As we type this newsletter, we are enjoying the peace of one of our favourite moorings; at the Black Country Living Museum. The birds are singing out above the sound of the passing traffic on the Birmingham New Road, and a pair of coots are diving beside us in search of tasty morsels from beneath the incredibly clear water.
Our stay here will end in the next couple of days though as we have to head back into central Birmingham for the final assessment from Guide Dogs as Oakley is in the process of being retired. This is booked for 10am on Thursday 10 January. After this, as long as nothing untoward comes to light, Tracey will be on the waiting list for Oakley’s successor.
On the way, we plan to stop off to get some bits to make shelves to hang on the sides of the boat. This will be the final preparation needed to trade towpath-side. So, going back into the city centre area will enable us to begin displaying our wares. Initially, this will be mainly stock-clearance of the items we already have; calendars, mugs, keyrings and coasters, plus a few items of bric-a-brac to raise funds for Guide Dogs. Later, we plan to develop onto other things including some prints and products of Tim’s photography.
Tracey’s first attempt at basket weaving didn’t go very well, but Oakley enjoyed playing with the resulting ‘frisbee’! She has two more kits to try and some other ideas bubbling in her head, so all is not yet lost on that front!
Tracey's Dad continues to enjoy good health and is reporting that he feels better now than he has done for many months. We praise God for that! We also praise God that our children and grandchildren are all healthy and happy. Little Theo is recovering from having his tongue-tie snipped a couple of days ago. Rosie reports that he is now feeding much better and becoming far more settled. James is doing well in his apprenticeship as a Railway Engineer, Debbi’s career in music is continuing to develop and Ryan is beginning to build a business partnership in the Security services, ready for when he leaves the Army later this year.
Oakley continues to show improvements in his health after a scare a little while ago. The night time ‘episodes’ seem to be decreasing in both frequency and severity and he is generally doing very well, although most definitely showing ever stronger indications that he is ready to hang up his harness and retire from his working life. We pray that he will continue happily on his now much lighter duties until Tracey is matched with his successor. We are also praying about Oakley’s future. After much soul-searching and conversation with the Dog Care and Welfare Advisor, we are now very sadly concluding that he won’t stay with us. This is heart-breaking, but we have to do what is best for him. His newly developed anxieties seem to revolve around being aboard the boat when cruising, and after retirement, he would be spending a lot more time aboard the moving boat as Tracey walks the towpath and works the locks with his successor. This, we are sure, would only serve to ever-increase his worries.
So, we are having to face the concept of letting him go to a new home. We have a couple of possible options in mind where we know he will be adored and very happy. As we type this newsletter, we are awaiting decisions from option 1, before, if necessary, proceeding to option 2. If neither is possible, then we shall have to think and pray again. We are hoping most sincerely that he will go to a home/family that he and we already know, so that we can keep in touch. Failing all this, then Guide Dogs UK will ensure that he goes to a loving and thoroughly vetted home, but there will be no guarantee of ongoing contact. This will be last resort as far as we are concerned.
At the beginning of December Tim was certified! He completed a weekend course on boat engine maintenance and electrics, so now feels a little more confident in dealing with things under the back deck. He may also be in a better position to offer help to other stranded boaters as we meet along the way.
This time of year, there are very few boats moving around the system, so our contact with other boaters is scant. However, our ministry of hospitality in the serenity of the waterways seems to be growing as we develop ever closer relations with church members and ministers around this area. It seems that pastors and ministers, plus many others in pastoral and leadership roles are becoming evermore weary and in need of a bit of time out of busy schedules. An afternoon with cuppas and cakes, or an evening with a meal aboard NB Sola Gratia seems to offer a little of this much needed respite. We are honoured and privileged to be prompted to offer these snippets of hospitality. We pray that God will continue to use us in this way and will lead us to those who need us.
Tim’s parents’ flat is still on the market. It is now over 2 years since his Mum passed away, and we really need to draw a line and move on. The agents say that the market is picking up again now we have moved into the new year, so we would value prayer that it will sell quickly at the current asking price.
In His Name
Tim and Tracey Clarke
NB Sola Gratia
Canal Ministries - sharing God's Love on the Inland Waterways.