Lived onboard Hadar

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Alvechurch to Birmingham.

Wednesday 30th July.

Alvechurch to Birmingham, Bridge 88.

6 am the alarm goes off, and Marmite walks over us, meowing to make sure we know we have to get up. Having had a night of heavy rain tap-dancing on the roof of the boat, we were not surprised to see it was still raining, albeit only a few drops. Poor Keith had been awake since 4 am, and was just dozing off when the alarm sounded, so he was not for jumping out of bed.
Paddy was not for walking this morning because of the wet conditions, but a dog must do what a dog must do, so we set off along the towpath, we had only gone a few yards and he did what he needed, then did an about turn and legged it back to the boat. He is such a wimp when it comes to getting wet.
6.45 am we left our over night mooring, scaring a heron into flight, it’s wings beating furiously as it tries to gain height to miss the trees. A fisherman is out early to catch the first fish, with his flask of hot tea to hand. A Kingfisher scurried ahead of the boat, a flash of blue as if to show us the way. Even on a dull, damp morning, nothing could dampen our spirits, especially when surrounded by such beauty, which is then only spoilt by the M42 and its rumbling traffic, and the graffiti in huge black letters scrawled on the bridge walls ‘Stop Eating meat, be a Vegan’. My reply to that was ‘Stop your graffiti, its spoiling the countryside’.
It was not long before we delved into the darkness of Wast Hill Tunnel (ear plugs firmly in ears). Its imposing walls and ceiling running with water, leaving lime scale deposits, like coloured pictures. Some Twenty minutes later, I saw an arrow and the 900 metre sign pointing to the exit. As we exited the tunnel our eyes had to adjust to the daylight, albeit overcast. We arrived King’s Norton Junction, and carried straight on towards Birmingham.We were now in a much more built up area, with factories and lots of graffiti everywhere you looked, but very little rubbish in the canal, mind you we could not see what lurked under the water. In amongst the graffiti, we have seen a lot of flora, wild Honeysuckle, Golden Rod, Ragwort, wild Sweet Pea, and much more, it has been a real eye opener.We had the railway for company as we passed by the Bournville Station, and Cadbury Bournville Chocolate Factory. That is a place we want to visit, go and look at Cadbury World and its history of chocolate, a must for any chocolate lover.I was really surprised how pretty it was going into Birmingham, I imagined it would be much more built up, but most of the canal side is taken up with Birmingham University, which has a vast site along the canal. They even have their own Hydrogen Boat. We skirted past Selly Oak and still the railway followed us like a limpet attached to a ship.There were trains every couple of minutes going in both directions, we then headed into Edgbaston Tunnel 105 yds long and lit.We were soon approaching the end of our trip, having reached The Mailbox, so we found the first available mooring, near the sanitary facilities and tied Hadar up for the day, the time being 10.45 am.The last time I can remember coming to Birmingham was when I was about 9 or 10 years old, I came with my parents to a family wedding. My mother and her family are from Birmingham, I still have an aunt and uncle who lives in the city, sadly my Nan died a few years ago, at the age of 90, but she had lived in the city all her life. I cannot remember what the city centre looked like, so was really interested to see what it was really like. Keith last cruised this part of the system in 1996 and said everything had changed such a lot. It is now all cafĂ©’s and bars. First on the things to do was get some food shopping done, as the fridge was almost empty, so we found a small Sainsbury’s and stocked up on a few things. We later realised there is a Tesco Metro in The Mail Box. We then had lunch at Kinnaree a Thai restaurant, £4.95 for a lunch, it was really good. Having had lunch we then took a walk into the city, to look around and find our feet a little. I have never seen so many people, which I found quite intimidating. I was only to glad to hold on to Keith’s hand as we walked to the Bull Ring and around the shops. It was then my phone went off and who should be on the other end but Nick Owen from Midlands Today. We had been in touch with Nick through Myspace, and had remained in e-mail contact despite the fact that none of us keep our Myspace pages up anymore. I had e-mailed Nick saying we would be arriving in Birmingham and would love to meet up, so the phone call was to arrange a time for us to get together.
3.30 pm and Nick Owen came and met us on Hadar, he was all dressed up in his suit and tie ready for the news program that evening. Keith said “You really should not have dressed up just for us” which made him laugh. We welcomed Nick onboard, and gave him the guided tour of the boat, telling him some of her history and the reasons for the boatman’s cabin being as it is to this day. I think he was a little amazed at how much we have fitted into such a small space.It was wonderful to meet Nick in person, we have watched him since the days when he did the breakfast show with Anne Diamond, and now when we are in this neck of the woods we watch him on BBC 1's Midlands Today. Nick if you are reading this. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to come and see us, we really appreciate it. Due to time constraints Nick was unable to stop long, and we wished him well as he left to go back to work.
The rest of the afternoon was spent chatting to other boaters, including a couple on N.B Talisman who we met way back in February at Harecastle Tunnel. They recognised the boat and so we caught up on all the news and gossip. Our evening onboard was continually interrupted by a woman shouting at the bow of the boat, we did our best to ignore it. I noticed a community officer on a bike having a few words with the woman, so I reckon someone from the apartments had asked for assistance in getting her to keep the noise down.
I took my last photo of the day as the evening was closing in at The Mailbox.Thursday 31st July.

