beautiful day, so why not?
After Owen chopped down the meadow behind our house, we decided to go out and take a few hundred pictures. I really don’t think we can take any fewer.
It was a lovely day. Warm, but not too warm, with just enough breeze to smell the freshly cut grass … or whatever it is we grow back there. I’m pretty sure there’s some grass involved, but there are a lot of other things in there too. Flowers and weeds and crabgrass and dandelions at the least and who knows what else. Probably some random flowers blown there from our garden — or someone else’s.
We saw a pair of Mallards on the river, too, though we didn’t get much of a shot. We both tried, but we didn’t have time to more than aim the camera and hope for the best.
No children playing in the water today, but a father and his young son — he couldn’t have been more than five — were fishing and a couple about our age were kayaking. And there were people there to just hang out and watch the water run by — and of course, us. Cameras at the ready.
I’ve never seen so many buttercups. There were also tall yellow flowers growing in the river in Uxbridge, reeds by the river … and I had to include one picture of the dam just because it was so lovely.
“Common” is a work frequently used with birds, even though sometimes the bird for which they are using it aren’t all that common. Maybe back when they got their names, they were common. It’s used for all kind of animals, actually. And plants.
Only people use it to mean “rabble.”
“Common squirrel,” for example. Which means whatever kind of squirrel is common in the area in which you happen to live. Red in England and some parts of the U.S. (but it isn’t the same red squirrel). Gray around these parts.
Common pigeon (but some pigeons are more common than others). Common grackles, common Blue Jays, common Robins (but the British Robin is a different bird than American ones, but still common). Common herons except a little different, depending on where you live.
I’m always amused when it’s used in some movies to mean “not royal or royal or upper-class.” All it means is “typical or frequently seen.”
We are all typical and thus common. We have the same number of arms, legs, eyes, head, and general body type. Strip away the clothing and we are all common. Take away the castle and put that person in a standard suburban sub-division and they are just as common as everyone else except maybe they talk funny.
Last night we were watching “Proven Innocent” and some “upper upper” lady looked at someone else and said, “Your people are common.” What did she think her people were? Did they have three legs and one eye in the middle of their forehead? THAT would be most uncommon.
Everyone and everything else is common.