Monday, 29 December 2008

Home again

We're back on board the boat again after spending Christmas with Terri in London. The outlaws were also there and a jolly good old time was had by all. I say all, but someone was just as grumpy as normal and insisted on grumping his way through the holiday period but I am reluctant to say just who I'm talking about. OK then, it was me. What a surprise.

The boat was as cold as a very cold thing and Santa would probably have moved out on health and safety grounds if it had been his grotto. It took an hour before we were again in tee-shirts and dozing in front of the fire again We are the only people on the mooring at the minute and all the other boats seem have moved on somewhere else but we'll be quite happy here, or hereabouts, until the new year.

It was very pleasant living in a house again with unthinking use of electricity and water but we really enjoyed coming back to our home with renewed enthusiasm to get it sorted this year. To that end, Lisa is talking about going to Ikea tomorrow for bits and bobs and getting hold of a Belfast sink to start the kitchen.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Christmas and atheism

Even more bloggers have arrived in the form of Derwent 6 but they didn't hang around and made their way straight down to Debdale for the Christmas period so I don't think they count towards the bloggers numbers at Foxton.

We are a Christmas free zone here on pickles No 2. We even switched off Radio 2 the other day due to the abundance of Chistmas music (if indeed it can be called music). No imitation tree complete with LEDs, no fire hazard decorations, no tinsel hanging from the ceiling, no flashing
snowmen, no plastic santas, no nothing, not even any cards as none have been forwarded to us.

Listening to the Today programme this morning I find that Richard Dawkins is not the person I thought he was and can be found celebrating Christmas with everybody else. There's me going out of my way to give credibility to my atheist credentials when the God of atheism is singing carols, tucking into turkey, opening presents and generally having a whale of a time. I'll be putting my hair shirt away this Christmas if that's the case.

We had a marvelous couple of pints at Bridge 61 pub at Foxton Locks. We went up for a quiet Sunday afternoon pint and that's the way it started. In the bar were the crew from nb Matilda Rose, Graham and Jill, who we did not know, but earwigging, I realised who they were. It's much easier to tell who the the crew from a boat are when you see them pass earlier in the week and they have the name of the boat in big letters sign written on the side, unlike Pickles No2 which is quite anonymous and looking at the photo on nb Balmaha's blog, decidedly scruffy. Although it's nice to have anyone's admiration (thanks guys).

Anyone who knows the bar in question knows that it is quite small and without music, everone can hear everyone's conversation and as a consequence, gets to know everyone in the bar quite well. Graham introduced his dogs, Baxter and Muttley, but we said that we already knew as we read the blog. Introductions made we had a couple of pints with he rest of the Foxton Boating community and locals alike until we ran out of money and had to return home.

I have finished the two longbows I have been working on for the past week or so. The process should be easier from now on as I can now remember the measurements, construction details and I now know where all my tools are. Are these the first two Victorian pattern English longbows ever produced on an narrowboat? I'd like to think so.

I just need to find buyers for them.

We've had several visitors here since we arrived at Foxton. Both Dave and Bob bought me a pint as Lisa was not here. I would like to thank them and apologize for the fact that I never have any money as Lisa keeps such control over it.

Merry bloomin' Christmas.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

More Bloggers arrive

Two blogging boats turned up today. nb Matilda Rose and nb Caxton came down Foxton flight and made their way past me to Debdale Marina to replenish supplies then passed again later in the morning returning to the Harborough Arm. I yelled greeting to the crew of nb Caxton and they returned later in the day with hounds Fletcher and Floyd for a chat. It's always good to put a crew to a boat. They are also here for the festive period so there are currently four bloggers at Foxton. Although for some inexplicable reason my name has changed to Keith on nb Caxton's blog. Hell, Keith's as good a name as any. Let's get up that registrar's office to get it changed.

Lisa and I went up to the Bridge 61 pub last night to celebrate our fifteenth anniversary. It is in fact the anniversary of out first date and not our wedding as we're living in sin (Lisa tells everyone that I won't marry her. This is not altogether untrue although not the complete truth. A bit like this blog really) We arrived in the pub and within two minutes we had broken both pub rules; no mobile phones and no coats on the seats. To add insult to injury we were talking to and sitting beside the owner. oops.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Foxton

We've made our way to Foxton and we'll probably be here over the Christmas period, both bottom and top lock with a trip down the Market Harborough arm thrown in to boot. I did the trip from Kilby Bridge yesterday and Lisa met me here. I was shocked that she actually found it as she's not much good geographically and she would be the first to admit it. She does need a satnav thingy and we'll probably get one in the new year unless anyone wants to buy us one for Christmas (hint, hint).

Sam was very good on the way here. As long as nothing out of the ordinary happens, she knows the procedures for lock operation. She gets on and off at the right places but she still doesn't help out with the locks, neither paddles nor gates. This may require further training.

I've got to say that it is very pleasant here and much changed over the past ten years or so. When I arrived, I parked at the back of the line of boats as I normally do and took a walk down the line to check out the mooring situation as I don't like Lisa having to walk too far when she gets home from work (I am a considerate sole, aren't I). Mo and Nessa from nb Balmaha (fellow bloggers) were just pulling away. I shouted, "Hello", but I think they had already recognized me.

Whether this is a good thing or not I am not entirely sure. I was looking particularly scruffy with grease splattered jeans, black hands and a muddy dog. Is this why liveaboards tend to wear dark coloured clothing and hirers can always be identified with their garish holiday coloured clothing.

We exchanged pleasantries and I said that we would speak properly over the next day or so. Then they were off to Debdale to buy coal. So I stole their mooring. Well you have to take an opportunity when it presents itself and these continuous cruisers don't own their mooring do they. They arrived back at our boat this afternoon for a coffee and I showed them around. It's bound to make people feel better about their own boat when they see ours. I took a peek at theirs and was impressed with the woodwork and as usual got some interesting ideas. It was good to meet them and I will have to introduce Lisa before we move on in the new year.

Lisa and I have been having heated discussions over the layout of the kitchen area. Lisa got up Ikea's and B&Q's kitchen planning software and tried to plan out kitchen on them. Absolutely useless (the software, not Lisa). In the end we came to the conclusion than I was to build the kitchen from scratch (I thought that was always the plan anyway). It seems to be the smallness of the space and the amount of stuff that we want to put in that throws the software.

