Thursday, December 31, 2009

This is where we came in

A year ago tonight, I was alone in the house, taking down the Christmas decorations, because I was heartily sick of them, and thinking that something had to change. I didn't quite know what, or how much, but having a boat of my own was a big part of it.

So, mid afternoon, whilst staring at the mantelpiece, I thought, I know, I'll go and look on Apollo Duck and see if Battersea is still for sale. Not that I could have afforded it, mind, but just to inspire me with what might be possible. As it happened, Battersea wasn't listed, but Aber was (though not by name) and Bicester, and Hawkesbury (which I already knew about)... and Bristol.

I went to see Bristol, and to be honest, I did fall in love, although I knew from the start that it would be a big restoration project, with (given that it had had a full length cabin since 1980) a great many hidden unknowns. But it was a boat that had been, and could be, lived on; it was a home, and it was lovely, as were its owners who were incredibly hospitable, and patient, while I dithered. But its price was more than I could afford, and to be honest, given that I was looking for a serious restoration project, much more than I ought to have been prepared to pay. But I couldn't let the idea go.

I was still dithering when we went to Braunston in June, taking Warrior up to be our base for the rally. We got there a week in advance and secured a splendid mooring spot by the Admiral Nelson, and a day or two after we arrived, Jim spotted a josher coming through the locks. It was Petrel, and he went to chat with its owner. I don't know what I was doing to have missed this momentous encounter, probably cleaning the toilet or something. But anyway, miss it I did. It turned out that Petrel wasn't there for the rally, but was just passing through. What we didn't know was that it had recently towed Chertsey from Oldbury to Dimmingsdale; what we had forgotten was that there had recently been some speculation about this boat, and what would happen to it now that its owner, who had been ill for a number of years, had recently died. All of this was unknown to us when Jim mentioned that he knew someone who was desperate to get their hands on a big Woolwich. I don't know exactly what Petrel's owner said to that, only that he knew of one that might be for sale, so Jim gave him our number, and thought little more of it, as we got swept up with meeting MIchell and Bill from America, and getting a ride in the parade, as well as meeting up with lots of the people we were finally starting to get to know. I even stood next to one of Bristol's owners, and murmured that I was still interested, if the price could ever be right.

Then after the rally, Jim set off to take Warrior to Cowroast, where we had very generously been lent a mooring for the month, and I got into the car and drove home. And on the way home, liberated from anyone else's opinion, pessimism, cynicism or plain good sense, I decided what I would do. I would arrange to borrow some money; the amount that I could afford and was prepared to pay for Bristol. Once the loan was arranged, I'd make them a cash offer. If they said no, which I still thought was likely, then nothing lost; I just wouldn't go through with the loan. So I went ahead and arranged to mortgage myself to the eyeballs.

Then, one evening in early July, the phone rang, and by chance, I answered it. On the other end was a softly spoken man with a northern accent who introduced himself as Dave. He was arranging the sale of Chertsey on behalf of the executors, and had been told that I might be interested. I gleaned what information I could, and to be very fair, I have to say that Dave undersold the boat somewhat. He was arranging a viewing day for people who had expressed an interest, prior to advertising it. Of course I wanted to go, although at this stage I thought it would be for research purposes, and that it might help to persuade Jim that Bristol wasn't such a bad bet.

Well, I was very, very wrong. As soon as we got to Dimmingsdale it was clear that Chertsey was a very good boat indeed. Thanks to my foresight (!) in amassing vast quantities of debt, we were able to make an offer there and then. I was too nervous to do it myself, so I got Jim to do it. After a couple of nailbiting days (during which, providentially, we sold Helyn, thus giving us a cash deposit) Dave rang and told me that the offer had been accepted.

Thus, thanks to a combination of recklessness, bloody-mindedness and wild, wild chance, I got my big Woolwich, and a good one too.

A number of other things have to happen now before I can get hold the cash to begin the restoration, but hopefully the wheels are turning, and things will happen in 2010.... which is why, although I am not in any way abandoning Warrior the boat, this seemed like a good time to wind up Warrior the blog. Project blogs are far more interesting that cruising ones, and nbWarrior started out as exactly that, as we set about transforming a boat with potential into our perfect boat. Of course I'll still write about our Warrior cruises - we are thinking of the BCN for next summer, and a lot more besides, as I really, really mean, this time to try and post every day.

But I wanted to do Chertsey justice by starting a new blog, (on a new account, with a new photo upload allowance!) to chart the restoration in all its ups and downs, and to organise it properly with tags and things right from the start, and also to make it a bit more of a historic boat-centred blog.

So this, as we say ferewell to 2009, is the final post proper on nbWarrior - and the first post of the new blog, Chertsey130. Thanks for coming on the journey with me so far, and let's see where the future will take us.

2009 in pictures - September












2009 in pictures - July





2009 in pictures - part 2





In which we skip July, and go straight on to August, for a small selection of random souvenirs of our trip up the Trent and its offshoots...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 in pictures

Well, from April anyway. That's when I (got Baz to) install Ubuntu on my computer, and the photo software that comes with it neatly files photos by year, month and day. My sister was certainly very impressed, thinking I'd organised them all myself.

So I shall dip semi-randomly into the photo files and see what comes out.

April saw me visit said sister in Newport, and walk my first disused canal



We and the Moomins finally made it to Holme Fen... and met the massed ranks of Peterborough IWA coming the other way.

And, in April, I helped move Chiswick from Aylesbury to Uxbridge - not dreaming then that by the end of the year I would own the boat that came out of Woolwich immediately before this one. Definitely one of the high spots of the year, this was.

In May, we met up with Chiswick and its merry crew again, and also with Mike on Victoria, at the Ricky Festival.


In the eventful month of June, the photo albums tell me, I gained my NCBA 'skipper's' qualification, visited the Newhaven lifeboat, took my first trip on the K&A, first with Mike on Globetrotter and then on Lancing,


We smartened Helyn up, and then we set off with Warrior to Braunston, where we met Chiswick and Victoria again, and Owl, and Bill and Michelle. And, although we were not yet to realise the significance of this, Petrel. And all this was long before the rally began!

And I got to go in the parade, twice - on Victoria and then on Chiswick.

More of the year in pictures tomorrow - that's enough for now.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Anyone for skating?


Jim has sent some photos from the Eastern Front.

Now I know that frozen canals and marinas are a bit old hat, and this probably isn't quite up to Olympic figure skating thickness anyway.

But how about this for a bobsleigh run?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Not to be trifled with


May I share with you my failsafe Christmas recipe for tinned trifle? It probably has the highest ratio of deliciousness to trouble of any festive dish.

