Monday, March 31, 2008

Even goldfish can count to three


Not us though. You may recall that Steve of National D3 rebuild fame is determined to retain cast iron pistons in his engine. We replaced ours, on the advice of the good folk at RN, with new alloy ones. This meant also replacing the liners and con rods. When I saw Steve's pistons and liners on his blog, I wondered whether ours might be in better condition, and, if so, whether he might like to use them in his engine (the pistons make lovely doorstops, but it's not really what they were born to). So I emailed him and suggested we bring them up to meet him, either at Napton or Stoke Bruerne, and he says words to the effect of ooh, yes please. So we loaded some big lumps of metal into the car.

As it turned out, we made a last minute decision to visit Stoke Bruerne, thinking that the snow might have stopped for the day, and arranged to meet Steve there. We met him on the towpath and went back to the car park to show our wares. A small crowd (one old man and a small girl) gathered round curiously as we unloaded three pistons, three con rods and ... er ... two liners. Vainly we looked in the boot, under the footwell mats, under the seats, but to no avail. The number of liners remained resolutely one short of a trio.

I was a little afraid at this stage that the third one might have mysteriously disappeared, as a very nice old washbasin we once had did, without trace. Or desperately racking my brains, had I planted it up with primroses as an interesting feature? Used it as a chimney? But no, when we got home (it was the first thing I checked) there it was, large as life and twice as natural, sitting on the workbench. So, lucky Steve gets a trip over to Ramsey to pick it up (as he seems to think they might be better than his - although some ten or so years older), and hopefully inspiration and motivation in the form of a preview of what his project will sound and smell like when it's finished.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

More floor

Well, here it is, the new vinyl, all nicely laid. It's a bit sad to see the old tiles disappear, as I was quite proud of what I achieved with them, especially as I did it all myself, and I didn't do the vinyl. Still, it should hopefully be easier to keep clean, and the squares are slightly smaller, although I'm not sure I really like the marbled effect. The join should be hidden once we get some white silicone to fill it in with, and if not, then there is a fall back plan.

About ten years ago we went to B&Q to get some carpet edging strip, and they had strips of solid brass with a slight 'D' profile. We bought some lengths of this to cover the carpet joins in the upstairs doorways. Subsequently one got taken up when we replaced the landing carpet with a runner and I've just cannabilised another one for the boat - these strips are going to be runners for the coal box so it won't have to dragged over the vinyl. There is still one brass strip in the house, neatening the join between bathroom and landing. If, however, the join in the vinyl can't be hidden, that also will be plundered for the boat. Poor old house.

I feel quite cross with myself that I didn't spot the potential of those brass strips and buy up a large quantity ten years ago, because of course they don't sell it any more.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Nearly forgot to rant

OK, you know what this is about, don't you. Tonight we are required (on pain of being terminally confused for six months) to set our clocks an hour fast and keep them that way all summer (and beyond). We will then participate in the mass delusion that we have lighter evenings.


I think I have expressed this in more nuanced fashion at the other end of the year, last year, and the year before.

But what I hadn't realised, until my mother pointed it out to me some forty two years after the event, is that I have been jibbed of my rightful birthdate by this absurd farrago. I was born (so I always believed) on July 25th (oh bugger, there goes my identity) at eight minutes past midnight. But that's eight minutes past midnight British Summer Time, so really eight minutes past eleven the previous day. My birthday should actually be July 24th. It's a bit like a very mild version of discovering that you're adopted.

Even if it were somehow legally possible to change one's birth certificate to recognise this error, I couldn't do that because it would mess up my mother's (always a scarily tidy woman) incredible family planning neatness , as she went on to produce my sister exactly three and a half years later on January 25th.

A little light polishing

At last, I remembered to do a before and after! Well, sort of. I didn't actually, but then I remembered that there was another one which I could use for comparison, although I must confess that I didn't magically mend it; the one I polished was unbroken all along. It took an hour and a quarter of moderately vigorous Brassoing, and the uncomplaining sacrifice of two fingernails (v.s.)

