Thursday, January 31, 2008

HOW much?

The Callumcraft 22, in 1972:
basic model: £598
de luxe model: £1,385

So no depreciation yet there, then.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Hay Inclined Plane

I suppose twenty five years is quite a long time to expect to remember something, but I do wish I'd paid more attention at the time. Following Richard (Inveterate Swearer) Fairhurst's illuminating comment earlier, I went a-Googling for the Hay Inclined Plane.

The website of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum says that the inclined plane was restored in the 1980s. I was there in 1982, so I suppose that means that it might have changed a fair bit since then. I've found lots of pictures of the plane itself, but none of the area in my first photo.

When I saw the pics of the inclined plane, I realised that I had a photo of that too, in my album. I dashed out to fetch it, and when I slipped it out of its photo corners (can you still buy them?) I saw that I had written on the back: The Hay Inclined Plane. Ironbridge. 28.9.82 (Right: Chris Collard). As if I could forget Mr Collard. Or indeed, Mr (Alan) Wrigglesworth (left arm just visible), who also accompanied us and was, in fact, the history teacher. But to my eternal shame, I do not remember anything at all about the Hay Inclined Plane or the canal.

But, I was there. I've walked down an inclined plane. Lovely words.

Where was I?

Twenty five years ago my A Level History (British Economic and Social 1733-1945) class went on a trip to Ironbridge, to see the famous, ahem, iron bridge, and visit the museum.

Until now the trip has stuck in my mind largely because it was the first time I'd voluntarily been on the tube since, at the age of six, following a bomb scare and a particularly nasty public information film about escalators (I wonder just how many nightmares and neuroses those films have been responsible for over the years), I developed a quite serious phobia of the tube in general and of escalators in particular. I had in the intervening years been dragged down a few times, if not kicking and screaming, then paralysed with terror, by my mother, but now - aged seventeen and with teachers to impress - I gritted my teeth and did it. As these things often go, I now love the tube. It's only very very recently though that I've been able to stand on an escalator without gathering my skirts about me in fear of its nasty sharp pointy teeth. (One of the mottoes that sees me through life is 'stupider people than you have survived').

Anyway, I recall that it was a very enjoyable outing (see, I've always liked old industrial stuff) but I was looking through my boxes and boxes of old photos earlier and I found one taken on a bit of the trip that I don't remember at all.

I had written on the back: Disused canal, Shropshire 28.9.82 and something that looks like (I have always, reputedly, had terrible writing. I think it looks quite nice, but I suppose I must grant that that doesn't necessarily make it easy to read) Bottom of Hay I. Place. Now I have no idea whether that refers to the location where the photo was taken or to my system for filing it, or indeed whether that was actually what I intended to write, but I offer it up for what it's worth.

We went by train, so we can't have travelled far afield. This must therefore be somewhere near Ironbridge. It is surely also a fairly distinctive location. So can anybody shed any light on where it is, and what's there now? I really would like to know.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Do you remember your first ...

... lock?

Thinking back to Helyn's travels, which were really our first boating experiences (I'd been on the Broads with my family as a teenager, but certainly came across no locks there. We weren't even allowed near the low bridges.) I realised that the first ever lock we went through would have been Chertsey, but scary as they - and their keepers - were, I'm not going to count the manned Thames locks.

The first lock we ever worked our own way through was therefore Weybridge Town Lock. I remember very little about this. It was November, and it was probably raining. I think we met some people who helped, or at least advised, us ... does that count then? They owned a narrowboat, but at the time were out walking with, I seem to recall, a small dog.

I've just indulged myself with a Canalplan virtual cruise of the River Wey, and there's a picture there, of New Haw Lock that brought back memories, of grubby gongoozlers (just what we did not need) and a fearsome weir. I remember going past Pyrford Basin, and wondering what would happen to the river if all those boats decided to come out at once (little danger of that ever happening, I guess).

