Thursday, 25 August 2016

Go east old man

It would be much easier to drive this rental car if the other idiots drove on the right other side of the road. I’m starting to adjust although  occasionally I reach for the gear stick on the left when it’s now on the right.  The three pedals are tiny and there’s not much room for my size 9 feet in the foot well.  It’s a small four door Renault Megane with a Singer sewing machine for an engine and it wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding.  But then it runs on the smell of an oily rag.  Actually it would probably run on the smell of my socks after the weather this week.

I’m flying on Ryanair.  What can I say…… everything is ‘plus..plus’!  If you don’t check-in online and print your own boarding card then that’s an extra.  Their online check-in process is a trap for the unwary and you could easily accidentally opt for some ‘extras’.  Boarding seemed very inefficient and I thought “This flight won’t leave on time!”  I though there was advertising on the back of the seat in front and where was the safety card?  After putting on my glasses I realised the safety instructions were on a decal pasted to the rear of the seat in front (along with an ad for food).  There is more advertising on to front of the overhead lockers.  The seats don’t recline which is probably a blessing on a short trip.  I thought it was a bit rich when the pilot blames the company contracted to Ryanair to load the baggage for the delay.  I guess our departure will be recorded on time because it wasn’t their fault!  But you get what you pay for so I’m not complaining.

Today I went east and visited Luxembourg.  It was my first visit and I was curious about what I’d find.  I parked the car on the outskirts of the city and walked in via the linear park beside the river.  Actually it’s was a very narrow open drain with little water.

IMG_0463

The centre of the city is on the high ground to the left in the above photo.  After passing under the bridge I eventually reach what appeared to be a natural break in the cliff face which I was able to walk up arriving in the local government area.

IMG_0464

The old stone wall to the right in the above photo is part of the original lower gatehouse.  There were some good views from the top.

IMG_0466IMG_0467IMG_0469

Luxembourg is a Grand Duchy.  The current Grand Duke is Henri.  Until 2008 he exercised executive power however after he refused to sign a law legalizing euthanasia the constitution was amended stripping him of all constitutional powers. 

I think Henri must have been on his summer holidays as there were no guards outside his palace.

IMG_0472

The Palace

Luxembourg appears quite affluent when compared to southern Belgium. 

IMG_0473IMG_0475IMG_0476

IMG_0478 

All the swingers had gone home!

Much of Luxembourg is covered in forest which form part of the Ardennes region.  I was rather interested in the Ardennes and the next leg of my journey too me North to Bastogne.

Bastogne is famous for the siege which occurred there in 1944.  The German army had identified the heavily wooded Ardennes as a weak point in the Allied front line.  They planned an armoured and infantry thrust through the region with the intention of capturing the port of Antwerp and splitting the Allied forces.  All seven routes through the Ardennes joined in the town of Bastogne which created a choke point.  The Allies only had one weak American infantry division in the area when the surprise attack occurred. Allied forces were through into the battle in a holding action with the American 101 Airborne Division reaching Bastogne before being cut off.  The 101st and other troops in Bastogne held out against German forces for 7 days before the siege was lifted by General George Patton’s 3rd Army.  Allied forces attacked the German salient from the north and south cutting it off.  It was subsequently known as “The Battle of the Bulge”

IMG_0479IMG_0480IMG_0481

Bastogne town square with my small red Renault in the foreground.

I wanted to get an understanding of the local terrain and opted to drive using the secondary roads rather than motorways.  Much of the forest appears to now be farmland.   Eventually I arrived at Liege which is a major city in eastern Belgium.  To be honest I was disappointed with the city.  It didn’t have much in the way of interesting architecture.  The traditional coal and steel industries have gone and the city appears to be in decline.  However Liege is famous for it’s Belgium waffle which is thick and reputedly tasty.  I had read it should be eaten hot so spent considerable time attempting to find an outlet selling hot waffles.  Eventually I did find one.

IMG_0484

Yes the Australian Home Made Ice Cream shop sold the waffles!  Now one thing I wouldn’t think Australian was good at was ice cream.

IMG_0486

My Belgium waffle.  There is no way I could eat that much cream so it had to go!  However the waffle was quite tasty.

IMG_0483

The River Meuse.  Liege has the 3rd largest river port in Europe and is also linked to Antwerp by canal.

