Monday, 31 December 2007

Illuminated boats

We were at the Lime Kilns on the Ashby Canal tonight watching the illuminated narrowboat display and very good it was too. People had gone out of their way to make the effort with both their boats and with their own fancy dress. The theme was 'past times'. I fitted in quite well as my dress sense and some of my clothes come directly from the eighties. Most boaters followed the normal dress code on these occasions with waist coats and bonnets.

We got home again soon after nine because we dislike the whole new year thing and wanted to get back to the comfort of our home and in front of the fire to celebrate the new year. A night in with Jools Holland's Hootananny. We are boring buggers or so someone who has just rung up has told us. Play it Jools.

Happy New Year. Have a good one. We certainly will. Even it may be a little uncomfortable for the first couple of months it is the start of a new adventure.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Fixtures and fittings

We went out today and had a look around some kitchen and bathroom showrooms so as to decide on the quality of the fixtures we can buy. The biggest discussion is about tiles at present. The areas that, for example need tiling, are generally quite small so the quality of the tiles can be better as the quantity required is smaller for the same amount of money.

When looking in a tile warehouse I got much more excited about the impending opening of a Screwfix outlet next door. All the widgets and wadgets a man could want in one place. Quite sad really. I know where I will be spending much the the start of next year. I have used them in the past for mail order goodies but having a shop on your doorstep is brilliant.

Lisa is obviously more interested in the aesthetics and worries about the colours and what to place on the walls. I am more concerned that we have walls (I know, they're called bulkheads) at all. It seems to work well and most of our ideas are very similar but our priorities are very different. I am much more optimistic about the pace of the fit out (possibly stupidly so). She seems to think that we will be living in a small tent at the front of the boat, covered in sawdust, weeing in a bucket and getting our water from the cut. Maybe she'll be right and I'll be proved wrong (again).

We're now starting to think about the items that we will be placing on ebay in the new year but there doesn't seem to be much that we think others would require but it never ceases to amaze me how one person's tat is another's gold. Anybody want a cardboard box full of old videos. No, thought not.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Late Christmas present

The day itself went very well and we had the outlaws for lunch (no we didn't eat them). We had borrowed their combi-microwave the day before as ours is still not functioning correctly and I'd decided not to buy the new one (no surprise there). The cooking timings, that we had organised in quite a lot of detail beforehand, went flawlessly. It is usually a combined effort between Lisa and I and this year was no exception. There is always a lot of laughter when we are all together and never any falling out (although maybe a little grumpiness from me). The laughter may in part be due to the fact that they have lent us the money for fitting out the boat. We enjoyed the day enormously. Fortunately I fell asleep just as we were starting the Family Fortunes DVD interactive game and missed the whole thing (such a shame). They also watched the cartoon of Raymond Briggs 'Father Christmas' while I was asleep. Apparently there are some similarities between the main character and me. I can't see it myself. Happy bloomin' Christmas.

Now that that was all over we took a trip down to Hanbury Wharf today for the traditional Boxing Day walk. Our own village is full of ramblers as it always is this day every year. The intention was to see if the boat had arrived and indeed there it was moored at the yard (or at least it looked very like the boat in my plan and unless someone else has ordered a boat exactly the same I have to assume that it's ours). An ulterior motive for the trip was so I could try out Terri's new TomTom (boys and toys). It was quite good but I think I'll stick to my £1.99 AA map as there was nothing worse than having Lisa make conversation, the dog barking crazily, an automated voice telling me where to go at maximum volume (couldn't work out how to turn it down) and me unsure of exactly where I am in a car without any heating whatsoever and no water in the windscreen washer. Needless to say the return trip was made without the electronic gadgetry.

We are very pleased with the boat's looks from the outside at least and it's not riding as high in the water as I though it might. Still, we have got to hope there will be no high winds on the journey back to the Ashby. The maintenance window on the 11th to 14th January is now looking good which suits me just fine. Obviously we couldn't get access to it as the yard is shut and it still doesn't belong to us until we make the final payment. It looks like all the various orifices are in the right places but we could only see it from a distance and only the one side. Roll on the 2nd January.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Third stage payment

We have been called vagabonds in the pub by someone we had told we would be constant cruisers. Vagabonds! It is not a word we had heard any time in the last thirty years but it has a romantic, wind swept and interesting edge to it. I think I'm very happy with that. Vagabond. That'll do nicely. According to Jim Shead's site, there are 14 narrowboats called Vagabond on the system.

This is the first photo on the blog and such an interesting one as well. Paraffin heaters are starting to breed in our living room. These are to keep us toasty on the maiden voyage of the boat. The cylindrical one really throws out the heat. The other two are a bit like my granny's but effective nevertheless. With a bit of luck I'll actually have a photo of a boat on here soon.