I can not recall which lock it was on the Wey in which I manned the boat for the first time and left Jim on the bank, and as the lock emptied so many floating leaves got clogged round the prop that the boat just wasn't going anywhere. As we drifted gently about, I was paying more attention to Jim jumping up and down on the fast receding opposite bank like a cartoon character. Not having much idea of what was going on, in desperation I finally shoved it into reverse which, thankfully, worked like magic; the boat was suddenly operational again, and I was able fairly coolly to steer us back. Took ages to work out what had actually happened though.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pictures of Helyn

Oddly, we have very few - well, to be honest, no - photos of Helyn on the water. I can only account for this omission by the following factors:
1. While we were using Helyn, we didn't have a digital camera. But, on the other hand, we still had plenty of other cameras, and I've got plenty of photos taken from the boat, just none of her.
2. When you're poodling along a canal, it's easy to hop on and off and take photos of the boat in attractive locations, in locks etc etc. When you're on the Middle Level, the Thames or the Wey (all the places we went with Helyn) it's not so easy. That, however, still does not account for why there are no photos of her on her home mooring at Floods Ferry, the Town Quay at March, Well Creek or any number of other stopping points where there surely must have been firm ground to stand upon.
3. When we had Helyn we were new to boating, and needed all our attention just to do the basics. But again, there were usually three of us, and we did stop and tie up sometimes.
4. Can it be that Helyn just didn't strike me, until it was too late, as particularly photogenic? That it didn't occur to me to take pictures of the boat. I suppose I didn't know then that I would be blogging, and maybe I didn't think that we would use Helyn for such a relatively short time (about two years).

All the more reason to get her out onto the Ouse this summer and get some nice photos then.

Someone recognised her charms though. Peter Coe, an artist who moored his narrowboat at Floods Ferry immortalised Helyn in acrylics in the summer of 2004, and kindly gave us a copy. I hope he won't mind me posting a photo of it (I tried to scan it, but it came out dreadfully), as it's just about the only picture of Helyn we've got. That's her in the middle, by the way, bow into the bank.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It's Helyn week here at nbWarrior

As we bring you another exciting instalment in the adventures of a little GRP cruiser. Today Jim decided that we might as well go the whole hog and took the floor up. There was a little water underneath (we think rain that came in through a poorly sealed deck fitting) but considering no one had looked under there for probably thirty seven years, not bad at all. The GRP has been finished on the inside, and doesn't appear to have suffered any damage, and cleaned up a treat.

The ply floor also will be fine to go back after a bit of an airing - there's no damage to it so presumably the wetness was of very recent origin.

You can see how nice and rigid the hull is*. We put this down to it having been made in the days before the existence of computer programmes that can tell you the very minimum thickness you can get away with.

*Well, perhaps you can't actually see it, but it is.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Callumcraft 22

Callumcraft is not a well known make of boats. Over the time we've had Helyn I've looked out for others and have seen about three advertised for sale and maybe the same number out on the water - including, if I remember rightly, one at Wheaton Aston. When we first saw Helyn the name rang a vague bell as one of the manufacturers mentioned by Graham Booth in The Inland Boat Owner's Book under 'other reputable names from the past include...'

So guess what was the very - the very - first boat ever to be reviewed in Waterways World? Only the Callumcraft 22, i.e. our very own Helyn. Volume 1, Issue 1, page 14. There are so many treats and revelations (e.g. boating is not getting more expensive. Boating has always been expensive) to be found in my complete set of back issues, but this is a very good and apposite place to start.

One of the many things one notices is that the reviews were a lot more rigorous back then. Nowadays the reviewers struggle to find anything critical to say, and then it's invariably a minor point; boat reviews in the glossies today are much more a 'through the keyhole type exercise' than anything like a useful buyer's guide - especially as the boats reviewed are nearly all bespoke.

