Saturday, January 31, 2009

This one's for Nev

Blimey. I turn my back for five minutes, and suddenly it's CanalWorld (electrical chapter) here. Talk about lowering the tone. Let's have little interlude, play some soothing music and... that's better.

So, to our first request. Nev would like to hear the latest on poor little Helyn. Well, I'm afraid there isn't much to report; she's still sitting on the drive working on her green patina while we are distracted by other matters.

The most dispiriting thing which has hindered progress has been the steering cable. We had to replace it, because it broke. The old one had an eleven inch throw; these are apparently no longer made. The new one has a nine inch throw. Now you (I) would have thought, no matter, it won't have quite such a tight turning circle, but it'll still work; after all, that's only one inch less movement in each direction. But it seems that the difficulty is getting it lined up centrally to start with, rather than having it turn all the way one way and not at all the other. I have held the bloody thing in my hands and moved the engine and it has been fine, and I said, look, this is fine, all we need to do is make sure that THIS bit is held HERE and it will work. But apparently there are not the means to hold THAT bit THERE rather than where it wants to go. It is the sort of situation I find very frustrating because there's no reason for it not to work; everybody else seems to be able to make theirs work, and I can see with my own eyes and feel with my own hands how it should work.

So we tend to think, hmm, lets go off and do something else and perhaps the answer will magically come to us in our sleep, or the mice will do it. The interior is now pretty much finished. All the flaky paint has been removed and replaced with nice bright proper white paint. The exterior will need another scrub, and maybe a new coat of varnish on the handrails, but all the other jobs are tiny little things. I still want to take the trip up the Sussex Ouse once it's finished and before we sell her, if at all possible, but we really do need to get on. That's one big bit of clutter!

Anyway, while I was in Birmingham I saw one of Helyn's long lost relatives:

Nice wheelhouse! More Birmingham pics to follow... always leave 'em wanting more.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A shock to the system

Sorry to all those who have 'tuned in' in the hope of reading 'War is a danger to health' or 'Stop whinging it is only your legs' a story of the machinations of the Planning Committee of Wealden District Council, a neighbouring district council to ours in deepest East Sussex but there are developments of yesterdays story that cannot wait and I feel further enhances it. It transpires that I was wrong about the gruesome twosome of CWF. They are not primarily concerned about any poor child, pensioner, single parent or other sentient being that touches your boat (if the earths are not bonded) but about SWIMMERS who might be electrocuted. So all of us that are responsible for metal boats must check our wiring and calculate that all fuses are more than 50% higher value than any potential(!) loads always allowing for the fact that they are only 50% of the amperage rating of the connecting wiring - if that can't be achieved you will apparently have to upgrade all your wiring and then and only then make sure that both your 240v and 12v are separately bonded (fixed securely) to the hull. All that so that all the many thousands of swimmers that regularly use the 'cut' shall not be electrocuted. Please do not rely on any of the figures contained herein, it is all greek to me.

posted by Jim

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Urban Myth or volte face

Never one to refuse the chance to have a rant and taking advantage of my great leader's trip to Birmingham to stroke her beard as well as visiting the Gas Street Basin, I thought I would regale you with my views on an urban myth which seems to resonate far and wide across the ether but is especially championed within the confines of the Canal World Forum. This is not the kind of myth promulgated in the Daily Mail - the French demand that we have straight bananas, flat crisps or square onions to go with our Kraft cheese slices (can you still get them?) or that there are millions of Roma waiting in Calais to shoplift their way to fame and fortune or that any royal, however obscure, poverty stricken and impossible to pronounce (preferably all three) deserves greater sympathy than any overseas natural disaster especially in a Muslim country and of course the biggest myth of all, oft repeated in the Daily Telegraph, that New (or even old) Labour are synonymous with the red tide of Socialism and there are mounted hoardes of Red Army cavalry waiting to change our way of life forever. These myths have two main themes, one , to reinforce the fact that the old world order is alive and well and secondly, that anything to do with what George Bush called Urp especially if it is also to do with the French is a bad thing and no good will come of it.
Back to the job in hand - the myth in question concerns earth bonding to a metal boat hull (what incidentally happens when you have a fibreglass or wooden hull?) . There I bet that has got your attention, at least it links to Moomin's comment. When this was last broached (for the thousandth time?)on CWF, who almost without exception think (know) that it is a good thing, the 'Dirty Den' of the forum, not known for his humanity or kindness, justified earth bonding not because the 'numbers add up' or 'it is more work for boat electricians ' or Readavolt gizmos can sell more gizmos but because visiting children 'might get electrocuted'. Well try as I might, I have found no evidence whatsoever that any child, adult, pensioner or single parent (for Daily Mail readers) having been electrocuted fully or partly. I am not disputing the theoretical position but there are plenty of stories of people suffocating or dying of CO poisoning either assisted or un assisted by bottles of vodka and blocked ventilation and people drowning likewise and even people having a few fatal injuries from other sources but nowhere can I find people, howsoever defined, being injured or dying from electrocution and there are, I have no doubt, some right dodgy turn outs amongst the nearly 40000 boats on the Inland Waterways.

