It's been a difficult few days. Adrian's mum died early on Saturday morning, following a lengthy illness.
Ann came with us on several boating trips, when we had a share in Debdale. The first time, it's fair to say she was rather worried by the whole thing and arrived by train and taxi at Calcutt (where we'd done our Helman's Certificate) in a state of some anxiety. That evening, we just went up one lock from the wharf and moored. The next day turned out to be one of my favourite ever days boating. It was warm and sunny; the Napton flight was busy, and it took much longer than it should have done. In spite of the slow progress, everyone was in good spirits. When we reached the summit pound, I steered while Adrian and his mum sat in the well deck talking, taking in the views, and enjoying the sunshine. It was just glorious. We finished the day at Fenny Compton, and the Wharf Inn, and the trip took us all the way down to Oxford and back.
After that, she booked herself into our plans regularly. Ann came with us to Foxton and Market Harborough on one trip, and another when we went to the end of the Ashby and down to Coventry basin. She also came to Stratford, and Birmingham, which she was fascinated by. On that trip, we went to the Black Country Museum, my lasting memory of which is leaving her sitting outside the coal mine, while we did the tour. When we emerged, it seemed that she'd chatted to most of the other visitors to the museum. We also took her along some of the waterways that I suspect may serious boaters haven't travelled, because from Dudley we turned onto the Wyrley and Essington (where Adrian steered while Ann and I stood at the bow pointing out the worst of the rubbish, so we could avoid getting it round the prop), and onto Walsall basin for the night; we returned to central Birmingham via the Walsall canal.
When Debdale moved to Norbury Junction, Ann came with us to Stourport and then down the Severn to Worcester. She wasn't keen on the river (not as much to look at as on the canals), and took against Worcester quite understandably when we were woken in the early hours by drunken students running up and down the roof.
Then we had a new year trip to Audlem. New Year's Eve was spent at Market Drayton, and at midnight we watched the canal starting to freeze. The next day, we were ice breaking for quite a while.
On every trip, you'd suddenly become aware that towpath walkers were chatting away to the front of the boat, and you'd realise that Ann was in the well deck. Barely an hour went by without tea (and more than likely biscuits) appearing at the back of the boat for the crew. And through the course of the week, anything brass got cleaner and cleaner. In fact, everything got cleaner and cleaner.
Ann wanted to visit Briar Rose, but she was never well enough, which is a source of great regret. However, it was a great pleasure to introduce her to the canals, and I was so pleased that she enjoyed her weeks on board with us -- and not just the countrside but the gritty industrial areas too.
We will miss her.