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


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:




Section 15 Anglian Water Authority Act 1977


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


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.

Friday, October 09, 2009


This is apropos of nothing, really, but I realise that it's been a while since I last posted, and there's no excuse, really, other than things are hotting up a bit at work; I've got plenty of photos and things to write about.

And today I am going to write about enamel; more specifically, domestic enamelware. I've always has a bit of a soft spot for it; its simplicity, unchangingness and evocation of another age. Also I think I just like it. I have been very pleased to see that Southern Railways have either gone back to, or are still, using enamel for their signs at stations (even if the usefulness of the signs themselves leaves something to be desired).

Anyway, I have a lovely brown enamel kettle for Chertsey, and I shall not rest until I have found an enamel teapot too (not hard, in fact, thanks to the nostalgie de boue retro-boom; I just have to select one) even though I shall probably never use it and they're not very practical anyway.

But at the Black Country Museum the other week I saw something I'd never seen or heard of before - two examples, in fact. See in the photo, that red and white tile effect on the floor under the fender - that's enamel. It's genius; it's gorgeous and I want one.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Market halls

I was casually browsing Nothing To See Here just now, and found this wonderful account of Sheffield's Castle Market, due for demolition, which will probably be gone before I get to set foot in that legendary city. There are dozens of photos, and every one worth a look. Looking at them, I feel I just must visit, before it disappears. There is something so poignant about the decay of 1950s and 60s optimism which places like this represent.

And yet, according to the NTSH account, it is not by any means all decay and decline. Certainly there is a distinct lack of modern glitz, the superficial flim-flam of the 21st century. But the market is well used, apparently, particularly so in the recession - but by the poor and the working class - not the sort of people any local authority wants as part of the image of a world class city which they are all meant to aspire to now. What the fuck does 'world class' mean, anyway? I don't know; no one knows, but they all want to be it.

I love market halls. Brought up a southerner, I knew nothing of them. The Queensgate Market in Huddersfield was my introduction to the species - a radical construction of concrete parabolas which achieved listed status while I was there in the teeth of those who believe that anything concrete should be pulled down or blown up ASAP. And what a place it was - everything you could possibly desire under one roof, from continental delicatessen to oversized thermal undergarments; from broken biscuits to old fashioned hardware (and enamel teapots, of course), from Nehru jackets to coffee in the Tudor style coffee shop with genuine polystyrene oak beams; each packed into a tiny open fronted retail unit. Where else would I have got a giant sink plunger for Andante's toilet; a hot steak slice for 74p, yards of cotton lace, and those rubber spouts you put on the taps...

The very beauty of these places is their utilitarian nature; their lack of image. They're there to sell you stuff you need, not to persuade you into wanting stuff you don't with oh-so-tasteful displays of twigs, pot pourri scents and Farrow and Ball green paint. They don't need to be fashionable or trendy, because they serve a purpose and provide a genuine service. Ironically, when many of them were built in the brave new world of the 50s and 60s they were cutting edge, the modern alternative to outdoor markets and Victorian buildings, But the fact that they haven't evolved since then speaks volumes about what we must now call their 'fitness for purpose'. But is the fact that they work enough? Can such a phenomenon survive in a world where more than ever style is elevated over substance, and nothing exists unless it has a 'brand' and an image?

Some people say the north of England is better than the south because the people are friendlier, or because the scenery is better. Both are likely true. But if you asked me the one thing that makes the north great, it's market halls.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Now we're cooking with... paraffin

Flushed with the success of our jumble sale Tilley lamp (a 246B, as it turns out) and with the guidance of a CWF-er, we purchased another one (a Vapalux - don't you just love those names) from an army surplus website. Then we found the nice brass one in the Brewood antique shop, so we now have three. The old new one needs a new set of washers, so we rang up the wonderfully helpful lady at Tilley International, in Guildford, and established that this one is a 246A, and its washers are winging their way to us.

So excited were we by the previously unguessed-at qualities of pressurised paraffin, I started looking into the possibility of finding a Primus stove. What I did find was a world of paraffin websites and even a forum... and many of them were selling - or talking about - the Monitor Wickless Paraffin Stove. So I sent off for one from Parafinalia (because they were the cheapest, plus you have to love the name), and it duly arrived. And this is the wonderful thing - it was manufactured (in Birmingham) and packed, all wrapped in brown paper and corrugated card - in 1956, and untouched since then until I unpacked it and put it together in all its shiny brassy glory.

Now those of you who know me will be truly astounded that I am prepared to even stay in the same room as something which is not only full of flammable liquid, but on fire and pressurised to boot, because all my life I have been the most enormous coward about such things. But I now embrace them with the zeal of the convert. Pass the meths....

The first couple of times we tried to light the Monitor ended in failure, and plumes of sooty yellow flames. But this was because we had been too cowardly, and tried to light it outdoors, where the draught blew the meths flame about and stopped the vaporiser preheating properly. Once we took it inside (wet tea towel at the ready, admittedly) it lit perfectly first time, and has done now four times in a row. You can tell when it's lit because it makes the most fantastic jet engine noise (just as well as the flame is nearly invisible and it gets bloody hot), and when you look up underneath it it looks like the burner on a hot air balloon, a jagged jet of flame suspended in mid air. (You can tell I've taken to this in a big way, can't you).

And what's more, it works. I've made tea on the kitchen table with the new enamel kettle, and this morning Baz made fried eggs and fried bread. We even started experimenting with altering the flame, which is done just by adjusting the pressure. Paraffin - its the future!