These gorgeous solid brass bulkhead lights were, Jim tells me, purchased at Preston Brook at the IWA Festival. The best one is going to go in the engine room, the broken one maybe in the back cabin or by the bed under the foredeck. We have even tracked down some bulbs, at the Ramsey Motor Company (I think that's what it's called); the men in there very patiently went through their stock to find the right sort which were, for my future reference (not because I have the slightest belief that you, dear reader, are interested) 335s. I bought three, for a grand total of £1.50, or if you prefer (and it seems somehow fitting) thirty bob.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Boating for cats

The late lamented Alan Coren, of whom I used to be a great fan (I wonder how many teenagers actually had a subscription to Punch in the late seventies...) called one of his books Golfing for Cats. This was on the basis of extensive research showing that the three most popular topics among the book buying public were golf, cats and the Third Reich (the flag on the cover sported a swastika). I suppose (judging from the bestseller shelves in WH Smiths) today the equivalent would be something like My really miserable childhood before I became a high class prostitute and found the holy grail or something similar.

Lots of people have successfully gone boating with cats. I met one of the more famous of these feline crew members last week - GC (Ginger Cat) of Alnwick even has his own web page. Our neighbours at Bill Fen, on Axe, have a very friendly cat called (phonetically at least) Greebo who often pops in to see us.

We have a cat whom we think would enjoy boating. Hopefully enough time has passed that no one else will claim him now if I tell his story... Floods Ferry, August 2005; our penultimate visit before bringing Helyn home, and as we drove in up the drive I saw a flash of white in the bushes. Later in the evening I went to investigate. I crouched down and kept still, and this cat trotted up to me, put his paws on my shoulder, and practically threw himself into my arms. He was thin and hungry, but still looked well cared for. He followed me back to the boat and we gave him some Weetabix, and then some toast and Marmite (it was a vegetarian boat). He stuck around us for the rest of the week, hopping confidently on and off the boat and sleeping with us most nights.

Asking around, no one knew anything about him or where he had come from, and no one really seemed to care. When the time came to leave it was obvious that no one else was going to take responsibility for him, so we decided that we had better take him home, and then set about trying to find his owners. We had no basket or box or anything, so we risked just putting him in the car - I have never known a cat like it; he sat himself on the back of the back seat and looked calmly out of the window for the three hour journey. When we got home he settled in straight away, and devoted himself to eating. From being a delicate, willowy creature (we named him Willow after the trees at Floods Ferry; a name that soon proved to be hopelessly inappropriate, but efforts on my part to change it to Woolwich did not catch on. The best I can manage now is to call him Willoughby) he turned into a muscular street fighter, not afraid to make his feelings known if crossed by cat or human.

Jim and I have each had a lot of cats in our time, but are agreed that we have never encountered one as intelligent as Willow. He's so well behaved and well trained that he has special privileges, and is allowed into parts of the house the other cats aren't. He can be quite vicious when crossed, though; I still have the scratches from persuading him to move from the bed to the kitchen before we left last week. I admire his spirit.

We think that he would love boating, and are sorely tempted to bring him along sometime. The main thing stopping us is the fear that he would run off and get lost as he obviously did before. He may have been a boat cat - he was certainly very comfortable and confident getting on and off - but we think it more likely that he got to Floods Ferry by stowing away in someone's - probably not his owner's, but maybe a neighbour's - caravan, as we quickly noticed that he has a propensity for jumping into any vehicle left unattended for more than a few seconds.

We were all set to take him at Christmas to see what he made of it - but the little bugger wouldn't get in the car. I told him then that it was his last chance ... but if he looks at me with those big green eyes, I might relent.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

No More Nails

When we left home last week I had a full complement of ten nicely shaped, neat and clean, although unvarnished, fingernails of medium length. I returned yesterday with three. (Just to reassure the squeamish, they haven't been pulled out, merely broken off, albeit torn with some severity in the case of right thumb).

