Thursday, November 29, 2007

nb Worrier

I, presumably along with seven million other people, have received a personal apology - it must be personal, he says so twice - from one 'Dave Hartnett', 'Acting Chairman' of HM Revenue and Customs. So that's all right then. I'm really reassured to know that the 'copy of the data is likely still to be on Government property' (love that reassuringly authoritative capital G), or at least, that 'there is no evidence that it is in the possession of anyone else'.

Actually I'm a lot more reassured by the idea of there being safety in numbers. I'd be more worried if my details were among seven hundred stolen, or even seven thousand - but seven million - surely it'll take them a while to get around to me. I take the same probability-based approach to the Terrorist Threat (TM); the chances of something happening on any given day and time and place that I happen to be are, if you think about it, minuscule. And the same goes for everyone else. (Disclaimer: yes, it is self evidently horrid that anyone, anywhere gets killed or hurt at all, ever. But thousands of times as many people are killed, injured, maimed, widowed, orphaned etc etc in road accidents and I don't see much breast beating about that. This is a plea for less breast beating, by the way, not more.)

This is also why I don't waste money doing the lottery.

Now, this is a more horrifying statistic (from today's Guardian). Thirty seven percent of ten year olds play computer games for three hours or more a day.

Thirty seven percent (37%) - not just the deprived, the neglected, the fecklessly-parented; more than a third of all of them

Ten year olds. Not teenagers. Not people over whom their parents have no control. Primary school children. Children who should be playing with dolls and action men, and Lego and Meccano, and running around outside climbing trees, and using their imagination. Oh, and going boating, of course.

Three hours or more. Not just a little while. Not one hour, or two hours (how much would that 37% go up if they were included?). Three hours. Or more. One eighth of the day. Or more. A fifth of their waking hours. Or maybe a quarter, or a third. All their leisure time plus some.

And we wonder why they can't bloody read. Or interact with other human beings. We wonder why they're overweight and unhealthy.

I note that the Playstation 3 is being advertised with the slogan 'This is Living.' Either someone, somewhere, in an advertising agency a million miles from reality is laughing their socks off, or irony is not only dead, but buried, and having its grave danced upon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Braunston flashback

Been meaning to post this picture for ages - then when I finally dig it out, of course it's not as good as I remember it. But a nice tangle of boats nonetheless. That's Dory at the back, then I think Plover, then um, Gosport, but frustratingly I don't have any clue as to the fore end in the foreground. Might it (from desperate search of my memory rather than any actual knowledge) be Kestrel?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Going anywhere nice for Christmas then?

I had lunch with a couple of colleagues today. One of them said 'I'm having a long break this year. I'm going to Jamaica ...'. The other said, 'I usually go to St Lucia, but I'm too busy this year.'

I said, I thought we might go to , erm, Cambridge... Well, to go anywhere at Christmas is pretty radical for us. We did the year before last (to a stationary Warrior at Golden Nook), and just managed to steer ourselves between the Scylla and Charybdis of hypothermia and carbon monoxide; stayed home last year but kind of missed the excitement. So this year we plan to go boating, especially as we now have a boat that moves under its own steam (OK, internal combustion).

Originally the idea was just to mooch about the Middle Level some more, maybe mount an assault on Holme Fen in the hope that the weed that defeated Temeraire and Tenacious in the summer would be mostly dead by then. But whilst chugging along on our last outing, I remembered what a lovely time we had in Cambridge, and thought what a great place it would be to spend Christmas and/or New Year, especially if we could meet up with Craig from Pyxis and his fellow Midsummer Common residential boaters again. For about an hour I was really excited, and then I spotted the flaw in this plan.

No licence.

Warrior's canal licence expired at the end of September, and we're planning to get a Gold Licence (why does that instinctively have capital letters?) in January, which is the only time you can get a full year's worth. So for now Warrior is a sans papiers, unable to leave the Middle Level. Oh, the humiliation of being turned back at Salters Lode doesn't bear thinking about.