Tomorrow 'War is a danger to health'


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Request show

Oh dear, as you may have noticed, I've hit a bit of a lean patch. After such a good start, I've quite run out of things to say. Nothing has been happening chez Warrior in recent weeks, and my stock of ideas has run dry. So, in a shameless example of shifting responsibility, it's over to you. I am now taking requests. If there's anything you'd like an update on, or to hear more about, or see more pictures of, please say now! Or of you'd like to rent-a-rant, name a topic and I'll be happy to oblige. You could even dedicate it to someone.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Ali

Tonight we are all going to The Harp in Covent Garden, to celebrate my sister's fortieth birthday. I've made her a lovely card, using this photo of her on the tenth birthday, in 1979. She's hardly changed!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Missing the bus

There was a minor flurry in the papers last week about a bus driver who, being an evangelical Christian, refused to take out one of the buses carrying the 'atheist slogan' There's probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

This does raise the interesting issue of bus drivers refusing to drive buses on the basis of objecting to the adverts on the side, which are often for films advertised on the basis of their sexual or violent content - yet I never heard of a Christian refusing to drive one of those.

I haven't seen any of these buses yet, but apparently there are now 800 of them over the country carrying this advert, paid for by funds raised through the atheistcampaign website. Now in principle, obviously, I thoroughly approve of this campaign, which was itself initially prompted by scary fire and brimstone Christian bus adverts. In practice however, the slogan is terrible. That 'probably' - inserted at the insistence of Transport for London - makes it mealy mouthed and bet-hedging. It's not even an unequivocally atheist statement. An atheist is simply someone who does not believe in the existence of any god or gods.

And the second sentence, Now stop worrying and enjoy your life does us a disservice on two fronts. Firstly it implies that religious people are worrying, which they're no more likely to be than atheists, so it can be easily dismissed by those whose religion is a source of comfort and security rather than eternal questioning. Secondly, it can be interpreted to give credence to the idea that atheism equals unbridled selfish hedonism. Not what was meant, I'm sure, but undoubtedly how it could be read by opponents.

Having had a read of the atheiestcampaign website though, I can see why they chose to go the way they did, and it's great to see that so many people are supporting this very simple idea, and that it's taking off worldwide.

If I had to think up a slogan though, to reassure the worried and show that atheism is not equivalent to amorality, it would be: You don't need god to be good

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

If it's good enough for the engine room

... Then it's good enough for my kitchen. The time before last that Jim was up on Warrior, I took advantage of his absence and took down some shelves* in the kitchen. I say shelves; what they actually were were primary school lockers, minus the doors. A set of foot square boxes seven boxes wide and three high. They were super, and I was very pleased when we salvaged them from the school, and for years they held all manner of treasures. Coffee pots, mostly. But I was starting to find it all a bit overbearing and as I was in the process of downsizing the antique collection, not really needed any more.

What I had forgotten was that when we moved into this house, there had been a door knocked through this wall, and although Jim filled it in and made it good it's still bare plaster and not quite flat. But fortunately we still have lots of the wood left that we did Warriors engine room with; pine T&G from a 1920s house (well, they wanted it replaced with nice smooth plasterboard). Perfect, especially as one wall in the kitchen is already - original from 1901 - done similarly. When it's finished the whole lot is going to be painted in some trendy shade of white.