We have just received the final stage payment invoice from the boatyard. This means that the boat is finished (well I hope so anyway). But, and it is a big 'but' (at least for me who wants everything now) the New Boat Company has closed for the holidays and will not reopen until the 2nd of January. This is akin to someone playing a practical joke on you, hiding around the corner sniggering and peeking to see your reaction. We may pop down sometime over the holidays to see if it's there.

Assuming that the boat will be ready to pick up in early January, due to the stoppage program and according to Waterscape, it looks like we have a three day window to get through the Tardebigge flight between the 11th and 14th of January with the next three day window on the 25th of January. We have now decided to leave the house at the end of February so either of these dates will suit our needs although the early window would obviously be much better as I can then cheat with my 30 day schedule and increase it somewhat. As I keep saying it's my schedule after all.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Paraffin and feeds

One of the paraffin heaters arrived today and I have been changing the wick and testing it. There is less smell than I remember and a lot more heat. In my old Grannies house (no not our Granny, my granny) I remember there were several paraffin heaters that would be lit half an hour before you were to use that particular room, ie just before you were to have a bath it was lit to warm up the bathroom. As I remember it (but it is all distinctly hazy) they did not exactly throw out the heat and every room seemed freezing. Maybe granny didn't light them. Hey, maybe my inability to spend money is genetic and has been passed down to me. I'm sure all you old people reading this will have memories of paraffin heaters. I'll pull up a sand bag and you can tell me stories of the war.

The old Tilley lamp was also tested as that mantle had arrived too. This was less successful as I was using petrol instead of meths to pre-heat it. I had to print off instructions from t'internet as I couldn't remember how it worked. The pre-heating element burst into flames and everything went black including the mantle, glass and my hands as I tried to put out the inferno. Trying again after cleaning up the spillages, the same thing happened but when I was attempting to get it up to pressure, paraffin started spurting out of the pump and all over my hands and workbench. The leather pump element had parted company from itself and there was nothing keeping the paraffin from escaping under pressure. Luckily I managed to get it all under control before I set my workshop alight. I have now ordered the relevant parts for the next episode of lamp lighting. I think it would be best if I used meths instead of the petrol.

I just got my narrowboat blog feeds up to 52. I really had no idea when I first started this that there would be fifty other people out there with blogs on their narrowboats or potential narrowboats. There are themes that run through many of them and some are obviously more interesting than others. But as Les on nbValerie says on his blog when someone (Anon) commented that his blog was “lifeless”, why waste your time reading something you don't enjoy. It's not lifeless by the way. I enjoy it and all the rest of them.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Ho, ho, ho.

Well that's it then. It's finally here. Others have already admitted it but I have been in denial until now. Today, I couldn't put it off any longer. I have been procrastinating, denying delaying and refusing but today was the end of all of that and, horror of horrors, I had to buy....... the tree. I can normally hold back the inevitable for so long that the trees at the local dead tree emporium are at half price (albeit with half of the needles missing). This purchase means that it is officially the Christmas period, at least in our household. It has become something of a game that Terri will badger me to buy the tree and I will come up with a stream of excuses, sometimes for several weeks. This year I was forced to pay full price for the thing. Fortunately it is also a celebration as it will be the last year I will have to buy a full sized dead tree and in future I will very probably get away with the artificial variety for the crotch (what Lisa calls the cratch).

As I'm not a huge fan of the theories of God, Adam Smith or Tom Peters, (or whoever the latest business guru is) there is little in Christmas of interest to me. The weather is dreadful, the telly is more dreadful than the normal dreadfulness that we pay the extortionate telly licence for and we have to eat Brussels sprouts (I hope we've all got our sprouts on. Three weeks I believe is traditional). There is not even a respite on the radio that tends to play the most appalling music imaginable, music so bad that it can't be played at any other time throughout the year.

It is merely an excuse to drink and eat more than we normally would (not a bad thing in itself). It's also the time of year when everybody appears much happier than the rest of the year. We also get turkey and I quite like turkey. I especially like turkey sandwiches with lots of unhealthy salt. I sometimes even get something I want as a present and we sometimes hear from people that we haven't heard from for some years. This year I actually got a card from my brother who I haven't heard from for six years (no sign of my sister who I haven't heard from for ten). Occasionally we give a present that others actually want and can tell when their face lights up. Terri's smile when she unwraps her big present. Maybe it's not so bad after all. Maybe.

Then again....