On the other hand, I subsequently thought, about two weeks later, what about a temporary licence? The EA website says that a week's licence is 10% of the annual fee - exhorbitant, but potentially worthwhile for a week's holiday. So I rang them up and asked how much it would be, and was told £148. I know licences have gone up, I thought, doing a quick and very rough adding-a-nought-to-the-end, but surely not that much. 'Are you sure', I asked, 'It says on the website, which I have open in front of me.... etc etc...'. Oh yes, she said. £59.80. That sounded rather better. So it may well be Fenland Festivities this year. There were some really super pubs ...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Warrior WILL get painted...

... eventually. And this is where it will be done, we think.

It may not look much now, but it's long enough (especially as the plan was* to only paint one end anyway), and it floats. All (!) it needs is covering over with some translucent heavy duty plastic sheeting, and bob's your proverbial uncle. And hopefully that won't be as hard as it looks as we can put the boat in first and then work off its roof.

Getting down the bank to it without overshooting and falling in is a bit of a challenge, but we managed it once - a rope attached to the bank will make the task a lot easier.

At any rate, it's the best chance we're likely to get to get Warrior under cover for painting, hopefully now next spring.

*We still have, of course, to finalise the colour scheme and signwriting layout. I thought we had, but nothing, it seems, is fixed until that paint actually goes on. I still favour painting only the back cabin and engine room section, and having signwritten panels; Jim fancies having the name all along the side, tug style (yes, but, I say; real tugs don't have that configuration of portholes, nor such a long cabin). I have come round to his favoured colour scheme though: dark grey, black and cream. And to very plain, rather than ornate, signwriting.

But then, it did take us two years to decide what colour to paint the house. And that hasn't even got any writing on it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Here comes another one

Someone, somewhere, has just bought another three cylinder National; a D3, so essentially similar to Warrior's albeit not a marine (DM) model. The Ebay ad mentioned my Canal Boat article as showing an example of 'what can be achieved with such a lovely piece of old British Engineering'. I won't argue with that - I only hope that it didn't put too many buyers off by setting out the costs involved too!

I did contact the seller, and just tried to email again so that he can pass our details on to the new owner, but I'm not sure it's going to go through now that the auction's finished. So if anyone knows who it is who's bought it, point them in this direction - it'll be great to compare notes, offer encouragement and watch progress.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Goodbye, T-Mobile ... Hello Vodafone

Ah, it started so promisingly... just over a year ago I was very chuffed, having signed up for T-Mobile's Web'n'Walk Pro service. It was - and no doubt still is - a very good service, and probably the best value for money available at that or any other time. For £20 a month I was getting effectively unlimited downloads. The service that has superseded it, Web'n'Walk Plus, is, I think, £28. And even that beats most if not all other providers' prices for a similar service.

Trouble is, I haven't been using it, since Warrior's been finished (well, phase one) and we returned from the grand tour. The card has been stuck into the laptop only once since August, so I've been paying £20 a month for nothing. Other things have happened too. My dear old Woolworths-purchased Virgin pay-as-you-go phone is starting to feel distinctly wobbly and has given up on ringing, occasionally making rather pathetic little chirruping noises instead. Sometimes it works if I give it a good shake, but you don't want to be doing that to an old friend, and anyway, it can only make matters worse in the long run.

So I needed a new phone. Normally that would mean another trip to Woolworths (or Wolwoth, as we call it, in the light of longstanding missing letters at the Newhaven branch). But since working in the big city, I've been getting ideas above my station. I see people with Blackberries, and all manner of other impressive devices. I thought, wouldn't it be good if I could check my email without lugging the laptop around...

So I thought, I know, T-Mobile have been really good, so I'll go back to their branch in Eastbourne and see if I can trade in the Web'n'Walk (on which I have fulfilled my contractual obligation) for a nice web-enabled phone. The first disappointment was that T-Mobile no longer seem to employ knowledgeable, well-informed people in their shop (or perhaps I was just lucky last time). The girl I was dealing with hadn't heard of Web'n'Walk Pro, which she thought was entirely understandable as she had only worked there since it was discontinued (er, training?). We decided what tariff I wanted (and it came to £37.50, so things were clearly already getting a bit out of hand), and then I went to choose a phone ... we were still on quite good terms at this point.

