Thursday, May 31, 2007

The dreaming spires of Huddersfield

I enjoyed my time in Huddersfield. I worked in a lovely building - it was the former Victorian technical college which specialised in matters wool-related, and had stained glass windows featuring sheep, and llamas - and with very nice people. One of these was Pete, a fellow southern exile whom I quickly forgave for beating me to the first job I applied for there, and with whom I spent many a happy evening in the Star, discussing political philosophy, rugby league and light opera (n.b. only one of these actually holds any attractions for me) over pie and peas and a pint of Landlord. So today I am very honoured to be able to bring you ... Pete's blog!

I have even added it to nbWarrior's blogroll, for a bit of variety. I have't got any other narrowboat blogs listed there, because Granny Buttons has them all, and you probably know about them anyway.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Crick report


Most people seem pleased that they went to Crick on Saturday when the weather was relatively good. I'm quite glad that we went on Sunday, when it was pretty appalling. No leisurely wandering about for us; we had our shopping list and made a series of targeted assaults followed by a strategic withdrawal via the beer tent (note to organisers: if you are going to sell upwards of 20 splendid real ales, it might help to have someone on the bar who knows something about them, or failing that, some descriptions written up somewhere, else you get people like me paralysed like Buridan's ass, only ten times more so).

But we did go and have a look at the boats, and on the whole it was a depressing experience. If Sunday was a quiet day, then I dread to think what Saturday was like, as it was still pretty heaving around the basin. I'm sure some of the boats were very well made, and some were crap; and I'm sure that some of the builders are very sound businesses who provide excellent after sales service, while others were hoping to take enough deposits to hold the creditors off for another week, and I'm sure some of the prospective purchasers had done a great deal of research and were strongly committed to the canals and everything they stand for, but I bet more of them weren't.

One depressing thing was the sheer number of 'builders' (in some cases I think fitters would be a better term) turning out products that, while different from each other in various small ways, were generally undistinguished and all but indistinguishable. The only one that really caught the eye (and to be fair, we didn't look at the land based ones) was the Mel Davies/Lyons Boatyard tug - the same one they were exhibiting last year, but now with added paint. To my eye it stood out miles above the others - not just for quality, which you can't necessarily see with the naked eye, but for sheer swagger. Another depressing thing was that there were more people by far swarming over each of the other boats with their monogrammed-shirted salesmen and shiny brochures. And a third thing was the rather unworthy thought, looking at the potential customers, of do I want to be meeting some of these people on the cut?

Also, the Mel Davies boat has given Jim An Idea. For a long time he has been highly dissatisfied with Warrior's slides; he now has the idea of replacing the front one with a hinged hatch, as pictured above ... phase five, would we be up to now?

By the way, I see that Dover is finally 'under offer' - but they've had to throw in a new set of cloths. Watched the first few episodes of Narrowboat Afloat last night ... am I the only one to find Alan Herd intensely irritating?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Strange people

Andrew wonders why I'm shy of having my photo taken. Well, apart from the fact that despite his gallant assertions to the contrary I've seen about one picture of myself in the last decade that I didn't want to tear into little pieces and flush down the loo, what happens when you get pictures of yourself published all over the internets, is that strange people recognise you and come up to you in beer tents and engage you in conversation when you're just trying to have a nice quiet cup of tea ...

Interestingly (or perhaps not), when the idea was floated recently that as part of a move to civilize what we are pleased to call the blogosphere, people should refrain - or even perhaps be prevented - from posting anonymously, I was instinctively against it, even though I curl up in horror at the thought of upsetting anyone. Anonymity, or semi anonymity, can be and is abused, but it's also terrifically liberating. And let's face it, if someone says something horrid about you, does it really help to know who they are? (Unless you want to set the police on them, I suppose; let's hope it doesn't come to that in our little corner.)

Monday, May 28, 2007



Nothing too scintillating here; I've just been going through the recent photos to see what I haven't written about yet. Well, the fenders are all finally fixed and hopefully secure. The front one was actually previously a rear one but it will do for now - it was too good to throw away. The rear ones I have written about before, but now they've had their soaking in creosote and have been banged and bashed into place and into shape. Not without mishap; they did all fall in once when one of the first set of bottle screws proved not to be up to the job. Luckily they were easily found and fished out, but being left on the deck for a week, the creosote took the paint off.