Open a pack of trifle sponges and put half of them in the bottom of a glass dish. Open a tin of rasperries and pour them over the top. Slosh over some sherry or port if you've got some knocking around. Put the other half of the sponges on top of that. Open a tin of summer fruits and pour them over. Slosh on some more booze. Open a tin of Ambrosia custard and pour that over everything. Whip half a pint of cream and dollop that on the top with a spoon. Sprinkle with silver balls. Leave in the fridge for a couple of hours. Serve to impressed guests.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tidying away my presents


Ah, bliss. The house to myself again all calm and quiet after the chaos of Christmas. Not that we do anything too demanding, like having relatives round or anything - in fact it's been a remarkably stress-free Christmas this year (all credit to the fake tree) but it's still nice after the welcome break in routine, to get things back in order again.

So, having put all my Leonard Cohen albums (with the exception of Death of a Ladies' Man, of course) onto my phone, I plugged it into the hi-fi, put it on shuffle, and settled down for a nice day of leisurely tidying up. Eight hours and ninety-five tracks later I'd worked my way round most of the house (found some pine needles from last year - or possibly even earlier - down the back of the CD shelves), including completely re-arreanging (or possibly just arranging) my shelf of waterways books in order to put away my two new ones. They are now arranged by type: photos, boats, memoirs, waterways, associated subjects, fiction, and maps & guides. I have not (yet?) ordered them, either chronologically or alphabetically, within their sections, but I might be tempted.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Look what I got!


I got lots of lovely things, but this is the one I want to go out and play with straight away. What do you mean, I can't?

Courtesy of No.2 Son, my very own Dunton Double windlass. I've wanted one ever since I borrowed Jane's last year; it was just such a pleasure to use. I know - at least, I've heard - that it might not be suitable to use everywhere, but it's just such a lovely thing I'd be glad to have it even if I only used it on the Regents Canal (I don't think there's many places it doesn't fit really though).

I also got (thanks to Jim) two books (one on the Regents Canal, published in 1961, and the BCN Society's 1973 BCN in Pictures), as well as three DVDs and a video. And from my cousin, among other things, a waterways calendar featuring the most uninspiring selection of boat and waterways photos imaginable.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas


Once again, a
VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS
and a
HAPPY NEW YEAR
from nbWarrior

and I hope you'll be following my Chertsey adventures in 2010

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The pathologisation of impossibility

It's a new concept I've come up with. Like it?

It arose out of a conversation I was having with Jim about the weather conditions, and travelling. I was reading in the paper about how, despite the snow, ice, and multitudinous closed roads, one third of Britain's cars are still expected to be travelling over the few days in the run up to Christmas. He'd been listening to a radio phone in, in which one caller was determined to set out from Edinburgh to Cornwall, with a four month old baby and a labrador puppy, and refused to be advised otherwise.

Jim reckoned that this was an expression of extreme consumerism; people feeling that they'd paid for their cars, roads, RAC membership etc, and demanding that they be able to use them.

I on the other hand suggested that it was part of a growing mindset in which we are all encouraged to believe that anything is possible, and if it isn't then there's something wrong, rather than just being a normal, natural state of affairs.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

No touching or wanting

I was just finishing off my Christmas shopping yesterday, in one of those knick nack shops that get all the new stuff first, full of clever toys and gorgeous objects, most of which are so eye-wateringly expensive that when you find something that's being sold for just a few pounds, you know it must have been bought for pennies...

Anyway, I was standing at the checkout desk while my minute and no doubt exploitative purchases were wrapped in tissue paper, when a woman ushered in a gaggle of kids, and that is what she said to them: 'No touching or wanting.'

And I couldn't decide whether that was sound advice in this overly-consumerised age, or whether it was terribly, terribly sad.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The washer josher of Christmas trees

Thus my executive de-luxe faux fir was described by Kevin, aka Starman, owner of the loveliest little tug at Bill Fen. And I thought to myself, he's right you know.

I went to a little soiree (well, more of an apres-midi-ee)* up the road at the weekend and two people expressed great amazement on hearing that it wasn't a real tree, although admittedly they had only looked at it through the window and from a distance. And I thought, yep, that's the washer josher; the fake that tries to look like the real thing but wouldn't fool anyone close up.

Then I thought about the green and silver tinsel tree we had when I was an (older) child (my mother got sick of the real thing a lot quicker than I did, and also this was in the seventies when a tinsel tree marked you out as modern and cutting edge. Having a real one was a bit like having Victorian furniture,. As indeed it was in the nineties, only by then it was trendy again). Anyway, this was an honest to goodness plastic tree, not trying to fool anyone, not expensive, but it gave us years of fun, and even now is probably still giving good, if superficially tatty, service. The Springer of Christmas trees, perhaps.

And for years I guess we had the Grand Union of Christmas trees; big, brutal and impressive, but not what you'd call graceful. We left those Nordmann Spruce joshers, elegant and tastefully decorated, to others.

So now I come to think of it, it's obvious why I don't feel the need for a real Christmas tree any more.


*I know there should be accents on that, I just don't know how to put them there.

Monday, December 21, 2009

It'll be a pipe next.


I'm not much of a one for slippers. We used to have them as children, for wearing with our nighties. Pirelli ones, that smelt of rubber, with fur round the top. After a few weeks the soles would start to wear away, revaling their cardboard innards and creating flapping bits at the front to trip you up. Occasionally you'd forget you were wearing them and get in the bath with them on, which while amusing (at least the first time) was also unpleasant in a squelchy sort of way, and very unnerving, being a rather surreal juxtaposition of sensations.

So slippers haven't featured greatly in my adult life. Much to Jim's chagrin, I am one of those people (and I believe this is an issue on which the population can be neatly divided in two) who do not believe in taking my boots off before entering the house. I don't like doing it in other people's houses either, but I will make an exception if a. I really like them and b. they have really nice carpet. I wouldn't ask anyone to do it though; by asking people to remove their footwear you're making them vulnerable; asking them to put themselves at a disadvantage. Basically, they can't run away.

But now I am no longer the creature of habit who gets up at six, showers, and gets dressed before facing the day; now I occasionally like to have a bath in the evening, or a cup of tea before I get dressed, and the kitchen floor really is quite cold underfoot, I wondered whether some slippers might be for me after all. (No! Please don't say it's my age and that I'll be smoking a pipe next...)

And then, whilst Christmas shopping this afternoon, I saw these and was smitten. And my feet are tucked up cosily inside them as I write this.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Quote of the moment

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live; it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. And unselfishness is letting other people's lives alone...