On the way here, I found that some of the locks had contractors fitting new bollards. On one, there was already eleven bollards around the lock (not counting the lock approach bollards, some of which were up against the lock gates) and these contractors were fitting another three. I've got to say that I was a little worried that eleven would not be enough to safely hold my boat in the lock. Thank goodness that the other three were being fitted before the new cruising season starts. Any kind of disaster could befall a boater without all fourteen bollards. Fortunately the next lock already had fifteen bollards installed. Well that was a relief. You can't have enough bollards, that's what I always say.

Absolute insanity. Remind me again, how much it costs to install a bollard? How many bollards does one lock need? Answers on a post card.

BW's bollard policy is a load of bollards.

Should I be in charge? In my head, I'd be brilliant. Don't answer that.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Shower, stern gland and falling over

The shower is now working, not leaking and we are loving it. Admittedly there were a few false starts with water leaking everywhere, flooding my workshop and the bilges but that's only to be expected really. Having not had one for some time has made us appreciate it even more and ensues that we spend more time taking one. In fact it's difficult to find Lisa when she's not in the shower.

We are still at Kilby Bridge but are moving towards Foxton on Monday, maybe in one jump, maybe two. Lisa finishes school on Friday next week so we will be able to have a bit of a holiday on-board for a couple of weeks. We have had no signal since we moved 100 metres back from the 48 hr mooring to the 14 day. Absolutely no explanation for this but it is now back to normal again and we haven't moved.

I fell over on Friday night heading towards the Navigation pub. That's right. Heading to the pub, not heading back. I had just put on some clean jeans and a fresh t shirt. This is the fourth time I have fallen over in two weeks. Is it an age thing or is it that I just can't control my body and keep my feet directly under my centre of gravity. It tends to be slipping that does it and I find myself hoping for frozen ground as I tend to be able to stand up when it's solid. It was raining last night so I can't issue general assurances that I will remain upright all day today.

Lisa and I had a good day yesterday. We visited our friends, who had just bought the Springer, to repack the stern gland and for the maiden voyage. The stern gland was a messy, greasy job not helped by the fact that we had bought 8mm packing instead of 6mm. It fitted after a bit of a struggle and we were off on the maiden voyage. Nev is a natural at the tiller and completed the trip without mishap. We duly issued his official boat drivers licence on return (I'm fully qualified to do this). On the trip we met Ralph who we used to moor next to on the Ashby and who we were hoping to get a winter mooring with. He had in fact got hold of one in the place he had wanted. Good on him. It was good to see him again. We'll be back in the area around March time I should think.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Ice crunching videos

We took a couple of videos from our ice crunching the other day. We haven't mastered the video aspect of our camera yet and they are 42mb and 17mb so unless you have a fast connection, life's probably just too short.

I've stuck them in my public Dropbox account because I haven't mastered YouTube either. (I'm sure that they're not called videos either these days. Surely videos are miles of magnetic tape encased in a hard plastic case played on an unfathomable machine).

Icebreaking 1
Icebreaking 2

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Iced in (no chance)

Today was a bit of an adventure as this was our first experience of travelling through ice and it ended up being quite thick ice to boot. We hadn't noticed that the temperature dropped to minus five degrees last night as several bottles of wine had been consumed (mostly by Lisa of course). This morning we were greeted with the canal frozen over. With my usual cavalier approach and disregard for weather conditions, rules of nature and the laws of physics, we were off at nine o'clock.

The centre rope was frozen solid and just perfect for the Indian rope trick. It took several attempts to leave the mooring with the ice holding us in place. Initially the ice was about 15mm thick and I thought that it would melt during the day. Oh how wrong I was. It got thicker and we rode up on to it at some points only to crash through again. The blacking has suffered in that there is none left below the waterline. It looks like it has been surgically removed. Even the rudder has reverted to the grey primer that was under the black. We are taking it out in February or March for blacking anyway so this is only a short term problem. On the up side there is no algae growth under the waterline. In fact it wouldn't surprise me if the metal was a little thinned judging by the noise we were making on the journey. We were a source of entertainment all day with people hanging out of windows and stopping on bridges to eye up our progress.

What do you call three narrowboat bloggers in a row? (I don't know, I'm asking you) Well that's what we are at Kilby Bridge, Sue and Vic from nb No problem, Geoff and mags from nb Seyella and us. And a lot of dogs that seem to accompany us all on our adventures. Funnily enough they all seem to get on very well. Sam, not unknown to be a snappy alligator at times, was playing around with the rest of them like she had met them all before. It makes me think that Sam is on the interweb when we both go to sleep, communicating with all her doggy boat bloggers.

When we arrived here we got the water as we had ran out two days previously and had to moor up on the other side from the water point. It took quite a bit of ice smashing from myself and Sue and rope hauling from Geoff in order to get us close enough to moor up properly. We also had a tour of Sue and Vic's boat. Lisa now wants our boat finished by the weekend. No problem.

My editor has told me to mention Sue's jam. And very nice it was too.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Through Leicester

It was our intention to make our way through Leicester this weekend but, but we missed our Friday run to Syston due to the Soar being in flood again. However today the flood had receded and we began the journey from Mountsorrel to the other side of Leicester without mishap, getting our monthly allocation of fuel on the way. We also ran out of water yesterday and the tap at Syston had a boat parked in front of it so we still don't have any. No problem. We'll fill up tomorrow at Kilby Bridge. The problem with the river is you are at it's mercy and I'm glad to get back onto the canal system again although we haven't had to break any ice due to the constant movement of water.

The shower is now fitted, tested for leaks and I am finishing the grouting and fitting the enclosure this week. It should be up and running by the middle of next week with a bit of luck. Not much good without water though.

Since Lisa was feeling a little better this week, I convinced her that it would be therapeutic to go out for a pub meal and she reluctantly agreed. We were however very disappointed with our choice of the Waterside at Mountsorrel. The beer was unkempt, the first glass of wine was undrinkable and the atmosphere was straight from the seventies. The food arrived and was severely disappointing as it said on the menu that it was not fast but slow and home cooked. No, it certainly was not. It was bought frozen and microwaved on the premises. We don't eat in restaurants and only compare pub food with other pub food and know the difference between bad pub food and good pub food. This was bad pub food, hardly adequate and we ain't eating here again.

We are currently moored at Blue Bank Lock near Aylestone and Fosse Park where everyone is frantically doing their Christmas shopping, shouting at the kids, worrying about where the money's coming from and looking despairingly at their spouse. I'd rather be here thanks.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Mountsorrel

We moved all the way up to Mountsorrel last week. Since Lisa was at work, I started off at seven thirty on Monday morning and it was a little chilly to say the least although there was no frost. I met no other boats moving except one that moved off from my current mooring just after I arrived at ten and carried on towards Leicester. Maybe they know we still don't have a shower on board.