Gosh, keeping up a post a day isn't going to be easy.

*When I say I did it, obviously what I mean is I told Aaron and Sebastian to do it. Children are so useful once they get big and can wipe their own noses.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A different kind of quiet

In theory, one of the beauties of a boat is the chance to get away from the noise and distraction of everyday life and get some real peace and quiet. In practice, of course, it doesn't always work like that. Boats are also great for working on, socialising on, and indeed living on - and bringing much of that noise and distraction with you. The days you can sit, alone, just looking out across the water, are few.

So you might think that having an engine like Warrior's, which could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be called quiet, would be anathema to someone who craves tranquillity and solitude; that it would be the cause of stress rather than relaxation. I possibly even thought this myself in the past, much as I love the engine. But on my last visit I realised how wrong that was. What stops you being alone with your thoughts isn't noise per se, but speech - conversation (even one sided!), or the radio, or other people's conversations overheard. Even most music, especially with words, demands attention and breaks the thread of your daydreams. Start the engine, however, and all that fades away, and you're surrounded instead by an entirely rhythmic and (provided nothing goes wrong) utterly predictable buffer of sound between you and the outside world. Lack of quiet, but not of peace.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hope and anchor

Oh boy, look what we've got. Jim spotted it among a pile of old stuff outside one of the chandleries in Newhaven, and snapped it up for a bargain price. I'm not sure what this means for our future travels, and whether it's reassuring (I was never sure our other anchor would be up to anything too strenuous) or worrying (about where such reassurance might lead us to venture).

Nor am I entirely certain where it's going to live. There was a brand new narrowboat at Floods Ferry when we were there - if I remember rightly it was called Wandering Snail, and featured a painting of one and an elaborate pun about being the 'less cargo' carrying company. Anyway, it had been built with a special anchor shaped recessed panel in the cabinside. Terrible, isn't it, how you never think of these things until it's too late.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

What it says on the label

You may have noticed, since yesterday, extra green words appearing at the bottom of posts. Yes, I have decided to start labelling - aka tagging - posts so that anyone with a burning desire to read all that I have written, and only what I have written, about, say, Tarporley, can do so at the click of a mouse. Categorisations are of necessity somewhat rough and ready, to avoid a proliferation of taxonomies. I shall (if I don't lose interest/the will to live) retrospectively label all the posts going right back to the start. This process will, I imagine, become slower and slower the further back I go, as I will have forgotten more and more of the posts and have to remind myself what they were about. To be honest, with my cataloguing tendencies I'm amazed it's taken me so long.

This reminds me tangentially of one of my favourite paradoxes, Bertrand Russell's paradox of sets.

Now for this post, should I introduce a new category of 'blog disappearing up its own arse' or should I just file it under....

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A painted boat

Before I'd even had a proper look in Tarporley's back cabin, I was perturbed to hear that 'it needs redecorating'. When was it last done, I asked. Probably in the fifties, was the reply - how serious, how accurate - I don't know. Certainly the graining is in a bad way, but if the painting's anything like that old it would have done well to survive as intact as it has. Probably nothing special - I would have to leave that to others to judge. But worth preserving? Yes, why not. Whenever it was done, and whoever it was done by, it's a little bit of the boat's history, and if it still looks good then I'd say it's well worth keeping. I'd have to agree that the rest of it could do with a bit of a seeing to though.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Painted Boats and Pirates

I went to see a film last night; not something I often do. But this of course was a film featuring - if not actually about - boats. Apparently Painted Boats, directed for Ealing Studios by Charles Crichton in 1945 was intended as the first in a series of what we would now call docu-dramas about workers in wartime Britain. In the event, no others followed.