I decided that I'd only splash out as far as a phone that was free with that rate, and found one that was quite nice. I think it was a Sony Ericsson K810i. Anyway, we had it all packed up and ready to go, when Kim (for that was her name) said she'd have to ring up and see what it would cost me as an existing customer. OK, I thought, maybe I'll get a better deal for being a loyal user of, ooh, fourteen months' standing. After waiting about ten minutes for a reply, she said that for me, with my discount, the phone I'd chosen would be £50. Erm, I said, but you just told me - and it says plain as day on the display - that it's free with that plan. It is, she said, if you're a new customer. Well, I said, I'll just sign up as a new customer and cancel the old deal when I get home. And Kim replied, do you want to do that, then? (no, I want to spend fifty pounds quite unnecessarily. What do you think?) The next hitch was that the old T-Mobile bill I'd taken with me has my down as Dr, while the bank, bless their little hearts, insist that my debit card has to say Ms. This caused great consternation.

(As my cheques also say Dr, I can foresee further difficulties here. To digress, I resent being expected to use a title at all; a name should be perfectly good enough. Particularly as banks are largely happy for male customers to have just their initials, but insist on appending a sex-based appellation to female ones. While it is not on its own sufficient reason for undertaking five years of intellectual toil, being able to wield the non-gender-specific title Dr certainly is one of the rewards. The bank claims that it's an anti-fraud measure. If a bloke tried to use my card they'd have him sussed and bang to rights straight away on account of anyone could see that he wasn't a Ms. I cannot begin to explain how stupid - and indeed, counterproductive - this is. Ye fraudster can, presumably, read, so would employ a female sidekick to impersonate me. If indeed such impersonation were necessary now all fraudulent purchases are carried out online anyway. Whereas if Mr A Fraudster didn't know whether the rightful holder of the card was male or female he'd have a 50% chance of getting it wrong and thus being caught. Still, I guess no one is still labouring under the misapprehension that any intelligence is required to be a bank.)

Back to the point. I had grudgingly agreed that I could be Ms on the new contract, when I overheard Kim's colleague telling a different customer that they would need a phone with Windows (starting price about 300 quid) to access Outlook email. As this is what I planned to do, I thought I'd better double check. Kim asked a podgy youth who had clearly stolen a badge saying 'Manager' from some poor geek who was now locked up in the broom cupboard, and he replied, we don't recommend that phone for web browsing (i.e. the first thing I had asked about when I walked into the shop) ... I walked out, having wasted about forty five minutes of my life.

Next stop, Carphone Warehouse. Not for long - their lack of enthusiasm and interest was a very successful strategy for discouraging those pesky customers. It was pretty quiet in the 3 shop, but their big display about how they cover 99% of the UK population reminded me that they have the worst coverage in terms of geographical area, so I didn't bother them.

That left Vodafone. Well, give Kayleigh (herself a third generation narrowboat fan) and Amanda a bonus. They were super. I asked whether I'd be able to access my Outlook Webmail without Windows, and Kayleigh tried on her own phone - no problem. There is one downside to the otherwise excellent (and cheaper) Vodafone deal compared to the Web'n'Walk; the download limit is lower, which means I'll have to be careful when using the phone as a modem with the laptop, although it shouldn't be a problem using the web and even downloading stuff with the phone itself.

But, notwithstanding that, for less that I would have been paying T-Mobile for a fairly ordinary phone, and less phone/text usage, I have got a Nokia N95 8GB. I didn't think I was much of a gadget freak, but I am besotted with it. I had to get up just then and go and pick it up, slide it open (with such a satisfyingly solid little clunk). It does all sorts of things I never knew I needed (though of course everyone else knows that I need GPS). It has (and this is sheer madness) a full length feature film preloaded on it. It can afford to; it's got an 8GB memory. Crazy, but I love it. It has a 5 megapixel camera (plus another, smaller one, on the front for video calling), which I didn't even realise until I got home.

It's like a Swiss Army Knife; it's exactly the right weight in my hand.

Better still, I have already mastered its main functions. I can make phone calls, send texts and yes, browse the web. I can indeed access my emails, and send them. I am determined to read the instruction book from cover to cover (usually Baz does this and tells me what I need to know on a strictly need-to-know basis) and to implement it. My next task is to use the MP3 player and FM radio. I am, in short, a lost cause.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Two rivers

Two rivers that I cross on my way to work.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Oh dear...

