Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Yet more engine pics

They're coming thick and fast now. I've just uploaded seven more photos here; these are the ones Jim took on February 19th. As you can see, it's now out of isolation and back on the main ward, and looks to be very nearly complete. The idea is that Ian will, fairly shortly, bring it to Stretton, where Warrior is, on his trailer, and we will finish painting it there. Then the time will finally come to crane it back into the boat. I hope to capture this on video and even post it on YouTube for your excitement and entertainment. It has recently been brought home to me however that this is far from being the end of the story, because we will still have to complete the installation, and we're aware of some people who have waited quite a long time for that stage to be completed. Still, looking on the bright side, we are on schedule so far (thanks to our schedule incorporating a realistically long time frame); the only other major job is the painting, and we are starting to feel our way around planning that, hopefully to be ready for signwriting in May. That's only two months away!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Being timewasters

Well, we were going to be. We set off on a drizzly Saturday afternoon to Norbury Wharf with the half-formed intention of posing as potential purchasers of Battersea as I previously suggested we might, but to be honest once we got there we didn't really have the heart for it. It was raining, there was nobody about, and the boat was tied up right out of the way, and I didn't think we'd fool anyone for a moment. So we found a bridge from which we could have a good look at the cabin top, got slightly damp, and headed back to Warrior.

We did pop into the shop, where I swiped a copy of the details (feeble, and printing them on yellow paper does no boat any favours) and we bought a pair of brass fairleads. We did not buy a bag of 'duck food' - scraps of mouldy bread at 50p a bag, cunningly positioned at child-eye-level. Nor, fortunately, did we need to fill up with water, which would also have cost us ten bob. They're missing a trick; they could have charged people to look at Battersea. Perhaps they would, if we'd asked. I didn't try to use the loo, either (an aside, though: the loos at Victoria Station (the London one, just to show that I'm not making capital-centric assumptions) normally cost 20p (although if you're thin you can get through without paying. Not that I would of course...). A while ago the turnstiles were out of order so they had to leave the gates open so people could just walk in without paying. And they put up a sign saying 'Out of order. Sorry for any inconvenience'. )

One other thing about our little jaunt: what a hairy road, at least the one we took, from Stretton to Norbury. Not just the classic country lane/track down which whizz 4x4s in the middle of the road, and tractors, but tunnels - as far as I can tell going under the Shelmore Embankment - on blind bends; two of them. That was the main excitement of the day, although we did go to B&Q in Cannock too, and spent some money.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Paragraph three, line six, delete 'trainspotter' and insert 'rivet-counter'...

Oh, how I used to love Liberal Democrat conferences. Many times, back in the 90s, I proudly wore my representative's badge, at Harrogate, at Brighton, in Nottingham and in Cardiff ... By the way, to refer to a 'delegate' at a Liberal Democrat conference is a solecism on a par with calling a narrowboat a barge. Labour have delegates, mandated in advance by their local parties how to vote on the conference motions - when of course it makes no difference anyway. Liberal Democrat local parties send representatives to conference, to listen to the debates and make up their own minds how to vote. Liberal Democrat conference votes are binding on party policy. So of course that makes no difference either. But, hey, it's the principle that counts. You have to have one party without a chance of real power so that it can afford to hang on to a few principles; that way at least we don't all forget what they look like.

The fun(!) part of the debates is the amendments, put down by local parties, which are all seriously considered. These often take the form of changing a word or two, and occasion long, detailed, and impeccably conducted arguments, sometimes ending in the excitement of a card vote. Then after that's over, you realise you still have to debate the substantive motion (possibly as amended). Also, people can call for separate votes on specific lines of a motion. Sometimes it can get quite confusing. After three days of this you emerge reeling into the weak seaside sunlight to discover that real life has, strangely, been going on while you were absorbed in constitutional amendment no. 103.