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Chandlery visit

We visited Midland Chandlery today to check a few things out. It is amazing how little Lisa knows about what is involved with the boat fitting. Looking at all the sparkly items on display she kept asking, What is this for? What does this do? How will you fit that? Can we not get this from Ikea? Fortunately I had an answer for all the questions although it is only theoretical knowledge and it remains to be seen whether I will be able to convert that theory into practical application.

Lisa is more concerned in the colour of the tea towels and whether the mirror in our living room will fit into the boat. It's scary how little she realises of the work involved. Well it scares me anyway. She did say that she liked the Squirrel stove as the emblem on the side was just what she wanted. Well that's settled at least. That's obviously why it's the single most popular stove on the waterways. It must be wonderful to go through life announcing your arrival and wondering why the things you had asked to be done that very morning had not yet been completed to your satisfaction. With a wave of the hand further announce that you expect the job to be finished before the day is out. It was Billy Connelly who reckons the Queen thinks the world smells of paint as everything is painted just before she arrives.

We are also in the process of buying the countries complete stock of paraffin heaters from ebay so we've at least some heating for the journey from Hanbury Wharf back to the Ashby canal and for when I am fitting out. I've also dug out my father's old brass tilley lamp that hasn't been working for at least thirty years. I've no idea if it ever will work but there's no reason why not. I've ordered some mantles for that from the same source. What did we do before ebay? Now if I place the tilley lamp in a biscuit tin and position it on the roof at the front of the boat will I get away with it as a tunnel light? Don't answer that.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Broken furniture (and other broken things)

I promise, no ranting today. We have a tendency to break things. Or at least, Lisa has a tendency to break things. I, on the other hand, have a tendency to to fix them. That's why we have no nice items of furniture, ornaments or decoration. It's got nothing to do, as Lisa believes, with the fact that I am as tight as a ducks chuff and refuse to buy anything new. Lisa insists that when we move onto the boat, none of our old tat is coming on board with us. Everything is to be new. It may well be new when we move on board but it will all be broken within a couple of months. This involves spending a certain amount of money which could well be used to fit out the boat. We only have a finite amount for this and I have accounted for most of it in my workings out. It's a matter of priorities and the difference between them. Mine are obviously right and Lisa's are wrong of course.

I mentioned before that the oven had broken. Since then the neighbours have stepped in, felt sorry for us and given us their old combi microwave oven. This was five years old and in perfect working condition. In the very short time that we have owned it, the convection oven no longer works and the microwave timer is not as it should be. We are back to square one and that Christmas turkey is still looking decidedly raw. I've relented and we are now looking at buying a new one (a microwave, not a turkey) that hopefully will be low enough wattage to use on the boat. At least the microwave part of it. (it sounds as I hold the purse strings around here. Nothing could be further from the truth).

The fridge is the latest casualty in our catalogue of catastrophic breakages. I had balanced the aerial for the telly that's on top of the fridge against an empty bottle of wine to get a better picture (the aerial is already broken). A squeal from the kitchen indicated that Lisa had broken something else. The bottle had fallen from the top of the telly behind the fridge and the light in the fridge had gone out. Fortunately in this case it is merely the bulb and not the whole appliance. Just something else to fix. Where do you get fridge bulbs from? A fridge bulb shop I suppose.

Lisa's penchant for black ash (black plastic coated chip board) in her previous home (we all know where that was) means that we still have several items of that same black ash in the house. I for one will be pleased to see the back of that and will build a bonfire specially to see it gone. I think Lisa wants to put everything else on the fire. I don't think any of it would even be wanted on Freecycle.

Fortunately, as yet, we have not been arrested for being Columbian drug dealers nor has a Columbian hit team been knocking on our door wanting to avenge the slur on their good name (it really sound like I have something against Columbians).

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Financial shenanigans

Further to my rant about electronic banking we have now given up trying to electronically transfer the funds for the second stage payment to the New Boat Company and have done what we should have done in the first place, regressed twenty years and sent a cheque. Lisa could send an electronic transfer of five thousand but any more than that was impossible. Going into the bank proved even more frustrating and they demanded £20.00 to transfer any more than £5000. Why? It's our money. They'll probably stop the account, return the cheque and investigate us as Columbian drug dealers (no disrespect to Colombians though. I'm just stereotyping. Not all drug dealers come from Columbia. Probably very few actually).

Why can we transfer £5000 without incurring charges but any more demands a fee of £20.00. Lisa, not known for her calm demeanour (she is from a council estate after all), remonstrated with the cashier in raised tones and then stormed out for dramatic effect, came home with a face like bulldog chewing a wasp and shouted at me for even more drama. But I reminded her of what she said before leaving that very morning, when I was having a rant about the same thing, “It could be worse, we could be dead”. Needless to say it didn't go down particularly well.