I think the first one (right middle) fell victim to unlocking the padlock and opening the slide on arrival. Another to closing the kitchen side hatches, and a third to the engine room hatches. At least two were unable to stand the Brasso-ing pace and ended up in the polishing rag. One bit the dust at Stoke Bruerne, perhaps rendered brittle by the freezing conditions. The last spontaneously detached itself in sympathy, I think.

I hate having broken nails. I just hate the jagged, incomplete feeling it gives you. Even if you don't touch it, you can sense that something is wrong. Warrior's first aid tin (it's the one labelled 'cocoa', should you ever need it in a hurry) contains Savlon, paracetamol, plasters, TCP, tweezers, bandage, and - the thing that gets used most of all - nail file. Get it smoothed off, and all is well again.

Yes, I know that long nails and boating don't mix. Before we actually go anywhere which involves ropes, windlasses etc, I cut them all off. But I had fondly imagined that they might survive a week of light housework. Sadly, no.

I am now faced with a dilemma. Should I, in the interests of uniformity and neatness, reduce all my digital embellishments to the level of the most seriously denuded, and thus make myself look like a very nervous type (I have never, ever, bitten my nails, I'll have you know. In fact at primary school my talons were notorious). I think this would be rash, as it would remove the measure of protection that these keratin protruberances afford delicate fingertips. It must be awful to be a biter, and have those raw bits constantly exposed. Or perhaps they toughen up. No, I think I had better seek a happy medium, whereby they are curtailed less drastically... they'll still be short though, and have you noticed that short nails get a lot dirtier than long ones?

On the plus side, I can now text with my thumb, one handed, like a young person, rather than holding the phone in my left hand and stabbing at it with a finger.

Sarah IS pleased

Right-thinking people everywhere are rallying to the cause. Huzzah! Don't be left behind; the colander inverters will soon be routed. Bones also provided a profound insight at the end of Monday night. Referring to her extraordinary propensity for injuring herself, she pointed out, perfectly reasonably, that in fact the problem is that 'the world is too sharp.' Indeed it is.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter Sunday Snow

Back home after an inaction packed week (in my case) and a somewhat busier one for Jim. Jim has laid the floor vinyl in the back cabin, insulated, boarded, undercoated and painted the engine room ceiling, done most of the shopping, insulated the slides and the foredeck hatch, and driven us to Stoke Bruerne and, separately, to Napton, and back ... I have kept the fire going, made occasional desultory stabs at the laptop, and polished some brass.

I have at least got some Christmas cards pictures for this year now. Taken, of course, on Easter Sunday. This is my favourite of the ones Jim took when he braved the journey to the shops. It was actually quite a hairy drive in the snow, along the unmade road that runs parallel to the High Lode with no barrier or any indication of the road's edge, other than its disappearance - and a big pile of hardcore to drive round which means getting pretty close to the edge at the best of times. Cars in these drains are not a particularly rare occurrence.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A night in Napton

It didn't start off very promisingly. We couldn't find the pub to save out lives, having told Richard and Sandra (of the big Dutch - as it turns out - engine with a triple barrelled name that I can just about remember but can't spell; Richard and Sandra, if you're reading this, please put me out of my misery by writing it in the comments) that we would be two minutes were were more like twenty... and when we got there we couldn't help but wonder if it was the right place. Although the car park was fairly full the place looked deserted - not as if it has been closed since three o'clock, as turned out to be the case, but more like 1982. The windows were blank and cold, and the pub sign creaked menacingly, in Scooby-Doo fashion, in the wind.

I rang Richard, who turned out to be about three yards away - aren't mobile phones wonderful. He said that there were lots of people down on the towpath and on people's boats, and that he'd been talking to 'a young chap called Magnet'. Wow, I thought, Magnetman's here. So things were looking up. Then I met Bones and Maffi on the towpath, and before I knew it, there was Alnwick with its K3 which I am afraid to say Jim envies sorely. It was lovely to see and hear it after so long. Various people congregated on various boats waiting for the pub to open, and we stopped mainly on Alnwick, drinking Graham's splendid coffee (I must have another attempt at making coffee. Tea I am very good at, coffee I don't seem to get at all) though I did also visit Keeping Up. And I also went along to gaze at Magnetman's beautiful, almost untouched, Bantock butty.