I am reminded of all this because a former political colleague, with far more staying power than me (he's been a councillor since 1979 ...) has forwarded me details of the Save our Waterways motion to be debated at the forthcoming Spring Conference in Harrogate (oh yes, we love conferences so much we have two a year). The full conference agenda is here; the motion in question is on (paper) pages 7-8. All credit to the party for picking up on the issue, and doing their bit to publicise it (opportunism? Never!) - it surely can't hurt, although I have to say I wasn't previously aware of their rather embarassingly entitled 'Canal Cuts are Nuts' campaign (line 15). I'd love to be there for that debate. Interestingly, I see that the motion was not put forward by a local party, as most are, but independently by a group of conference reps. I think I might have been inclined to move an amendment making more of the economic development aspects - perhaps someone has. I shall be sure to get a full report for you. Line by line.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Electrics - no progress to report

We have met some very good people in the course of doing Warrior. Most of them, at some time or another, have caused us some degree of frustration, and maybe in some cases that has been mutual. Jim and I are perhaps not the easiest of people to get on with (well, I think I'm OK); I know this because we frequently tell each other so. But sometimes you just know things are not going to work out.

Take this electrician - we agreed a lot of sophisticated and expensive work with him, and he was due to start work on Warrior, with Jim, a month ago. This means Jim staying up there for a week, so I bought train tickets so I could come and go for work. The day before Jim was due to go up and meet him, he cancelled. After much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, we decided to give him another chance - boat electricians seem to be very rare, and I suppose he knew it. So, Jim went up last Monday, expecting to meet the electrician on Tuesday; Wednesday lunchtime he rang to say he was running a bit late ... which I'm afraid was the last straw. We have now identified another one, but it was too late to do anything this week. Instead, Jim has been working on oiling the floor and all the fitted furniture, and we did a few fiddly little jobs over the weekend, but it wasn't a very productive visit really.

Still, Ian did drop off the new leisure batteries, and they are sitting in their place under the engine room floor waiting to start work. They were slightly wider than expected, so the start battery has been ousted from here and is back in its custom made box behind the engine.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Birthday boy no. 2

Baz is seventeen today, and to celebrate, in a couple of hours we're going up to London for an afternoon at Camden Lock/market and a night at the opera. Of course he keeps asking about driving lessons now, but I say who needs to drive a car when they can steer a boat?

The cherubic photo has been personally approved by its subject. Next year I shall embarass him with a picture of him with short hair (i.e. between the ages of two and six).

Happy birthday Lockboy!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Oh Lord won't you buy me a ... Large Woolwich motor

There seem to be a few on the market at the moment.

I think I'll pass on Dover. Lovely steelwork (had to get that in); pretty engine, but the fit-out is total overkill, and horrid horrid horrid. Who wants to live in a greenhouse; still less a greenhouse with black (mauve?) cloths over it? Surely it must look awful from the inside? And my dear, the price! They probably spent that much and more on doing it (so I hope the constant repeats are pulling in the advertising revenue, although I guess that doesn't help the production company) but that doesn't make it worth £110,000 - little wonder it hasn't sold despite the biggest advertising campaign any narrowboat could hope to have. I'm going to stick my neck out and make a prediction - they'll never sell it until they take that glass off and replace it with a conventional cabin or a nice wood-lined steel under-cloths conversion. Or make it cheap enough for that to be the purchaser's first job.

Battersea looks rather nice - from the outside. Which is all we get to see. Where's the logic in offering an £90,000 boat for sale and not being prepared to stump up thirty-five quid for a few extra photos? The ad says that Battersea comes 'complete with her original stunning boatman's cabin'. How original would this be then? Does it still have the bomb damage? I know that's a silly question, but 'original' is a silly word in this context. We won't be at all far from Norbury Wharf come the weekend - I'm very very tempted to go and have a look. Even if the cabin's just 'old' it should be well worth seeing. Now, how to dress up to look like a serious buyer ...

Really, though, Dunstable is more in my price range. It does make a rather nice tug, but all of that would have to come off, I think, if it were my project ... on the other hand, there are quite a few proper and almost-proper looking ones about already. Mmmm, sounds quite nice.

But there's another one I would have liked to find out more about - the ad's long gone now, and I only have a printed copy, but it certainly looks like a Big Woolwich, with a full length cabin conversion. However, the blurb in the ad just goes on about how nice the mooring is, and how children aren't allowed in the marina - only when you get to the details at the bottom does it say Builder: H & W; Year: 1936 ... and that one was cheap. I emailed the seller, but never heard anything. It was in the West Country - anyone know it?