Back in Spring 1972 it was a different matter. Here was a fairly mass market boat, and the reviewer finds a fair few things to fault it on - although it fares better than many other boats reviewed in subsequent issues.

The boat they took out was the de luxe version, supplied by local agents Shropshire Union Cruises of Norbury Junction; the boats were actually manufactured in Lancashire. One thing that strikes you about all these early reviews - and indeed the adverts - is how many berths they managed to squeeze in, theoretically at least. This 22 x 7 foot boat was deemed perfectly capable of sleeping six - the only caveat raised by the reviewer being that the dining table would be too small to seat that number. And 'the girls' were very critical of the lack of an oven, standard equipment (even on the de luxe model) being only a two burner hob and grill.

From the outside this is clearly recognisable as our Helyn, despite the fact that Helyn has been modified with a folding windscreen and solid cockpit roof. On the inside, Helyn has lost at least two berths in favour of storage space, fridge and cooker with oven (so presumably 'the girls' would be happier, although I can't recall that I ever used it), and she has been endowed with a far more generously sized table made by us (well, OK, Jim) topped with genuine Formica which took a lot of tracking down, but we wanted it to look authentic! It is good stuff anyway; there's nothing else quite like it. It's still widely used in industrial settings, but no one supplies it in small quantities any more.

I think that with the de luxe version you got such fripparies as cushions and the cockpit canopy - whatever, it was enough to more than double the price. Anyone want to have a guess at what it cost back in 1972?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Oh, what's that on the drive?

Why, it looks like a little boat. It's been there so long I'd stopped noticing it, apart from being careful not to drive into the trailer. But yesterday, being as it was so nice and mild, Jim decided to start getting to grips with Helyn again. He pumped thirty buckets of rainwater out of the bilges, and then set about completely emptying the interior, so that the air can get to it. Helyn still has some of her original 1970 cushions in their blue vinyl covers with white piping, including the triangular one that goes under the foredeck. She also has the original, tri-folding ply-and-grp triangular piece that goes in to make the bed up. I'm particularly proud of that, even though it does have a tendency to turn on you and pinch your fingers if you're not careful.

I clambered up to have a look and was slightly shocked to realise that we hadn't even emptied the food cupboard when we brought Helyn home in November. Er, November 2005. It was still full of tins of beans and soup (which I've rather optimistically transferred to the kitchen cupboard in defiance of the rust spots and 2006 sell by dates) and boxes of cereal (which I haven't). Very Marie Celeste. Thankfully we took the toilet out long ago to be a spare spare for Warrior, or who knows what we might have found there.
Removed all sorts of other treasures too, most of which has been washed and will be put back (dinky little draining rack, melamine crockery, cutlery, bits of wire for poking the outboard with), some of which will transfer to Warrior (handy lamp, tin mugs, very useful non stick interlocking frying pan-cum-cake tin things). Took up the vinyl flooring (we never quite finished fitting it in the first place, but it did beat the purple carpet that we got with the boat) for airing purposes. All has been scrubbed and is smelling remarkably fresh already. Now we just need some dry air to circulate around the south coast.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sun, spray, and swans

Saturday December 29th, 2.30 pm, Sixteen Foot Drain.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

On Stonea ground

Three weeks ago - that's all, although it seems like forever - the Saturday after Christmas, and we were on our way to the village of Stonea, intent upon visiting the Golden Lion which, we were told, did very good food. Checking back with the log book I see we set off from Bill Fen at around ten o'clock, and made our way via Popham's Eau and the Sixteen Foot Drain.

It was still very windy, but for a lot of the way we were heading straight into the wind. The sun was shining, it wasn't raining, and all in all it was a splendid and exhilarating experience. Nary a boat nor another person was to be seen, but the sun glinted off the water, spray coruscated around and over the fore end, little waves whipped past us, swans escorted us, and it was good to be alive, and even better to be out boating on the Fens.

