I have been trying to lose weight which is hard when you don’t feel like you can walk far. So, I decided to be proactive with reducing my calories whilst increasing my exercise. Easy you say, not really because I have fibromyalgia as well as Alzheimer’s disease which both affect the ability to be active, but I decided that I could start slowly and build up. So, day one, I roughly calculated my calorie intake and walked around the marina at a brisk walk where I live. Day two, again keeping my calorie intake around 1000 kc, I walked further round the marina, coming back and falling asleep in the chair outside our boat on the pontoon! Feeling good about the exercise, and knowing that if I keep going I shall start to lose some weight and be fitter and healthier.
Barrowford Lock No 48 is broken and being repaired so we have been moored up for four days at Bridge 91 on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal until we can move knowing that we can ascend the flight.
There is a small herd of cows that wander in distinct patterns around the field. The trees at the top are where several Buzzards sit and we can hear their call during the day and evening. We have watched them soar around the fields alighting on different groups of trees as they hunt. So far we have been unable to get any photos of their splendour.
There is a male dragonfly whose patch is along the bank beside us, we stand and watch his patterns of behaviour so that when he lands we can photograph him. There were flashes of turquoise blue along his brown body, and his abdomen and head yellow and brown, with bronze colour wings, superb! Nature is so amazing.
Today Ella is staying close to the boat and not going into the field; we think she may have got stuck in the fence and hedge last evening because she came back without her collar on and wanted to cuddle up on my lap for the rest of the night which is unusual for her.
She catches voles, mice, shrews, and eats spiders, flies, and all sorts of creepy things. Daisy on the other hand has never liked furry animals preferring her prey to be slimy, and a long time ago used to bring in worms, frogs and fish from a neighbours garden (her prize ghost carp, oops!) and has not attempted to catch anything since moving onto the boat. Once Ella brought her in a mouse and put it down in front of her hoping she would join in the sport of chasing it, but Daisy looked disturbed and lost, so Ella had to claim it back as it ran.
Yesterday I watched the female dragonfly lay her eggs in the water on some reeds, and cursed not having my camera with me ready. I returned with my camera and a stool to sit and wait for her return but as the way of things she was nowhere to be seen. Today Mr Hs called to me that Daisy was bringing me a present, “Daisy?” I queried, and in she trotted with the female dragon fly firmly in her mouth. Proud of herself she announced her kill to me then proceeded to play with it, deftly removing the head. Yes, she loves a crunchy prey too! Abandoned on the carpet, both parts still moving, I picked it up and took some photographs, interesting to see it up close, but sad that she caught it.
A few minutes later, I saw Ella through the window, take a mouse up to Daisy who was now eating grass, and showed her, then proceeded to eat it.
I have been in and out of pain since the last set of seven locks which I did on my own. Both of us have found it hard this year physically, having to have rest days. I commented that we must be getting old, and Mr Hs said that our disabilities are making it hard. I agree with that, I remember him saying to me (in one of his accusing moments when I just wanted to rest) “you weren’t like this a year ago”, and thinking about it, I wasn’t. In the space of two years my physical and mental state has declined much to my own disappointment. However, I will not let that stop me, I imagine the pain of walking and winding stiff paddle handles, and pushing 2000kg of supposedly balanced gates open, is doing my arthritis good. At least there is chance of wearing away new nodules, as they say; use it or lose it. When you moor up in the countryside with the flowers, birds and insects around you it is all worth it. At times we have no idea where we are, even which County we are in, like now, we think we are in Lancashire.
Two weeks have passed since we left the marina, everything is back to normal and our travelling is becoming very enjoyable.
I have seen a Water Rail bird, a stoat, Mr Hs watched a badger through his binoculars. We have left the Trent & Mersey Canal onto the privately owned Bridgewater canal which is wide and relatively well kept. I have taken photos along the way of graffiti, interesting buildings and nice canal areas.
We have met some interesting people, and I have had some great lads help me on the locks. Two were smoking their joints wrapped in licorice papers, but were friendly and helpful. A group of boys eagerly helped asking a myriad of questions about the boat, how the locks work. We saw a group of idiotic children behind up stripping off and jumping into the locks to swim, if only they knew the dangers they were putting themselves in…
We have been down the Anderton Boat Lift to the River Weaver, and spent two days in beautiful soundings. We came back up the Anderton Boat Lift and carried on the Trent & Mersey. Mr Hs decided to that we would continue up towards Liverpool & Leeds and head up North. He didn’t wait for me whilst I was in the bathroom to go through a lock and nearly caught the boat on the cill, bending the rudder. I guess he wanted to prove to himself he could still do locks single handed.