I'm not really serious about wanting one of course; I'm not fit to be let loose on anything so big and certainly don't have the time or the money to do it justice. These are, I think, pretty good reasons for not buying a Big Woolwich. Here is a bad one: someone we met knew someone who bought one, and his wife stepped back off the fore-end and fell into the hold and broke her ankle. He thought this was a good reason for warning us off ever thinking of getting one ...

Oh, and I don't want a Mercedes either, ta.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Off we go again

Actually, we don't; Jim has gone off finally to get started on the electrics and I will be joining him and Warrior on Friday after finishing work for the week. I have had telephone reports already though, which I pass on as best as I understand them. No pictures as obviously he has the camera with him and the mobile reception up there is scarcely enough to talk by, let alone send pictures, so there will be a backlog when we get back.

Today's reports are from Daventry, of course. Firstly, the gearbox. We originally thought - and were told - that it was a National gearbox, the engine's original pairing. Then someone, I genuinely forget who, but possibly someone at RN, said, nah, that's a Bruntons box, don't know who put that National plate on it ... Then they started saying, wow, a 1:1 Bruntons box, never seen one of those before. And the latest verdict is that that is probably because Bruntons never made a 1:1 gearbox and Warrior's was most likely really a National one all along. Which certainly makes sense. Other reasons for thinking that are that in certain respects, which I now have forgotten, it is unlike a Bruntons one and more like a Blackstone one, which in turn is what a National one would be like. Confused? Basically it means we were probably right all along. For a change. We're still awaiting the new casting for it, but it's in hand.

The sump, there's something wrong with the sump, but that's being sorted to. It was missing its proper strainer, which has been replaced, and was missing some other bits, so wasn't working properly ... no, I really wasn't paying proper attention there, sorry.

Oh, and the leaking water manifold; Jim's bringing that home (I think) to see if it can be repaired, because if it were to be replaced with an RN one a lot of modifications would be required.

So there you have it. Don't miss tomorrow's exciting episode.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Teapot update

I have a growing list of things I could write about, but they all require more thought than I'm capable of at the moment. So here, instead, is the latest progress on the teapot. The shape of the spout is now basically finished, and just requires very fine sanding, colouring and lacquering. This afternoon Jim started on the acorn-shaped knob on the lid. This is the first, crude stage. It will be filed and trimmed and sanded, and rebuilt with finer grade material, before it gets to the stage the spout is now at. Both the spout and the lid are based on a photo of a very similar teapot in the second issue of NarrowBoat, the very expensive but satisfyingly shiny 'heritage' quarterly from Waterways World.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Lifejacket conundrum

Aagh! They made me change over to New Blogger!

British Waterways bankside staff always wear lifejackets. They all wore lifejackets when they were helping us over the Pennines, even though the reason they were helping us was because the water was about eighteen inches deep. I know you can drown in six inches of water, but if you're that determined then a lifejacket isn't going to help. BW sanitary station cleaners wear lifejackets. The man from Camden Council who sweeps the Regents Canal towpath wears a lifejacket. And there is an understandable, if not a good, reason for this. All these people are employees, and their employers (and their employers' insurance companies) are, in this litigious age, taking a better-safe-than-sorry, covering-their-backs, approach to their responsibility for their employees' safety.

It's the same on building sites. People working on scaffolds have to wear harnesses and hard hats - even though many say this actually makes the job more dangerous, because of the way it limits visibility and movement - so that the responsibility for any injury or accident can be laid at the door of the individual worker, not the employer. Jim once asked why he had to wear a hard hat when working on a scaffold right at the top of a building, and was told that ice falling from a passing aeroplane might land on him.

