Yesterday we decided to take a break from painting and do something different. It turned out to be a lovely day, although not quite in the way that we envisaged. The plan was to go to Market Drayton, to visit a sawmill that had been suggested to us by a local chap, Andy, who was blacking his boat here (we last met him three years ago when he was last blacking his boat here). He'd already rung them up and got a quote for the wood we need for the hold floors, bearers and planks which seemed very reasonable so we thought we would go and see them, and on the way back pop into Newport where we had heard tell there was a shop selling cheap beer.
So off we went to the sawmill which is in a village called Hales, near Market Drayton. There's a Hales school, a Hales Club, Hales sawmill, Hales lodge and lots more besides. If I nipped up there in the middle of the night with a few apostrophes hidden about my person I could own the lot.
The people at the sawmill were very helpful and positive about what we were trying to achieve, which was a good sign after many frustrating phone calls to timber suppliers all over the country. We ordered the softwood there and then, and then Jim asked, could they get oak? Yes, they could get oak. Air- or kiln dried? Whichever we wanted. Hmm. Can you get iroko? We've got iroko. Ah. Could you cut it to shape, if we gave you a pattern? No problem. This seemed to bode well, but I won't put out the flags until the softwood arrives and we see what it's like... which should be in 7 - 10 days.
So very happily we trooped out, only to find that the car wouldn't start. The battery was completely dead. Bit of a mystery, no sign of any problems previously. Jim thought it might be the alternator, so went back inside to call on the goodwill of Hales Sawmill, and very wonderfully, they sent a very taciturn chap around with the forklift to jump start it. We then thought we had better head straight back as being a relatively modern engine (1988) and petrol to boot, it needs a modicum of electricity to run at all, something that hadn't quite occurred to me at the time. So we were going hell for leather, watching all the electric guages going mad, and thinking we might make it, and even stop off at the Volvo breakers on the A41 to see if they had an alternator, when we got stuck behind a tractor turning right and ground to an ignominious halt. What I forgot to mention is that neither of us had brought our phones with us! So there we were at the side of a busy road, half on and half off the carriageway, trying to look distressed, and although it seemed longer it couldn't have been more than tem minutes before a bloke in a transit stopped and asked if we were all right. Now I know that is the standard form of greeting in these parts but he really meant it. Anyway, the upshot was that without further ado he towed us to a garage in Newport (where I think he said his brother worked).
In the ten minutes or so at the side of the road Jim had a closer look and identified the cause of the trouble - a wire had come off the alternator; the battery hadn't been charging for ages. It seemed odd to thank our lucky stars for breaking down there, but better than on the way home, on the motorway. The Tan Hill Garage (big plug, lovely people) fixed the wire and supplied a new battery, and when I went to pay the bill, all they charged for was the battery, and that wasn't dear. Our knight in shining Transit wouldn't take a drink either. This is why the day was so good - meeting the sort of people who really do, in the words of the cliche, restore your faith in human nature.
And it wasn't over. While they were sorting out the car we went off to find the cheapo shop (I hate supermarket shopping, but I adore independent cheapo shops where you never know what you're going to find) and it didn't disappoint. In fact it was so good we had to go back and get the car before filling our trolley with lots of beer (proper brands from 99p for a 500ml bottle), Pataks curry pastes in obscure varieties you don't find in Somerfield, thai curry sauces, wasabi paste (trust me, I told Jim, you'll love it), an air bed and pump for the guest accomodation and a crisp white cotton sheet for my Chertsey bed, socks and lots more besides.
And that's still not all, because on the way to the shop we passed a chip shop where the most lovely couple (very exotic looking (Cypriot, apparently) but broad Black Country (well, she was, he didn't speak but he smiled a lot) were lovely and friendly and sold us really nice chips for lunch.
So yesterday was a lovely day, marred only by the fact that come the evening I had developed a really annoying cough that kept me up much of the night and left me feeling quite wretched despite the splendid old fashioned cough mixture I bought in the cheapo shop (It's called B&M and it's where Woolworths used to be if you want to seek it out).
Today is very hot indeed, too hot to paint so I am going to settle down and read a book about the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal which I am reviewing for CanalBoat. It's nice and cool in Chertsey's cabin though, despite the blazing sun. One of the benefits of wood I guess.