IMG_0485IMG_0487

Another canal

Well here I am looking out the window and on the far side of the car park is the railway station.  Between me and the station is what I had assumed was a large drain.  To my surprise boats were moving when I looked this morning.

IMG_0491

IMG_0489

I’m in Charlerio, Belgium and below me is the river portion of the Charleroi Canal which runs to Brussels.  There isn’t much to see in Charlerio except for the ‘ladies of the night’ operating on the street corner around from my hotel.  I went for an evening walk and was offered hashish so you get the picture. 

Today I drove to Brugge having read it was very attractive and had a network of canals/rivers.

IMG_0438IMG_0439IMG_0441IMG_0455

OK, that’s the river bit!  There’s also some interesting architecture.

IMG_0428IMG_0431IMG_0433IMG_0435IMG_0437

Apparently Brugge is famous for its muscles mussels, so I had to try a kilo in one of the local restaurants.

IMG_0443Then it was time to head back to my cheap hotel (and the girls:-)

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Tyne Cot

Daniel and I are on a family pilgrimage to Belgium.

We have a family link to Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium.  My great uncle, Thomas Eaton (my mother’s uncle) has his name recorded on the wall in the NZ section of the WW1 cemetery.  He has no known grave dying on the first day the NZ Division was involved in the 3rd Battle of Ypres.

My great grandmother had six children (no TV).  Two of her sons served in WW1, with Thomas dying at Ypres and Laurie dying of the Spanish Flu on his return to NZ.  My grandfather was too young for WW1 and too old for WW2.  A lucky age!

Tyne Cot was in German held territory and reputedly named by the Northumberland Division because the shape of the concrete bunkhouse was similar to a typical Tyneside workers' cottage – Tyne cots.

IMG_0416

The main entrance to Tyne Cot Cemetery

The suggestion for the erection of the cross at the cemetery was apparently made by King George V during a visited to the cemetery in 1922.  The base of the cross encases the original German bunkhouse.

IMG_0418

A small portion of the original concrete bunkhouse can be seen in the middle of the above photo.

The terrain around the cemetery is low rolling Belgium countryside with the bunkhouse on a slightly higher piece of ground dominating the area.  It was therefore tactically important.  The bunkhouse and surrounding ground was captured by the 3rd Australian Division early in the battle.  However it changed hands several times before being taken for the final time in 1918 by Belgium forces.

IMG_0414

The surrounding countryside

After the war the King of Belgium gave the land the cemetery occupies to the people who lay there.  The maintenance of the cemetery was eventually giving to the newly created Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

At the end of the war the allied dead from nearby graves were consolidated at Tyne Cot and it eventually became the largest British cemetery on the western front.

IMG_0415

IMG_0417

After completing the construction of the Menin Gate memorial it was quickly realised there would be insufficient room to record all the names of those who had been killed and had no known grave.   All those who died after 15 August 1917 would have their names recorded on a wall which would be constructed at Tyne Cot (see photo below)

IMG_0423

The NZ contingent of the recently formed Commonwealth War Graves Commission refused to have the names of their dead consolidated and insisted they be listed at the nearest cemetery to the location of the soldiers death.  At Tyne Cot there is a New Zealand Apse built into the wall.

IMG_0419

NZ Apse

IMG_0420

We found my great uncle’s name on the second panel.

IMG_7184

His name is also recorded on the war memorial in his home town of Dannevirke, NZ.  I took the following photo in 2009 during our last visit to NZ.

The War Memorial

Tom Eaton

Searching for additional information has been interesting.

32150 Pte Thomas Eaton of Te Papakuku, Hawkes Bay, NZ
Auckland Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion

He was from the Hawkes Bay and if he had enlisted at the beginning of WW1 would have been in the Wellington & Hawkes Bay Regiment.  However by 1916 NZ had suffered heavy losses and a decision had been made to avoid reinforcements being geographically grouped as it was realised areas of NZ might be stripped of men after the war.  So he was allocated to the Auckland Regiment reinforcements.

Losses had been heavy and the number of suitable men volunteering had fallen so conscription was introduced in August 1916.  This wasn’t popular and led to subsequent ‘issues’.  My guess is my great uncle was either conscripted or as a carpenter he had been in a protected occupation until 1916.

On 15 Nov 1916 he sailed for the UK from Wellington NZ aboard the Maunganui arriving in Plymouth on 30 January 1917.   He was killed on the opening day of the first battle of Passchendaele 12 October 1917.