More and more agencies and companies are quoting security as the reason for messing us all about. Security against terrorism, security against fraud, security of our personal details falling into the wrong hands. They are relying on fear to keep us in check. But I'm not frightened. I most certainly am not. Not in deepest, darkest Leicestershire. They won't give us our own details quoting the Data Protection Act but throw them in the bin for anybody to find. We are not the ones who leave bin bags full of confidential bank details outside waiting collection by goodness knows who. We don't lose 25 million citizens personal details in the post, we don't sell DVLA details to any scronk who owns a vehicle clamping company. We need security from the incompetence of both government and big business. And I've just heard on the BBC (that oracle of all knowledge) that two more government agencies and a trade union have lost even more personal data.

We have now both decided to claim all of the 'illegal' charges that have been imposed upon us over the last six years by our relevant banks, dependant the the outcome of the test case going to the High Court on the 14th January next year. Do these people think we floated down the Ashby canal in a saucepan (that's as close to a canal reference as you'll get here). I'm beginning to sound like Victor Meldrew now.

And another thing..............

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Chaos in the home

Terri is back from uni and causing chaos around the house. Her clothes are strewn everywhere and she is full of confidence. Not content with sitting around she has already got two jobs and insists in showing us what she has to do on her course. Her acting course consists of all manner of theatrical skills, voice, movement, acting, none of which make any sense to us.

She has been demonstration her singing and movement skills including sun salutation, downward dog, upward dog, little and big cobra and mountain pose, all apparently yoga movements. We are also privileged to hear the songs from all the current theater performances in London. Are we paying for this? No, you are or at least the taxpayer is.

Isn't the British education system great. Long may the so called 'Mickey Mouse' degrees reign. There are more than enough transferable skills in any one of these courses to see students through their working life (although they are sometimes hard to find if you don't want to see them). Terri has all manner of grants and loans from agencies, some refundable and some not and will be in the same amount of debt as most other students. But she doesn't skimp in the accommodation or food department and has never looked healthier.

Sam has taken to weeing on the bathroom rug for some unknown reason. The only thing we can think of is that she shared the bathroom with someone and sees what happens in there and has assumed that that is the place to do her business. She sometimes waits outside the bathroom in the morning for whoever to finish and when the door is opened, will pass you on the way out with an exchange of, “Good morning”s. By the time you have blearily realised what is about to happen it's too late and the rug is in the washing machine again. We will have to unlearn this behaviour when moving onto the boat.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Shell completed

Well I have just received the second stage payment invoice from The New Boat Company for the boat. The original contract was signed on the 15th November and this arrived on the 7th December. That makes it 22 days from the time of order to the completion of the hull. Take off four days for postage of the order to Liverpool Boats and postage of the invoice to me makes it 18 days for the hull from start to finish. That's not too bad I suppose for a 70 footer but they'd best get a move on with that engine, spray foaming and ballasting or I might be having words.

I have been transferring money between accounts today. Why does it take 2 days to electronically transfer money from one UK bank account to another? It's electronic. It's supposed to be instantaneous, that's the whole point. Don't get me started with the chequeing system and the five working days that takes. I can go to the hole in the wall and electronically withdraw money and it shows up in my internet banking instantaneously. I can log on to the computer and send electronic mail immediately. In the words of a fellow countryman, “Is it me”.

Our cooker has just died. It couldn't have picked a better time to go to that great cooker showroom in the sky. We're obviously reluctant to buy another as, since it's electric, will have no use for it on the boat. Lisa is wondering how we are to cook the turkey as the outlaws are over for Christmas lunch. Looks like it's going to be buffet. Maybe ply them all with wine punch and when they wake up we'll tell them they've already eaten it and they should really be getting home before it gets dark.

Thursday, 6 December 2007


It seems that recession is on the way. I could have told them that some time ago. The bow making business is the same as ever but it's the selling that has slowed to a grinding halt. English longbows are a luxury item and it's these lavish goods that are the first to go to the wall in troubled times. A bit like new narrowboats. The builders are going to suffer over the next year as the number of new builds decrease, the number of boats on the second hand market increase and prices fall.

However, farmers are always told to diversify, to try other methods of making money, to use their land for other purposes and this seems like a very good idea. There are many wooden items on boats from cratch boards to virtually anything on the inside. I have the tools, I'll have the workshop, I am soon to gain the experience so I think that the openings are obvious. It really depends on the quality of the fit out .