Just before last light, a Land and Water push tug arrived with a widebeam dumb barge and digger and moored up behind us. I'm still amazed by wide beam boats as I'm still not used to seeing them on the move through locks. Another boat moved onto the mooring behind us today from the direction of Leicester and two old folk, after tying up, virtually ran from the boat to the nearby pub. We reckoned that it must be 'cheap lunches for the oldies' day. Obviously they didn't want any other oldies taking their seat.

Lisa is currently ill and off work with a bit of a cough and a few sniffles although she is convinced it is a lot worst. I've never heard so much complaining, noise and moaning from one person in my life. She's currently lying on the bed snorting, wheezing, grunting, groaning and whining. I always thought that man flu was a gender related ailment but apparently not.

I'm getting on with the two new English longbows I have on the go and they should be finished by the end of the week. It's a little more difficult than I had expected as I originally believed that they would fit across the boat for tillering (bending) but this is not the case. I have adapted a new method but not perfected it yet. It's going to be a while before I will be up to my full production of three bows a week but I'll get there.

Terri visited from the Big Smoke on Sunday evening and actually stayed overnight. We are honoured. We have decided to make our way through Leicester this weekend and as such I will make my way down to Syston and the Hope and Anchor pub for Friday before the journey on Saturday morning. The Hope and Anchor is another appalling chain pub serving dreadful food but at least we know this before we arrive. Hungry Horse? It would need to be a starving horse before it would eat there.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Distress on the Soar

We decided to go for a walk around the area today and let Lisa have a look at the area in the daylight. Sam was delighted. She just loves walking with the both of us and is always a little reluctant when it is just me and Lisa is on the boat. When we got back, Lisa waited by Barrow Deep lock and I brought Sam back to the boat so we could both have a pint in the local pub. On the way back to the boat I noticed something in the water by the upper lock gates but it didn't register what it was. I put Sam in the boat and returned to catch up with Lisa. I had another look to see if I could see what it was in the water and crossed the lock to have a closer look. It was a largish animal and upon examination, identified it as a young Alsatian dog.

Oh dear. I know that the liveaboards moored behind us had two Alsatians and there was only one in evidence beside their boat. I knocked on the side and it was indeed their dog. Their reaction was exactly what Lisa's would have been if the same had happened to Sam. On piled banks if dogs fall in there is no way they can get out. It doesn't bear thinking about what could happen and did happen in this case.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Narrowboats and stern glands

We took a look at the boat Lisa's colleague and her partner is buying and it looked very nice. I explained that I was an expert and they would be fools not to take notes while I was telling them all about their boat and that a cursory glace from me was worth the same as a Boat Safety Certificate and a boat survey put together. We couldn't get the engine going at one stage and I'm sure it wasn't me who suggested that the engine stop should be engaged (not the gear engage lever as I thought). 

The only thing that will need sorting is the stern gland which will need repacking. A messy job since the bilge was full of greasy water and the gland is leaking quite badly but I'd be quite happy to help if necessary. I am an expert after all. Tony Brooks has a good description of how to do this at: http://www.tb-training.co.uk/10sgear.htm#bmn30 Contrary to popular belief, Tony Brooks is God.

We also took a look around Sawley Marina to look at the prices and condition of other boats to compare and there was nothing close. Although Sawley has always had a very expensive brokerage it give us a guide.

The survival of my little van is now dubious. It's not working very well at all as water pours through the fuse box when it rains and I think that this constant drenching has corroded the internal components. Not sure where we go from here with it. Lisa's fed up with towing it around the country with her little Ford KA.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Work benches and narrowboat expertise

Debbie (of mysinglefriend.com fame) was due to meet us last Saturday but unfortunately, when we arrived in the afternoon at our current mooring, we retired to the pub for a celebratory (no idea what we were celebrating) pint or two and promptly fell asleep on our return to the boat. Debbie couldn't get through on the phone as Lisa was sleeping on top of it. She was just about to head home again when I woke up and heard the ring tone. 

Barrow upon Soar is a lovely place. Sam and I have been going for walks around the area every morning once Lisa leaves for work. Lisa has reminded me that, "it's all right for some". For this reason I am slowly getting the workshop up and running so I can start making bows again so generating an income. It's been quite long enough relying totally on Lisa. It also gives her far too much power which she abuses on a regular basis. To this effect I have built my workbench, fitted it to the floor, fixed the vice and started building all the other bits and pieces required for making English longbows.

I now have a bow stave attached to the world's biggest vice. I glued together a couple of staves (the beginnings of a bow) before disassembling my old workshop and giving it to my neighbour. The messiest job in making a Victorian style English longbow is the gluing together of the laminates and I know that when I started the manufacturing process again, that this stage would be the most problematic. Well that's a start. Just got to make the bow now. The workshop is a little cramped at present but as the bathroom bits are fitted and I build more stowage, it should provide more room to work.

I have now officially become an expert in canal boats as a colleague of Lisa's from school is in the process of buying a narrowboat and have asked if I'd give one the once over on Saturday. I'm flattered that my complete lack of knowledge, inexperience and utter incomprehension of mechanical and aesthetic matters could be mis-interpreted to such an extent. It's a twenty year old Springer so I know basically what to expect. It looks well cared for on the advert and the price, as you would expect in the current economic climate, is very good but we'll see. Even if I don't know what I'm doing, I'll bluff it out, speak with authority (as I always do, especially on matters on which I have no knowledge and with people who don't know me) and I'll probably get away with it.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Showers and essentials

We've been here for over a week now and will be running out of water over the weekend so it is time to move on and replenish supplies. Tomorrow we will be on the way towards Barrow upon Soar. The flood lock has just been opened. Coincidentally, I telephoned BW to find if the rest of the Soar was open and she said "no", and that the flood lock at Mountsorrel was still in place as the water was in the red. I told her that it was orange down here and within the hour Zouch flood lock was opened. Do they wait until someone rings up wanting to come through before opening. Of course not. You'd have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe that. I'm also disappointed that I haven't seen any BW inspector yet as it seems that are having their yearly blitz. I'M HERE BW. I'M HERE. All licensed up.


The shower has finally arrived and I'm currently installing the beast. It's a little harder than I thought it would be as I didn't realize that the floor has to be cut away to get the drainage right. We'll see how it all goes. Lisa is hovering around wrapped in a towel asking if it's up and running yet. Tomorrow dear. Well, then or thenabouts.