So we'd worked up a nice appetite by the time we got to Stonea, recognisable as a habitation only by the presence of the railway bridge, by which, we knew, the pub was close. Tying up was the usual wet, reedy challenge, but that done we scrambled up the steep muddy bank, made our way around (or in some cases, through) the wire fence, and onto the road.

Stonea not only has a pub called the Golden Lion; it in fact seems to consist entirely of a pub called the Golden Lion, albeit one with a post box in its front garden. A pub, sadly, which does not open Saturday lunchtimes. Back around the fence and down the muddy bank we went, for tea and pasta on Warrior, before going on our way again with the wind and spray even more impressive steering into the setting sun.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Another pumpout for the collection

Here it is: the Bill Fen pumpout pump. Another one to put in the notebook. I was going to say not cheap at £10 plus blue, and you have to do it yourself (including starting the petrol engine), but I forgot that BW ones are now twelve quid, aren’t they? Been spoiled by the EA.

Best one we ever had I think was at Valley Cruisers on the Coventry; really scoured it out. One of the beauties of a good simple dump through toilet, once you overcome any initial squeamishness (and I never thought I would, but I have. Still not entirely sure whether that’s a good thing though), is that you can shine a torch down the hole and watch progress. Also, you can rinse it out with buckets of river water, sloshed straight down the hole, rather than faffing about with hoses and wasting fresh water. Even poke about with a stick, if necessary (although so far I have left that to Jim). There is a lot to be said for simplicity.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Look at that wind!

Thursday morning, December 27th, dawned bright. And windy. Having successfully put it out of our minds overnight, we now had to try to see what was wrong with the prop. We were hoping that it was nothing more than weed and/or other debris, but at the back of our thoughts was that nagging fear that we might have done some more serious damage, through the prolongued reversing, especially if that had been combined with having something (like a branch of the offending tree) on the prop.

So down the weedhatch with the weed weapon (I wonded what its proper name is? It’s some sert of agricultural implement, like a scythe but with a long handle and a straight blade). Over time a fair bit of weed came off, but it didn’t look like a boat-stopping amount. So we fired up the engine, and tried to push off from the bank, but the wind was blowing directly side on, and even with three of us there was no way we could get the front and the back off enough at the same time. The engine, ominously, didn’t seem to be helping much. It was about now, I think, that I suggested we wait until the wind dropped a bit. Then I checked the weather forecast and saw that this wasn’t due to happen until the Sunday – which proved to be completely spot on.

We were now starting to think that we might be in trouble, so plucked up our courage (remembering how they’d laughed at others who had the misfortune to get stuck up Holme Fen) and rang the Shotbolts. It was seriously crossing our minds that someone might have to come out and tow us back. In fact Lyn was ever so nice and sympathetic, so that was all right. With the phone propped in the optimum – indeed the only – position for getting a signal, we waited for John to call back.
When he did, he thought that we’d probably picked up more weed than we thought (apparently by this time of year it hasn’t actually gone away, it’s just sitting on the bottom), and had also probably picked more of it up again in our attempts to move subsequently. He suggested clearing it again, then poling the boat forward ten feet to be sure of being well away from any left in the water before putting it in gear again. So this is what we did. It probably wouldn’t have seemed any more successful – the wind was still doing its worst pushing us onto the bank, but through a combination of luck and Sebastian’s superhuman poling, we got the front pointing out while there was still water under the back, and we were, finally, off.
Once we were in the middle of the channel and under way it was clear there wasn’t a problem, the prop was working fine. We hardly dared stop, however, for fear of it all happening again.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Proof that boating makes you happy

One grumpy git. One teenage boy. Yet look, they're smiling! At each other.