Yesterday we climbed through 27 locks, the first two, then the 25 locks of the Wigan flight. These were double locks for two boats at a time, with big and heavy gates. I had struggled with about five before we were joined by another boat with plenty of bodies on board to help at the locks. These were locals and had it planned to a tee..one guy went ahead and set the locks up ready, and two others worked bringing the boats through. What would have taken us about eight hours, took two. Phew! thank goodness they came along. Back on the Liverpool & Leeds canal we saw how little maintenance the Canal and River Trust has been carried out. The locks were in bad state with rubbish caught in the paddles making them leak and unable to work properly. The anti vandal locks were not always working which meant that one pound had drained of all water and we had to refill it before we could progress any further, that meant sitting in the lock for an hour because the pound had enough water to get to the next lock.
The water had dropped about two feet down the flight, which makes it dangerous for boats getting caught on cills, leaving the locks and sinking which happened a few days ago.
There is no apparent work being carried out by CaRT to keep one of Britain’s heritage in working order for the benefit of all.
Once upon a time British Waterways employed Lengthmen who lived in lock-keeper cottages and looked after a length of the cut (canal). The cottages were sold off, and there is no one to care for, monitor, and be the eyes and ears of BW’s. The breach of the canal at Dutton could have been avoided had there been a lengthman who would have seen problems. At flights of locks one or two lengthmen could help, and monitor what was happening. Volunteer lock helpers are encouraged by CaRT to get boats through locks quickly and safetly, but they only appear to want to work on nice rural locks that boaters themselves would prefer to do. I understand that recently CaRT decided they could make some money by charging companies who offer their staff as volunteers during team building days. Now, I know that sometimes I have problems in understanding some things but that seems ridiculous. Needless to say a charge would negate volunteering and also stop it.
Anyway, we are now moored up opposite a golf course, and resting our weary and painful joints and muscles after yesterdays workout!
The big cruise. We set off out on the cut on Sunday 28th July 2013 unfortunately it was not in good circumstances as Mr Hs suffered a bit of ‘rage’ at me because I asked a question three times. I was just as shocked as our boat neighbour who discreetly disappeared into his boat, until we were backing out of our pontoon. As we continued along you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife between us. Fortunately I am not the sort of person who accepts bullying and abuse. However, this is out of character for him so I have no idea what is going on with him. As we were travelling he said sorry, but I should not have asked him more than once. “I have Alzheimer’s” I said “Its what I do, I can’t help it, its not my fault”.
I had been excited for this day when we could travel, having spoken to my doctor who phoned me two days previous and said she would contact the new Memory Clinic and tell them I would be away until October.
We moored up for the night, among trees having to use mooring pins in very soft soil, the mooring ahead of us with rings was occupied. In the morning Mr Hs suddenly had another rage at me, this time shouting and swearing leaning in towards me as he did so. I held my hand up and talked quietly and calmly to him telling him to stop. He told me I was the problem why he was raging, but I was not the one who had lost control of my temper! At that point he got dressed muttered something about going back and left the boat. I sat on the back in a chair drinking coffee, reading my book. Something was wrong and he was taking it out on me. I called my daughter and talked to her which made me feel better, and he returned two hours later as if nothing had happened.
We left and continued our journey, the countryside full of lovely long grasses and wild flowers. A field of traditional breeds of cows such as the Longhorn, all suckling calves. What a delightful sight to see.
After a few hours we moored up with fields on either side, we let the cats out and they explored the bank and the hedge. Ella sat with her eyes firmly fixed on whatever little secrets were further in until she eventually came running into the boat with her (very small) kill. I could not see what it was because she ate it all very quickly! Daisy just wanders sedately up and down, not straying far but enjoying the freedom. Today we left there and continued on our way towards Stone, and then Stoke. It has rained, been incredibly hot and humid.
I have seen a Water Rail in the reeds, and a large flock of Greylag Geese in a Stafforshire field. Ducks have got their second fledglings this year and we pass them at various ages.
Before we have reached Stoke, we have moored on a concrete edge looking across marsh one side of us, and a railway line the other side of the canal. We can’t let the cats out because of the bycycles coming along the towpath at speed.