Two plugs in two days but I can't resist this (hope I've got the permalink OK). And when you've finished laughing and started crying, here's where you want to look.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

If I lived on a boat....

Then I wouldn't have to think of tenuous and/or spurious boaty links to post about everyday things. If I lived on a boat (like Carrie or Jaytee), then everything I did would be boat-related. Like on Sunday, when the weather was wet and miserable, and there was a howling gale going on outside, and I cheered myself up by baking lots of cakes.

And I asked myself, am I better off living in a house in this weather, or would I rather be on a boat? I used to love it on Andante being tucked up in bed in weather like that, hearing the rain lashing on the roof and feeling the boat moving in the wind. And it's lovely to be cosy in a little cabin with the stove, rather than a big house. But on the downside, there's more often than not mud outside, and water to fetch... I dunno... Can I have another go just to be sure?

I had a lovely postcard once. It said 'Just give me the chance to prove that money can't make me happy'.

By the way, Carrie's Blackbird blog is great. Thanks to Granny Buttons, again, for drawing my attention to it. But I also want to put in a word for a non-boat blog, also courtesy of Andrew: Diamond Geezer, my new every day must-read. It's about London, in all its glorious and not so glorious aspects, full of information and fantastically and voluminously written. I don't know how he does it. Randomly browsing his archive yesterday I came across this photo, which is my new desktop background on my work computer.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Swing bridge works

These photos were taken back in September - I couldn't believe it when I checked. This was in the early stages of the works. I haven't actually officially found out what they were doing, but from observation it appears that they have been replacing timbers in the structure (does it have a name?) that guides boats through the swing bridge when it's open.

It's been a long process, and much of it, it seems, could only be done at low tide, with all the equipment and the barge/pontoon being moved downriver whenever work stopped, enabling the bridge to continue functioning throughout.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Wide open spaces

The three way junction between the Twenty Foot (bottom right), the Nene Old Course (Whittlesey Dyke) and Bevills Leam (left fork), from the Nene Old Course about to turn sharp right onto the Twenty Foot.

It's what the Fens are famous for, and it is impressive. In one way, photos can't do it justice, can't capture the sheer extent and flatness of it, in every direction, to the edge of the world. Wide and empty, it's the antithesis of urban canals, and in its own way I love it (almost) as much. With no distractions, it's just you, the water, the boat and the weather; a distillation of pure boating.

There are diversions, of course. You start to get excited about the smallest things. An enormous stack of hay bales. A collection of concrete pipe sections, in the middle of nowhere... why? A culvert and an (abandoned?) cottage. Birds congregating on telegraph wires. Mist rising off the water.

But a lot of the time all that can be seen is bank, because with these being drainage channels, and the land well below sea level, it's built up so high. Apparently Whittlesey Dyke* is the lowest waterway in Britain, so if I'm right in thinking that the Huddersfield through Standedge is the highest, then we've boated on both.

*We can't remember where we read this, and thinking about the geography it seems a bit unlikely as it's part of the Nene Old Course which goes, via Mullicourt Aqueduct, over the Sixteen Foot. But whichever is exactly the lowest waterway in Britain, it's got to be around here somewhere).

Friday, November 16, 2007

We shall alight no more

A sad day. Not a tragic day. Just a minor, quotidian, trivially sad one.

I noted only a week or two ago how delightful it was that the train companies keep alive the term 'alight' in the sense of 'you cannot alight from the rear four coaches as this station has a short platform.' And they used to do it on the tube too: 'Alight here for Buckingham Palace'.

But yesterday, I noticed for the first time, the word 'alight' in the automated announcements has been crudely substituted with 'exit'. Why? To discourage confused potential arsonists? Because tourists didn't understand? (frankly, any verb would do in the context. 'Eviscerate here for Buckingham Palace' - they'd still get the message).

No, it's just another tiny, pointless, chip in the war of attrition against the beauty and diversity of the English language. Why have a dozen fascinating, subtly different words when one simple multi-purpose bludgeon will do? Makes learning the language so much easier, don't you know. And so much less worthwhile.