Oscar Wilde

Saturday, December 19, 2009

New boat coat


I have a bit of a weakness for chunky rainbow coloured South American knitwear, and over ten years ago now I bought a very chunky Fairisle patterned cardigan. I've hardly ever worn it though, because although it's big and chunky and hairy, it's quite loosely knitted, so while it's very hot indoors or in warm weather, it's not much use in the cold because the wind whistles through it.

Not any more though. While I was sorting through my wardrobe (another imaginative ploy to entertain my sister) last week, I found myself explaining to her how it needed lining, and suddenly had a brainwave - what if I got a zip-up fleece, the same size, and stitched it inside the cardigan. Then I promptly forgot about it until I was browsing in the charity shop, and found myself looking at fleeces, but none were right. Then I had my second brainwave (or realisation of the bleeding obvious) - I had a fleece in my wardrobe which might just be perfect. What's more, although it is a very expensive, good quality one, I hardly ever wear it because I dont like the shape. Or the colour, for that matter.

Well, guess what: it fitted perfectly. I turned it inside out before stitching it in, so not only does it look neater, but I have two handy zipped inside pockets. The finished article is not much heavier than the cardigan on its own, and wonderfully warm and cosy, and still big enough to get another jumper underneath - plus all the benefits of modern technological fabrics without the aesthetic downside.

Bring on the winter boating!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Big Boat Blogs

In advance of setting up the new blog for Chertsey, I've been looking around for other blogs by historic boat owners - particularly of course, big Grand Unions. Well, the good news seems to be that the majority of (if not all) old boat bloggers do indeed have a big G.U. of some sort; the bad news is that I could find hardly any at all.

I started with Granny Buttons' 'boatroll' where I found Oakley, which hasn't been updated for a while, and Barnet, which seems to have the most comprehensive blog at the moment. I'm sure there must be others, so please do tell me, and perhaps I'll have a special blogroll for them.

There are however quite a few former working boat websites. Some of these are small and personal, and might arguable be better as a blog? Liam has a website for his Midland and Coast Ariel, and the big Ricky Hagley, which used to have a blog (still there but not updated for three years) now has a website, which doesn't look to be updated very frequently either.

Some websites however are much more ambitious and a wonderful source of both information and pictures to drool over. The middle Northwich icebreaker Sickle has its own website, and its owner, Matt Parrott also runs the 'Working Boats' website which is regularly updated with the latest news of old boats still in circulation, loads of photos ancient and modern, and links to other websites.

Moving away from Grand Union boats, the Bream website has information and photos relating to 'Fish class' joshers. My favourite quick reference resource remains AMModels' lists, which are compiled from a number of sources and kept up to date by Andy, and also have some links to boats' own sites.

But these are all websites - frequently updated in many cases and a brilliant source of information and pictures. But that's not the same as a blog, which is a more personal detailing of the daily - OK, maybe weekly - ups and downs of a restoration or a trip, with passing thoughts too transient and trivial to be immortalised in a static web page but perfect as part of the here today, moved on tomorrow, journey that is a blog.

So I reckon that Chertsey will be THE very best big Woolwich restoration blog out there once it's launched (the blog that is, not the boat).

Unless of course you know different.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Retail madness (part 3)

Jim goes to B&Q to get some insulation wrap for extra protection on No. 1 Son's water pipes. Finds last remaining roll of said wrap. Takes it to checkout ans asks 'This hasn't got a price on it, how much is it please?'. Checkout boy scans it. 'Nineteen ninety nine'. Hmm, thinks Jim, that's a lot; I'd better check with Sarah. Sarah says 'Best get it now regardless; much coldness on the way and don't want the poor little chap's pipes freezing like they did last year'.

So Jim goes back to B&Q, collects roll of wrap and takes it to the checkout.

'Can't sell that' says the checkout boy.

'Why not? You've just told me it's £19.99; look, here is a crisp new £20 note that I wish to exchange for it'

'Nah, look, the packaging's damaged. Can't sell that'

'I'm not worried about that - of course, it would be great if you reduced it, but I'm happy to pay full price.'

'I can't sell it cos it's not on the system. It's been taken off the system to reduce the price. It'll go back on the system when the sale starts. I can sell it to you then'

'When's that?'

'After Christmas'

And thus it was that Jim took up the twenty pound note that he had been so willing to add to the coffers of Messrs Block and Quayle (for such were the names of the founders of the business), and took it to Homebase instead, where they sold him a nice roll of insulation that didn't even have any packaging to be damaged.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cold

Too cold to get out of bed but I have to eventually. Horizontal's very good for thinking but a bit tricky when it comes to writing things down. Put off going into work because the radiator in my office doesn't go above tepid, and the rest of the building's colder still... all down to some clever piece of 1930s engineering whereby the boiler is in the basement of a building in the next square and the hot water has to be piped through two back gardens, with all the opportunity for cooling and mishap that affords, before it gets anywhere near me. So sitting at home with the heating on but got to go to work in a minute as I have a student to see (I hope she brings a warm coat) and then - ta-da! - the departmental festive party. I know in my heart this will mean wine like paintstripper in a plastic cup and Sodexho's second cheapest (aka deluxe) sandwich buffet, standing around awkwardly, and speeches about how well we've coped with a challenging year, but hope triumphs over experience and at least, hopefully, the room will be warm.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fake fir


Every year since 1993, I have assiduously erected a real, live (well, dying) Christmas tree. When the children were small, collecting the tree was a ritual. We went to Harvest Forestry, in Brighton, where every year they created a sparkling, pine scented magical winter wonderland. We would select a tree - as big as we could fit into our high-ceilinged front room - and choose one or two special new decorations to be souvenirs of that particular year. It was always a traditional fir tree - the one with the needles that lacerate you before falling off.

We'd lash it to the roofrack, and bring it home. where of course it was dark and wet and cold as we sawed off the end and wrestled it into the Christmas tree holder. Then came the moment we'd unleash it from its netting (or, in the early days, string) and the ends of the branches would poke us in the eye.

Then the fun of decorating it would begin. First of all, draping an eight foot high porcupine with festive lights (tasteful white ones, natch), then fighting over whose turn it was to put the fairy on, and who got the consolation prize of the pixie (both c. 1963 vintage). All while listening to the CD of carols from St Pauls on constant repeat. Every year, I confess, I found it all rather stressful. In later years, Harvest Forestry's Christmas shop was no more, and we were reduced to buying a tree from B&Q. And by the time we wanted to get one, all the decent ones were gone, and there were a couple of years that involved driving around Sussex in ever-increasing circles in search of a last minute tree.

Then - I forget quite when or how - on impulse, in the post-Xmas sales, I bought a heavily reduced, executive quality, artificial tree. Of course, the children (then about 22 and 18) wouldn't hear of using it, as it is a well known fact that any deviation from fifteen year old ancient family tradition at Christmas will bring about the apocalypse. So it was banished to the forge and forgotten about.