We are back in the marina after a few days at Tixall. Soon we will be going out for a few months, lazily travelling and mooring up when we find a nice spot.
I have been waiting for an an appointment for the memory clinic in Derby (being transferred from Leicester), but if it doesn’t come soon we will leave anyway. I cannot live my life from one appointment to the next. My Alzheimer’s is not going to get any worse for not waiting, and life is definitely too short not to enjoy it.
This afternoon I sat at the bench on the grass at the end of the pontoons. I had a book and a cup of coffee. I had not been there long before another boater turned up with his dog Lewis and his ball. Lewis does not have an off button. You throw the ball and Lewis brings it back, then demands to be thrown again. He does not give up..It is tiring watching him. He came and sat at the table, then T joined us, followed by S his wife. We all sat chatting. Mr Hs had gone into my work to collect some paperwork which I could not deal with.
Meanwhile we sat and chatted, we saw a lorry wending its way round the marina, and deduced it was delivering the bench seat for Jean who died earlier this month. The bench was put on the hillock by the bridge overlooking most of the marina. We all walked to see the bench which had the inscription from her husband that binds her to the waterways, canals and to Bromley Marina. We sit, talk, stand and she is there with us. The community of boaters is strong and we respect her memory.
Later when Mr Hs returned from picking up some paperwork from my work, we all sat and chatted. I struggle to keep up with the humour because my emotional side has been damaged. There is part of me that feels very isolated, very alone in a group of people. It is like I am no longer a member of the human race, I am now outside of it. I feel sadness that I no longer feel part of a friendly group, and they have no idea. If I said anything to them I don’t think they would know how to deal with it, such is the problem with society.
I feel I ought to stop and have a think about any changes I am noticing. Well, I think my Fibromyalgia pain has got a lot worse. We went to the Crick Boat Show and walked round for three hours, just pottering nothing strenuous. We chose to look around one of the narrowboats built by Wharf House Boats who build bespoke boats that are simply beautiful. As I climbed into the cratch (front of boat) and sat on the side to have the paper shoes on the muscles in my thighs screamed in pain, getting out was worse. The distance I can walk comfortably has noticeably changed since last year. I keep saying that it is because we have not had enough exercise to keep supple, but the truth is we do walk as much as we can. If we do stay in, I am up and cooking every day, which counts for up to an hour with activity. My consultant did say that she thinks there is a link with problems such as Fibromyalgia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Today my throat is sore, my glands hurt and I can feel a heaviness when I breathe; hayfever. I have only experienced this over the past couple of years, although this year feels worse. My voice is so husky I could do a good rendition of ‘I was born under a wandering star’ sung by Lee Marvin one of the deepest voices ever! My neck is painful, but I know it will go once all of the oil seed rape and tree pollen has dissipated.
We sat out with our friends and their dogs on the bench overlooking the marina last night and someone made a joke about a refill of beer/lemonade, but I thought they were being serious and offered some of my lemonade. When they commented they meant beer, I felt a bit embarrassed inside. I am aware when I mistake some comment or joke for a serious comment, and that upsets me, it is as if my conscious self can only watch as the automatic self, make mistakes.
I have also noticed that my vision is not as clear, I cannot explain what the difference is but it is different. Sometimes reading is hard, and I struggle to follow a story because the physical act of reading the words is more difficult. Reading involves scanning the words either side which are in the peripheral vision linking each one to the last and ahead. Maybe the processing of the semantics of the words is becoming slower than the visual match, which would confuse my ability to read fluently. I have always been a fast reader; scanning the sentences rather than read each individual word slowly and maybe this is something that I will have to learn to do now. I love reading but have to start and finish a book without a break so I understand and remember the characters and plot in the story. So once I start a book I literally can’t put it down. When I write I am speaking the words in my head and not on paper, but can often miss words out when I am typing even though I have spoken them in my head.
I am also letting go of worrying about things I cannot control. I cannot control how my family deal with life and me. I used to worry about my daughter, wanting to protect her from all of the harshness of life, now I leave her to sort things out without me. She has always come to me when there are problems; I can still point her in the right direction, but will no longer be actively involved because I recognise that I cannot. I simply don’t have the mental resources anymore. I have always lived my life with guilt (a legacy of my mother), did I do enough; was I a good mother/bad mother; what if I don’t help her sort things out? However, I have got the psychology degree and know that I am the ‘good enough’ mother which is all we can hope to be, we give children the rules and the tools, and it’s up to them to learn how to use them alone.