Look closely and compare how many layers of clothing each is wearing. The weather for our Christmas trip, apart from the wind, was actually pretty much perfect. It was dry, sunny and not too cold (it was, thankfully, a south westerly wind). Even though, it was still December, and my attire generally comprised something like thin long sleeved vest; thick long sleeved vest; long sleeved t-shirt; short sleeved t-shirt; woolly jumper; fleece, all atop my lovely winter padded Rohan trousers, about four sizes too big but lovely and warm. Sebastian is wearing a short sleeved t-shirt and a cheap fleece. That's it (well, and trousers, obviously. I hope it's obvious, anyway). He simply does not feel the cold. The funny thing is, he doesn't feel the heat either. At the end of the day, dressed exactly the same, he was sitting six inches away from the back stove which was going like a blast furnace. I could scarcely stay in the cabin, but he didn't even notice.

This was at the optimistic beginning of the trip to Holme Fen. As you might imagine, sadly, the cheeriness didn't last.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Meet the Tuskers

OK, I know this is very, very stupid. Blame Jim, and (to a lesser extent) Baz. And OK, blame me a bit too; I may have played a part in creating the legend of the Tuskers. But I don't actually really believe that they're alive. Unlike some people. This is how it started ...

Many many years ago - I guess it would have been when the film of the Lion King first came out - Sebastian's Auntie Ali bought him a hot water bottle cover in the form of the warthog character. Waterhog, as he was to become known, was an instant hit. So much so that young Baz decided that Jim should have his own hot water bottle the following Christmas. At the local market he spent ages selecting one, and the elephant eventually narrowly won out over the crocodile. This was the same Christmas as I bought Jim the first of many tapes of Round the Horne, very popular with Jim and Baz alike. It thus seemed very natural and appropriate to name the elephant Kenneth. Kenneth the Elephant has quite a good ring to it, no?

Then at a jumble sale I found, on the floor, the sorry specimen that was to become Lionel. Shall I, shan't I, I deliberated... but for 10p, why not. So now we each had a hot water bottle in the form of an exotic animal. Like you do.

Ah. The walrus. What can I say about Wilhelm the Walrus? Only that Jim bought him at a different jumble sale, and he seemed a good sort of boating companion, despite lacking any sort of thermal qualities.

Over the years these artefacts have had characters attributed to them. (Well, we haven't got a telly; we have to amuse ourselves somehow in the long winter evenings). Waterhog is clearly a heavy drinker, jolly company but inclined to vulgarity. Lionel is goodhearted but dim, and rather easily led. Kenneth is a jolly old colonial type who likes a pink gin and twinkles at the ladies. Wilhelm isn't as dour as he looks, but watches over the others with tolerant amusement. We decided (or perhaps discovered?) that they would meet and drink at the Tusker Club (Lionel is an honorary member, on account of not actually having tusks).

In the summer I tell the others that they've gone off on a cruise (but really I've put them away in a box). But in the winter, they like to come boating with us. They like to be tucked up with a big drink of boiling water before we go to the pub. They really are very good travelling companions.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Meanwhile, indoors

As we wend our way slowly backwards, here's a little indoor interlude, so you can see the Christmas light. It was very lovely and cosy inside with that stove going all the time. The lights are bettery operated LED ones, the ones on the right quite dear ones from Woolies the year before last and the others, which are actually blue, cheap from Wilkinsons this year. Each set runs of two AA batteries. Just the thing.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

And so we set off...

It's Boxing Day, you will recall. Bright and crisp, dry and not too cold; perfect boating weather with oh just a hint of wind. We have negotiated Lodes End Lock and the delightful River Nene Old Course (anything less like the River Nene per se would be difficult to imagine), and we have turned onto the New Dyke, which, we innocently hope, will bring us to the mysterious Shangri-La that is Holme Fen, a winding hole and the lowest pub in Britain.
It was a nicely overgrown little channel, plenty wide enough for us, but a bit shallow in places. Tall reeds, trees. Not much weed evident in the water - but, we were later to discover, plenty of it still lying on the bottom. We got as far as a very nice big house on the right bank, to find a tree - or part thereof; I would not like to be guilty of exaggeration - which had been cut down, was in the process of being cut up, and part of which was lying in the water.

