Well, Christmas isn’t going to be how we imagined it, but then it isn’t for a lot of people!
We stayed in Stone for the second lockdown and when it finished, we found that the area we were in was a Tier 3 zone, and the information from CRT about whether boats should travel in a tier 3 area was sketchy and ambiguous, so we made up our own minds and decided to stay put. Of course, our stay in the Lengthman’s Cottage had to be abandoned but we got a full credit so nothing lost there and something to look forward to in more normal times. So, having everything we needed on the doorstep and following the national guidelines of not making unnecessary journeys, we decided we would stay in Stone until Christmas, or at least until after the 23rd when Rhys and Ash were going to visit, or until more solid guidelines were issued by CRT. However, we had a mechanical breakdown on Friday 18th December – our alternator stopped working! This meant that we were unable to charge our batteries so would either have to buy a generator or move into a marina. We had River and Canal Rescue come out to look at the problem (we were quite impressed with both the prompt arrival and the knowledge of the engineer) but he diagnosed a completely dead alternator – not good news! Apparently, we have an uncommon set up (typical!) which would require a special order so we left it to him to try and sort something before Christmas for us. Fortunately, the marina that was only a couple of miles away from where we were moored had availability for a couple of weeks, so we booked in there and before we left for the marina, we said goodbye to our boaty neighbours and explained our situation. They had a contact who was an excellent marine electrical engineer, and suggested we try him before an expensive alternator was ordered. So, we cruised down to the marina late on Friday afternoon and got settled in, then contacted the engineer – Arnot – on Saturday – and he has been brilliant! Bearing in mind it was a Saturday and a few days before Christmas, he bent over backwards to get us sorted. Unfortunately, though, he did confirm that the alternator was a special order, but, incredibly luckily for us, Beta Marine did have one in stock, and he fitted it this afternoon. (We cancelled the call out with RCR as they hadn’t yet ordered the part before Arnot got involved.) He wants to return and tweek the settings, but at least we have the new alternator in place. We are staying in the marina until the new year, though – it’s nice to have unlimited electricity and all the marina facilities on hand for a couple of weeks, plus, of course, Boris’s announcement said that we could only travel and meet family on Christmas Day itself, so this is a good spot for Rhys and Ash to visit.
Moving to the marina, though, meant that we were in a bit of a fix for food shops – it’s only two miles from Stone but that is a fair walk when loaded with shopping! Mel reminded me about the Amazon/Morrisons new alliance, so I managed to do a small test shop and then a bigger Christmas shop. They only have a limited range and you don’t get the special offers that you would if you’d visited the store, but it is excellent for emergencies and last minute items. We did have a few issues with one or two items – a pot of double cream packed at the bottom of the bag was crushed – and cream over everything else in the bag, plus a couple of substitution issues – but the main problem was that the bottle of Tia Maria (my Christmas treat) was open and sticky on the bottle from an apparent leak. A quick chat with customer services and all sorted and refunded, but devoid of Tia Maria for my favourite cocktail! Ho Hum, worse things are happening, so all good really and at least we got a turkey for our Christmas Dinner!
Another frustration we have suffered – and frustrating it certainly was – was trying to renew Tony’s Vodafone contract. Suffice to say that he took out a Black Friday deal, it worked over that weekend, but was cancelled on the following Monday due to, according to Vodafone, a “technical glitch”. We’d tried since then – contacting them almost daily for three weeks – to get it reinstated. We weren’t going to let it beat us because it was such a good deal, but there is only so much you can put up with and we finally gave up – they ground us down until we admitted defeat! Besides, in the meantime, I’d taken out a new contract myself, so we didn’t really need the amount of data that was on the Black Friday deal any more. Tony ended up jumping on a bus (a 20 minute walk to get to the bus stop!) and went to Stafford to the Vodafone shop, where he eventually got sorted with a new contract, not with Vodafone, though, we’d sworn never to use them again, but with Talkmobile, keeping with the Vodafone network but not using Vodafone themselves.
I just want to finish this post with a thank you to everyone who reads my ramblings and follows our adventures. Merry Christmas and I hope 2021 is a better year for all of us!! Cheers!