But on a cheerier note, here are some things I like about the tube.
1. Most of the time it works, magically whisking you around in a secret netherworld so that you emerge dazed and blinking into completely new and unexpected places.
2. The spontaneous efficiency with which people get on and off, in an example of anarchism at its best. Usually.
3. The fact that in this safety obsessed world, hundreds of thousands of people are permitted - nay, required - to stand within a body's length of god (or TfL) knows how many thousands of volts, and within INCHES of very fast moving objects, with people crowded a dozen deep behind them. Thousands, hundreds of thousands of people. Every day. And hardly anybody, ever, gets hurt. (And when they do, it's usually because they meant to.) Now that puts locks into perspective.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


When we're up at Bill Fen I usually walk into Ramsey every day, along the bank of the river, but we'd never taken the boat up there - for the very good reason that it's a dead end. The river - the High Lode - was culverted and the town's main street (called Great Whyte, and running at right angles to the old High Street) built over it in the 1850s.

We did mooch up there one time in Helyn, and at that point the town quay, as it now is, was non-existent, or at least derelict. It's been smartened up since then - which would have been about four years ago. There's room for a couple of moorings and what I suppose might be a winding hole. Warrior just about got round in it with inches to spare - just as well, as it would have been a long way backwards back up the High Lode with nowhere to turn until we got back to the marina.
What a boat! Built to fit all the local dimensions perfectly - even ones that didn't exist at the time. Oh, except for the draft, of course. Couldn't get both ends in to the bank, even at the official quay bit.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Navigation notes

The other day I finally got around to emailing the EA to enquire about the possibility of navigating the Sussex Ouse in Helyn. And they've sent me a booklet, Afloat on Sussex Rivers, with navigation notes. This is a good start to the project, but there's still a way to go. 1. Contact harbourmaster with further enquiries. 2. Finish boat.

If you click on the picture to embiggen it, or if you have very good eyesight, you can read all about my local river.

Other notes:
To the Manager, WH Smiths, Newport, South Wales
Dear Sir,
You may have noticed, on Tuesday, a woman enter your store, pick up a copy of Canal Boat magazine, turn to page 59, read an entire article, replace the magazine on the shelf, and leave without making a purchase. Not so much as a small bar of Dairy Milk.
It was my sister. Sorry.

Sebastian has started a new blog on Blogger. If he keeps it up, I'll let him add it to the blogroll. But for now, it's here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wot no plaque?

I've been to visit another holy site today. It was a few weeks ago I saw Elizabeth Jane Howard's memoir, Slipstream, in a charity shop. Unread (wonder why), hardback, two quid. A quick glance at the index showed that Rolt and Aickman got a mention, and there was a picture of them all on board Ailsa Craig, so I forked out. I read one of her novels once, and it was so boring I can't remember which one it was (no, I lie, it was The Sea Change. But I can't remember a thing about it).

The memoir was sort of interesting, but was basically a litany of dysfunctional families, unhappy affairs, genteel poverty and writer's block. One of the unhappy affairs (I don't believe she had a single happy one) was of course with Robert Aickman, who comes across as a singularly unattractive character - possessive (even though he was married to someone else), clingy and dependent.

Anyway, it served to remind me that there was another site to which to make a pilgrimage not so very far from my office, so off I went today to find it and gaze in awe. I had half thought it might have been marked with a Blue Plaque, but evidently not, although the Pre-Raphaelites next door but one have got one, and Millicent Fawcett across the road. Almost every other building round here, in fact. Perhaps they just don't want to attract hordes of tourists ... it's our little secret.

Where and why? Answers on a postcard please ....

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Over the Rainbow

When we first went to the rubbish bins at Bill Fen we were somewhat perturbed to see a sign saying that 'only Rainbow-type bags to be put in these bins ... no black sacks.' I thought we had perhaps to purchase some specialised environmental binliners. I hate it when I don't understand things, especially when they're things I'm meant to be doing. Anyway, I looked inside the bin, and there seemed to be all manner of small bags of rubbish in there, so I was none the wiser, but I thought, oh well, if they can all get away with using carrier bags then so can we.

All became clear on our first visit to the local shops. As predicted, someone had stopped to offer us a lift along the track into Ramsey (this was when we hadn't got the car there, but I always walk now anyway, and hope that I don't get offered a lift). 'I'm just going to the Rainbow,' she said, 'Is that OK for you?' Er, yeah, anywhere will do, we replied. But when we got there, all was revealed.