Perhaps we should have been braver. Perhaps we should have struggled to the bank and somehow contrived to haul it out of the channel. All I can say is that even if this had been possible, none of us thought of it at the time. We thought we could get round it, or maybe through it. We couldn't. It was too shallow, basically. We got stuck. We pushed off, backed off, and tried again. Got stuck again. And decided to call it a day. Holme Fen will be there another time. So we backed all the way out again, all unknowingly collecting a fine wodge of weed off the bottom as we went.
By the time we got back out onto the Nene Old Course it was dark, and the wind was getting up - it was to continue relentlessly for the next four days. On top of this we were starting to sense a lack of power; we wanted to turn round, but couldn't. So we just tied up where the wind was blowing us onto the bank. be continued...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Lodes End Lock

Clearly it is very important that Lodes End Lock not be damaged. More surprisingly, there would appear to be an imminent threat to it, judging by the security measures in place. More notices than the Environment Agency (take a bow, Middle Level Commissioners). A padlock that was fiendishly difficult to lock up again, as per instructions. Sharp pointy fencing all round to prevent access from the land (but of course, easily accessible by water. Boaters must be very trustworthy, and vandals incapable of appropriating a canoe.) The lock level and open both ends, but with the top gates loosely chained together (as per instructions, again.)

Doors and penstocks, not gates and paddles. It's another world here, as if you didn't already know that. It's quite hard getting your head round these Middle Level Navigations at the best of times. For example. Winter, days of rain, normal waterway - more water. Middle Level - less water. Simple when you think about it - these are, after all, drains; designed and built for the removal of water, and largely controlled, as well as made, by the hand of man. In the summer, levels are kept high because the water is used for irrigation. In the winter it's kept low - more so in recent years - to minimise the risk of flooding.

I'm guessing that Lodes End Lock is largely there for flood control, and that's why it's so important. But why is it so vulnerable? Who are the barriers intended to keep away? It's in the middle of nowhere, not an inner city or haunt of bored youth. Perhaps Red Dragon Man can shed some light on the matter ...

This, at any rate, is where we started our journey on Boxing Day; our attempt on the impregnable Holme Fen. The Lode whose End this is is the Ramsey High Lode, and we came to the lock by turning left, rather than right, onto the Old Course of the River Nene. Here is a rather feeble map. Lodes End Lock is in the bottom left hand corner. Of course we all know how it finished, but you haven't seen the pictures yet...

Monday, January 07, 2008

Mulled wine

Just the thing to have sitting on the stove when you're off on an expedition. My recipe is based on one given to me many years ago by my friend Donna, but I suspect it has subtly diverged over the years (a bit like RNs and Nationals). All quantities are fairly approximate:

a bottle of red wine - as rough as you like
a pint of orange juice - NOT the very cheapest stuff. Strangely enough, this does make a difference.
half an orange, sliced up
a couple of cinnamon sticks, broken into 1" bits
a teaspoonful of cloves
about four tablespoonfuls of demerara sugar

put into a stainless pan
heat very slowly over a low heat for at least a couple of hours.

Maybe this just happens to be the way I like mulled wine, but on the other hand maybe it is the ultimate recipe. When I have mulled wine that is horrible (thin and sour) it's usually for one (or all) of three reasons
1. Not enough sugar - it really should be quite sticky
2. Not enough cloves (but then my favourite boiled sweets are clove balls)
3. Not long enough brewing (to get the flavour out of the cloves).

Or if you want a more instant festive drink, make up a quantity of this and keep it in the fridge:
Butter, sugar, mixed spice, nutmeg.
Put a chunk in a cup, add hot water, add rum.
Thus fortified (with wine, not rum), we set off on Boxing Day in search of Holme Fen. Drinking it from pint pewter tankards feels suitably piratical, and there's the added bonus of seeing how far you can spit the cloves - not something you can do at home ... well, not on a social occasion anyway.