Jim's been on the phone today about our mooring at the rally - we've been allocated one on the towpath rather than in the basin, which the organisers stress 'are not to be considered "second class" moorings' (methinks they protest too much), so, we want at least to try to be on the inside (citing our easy-to-step-across foredeck as a good justification for this) so that people will be able to look at the engine! And as we only have hatches on one side, to achieve this we will also have to be facing the 'wrong' way. He has also volunteered us for working the bar - something I haven't done for over fifteen years and he, I suspect, for a lot longer. Still, I expect it's one of those things you never forget.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Blogging will eat itself


Well, who should I run into in Barry Hawkins' beer tent but Granny Buttons' very own Andrew Denny. That's what comes of putting your photo on your blog - people recognise you, even in the absence of your boat. So Jim and I had a lovely chat with Andrew and Christine, and finished by taking each other's photos and promising a bit of mutual blogging. Looks as if I've got in first ... Lovely to meet you both, and see you again soon.

The main reason for popping into Barry Hawkins' open day was to catch up with Ian for an update on the oil thingy (I've given up trying to be technical with it) and arrange for a lift for Jim to get our (my! my!) car to Atherstone next week (see how my optimism is still undimmed); we then proceded to Crick where we bought an aerial kit for the datacard, a new set of ropes, a chimney chain, various other small brass bits, some more raddle red paint, a tin of varnish ... oh, and a lovely stripey cardigan.

Yesterday, as planned, I neatened up all the blacking, much of which involved working off the gunwale in ever-increasing rain, and it was well worth doing. I have to say that the Big Fish boat on show at Crick might have benefited from the same treatment... And I also made a start on the brass, whilst joining Jim in watching the shiny new high definition advert free Narrow Boat DVD, which was another weird kind of reflective experience as it features two-year-younger versions of people and places we've been seeing a lot of lately.

In the photo you can also see our stunning tunnel light - a 30s Francis fire engine lamp, mounted on its new bracket, and Warrior's latest butch adornment, the straps, which look nicer and butcher than either of the other lots we saw at Crick; thanks to Geoff for making those for us and to Jim for fitting them.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Success - well sort of

We did get the engine started yesterday, which is of course great news, and what we've been waiting for these last thirteen months. But we couldn't run it, because of a fault in the oil system. As far as I understand it, the pipe leading from the pressure relief valve was of too small a bore, meaning that the oil pressure was going much too high. So that's been taken away to be modified, but this being a busy weekend (with Crick and Barry Hawkins' open day, both of which we plan to visit on Sunday) nothing's going to happen until next week. A setback, but we hope a minor one.

Today I've painted half the roof, and have now run out of raddle red, and touched up various other bits (heavens, is that really all I've done? It did take all day, honest). Tomorrow I touch up the blacking and, I suppose, make a start on the brass. It's sad to think that we shall be leaving here soon as we've met so many brilliant people and had such a lovely time, but the time has come to move on to new adventures ...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Can you see the join?


As usual, I forgot to take a 'before' photo of the damaged panel before I touched it up. I don't know how the damage was done, but by the time Jim had filled, rubbed and primed it (very nicely, I might add) it amounted to about the top third of the picture (the shiny bit). The sky, hills and turrets are my work; if you look closely you can see that the towers are a bit rubbed, but hopefully that'll disappear when it's varnished. I'm quite chuffed with it. It doesn't exactly match the original (the panel from the opposite hatch is below) but I had to work with the paints I'd got, and what the hell, I'm allowed my own style - more rolling downland than craggy peaks - but I think it compares OK. Actually, I don't think Warrior's castles are all that great, although I love the style of the roses.