Rainbow is the name by which, for some reason, the Co-op goes in this part of the world (whether that be Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, East Anglia or some even larger region I still don't know). It's nice to be able to shop at a Co-op; we don't have one near us at home. The Ramsey Rainbow isn't enormous or particularly well stocked (four models of washing machine but no taramasalata) but is OK on the beer front (has St Peter's organic beer which is very nice and comes in beautiful embossed bottles) and caters for all the basics. Yes, I know I don't actually need taramasalata.

The sign by the bins now asks depositors to use 'supermarket bags' which I guess is clearer if less fun. The logic is that with smaller bags you can get more in the bins, because they fit the space more neatly. We are also encouraged to recycle as much as possible by taking our recyclables to the recycling centre at the Rainbow. This I am happy to do, and as I go, ritually, every day for the paper, it's no hardship, even on foot (god, I'm sounding like a smug cow, aren't I?). They don't take plastic there, though, so there's still a fair bit of rubbish for the bin. Much of the rest of the domestic waste is stuff that, at home, would go on our amazing compost heap - teabags, peelings. I thought perhaps they should set up a big compost heap at the marina - the bigger the better - there's plenty of space and surely plenty of uses for the end product. Jim thought that perhaps it would be too difficult to stop people putting the wrong sort of stuff on it, but surely most people have a pretty good idea? I might suggest it next time I see John or Lyn - unless of course Lyn reads this first!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Swans behaving badly

I am not a great animal lover. I'm a great believer in defending their rights (and yes, they do have rights, insofar as we have duties to them), and I am a vegetarian (was even vegan for a while) for that reason ... but that doesn't mean I have to like them. I respect some cats (but not ones that act like dogs), and some creatures look sweet from a distance, but close up I've found most of the rest of the animal kingdom (come to think of it, no need to exclude humans here) to be either smelly or scary, or, more usually, both. Guinea pigs are quite good I suppose, if you like that sort of thing.

We're all brought up to fear swans. They look beautiful from a distance (if you go for haughty) but we're always told that they can break your neck with one twitch of their feathers or somesuch, and I grew up believing that... then someone commented here that maybe that was a bit of a myth. Well, Jaytee (for it was he), you want to come to Bill Fen sometime! There is a family of swans there - two parents and three adolescents - who are not only defensively dangerous, but actively come looking for you.

The first time we were there, Jim was in the engine room when one of them stuck its head through the hatches and pecked him. And last week I found myself sidling through my own kitchen, back pressed to the sink, as the entire gang laid siege, hissing and pecking through the side hatch. (Later I put the perspex in and went 'na-na-ne-na-na' at them.) Then later, when Jim was making his lunch by said hatch, two of them sneaked up and tried to grab it - gave him the fright of his life. I refuse to feed them to try to make them go away, as I'm sure it would only encourage them.

All I can do is tell them that they're not doing themselves any favours. You're the sort, I tell them, that give swans a bad name. Do they care? I fear not. Another generation doomed to be outcasts.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Gas free

For a long time I didn't really get gas free boats; I still don't from a safety point of view, though with diesel appliances now apparently so advanced I can see the attraction of not lugging gas bottles about.

That's by the by though. The real story is that as of yesterday morning, when a man came to fit a new meter and 'discovered' a leak, we have had a gas free house. No central heating, no hot water, no cooker.

Being tough and resourceful boaters, we are taking great pride in taking this in our stride. The first thing Jim said was 'I've cleaned out a bucket for you.' (For bathing purposes, that is.) We're not going to freeze, as we have a solid fuel range in the kitchen and a fire in the front room. We had fish and chips for dinner last night, as it was a Thursday, which was a bit disappointing as I rather fancied doing a nice stew on the range...

And as I write, our chirpy local CORGI-person has just arrived, so our mettle may not be tested for much longer.

