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How things have changed in the last two years!

The year 2010 started badly for us,  Jane had been immobilised by a badly broken ankle and a smashed finger and we began to question the economics and practicality of our chosen lifestyle aboard 'Alnwick'. We sold our classic MGB GT and made preparations to sell our house at Woodford Halse, in Northamptonshire, this was with a view to finding a smaller property to release some of the equity - during the process Graham fell on the steps to the house and was taken to hospital with a badly sprained ankle. Nevertheless we did manage to make our regular pilgrimage to the Crick Boat Show and then on to the IWA National at Beale Park but our boating was not without incident - while entering Osney Lock on the River thames at Oxford, 'Alnwick' struck the concrete wall too hard and Jane was catapulted into the swirling water. She was rescued by the lock keepers but it was a very scary thing especially considering that we were close to the weir with a considerable flow on the river.

When we returned to our home mooring at Cropredy, Graham responded to an on-line advertisement by the Warwickshire based charity, Action 21, who were looking for a part time employee to manage their bicycle workshop. The photograph above (from a contemporary edition of the Leamington Courier) shows Graham, complete with beard, looking pleased to be back at work! The job suited Graham very well and provided a useful income to supplement his pension. It involved managing a well equipped facility where discarded or donated bicycles are rebuilt by volunteers so that they could be made available to those in need of cheap sustainable transport. After five years of retirement, it wasn't easy getting back into the routine of regular working hours but the challenge proved stimulating and the opportunity to help train young people as bicycle mechanics was extremely rewarding. At the time, Action 21's main source of income came from selling and restoring all manner of goods (including bicycles) collected at the local Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) and, unfortunately, within four months of Graham starting his new job, the charity lost this valuable source of income and was obliged to make all of its paid staff redundant. The new contractor chosen to operate the 'reuse' facility at the HWRC was the national charity Sue Ryder and along with two colleagues from Action 21, Graham joined Sue Ryder to help run what would become their 'Leamington Spa Reuse Centre' - initially this was on a part time basis but Graham's involvement has gradually evolved from part time assistant to full time site manager. Throughout this time, Graham has also maintained his involvement with Action 21's bicycle workshop, as volunteer, so he is now busier than ever before!

We had fewer opportunities for cruising in 2012 but we did get to the Crick Boat Show again and then on to the Leamington area where we were close to Graham's work. The photograph below shows Jane chatting to the lock keeper while ascending Watford Locks en-route to Crick on 30th May 2012.

Boat maintenance is always ongoing and, while we were moored near Leamington, Graham (now without the beard) took the opportunity to clean out our fresh water tank. The photograph above shows him standing in the empty water tank on 1st July 2012.

The next big adventure in our lives involves our acquisition of 'The Straws', a 300 year old cottage in Cropredy. Thanks to family and friends , we have been able to buy the cottage even though we are still waiting to find a buyer for our house at Woodford Halse. The photograph below was taken by boating friends of ours last year - our cottage is the one with with the straw fox on top! The cottage is a listed building that has been unoccupied for a while, so it will need renovation and repairs before we can 'move in'.

Please click here for our news archive for more photographs and notes of our exploits with 'Alnwick'.

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© Graham & Jane Oliver 2012