As a film drama, it is, to be perfectly honest, not exactly gripping. It centres on two boating families: the traditionalist, horse-boating Smiths, whose daughter Mary has somehow acquired a cut glass accent and is wont, at moments of heightened emotion (which are frequent) to clasp a kitten to her breast. Interestingly, although the film is set over a period of months, the kitten never gets any bigger. The cause of the heightened emotion is Ted Stoner, whose family have a motor boat and butty, but who has had a bit of education and can't wait to get off the cut. My favourite character was the obligatory cheeky kid brother, Alfie. So we follow the trials and tribulations of the families through various life events - the death of Mr Smith, the replacement of horse by engine and the eventual call-up and escape of Ted, after which Mary and her mother continue pluckily on to Limehouse, accompanied by Alf who, although it is never spelt out, I like to think has also escaped from the fate of being sent to live with an aunt and going to school.

But the plot and the accents and the size of the kitten don't matter at all, of course, because it's got boats in. And there is nothing like some old footage of heavily loaded boats, particularly with a Bolinder soundtrack, to get me clutching the metaphorical kitten oh so tightly. I'm not entirely sure who was playing the boats, only that they were fictitious characters - although quite a few others did make cameo appearances as themselves. I'm sure this is a matter of record somewhere, but I can't remember where.

The event was courtesy of the IWA, held at the Pirate Club in Camden, and was the first of their 'socials' I've attended. Everyone was certainly very welcoming, and it is, I hope, no disrespect to note that a good number of them could have been founder members - and who knows, perhaps were. It was also a great pleasure to meet Tim Lewis, one of the prime movers behind Fulbourne, one of my favourite-to-look-at boats.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Conditions of carriage

Have you ever read the National Rail Conditions of Carriage? Or those of Transport for London, covering the tube and buses? Nor had I, even though we agree to be bound by them every time we buy a ticket and use the service. In fact, as they stand, the conditions are fairly innocuous, user-friendly and mainly concerned with where and when any particular ticket entitles you to travel. There are rules about not putting your luggage on the seats (oh would that they were enforced), or taking flash photographs on the tube. So far all very sensible and reasonable.

All that might change however if the British Transport Police get their way. Nominally as part of the fight against knife crime (a classic moral panic if ever there was one), they are asking the rail companies and TfL to write into their conditions of carriage that by purchasing a ticket you are giving your consent to be searched. Apparently it is not enough that they are already legally entitled to stop and search anyone whom they suspect of committing a crime - and carrying an offensive weapon was still a crime last time I looked. They basically want carte blanche to carry out what are effectively random searches on the travelling public. That's very different from anything already in the Conditions of Carriage, and it also overturns policing codes that forbid voluntary searches (a refreshingly sensible provision given that when confronted with two policemen and a dog nothing is really voluntary). It is in effect a change in the law, being proposed not just via the back door, but through the scullery window of the conditions of a commercial contract.

Please, someone, tell me I'm not the only one who has a horror of being searched. Call it a phobia if you like, you can even call it a neurosis; I don't care. I physically recoil both from that invasion of my personal space and the powerlessness which it represents. It is the things I hear about the indignities imposed at airports in the name of 'security' that is the biggest factor preventing me from flying. Even when it's reasonable and justified, I would still rather avoid situations in which it might occur. After all, I am a blameless, law abiding citizen going about my daily business, not giving even the slightest cause for suspicion. The sort of person with nothing to hide and therefore theoretically, nothing to fear. But I do fear this. I fear the ever growing power of the state, not just in some abstract way, but because of what it can do to me, personally, physically. It can assault my privacy, and my dignity, and even if I am exceptionally sensitive that still does not diminish my right - and yours - to be left alone.

The current request is couched in terms of the operation against knife crime, but if the conditions are changed, there won't even need to be a reason. Police are drawing parallels with the consent given when attending a football match. But there are a number of differences. A football match is essentially held on private property, and the owners of that property have the right to demand whatever conditions they like; take it or leave it. The public transport system is, notwithstanding privatisation, still effectively that - public - and should provide a service to everyone. More importantly, no one has to go to a football match, just as very few people have to fly. If I decide that foregoing that pleasure is a price I am prepared to pay to avoid the sort of environment where searches take place (and in the case of airports, where men with guns hang out), then I can do that without too great a cost. But I can't decide not to travel by train, because the cost - giving up my job - is too high.

