Join us on our travels around Europe aboard our Dutch Tjalk Francoise

  • Jill Budd

    After 6 years aboard our Narrowboat Matilda Rose in the UK, we took the plunge and shipped her across to Europe. After 2 years in Europe we knew we didn't want to return to the UK so took the plunge and purchased a 1902 20 mtr Dutch Tjalk called Francoise and are now continuing our travels of the waterways of Europe in a buxom wench

  • May 2018
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Archive for May, 2018

Home, smelly home

Posted by contentedsouls on 31/05/2018

We arrived back at Francoise 11.30am (local time) on Friday and it’s fair to say we had a bit of a mould problem, pretty much everywhere; so our priority was to de-mould the bedroom and make up a bed on the floor and sort out what we needed for the animals and us for the day and in the morning. Our bedroom had been emptied so that Gary could fit a new floor for us and the spare room, therefore, wasn’t an option either – as you can see from the second photo. Fortunately Gerrit and Gezina made us dinner (they also offered us a bed for the night but it seemed easier to be home rather than uproot the animals again).


Saturday morning I set about washing walls, floors, cupboards, all our clothes, bedding, china, pots and pans, etc., an ongoing situation which still hasn’t been completely finished – but I’m getting close now. G set about building a new, higher bed (a very high bed) with a rather cleverly engineered lift up system which allows you to lift it from the top, bottom, or either side. Fortunately Gerrit (The Other One) was on hand to help out and, miraculously, they completed it in one day. The bedroom is complete with new bedding and curtains now; just new curtain poles/hanging system for the portholes, painting and carpet to fit. I also rather fancy sewing contrasting covered buttons to some of the curtain pleats.


I’ve also taken the opportunity to throw out a load of stuff we never use and have re-organised everything to leave surfaces clear (particularly in the galley). My triumphs’ have not been quite so dramatic as ‘the rise of the bed’ but are none-the-less satisfying to me. Just look at my drawers Matron!


Boats being boats we have had a few set backs along the way; last Friday we noticed that the hot water tank above the boiler was tilting at an alarming angle from the wall. In the evening it fell off. Due to limited access the fridge/freezer had to come out (not a simple job) and all the water drained down on the Saturday morning. G thought this would be a good day to invite both sets of Dutch neighbours (from both moorings) around for food and drinks to say a heartfelt thank you; not only for offering us safe harbour and regularly checking the boat and her batteries, but for countless other acts of kindness. My suggestion that Sunday might be a better day was dismissed (amazingly we are still married). By the skin of our teeth Francoise’s rear deck was transformed back into party boat, the salon made respectable and food of a fashion cobbled together – bolstered by very welcome contributions from Gezina. We did have a lovely evening in the most perfect weather and it was good to unwind and relax for a change; I also managed to stay awake beyond 10pm!

Sunday morning we had lost all pressure in the water system and discovered water pouring out of the connection to the boiler and filling the bilges (purely co-incidental apparently). Out came the fridge/freezer again and a good half a day was spent pumping out under the galley floor – maybe it was a good job we did entertain on the Saturday!

That first week wasn’t all work though. Apart from our little party, G had a day out with G & G off-roading/hill climbing in the mud and Gerrit and he went out playing with little boats looking for a tender to buy. G also managed not to miss the Grand Prix or qualifying.


I went to school with Gezina on the Thursday afternoon where Gezina teaches the children to grow veg on their allotments; the children’s English was excellent but they were too busy to chat for long. It was nice to be back doing a bit of weeding on the terre; I was an avid gardener in a former – pre boat – life.  I also took 2 hours out to go to the supermarket and check out a writing bureau that two of the three male Gs had seen in a second hand shop (whilst doing massive fuel runs to re-fuel Francoise). I have been looking out for a small bureau ever since we bought this boat and the one they found was perfik. I added the little red reclining chair whilst we were there; 32.50 euros for the two – result.


Not surprisingly, neither of us cooked Sunday lunch, so we retired to the village bar for an hour for a beer and a toasted sandwich. Regular readers may remember that G had been able to research some of Francoise’s history whilst we were on the hard in Franeker last September, but that we had reached a dead end tracing the second family, by the name of Mud. A chance remark, whilst chatting in the bar, and there was a chap in there of the name of Mud who had been researching his geneology (you couldn’t make it up). He said that, in the late 1800s, there had been a split in his family tree, with one lot going down the boat route and the other lot (of which he was one) staying on the land. He is now going to see if he can find a link between his family and ‘Pax’ as Francoise was then called. Extraordinary chance meeting.