Oh! A wine and roses pun just whizzed past me there, but I missed it.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Warrior's roses

Red Dragon Man was asking about Warrior's roses. There are 163 of them altogether, fifty five in the bathroom, a massive eighty four in the back cabin, and a dozen each on the front and side hatches. They are a little bit different from the roses you usually see, although clearly within that tradition; they're slightly more blowsy, more exuberent. I really like them.

All Warrior's roses and castles were painted in 1995, when the boat was new, by Martin Duiker, who I believe was a local (to Bill Fen) artist. You can see his signature, and the date, in the bottom right hand corner of the table cupboard. Apparently he always painted five birds in each scene to represent his five children. I wish I'd known that when I did my little bit of repainting (see below) and then I would have just put two in. Warrior was one of, if not the, last boat he painted before leaving for Australia, never to be heard from since. When we went to the George at Forty Foot last summer and looked at the visitors' book, we saw not only where he'd signed it, visiting by boat, but also a castle scene he'd sketched in it.

The painting has stood the test of time really well. Even on the hatches, exposed to a lot of weather, where I don't think they'd received any attention over the years, were just about recoverable when I finally paid them some attention last summer. I gave them a really light rubbing with very fine sandpaper, and (so far) a coat of Craftmaster varnish. They need some more coats but it kept raining. If you look closely you can see that it's not brand new; there was some cracking, but that just adds to its character and hopefully if we keep up the varnishing regime things shouldn't get any worse.

Another problem is that a previous owner, when he painted the boat (maroon) got quite a lot of splashes and drips on the decorative painting. Ditto green paint on the coal box - gallons of it - when he painted the stove green (why oh why oh why?). I've tried rubbing these off, again, very gently, but it's impossible without damaging the original paint, so those speckles will just have to be lived with. One of the panels on the front hatches was quite badly damaged, with a great big dent in the wood. Jim filled this and made it good, and I repainted the top half of the picture. It was fun to do, and I was quite pleased with the result (having no talent whatsoever in that direction) but it doesn't look much like the original.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Jumble sales, sadly, are not what they used to be. When I was about twelve, and my friend Penny first suggested I accompany her to a jumble sale, I was horrified, like the good lower-middle-class girl I was meant to be. But not half as horrified as my mother was when I came back, completely hooked, and with loads of rather indiscriminately chosen old clothes. I was just amazed at how much could be acquired for so little money, and at the treasures that people threw away. I also honed pushing and elbowing skills that have stood me in good stead in numerous situations since.

I continued going on and off from then on, and took it up really seriously again about fifteen years ago. This time it was my turn to take a horrified Jim and get him hooked. More discriminating now, we have got some lovely things over the years, for house, boat and selves. For a few years we were going to at least one, and sometimes two or even three jumbles every Saturday; we planned our weekend around the announcements in the local paper. Then we got a boat and had something else to do at weekends, and also gradually began to notice that jumble sales were becoming fewer, and the stuff at them less worth going for. The general consensus is that the rot started to set in with the rise of car boot sales, but not everyone wants to stand in a cold car park for four hours to make a few quid, and many were still happy to have some local cause come and take their cast-offs away. I think it's probably Ebay that's had more effect - the car boot without standing in the cold. Also charity shops - no waiting for the stuff to be picked up, just drop it off at a local shop. And, more recently still, Freecycle - which is a great idea, and we're using it a lot ourselves to get rid of stuff because it's so quick and you know the stuff's going to someone who wants it (and you get to meet lots of nice people).

But there will always be things, surely, that only I could want? Like, for example, a very small patchwork bedspread made from scraps of 1950s curtains ... well, I certainly found a good home for it.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Whoo! New chimney!

Never let it be said you don't get excitement here at nb Warrior. You will recall that our old saloon chimney mysteriously disappeared at some point last year when we were all looking at the engine, and attempts at buying a replacement at Bill Fen, even more mysteriously, given the standardness of the roof fitting (not to mention the fact that they built the boat), were unsuccessful...

