Donkey Crossing

Welcome to Donkey Crossing! Donkey Crossing is an on-line account of one Limey and one Yank living one Dream. From September 2006 until the end of 2007, we plan to visit friends and family on five continents and immerse ourselves into various cultures, natural phenomena and ways of life. We hope you enjoy our tales and visit often! Cheers, Jason and Rachel Napoli

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Friends Reunited Part 2

In between savoring the delights of turkey, mince pies and the other activities of Christmas in Dewsbury, Jason and I found time to get together with some good friends.

First stop on the northern leg of the 'Friends Reunited' tour was Sheffield: home of both the world's finest steel (except for NAPCO steel) and my very first friend, Louise Shaw. We were greeted at Sheffield train station by the Shaw family welcoming committee, comprising husband Matt and young sons Barney and Eli. Before long we were playing with the boys and their trains, books and jigsaw puzzles as Jason and Matt discussed the fortunes (and misfortunes) of Huddersfield Town FC. After a wonderful dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire puddings courtesy of the Shaw chefs, Jason was nominated special guest bedtime storyteller by Barney, and the two disappeared with a small pile of books. We had a wonderful time with the Shaws when they came to visit us in Chicago earlier this year, and in Sheffield we found ourselves pleasantly immersed in Shaw family life once again.

Eli, Matt, Louise and Barney in their Sheffield home.

Our next reunion was with another pair of long time friends, Gill Leverton and Tracy Hudson. We've known each other for 20 years, and I have fond memories of Tracy and Gill from childhood. We met during Sunday School at St Johns in Dewsbury, and they were the most energetic, alternative and fun Sunday school teachers around. Hopefully they've forgiven me and my fellow Sunday school students for causing havoc and disrupting their 'day of rest' for several years. These days, we're more likely to be found gossiping over a pint than discussing bible passages over tea & biscuits.
'Too cool for Sunday School'?: Gill, Rachel & Tracy 20 years on.

We spent the next couple of days on Tracy's narrowboat exploring a particularly pretty section of the Leeds-Liverpool canal. In the pursuit of the dream of a lifetime, Tracy and her partner Glyn bought "Baby D" a year ago, and are in the process of renovating her. As we cruised along the peaceful canal, we inhaled the damp, chilly Lancashire air, hopping out to open and close the locks as we traveled uphill to our destination.

Captain Tracy at the helm of her beloved Baby D.

A typical gloomy Lancashire winter day seems idyllic on the canal.

Pretty reflections.

Although life on the canal is pretty tranquil, it can also be hard work, especially when sailing in hilly Lancashire. The water level of the canal follows the landscape, so locks are built in to enable the narrowboats to travel uphill and downhill. Tracy had told us that we'd need to go through seven locks on this particular voyage. Each lock needed to be cranked open and then closed so Baby D could pass through. Jason and I got stuck in, and after a lot of key turning, arm cranking, gate pushing and water gushing, we reached our destination and moored up to enjoy the fruits of our labor: a pint of ale in the "Top Lock" pub. We swayed in synch with the motions of the canal as we supped our beers on dry land. Typical first time boaters......
Jason opens a paddle to operate the lock.

Baby D in a lock, waiting for the water level to rise.

The cozy interior of Baby D with its coal fire and radio tuned to a mellow station is the perfect retreat from the English winter. Jason and I fell in love with the peace and pace of canal life and look forward to future outings on Baby D, having mastered the basics of working the locks, steering the boat and operating the airplane-style loo.

Time for a pint, perhaps?

Our next social engagement took us to Roundhay Park, Leeds for an afternoon with Cheryl, Ed and baby Lola. Jason and I first crossed paths with Cheryl in Ecuador while we were living in Quito in 1999, and we quickly became close friends. Cheryl has since moved back home to Leeds where she has continued her teaching career and enjoys family life with Ed and Lola. We spent a couple of fun hours together exploring the park before Jason and I headed off to meet another friend from Ecuador.

Ed, Lola and Cheryl on a pleasant wander around Tropical World at Roundhay Park.

Regular Donkey Crossing readers might recognize the fellow on the right in the next picture. We introduced Chris Briggs on our blog a couple of months ago when Jason and I met him on our recent visit to Ecuador. Coming from a town as small as Dewsbury, it was bizarre to meet a fellow home towner in Ecuador. It was great to reunite in the local West Riding pub and reminisce. We also compared notes on future adventure plans: a volunteer project in Nepal for Chris and visits to Ireland and West Africa for us.
Jason and 'Briggsy' catch up over a beer.

Thanks to all our friends and family in Yorkshire for fantastic times together. We look forward to the next time, amigos!

Friends Reunited Part 2 is brought to you by Wonkey Donkey Ale, a Goose Eye Brewery beer.

Check back soon for tales of music, stout and hospitality from our New Years experience in Ireland.


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