Until my sister visited last week, and I tripped over it while looking for the Christmas cards. After the first evening of family tree fun, we were somewhat at a loss to entertain her, so I suggested that just for fun, we get this tree out and set it up. Neither of the boys was around to stop us, so that's what we did. We got the tree out, put it together, bent its branches into a highly convincing semblance of a spruce, and mounted it on the table in the window. We then decked it in tasteless red poinsettia lights and, when these didn't quite reach the bottom, added the set of coloured lights we remembered from our childhood (complete with Granada plug that must have been filched at some point from the rented TV). For once we didn't argue about the fairy (though Ali did ask, rather suspiciously, 'Is that her original skirt?').

And so by the time Baz got home, the tree was twinkling splendidly (if redly) through the window, and if he felt the chill of the passing of an era he didn't say so, and there the tree still sits, now with a few presents underneath it, and there, I think, it will stay. And there I think it will be next year too, and the year after, and the year after that. Because no one got frozen, or scratched, or had their eye poked out; no one had to drive from DIY superstore, to farm shop, to pub car park; and above all, come Twelth Night, we will not be drowning in a sea of needles that I will still be finding down the back of the sofa in July.

Faux fir - it's the future. For me, anyway.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rivetting stuff


My sister has just been visiting, and she has spent the past few months working on our family tree. She brought it printed out on lots of A4 sheets and laid it out on the living room floor, and sellotaped it all together.... Then she packed it up and took it home with her again. Ah well.

After a couple of bottles of wine she also found me some census returns, including this one from 1901. Click on it to get the bigger version, then about half way down the page, at no. 136, William Hale - that's my great grandfather - a 'rivetter (iron) GWR', with 'boiler' added in pencil. I was very chuffed to discover this. Prior to this generation, the Hales had all been agricultural workers in the Devizes area. The story Ali has uncovered is that William's older brother initially walked twenty two miles to Swindon and got a job on the railway; William later followed him. Next but one down on the list is George William, my grandfather, who I had always understood to be the boilermaker. On this census he is working as a grocer's assistant, but he is only fourteen! On the 1911 census he is down as a 'plate worker' at the GWR wagon works, but Ali swears that she has seen him described as a boilermaker somewhere.

Anyway, great grandfather William the rivetter will do me for now.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Migrating

After a lot of consideration and soul searching, I did finally decide to set up a new blog for Chertsey. There's nothing on it yet, so I'll not give you the address. Suffice to say that it's not www.chertsey.blogspot.com, which had gone. Now, I fully expected it to have gone, given, I thought, that there must be lots of people in that lovely Thames side town (village? suburb?) who would want to set up a blog to recount their doings there. What I didn't expect was for it to have been taken by someone in Korea... go on, have a look if you like. The really weird thing is that they use the same layout as me - and it's really not a very commonly used one. (I'm thinking of doing a study of Granny Button's blogroll to see what other Blogger bloggers favour).

So, before very much happens with Chertsey, I intend to migrate all my blogging activities (including any on Warrior) to the new blog. It just seemed sensible, as most of the news over the next few years will most likely be concerned with Chertsey. Naturally I shall try to keep posting irrelevant bits and pieces too; all the sort of stuff you know and love (!) and hopefully even more... although somehow I feel a kind of duty to be more serious where there's a (nearly) seventy three year old big Woolwich concerned.

This is nbWarrior's 851st post. I had hoped to hit 1000 by the new year and swap over then, but my recent laziness has ruled this out. Still, it was only an arbitrary figure anyway. Eight hundred and fifty one posts isn't bad, is it, over, let me see, three years and eight months. Meanwhile, I'll get my virtual spanner and screwdriver out and start tinkering with my other account and hopefully have it all up and running in time for the next bit of Chertsey news.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Cat phrase book

Like you do, we were sitting around after dinner, trying to get the cat to get off the draining board, and the conversation turned to what a tourist cat phrase book might look like. We thought it might include the following phrases:

Please lick my bottom.

Please desist from licking my bottom.

Thank you.

Please provide a small piece of paper. I wish to sit down.

I have eaten some grass and am going to vomit.

This cream is cold. Please warm it for me.

Are the prawns organic?

I have been injured in a brawl. Kindly send for a veterinary surgeon.

No thank you, I do not take medicines orally.

Please feel free to add more.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Have a safe Christmas

Rather than forward this to all my friends, I thought I would post it here. I thought it was rather amusing. Thanks to John of CCNA.

The Rocking Song
Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir;
We will lend a coat of fur,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you:


Fur is no longer appropriate wear for small infants, both due to risk of allergy to animal fur, and for ethical reasons. Therefore faux fur, a nice cellular blanket or perhaps micro-fleece material should be considered a suitable alternative.

Please note, only persons who have been subject to a Criminal Records Bureau check and have enhanced clearance will be permitted to rock baby Jesus. Persons must carry their CRB disclosure with them at all times and be prepared to provide three forms of identification before rocking commences.


Jingle Bells

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way


A risk assessment must be submitted before an open sleigh is considered safe for members of the public to travel on. The risk assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly if passengers are of larger proportions. Please note, permission must be gained from landowners before entering their fields. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.


While Shepherds Watched

While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around


The union of Shepherd's has complained that it breaches health and safety regulations to insist that shepherds watch their flocks without appropriate seating arrangements being provided, therefore benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available. Shepherds have also requested that due to the inclement weather conditions at this time of year that they should watch their flocks via cctv cameras from centrally heated shepherd observation huts.
Please note, the angel of the lord is reminded that before shining his / her glory all around she / he must ascertain that all shepherds have been issued with glasses capable of filtering out the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and Glory.


Little Donkey

Little donkey, little donkey on the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load


The RSPCA have issued strict guidelines with regard to how heavy a load that a donkey of small stature is permitted to carry, also included in the guidelines is guidance regarding how often to feed the donkey and how many rest breaks are required over a four hour plodding period. Please note that due to the increased risk of pollution from the dusty road, Mary and Joseph are required to wear face masks to prevent inhalation of any airborne particles. The donkey has expressed his discomfort at being labelled 'little' and would prefer just to be simply referred to as Mr. Donkey. To comment upon his height or lack thereof may be considered an infringement of his equine* rights.

*I have pointed out to the relevant authorities that in fact Mr. Donkey is not eligible, as a donkey, to file a complaint under the equine rights policy, but should instead couch his claim in terms of asinine rights, which are clearly far more appropriate to his case.