This is nbWarrior's 200th post. I must have speeded up a bit as we only hit the 100 mark around new year. Really I should have saved it for the starting of the engine. This didn't take place on Tuesday as planned, as modifications were still being made to the fuel filter, but is scheduled for tomorrow. The fuel system is now plumbed and has been checked for leaks (there weren't any) and the engine has been turned over. As I will be arriving tomorrow afternoon, I'm kind of hoping events will be held up until I get there - but with everyone on such a tight timetable I can't really expect them to wait for me. Also, apparently I get to fit the sight glass. I'm told that this is because I have 'nimble fingers' (have they seen my crocheting?) so no sexist stereotyping there then - I suspect that really it's so that if it gets broken in the process I won't be able to look reproachfully at anyone. Ooh the excitement - I can't wait!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


or, Apologies to the Mighty Compo


When I likened Compo (RN engineer) to Quinn the Eskimo a few posts ago, I was thinking of the line 'When Quinn the Eskimo gets here, everybody's going to run to him'. This of course was wrong; there is no such line.

While I was painting the engine room at the weekend, the opening verse popped into my head (must have been the paint fumes) and I was struck by how amazingly apposite it was, so I went and checked whether I'd remembered it right. The first verse, I had:

Ev'rybody's building the big ships and the boats
Uncanny, huh?
Some are building monuments
OK, well you can't have everything
Others, jotting down notes
That'll be me
Ev'rybody's in despair
... and that's Jim
Ev'ry girl and boy,
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
Ev'rybody's gonna jump for joy
Well, spot on, I think. Let's try the next verse ...

I like to do just like the rest
Hm, bit of a worry...
I like my sugar sweet
OK, I think we can all agree on that
But guarding fumes ...
Clear reference to the BSS ...
And making haste

Not past moored boats!
Just ain't my cup of meat
Nor mine neither Bob
Ev'rybody's in the trees
Feeding pigeons on a limb
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
All the pigeons gonna run to him

Stop this! It's getting silly!

Pigeons 2

When Aaron was at primary school, he came home and proudly told me that he and his friends had formed a gang, called the Pigeon Gang (no, I never did find out why). He said 'Alex is God Pigeon; Kieron and I are Vice-God Pigeons, and Hannah and Elizabeth are Secretary Pigeons.' Ten years of sound feminist upbringing, I thought, clearly counts for nothing.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Our biscuit tin


Well, that's what Sparky calls it, and as it's copied from his, it must be right. It's the new vent in the engine room roof. So, there's a square hole in the roof, surrounded by a steel flange, bolted through the roof. Then a wooden box is built onto that - I think that strictly speaking it should be removeable, but ours is screwed on from the inside. The lid is made of ply in a rebated wooden frame with a brass porthole in the middle. The brass hinges on the inside are also attached with bolts, the heads of which you can see on the top. There will be bars underneath for security (and for hanging the washing on). The lid is hinged towards the back of the boat so opens at the front, by about three inches, which should let some heat out. It also makes a surprising difference to the amount of light that gets in, when the side hatches are closed. Having one of these was all Jim's idea, sparked off by the thought that pigeon boxes are more likely to let the rain in - and I have to say I'm very pleased with it.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Tanked up


Today didn't get off to a terribly good start; I was supposed to be repainting the roof (with hindsight I'm not quite sure why) but that was once again thwarted by heavy showers. So another bitty day, but in the end not a bad tally of achievements. I did at least get the chimneys painted and polished (we are supposed to be getting new ones made, but I have no idea when, so I thought it would be wise to smarten the old ones up for now); got some painting done in the engine room, and finished the 'restoration' of the castle panel on the front hatch, which had been quite badly damaged for ages. I was quite pleased with the way that turned out, considering my complete lack of artistic talent. (You will note that all these achievements involve paint. Lucky me.) Jim got a front fender on (it's actually an ex rear one, but it will do - too good to throw away) and has started fitting the new rear ones now they've had a good soak in creosote (substitute). Yesterday (too wet to blog) I got the day tank painted, and in the days before that the tank had been put up (the new found sight glass is safely stowed in the (currently empty) beer cupboard until all the other work is completed) and the roof hatch finished.

But only a fortnight to go, and loads of niggly painting and touchingup of blacking still to do, which probably falls to me; the fuel system still to be plumbed; all the cleaning and polishing before we set off (me? I wonder); it is starting to feel like one of those races against time on TV programmes that I always assumed were engineered (when we used to watch TV, Salvage Squad was the one Baz and I particularly liked).

The engine is meant to be being started up on Tuesday, so I won't be here to see/hear/feel it (grrr).

