What is your go to comfort food?

I had a couple of long days away from the boat this week to go to a funeral in the south of England. I stayed over with my son and he reminded me that when he was growing up I had introduced him to cheese and tomato on crackers, my “go to” comfort food. When I returned to the boat on Monday night, it was the first and only thing I wanted to eat.

These were introduced to me by my music teacher some 37 years ago. The original and best is a Jacob’s Cream Cracker, buttered lightly and with a slice of cheddar and a slice of tomato, with just a little salt. The ones in my photo from this week were a little posher, involving fancy crackers, and “Calverley Crunch” a vintage cheese from a canalside shop we found last week. I recommend them with a glass of gin and tonic, a glass of port, or just a cup of tea. At the end of a stressful day, when you can’t be bothered to cook, and you just want something homely, nothing is better.

What is your comfort food after a tough day? Maybe beans on toast? Or Doritos and Salsa from a jar? Or even a big bowl of cornflakes? Whatever it is, I bet it has as much to do with when you first ate it, as what is tastes like. Comfort food is about comforting memories removing all the stress of the moment. And it is a good thing.

I’d love to hear in the comments what your choice would be. Let me know.

I ❤️ Heartbreak Hill

There are a number of “must do” places on the UK canal network – Bingley Five Rise, Salterhouse Dock, The Curly Wurlys near Skipton, Caen Hill Locks, Pontcysylllte Aqueduct, the Falkirk Wheel, the Kelpies, Barton Swing Aqueduct, Anderton Boat Lift, the Boat Museum in Ellesmere Port. We are lucky enough to have visited all of these, and this week we added another of our favourites – Heartbreak Hill. Over just 12 miles between Middlewich and Kidsgrove we climbed 31 locks. And we really enjoyed the experience.

A quick quiz question before I tell you more. If you look carefully in the photo above at the footbridge, you will see it has a small gap in the middle. Why?

Between Mandy, me and the two dogs we make a great team for things like Heartbreak Hill. She tends to steer the boat, and with the dogs’ help I do the paddles and gates. Doing a stretch like Heartbreak Hill gets us into such a routine that much is done almost unconsciously. For instance these are deep locks, and going uphill we have to make sure not to let too much water into the lock too quickly, or the currents will bang the boat into the lock gates. Instead we have developed a technique of two turns of the windlass, wait two minutes and then the next two turns.

And because we were rising we saw some amazing views across the Cheshire countryside. At the end of the “hill” we were all tired but very happy. I love Heartbreak Hill.

And the gap on the footbridge? Back in the day, narrowboats were towed by a horse with a rope, and the gap allowed the boat to do locks without unhitching the horse. Every day is a school day on the canals.

Does perfection need planning?

I am often accused of over planning. Be more spontaneous I am told. Let life decide. Relax and enjoy.

But we went to a completely perfect wedding this week – our niece Lucy and her new husband Dan. And Lucy had planned it to within an inch of its life. I genuinely do not think it could have been any better.

The Coleman clan

The ceremony itself was just the right side of emotional, with few cheeks left unblemished by a tear. Then a wonderful confetti procession, a delicious meal, waiters who unexpectedly turned into singers and dancers, a saxophonist, a late night pizza van, and dancing into the night. Add in a couple of inevitable family dramas, and it’s was perfection.

Most importantly of course, Lucy and Dan had the day that they had wanted and that had been in planning for so long. And I think that everyone enjoyed themselves, from the young kids, to the oldies. Thanks Lucy & Dan and congratulations.

Of course I understand there is a place for spontaneity, and some of my best moments are unplanned. Perhaps emerging from a tunnel in the boat, when we discover a new view over amazing countryside. Perhaps when we bump into old friends unexpectedly. Perhaps when we decide on a whim to have an adventure.

But to quote the A-Team (showing my age I know) “I love it when a plan comes together”.

What about you? Are you a planner or a discoverer?

Back in Scotland. Wishing we were on the boat.

We have had to return to Scotland for a couple of weeks. A few minutes after we crossed the border we saw this sky, welcoming us home with the flag. But in truth Mandy and I are already missing the boat.

Our niece Lucy is getting married so we need someone to look after the dogs while we go to the wedding. We are very excited about their big day and to see all the families but we still want to get back to the boat.

We are also going up to the farm in St Andrews where another niece, Rachael, and her family live. We have not seen two year old Fred for a while, and it is lambing time, and Mandy’s brother and sister in law are there, so we are very much looking forward to that. But we still want to get back to the boat.

While we are in Scotland we have arranged to see the doctor, dentist, get the smart meters fixed, get the dogs hair cut for the summer, get our own hair cut. Some of these are really tricky to do when we are travelling. For instance, a doctor visit is difficult because the Scottish and English National Health Services do not talk to each other. So all important things to do, but we still want to get back to the boat.

I know. We are very privileged and so lucky to have these opportunities. It is important to love every day and not just wish for the future. And I do. It will be a wonderful wedding, excellent to see Fred and all. I am even excited about the smart meters!

But I still want to get back to the boat.

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