Given that Francoise is the third boat we’ve lived on in as many weeks it’s, perhaps, not surprising that we are living in some confusion. Wanting to check our water levels, I spent a considerable period of time looking for the water tank gauge before G pointed out that I needed to roll back the salon carpet, undo the cap and poke the dipstick in the ‘ole! I had similar difficulties when trying to turn the invertor on. Neither of us had any idea where we kept the dustpan and brush or the cat litter. Being a snail nomad is a doddle; being a boat squatting nomad is a lot trickier for my poor little, easily confused, brain. Each boat I’ve lived on has had specific things I’ve loved and the one thing that both NoProblemXL and Indigo Dream had that I really miss on Francoise is a side hatch. It’s so handy for letting Daisy out, emptying out your dustpan and having a thoroughly good nose as to what’s happening outside……now where do we keep the metal cutters?

By Tuesday morning we were just about sanitised, had food in the fridge and said our goodbyes; not for long this time though, as Friesland is a small place with a lot of waterways, so we’ll never be far away – time to go.


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Ouch, ouch!

Posted by contentedsouls on 27/05/2018

All locked out and hurting.

Before we left the Cape of Good Hope we got chatting to a couple with a beautiful dog – actually, we got chatting to the dog and then the people said they thought they knew us; but not the boat we were on. They remembered us from way back when, when we had been into their boatyard to get Matilda Rose’s engine mounts fixed which had sheared off. In an attempt to save us money, they had fitted us with alternative – cheaper – mounts than the ridiculously over-priced Vetus mounts. Unfortunately Matilda Rose didn’t appreciate our budget measures; vibrating her socks off and shivering Daisy’s food off of the work surface and opening all the cupboard doors and drawers. We were forced to return to Sarah and Gary at Lyons boatyard and refit with the original Vetus parts. It cost them money as their engineer, David, had to remove and replace the old ones and we only paid for the difference in the spare parts. They remembered us – get this – because we didn’t get angry and gave them good reviews for their service. A lovely catch up and big hugs from Sarah before we left them. Brilliant.

Meanwhile, back at our very tight mooring, Daisy introduced us to our ‘overlapping’ neighbours who, fortunately, are avid cat owners and lovers; Graham (I know, they get everywhere these Grahams) and Jan. We agreed in principle to do the Hatton 21 the next morning but we couldn’t commit to a time as toilet emptying had now become our highest priority. We phoned the Saltisford Arm boatyard and they advised us to reverse in for a pump out. G reversed her in perfectly and pump out achieved for a mere £15. Job done, we headed to the bottom of the Hatton flight to find our lock buddies just tucking themselves in and ready for us to join them. Unfortunately their Graham wasn’t well and my G was suffering from sciatica so Jan and I had a bit of a workout ahead of us with every lock against us.


Just over halfway up we encountered a volunteer lockie which allowed Jan or I to go ahead and set the next lock; 3 people makes such a difference. Hard work, but the fun company of Jan made the time fly by although it was the slowest time we had taken to do this flight; it didn’t matter – we were in no rush and we did it at a comfortable speed, rewarding ourselves with toasties and bacon butties, respectively, with icecreams all round to follow.

En route we encountered the most extraordinary couple coming down. He was on his own on a shortish boat and wouldn’t come out until our pair had left the lock below him; but, as a pair, there was nowhere for them to go unless he came out and pulled over to the side. Eventually he did, with great reluctance. I stayed back to close a gate for him and he then pulled out ramming the concrete adjacent to the entrance to the lock and ending up sideways across the gates, so I asked his lady lockwheeler if she would like me to leave both gates open. It took awhile before she could be persuaded to peel her earphones out of her lug’oles, so I repeated the question. Her response was, “whatever” (it’s the first time anyone has actually said that to me and I had a job to supress my giggles). I pointed out that I really did need to know if she wanted me to close the off-side gate or not. Her response was, “don’t care, whatever makes you happiest”. So I left ‘Mr and Mrs we’ve clearly had a row and would rather be anywhere else on this planet than doing the Hatton together’ to it – later finding out that Jan had had a similarly stimulating conversation with her at the lock above!!!!