Hint of the day: Scotchbrite and Brasso together are far more effective than either used separately or, indeed, consecutively.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Another Warrior!

L-18 (still)

Warrior has a namesake - and rather a handsome one too, I'm glad to say, if a trifle on the large side. Although admittedly not as big as this one - the one ours was actually named after.

End in sight?


I have just heard from Jim that the missing sight glass, for the diesel day tank, the want of which was delaying the process of setting up the fuel system, has been found. Huzzah! And that even as I write the tank is having its various apertures cut and fittings appended in readiness for its installation. Also I hear that the cover for the engine room roof vent (we've settled on calling it the 'lid') has successfully been completed and attached, despite continuing persistent rain.

I suppose we should be grateful that it didn't rain (much) when we were doing the painting, but it's getting to be a bit of a nuisance now, when there are so many little bits and pieces to finish. Some of them aren't directly affected, but it's just depressing and demotivating. I rubbed down and started to repair the inside of the kitchen side hatches before I left, which means that they can't be left open in the rain, until they've been painted, which they can't be until the rain stops, so it's dark inside too ... oh, listen to me moaning. I'd have a lot more to complain about if I didn't have a boat in the first place! And surely the sun will come out soon ...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Work it out with a pencil

The exam season is once more upon us.

Read the following statement and answer the questions:

'British Waterways has reduced the price of self-pumpouts from £12.10 to £10. "We will recalibrate our meters to collect 25 instead of 30 units from each pre-payment card" said Sally Ash, Head of Boating Development at a national boating issues meeting'
(Waterways World, June 2007, p. 47)

a) How many partly used pre-payment cards will you need to collect before you can use them for a pumpout?

b) A pumpout lasts six minutes. How frequently will you have to insert a card with five units of credit on it to take advantage of this?

c) If 30 units cost £12.10, what is the cost of
i) 5 units
ii) 1 unit
iii) a Porta-Potti

d) Just before the cost of a pumpout doubled, Sarah bought ten pre-payment cards.
i) How much did she think she had saved?
ii) How much has she actually saved?

You may use a slide rule.

Just as (as I once mentioned) I may be one of the youngest people in the country who can darn, I must also have been among the last to have been taught to use a slide rule. Why, I have no idea, as we did already, by then, have primitive electronic calculators, but I suppose they thought it was good for us, like spinach, and Latin (which sadly I didn't get to do). Everyone else in the class had a new, white plastic slide rule from the school shop. I had my father's old army one, Gnr Hale inscribed on it in ink; it was made of wood and the sliding bit used to stick (while the cursor, celluloid in a metal frame, used to fall off and get lost). While other people were reading off their answers, I was still trying to wriggle it by minute degrees into place.

I'm sure I could have had a new one if I'd wanted; I was probably just being deliberately perverse. I hated maths. I also hated woodwork, metalwork, needlework and PE, but maths was daily misery and torture. In this I was a grave disappointment to my mother, whose two academic passions were Latin and mathematics. Not having the opportunity to do the former, I also had no aptitude whatever for the latter. Night after night she would try to help/encourage/coax/bully/berate me - sometimes with us both ending up in tears, but more often just me - over my School Mathematics Project textbooks. It worked, up to a point; I scraped a C at O Level.

My friend Sally, whom I sat next to while gradually working a hole through the desk with my compass (do you know they don't even have proper pointed compasses any more? Truly, the world is going to the dogs) however, got a D, in the days when that was unequivocally a Fail, and had to retake her maths O Level at sixth form - where she promptly got an A. I draw from this (and the fact that I like symbolic logic) the comforting conclusion that I wasn't really that bad but we must just have had a dreadful teacher.

My mother so liked maths that once she bought me a little book about algebra and got so engrossed in it on the way home that she missed her bus stop. To me, of course, algebra was another impenetrable mystery. Only once, many years later while going over something with Baz, it suddenly fell into place; for one fleeting, marvellous moment I could see it; it was like alchemy, and then just as suddenly it was gone again.