I wonder whether I can verbally decline to give my consent when I buy a ticket? Not to a machine or a website, that's for sure. All I can cling to is that consent does not have to imply co-operation.

However, the police request has received a 'lukewarm' response from the Transport Select Committee, so perhaps it won't happen. Perhaps it was just a headline-grabbing or kite-flying exercise. A bit like the proposals a while back to introduce 'airport style security' at mainline stations as a counter-terrorism measure. Presumably the powers that be eventually realised that someone who wanted to blow up Kings Cross (say, as it's a route I'm familiar with) wouldn't actually have to board a train at Kings Cross, or even pass the station entrance. They could get on a train at Dewsbury, for example, or any other unmanned station on that line; change at Wakefield Westgate, which doesn't even necessitate changing platforms, and arrive at Kings Cross already on the train. So I live in hope that this latest wheeze is just another example of such short sighted, ineffective, superficial and excessive responses to threats whether real or perceived.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Until I realised that it would align me with a Daily Mail campaign, I was quite attached to old fashioned incandescent light bulbs. I never quite got round to stocking up on them before they disappeared from the shelves - the demise of Woolworths put paid to that, somewhat procrastinated, notion, but I still maintained that the replacements couldn't save that much electricity as the fact that they take so long to warm up means that you never turn them off... That and the deadly poison. In all seriousness, this does have about it the whiff of a policy that wasn't quite thought through.

There was, however, a fairly convincing piece in the Guardian last week that persuaded me that not switching over to energy saving bulbs is in fact morally equivalent to raping a polar bear. So I will accept the coolly flickering domestic gloom with something approaching equanimity. No more 100 watt bulbs for me.

Fifteen* watt ones are a different matter. Let's face it, on the boat - at least with the fittings we've got - compact fluorescents are not a possibility. Ironically, though, alone of everyone I've ever met, I actually like flourescent light; at least the old fashioned sort than emanates from long tubes. At least it's bright. And it's diffuse. What I don't like is concentrated spots that get in my eyes. Had fluorescent tubes on Andante; absolutely fine. But Warrior has those directable spotlights and we're pretty much stuck with them. We've tried the LED bulbs - to save on battery as much as anything else; say what you like, but with hauling your coal in and worrying about your batteries there's nothing like boating to make you aware of your energy use. Hmm, and your waste disposal. But they gave up the ghost very quickly, and were flickery and unreliable. So it's tungsten bulbs for Warrior. And just to make sure we don't run out, or have to buy at chandlery prices, we stocked up at Ramsey Motor Factors for fifty pence apiece. They were also excellent at finding us the bulbs we needed for the old brass bulkhead lights in the engine room and back cabin.

*oops. 21 watt actually, as the photo clearly gives away. I thought they were nice and bright.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Take two bottles onto the boat?

OK, we all know that on a boat, space is at a premium. So you don't want to be clogging your kitchen cupboards up with all manner of different bottles of cleaning products. Or your bathroom shelves, for that matter. Secondly, we all know that putting anything down the boat plughole other than super eco-friendly biodegradable phosphate free fish-respecting ethical stuff is not only very naughty, but liable to lead ultimately to a ban on putting anything at all down that particular plughole.

So in the light of both the above points, and in the service of boaters everywhere, I am conducting an experiment. To just how many different purposes can Ecover washing up liquid be put? After all, it's a detergent, and a mild one at that. So is shampoo, shower gel, general purpose cleaner, laundry liquid &c &c (See! I remembered). Do you really need more than that one bottle?

So far I have experimented, on my last visit to the boat when it was still warm enough to put water near one's head, with using Ecover Aloe Vera washing up liquid as shampoo. I did this three days running and with no discernable ill effects - lovely shiny hair. (My hair is, in point of fact, shinier than usual when I wash it anywhere other than chalky Sussex; on the plus side we must have the best tasting tap water in the country).

I've also used it (Ecover, not my hair) neat to clean the gas hob, with perfectly satisfactory results.