Once the pub - it was the Bridge - did reopen it was very nice, and we had another good dinner and did indeed indulge in a good deal of bantering. Got back to Warrior about midnight, and it was freezing, even though the fire wasn't quite out. Under the duvet was nice and cosy though, thanks to the installation of a couple of Tuskers earlier in the afternoon.

This morning seems, holding my breath, to be bright and sunny and not too windy.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Weatherwatch 2

The wind finally dropped last night - and this morning we woke up to snow! This was wildly exciting for me, especially as I didn't have to go anywhere by train - or indeed, anywhere at all. I put my anorak on intending to leave the boat for the first time since Wednesday evening (when I nipped out to take some photos of a cat) but what with the boat being two feet away from the pontoon and all that lovely unspoilt snow, I thought I'd see if I could stretch out my voluntary confinement a little longer. Still got some nice photos though (can't upload from here, I know because I tried yesterday) and Jim took some too when he went into Ramsey for the papers, all the black fields white. I will have to leave tomorrow afternoon anyway, as we are off to Napton for the banter, having also agreed to meet not only Steve but a couple we met at St Ives who have a boat on the Medway and a very exotic engine (so exotic I can never remember what it is but it has one very large cylinder) which has been in the process of being rebuilt for quite a while.

Back to the snow: from in here it was quite magical - no one had been out and about and touched it at all. It continued to fall quite heavily for a while after I got up, but it's thawing now, at lunchtime. Perfect, really. I made a very small snowman, on the pontoon - with real coal-chip eyes, though I couldn't find a small enough carrot or broom - then shut the side hatch again and knocked his head off in the process. He is now the last remaining bit of crystallised frozen water gradually draining off the pontoon.

I am reminded of a winter walk we went on with Sebastian when he was about four. He picked up a chunk of ice and carried it with him for the duration, but when we got back to the car we had to persuade him that it wouldn't survive the journey home and the kindest thing would be to return it to the frozen ditch. This he sadly did, saying mournfully, 'I'll never forget that bit of ice.' And indeed he hasn't. Because we haven't let him.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


This morning, the promised Weather arrived. It’s been consistently windy since we arrived, but now we have got some precipitation to give it extra interest. Sleet at first, then snow, then sleet again, all, and then, hail so horizontal it was coming in the mushroom vents. Cool! And here’s me, sitting by the stove, warming my toes while Jim is out braving the elements in order to feed us and bring me Co-op freshly squeezed orange juice so that I don’t get scurvy. And the sun has just come out again.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Meeting the Moomins

Today we met another Canalworld virtual friend – Moominpapa, aka Simon, who will also be mooring at Bill Fen. His boat, Melaleuca, is currently at Iver and they are hoping to bring it down within the next two weeks – Nene permitting. We warmed them (Moominpapa and Moominmama) up with tea and cakes and explained the mysteries of the Rainbow to them, and had a jolly nice chat. Look forward to seeing them again when they get here.

We of course have come to affix plastic sheeting to the frame of the paint dock and paint the boat. The weather forecast in the paper today says: Tomorrow, cold and very windy with blustery and increasingly wintry showers, especially in the east. More cloudy and less windy on Sunday but with widespread rain, sleet and snow. It’s nice to know that we’re well placed to make the most of the weather.

So the paint plans are on hold again for the time being. As I write, Jim is doing battle with the vinyl flooring in the cabin, and has affixed some insulation to the engine room ceiling.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Check this out

Contrary to many people's expectations (not least mine) the very cheap vinyl tiles I laid on the back cabin floor have stood up remarkably well - especially considering that they were laid on a very poorly prepared and uneven base. One of them has shifted, where the coal box gets dragged across it, and one has come unstuck where it overhangs the edge of the hole in the floor under the cross bed, and I caught the edge of it once when getting the spare toilet or something out from under the floor. But we planned to address this by getting another set of the same tiles and laying them over the top with the joins staggered.