UPDATE: All is now functioning again - not much of a trial, was it. Turned out the problem was the flame failure device (!) on the boiler pilot light.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

In the shops now

I thought one of the attractions of taking out a subscription to a publication was that it landed on your doormat before appearing on the shelves of the local newsagent - not so with Canal Boat, it would appear. I have, however, by dint of handing over to my trusty local tobacconist a sum in excess of three guineas, secured myself a copy of this highly desirable publication. 'I'm buying this,' I told him, in the hope of a little parochial glory, 'Because there's an article by me in it.' 'Are you sure it's in this one?' he replied, 'It only came out today.' I left with my brow slightly more furrowed than when I arrived.

I waited until I was on the train to have a look at the article, and I must say, Kevin has done it proud with the photos; it looks really great. I wasn't expecting a photo byline, but he's culled a rather heroic looking shot of me from the website. It's actually on the Hundred Foot in a slightly chilly breeze, but looks very purposeful.

The text I think he has cut a bit more since I last saw it, but I'm not complaining. There are also little bits that he added, at an earlier stage, and I approved them despite not thinking they were 100% perfect; I've been an editor, and there's nothing worse than a precious author.

However, I am now going to try to have my cake and eat it. Kevin really wanted to bring out the way that once you embark on a project like our engine, you can't really get off the rollercoaster until you get to the end. That's definitely the way it feels, and he put in a little parenthesis to make the point: ' ... you realise you have to keep going, even if you can ill afford it, because stopping will leave you with a half finished project and a lot of wasted money!'

What I realised, when I read it this morning, was that I had allowed my name to be put to a blatant example of what philosophers (this is true) call the Concorde Fallacy. A fallacy, in this sense, is a faulty chain of reasoning. For example, if you toss a coin ten times and it comes up heads, you think that there's a greater probability of it coming up tails next time; of course there isn't, the probability is still 50% as it always was and always will be. This is known as the Gambler's Fallacy, and is usually illustrated by reference to roulette (but coins are simpler).

The Concorde Fallacy, which gets its name for obvious reasons, is about making spending decisions (I suppose it could apply by analogy to other situations, like whether to continue with a personal relationship). If you have spent a lot of money on a project already, it is tempting to think that this gives you an additional reason in favour of spending more money, so as to somehow ensure that the money you've spent already isn't wasted. In fact, what has happened, and however much you have spent, in the past has no bearing at all on what the sensible course of action is now. You have, as it were, to start from where you are, and decide purely on the basis of the likely future consequences of each course of action open to you now.

So now you know that I know that I have, nominally, committed a fallacy, I feel better. Actually, it's a fallacy I'm particularly fond of, in the sense that I was pleased to learn about it, because it's a very tempting one to fall into and it's good to be able to refute it. It doesn't really apply to Warrior's engine though, because the reason for continuing with that was never because we'd already spent so much etc etc; it was because we wanted to see it bloody well finished, at almost any cost.

I wonder whether, with me and Bones, this issue of Canal Boat has the highest ever degree count ... Finally, I have concluded that Canal Boat is better than Waterways World because the former lasts the entire journey to London, and the latter only lasts about as far as Clapham Junction.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Did I mention the stove?

The French stove, which I think may have mentioned (for example, here, here, here, here and here) has finally been used in earnest; lovely as the weather was, the evenings were a bit chilly. And sorry to go on about it, but it is fantastic. It works so well, and is the most controllable stove I've ever used (I said this to Jim, and he said, well you haven't used that many have you, so I totted it up and there were at least five, so I reckon best of five isn't bad, and that included a Squirrel, albeit a knackered one). It draws so well there is, as yet, no soot or brown gunk on the mica in the door. The riddler works brilliantly; the damper has a noticeable effect when you adjust it, and best of all, the entire casting has not, yet, shattered into a million little pieces. The enammelled outer casing gets hot enough that it's uncomfortable to put your hand on it, but not so hot as to do serious injury if you accidentally brush past it. It is just about right for putting your pyjamas on top of (although obviously not leaving them unattended) before bed.

The design and execution of the stovepipe clearly contributes significantly to this success story - I never did find out what it cost, but whatever it was, it's worth every penny (we'd only have gone and blown the money on something else by now anyway, like boots for the children or something equally frivolous).