I actually was sewing up my shoes the other day as the stitching had split since they are perpetually wet from the tow paths. When did it ever come to this and when did I ever come to believe that it would be a good idea to dig out the shoemakers linen and large curved needle and get to work on my footware? What ever happened to the throwaway society? When did I ever come to think that it will be worth it as I can get another couple of months from them.


I'm sure that my eighteen year old self would have despaired at all this if seen from history. But my eighteen year old self would have seen my current life as a disappointment where, with the benefit of both hindsight and the advantage of age, I see it very differently. I think that a new car and a large house figured quite highly in those days. Today I have neither but enough coal for several weeks, diesel for the month and water for the week are enough. Tell that to the kids today and they won't believe you. Once my shoes dry out I'll let you know if I do.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Divorce, floods and steak pie

We couldn't move from here at the moment even if we wanted to as the flood lock is in place and the water's up. The Soar is really quite impressive when it's like this. We're on a canalized part of the waterway and should have no problems with the levels although a boater on the winter moorings said that BW had only just fixed the flood lock as the last time the levels were up some of the local fields were flooded not pleasing the farmers.

We were at one of Lisa's friends divorce party last night and this was a first for me. To top that it was a Sikh divorce party. It really was a wonderful get-together as some of the major religions, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, atheists and Christians (why don't atheists get a capital letter?), were in evidence from the assembled twenty or so and nobody started a fight. Well I say nobody but I did have a disagreement with another narrowboat liveaboard over non-licenced boats. There was even another Irish person there.

The image here is not as unusual as one may suppose. I am regularly seen at the kitchen sink and have the dish pan hands to prove it.

The Rose and Crown at Zouch does a mean steak pie if anyone's interested. We were at a chain pub up the road and decided we didn't like the fact that their food looked like it was made by central catering, transported to the pub and only microwaved on the premises. We decided to go local. Terri has told us some horror stories about the meals in these kind of places as she works in one part time.



Has British Waterways policy of bridge numbering gone a little too far? Sam certainly thinks so.

Here are the promised photos of the fit out.


The glitter ball is not my idea.




Note the guard cow


Temporary Kitchen


Terri's wardrobe

Washing machine (obviously)



When you have a seventy footer, and it's raining outside, you can dedicate the last twenty foot or so to a drying area, stowage, junk room, workshop etc.



Lisa's normal weekend attire. It could be any teacher in the country working another weekend. (this is the second photo I have been allowed to use in as many weeks)

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Floods and gaps

I'm not sure that Debbie's date went particularly well. Oh dear! We haven't found out the sordid details yet. But the rest of the world will be in a better state with Obama in charge.

We have now moved up the River Soar to Zouch from Trent Lock. It was good to be on the move again although Lisa now has to try to find me. The flood indicator on the Trent was in the green but it was in the red on the Soar and the traffic lights at Red Hill flood lock were also red. Fortunately, as I have noted before, I have a healthy disregard for such things, totally ignored them and drove straight through. The stream was a little fast against me but there wasn't much of a problem except my ground speed was a little slow. I met up with a hire boat whose crew claimed that they had been stuck in Kegworth Shallow Lock for two days. I didn't bother to ask why as I assumed that it would be for something ridiculous. Apparently, so the hirer reckoned, between Loughborough and Leicester the Soar is still in flood and is rising and if it's rising it must be coming this way. If there is no flood gates chained up and in my way, I ain't going to let such trivialities bother me if and when I wish to continue south.

I have not been placing photos of my progress with the fitting out lately. Lisa has noted this and she reckons that that is why my audience numbers have dropped (and I thought that people read this for it's wit and humour. Well it amuses me.). The fact is that I am slightly embarrassed about the fit out as it has not as neat and tidy as I would have liked (nor as perfect as the image that is in my head). I keep telling Lisa that the trim will sort out the gaps and I'm sure that it will but it looks quite untidy at the moment. We have at last ordered the quadrant shower to be delivered to Lisa's school. We had a trawl around the local builders merchants and DIY shops but they seemed too expensive to pick one up there and then. I'll get photos on tomorrow.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Dates, footpaths & stew

Which is the most important event: Obama and McCain or Debbie and (name withdrawn by Editor). Obama is only going to be ruling the world but Debbie can make our lives a misery with one sharp outburst. She's having her first date tonight since Lisa put her on mysinglefriend.com and she is a little excited and worried and everything else that goes with this sort of thing. I hope it goes well for our sake. Oh and I hope Obama wins for the sake of the rest of the world.

The best laid plans never survive first contact and our plans to move towards Zouch have been thwarted by the rivers as the Trent and Soar are in flood again and we are going nowhere until the the waters recede somewhat. No major problem as my little van broke down yesterday and I had no phone, money or common sense with me and decided to walk back across the local network of footpaths to get back to the boat to await Lisa's return and vehicle recovery. Three hours and much slipping and sliding later, muddy, wet and mightily cheesed off I got back to the boat. Never leave for a short journey without essential items and a bag of common sense.

The outlaws and Terri were down (or up) on Sunday for stew and it all seemed to go swimmingly. Terri even spent the night and didn't get up until one pm. Back to old times. She was obviously happy enough with her accommodation as the engine was running, the pots and pans were being washed and we were walking through her bedroom and she didn't wake. She may even come back again. Unfortunately (fortunately) the boat is too narrow for her to show us more dancing, movement and drama techniques.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Questions, questions.

We drove down to Zouch on the River Soar today when we were out and about and decided that this will be out next stop as it has a decent pub, good parking and good mooring. When Lisa goes to work on Monday we'll meet at Zouch later in the day. A change is as good as a rest but it is kind of comforting to be in the same place for a while but it will be wonderful to be on the move again.

I was interviewed by a person working for a company contracted to BW. She was carrying out a survey about the waterways but she was singularly the least knowledgeable person I have ever talked to about the canal system. The questions that she asked were also not in the slightest relevant to me as a boat dweller.

"Question thirty four. What is the purpose of your journey on this tow path today?"

"To empty the contents of my elsan into the disposal point just behind you."

"Elsan"

"Yes. Shit"

"Shit"

"Yes. I'm emptying three days worth of human waste into the sanitary station.

"Oh! I didn't realise that was there. Do you really have to do that?"

"No I don't but the boat will begin to smell if I don't and my partner will leave me."

"Oh!" Question thirty five. Where Have you come from today?