So it was interesting to see that the people building Kings Place, the new arts 'n' office complex on the Regents Canal behind Kings Cross, who are actually working off boats (a positive aside, reported in Canalboat (March 2007, p. 19; oh dear, you can tell I'm an academic) is that building materials are being brought to the site, albeit a very short distance, by water), while fully kitted out in hard hats and hi-viz vests, were lacking any kind of bouyancy aid. Naturally, when I went to take a picture there were scarcely any men to be seen (I suppose it was lunchtime) but the time before there were loads, working off the lighters (I take Canalboat's word that that's what they are; I would have called them barges and thus no doubt incurred the wrath of many lightermen) and working on the building directly above the water. Now, clearly, if they were to fall from a great height into the Regents Canal then a lifejacket would be the least of their worries (but how deep is it there?), but I hope they appreciate how lucky they are that their employers haven't though of it yet.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Mending a teapot (part 1)

Spurred on by my last post here, Jim started work on the 'project' teapot last night. An attempt had already been made to repair the badly broken spout, but it wasn't finished, and was in the wrong style. So, using one of the other teapots as a model, Jim set about rebuilding it. Sometimes it's easier to remove previous repairs completely and start again from scratch, but in this case the old repair was fairly sound, so he cut it down using a hacksaw, file and finally a Stanley blade, to provide a basis for building up a new one in the correct shape. The lug that holds the lid in place was also missing and a new one has been made.

The new parts are made from Milliput, a resin-based clay putty which hardens without needing to be heated. This won't be the final finish though. Tonight Jim will be sanding it and finishing it with a finer coat of epoxy resin and china clay for a really smooth finish, that will then be sanded very finely, painted, and finally lacquered. Obviously, a new knob for the lid needs to be made too, and looking at some photos of various sizes and styles of teapots, we think this should be a tall acorn-shaped one, which will be quite a challenge.

Mild excitement - someone left some comments today on my Braunston photos. OK, one of them was to point out that I couldn't tell the difference between a Seffle and a Bolinder - it's a fair cop, I couldn't last year, but I can now - and I've amended it accordingly. It's very easy to leave comments on Webshots, so please feel free if you are having a look.

Monday, February 12, 2007

More tea(pots) anyone?

I have to say, Jim can be a bit of a devil for buying stuff. Last year he decided (and I freely confess that I acquiesced, despite not being a great fan of the genre) that we really needed a Measham teapot. Now of course, they're silly money, but he found a slightly damaged one which he could repair (he's very good at repairing pottery and china), and I thought, how lovely, now we have a Measham teapot. Then he found a bigger one, with slightly worse damage (the one on the left in the photo; looks as good as new now) and I thought, well, that's very nice but perhaps rather excessively large. Then he found another teapot in a different shape and a water pot (on the right) which weren't even damaged! And I said, I really think we have enough teapots now ...

While all this was going on, I was doing my weekly round of the Newhaven charity shops, and guess what I found. Yup, the one in the middle. A nice project and only one pound fifty. Never seen one before or since in twenty years of going to jumble sales, junk shops and charity shops, but this one turned up right in the middle of our little collecting spree. Just goes to show that coincidences aren't are rare as you might think. Now we just need to get it repaired ...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Well done that (Lock)boy

Stop press: Baz has just got the result of his Grade 6 singing exam - he got a Merit. Good stuff. I now (slightly worryingly) have to buy him a book of Italian arias. Nessun Dorma indeed. So here is scruffy old Lockboy as you've never seen him before, accompanied by Wotan, one of his two double basses. (The other one is called Brunnhilde.)

Finishing touches

We've added a few final things to Warrior's saloon/kitchen. The tall mirror by the door is the one I found by the bins in Huddersfield, where no doubt it had been left for that purpose. The Harveys mirror came from our local tip in Newhaven, a bargain at £2 as you can still buy them new in the Harveys shop for £24. I'm all for supporting my local brewery, but I'd rather do so through purchasing their core products than mirrors. (I left a nice mirror on Andante - one of my earliest jumble sale finds. I hope her new owners appreciate it ... but I'm not sure their tastes and mine coincide; I'm very wounded that they snipped off the lovely yellow cut glass beads that I'd so carefully sewn to the lace over the door, and no doubt just chucked them in the bin.)