We ended up using the tiles in the first place because we just could not find, anywhere, black and white checked vinyl with the checks running diagonally - there were plenty with them running parallel to the edge, but to lay it diagonally would have been so wasteful. To lay it straight just wouldn't have looked right, and would have highlighted all the unstraight lines of the cabin.

Then the other week I went to Barnsley, to interview councillors at the Town Hall. Arriving a bit early, I went and looked around the market. Suddenly I did a double-take; there, in a corner near the exit, was a stand with some pieces of vinyl flooring - offcuts maybe or samples, about six foot by four foot each, and right on top was a piece with a DIAGONAL black and white check pattern. The holy grail. Further investigation revealed that there were three pieces in this pattern, and what's more, they were only £3.50 each, for good quality, thick, fairly heavyweight (this will become significant) vinyl. I bought two pieces, and then I thought, hap'orths of tar (what if I cut one wrong) and bought the third as well. The man rolled them up for me and secured the roll with sellotape. I was on my own now with them, and my overnight case, and all my paperwork.

Rigging up a sort of carrying strap from a scarf I'd brought for no particular reason and the strap of my bag, I slung my bundle over my shoulder and made my way to the town hall. Then I had to take it back to the hotel with me for the night, and then, as I was going straight from town hall to station the next day, back to the town hall again. I must say all the town hall staff were very polite about it and one of them let me leave in in the corner of her office. My business in Barnsley completed, I once more shouldered my burden (which was starting to feel quite heavy by now) and begun the long train journey home. On the London train, I inserted my cylindrical trophy, with some relief at being able to get it out of the way, in the gap behind my seat, resting on the litter bin.

On arriving at Kings Cross, I discovered that its far end had fallen down behind the bin, leaving the front end firmly wedged in the narrowing gap between the seats. I had to wait until everyone else had got off the train and enlist the help of one remaining fellow passenger to hold the front end while I scrabbled about trying to lift up the back end again. Fortunately this was eventually achieved, but in the process, the silk scarf tore irreparably, so I now had no carrying strap. Shouldering it like a rifle, I made my weary way to the tube, and thence to Victoria for the final leg of the journey. When Jim met me at Lewes, I gratefully handed it over to him, and he was gratifyingly impressed by its weight. It went into the boot of the car and stayed there until we got to Ramsey. Next visit, we will try and lay it in the cabin. It had better bloody well work!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Things are taking shape

Apologies for the prolonged absence - things have been a bit hectic this week.

Much excitement in the Warrior household this weekend though as plans for our summer jaunt are finally starting to take shape. You may recall that things started with a frustratingly vague desire to 'come to London', with no real idea of how or when. We wanted to go on the Thames, but also perhaps not to come down the most obvious way, straight down the GU from Northampton.

Then my sister, who lives in Newport (the one that moves in and out of Wales), was trying to arrange a get together with our cousin, who lives near Swindon (the GWR side of the family) for Easter, and we couldn't, because we have to paint the boat at Easter, and now we're going to the Napton banter too. Then Jim had a brilliant idea: he pointed out that Lechlade and other points at that end of the Thames are actually very near Swindon. Why not take a right turn off the Oxford and go all the way up to Lechlade, and have a get together on the boat. What an excellent proposal.

So yesterday I Canalplanned it (nine days from Ramsey) and this morning we started to think of when might be the best time to go. Then Jim had a second brilliant idea: we have both always fancied going to the Cropredy Festival, but never have. When is it, I asked... early August he thought ... had a look, and lo and behold, August 7th - 9th. So we have our destination(s) and we have our timetable. Sebastian is off to France with the East Sussex Youth Orchestra at the end of July, and has one last concert in England on their return, on July 29th. So we can leave on the 30th - he wants to come to Cropredy, and I sure as hell want him to come on the Nene. Quite a tight timetable, but do-able. As Baz will hopefully be working this summer (selling candyfloss on Brighton seafront), after the get together at Lechlade my cousin can take him to Swindon and put him on a train home.

Then we turn around and head down the Thames - all the way to Limehouse if we're brave, Brentford if we're not - and back onto the cut. And then? Well, we shall have to see...