My next ventures will be to try it as shower gel, and for washing socks. I shall report back. Should anyone else wish to join me in this experiment, or indeed suggest other uses to which this product might be put, your contribution would be more than welcome.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Museum musings

Today in the course of my marketing duties I visited the London Canal Museum - not to look around the exhibits, but to talk to the chap in charge. This is all getting very heady. Especially as they are closed on Mondays and I had to knock on the door and gain special admittance. Well, I'm supposed to be marketing Tarporley, but here is a plug for the museum. Did you know that you can have your wedding or Bar Mitzvah or indeed any other party there, or a conference? And they have a very good website too. From past experience I can also tell you that they have a good shop with an excellent selection of books. Oh, and some exhibits too.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The frame of the rose

For a long time Jim has been adamant that we need to redecorate Warrior's bathroom. The original elastoplast pink was getting tatty in places, and the wall behind the bath was damaged when the kitchen was ripped out from the other side of it. But every wall in that bathroom has a beautiful swag of roses painted on it. To have painted over them would have been unthinkable (to me at any rate). So for a long time we were at an impasse. Then (and I am going to take full credit for this) I had an idea. It took me quite a long time to convey this idea adequately, but eventually, with the help of some photos of Tarporley's back cabin, I think I managed it. And this is the solution at which we arrived.

And here it is in the process of being done:

I haven't yet seen it in the flesh, although I've seen the graining and it suits the small space of the bathroom really well. In addition, Jim has stiffened up the bath side panel with some 2" timber strips, and lined them with moulding too.
And oh dear, yes, that's the spare toilet in the bath. The pumpout was frozen, of course.

My favourite mug

I would like to take this opportunity to mark the passing of a very dear friend. My favourite mug suffered a tragic freak accident this morning when another mug fell on top of it. The other mug, naturally, was undamaged.

My favourite mug was made of white toughened glass, which in my view is the absolutely best thing to drink tea out of, as all good caffs know. It featured a charming, if not very right-on, illustration of a smiling tiger - who, I now suddenly realise, not having looked at it properly for years, bears an uncanny resemblance to Bruce Forsyth - and a very small Indian man - hunter or keeper? I never could decide - whose crudely drawn features manage nonetheless clearly to convey an air of baleful impotence in the face of the disproportionately big big cat.

I remember selecting it - in Woolworths, where else - some time in the mid 1970s. My sister and I got to choose one each. It has been with me ever since, a minimum of thirty, probably more like thirty five years. It has comforted me with tea on many momentous occasions, as well as making the odd racy foray into delivering coffee or cocoa. Tea is its real purpose in life however. It has stayed with me from house to house, from life to life. It is one of the very few things I would never leave behind. Other mugs - hundreds, probably - have come and gone, but this one I have used nearly every day. Every day for thirty plus years.

And now it's gone. I didn't quite shed a tear - I'm very good at not crying over spilt milk - but it's another little bit of my past consigned to the dustbin, and a timely reminder that nothing lasts forever.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The name of the rose

I was browsing through last year's posts the other week, while compiling my somewhat peremptory review of the year, and realised that Martin Duiker, who painted Warrior's roses and castles back in 1995, had left a comment on this post. John had mentioned that Martin had been in touch, but I thought we'd missed the chance of contacting him. However, I have emailed him now to say how much we love Warrior's 163 roses and seven castles. Hope you get it Martin - or if not, that you see this. More on this subject tomorrow...

Friday, January 09, 2009

Not that I'm competitive

You may have noticed a little black and red box appear to the right of this page. A kindly soul by the name of Tony Blews has set up a ranking site for UK waterways websites. Some fellow bloggers were already subscribing to the US based Top 100 boating sites, but I never got round to that - didn't fancy the flashing orange ... thing ... anyway. But when Andrew pleaded a while back for someone to develop a UK based one, I said that if they did, I'd subscribe. So last night I signed up. At that point I was sixth in a chart of six, but the next time I looked had risen to a heady fourth out of eleven. That may of course be the highest position I ever attain, having slipped back this morning to seven.

It is very interesting though, as for the first time now I actually have a way of seeing the number of visits the blog is getting. It would be great if every one of the blogs on Granny's boatroll signed up, and we would have our own top hundred. (Although actually I can't see what's to stop anyone signing them all up anyway...)