"That boat just behind me"

"Question thirty six. Who long do you intend to be on the tow path today?"

She had no idea that if you walked along the various tow-paths from here you could end up in London, Liverpool, Langley Mill or York depending on which one you chose.

How much money is wasted on this kind of rubbish. BW don't need to know why people are on the tow paths. They just have to maintain them so people can use them. It really doesn't matter why they are there. It does seem amazing that very few of the questions were applicable to me, a constant user of the canals.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Halloween

One good thing about living on the boat is that greedy little kids in their flimsy, ill fitting, ill advised, non-frightening costumes don't knock on your door all night screaming, "Trick or treat" in a high pitched voice, with their spindly legs and their teeth bigger then their face. They then stick their greedy little hands into the jar of sweets that you had to specifically drive out to the Co-Op to buy earlier in the day just to placate the little buggers.

There's little chance of them walking down a dark, scary, muddy tow path (or at least it's unlikely their inevitably accompanying brow beaten parents would be bothered). Thank goodness for small mercy's.

Today I needed fuel and coincidentally it was the last day before the introduction of the new taxes. I dipped the tank and found two centimetres at the bottom. Oh dear!!! I've got to get up the Trent from Trent Lock to Sawley Marina against the current for about an hour. Will I make it. It was next to the bank all the way in the hope that, if it suddenly comes to an ignominious end, the wind will blow me into the bank. So with an ear to the engine all the way, listening for a change in the tone and a potential quick steer towards the bank and a bit of bow hauling to the fuel point. But fortunately it wasn't necessary and I made it without having to resort to my longest line.

Terri is arriving tomorrow and the the outlaws are visiting on Sunday and they're all expecting a traditional Sunday lunch. Stew again then.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Criminal. Whot, me?

I've always had a healthy disregard for rules, regulations, laws and those who believe that they should be obeyed without thought, consideration or analysis. Well I've just found this stuck to the side of the boat. It's official. I'm a criminal, an undesirable element and a continuous moorer. I've got to confess I've been here longer than I should and I'll throw my arms in the air and admit that I've been a very naughty boy.

I may have to move onto the river tomorrow. Or maybe not.

Chilly Deezer

Has anyone else found Deezer (www.deezer.com/). It is a constant source of tension on our boat. Deezer has a library of millions of music tracks that you can play for free and legally. There is no facility to save or record them but you can play them as often as you like. The library is vast and we have to select tracks in turn otherwise one of us would be sleeping outside and I might get a little cold. On the other hand you could go onto Limewire (www.limewire.com/) or edonkey (I've just realised they've closed that one down), OK, Kazaa then (www.kazaa.com/) and download music illegally. I shan't be reporting you to the music industry one way or the other. After all, it has absolutely nothing to do with me. It's a shame others don't think the same.

We've been at Trent Lock since we left the Erewash as we quite like it here. Lisa is back at work and I am back to fitting out. We are looking forward to buying the shower at the beginning of next month as it will make up much more independent not relying on local services. We'll probably make a move down the Soar this week or perhaps this weekend. The Trent was again in flood and 'in the red' so we couldn't have moved during the first half of the week.

It's been quite chilly this week but the only form of heating we have used has been the small Boatman stove which we have found has heated most of the boat in a quite satisfactory way although Lisa does chunter a bit when she gets up in the morning (well she insists on getting up at four o'clock. I'd be chuntering a bit as well if I got up at that time). We have the paraffin heaters to use if absolutely necessary but so far they have not been required. We have no doors on the boat but three of the four bulkheads are in position. I may have to put a temporary door between the bathroom and the last part of the boat (used as a junk room/storage at present). This is the only part of the boat not warm enough to reside in. After banking up, the stove goes all night and most of the rest of the next morning. After experimentation with many fuels we have decided, like most other boaters, that Taybrite and Excel are the best, cleanest and easiest to use.

Debbie has had a fair amount of response from Mysinglefriend.com so I am quite pleased that I didn't put people off with my write up and that it may have worked as a bit of a gate keeper to keep out those wishing to chance their arm and not realising the challenge they would have to put up with.

Here's some piccies. We should all be honoured as Lisa normally doesn't allow photos of herself on this but I think I caught her on a good day.


Thursday, 23 October 2008

My Single Friend Dot Com

We decided to have a pint at the Great Northern pub beside the Great Northern terminus. This is not a recommended experience if you have just returned from Spain after several weeks in the sun. I assume, obviously not wishing to stereotype, that this must the local HQ of the BNP these days. My old 1995 Nicholson states that the Great Northern is "An excellent local pub serving Kimberley real ale and food..." It doesn't mention that it's full of skinheads wearing bomber jackets with swallow tattoos on their necks, has signs on the wall forbidding the selling of drugs and a list of pub rules as long as your arm including that you will be searched before entry. When browsing Google we came across this gem about Langley Mill. Not necessarily true though.

Lisa's friend Debbie came up see us at the Great Northern Basin last night and, fortunately for Lisa, decided to stay on and help us with the locks today. Last night Debbie took up Lisa's birthday present and agreed to be submitted onto a single dating thing on the interweb http://www.mysinglefriend.com/ This was a source of much amusement all evening. I was roped in to write the 'friends' paragraph which went down quite well. You can imagine. You don't have to. Here it is:

Debbie is the most impossible, stubborn, difficult and demanding person I know. I don’t mean this in a derogatory sense but anyone wishing to get to know her would be well advised to take note. However she is also highly intelligent, fun, attractive, vivacious, sporty, stylish and career minded.

If she met a homeless person with a dog on a bit of string, she would buy the dog a bone and shove the homeless person into the canal but she may feel guilty about it.


She likes a glass of wine but not with wet tramps. She will challenge everything you say and agree with nothing but the debate will be interesting. Afterwards, if you’re lucky, you may be forgiven for disagreeing with her.


Skiing, walking, travel and the gym are compulsory but laziness, untidiness and slovenliness are not. She’s house trained, sorry proud and enjoys the nice things in life. DIY skills would be a severe advantage to anyone she meets.

Debbie is very sociable, opinionated and independent but just cannot manage to meet the right person. I can’t imagine why.

Would you date her? If you would, and are rich (no other criteria is required), you sound perfect. Please contact Debbie.

Or maybe not. Debbie's mum and dad (who had been roped in to give her a lift (she's only 39 after all, but not according to mysinglefriend.com!!!!)) paid a visit to inspect the progress of the boat. Much talk of technical matters between the men and aesthetics amongst the women prevailed and they were off again, impressed or dismayed. We shall never know which.