Then in the kitchen we have put this old advertising thermometer. It is broken, but that's the reason I thought it would be OK on the boat. We have an unbroken Duckhams one at home, but I feared that if we put that on Warrior it would be very vulnerable to the shocks occasioned by banging into things. We also have a lovely big Craven A enamel sign, but that's in the kitchen at home. They were all collected by Jim in Brighton in the 1970s. We've also put up a couple of reproduction enamel adverts donated by my mother, one for Fry's cocoa, over the cooker, and one for Black Cat cigarettes. I don't think much of those brass light switches, by the way, but don't suppose white plastic would look any nicer.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Warrior's bathroom. And toilet!!

It occurs to me that I've not yet written anything about Warrior's bathroom, probably because we haven't done any work on it. Except for giving it a bloody good clean, that is, which I did whilst constantly muttering 'filthy beasts of men' quite loudly. The only other thing we've done is put some heavy duty non slip vinyl (salvaged from a skip in Huddersfield) on the floor, and we haven't finished that yet.

It's a very nice bathroom, which is why we haven't felt the need to change it. As you go through the door from the corridor, the 4' bath is on the right and the basin, with cupboard under, and toilet on the left, with enough room to move in the middle. The toilet is a classic 'dump-through' one which I love for its inability to get blocked, after regularly having to attack Andante's converted sea toilet with a large sink plunger. On balance I think I prefer a pump out toilet, largely because you don't have to get quite so intimate with its contents when emptying it. So far I've been fortunate enough to be based on waterways well provisioned with BW self pump outs (except on Warrior's home mooring, where a man comes round with a tank on the back of his tractor, and swills it out with a bucket of canal water). However, you will be pleased to hear the we also have ample space for a porta-potti too if required. Did ever a more stupid brand name become a generic term? Hoover, Biro ... Porta-Potti. In fact, ours is an Elsan Visa-Potti, superior in my view to the Thetford original.

The bath has a shower over it, but I wouldn't try to use it as such because I don't think the surround is sufficiently waterproof. Secondly, it uses too much water, and Warrior doesn't have an enormous tank. Instructions for using Warrior's shower (are you reading this Baz?): 1. Fill small bowl with warm water. 2. (In cold weather) Run a little hot water over the bit of the bath you're going to sit on. 3. Sit in bath. 4. Scrub face and body using water in bowl. 5. Tip bowl of water over head. 6. Shampoo hair. 7. Now you can turn the shower on and rinse everything but do not on pain of death get any water up the walls.

The reason it is not very waterproof is that John Shotbolt has an aversion to tiles. We know this because he told us. Actually, it seems very sensible not to have tiles on a boat, especially on a thin partition wall, as they aren't very tolerant of movement or sudden shocks. Instead, Warrior's bathroom is painted throughout, in a sort of elastoplast pink, with loads of swags of roses, on every spare bit of wall, and it looks wonderful so I wouldn't want to change it. The mirror is going to have to come down though, as the diesel day tank is going to be bolted through that wall. We will probably try to find or make a shallow mirror-fronted cabinet to accomodate the bolt heads. It's hard to get a decent photo in such a small space, but this was the best I could manage, standing in the bath.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

It's HOW big?

Engine again! Well, since you asked, it's four litres, 1330 cc per cylinder, or 80 cubic inches. Half as big again as the ones that pulled a boat and a butty and forty-odd tons of cargo. Excessive? Perhaps. But the way I look at it is, if we were building a tug in, say, 1940, and this engine had been offered to us, then we would have taken it, wouldn't we? Quite a few people have 3-cylinder RNs, which are the same size, and some Gardners (pah!) must be bigger...

I've finally uploaded the latest photos from RN here. Our engine is currently the centre of attention (long may that last) and they are now all cooing over it. A new problem has revealed itself this morning - a leaking water manifold. The water pressure-testing also revealed a leaky drain tap, which will be replaced with a shiny brass RN one (I always liked those anyway). The manifold is more problematic and the finest minds in Daventry are pondering it.

Perusing some other narrowboat blogs I came across Hadar, currently being built and fitted out by Roger Fuller. They've got as far as the back cabin now and it all looks very nice. But I'm intrigued by their engine; it's a National, but not a DM series. I have asked about it via their comments, but I can't even find the original comment now, let alone a response. I'd love to know what it is, how old it is and where it came from (via the Redshaws).