And talking of pumpouts, some time soon we have to face up to this unsavoury little topic in relation to Warrior. Owing to an organisational oversight, our engine was removed before we'd got round to emptying said tank. Oh well, we thought, in for a penny (as it were) and carried on using it with gay abandon until we could do so no more, at which point we firmly closed the lid and tried to ignore it, just occasionally slinging a slug of blue into the bowl. No, it doesn't smell (or if it does we've become completely inured to it) but we do wonder what sort of a job we have on our hands (oh god, it's impossible to write this without turning into a sort of sub-Finbar Saunders) when we do chug off to Wheaton Aston (very early in the morning, I think); I visualise it as having turned into some kind of hellish blancmange (albeit not, hopefully, in the shape of a giant rabbit) that will have to be sliced up with cheesewire and stirred with a stick before struggling down the pumpout hose like an antelope being consumed by a boa constrictor.

Still, fortunately for me, when he was a boy Jim always wanted to be the man that drove the tanker and went round emptying people's septic tanks. Think how rarely people get to realise their childhood ambitions, even in a small way!

Monday, May 14, 2007


Yesterday it rained all day and all night. Today was very nice, I hear, but I'm back home now, where it's dull and raining. Saturday, with its showers and tantalisingly short dry spells was very frustrating, as there was always the false promise of being able to get something done, but on Sunday I just resigned myself to bearing it stoically and curled up with a nice book. It reminded me of those sorts of days as a child, when you do nothing, but end up feeling worn out, from boredom and lack of fresh air. Really, there should have been a black and white film on the TV, one you've never heard of and would never watch again but that on a day like that becomes fascinating. Or perhaps that no longer happens in these multi-channel, DVD days. It might have been a bit of a shame not to get any major jobs done (althought Jim did some wiring) but it was nice to have an afternoon of enforced leisure, and so much better to be watching the rain falling on the canal than on some greasy, litter-strewn street.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

My friend Badger

Couldn't get out to post yesterday because of the constant rain - as I haven't yet got round to getting an aerial . I see that with the new Web 'n' Walk package you get a USB modem rather than a datacard, which I guess makes it more flexible (and perhaps you wouldn't need a separate remote aerial to work inside if you had a long enough USB cable) but it's nearly 50% more expensive, so you'd have to be sure you were going to get plenty of use out of it.

Anyway, nothing much exciting to report yesterday. I finished repainting some of the dark blue on the front doors. Jim has also repaired the top castles panel on one of these doors and I get to try to redo the painting on that (lucky that Phil Speight can't make it to the launch party then). Jim tidied up the wiring in the engine room, ground the welds on the rear deck and tidied up the back doors so that they now shut properly with the slide over them. Oh yes, and I made some buns on board, and they turned out quite well.

But here is a picture of my dear little friend Badger, one of the many happy dogs off Malpas, and my particular favourite.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Licenced to, um, go down the Nene

Much excitement: our temporary Environment Agency licence (for going to St Ives) has arrived, together with a 'holder' which looks suspiciciously like a small square of clear double-sided sticky-backed-plastic and a seven stage set of instructions. Say what you like about BW, at least they supply a licence holder that doesn't require instructions.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Elsewhere on the web ...


Granny Buttons trawls the web so I don't have to. Today Andrew notes that Narrow Boat is finally out on DVD, and that you can order it post free from Amazon. Of course I should have thought of that but I've already ordered it direct from i2i (postage £2.95). But never mind, anything to help a struggling little company pay for their mad boat antics (nice to think, actually, that the vast expense of doing (over) Dover has been subsidised by acres of carp fishing videos).

The other day, Granny B brought this blog back to my attention; it is, incredibly, the work of the editor of Waterways World, church organist and inveterate swearer Richard Fairhurst. Having a bit of form in the area of the incisive analysis of government discourse, this was the post I really liked. Richard also has a (sadly neglected) blog about his boat Hagley and it's the only one I've seen that uses the same Blogger template as me - very disconcerting when I first saw it. Hagley is very slightly significant because the next butty after it in the GU fleet was my namesake (well, OK, it's a town in Cheshire too). I've found two photos of Hale, one in GU livery and one in BW. Which was nice, as I had got the idea from somewhere that it hadn't gone into service.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The countdown begins

L - 27

That's 27 days to 'launch' or, strictly speaking, leaving, day. The engine is in; most of the plumbing is completed, but there's still some electrical work to be done and, more significantly, almost the entire fuel system still to install, from putting up the day tank down. We spend our days in Beckettian suspense, waiting for Compo (also known as Quinn the Eskimo, because when he gets here, everybody runs to him).