Monday, March 10, 2008


I really do not know what has got into me lately (boats, girl, boats). I am not a one for idle banter; I cannot bear small talk and social chit-chat (OK, I'm very bad at it). When virtual people on CWF started talking about organising 'boaters' banters' - getting together for chat and beer (well, I've never had any objection to the latter, to be fair) it never occurred to me that one day I would be joining them. But that day came, thanks to Moley and his birthday banter the other week. I never would have gone if it had just been posted on the forum, but being personally invited, by someone I had once actually met, albeit extremely fleetingly, was different, and as I said before, it was brilliant.

So the upshot of all this is, we are going to another CWF banter at Easter, at Napton; an open access one this time, so it will be interesting to see who turns up. Will there be anyone there who annoys me intensely? We were umming and ah-ing a bit about going as it is quite a way from Bill Fen, but we are committed now, as we are going to meet Steve, he of the-other-three-cylinder-National blog. Steve is being braver than us and keeping his cast iron pistons, and we have said that if ours are in better shape than his he can have them - we'll do a swap and use his as doorstops instead. Liners and con rods too. So we'll be loading all that up and taking it with us as well as the piles of timber etc etc...

Sunday, March 09, 2008

It is decided

Legend has it (well, it's true, I was there) that it took Jim and me two years to decide what colour to paint the house. We settled on turquoise, and it was obviously a good choice because we haven't been tempted to change it in the succeeding eight years.

It has taken nearly as long, and, if such a thing were possible, more stressful, deciding, agreeing and above all settling on a colour scheme for Warrior. (Well, we didn't have to worry about signwriting the house.)

But here it is. It is now settled and the paint is ordered, so there is no going back. OK, this, anyway, is my understanding (I await Jim's contribution in the comments). Most of Warrior will remain resplendent in Raddle Red. The cabin, from the back to just forward of the engine room, where the beam is, will be dark grey - Craftmaster Graphite Grey - and after some deliberation, shiny. The beam, pseudo side-beamy bits and various other butch bits of metal will be shiny black. There will be black elephant's toenails front and back. The writing will be framed in black, and will be written in black and cream. Or possibly cream and black. The red is for the handrail, but only on the grey part, aft of the beam. The roof will stay raddle red, but will have diamonds to the biscuit tin (but that is phase two). Jim has Plans for the slides, into which I do not enquire too deeply.

We'll be using Craftmaster paint, cos we like it well so far. In the past we've always bought it direct from Phil and co. but as the Shotbolts are stockists we've ordered this lot from them. We'll still be having Dave Moore do the signwriting, provided he hasn't got fed up with waiting for us to get round to the painting. This we are aiming to do over Easter, but we have to get the floating paint dock into some sort of shape first and the weather forecast is not promising.

Still, the paint is ordered, and that is a step in the right direction.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Little things

That mean a lot in some cases. Most of the big jobs (for now) are done on Warrior (or is that Famous Last Words?). Still to do is the engine room ceiling, over which Jim has been planning and cogitating for months if not years. Obviously we want to panel it with the nice old T&G salvaged many years ago from the servants' quarters of a house in Seaford, but what with the framing for the panel where the engine goes in and out (although hopefully not again in my lifetime) and the newly acquired biscuit tin, it's a bit tricky. Think he's cracked it now though, meaning that on our next trip up I will be sharing the back seat with a large amount of seven foot lengths of timber (there is no front seat. How else could you get a double bass into a 240 saloon?).

Another long standing task waiting to be done is the building of a box at the forward end of the bed, under the foredeck, to accommodate the water stopcock and the bags of ballast which currently are separated from our pillows by some old cushions and a blanket. It would also give us something to lean against and also to put our tea, should we be daring enough to introduce hot beverages into an area with headroom of approximately two foot three.

