Miles and miles and miles

Miles, many miles, have passed under tyre wheels since the last Boatwif report.

Back then, breathless and jet-lagged at the end of November, there had been an estimate of 820 road miles over about 19 days travelled throughout Southern California. That followed a calculation of 820 sea, river and canal Cleddau miles, between April and October of last year.

And since early December there’s been more gobbling of road miles – to Kent for a surprise 70th birthday party,      to Pembrokeshire for a planned 90th birthday celebration,


to Cheshire (twice) to see Jaq on nb Valerie, to Aston Marina, near Stone, to fit a replacement cratch on the boat, 


to Henley-on-Thames to visit Carol and George on Still Rockin’,


to South Wales on an ancestor hunt


and further west to see the sea…



To mid-Pembs then, “the other side”, by Cleddau Bridge to view St Davids, the Bishop’s Palace and Cathedral secluded in a natural hollow.

Then, long before dawn on a midweek morning, there was a drive down the M1, round the M25, along the M4 to Heathrow, to bid a fond farewell to Jaq, now safely on the ground 4,700 miles away in Washington State. Surely the significant snowfall over there must make it feel a touch colder than back here in the UK…

Despite the road miles amassed in England and in Wales, the events of the last few weeks have owed something to other folks’ air miles . There was a strange conversation at the 70th birthday between the Captain and Godmanchester Friend’s oldest son. The son had just flown in from Beijing, while the Captain and Boatwif were only two days back from California. “Why, our body clocks are really 16 hours apart,” was the shared conclusion. Other travellers to the same event had flown in from Australia (1), from Sweden (2), from France (2) and from Connecticut (1).

Two weeks later, out west for the 90th birthday, there was the “birthday girl’s” granddaughter, a recent arrival from her teaching post in Bangkok, Thailand.     How the world feels smaller when friends and family can fly in for tea!

Christmas and New Year came – and went, a blur of welcome arrivals,    

festive foods and happy laughter.

When the house fell silent it was jigsaw time. 50 American states and 500 pieces wouldn’t be difficult – would it…? It was fairly taxing:     California gave more trouble than anticipated, maybe that was to do with its size… Is Maine really that far north?    There’s a lot of green above the US / Canada border – and Michigan (a previously unappreciated fact) appears as two territories separated by a vast expanse of inland water… After completion Jaq, a born and bred US citizen, provided some fascinating facts, pointing out, amongst other features, the tornado alleys, the Mason-Dixon Line and the observation that Michigan has the longest freshwater coastline of any political area in the world…

Then normal January prevailed. There was the now traditional excursion to Stratford-upon-Avon, to investigate the town, to stroll beside the river      and plod along the footpath that bisects the Stratford racecourse.


Boats there were moving on the river – the Bancroft Basin trip boat,    some chilly rowers and a sole narrow boat.     And what a name that narrow boat had… 

“This is a reverse Monkton Moment*,” the Captain proclaimed, setting off at a pace to cross the river via a footbridge to the Colin P. Witter Lock, there to interrogate the boat’s owner.    No Pembroke ex-pat was he, but a long-term fan of that fair place, a frequent visitor in former years. The Captain engaged in Cleddau talk across the lock chamber (the Cleddau Queen and Cleddau King ferries, the Cleddau Bridge and when it fell ) before moving on to nb Cleddau’s history, from ‘89 hull to recent upgrades). Eventually Pembroke‘s owner was allowed to leave the lock to continue downstream to his mooring at Luddington Lock.

As ever the RSC buildings proved a magnet.    The Christmas show has finished and the main auditorium is being set for the next new production,    but the smaller Swan Theatre provided two first class performances,    the hugely funny Tartuffe  (a Moliere plot set in present-day Birmingham) and Timon of Athens    (Shakespeare’s bleak and satirical tale of a swift transition from enormous wealth to crushing poverty).

Slow-paced strolling can provide quite unexpected visual treats: there’s a stage sword display at the RSC out on a roof, visible from the Tower’s second level

while readers of this sign might expect to view a famous man’s skeleton…    Perhaps it was this that was intended:

Back home, away from the Avon, the Captain has been poring over northern waterways maps, planning and revising cruising plans, conspiring to return to Liverpool and to maybe get to Leeds and York this coming season. There can be no watery miles yet though, not while Aston Lock immediately north is closed until 15th March and Salt Bridge a few miles south is closed between 11th February and 15th March.  So, for the next few weeks, to keep the miles up it’ll be on with the walking boots for some hikes across the fields…

 (Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)


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2 Responses

  1. Jaqueline Biggs says:

    I am exhausted all over again just reading through all of the events, knowing the mileage that also accompanied them. Deep and grateful thanks to you both and to your families for including me in holiday events and welcoming into their homes, and to you both, without whose help I could never have straddled the boat handover, shipping my belongings, and flying out to the States.

    Biggs big hugs and loads of love,

    Jaq xxx

  2. Hi Jaq,
    Not all those miles were with you in the car too – just some!
    I am so glad we were able to share so much of your last few weeks in the UK. We will treasure the memories of visiting the outdoor museum at St Fagan’s, finding family links in Barry with you and of showing you some of Pembrokeshire’s special places.
    Whenever I wonder what or how you are doing out in the US North West, at least I am relatively adept at thinking you are 8 hours behind UK time…
    Take care,
    Sue /Boatwif

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