I shall follow my progress with interest. Or probably, in fact, obsessiveness.

Interesting if potentially unreliable fact (check? What, and spoil all the fun?). Aeroplane Black Boxes are actually bright orange and are named after a Professor Black who invented them.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Meanwhile in Ramsey...

Jim has today returned from a lengthy - since December 29th - sojourn on Warrior. What he has been doing, I shall share with you another time. But it was, it goes without saying, a trifle chilly. Apparently John was actually standing on the ice, breaking it for the swans - who showed their gratitude by aggressively chasing him. Today, of course, as Jim left, the thaw sets in. Still, at least he remembered his slippers this time.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

An inch of ice on the fishpond

And believe me, in my back garden that's unprecedentedly cold. Here on the south coast, in the lee or the shadow, or the something of the South Downs, we have an unusually mild and dry micro climate, and in my tiny walled back garden, even more so. Is it not Eastbourne that lays claim to the most annual hours of sunshine in the country? Torquay, I believe, has higher average temperatures, but more rain.

I noticed the difference when I went to Huddersfield, in both rain and coldness. It's even noticeably colder in London, and as you go up on the train you can see the ground get frostier. I always try to bear this in mind when I'm tempted to up sticks and move to another part of the country - somewhere less crowded, more canal-y; somewhere different... somewhere bloody colder. So yes, reading the tales of people boating at the moment, I know I've got it easy. But I really do not like the cold. More than anything else, more than dark, more than wet, it's cramping and constraining. For me it's cold, not heat, that's oppressive. Heat is relaxing and expansive; cold constricting and repressive. It's OK if you're dressed for it - what a liberating discovery thermal undies were - but that only works if you're planning to be out in it for a significant time. If you're in the house, you're stuck there.

Anyway, I was meant to be going to Birmingham today. After a Tarporley committee meeting which saw me getting to bed at one a.m. following the consumption of large amounts of beer, dragging myself to a local government seminar in the frozen Midlands was just about exactly the last thing I felt like doing, but I'd forked out fifty eight quid for a train ticket so felt honour bound to use it. So Virgin/Railtrack have at least one customer who was very pleased to learn that there were no trains running out of Euston today. Having confirmed this on the website at six this morning I was able to go back to bed with a clear conscience and thoughts of a refund. There's always a bright side.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Lovely lists

My word, suddenly it's so easy to edit the links list that even I can do it unaided. All on my own, I've added AMModels' site. This is an absolutely brilliant site for looking up old boats - when and where they were built, who owned them, their numbers etc. Mush of this info comes from the lists that Roger Fuller used to maintain, which I guess in turn owe a lot to those lovely little books by Alan Faulkner and others. But Andy's (for that is his name) site has a massive bonus - it's gradually gathering up to date information about where boats are now and/or what's happened/ing to them, and it has loads of photos. Also, where it has the edge over lists in books, is that it's crudely searchable (using the find function) whioch is really useful when, for example, you might want to check whether it was Sun that Water Ouzel used to be. And now the site also has a forum. A small one, so far it has to be said, and not terribly active yet, but looking at the list of members (yes, I've signed up) most of the old boat buffs from CWF are there so the discussion, when it gets going, should be well-informed and informative.

The one downside used to be that I could never remember the URL, so consulting the list meant a quick trawl via CWF. But no more - now I can just click on the handy link to the right here.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Gone to pot

And there goes another one. Wedgwood (or Waterford Wedgwood as we should now more properly know it) has gone into administration. Throughout my childhood, I had a green Jasper ware bedside light. It wasn't very nice, to be honest; the shade was horrible, but I used to lie in bed and stare at the base, with its bas relief of Greek figures. That's what Wedgwood has always meant to me.

But also of course, the company, and in particular its founder, were enormously influential in the development of the canals. Josiah Wedgwood was promoter of one of the earliest, the Trent and Mersey, for which the Act of Parliament was obtained in 1766 (yes, I have quickly scanned my Hadfield). It was impressive, coming through the Potteries with Andante in 2006, how much stuff was still being produced - despite there also being a lot of dereliction and even some regeneration. But surely this is a prime example of a product that can be produced as well, and more cheaply, overseas; how many of us, to be honest, care where our dinner plates come from? Mine are in fact (I've just looked) from Staffordshire, Bilton's 'Galaxy'. But they were probably made in the sixties. Biltons are (I learn from Stoke on Trent City Council's informative website) no more.