Jolly chilly up country, I hear. Not much left on Warrior to freeze, but I am experiencing slight unease about the back boiler, especially now we've got the stove working so well. We'll just keep our fingers crossed until we can get up there and stuff some cushions down the back of it or something ... (I don't think we could have drained it because half the hot water system is missing along with the engine, and if we did, would we dare light the fire? Not my strongest suit, plumbing.)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Mounting excitement ...

I know there are still so many things that can - and probably will - go wrong, but we can't help starting to get excited with the third set of photos to have come from RN since we last visited. As Brian says in his email, it really is starting to look like a National engine now (and how much more so when it's painted in that shade of green all over!). Have a look here if you need a reminder of how it has looked over the past ten months or so.

Here it is from the other side:
And this is what it looked like before we started taking it to pieces:
When it is finished it will look slightly different. It will be a different shade of green, for a start. The water pump will be in a different place so some of the pipework will be altered. The whole engine room will be a lot neater and tidier! We've already lost those panels from the hatches, which will be painted to match the outside when they're open. They weren't original, those decorations are (whisper it) transfers. They were quite a job to get off, thanks to the liberal use of Gripfill or similar.

The new bit for the gearbox isn't ready yet, but it's in hand. What could possibly go wrong now?

Monday, February 05, 2007

A bed for the batteries

Enough self indulgent rambling, back to practical manly Warrior business. Jim has pretty much finished the new engine room floor and battery bay. This has gone as planned! So far. The space under the newly raised floor at the aft end of the engine room will accomodate two 220 amp hour leisure batteries and the start battery. They will be easily accessible via a removeable section of floor, and ventilation will be through gaps either side, below floor level on the engine side, and between the floor and the wall, under the step, on the outside. There is just about enough depth for the batteries to sit on a bed on inch thick Cellartex (sp?) insulation, so they don't get cold bottoms.

The flooring, which is still to be neatened up around the edges, is made of hardwood decking planks (I don't know what the wood is but I trust it's sustainable; it came from the same local firm where we got our iroko offcuts which Derek used to such good effect in the kitchen). These are a nice reddish colour and will look lovely when varnished. The new floor is still only the height of the edge of the engine bay, about an inch higher than in the main part of the boat and still a lot lower than in the cabin. Tall people may have to bow their heads very slightly, but it seems a price worth paying. Me, I can stand upright in the cabin, so what do I care.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Books and blogs and Wisbech

Because I am somewhat distrustful of web-based technology, every month I print off all the Warrior blog posts and put them in a ring binder. After January's I shall have to start a new file (or get a bigger one), so this morning I did a quick tot up of what I've written here so far - that is since last April (but effectively really only since June, as it got off to rather a slow start) - and it adds up to very nearly 50,000 words, many of them different. That's the best part of a book.

I've written a book (it's an occupational hazard), and it was about 70,000 words. It took a lot longer than eight months, and wasn't nearly so much fun. After a few years of researching a subject in minute detail, and writing and rewriting, one tends to get rather sick of it and to lack motivation. I got to the point where the publisher's deadline for the finished typescript was looming, and all I had to do was tidy up the conclusion, perhaps a couple of thousand extra words, and I put it off, and put it off, and put it off, all the while knowing that we were due to go up to Helyn at Floods Ferry (near March) two days before it was due. I was finally galvanised into action at about four o'clock on the morning we left, and finished and printed the last few pages. The rest was already done, and we took it all with us to post when we got there.

Just one little problem - I'd forgotten to number the pages, so we sat on Helyn - little 22 foot GRP cruiser - numbering by hand three copies of the typescript at some 300 pages each. Then we packed it up and took it into Wisbech to post. Once that was done, we were free to enjoy the delights of this Fenland town (which I have been told by a native has the highest crime rate relative to its population in Britain, but that may of course be a foul slur), one of which was a very good gents' outfitters who supplied Jim with some navy bib and brace overalls.