I had had a wonderful nights sleep and only got woken up at 6.30 am by a seagull calling out. For a moment I thought I was by the sea and not in Birmingham. Keith however had been kept awake by the boat in front of us. They had probably been to the pub and were drunk, they spent a fair while he said arguing and banging what he thought was wood on something, and he thought they may have even been hitting each other. We had been told about this couple by one of the residence in the apartments opposite their boat. He said “It was like watching a soap opera”. He told us they would come back from the pub in the early hours totally out of their heads and stand on the path rowing. So Keith was not so wide awake when it came to getting up at 8 am. We decided that we would take a walk into Birmingham and have a proper walk around; we went to the indoor markets, the Bullring and up and down all the other streets. Because it was just after 9 am, it was still quiet and it gave us a chance to enjoy the architecture before the hustle and bustle began. I am not one for crowds, I guess it comes from being bought up in the country, oh and the fact I am only 5 foot tall and hate people towering over me ha ha ha. Some of the buildings old and new are really beautiful. The old ones survived the blitz and are here to tell a story. The new ones do their best to compliment the old ones, so it is a good mix. We even sat and had a coffee outside at one of the street cafes.Once back onboard Hadar we thought we would move her from The Mailbox mooring and moor up near the NIA, where hopefully it would be quieter and Keith would get a decent night sleep. So we slipped off the mooring and through Gas Street Basin.The mooring was already quite busy with other boats, so we knew we would be safe with others around us. Having had some lunch we then headed off to The National Sealife Centre, as we had a free ticket for one of us to get in, unfortunately it would cost £15.50 for the other, so we qued up behind the masses and then paid the entrance fee. Now if we had, had to pay for both of us there is no way we would have gone in, because we felt it was over priced. But with one of us getting in free that was fine. The fish were really beautiful and the Rays were fantastic, we got a real feel for what lies beneath the oceans of our world. The highlight for me was seeing the Sea Otters, because I am passionate about them, oh and the walk through the tunnel where the fish swim over you, that was good as well. They have two giant Sea Turtles in the pool, they are magnificent. Basically we paid £15.50 for an hour and a half’s enjoyment.Whilst back onboard Hadar, I nipped up to the Tesco metro to get a couple of things we needed, and Keith stayed on the boat chatting to passers-by. By the time I got back he was nattering away to Chris who owns a cruiser named Fleur de Eau, I soon discovered that Chris uses the same boat forum as we do Boats and Canals, which I have to say is a very friendly forum for all boaters. It was lovely to meet Chris and his wife Mia; they are out on a boat club cruise, so we are surrounded by the Cheshire Boat Club boats this evening. We stood in the rain nattering away totally oblivious that we were getting wet. But who cares when you are in such lovely company. Keith and Chris soon found out that they had both been on Ashtac the same time back in the 1970’s and we most probably working on the same patch as well. It really is a small world.
The weather today has been showery, which was forecast, but even though it has rained on and off, it has not really been enough to get us soaked. Tomorrow we will be heading off to the Black Country Museum.

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