This morning I varnished the engine room floor. First I had to get many drips and dollops of paint off it - and it's made if very finely ridged hardwood boards. Quite enough work for one morning, I think. Then we came home, to find Canal Boat waiting for us (the magic of subscriptions! But we won't be upgrading to direct debit just yet, thanks, as we already have enough stainless steel vacuum flasks). The boat reviews in all the mags are generally the subject of some shreiking in our household because, usually, the boats they want to review and presumably readers want to read about are not to sort of boats we like, but this month they have surpassed themselves. Sorry and all that to the people who commissioned it, but this was one of the most horrible boats* (and pound for pound the outright winner) I have ever seen. A few exerpts will tell you all you need to know about the boat and/or my taste:

'josher bows with sizable "rivets" ... cruiser deck with chequer-plate flooring and slim stainless steel guard rails'
'self-seeking satellite dish'
'induction hob ... double oven ... microwave ... dishwasher' ... 'built-in freezer ... washer/drier stack'
and, best of all,
'the intricate handles of the wardrobe doors are gold-plated ...'

There is a photo, on pp. 42-43 ... oh, and it's for sale, by the way.

But to restore my sanity, here is a photo of a nice boat** which I took on Sunday.

*This is entirely the opinion of the author and is not intended to be represented as objective fact. So there.
** This is fact.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sitting pretty

Looking at old pictures of Warrior you can see that really it sat far to high at the front and too low at that back. What you can't usually see is that it also had a fairly severe list to port. Now that the engine is back in we've been able to reballast the boat, which we did this morning. We moved a lot of existing ballast (eight of those bags of steel discs) from the engine room to the fore end.

Behind the head of the bed, right at the front, is the water tank, and either side of that there is space for ballast. There is also some on the inside of the boat at the bed head. At the moment this is covered by a blanket but a box will eventually be build to contain it more neatly. First of all we just placed it on the foredeck, all on the starboard side, to see what difference it made. Not very much really.

But we were also able to add extra ballast, thanks to Geoff, who has just removed a lot from Malpas. These were worn out teeth from a concrete crushing machine, lumps of cast steel weighing I would guess about five pounds each which pack together neatly. I don't know how many of these we put in; Jim reckons about 7 cwt in total, and they all went in the front on the starboard side.

The list is now cured, and the front now sits about four inches lower, and the back a good bit higher, with the counter just out of the water. We will have to see how well this works when we get the engine running and Warrior moving, but it's certainly a great improvement. Looking from across the canal it looks a lot more elegant and 'right'. I'd have liked to see the foredeck lower still, but maybe Warrior just wasn't built that way.

After we'd done that we went off to Norbury Junction for a sort of mini canal festival, which was nice, if a trifle chilly. But then I should have thought to take a cardigan, I suppose.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Anonymous no longer

As we'll definitely be off travelling in Warrior before the final paintwork is completed, rather than just sticking a bit of paper in the window with the name on I thought it would be worth asking Dave Moore - who will be doing the signwriting when Warrior is finally finished - if he'd mind doing a temporary name and number. Not at all, and on Wednesday it was done. I wasn't there to see it, but according to Jim, moving the boat over to the towpath and turning it round between sides took almost as long as the painting itself. It's very impressive, and Warrior is really starting to look like a boat to be proud of. And if anybody sees us now, you'll know who we are to say hello!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

We've got a keb!

So there. Actually, until a couple of months ago I wouldn't even have known to call it that. I don't know whether it's a universal term or a peculiarly Midlands one; Woolfit refers to a rake in Idle Women, and it doesn't feature in Blagrave's glossary, although he does refer to the practice of kedging, which may or may not be etymologically connected. Anyway, I've wanted one for a long time so when we heard that Denis the blacksmith was tied up at Wheaton Aston we drove over yesterday evening to see if he had one or if not, to order one. And he did, so now we've got one. Just need to get a handle for it and Warrior will have another butch adornment. Who knows, we might even use it one day. (I'd like to think so.)