Now all we need is a chimney; a simple matter, you would think, given that it is, apparently, as standard roof fitting which we haven't altered. There was one, and we never, as they say, saw the going of it, but gone it has - we're making do at the moment with the back cabin one, but - very oddly, given that that is also a completely standard fitting - it doesn't fit properly and sits about an inch and a half up in the air. Jim visited the Shotbolts' chandlery at the weekend and tried on two or three for size , but none fitted. Very odd. I rather liked some very plain, painted steel ones that they had, in line with the policy of not drawing attention to the front end of the cabin, and I think we may get one made on that basis. So for now we can only have a fire at one end or the other, not both.

Incidentally, while I was in Lewisham the other week, I saw a shop selling real, new, tin baths. I want one! And then I can have my jug-and-bucket scrub in front of the fire in the back cabin. Humph, said Jim, where would you keep it? I thought it was obvious - I'd keep it in the bath. If I go there again, I'm going to get one. I am!

I was going to promise that I wouldn't mention the stove again now, but that might be rather rash.

Monday, November 05, 2007

More butch bits

Quite a while ago we decided that when we finally paint Warrior we will only paint and signwrite the back end; the front of the cabin, and all the horizontal surfaces, will be left in raddle red. There's a big beam across the roof just foreward of the engine room, and this looks like a good dividing line, and we would have just taken the grey or black shiny paint up to there. But then at the RN rally we saw a couple of Stowe Hill boats which were fulsomely embellished with bolts and rivets and chunks of steel, and it was very effective, so we decided to adopt a similar tactic with Warrior, extending the roof beam down the sides to provide a physical division between the painted cabin and the rest of the, well, cabin, but the bit that you're not meant to notice is actually there.

This idea has been quite a long time in development, and various possibilities for fake rivets were considered, but found to be impracticable, so we have ended up with genuine bolts, some of which are genuinely holding the bar on, and some of which are welded on from the back and then ground off. After tapping the holes and bolting it on into a bed of paintable silicone, Jim ground the top flush with the beam so hopefully it looks like a continuation of it. The whole affair will eventually be painted black, and the rest of the rear of the cabin will be dark grey. The final details of the signwriting are still at the consultation stage....

In fact, only one side got done this weekend, for want of somewhere to stand to do the other side. By putting the boat stern in to the bank Jim was able to work off the pontoon to do the starboard side, but it was too short to do the other side with the boat facing the other way. We even went into Ramsey with the thought of doing it on the town wharf, but couldn't get close enough into the bank. However, now we know it works, the second side can wait until we get Warrior into the paint dock.

You can also see the final effect quite well in the last of yesterday's photos. I like it. I know it's fake as anything, but it will serve a useful decorative purpose, and I think it looks good.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Twilight on the Twenty Foot

Yeah, yeah, I know, sunset photos, SO boring, so easy ... but admit it, so nice. Just back from a weekend with Warrior at Bill Fen, and from a grand total of three days, have managed to acquire 144 digital photos (ugh. how gross) as well as about sixteen of what I still think of as 'real' ones.
Saturday afternoon, just after three

We got a few little jobs done, and also found time for a brief trip out, leaving on Saturday morning for the brief run up the High Lode into Ramsey town (of which more anon), then back and via the Nene Old Course and Whittlesey Dyke and a very sharp turn onto the Twenty Foot River, which we pootled up a little way before turning round, pootling back and tying up for the night - well, the afternoon, really.

Just after half past four

Having cleared a number of fisherman (love trying to see if I can make them smile) we thought we'd found a fairly deserted spot - though there are few places on these drains that are far from a road - when a largish van and a car and a couple of blokes turned up. Our best guess is that there were there for a spot of night fishing (well, perhaps they think we're mad) although I never saw any evidence of piscicidal activity; first they turned their headlights on, then off; then they ran the engine... at any rate, I'll bet they were up to no good.

Quarter to five

Nonetheless, we had an undisturbed night, and were ready for an early start this morning (well, OK, 7.30), which was lovely, watching the sun come up and dispelling the misty chill. In fact the weather was marvellous for the whole three days; we were incredibly lucky.

Five o'clock

We had thought that we would have a good vantage point for watching local firework displays ... which we did, as we could see them in all directions across the flat terrain, but they were all to far away to be fully appreciated. On the plus side, that meant we could hardly hear them either; and anyway, who needs fireworks when you can watch the sun set?