We Three Kings

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star


Whilst the gift of gold is still considered acceptable - as it may be redeemed at a later date through such organisations as 'cash for gold' etc, gifts of frankincense and myrrh are not appropriate due to the potential risk of oils and fragrances causing allergic reactions. A suggested gift alternative would be to make a donation to a worthy cause in the recipients name or perhaps give a gift voucher.
We would not advise that the traversing kings rely on navigation by stars in order to reach their destinations and suggest the use of AA routefinder or satellite navigation, which will provide the quickest route and advice regarding fuel consumption. Please note as per the guidelines from the RSPCA for Mr Donkey, the camels carrying the three kings of Orient will require regular food and rest breaks. Facemasks for the three kings are also advisable due to the likelihood of dust from the camels hooves.


Rudolph the red nosed reindeer

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.


You are advised that under the Equal Opportunities for All policy, it is inappropriate for persons to make comment with regard to the ruddiness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr R Reindeer from the Reindeer Games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence. A full investigation will be implemented and sanctions - including suspension on full pay - will be considered whilst this investigation takes place.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Erratum


One of the things I was jolly excited about on Saturday was the opportunity to purchase a copy of the brand new edition of The George and the Mary, Alan Faulkner's history of the Grand Union company - obviously a subject dear to my heart. I already had a copy of the 1973 edition, for which I paid a very reasonable £12 - I subsequently heard of them changing hands for a great deal more. But the new edition, we were promised, would have more pages; extra photos, and new information. So I hurried over to the HNBOC shop table and bought their penultimate remaining copy for the even more reasonable price of £4.99 (bet it'll be more than that in the shops).

Now, I have been told by a very reliable authority, that the motor boat in the photo on page 22, unloading at Cotton End, was Chertsey (and that the butty was Staverton). I don't know how you could possibly tell this from the photo - as printed - alone, as no name or number is legible, but the livery certainly doesn't rule it out. No names are given in the caption though.

So obviously the first thing I did was turn to page 22 to see if it was still there, and it was (although I have to say that the quality of the reproduction of the photos in the new edition is vastly inferior to the old one), and this time the caption named the boats - but as Chiswick and Staverton. While I'm quite prepared to believe that the motor boat in the picture is Chiswick and not Chertsey, I have more a problem with the caption in its entirety: 'The motor boat STAVERTON and its butty CHISWICK....'

However, finding this and leaping upon it with such alacrity did put me in mind of this.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tugs on the BCN

For that was the title of the very informative illustrated talk I attended yesterday at Braunston Village Hall, courtesy of HNBOC and a chap called Martin O'Keeffe. It was very informative. Very very informative. I'm afraid my attention may have started to wonder towards the end of the first two hours, but after a cup of tea I was ready for the final session.

I did learn some interesting stuff, some of which I might even retain, and there were lots of lovely photos. For example, there was a family firm of boatbuilders called George Hale and Sons at (I think - see, memory's going already) Oldbury, from the 1870s to the 1960s, so I quickly texted my sister, who is in the process of compiling a family tree, to see if they could possibly be related to us. Sadly she replied that all our ancestors, that she had traced, were either railway or agricultural workers, from Swindon and the area around Devizes. My paternal grandfather was actually called George Hale, but he - I'm very proud to report - was a boilermaker for the Great Western Railway.

Before the talk we met up with Dave and Izzie at the George in Kilsby to try out their lunch menu. The landlady and staff were very pleasant and friendly and the food was sound, but not outstanding. The 'traditional pub food menu' at £4.90 was very good value - I had faggots with mash and mushy peas. I would quibble at faggots being cooked dry and served with separate gravy, but they were tasty enough and the portion was a good size. The 'main' menu on the other hand, and the desserts, were pretty expensive.

Then after the meeting - at which many exciting things (well, it's all relative) happened which I shall relate separately, a few of us retired to the Plough in Braunston High Street, where we would have had a nice relaxing few pints before heading home had it not been for the fact that in order to celebrate the eighth anniversary of taking over the pub, the entire staff and regulars ware dressed in clown outfits (apart from the fortune teller) and karaoke was threatened, so we made our excuses and left.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Weekly round up

OK then, so much for 'I'm going to try to post every day in November'. It just gets worse and worse doesn't it. Truth to tell my heart sinks at the thought of trying to produce a post when nothing has been happening on the boating front, and there is nothing even boat related to report. There are plenty of things that I could comment on, but I don't seem to have the energy.

Still, there are a few things in the offing now. Tomorrow we are off to Braunston for a HNBOC meeting and illustrated talk on Tugs on the BCN - that I confess is not the primary attraction; rather it is the opportunity to meet and mix with other owners of ancient boats - other owners - for the first time since becoming one myself.

Next Saturday we are off to Bones's Banter in Thrupp, to which lots of other nice and interesting people who frequent CWF are also going.

Now you may wonder (although more likely not) why it is 'Bones's banter' and not simply 'Bones' banter'. Particularly as if it was someone called Jenkins, I would have written 'Jenkins' banter' and not 'Jenkins's etc.' The answer - and I love this as I do all similar arcanae - is that it is the rule of Oxford University Press. People whose names end in 's' get a possessive apostrophe and an additional 's' if their name has only one syllable, but just the apostrophe if they have more than one syllable.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Roses and Snowdrops

It's lucky I was forewarned by my quick glance at Beer in the Evening last night. It would have been a bit surreal to come home from the boat to canal free East Sussex* and find myself in a pub surrounded with roses and castles paintings and bedecked with various pieces of not very traditional but nonetheless painted tinware. Very incongruous indeed, round these parts, and quite possibly entirely based on a close study of Rosie and Jim, whose effigies also featured prominently (never having made a close study of this oeuvre myself, I cannot say for sure). The place still lacks horse brasses and sepia prints of horse drawn boats, but it's early days yet.

So it was weird, but nonetheless sort of gratifying to see the canal theme taken on board by a distinctly non-canal (albeit riverside) pub. Anyway, enough of the sniffiness. The Harveys was absolutely excellent, and they had not only Best, but Bonfire Boy (hopefully presaging a regular feature of Harveys' monthly seasonal beer) and Old, plus Dark Star Hophead; and the food was very impressive too. All the main meals were around the eight pound mark which while not cheap, is OK for most of them, and very good value for the rump steak.

The place doesn't have the character it used to (though I was pleased to see that the giant bust of Plato is still lurking in the garden) but hey, you can't go back. And it did seem busy - anyone who serves good local beer and decent food deserves to succeed, even if their decor is a bit naff.

*Except for the little bit of the Royal Military Canal right out on the Kent border.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Off to the Snowdrop

There used to be a fantastic pub in Lewes called the Snowdrop. We used to go there a lot. They did great veggie food, lovely beer, and a great ambiance, with an incredibly eclectic clientele in a very eccentric setting.