Before we left, we were accosted by a woman doing market research. She said that she had to interview twelve people, and only needed one more, then she could go home. So, rather out of character for us (but getting the typescript off, not to mention finding the overalls, had put us in an exceptionally good mood), we agreed to answer her questions. They were mostly about pet insurance, but there were also a few about rail travel: had we travelled anywhere by rail in the past month? This was when I was going up and down to Huddersfield every week, so I was able to tell her about that. Oh good, she said, because no one else she'd spoken to that afternoon had left Wisbech in the past month.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Remember that box full of discarded bits we brought back from Russell Newbery? And you know how boaters love to recycle and find new uses for things? So let me introduce this season's stylish new range from Warrior Products.

We start with this highly effective doorstop, made from fashionably distressed cast iron. Weighing in at, ooh, a good few pounds (or kilos, according to preference) it will mean the end of your slammed door woes. Effective up to force seven winds on deep pile carpet; force three on hard floors. You will be the envy of your neighbours, who have only cheap Chinese alloy farm animals.

Or how about the latest in paper management solutions. Say goodbye to blown-about papers with this stunning paperweight, assembled from a contrasting combination of complementary metals and incorporating fourteen perfect spheres traditionally crafted from carbon steel. Pick it up; fiddle with it - it doubles as an engrossing executive toy! What's more, it will leave a slight trace of oil on all it touches, making it easy to track down those stolen papers. Also effective against cats.

Finally, may we introduce our new and highly exclusive range of jewellery. Phosphor bronze is this year's must-have precious metal, and these chunky bangles, crafted by artisans using traditional manufacturing techniques, utilise its qualities to breathtaking effect. Wear one on its own for that sophisticated evening look, or how about a pair to be really eye-catching. As an added bonus, regular wear will help to build up the arm muscles. They are also very handy in fights.

Unfortunately, all these products are so exclusive that we don't actually have any spare ones to sell. But never mind, you couldn't afford them anyway.

Brought to you through the inspiration of the Viking office products catalogue, whose (genuine) strapline
Toasters: the stylish and convenient way to make toast
is beyond parody.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Regents ramble

Worked jolly hard this morning, come three o'clock the sun was shining through the window and I thought to myself, I know, I'll go and have a little walk by the canal before I go home ... wander up the Euston Road, have a little ramble, then get the tube back from Kings Cross. And what do I find when I get home, but that Granny Buttons has been writing about this very stretch. As he has been urging his loyal fans to write on their own blogs rather than commenting on his, this seemed serendipitous in the extreme.

Yes, the cyclists are dreadful. In three quarters of an hour (from Maiden Lane Bridge to Camden Road Bridge and back again) I must have encountered at least ten, all going too fast and most pretty heedless. It was never like this in Huddersfield! Apparently the 'road' surface is going to be improved - well, the existing slab concrete seems pretty good already from a cyclist's point of view. A few potholes, some dust and loose gravel would probably do the trick. Perhaps that's what they mean?

I was talking to someone in Public Management (academic study of, not actually doing it) last week about whether anyone in her field had ever used British Waterways as a case study, as they seem a potentially interesting, possibly unique, case. She vouchsafed the information that she had come across BW, in her capacity as a keen cyclist, at which I hissed, so you're one of those evil towpath cyclists, are you ... Poor woman, She insisted she was one of the good ones. They must have had the afternoon off today.

Also, how are you supposed to moor on a solid concrete towpath? Presumably you're theoretically allowed to, as on towpaths anywhere, but in practice it would look to be impossible. Which probably isn't accidental either. (There's probably a whole history and back story to this that I am in complete ignorance of. Do tell, if you know).

Sadly, saw not a single boat moving, but some interesting ones tied up, including one perhaps to rival Lucy. No picture (what is the point, Sarah, of having a nifty little camera if you don't actually take it everywhere with you?). Anyway, this was a narrowboat, I'm 99.9% certain (looking from the other side of the canal) that it was wooden, so presumably has some kind of interesting history, probably including being shortened ... no identifying marks at all, but clearly not completely uncared for, as still afloat. I'll take a photo next time and maybe someone will identify it and tell its story as Lucy's owner did. Amazing, to see a collection of really tatty boats (including a potentially nice and pretty new looking tug) in the middle of London. Amazing and rather wonderful.

There you are. I said it was a ramble.