We moored overnight on the embankment at one of our favourite spots and spent a leisurely day there before moving the tiny hop to the Tom O’ The Woods pub to pick up my friend Wendy for a sleepover additional crew to do the Knowle locks. For reference, the pub has been refurbished and is delightfully dog friendly.


All 3 of us were wacked, so it was an early night after a thrown together pasta supper. Wendy never changes (nor would I want her to) and she didn’t disappoint when she finished off the left-over cold pasta for breakfast in the morning – she is renowned for it.


We had not done the Knowle locks before (previously going the Lapworth route) and they were really pretty; despite a dull and chilly start to the day. Wendy, an avid gardener, had to be recalled at one point having spotted the lovely lock side border.



Shortly afterwards we reached the point where we had agreed to leave Indigo Dream and G drove Wendy back to her car. I know we didn’t have much time together but, that we did have, was very precious time.

So that was it for us; Just the packing and cleaning to do. The plan (yeah, I know. The ‘p’ word again) was to finish off everything we needed to do by around mid-day the following day, have lunch in the pub and sleep in the afternoon before leaving about 10pm to catch the 4am ferry from Dover. Around 12 ish on the Thursday we were just about done and G came up with a much betterer plan; so we skipped lunch and sleeping and headed off to Cookham to scrounge dinner off of say goodbye to Sue and Vic and the girls. The nearest point to their mooring that we could park the van was quite a walk for Baxter, but he managed it – just – in his own time and was very pleased to reach Penny’s new bed. Muttley was off like a rocket as soon as he spotted NoProblemXL.


Leaving them at 9.30 we were in time to catch the 2.00am ferry and we were very glad we had upgraded to the Premier lounge as the ferry was rammed with 500 teenage passengers from 10 unexpected coaches (due to a problem on another Company’s crossings). I must admit to travelling with some trepidation as my Dutch friend, Gezina, had forewarned me that Francoise was in, ‘a bit of a mess’. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the ‘essence of unloved boat’ that assaulted my nostrils as we opened the doors.

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Holiday boaters–that’s us

Posted by contentedsouls on 15/05/2018

We stayed in Braunston Friday night so that G could watch his grandson play in a big ‘finals’ footie match. Unfortunately a player was injured near the start of the game and couldn’t be moved until the ambulance arrived – 2 hours later! So the match was called off. Just as I was throwing dinner together to feed G in a rush before he had to leave, ‘Halfie’ (John and Jan) turned up, but we had only time for a quick natter. They told us that they had seen Matilda Rose turn off up the Oxford canal; so that put paid to any chance of a meet up with the new owners – perhaps it’s just as well.

Saturday morning we were holiday boaters in a hurry and left at 7.30 am; unfortunately it took us half an hour to top off the water and, by the time we reached the Calcutt locks, our friends on Funky Fish were paired off and locking down. Even that early in the morning there was a boat waiting for us to finish watering so that they could get in. I did manage to prise himself off the tiller eventually (after whacking him over the knuckles with a monkey wrench), but not for long.


We caught up with Funky Fish at the top of the Stockton flight and had just started locking down with them when Richard appeared on his bike to give us a hand.


We moored by the Two Boats and took delivery of the marmalade and chutney that had been overlooked (thank you so much Sue ID and eat your heart out Sue NP). After eating lunch at the pub, Richard kindly drove G back to Braunston to pick up our van; taking it onwards to our destination and returning G to the boat. This left us free to cruise our little socks off like holiday boaters in a hurry – we didn’t though, we stayed the night; well we had done 11 miles and 13 locks.



Daisy quickly recovered from an assault on the boat by an Alsatian which spotted her from the pub terrace and came hurtling down the towpath at her. She gave it the evil eye as it approached, before casually popping back onto the roof of ID. The Alsatian went demented; barking, growling and leaping in the air to try and get to her. Eventually, the owner sent a small girl (smaller than the dog) down to the dog which, by this time, had wound itself into a frenzy – Muttley and Baxter joined in the mayhem of course, whilst Daisy spat. I asked the girl to pick up the dog’s lead (still attached) and take the dog away, but she ignored me and looked back to her parents (still at the pub) for assistance. In the end it calmed down and trotted back to the pub. Extraordinary behaviour from the owners whose only response was to call it from time to time.