As much as we enjoyed our time at Langley Mill we were off early o'clock back towards Trent Lock for a couple of days. It was a very peaceful basin in amongst much deprivation and social decline. Without wishing to appear patronising (which of course I do), the local inhabitants probably don't realise that much worse is to come in the next year or so.

On the way back down the Erewash, I was just thinking that my centre line was several metres longer than absolutely necessary for normal canals. Two locks further whilst attempting to exit another lock, I dropped the rope into the water and it wrapped itself around the prop. Half an hour later and with much huffing and puffing, bread (rope cutting) knife in hand, I steered the boat from the lock with the rope several metres shorter. Another lesson learned.

The diesel leak doesn't seem to have sorted itself so I will have to take it all apart and try something else.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Leaks and the Erewash

I had to fix a diesel leak yesterday. It had been leaking for some time but I decided to fix it as it seemed to be leaking a little more lately. It was on one of the connections in the return pipe so it wasn't letting air into the system but I had to disconnect the pipe and put some PTFE tape around the screw threads. It was the plumbers stuff and I don't know how it will react to contact with fuel but it seems to have worked so far but we'll see how big the puddle of diesel is soon. It has to be sealed for the BSS in December. Unfortunately I now have to think about these things. How safe is the work I have completed so far? Haven't got a clue. We'll find out in December.

Well we got to Langley Mill today passing not a single boat coming the other way. The canal was in a much better condition than we had assumed that it would have been. Lisa was expecting a Stratford type basin but it's slightly smaller than that mostly occupied with a boatyard and permanent moorings with limited undesignated visitor moorings. The journey from Trent Lock was relatively uneventful but Sam (the dog) fell into a lock when she assumed that the green algae on the surface was grass. I'm not sure who was more shocked, Lisa or Sam. Once she was dragged out by her neck and after a shake her tail was wagging again (Sam, not Lisa). I've got to say that Lisa was on the verge of throwing her windlass into the cut at about bridge thirteen as every lock was against us and all paddles required an anti-vandal key (or what is euphemistically called a water conservation key i.e. water is conserved if vandals don't open the paddles). It is also a little used waterway and the lockgear was very stiff and some of the gates were hard to open making the locks unbearably slow (or was it the lock operator that was unbearably slow).

I've got to say that, on the whole, it was a very pleasant trip and it is highly recommended for anyone passing Trent Lock with a couple of days in hand. There's absolutely nothing more interesting then staring into the back garden and through the rear windows of other people's homes that are backing onto the canal and there are many backing onto the Erewash. I see that next year's IWA festival is to be held at Red Hill and I do hope that many boaters manage to incorporate the canal when attending that event. But it may have been very different during the half term or at weekends. The further we got up the Erewash the shorter the haircuts got, the more aggressive the dogs on leads got and the more Union and St George flags were in evidence. I'll explain all later.

Monday, 20 October 2008

What's cooking

Well we survived Pearl's cooking without ill effect. In fact it wasn't at all bad. I reckon that she got the meal from the local restaurant and served it up as her own. Well OK, lets not exaggerate.

We are moored at Trent Lock again as Lisa went to work again today as she had some tidying up to do after the first half of the term. Although it's half term, contrary to popular belief, many teachers have to work and she has come back with a great pile of marking and planning to complete before she goes back to work next week.

Mooring at Trent Lock in bad weather is a bit like mooring on the sea because the river is wide at this point and the wavelets are quite high beating against the hull when the wind is up. The weather is really quite appalling outside but snug inside. We are hopefully up the Erewash tomorrow.

Terri got her car back this morning after a one way exchange of much money. Well it's taught both her and us a lesson although I'm sure that the authorities are much hotter in her area than they would be around the areas we tend to migrate to. But there are snoopers and window twitchers everywhere (which we believe was the way she was caught; by being turned in by her neighbours). You only have to look at the canal forums and other blogs to see who the canal snoopers are.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Snoopers and cars

Terri has just had her car towed away in London due to unpaid road tax and after telephoning the usual assortment unhelpful characters we have finally tracked the vehicle down to a car pound some distance from her home and she has paid for her tax. Students eh!

That sort of thing never happened to us when we were young. We were responsible, sensible and sober. Not like the youth of today with their irresponsible attitudes to money. Our generation looked after their money and saved for a rainy day, never borrowed more than we could afford to pay back, never overstretched ourselves. It wouldn't surprise me that in the future, today's recklessness by the young will place the countries economy in jeopardy. Kids today; you try to give them advice but the never listen. I wonder why?

We left Nottingham on Saturday after a quick trip down to the Trent. We are due at the outlaws tomorrow as we've been invited for Sunday lunch. It is always an interesting experience being faced with Pearl's cooking. We'll see.

I note that BW have started their snooper's web page where you can enter the BW number of an boat and find if they are licenced or not then you can report where you saw them and a description of the boat. I spent an hour the other night inputting loads of random 51**** numbers and when I came up with ones that came out as unlicensed I placed them as being sighted in little heard of backwaters in the hope that BW inspectors will be looking for them there instead of where the actually are. In fact BW already know all of this info and this is just a sop to those who believe that not enough is being done to collect uncollected licence fees. I won't give a link to the web page as it would only encourage them.

I'm currently sorting out Terri's room (yes, we now have rooms (or cabins)) and I think that I'll finish this room before I move on to the rest of the boat. It's all coming along nicely now as I have almost finished with all the large 4x8 boards. I am now using all the cutoffs to produce the built in furniture. I'll get some photos as soon as I am happy for the work to be of an acceptable standard. The fact that we call it Terri's room is more to do with Lisa insisting that terri still has a room here rather than the reality which is that Terri has only ever spent three night s on the boat ever. And who could blame her.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Cloud computing

After reading Stephen Fry's Technology article in The Weekend magazine of last weekend's Guardian I'm investigating what is called cloud computing. Cloud computing is working at any terminal but saving your work, not on your hard drive on your computer, but on a distant server (the cloud) through a web site and only backed up on your own hard drive. The advantages of this are that if your computer is stolen, damaged, crashes etc. you don't lose your data. It also makes sharing documents that much easier. You can also make do with a simpler, less powerful, and as a consequence, a cheaper computer. Well that is the theory anyway. The current trend towards netbooks (smaller cheaper laptops) are steered us in this direction.