On the subject of cratch boards, they contain about six main pieces of wood and some mouldings, a method of joining them together, some screws and maybe a bit of glass. Manufacturers charge between £300 and £650 for these and would probably take a day to knock up. I'm in the wrong business. Making a good longbow takes a lot more skill than making cratch boards or am I missing something. I'm probably missing something. That's what Lisa says anyway.

Terri's back from uni tomorrow and it'll be good to see her. She has little enthusiasm for the boat and we had to wait until she left home to allow ourselves to order it. The second bedroom on the plan is hers, if she ever wants it. Personally I would have extended my workshop and she could have slept in the lounge but I don't make the decisions around here. I only think I do.

Monday, 3 December 2007

What, moorings?

We don't have a mooring. There, I've said it. I confess, we don't have a mooring for our new boat. Once you've recovered after your sharp intake of breath, take a seat, calm down. Now, deep breathing. In, out, in and out. I know, we should have put down for one three or four years ago but with the new tendering system that was absolutely pointless with BW. Maybe we should have done it with a private mooring contractor. But the thing is, we don't want one.

We hate the thought of a marina with the neighbours 12 inches to the left and right. We do not want to be hooked up to the mains electricity. We do not want water at the end of the pontoon. We do not want a shop, laundrette, chandlery, wi-fi, pump-out, elsan disposal, workshop facilities or anything else. We do not want any of the 'conveniences' that are offered by these overpriced slums. We want our independence. We want our freedom. We want to be at one with the people and not locked in our gated communities.

Even an in-line mooring is a bit pointless and I can think of few benefits of having your own piece of over-priced BW land to moor on. We will be Constant Cruisers. The heroes of the waterways. But even worse, we will very probably be that enemy of the people, the most hated of all canal users, the nemeses of the law abiding boater, we will be... Bridge Hoppers. Get on the phones now and contact BW, shock, horror. There are people here admitting to the fact that they will be bridge hoppers.

Having read many narrowboat blogs and now have feeds to 33 of them, it appears that the bloggers are the most tolerant of all boaters. It seems that some of the forum users and writers of some web sites (you know who I mean) are what I call, the 'collaborators'. They love to tell us all how righteous and law abiding they are and love to tell us all that we must all have licences, BSCs, insurance, moorings, cow down to 'our masters'. Stick to the rules because rules is rules. Well not me. No sir'ee. I can think for myself. I'm not a number. I'm a free man (with a free partner).

Is that a blue flashing light outside? Oh dear. I'm going out now. I may be some time.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

The waiting is the hardest part

It seems that I have annoyed Lisa with my quip about council estates. Oh dear. She also seems to think that I come across as a grumpy old bugger with pretensions above my station, abrupt in my comments and sometimes harsh. Well I can assure one and all that this is exactly the way things are. This is not some sort of interweb persona you know. I mean, have you ever been on a council estate. Absolutely appalling. It seems that Lisa grew up on one. She should have told me earlier. I blame the parents. You can take the girl from the estate but you...(terminated thread due to self preservation)

We are now at the beginning of December and it may arrive this month. I've never been very good at this waiting malarkey and, as I have stated earlier, when I want something I want it now. I could never have ordered a boat and waited a year for delivery or would have been a basket case towards the end.

Rather sadly we have been hanging around in canal bars frequented by narrow boaters (well they would frequent canal bars wouldn't they) over the last couple of years or so, usually the Lime Kilns on the Ashby. I suppose that this is akin to wannabes who hang around with their heroes hoping to be taken on as an apprentice hero and be accepted into the world of heroes and, in turn, to become a hero themselves and have their own apprentices. The good side of this rather pathetic behaviour is that we have looked at many boats and come up with, what we believe, is the best ideas from each. Lisa still disturbs me when, on entering a narrowboat says, “It's quite narrow, isn't it.”

We have discussed our plans with several boaters and they are generally in agreement with most of the ideas but that may be more to do with the amount of ale consumed rather the the quality of the design. Surprisingly, it is the fact that we are planning for the boat to be a television free zone that most are enthusiastic about but I think that people like the idea of being freed from the constraints of the television than actually going ahead and doing it.

The fact of gas freeness is also reasonably popular. I don't have a problem with the danger aspect of gas (but Lisa believes that all gas will explode as soon as you turn it on, turn it off or generally be around it) but hate the inconvenience of the complicated burners with a multitude of safety devices that provide the heating, cooking etc and the fact that I have to pay a so called 'professional' to fix it when it inevitably goes wrong. The central heating will be powered from a solid fuel Rayburn as will the hot water in conjunction with the engine running a twin coil calorifier. If necessary, we will retro fit a central heating system at a future date.