So we got Len Reed the Newhaven welder to make one. I did have a picture of him, at his workshop on the West Quay, just opposite the Fish and Flake Ice Society, but I cannot find it anywhere (still, at least you don't break your nails and get covered in cobwebs looking for electronic photos). He does a lot of work for the local fishing boats. Last time I was there he was making anchors, really simple, traditional picture-book ones.

The chimney's made out of a piece of pipe so it's quite heavy and looks pretty businesslike. It won't be all dollied up, as it's on the 'disappearing' part of the boat; we'll keep it plain. It's even double-skinned, lined with a piece of flue pipe I picked up by the bins at Huddersfield. I knew it would come in handy if I kept it long enough.

We kept the saloon stove going nearly all the time last week, and most of the time the chimney was off anyway for the bridges; didn't seem to make any difference to the operation of the stove, but still, you've got to have one, haven't you.

And look! So far we still haven't lost the little enamel po that makes such a good cover for when the chimney's off.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Merry Christmas chaps!

I'm not entirely sure why they both look as if they're going to meet their doom; the Xmas dinner was very nice. We had festive nut roast stuffed with traditional Paxo, veggie sausages, roast potatoes, carrots and sprouts (me only, no one else likes them), bread sauce and gravy followed by Xmas pud with custard and brandy cream washed down with local (to home) Merrydown vintage cider. Can't remember what sort of cooker Warrior has, but it's the same as everyone else has, original to the boat, taken out and refitted in the new kitchen. Only the colour (brown) really gives its age away. It works great and it was entirely my fault that the potatoes weren't done quite at the same time as everything else.

Here is my secret for the best crispiest roast potatoes - forget all that pre-boiling, shaking them around etc a la Delia. The secret is not to let the fat cool down. So you get it really hot in the top of a hot oven, get your potatoes peeled and then dry them in a tea towel, then when you take the fat out of the oven to put the potatoes in, put it on the hob with the gas (or whatever) on under it while you lower the chunks of potato in with a pair of spoons and turn them over to get them all covered in fat. This way the fat stays hot enough to seal the potatoes; if it cools down it would soak in and make them greasy.

I expect goose fat is probably the best but I've never tried it. I used to use Cookeen but recently have taken to just using vegetable oil. It doesn't seem to make much difference to the cooking. A fat that's solid at room temperature is easier to dispose of though, she says with the wonder of hindsight. As it was, after dinner, I tipped the fat into the jug along with the leftover gravy and said, if I put this outside, it'll be solid by the morning and we can scrape it into the bin. But it wasn't. Although it had settled into interesting strata. So I had to decant it into an old plastic milk bottle which I'd just rather recklessly crushed (and if you rinse them out with a drop of boiling water first, they crush very flat...)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Don't look

No really, DO NOT look. It is TOO horrible.

Is it
a. A salutary illustration from a Victorian healthy living book for boys
b. An aquatic creature uniquely native to the Middle Level. (No, eels DO NOT look like this*)
c. A cucumber that's been left in the (switched off) fridge for two months?

I was just grateful that the two months in question were November and December, not July and August. It made a nice welcome back to Warrior for Sebastian as he helpfully started putting the provisions away.

Anyway, I've come back with a hundred and fifty photos, some of them different, so will be posting them and recapping our holiday adventures over the next few days, to wring maximum value out of the experience. Most of them are nicer than this, but this was how the holiday started. Luckily it was in the salad drawer, so I could just tip it into a binliner (a proper, ooze-proof one, not a Rainbow bag), avert my eyes and tie it up before lifting it up and feeling its gruesome weight. Imagine having to pick it off (out of?) the shelf.
*Actually they might, for all I know. I've never seen one that wasn't chopped, cooked and jellied. I sincerely hope not though.