I'm currently writing this on a web based office package at Zoho (www.zoho.com) and have posted it directly from this web site to my blog. I'm also playing around with something called Dropbox (www.getdropbox.com) that lets you store up to 2 GB of data for free and makes it available to you on their server. You merely drag and drop your files into the Dropbox window on your desktop and it syncs your data with what is on their server automatically as long as you are on line.

There's never been a time, since we've moved onto the boat, that we've not been able to pick up a signal albeit sometime a very weak one. It would seem that if this is the case then cloud computing could well be the future of computing. I used to teach IT and was always a little bit of a geek for this medium of communication (mobile phones passed me by) but never had the money to indulge myself of the hardware.

I can foresee several problems. With the Web 'n Walk package there is a fair useage of 3GB although we could always get a Wi-Fi signal through the laptop at a local hotspot in order to upload all my files. Also security may be an issue as the server for storing the data may be in another country.

This is my 100th blog post since I started this nonsense. I've got to say that I quite enjoy the experience and will continue whether you want me to or not. We'll see whether I'll still be using this method of computing in the future.

We are off again tomorrow since we have now been in Nottingham for a week or so. We think back to Trent Lock then up into bandit country and the Erewash Canal. It's got such a bad reputation I think the adventure might do us good. It's also half term for Lisa and lets hope that it's not the same in Nottinghamshire.

Lisa just wanted me to mention how wonderful and uncomplaining she is.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

The Slightly Disappointing Beer Festival

The Nottingham Beer Festival was quite good but there were some problems along the way. The organisers had vastly underestimated the amount of people who would turn up at the new festival site. It's quite obvious to me that when you change a venue from Victoria Swimming Baths to Nottingham Castle it's more likely that more people will hear about it and therefore, turn up. It's also likely that the tourists who are at the castle anyway will pop over to the vast white beer tent and sample a few.

It would've been nice to have some live music in the main beer tent rather than in a separate tent although I think that it encouraged a load of students who would not have otherwise attended the event. We did say that we would mention two people that we met at the music tent so hello James and friend It was lovely talking to you. They'd been there since eleven that morning and had been there for eight hours by the time we met them and had every intention of staying till the end. They give no sign, as we left them, that this would not be the case. More staying power than us.

By the time that we turned up at about five on Saturday, the souvenir beer mugs had run out as had the programs that you rely on to make your choices. We managed to find a mud spattered one to find our way but that's not really the point.

It's got to be said that the venue was stunning and kind of blew your mind a bit (what was left of it) when coming out of the

beer tent at the end of the night looking down on Nottingham. It is a constant source of bewilderment to me, and a source of annoyance to the many tourists that turn up, that Nottingham Castle is not actually a castle at all and merely a large house on a cliff top. The gate house is authentic but the rest is nonsense. Although as a Nottingham born and bred person, Lisa refutes this

When we left we wanted some chips as we were expecting faggots and mushy peas at the festival but this has now been contracted to outside caterers. We were not paying their prices nor did they have faggots and peas on their menu's (but there was a small container of olives for five pounds. When did olives and real ale ever go together?). Another tradition sadly lost to modern business practices. We were also on the 'wrong' side of Nottingham for chippys. Our one saving grace was McDonalds (God we must have been sozzelled). “I'm sorry Madam but we can't serve you since you don't have a car”. Don't ask.

Lesson learned. Friday is the time to attend. Even CAMRA members who had come from other areas were not at all happy with the organisation. These are serious people with the serious task of drinking as many types and as much beer as is responsibly possible within their lifetime and bad organisation detracts from that task.

Robin's looking quite down at heel these days. The bottom limb is missing from his bow. If it was present the bow would not be long enough to be a longbow of this era. It's also the wrong type of bow and bends mostly mid limb and does not 'come round compass', although it may be slightly recurved which again is not correct for English bowmen of the period. It will break at this point sooner rather than later on any all wood bow. 

Also I'm not sure what the purpose of the binding towards the end of the limb tip is, Possibly there may have been damage at this point or a lift on the backing he's attempting to temporarily repair. It's not a good idea as it adds weight to the tip and slows cast and therefore range. The handle binding is also not normal in medieval bows. 

The fletchs on the arrows are modern parabolic. The point is not of a recognisable type by the British Museum criteria. The arrow spine is too low for the poundage of the bow. The draw is also wrong and the anchor point is too low.

God I am a boring bugger. I hope to be starting to make longbows again in November. I'm obviously missing it.

Oh dear.

Anybody got any Asprin?

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Beer

Nottingham at last. We left Trent Lock after a car shuffle and made our way down the Trent through Beeston Lock and are now on the moorings where Homebase used to be. I say used to be as we have not been here for ten years and they have built flats where the DIY shop used to be. They didn't even have the decency to ask our permission.


We are making our way up to Nottingham Castle and the Beer Festival in half an hour so don't expect a running commentary for the next twelve hours or so. In fact don't expect any verbal communication after about nine o'clock.

Oh by the way. I had a bit of a mishap yesterday when going through Derwent Mouth Lock. I was 
coming in to land before the lock and jumped off realizing that I may be going a little fast, wrapped the centre line around the bollard but instead of wrapping it once around the bollard I did it twice. The inevitable happened and the rope snagged on itself and the boat came to a sudden halt but the momentum canted the thing over to what seemed like thirty degrees. One of our kitchen units fell over and we lost all our glasses and several other instantly replaceable items. It is a surprise what a mess it all made but it looked worst than it actually was, Fortunately I had it all cleaned up before Lisa came home from work and I could make up my own version of events.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Stunning Shardlow

It was Wednesday so it must have been Shardlow. Now this is more like it. We got away from Alrewas at lunchtime and after an overnight stop at Willington we have arrived here for a couple of days while the Trent goes back down to normal levels. No one here is over amiable with no, “Hello”s being offered but it is very canal friendly, indeed canal centred. The village is split into two distinct parts, one based around the canal the other around the road.

 Guess which one's more interesting. There's a good canal based industrial heritage and whilst the main road goes through both parts of the village, the canal wanderers through the smaller part at right

 angles to the main road.

The warehouses look great whether converted or not. There are also several wharfs and associated side arms, four pubs, a boatyard, good chandlery, two marinas, two basins, boat hire operation, loads of on-line mooring all in a village of less than a hundred homes.

It's also closer to work for Lisa which is good for my health and well being as well as Lisa's. She

 had a bit of a wobble earlier in the week and was complaining (rather vocally I thought) about the length of time it took her to get to work but that was then and this isn't. I've let her back on-board again.