Quiet reading

Tis the season to be sitting by the fire with a good book. Once again, lately, I have mostly been reading bad ones. So much less effort. But among my Christmas presents was Peter Ackroyd's Thames: The Biography, a memento of the happy(?) times spent on that great river last summer, which I should get stuck into. I am also mindful - as I always am at this time of year - that there are still a number of canal-related books that I should reread, perchance to write about. And one that I haven't read at all yet, and really should: John Liley's Journeys of the Swan. I ordered one through Abe Books, and it arrived today. That should keep me out of mischief for a little while.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Not quite a partridge in a pear tree

But amazing creatures to just have wandering up and down in front of the boat, even if their plumage is not currently in all its glory, still a lovely sight.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Hidden delights

Why, I often wonder, would I want to go abroad, when there's so much I haven't yet seen in England? (Well, you might reasonably reply, because there are more beautiful/interesting/exciting things abroad, and you would be right, and one day I will go to Venice...)

I have, I can say in mitigation - and I have to make this count for a lot because it is the only serious bit of Abroad that I have done - been to Russia. Communist Russia, just about (November 1982). I have been to the Moscow State Circus, where they had performing bears, and the Kirov Ballet, and shared a sleeping compartment on the Moscow-Leningrad train with, inter alia, an Intourist guide with an interesting skin complaint called Stanislav (the guide, not the complaint). Had my father been interested in such things, he may well have been disappointed to discover that Stanislav was due to take over from Irena at the station. The train had a samovar at the end of each carriage, but not, as far as I recall, a toilet (but it must have done. Perhaps it is just too horrible to remember.)

But for those of us who still hold out against foriegn travel (and I really don't mind flying, but I cannot stomach the thought of airport security), here, which I found via Diamond Geezer, is all the evidence you could ever need of the many and varied delights yet to be discovered on your very doorstep. Forgotton, hidden and unbelievable places, touching in their insignificance, or amazing in that you've never heard of them. Astounding in their brilliance, or brilliant in ther mundanity. Go and randomly browse the archives. It will by turns warm and break your heart.

Friday, January 02, 2009

I need some....

Brown thread
Clothes pegs
A saucepan
One of those things you hang your knickers on to dry
A birthday present for a small child
A photo frame
Curtain rings
Shoe polish
Iron-on patches
A tin for putting flapjack in
Light bulbs
A pay-as-you-go mobile
Blank CDs
Shoe laces
A4 plastic wallets

I'll just nip down to W...

.... oh bugger.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

And hello 2009

Nope. Still looks the same as yesterday. Anyway, my new year starts in October. But in time honoured tradition, I have made a new year's resolution, and I fully intend to stick to it.

In 2009, I will stop procrastinating.

I decided to do this about three weeks ago, but put off implementing it until the symbolic date. Of course.

My tendency to put things off, shove those little tasks into the darkest recesses of the back of my mind, where they gnaw and nag at me and assume monstrous proportions; or to write them on a list, and in doing so consider them at least half done, is, I am firmly convinced, the only thing standing between me and greatness. If I was not constantly being burgled by the thief of time, I would be superhuman.

And when I do set to and do things - as, to be honest, I have been this week - it's great. They're seldom as hard as they first seem, and even if they are, the only way to make them easier is to chip away at them by making a start. So I wrote a book proposal on Monday (the idea for which has been hanging around for years); updated my CV on Tuesday (needed doing since 2006); made a start on the most daunting prospect yesterday, my paper for the PSA conference in April (yesterday being the deadline for withdrawal, so I'm committed now). Today I will catch up with Tarporley business, and tomorrow, I promise, I will finally finish that proposal for a new course. Then I can go back into the office on Monday with my to-do list almost non-existent and wearing a smug glow.

So it only remains to wish all of you a happy, productive and successful 2009, and leave you with Diamond Geezers new year advice.