Then the landlords moved on and it went downhill for quite a few years, full of lager drinkers, which clearly didn't pay, as they had their electricity cut off and closed for a while.

However, they have reopened, and I have heard from two different people that it is great again, refurbished, and with a brilliant new chef and beer from not only Harveys but another local brewery too, Dark Star. So we decided to check it out tonight in honour of Number One Son's birthday. So far so exciting.

But then I looked it up on Beer in the Evening and it said:

The Snowdrop has just reopened after a major refurbishment. The interior is very well done in a ‘narrow boat’ style reflecting the building’s original use as a bargeman’s house.

So now I can't wait! I shall report back.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Keeping it in all night


Apparently, this is the sort of stove you could have on a butty. If you had a butty, that is, which would be a tad greedy. It's too big for a motor boat, but those extra few inches in a butty back cabin make it quite feasible, I'm told. If rather warm. I was surprised when I looked in the butty cabin they've got in the London Canal Museum; it had a cast iron edifice in it that was more like a built in range.

Anyway, this one's in my kitchen. It's not a built in one (oooh, how I would love one of those with all their mysterious doors and trivets and things to hang the kettle on; I drool over them in salvage yards), hence its name, the Bell Portable Removable Oven. Presumably it meant you would take it with you from house to house, as an upwardly mobile Edwardian. I don't reckon it would be any great shakes for cooking as the over barely gets hot, but it does make the kitchen nice and cosy.

And I have finally mastered the art of keeping it in all night. On the latest Warrior jaunt I kept the French stove in nearly all week, and got it ticking over really slowly by using the thing at the top as well as the one at the bottom (now, once and for all, which is the damper and which is the drawer?). But the Belle doesn't have a thing at the bottom, the most basic control for regulating the air through the burning fuel. It has a thing in the chimney, which seems to control whether it goes straight up the chimney (fast and hot) or around the oven (slower), but nothing at the bottom, just an open fronted firebox with a little door that keeps the heat in or lets it out. So to get it burning slowly for the night, you have to plan ahead and let the ash build up to block the airflow from underneath. Hopefully I'm getting the hang of it now, as I last lit it on Friday morning and it's still going (though I have cheated and put a bit of wood on each morning before giving it a good riddling, just to be on the safe side). I don't know how you'd cope with one on a boat though; there's always ash everywhere. But I love it.

(Oh my goodness! You can get new ones. I want one I want one I want one)

PS Look, I got a teapot! A bit bigger than required, admittedly, but who knows, there may come a day when There's a whole gang of people in urgent need of a constant supply of tea. And it was only a fiver, in the pet shop cum antique emporium where we got the can and I'm still kicking myself for not buying the milk churn.....

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Who do I shout at?

I am seething with righteous indignation, and bang-your-head-on-the-wall-with-the-stupidity-of-it-all frustration.

I had read about such things, but thought they must have been a one-off over-enthusiastic interpretation of company policy. But no, it seems it is company policy.

Bear with me while I get this off my chest.

I have just been to Somerfield for a little bit of top-up shopping, taking no. 2 son (19 3/4) with me to help carry stuff. I was delighted to spot that a rather nice red wine was still on offer, so I added a bottle to the basket in anticipation of my friend Donna coming round. So all the shopping was put through and neatly packed, when the checkout guy gets to the wine, and says - to me, mind, not son - has he got ID? No, I said, it's my shopping. Doesn't matter, he said. If anyone with you looks under 25 (and that's bloody stupid in itself) we can't serve you without ID.

So I did what any sensible person would have done, tipped my bags back out onto the counter and walked out. Wish he had had his ID, then I would have shown it and then tipped my bags back out onto the counter and walked out.

I've tried without success to track down the actual policy, but it seems to suggest that if you have anyone with you who is under eighteen, even a toddler, they won't serve you. Where does this mindblowingly stupid and pointless policy come from? The law hasn't changed; it's just companies wringing their hands and trying to look as if they're doing something about 'binge drinking'. So no. 2 son could go with his ID and buy 24 cans of cut price Stella, but I can't buy a bottle of half decent wine.

It is in fact perfectly legal for me to give a child over five alcohol in my own home, should I wish to, but the supermarket powers that be have decided that they know better than the law and will not allow the slightest possibility that this might happen. Of course, if I was buying alcohol on behalf of someone who was under age, they'd keep out of sight, wouldn't they? So the policy achieves nothing; it is completely and utterly just for show.

Once one supermarket adopts such a stupid policy, then surely they all will, because no one wants to look 'soft' on under age drinking. As an aside, I think this will only worsen the problem of public drunkenness among the marginally-over eighteens, who don't get the chance to learn to drink responsibly in the company of adults an an impressionable age.

So if I want to buy a bottle of wine, or a few bottles of beer, I have to go on my own, as if it were almost something shameful, and without a willing sprog to help carry the bags, make a special trip separate from the main shopping.

And worst of all - as I already said - this is not some change in the law; it is not the law at all (which in itself is pretty sensible). It is the supermarkets (ab)using their own immense market power to pre-empt the law; to regulate the behaviour of their customers; to set themselves up as being able to improve upon the law.

If they really cared about underage drinking or excessive drinking, they could just stop selling alcohol. But they won't do that all the time half price lager draws in the eighteen year olds and the piss heads. Instead they look as if they're doing something by stigmatising the purchase of a bottle of wine.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Reports from the Nene

I guess I should give an update on Jim's progress. He is currently still at Irthlingborough, having made it through Billing before the cutoff point which was yesterday, and has been able to afford to sit out the bad weather of the last couple of days. He's also between crew members, but I gather that PJ (that is Steve who had the National D3 that he was rebuilding until he found himself an ideal boat complete with engine) is joining him tomorrow via a complicated arrangement of car and boat movements in conjunction with some Canadians who do things with fruit flies in Moomin's basement. Well, I think I got that right.

Jim is whiling away some of the time tussling with the gearbox. Now, this I am having some trouble grasping, but it is something to do with various bits of play along the linkage finally having added up to too much so that it is now hard to maintain the necessary thrust to keep it in gear. Little niggles over time - the broken connection of the vertical rod into the shift bit; the replacement of a vital spring - have added up into a nuggle (as in many a mickle makes a muckle) and the upshot seems to be that it's hard to go forwards slowly or backwards at all. (See! I said it didn't bloody reverse and I was right). Jim was even on the phone to Allister at RN this morning (who put him onto the vital nature of this spring), so when I heard this I was starting to worry. However, I just spoke to Jim and he seems confident that he'll make it back to Bill Fen, albeit without going slowly. Basically, the gearbox seems to have reverted to what it was like when we first got Warrior - but at least we're better at steering now!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Witching hour

Saturday saw my long-awaited stint as a Tarporley witch. Hallowe'en is CCNA's biggest fundraiser of the year, running trips through Islington tunnel which we have previously hung with ghosts, ghouls and strange purple and green inflatable spiders (deflated). Small children come along dressed up for the occasion and we show them a good time. Or what passes for one when you're seven, i.e. lots of screaming and a fun size Curly Wurly.