But the littlest thing, that would really mean a lot to me but which we still haven't cracked, is some means of closing the doors at either end of the engine room in such as way that they can be opened from both sides. At the moment they have bolts either side, but if you fasten it one side and someone else is on the other they are not, in my experience, best pleased. Especially if it's me. The only solution I have seen widely used is those spring-loaded ball catches, but they do depend upon the door fitting quite closely and aren't very good if there's vibration to cope with, or for a heavy door like the one at the rear between the engine room and the cabin. There doesn't seem to be any equivalent of an ordinary house-type catch, with knobs or handles both sides, for these thin doors. Any ideas? The reason I want to be able to shut the door at the forward end is to keep the heat in the saloon (especially as the engine room is still uninsulated and is at the moment the main entrance/exit); the same goes for the cabin, and also you want to be able to shut yourself in at night, but not to prevent anyone else getting in or through in case of emergency.

Hmm, not bad considering I didn't have anything to write about.

I have bowed to the combination of spellchecker and Concise Oxford and replaced all my forewards with forwards. I am still convinced that the former is the correct spelling of what we pronounce for'ard but it seems I am in a minority of one, sadly. It would be nice to have a different word. By the way, do you know what word apparently has the largest number of different meanings?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Magic words

I read the obituary today of a man called Ralph Beyer, who among other things designed and carved all the distinctive inscriptions in Coventry Cathedral. His life was a fascinating story, as obituaries of people you've never heard of often are. The piece described him as an 'inscription carver' or 'letter carver' but also referred to someone else who helped him as a lettercutter. Is it me, or is that just a fantastic word? I shall add it to my list of favourites.


I have written 2,406 words today, and not one of them was as lovely as those.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Window dressing

Way, way back, we agreed that it would be good to get new rubber seals for Helyn's windows - just to smarten her up really. They didn't leak, but they looked pretty tatty, especially on the inside where someone had attempted to paint the rubber white. So Jim located and ordered some smart new sealing stuff, and took out the windows prior to finishing the painting. Once the outside was painted, it was time to put the windows back in, so that then the inside could be finished off. Unfortunately, this was easier said than done. Jim struggled with it; Jim and Sebastian struggled with it, and all to no avail. Then Aaron said that he would ask his friend, who is a professional windscreen fitter, to help. So he came round to have a look, and mentioned a price that made me suck my teeth somewhat - but by golly, he's earned every penny of it. Yesterday afternoon and evening, and this evening too, he and Jim together fought those windows in. I wasn't there to witness any of it, sadly, but I did manage to phone up once in the middle of the operation and it sounded very serious. So I was very pleased to see, on arriving home this evening, that the tarpaulin was finally off and all four windows back in place - only finished minutes previously. Sebastian took the photo from an upstairs window - he didn't dare venture into the fray.

Monday, March 03, 2008

If you're going to mug me...

Now I do not wish to be mugged. Ever. But if someone had been going to try, I would rather it had been this afternoon than at any other time, because at the bottom of my innocent - nay vulnerable - looking right-on cotton bag, I had two rather hefty lumps of metal (I am not going to venture a guess at its exact composition) which might have been a bit of a surprise whizzing around a putative mugger's ear'ole. Fortunately, however, this was not required, the Metropolitan Railway still being a relatively civilised affair.

I have also achieved the long-held ambition of visiting Uxbridge - sadly albeit not yet by boat - in order to collect said lumps of metal, which are the injectors that Jim has bought to keep as spares in case - in case of what I know not, but Compo said so. Because I have an all-zones Travelcard attached to my ludicrously expensive season ticket, this was the cheapest way of getting them home - and was I going to turn down the chance of visiting this legendary outpost of the Metropolitan Line, taking a long healthy walk along the towpath to boot, plus having a mug of Baldock Chris's splendid coffee and meeting his lovely lurcher (whose name I sadly did not catch)? I was not.

And once more getting to experience that magic little moment when you cross a bridge and the next thing you're nipping underneath it and into a hidden world. Outside of children's fantasy stories that's the closest you're going to get to Narnia or the Midnight Garden. I love it.

There are lots of names and numbers cast and stamped into the injectors - including one that looks like it might be a National engine number. Would they have done that?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Back to nature, hmmm?