Sunday we had a lie in and didn’t leave until 8.45. We locked down the 10 locks with some pleasant people on a hire boat with their dog Zeta; the latter falling in at one point and having to be fished out by her life jacket. We warned them that we would be stopping at Kate’s boats for a pump out; we weren’t desperate, but wanted to be sure to get the job done (as it were) before we left ID. Not a soul around the boatyard anywhere so we gave up on that and carried on through Warwick to the last two locks of the day. Needless to say, the first flush of the loo after failing to get a pump out and the red ‘tank full’ warning light came on.


As I approached the Cape Locks G went up to work the one side for me and then I was joined by another boat – a single hander and an uphill lock, so G had to work both sides himself – how I laughed. My amusement quickly faded though when I realised that I was physically challenged on the helm of ID. With the tiller fully to the right I couldn’t reach the throttle; so I’m now restricted to the left hand side of locks! This boat swims so well that you really do have to be very light on the throttle.


We were looking to moor by the pub before doing the Hatton 21 in the morning. As usual it was very busy but G spied a space that he reckoned was just about big enough – I happily relinquished the tiller and, as always, he was right…nice parking skipper! It seemed that it would be a good idea to pop into the pub, so that was us done for the day.


Whilst we were sat outside enjoying the sun, the hire boat we’d locked with went past us. They’d already done the 10 Stockton locks before joining us for 10 more and were heading on to do the Hatton 21 at 3.30pm – what it is to be young and enthusiastic. It seems we’re still a bit too lightweight to be holiday boaters!

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Who would believe that one tiny switch could cause so much chaos!

Posted by contentedsouls on 12/05/2018

Having got everything sorted and ship shape on Indigo Dream in G’s absence, he arrived back to say that Jill and Gary were hot on his heels – Jill and Gary being our winter neighbours in the NL. They are back in the UK due to the imminent arrival of Princess Archbold; grandchild number ….? Can’t keep up with the numbers; it’s like with Chas and Liz Faux – a positive epidemic and world take-over bid.

They arrived with Chula the French Basset and Gem the greyhoundy, Collie, Sheperdy, rescue dogs. Dinner at the pub and then it was way too late for them to go off and find a campsite and pitch a tent; so we investigated Sue and Richards sofa which turned out to be a sofa bed; so that was that sorted for the night (no, we weren’t taking liberties with Indigo Dream; Sue and Richard were adamant that we didn’t pussyfoot around and should just enjoy her and treat her like home). Now one of the mysteries of the learning curve on Indigo Dream has been finding the light switches.  Eventually we turned the lights off (they hide behind curtains!) and we all turned in for the night. The next morning I went to flush the loo (sorry if this conjures up too much detail or you are eating) and nothing happened. Checked the water pump fuses and all the usual culprits….no water. Checked the water tank gauge and it was showing empty – this was crazy as it was 3/4 full when we went to bed. Had we sprung a leak? Nothing for it but to pull on our clothes (not as much as a cup of tea or coffee between us) and hot boat it back to the marina to fill with water. Attached the hose to the tap back in the marina and within 5 minutes the tank was overflowing. So we all sat down and re-thought it through logically trying to make sense of it – there’s a little switch that hides behind the wine glass rack


and then we realised we had twiddled it whilst looking for the ‘off’ switch for the saloon lights. We pressed it back to ‘on’ and hey ho we had water. Later on in the day I spoke to Richard and mentioned the switch, before I could say anymore, he said, “oh, the one that turns the water off? We never touch it”. How bloody daft did we feel – especially as we were under some pressure for me to make a dental appointment in Northampton at 10.30. By the time we got to the appointment G and I were gibbering wrecks.

Given that Jill and Gary were there with their car (and itching for a cruise), we hatched a plan to position a vehicle at Braunston and headed off. 13 double locks (I think) – my first locks in over 4 years and we arrived in Braunston around 7pm. What a heavenly, heavenly day. We shared the locks up the Buckby flight with a delightful couple and then picked up another delightful couple to share down with. We were all deliciously physically wrecked (my first locks in over 4 years) and I just about managed to stay on my feet long enough to throw some food at a pan before we fell into bed – remembering not to touch the water switch!