Such an event is it, that as well as Tarporley, we bring in the Pirate Club's boat - currently Pride of Sandwell, and Angel. Having donned my witchy gear (I thought it was pretty good, although it relied on my natural witch like looks rather than any green face paint, yuck, plus I thought a hat might be somewhat impractical) I was not best pleased to be allocated to Pride of Sandwell. It is, after all, a semi-trad, even if it does have a wheelchair lift. On top of which it had been very enthusiastically kitted out with all the battery operated howling devices and singing skeletons I could ever wish to avoid. This was also not really the point to recall that I'd skimmed over the bit on the volunteer application form where it said 'must like children'.

Things improved after that. Having mutinied from Pride of Sandwell (someone with a much greener face had arrived and I gleefully handed over), the least I could do was volunteer to steer Tarporley on the next trip... overlooking the fact that by the time we set off it would be dark. This prospect filled me with some trepidation but it actually went without a hitch and was a brilliant experience. I even managed to wind rather beautifully, even if I do say so myself. Then I did a stint as Tarporley's witch in residence for some rather sweet children, and finished the evening with a sunny disposition once more.

Before heading home I visited the Canal Museum's bookshop and added John Thorpe's Windlass in my Belt to my collection, and a few multi-purpose greetings cards. The IWA do lovely Christmas cards, but why oh why won't they produce blank ones for birthdays, weddings etc. Who wouldn't want to receive a Deepest Sympathy card with a watercolour of an old narrow boat on it? Bound to make you feel better.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Nice clean bottom


Here at last is Warrior's bottom. It was a dodgy USB lead that was the problem I think, with getting the phone to talk to the computer.

Obviously, this is actually Warrior's bottom before it was cleaned and reblacked, but I somehow omitted to take any photos after. We got the blacking done surprisingly fast really, within a couple of days. It had the rest of the week to dry before we were craned back in a week ago today - with some degree of urgency, as Jim was anxious to be off in order to have the best possible chance of getting through Billing lock before the closure. As it turned out, we were waiting until lunchtime for Richard to arrive, but it all turned out for the best. He and Jim had a great run and good weather and Jim was through Billing yesterday morning with two days to spare. At some point Richard was relieved by Moominpapa, who has also now done his stint. As of lunchtime today Jim was at Irthlingborough having bidden farewell to Moomin and awaiting the arrival of PJ. So far it all seems to have gone like clockwork (touches wood).

Going to try to post every day this month. And then it'll be advent calendar time again! Where does the time go?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Baz blogs (again)

I don't like to show off, but it has to be said that No.2 Son is strange, in a good way. I think. One of the manifestations of his strangeness is the stories he writes (longhand, using a glass dip pen. On the train). Stories full of things and feelings that surely even a nineteen year old shouldn't know, let alone the fifteen year old he was when he started. He was looking for a way to get his stories out to a wider audience so I suggested he resurrect his abandoned blog (for the second time). And this time, as an act of faith, I will link to it. So you can all nag him to keep posting.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

(No) Very unexciting picture

I sort of have the idea at the back of my mind that if I don't have a picture at least every few posts, people will start thinking, boring, no pictures, and stop reading. So I shall waste another megabyte of my picture upload allowance with a very boring picture. Here is Warrior as we found it on Sunday, out of the water and all dried off.(Actually, it isn't, because my phone, on which the pictures reside, is starting to refuse to acknowledge when I stick a USB lead into it. I think it may be a faulty lead, but the phone is a bit highly strung so I can't be sure. This is partly why I can't always get on line and post with the baby computer) A touch of green, but - hooray - no rust; no flaking off blacking, just the old blacking with some green stuff and mysterious deposits on it. I am more than happy to take the credit for this, as Jim's memory has confirmed what I can hardly believe - that the five coats of comastic applied in 2006 were done singlehandedly by me. So we are very happy to use comastic again (Rylards vinyl tar to be precise) and there was a nearly full 20 litre tin waiting for us.

Another DIY blacker had hired a pressure washer so Jim set to straight away with that, and a wallpaper scraper, to get the green weed and mysterious stuff off. We had completely forgotton about the anodes, until we saw them. They are well worn, but should have another year's life in them, so we are adding another set in the hope of not getting Warrior out for another four years. I have my doubts about anodes, to be honest; it smacks of voodoo to me. If they're doing what they're meant to (and I'm sure Moomin will explain this to me on Sunday, with diagrams), why isn't the prop covered in magnesium? Also, they make the paint come off in their immediate vicinity. I find this rather disturbing. But anyway, anodes we had to have, so yesterday, after putting the first coat on, we set off to Limekiln Chandlery in Wolverhampton, where we had been recommended that they were cheaper than Midland Chandlers. Never one to turn down the opportunity to visit a new chandlers anyway, I grasped the opportunity. At £36.25 each for the biggest ones, I think they were a good price, but I can't honestly remember what they are elsewhere. It was a nice shop and the man behind the counter was very helpful and obliging. There was a very nice brass drawer handle on display that I wanted for Chertsey, but there were none in the box - without demur, the man unscrewed the one from the display, and threw in the screws too. The brassware was very reasonably priced as well.

While Jim was washing the hull, I swept the chimney for the French stove in the saloon - for the first time. Thanks to its marvellous design this was a straightforward task. I was glad that I hadn't bought a special chimney brush, as the one I had worked really well. This was sold for cleaning behind radiators, and is like a big bottlebrush on a flexible handle. I bought it for the purpose of sweeping the top of the oven in the back cabin stove, but it was useless for this. However, the bottlebrush bit can be bent into a circle or spiral of exactly the right size foe any chimney, so by attacking it from the top and the bottom (there is a nifty access point in the bottom of the pipe)I was able to remove a good ash drawer full of soot. I lit the fire on Sunday evening and kept it in until this morning - could have kept it going even then, but for a misjudgement on my part. I've even been able to start closing the damper a bit to help it stay in. What a marvellous stove it has turned out to be. I also swept the chimney of the back cabin stove, but as you may recall, the soot and bits from that land on top of the oven lining from where they are very difficult to remove. I quite fancied poking the hoover tube down the chimney, but it has a long rigid straight bit attached to it that won't go round the bends, and that I couldn't get off without breaking it. Another hoover, perhaps.