New Zealand had one of the highest casualty-and death-rates per capita of any country involved in

Total troops 138 304
Volunteer  83 024
Conscripted  32 270
Served overseas 100,000 from pop of just over 1 million
killed 16697
wounded 41 397
casualty rate 58%

Sunday, 21 August 2016

66% success rate

We’re back in Brownsover for my annual dental check and bi-annual prescription renewal.  On Friday morning I walked into Rugby for the dental appointment.  Either the dentist has forgotten me or I’m getting better looking as she wanted to take a couple of photos.  However it seemed rather strange that both she and her assistant stood around the corner when pressing the shutter button.  They developed the photos on the spot and I was back on the street 20 minutes after entering the clinic.

In the afternoon it was another walk into Rugby to see the doctor about more of my ‘go slow’ heartworm tablets.  I never see the same doctor so I do hope they maintain accurate records.  After waiting 35minutes the receptionist arrived in the waiting room to tell me the doctor had been double booked and would I see another?  “No problem”.  Twenty minutes later she returned to tell me the first doctor would find time for me and asked me to return to the original waiting room.  50 minutes later and after several people had seen the doctor ahead of me I went back to query the situation with the receptionist. “Had I been forgotten?”  That resulted in me being the next to see the doctor.  Five minutes later I was a free man with a prescription for the next six months.  The pharmacy is attached to the surgery so that’s the next stop. After yet another wait I’m advised by the pharmacist that they can only partially fulfil my prescription and could I come back tomorrow for the rest (nothing new there; it has happened every time).  I tell her ”I’ll come back tomorrow afternoon!”

After lunch yesterday I walked into Rugby for the third time.  The main door to the pharmacy was unlocked but the lights were off and the security mesh door was down and locked.  The sandwich board was out the front and according to it the pharmacy should be open.

20160820_133948

It’s not open today so we’re stuck in Brownsover until tomorrow. 

I have very mixed feelings about the NHS.  Part of me believe the idea of universal health care is very worthy.  However another part of me believes anything perceived as “free” is open to abuse by all parties.  Of course the NHS isn’t free.  The cost of operating it comes from direct and indirect taxes. 

I don’t want a return to my parents “bad old days” and remember my father telling me you had to pay to see the doctor and didn’t call him for things like measles, mumps, scarlet fever, chicken pox, cuts, sprains, etc.  These were all home treated.  My mother contracted polio aged 10 and was home treated by her parents using the standard family remedy for all illnesses.  They called it ‘hot and cold tets’ and it involved wrapping the patient in blankets that had been alternately soaked in either boiling or freezing water.  Apparently her family did this continuously for several days and she obviously survived.

There has to be a better way!

So much ranting… I won’t mention the boats overstaying on the water point! Winking smile

We had lunch at The Harvester beside the canal. nothing special about the meal but Jan was slightly pleased knowing she would get some cash back via Quidco.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

More bits and a solar assumption

First I have to apologise to reader and blogger Andy (nb Centurion).  Andy cruised past us on 9 Aug and spoke to Jan. <link here>.  All I managed to get was a photo of him disappearing and Jan’s comment about the boat name.  I should have realised it was Andy because his own blog appears on our blog list <link here>.  I’m claiming a senior’s moment!

Today I walked to Argos and collected the DC to DC power converter purchased recently from eBay.  The converters are actually cheaper to purchase directly from China but as we don’t have a postal address I needed a UK supplier who would either deliver Post Restante or via Argos.  The converter is a spare because I think the one being used to power the laptop is suffering from intermittent faults which probably means it will shortly fail.

IMG_0410

We use two of these little converters on Waiouru.  The first powers the 240V TV from the 12V domestic battery bank.  The Samsung TV has an external power adapter (brick) which converts 240V AC to 14V DC  I cut the power adapter off the TV and wired it into one of the DC to DC converters increasing the battery voltage from 12V to 14V.  Of course the battery bank is never as low as 12V and usually around 13-14V so the converter has a very easy life.  The second converter powers the laptop raising the voltage up to the required 19.2V.  This converter has a slightly harder life which is probably why it’s starting to fail.