Gem had fallen in and had to be rescued. I was working ahead to set the next locks (and all the Buckby top gates had swung open of course – no change there then), with every one of the locks, but the first, against us. The paddles on the top gates coming down into Braunston were almost immovable with a blackboard sign saying, “ C & RT are aware that these paddles are stiff – the problem has been reported”. 4 European softies had a bit of a workout and also had a ball.

We woke in the morning to a normal, panic free day (where water flowed freely) and indulged ourselves at the Goongoozlers Rest narrowboat cafe for giant sized breakfasts – G couldn’t finish his; this has to be a first.


We waved fond farewells to the motley crew of Norderzoon yesterday morning, made another trip to the dentist and found narrowboat Funky Fish had arrived with Colin and Eva and their Norwegian friend, single handler, Kirsty on our return. Colin and Eva have a cat Diesel and two dogs Mutley and Misty. We haven’t seen them for 7 years when we poled up in Birmingham for a two night stop (for a concert) and got stuck in the ice there for 53 nights – we made friends when they kept us supplied with water during the freeze up from their Birmingham mooring. Later going to their wedding. We only made it to their wedding courtesy of Richard’s help locking us up the 21 through the Aston and Farmers’ flights after I had been unwell and wasn’t allowed to do much – amazing how things and people all tie up! So it was off to the pub for a good old catch up.


In the galley doing the washing up this morning, G shouted look, look! Couldn’t believe it; of all the boats and all the canals and this brief time of ours on the Grand Union. Nice to see that they hadn’t painted over my birds on the side shutters …yet.


So it’s onwards in the general direction of the Hatton flight tomorrow; early start and a long cruise. Perfik!

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Moving squats

Posted by contentedsouls on 10/05/2018

By 10am on Saturday, NoProblemXL was emptied of everything but our overnight stuff (not inconsiderable with the menagerie) and as clean and shiny as we could make her. Job done, G settled down to grab 40 winks when he was rudely awoken by visitors in a fleet of cars (well 2 cars actually); he was just about to grumble when we remembered that the ‘visitors’ lived there. For the next hour or 3, organised chaos reigned as Sue’s daughters supervised the unloading and Sue supervised the unpacking.


I was impressed by how quickly two car loads of stuff disappeared into their rightful places and order was restored– a credit to the packer at the other end. Just as well really because, shortly after, Sue and Richard arrived with greyhounds Saffy and Archie; new ropes and a licence for Indigo Dream and chutney and marmalade for Sue and I. Fish and chips all round and then they left us to see to the hounds that had stayed at home. By 9.30, the rest of us were all a bit tired and I nearly nodded off on the stern deck. Around 10.30 the others all revived and it turned into a bit of a party – inevitable really, what with Sue and Vic’s coming home at last and it being Sue’s birthday the day before….as the day turned into ‘tomorrow’, the remaining four dogs went to bed (they do have a bed each, but prefer to share – well Baxter doesn’t but he doesn’t get much say in the matter! – although Penny, of course, stayed on cat watch duty.


After a few hours sleep, G and I were up and creeping around loading up the van with our final bits; which was when we discovered that only one bag of preserves had been left – before I could sneak off with them, Sue was up and demanding half; the ensuing bun fight wasn’t pretty, but I did manage to hang on to the apple and garlic chutney but lost out on the smoky marmalade that Indigo Dream Sue left especially for me. Hmph.

By 8.45, the menagerie were loaded, goodbyes said (how I hate goodbyes) and we were on our way to Ascot; not the races but an early (bank holiday Sunday) hospital appointment for my echo cardiogram. Job done and we were on our way to join the traffic jams on the M25; destination the narrowboat Indigo Dream – our new squat.

How lucky are we to have such good friends willing to lend us their beautiful boats in our time of need.


We made the mistake of travelling Daisy sideways in her carrier; a mistake we won’t make again! I’ll spare you the details but it required a stop off in Tesco’s car park for a major clean up; not fun in the heat – the poor love was distraught.