I do not read the Observer Sport Monthly magazine. I quite like the food one; the women's one is clearly written by men, and I don't read the music one either. But in the sport mag today there was a four page 'advertisement promotion' for Timberland clothes and shoes, featuring four photographs of a pensive looking young chap who has been given some fishing gear to hold and doesn't quite know what to do with it, by a canal, somewhere (I don't know where but I wouldn't mind betting it's not far out of London. Can anyone identify it?). Now the first thing is, I wish I'd known you could be a model with a chin like that; it would have given me a lot more confidence when I was younger.

My second thought was, ooh, how nice, they've used a narrowboat/canal background, the romance of our industrial heritage etc etc... But the I read the text and it's all a load of tosh about getting back to nature ... 'If you like to get outside ... enjoying the fresh air of the mountains, fields and downs ... exploring your natural environment, you'll understand the importance of being earth-conscious and keeping nature, well, natural.... From the mountains of the Scottish Cairngorms [as opposed to the English ones? Paraguayan?] to the rugged Atlantic coast of Cornwall... and so on and so on. Nowhere does it say 'a semi-urban man made canal with man made boats'. Oh no.

But I suppose it might have stretched the budget a bit going to the Scottish Cairngorms, or the rugged Atlantic coast of Cornwall, and our model might have got his £90 Rippler boots (made from organic canvas and leather) wet. But who are they fooling? (Probably nearly everyone, sadly).

The other week there was a story in the paper about a company (might even have been the BBC? I don't remember) relocating all its staff from London to Coventry, amid much complaint, and the next week there was a counter-feature about how jolly nice Coventry is really and you shouldn't believe all those nay-sayers who say it's horrid, and look, here's a photo of a canal to show you how pretty it is ... and I went 'but that's not Coventry, it's Atherstone!!' because I recognised it, which was really the most exciting thing about it.

One other thought while I'm on the subject of adverts. On the tube (and elsewhere) you often see adverts for television programmes (which on the whole make me glad I haven't got a telly). Why do they advertise television programmes? Because they want people to watch them to get good viewing figures to attract and keep advertisers. They want us to watch the programmes primarily so that we will watch the adverts. So they have adverts advertising adverts to us. Now tell me this is not a mad world.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

And for the caravanners...

Many years ago (well, not that many) we had a camper. It wasn't just any camper. It was a 1974 Bedford CF Dormobile, like this one, only in a delightful elastoplast pink colour (the registration document said beige, but that didn't do it justice). It had all its original orange curtains. I bought it from one of the other mums when Sebastian was at nursery school - she was desperate, for some reason, to purchase a Citroen 2CV. We had it for many years, and towards the end of its time with us we had also amassed a collection of Volvos. These were known as Trusty Volvo (my original red 240 saloon); Rusty Volvo (a rather more dilapidated version that we had been given) and Thrusty Volvo (3l V6 960). The camper was thus given the honorary title of Crusty Volvo.

In order to get cheap insurance for it, we joined the caravan club. My goodness, if you think some boat owners are sniffy about less than perfect shiny brand spanking new boats, you should join the caravan club. You ain't seen nothing. They have a magazine just for people to be sniffy about other people's caravans in. I so wanted to turn up at one of their sites with the Crustymobile and see them explode. Sadly, we never did. We never went away for long in it, mainly because of my (I now see totally unfounded) objection to installing a porta-potti of some description. Shame.

The caravan club has sites, and it also has what are known as 'Certified Locations' (CLs) which are places you can moor your caravan but without shower blocks, entertainment etc. I recall once having hysterics at reading one of the letters in the CC magazine in which the writer stated 'my wife and I are enthusiastic users of certified locations.' Well, I laugh no more, because our wonderful next door neighbours are themselves extremely enthusiastic users of CLs. This post is, in fact, entirely for the benefit of Carl and Sean, as I have been singing the praises to them of the CL at Bill Fen, and this is really the easiest way to show them some pictures.

The CL is near where Warrior is moored, and it is lovely. It circles a large carp pond, surrounded by trees, rarely seems to be even near full, and at night there are bats.