I’ve been watching the solar panel input readings over the last four months and noticed something.  The solar system has a monitor displaying the voltage and amps being generated.  I’ve noticed that on a bright sunny day the solar panels might not produce an output, which is a bit of a surprise.  Then I realised this happened when the engine was running.  Waiouru is fitted with a Sterling pro-digital advanced regulator (PDAR) which is hard wired into the large 175A alternator.  Amongst other things, the PDAR forces the alternator to produce a higher voltage.  With our large flooded lead acid traction batteries it is set to produce 14.8V rather than the usual 14.4V.  I suspect the 14.8V is higher than the maximum voltage produced by the solar panel controller so the panels contribute nothing to the battery charging in this situation.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Go or stay?

A boaters meeting this morning to decide whether to leave the quiet rural mooring or stay.  We need to be in Rugby on Friday for my annual maintenance appointments with the dentist and doctor.  In the end two factors led us to the decision to move.  The most important was the assessed availability of a mooring at Brownsover.  Being mid week there was a high probability of finding a vacant mooring, whereas on Friday the moorings might be occupied by local hire boats scheduled to return on Saturday morning.  The second factor was the condition of the pantry.

CRT had already sent an email warning about a vehicle in the canal at Bridge 44 and a boater who passed on Sunday suggested we also be careful of the overhanging trees on the opposite side.  As we approached the bridge we could see a small white sign.  The text was too small for our old eyes and we couldn’t read it until the bow was in the bridge hole.  It was a caution sign.  Fortunately the vehicle had already been removed.  The only sign of the incident were the wheel marks in the grass and the disturbed coping stones on the bridge approach.

P1030180You can see the small signs in the above photo.  One wonders how the driver managed to miss the bridge approach ending up in the canal?

It would be foolish to pass Armada Boatyard without taking advantage of their cheap diesel (58ppl).  We took 112 litres in the tank and containers.  Just as we were about to depart a working boat approached from the south.  It was Chelsey. 

IMG_0407

A further two boats passed us in quick succession suggesting the moorings at Brownsover might be emptying.  Rather than continuing directly to Rugby we stopped at Newbold to top up the water tank.  This is where four more boats heading north passed by.  Whilst waiting for the tank to fill I happened to notice something wrong with the Newbold canal noticeboard.  The photo may be too small for you to see it.  

IMG_0408

I have a thing about noticeboards.  They loose value when the information becomes dated.  The only CRT information on the board is the sticker adjacent to the ‘Visitor Information’ at the top.  All the other canal information has a British Waterways letterhead.  CRT was created in July 2012 so all the official information on this board is more than four years old.  Much of it is probably obsolete. 

To our surprise we arrived at Brownsover to find only three moored boats.  It’s nice when a plan works!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The hussy and the beer thief

The moment we decided to move Hawkesbury Junction started to get busy.  A boat went through the stop lock ahead of us and another passed by whilst we topped up the water tank.  Then a further two boats pulled out in front of us.  We were now fifth in a slow convoy.It was tick over until Ansty. 

The farmers have been working hard bringing in the harvest and making hay.

IMG_0403

At Ansty Jan noticed the boys and girls have been separated.  However one hussy wanted desperately to join the boys and was trying to kick down the gate.

P1030173Whilst her friends seemed happy to keep an eye on the children. 

P1030174

An oncoming Clifton Cruisers hire boat had a minor crisis at Squires Bridge managing to foul the propeller and then the canal.  We waited in the bridge hole whilst the steerer looked at us as if we could do something to resolve his problem.  Eventually he used his boat pole to get the boat against the bank.  I did suggest a couple of burst of reverse might help but he seemed to think something mechanical had failed so we left him to it!  By the time we reached Rose Narrowboats hire base we’d caught up with the convoy.  We even had two boats behind us.  Fortunately this meant we didn’t have to worry about opening or closing the pedestrian swing bridge.

P1030175

There was a vacant mooring in a line of boats just beyond Easenhall Bridge which we managed to squeeze into.  By now it was 12.30 and we knew if we carried on all the good moorings would be taken.  That proved to be the case with numerous boats passing all afternoon.  The folding chairs and table were extracted from storage around 6pm with the intention of sitting in the late afternoon sunshine and sinking a few cold ales.  I couldn’t believe the cheek of some people when this fat, grey haired old bugger grabbed my seat and drank my lager!

P1030178

Jan didn’t bat an eye as he wolfed down my drink and half the pate.

On a more positive note we’ve found another boaters blog after Linda sent us an email informing us she and Richard (nb Mary H) were heading in the same direction as us.  <blog link here