Now one of the many wonderful things about boats is that, if you don’t like the neighbours, you can move. We had intended to stay the night in the marina and get unpacked and settled in. However, our marina neighbours were on board polishing and cleaning and he expressed considerable disapproval regarding Daisy’s presence – he ‘mentioned’ (in several different ways) that it was against marina rules to let animals roam free and how ‘unhappy’ he would be if Daisy was to set paw on his shiny boat – that was the gist of it anyway. I passed his feelings onto G who finished unloading the van, dumped our stuff inside the boat and left. Yeahhhhh – moving again.


We didn’t move (as) far (as I would have liked on such a glorious day) as we had to dunk Daisy in the sink – what a treat for her in her new home – settle Baxter and hotfoot it back down the road with Muttley to get the van and drive to Antony’s by 4pm for a family BBQ. Good fun in the sun with 4 of the 6 grandchildren there. When we returned to ID, Baxter was snoring on the sofa and Daisy was still sulking where we’d left her, although she quickly perked up.

By the time we’d made the bed up and found the necessary things to sort the animals out and make tea in the morning we were a little bit tired!

Monday morning G was off for an overnight visit to his Mum’s, which gave me a clear day to find where everything was and get our stuff stowed away without G trying to ‘help’. It was during this excercise that I discovered that the main box containing our food was missing (despite it having a red ‘dot’ label); due to our haste to get away from Mr Miserable the previous day I hadn’t noticed, so it was cold chicken for lunch and chicken crisps sandwiches for supper followed by a bar of chocolate for dessert – I understand G took his Mum out to dinner and had a rather nice, large rib-eye steak.

It was another scorching day and Baxter loves the sun but I feared he would cook what’s left of his brains, so I spent a considerable amount of time wrestling with a particularly recalcitrant umbrella. When I finally managed to get it to stay up in the right place, the system worked rather well.


Until Daisy came along and ousted him – that’s his indignant look.


Muttley? He hid indoors all day until it was cool enough for me to take him down to the stream for a walk and then he retired to the rear deck for the entirety of the cooler evening.


Clearly Daisy’s reputation has arrived before us as we haven’t been visited by a single Greyhound ……. yet!

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Brains, hearts and hill climbs

Posted by contentedsouls on 04/05/2018

Wednesday was a return visit to neurology for my brain CT and CT angio results – contrary to the opinions of both G and close friends’ I do, indeed, have a brain and it is ‘normal’. Here’s a picture to prove it.


Whilst it is very re-assuring to know that my blackouts are not being caused by any nasties lurking in my head, I would very much like to know what has been causing them so cardiology (seen last Monday) has fitted me up with wires. The nice wire fitting man did suggest I lose the rucksack and tuck the wires into my trousers before going out in public in order to avoid attracting unwanted attention from armed police and sniffer dogs.


I guess he did have a point. I only have this heart monitor attached for 24 hours, so I thought I’d take it out for a test drive. There are two ways up that hill; the steep climb or the more gentle one – in order to give the monitor something to think about, I decided to take the steep climb up there. It was quite steep in places too and I had to stop twice to ‘admire the view’ – mind you, having become used to the flatlands of the Netherlands, the escalator into Sainsbury’s looks quite daunting!


A lovely walk along the top with great views of NoProblem XL down below and a Red Kite ridge soaring alongside me (I nearly took a decent photograph of it). I came down by a more gentle route as I didn’t fancy reversing the climb – I’d have had to slide down on my bum. The bluebells were fabulous in the sunshine.



Muttley was desperate to cool off and have a drink when we finished and, much as I considered joining him, I waited until reaching The Bounty before quenching my thirst. He had a big cuddle with G when we returned to the boat to complain about the nasty woman that dragged him around the countryside for nearly 3 hours (conveniently forgetting to mention the bit where he ate pork scratchings at the pub).


We’ve had some quite dramatic changes in weather recently which always makes for good photo opportunities


Tomorrow the heart monitor comes off and Sunday I get to see what the inside of my heart looks like. I’m discovering new bits of myself on a regular basis at the moment, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to share my heart with you! Because of all this ‘stuff’ going on at various hospitals in this area, we have postponed our move onto narrowboat Indigo Dream until Sunday lunchtime ish. We are all packed up and stowed away on the van ready to move Vic and Sue and all their stuff back to their home tomorrow – I suspect Saturday night might be party night; especially as it was Sue’s birthday today. Happy Birthday my friend.

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