So, we got it washed off on Sunday, first coat on on Monday, and second coat mostly completed this morning before. a. it rained, and b. I had to go to work. And that was the 20 litre (not quite full) tin all used up. We reckon we've put it on so thickly that, coupled with what's already on there, that should be enough. It's now got until Sunday to dry out while we busy ourselves with other little tasks, and a visit from the Moomins and from Bill and Michelle.

Meanwhile, I go back tonight to Stafford (lucky Euston is so handy for my office - it's quicker to get here from there than from home, albeit more expensive)with a big pile of marking and a glimpse of that other world out there.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Is it that time again?

It must be. We ore off tomorrow to black Warrior. It doesn't seem like a year ago that we last did it; in fact it is nearly three and a half! So it should be long overdue. However, the boat was craned out yesterday and apparently is looking in good shape, so hopefully our task will not be harder than it needs to be. This will be our first experience of preparing for blacking withh a pressure washer - previously on Warrior and Andante it had followed shotblasting. So that will be an interesting and wet experience. We then have to black it in the cold - last time we did it was a very hot June, so I'm not sure how differently the comastic will behave. Also I'm wondering how easy it will be to get the surface dry without the warm sunshine. We shall find out the answers to these questions and more over the next week, and I will take advantage of my new Twitter-readiness to keep the waiting world posted.

Warrior will be going back in the water next Sunday, and leaving immediately in Jim's race against time to get through Billing Lock before it shuts for a month on November 2nd. To aid him in this mission he has recruited a crack team of CWFers, including rjasmith, Moominpapa and PJ. Hooray for CWF!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tweet!

The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed a new widget adjacent to this post. Yes, I have joined the ranks of the Twitterati. I was inspired to do this when reading Mike's blog - even when he wasn't posting for a while, there were Twitter updates of his boaty doings. I guess Mike might Twitter for its own sake; not so me. It is purely and simply for posting quick updates to the blog when I haven't got the time, the energy, the technology or the signal to do a proper post. So don't be insulted if I don't follow you on Twitter - I won't be following anyone. I see I have a few followers already - granted, some are spam, but others are from amongst your number, dear readers. I guess that if you read this via a feed, that will ensure that you don't miss the mini-twitterings either. But if you read the blog in its full fat red blooded version, then you really have no need.

How wonderful it is though, to be able to just thumb off a quick text (is that a verb? It is now) and see it magically appear on the screen a few seconds later. I do like texting. I read another article the other day about how when it was first introduced, people thought SMS would never catch on - but whyever not? It's so much better than phoning - neat, concise, and doesn't interrupt anyone's day. You can send people photos! It's like magic. Truly, if you had told me when I was fifteen that such things would be possible, I would have fainted in delighted amazement. Young people today, they don't know they're born.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Don't trust Waterscape

On the Waterscape stoppages page it says:

Plan your cruising with our regularly updated listings of stoppages and restrictions.

Occasionally, canals, rivers and towpaths are closed for maintenance work. We list all stoppages on British Waterways and Environment Agency navigations as soon as they are notified to us, but emergency work may cause sudden closures.

So naturally I checked this page before we made our plans to black Warrior next week before heading back to Bill Fen.

I selected 'River Nene' and 'stoppages' and put in the dates 25th October to 10th November, and I got this result (which is what is still coming up as of this morning):

Stoppages Results

There are no stoppages reported at this time

Hooray. We can get the blacking done at Stretton, and get back to Bill Fen before any stoppages affect us (there are some on the canal system, but not until mid November). So Jim arranged to get Warrior craned out, and back in again a week later, and to hire a pressure washer, and to get tins of blacking, and we were all set to go up on Sunday, when yesterday I got an email from Lyn at Bill Fen asking has I seen the EA stoppage list for the Nene which she kindly attached, and it said this:

ENVIRONMENT AGENCY


ANGLIAN REGION


NAVIGATION CLOSURE NOTICE


Section 15 Anglian Water Authority Act 1977



RIVER NENE



DATE OF ISSUE 1 October 2009



LOCATION Various River Nene Locks (see below)



TYPE OF RESTRICTION Navigation Closure



DURATION Billing Monday 2/11/09 to Sunday 29/11/09


This makes rather a big difference and looks like it will now mean a complete change of plan. Thanks to Lyn the information arrived just in time to stop us getting stuck.

So Waterscape claim to list all stoppages on BW and EA navigations as soon as they are notified to them, yet, on October 16th are still not showing stoppages announced by the EA on October 1st.

It would surely be better not to have stoppages search page on the website at all, than to have one promulgating misinformation.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Endorsement

When I gatecrashed the Political Studies Association Annual Dinner last spring, I found myself sitting next to an affable chap who introduced himself (in best 19th century novel fashion) as M____ W_______ - J____ . This name was vaguely familiar to me, and he must have taken pity on me as he saw me struggle to place it. 'I gave the quote that was used on the dust cover of your last book', he continued. Mind you, I must confess that I can't have read the dust jacket that closely, as the other week I couldn't even remember the title of the book; I had to look it up on Amazon (having lent out my last remaining gratis copy to (stops to affect casual throwaway tone) the head of the government's Civil Renewal Unit).

But (and all apologies to Dr - or is it Professor - W_______ - J____ ), I have today received the endorsement to end all endorsements, which is now proudly displayed on the masthead. Granny Buttons says nbWarrior is on his 'must-read list' and that my 'posts are always informative as well as entertaining'. I think always might be putting it a bit strong, but hey, I'm not going to argue with the capo di capo of waterways bloggers. Naturally this inspires me to ever greater efforts. In the meantime, however, I shall just sit back and watch the ratings soar...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Holiday album 5: River Trent Part 1 - Trent Lock to West Stockwith


Marathon uploading session tonight; lots of photos from these four days that seemed worth putting in the album. With the passage of time, I can't quire recall some of the details... surely that unidentified enormous lock must be Cromwell Lock, gateway to the tidal Trent? Any details filled in gratefully received.

The first four (well, two and two halves) days on the Trent were full of surprising interest, and the unexpected, like the Beeston Cut and the glories of Newark. See it here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Holiday album 4: Erewash Canal

Two whole months after the event, I present to you... our five days on the Erewash Canal. In a holiday of contrasts, this provided my fix of Victorian (and Edwardian) industrial architecture and glorious dereliction, with its plethora of lace- and other textile mills. I'd never really given the word lacemill any thought before. Nice word, isn't it. The one that has been converted into the award winning flats was still producing lace into the 1990s. So, a little taste of the Erewash here.