The floods have subsided and it's time to move on to Trent Lock today. I've been here for sixty four hours now instead of forty eight and will probably be ticked off for being a constant moorer by the 'rules is rules' brigade before long.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Eerie Alrewas

Yesterday we popped down to London to see Terri and carry out some maintenance tasks that were required by her. We visited a large Swedish furniture store that sells brilliant furniture, put it together ignoring the missing screws and extra bits of wood and binning all the extra ones, attached it all to the wall in case it all falls apart, tidied said room lifting all the clothes off the floor and put them in the wardrobe, cleaned it up and embarrassed said daughter in front of her friends (well there's little point in being a parent if you can't do that) and drove home again. All very exciting but I wouldn't want to live there.

Alrewas is a rather weird place. On the surface it is a typically quaint little English village but there is a sinister undercurrent. I am currently stuck here as the river is in flood due to the rain after arriving here at nine o'clock this morning from Fradley Junction. There is no graffiti except that which is placed there by the local council who deem it necessary to stencil, 'NO DOG FOULING. CLEAN IT UP. MAX FINE £1000' (or something like that) on all available surfaces including bins, the pavement every fifty metres, walls etc. Everyone is very polite and says, “Good morning” as if I was one of them. Well I'm not and as soon as Alrewas Lock opens I'm off again. It reminds me of The Village in the 60's series, The Prisioner. I'm not a number. I'm a free man (until Lisa comes home from work).

Everything is very ordered, conservative (and very probably Conservative) restrained, polite and regular but this is all on the surface (presumably alongside the graffiti). There is a multitude of 'Do Not...' signs with many private roads and cute buildings and in amongst all of this order is what is euphemistically called a gated community. Unfortunately anyone who wants to, or lives in, a gated community knows and cares nothing about community and very probably believes there is no such thing as society (now where have I heard that before). Why are many gated communities in areas where there is no crime.? It cannot be about security. It must be a status thing. If there is one thing that Alrewas doesn't need it's a gated community. Maybe the gates are to keep the eerie undercurrent out. 

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Towards more beer

Lisa had her lesson observation on Friday and obviously she got an 'Outstanding'. That means that her whole department got the 'Outstanding'. As Head of Department (always amazes Lisa this) she was under a certain amount of pressure to achieve the best possible outcome as every other member had already been observed with brilliant results and this is why I had not mentioned this before. Just in case.

Well, we are just short of Fradley Junction as of Saturday night. We set off for Nottingham Beer Festival yesterday and I made my way to Atherstone top lock to be met by Lisa, coincidently just as she finished work, so she could help me down the flight. It may have been coincidence and it may not. Who is to say.

We are popping down to see Terri in London tomorrow and have left the car at Fradley so have to have an early start to complete the journey tomorrow and so collect the car so have to get up at about six in the morning. It was a little windy today and I hate to admit it but I hit several boats on the way here. Well not really hit. More graze really. They say (who does) that narrowboating is a contact sport but I don't like doing it. After one contact, someone several boats ahead asked if I had hit the blue boat and I had to admit that I had. He said, “Good”. No idea why but it made me feel better.

We have brought back a large amount of wine in cartons from France with every intention of decanting it every night into half litre jugs but as we expected, this has never worked very well. Much more wine is being consumed that we had planned. Much more.

I've painted the pole and boat hook and I think they look quite good but the boarding plank may be a little too much in the red department and I may have to tone it down a little. Lisa has asked the question, 'Who put you in charge of aesthetics'? Well I did of course. I still have to paint the sides of the boat with British racing green as the primer makes the thing still look a bit ropey. I've also bought the timber to manufacture the bulkheads this week and we'll see how far we get by the end of the week. Pictures to follow when I can be bothered.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Editors!!!

My editor has told me that I need to clarify my previous blog. When I said that I enjoyed single handed cruising, I obviously didn't mean cruising without Lisa. It is her, after all, that supplies the driver sustenance and liquid refreshment. I meant to say that it would not be a problem single handed cruising but obviously a full complement of crew would be much better.

Are you happy now? As if any of this really needed saying. My editor really is a pain in the ass.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Lining finished and more beer

We're toying with the idea of popping (as much as you can 'pop' on a narrowboat) up to Nottingham for the Beer festival on the 9th - 12th of next month. If we do we'll start off early next week and we'll probably come back this way in a couple of weeks and complete the Leicestershire Ring on the way. We did it before when we had the original Pickles (an old Dawncraft) but I could do with a bit of a trip. Unfortunately Lisa will have to work and will be commuting during the day and I will be single handed for the cruising but I rather enjoy that.

We both originally hailed from Nottingham and moved down to Leicestershire six or seven years ago when we sold our homes. Just about anywhere on the Leicester Ring is about an hour or less from Lisa's work so that shouldn't be a problem.

I realize that this will do my bridge hopping credentials no end of harm but that's just the price I'll have to pay.

I've finished the lining with only one roof 

panel to go. I'll be starting the bulkheads next week and that should see the end of the ply getting in the way on the boat and will provide more wall space to pile things up against and also give us a dedicated bathroom and bedroom. Oh the novelty of normal living (of a sorts). It's just ripping along.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Winter moorings & good ailments

There's two other liveaboards/bridge hoppers where we are currently moored around here and none of us are sporting blue tarpaulins. Rules is rules. There's a pound shop in Hinckley that sells 6x4 blue tarpaulins for, well a pound, so there's no excuse. I may end up having to issue them to qualifying passing boaters. We are possibly at the top end of that particular category of boater and don't need one.

The Handbook of Continuous Cruisers states that:

Sect 54; Sub sect 2d:

a) All Continuous cruisers shall sport at least one tarpaulin that shall be blue in colour. No other colour should be used as the primary tarpaulin.

b) Other tarpaulins of any colour(s) may be used (with the exception of lemon) up to a maximum of seven but these should only be used as the secondary tarpaulins.

c) Tarpaulins may be used for any purpose including covering the rear deck of a cruiser, covering unknown/disgusting objects on the roof, hanging by one piece of old rope from a handrail for no discernible purpose other than to indicate the presence of said Continuous Cruiser, screwed up, dumped in front well deck, and other similar purposes.

d)The older the tarpaulin (especially the primary tarpaulin) the more credibility and prestige the boater should receive from fellow Continuous Cruisers.

e) There shall be absolutely no exceptions to these rules for those who come into the above category.

Well that's quite clear isn't it? I stand corrected.

I, and several other liveaboards around these parts, have speculatively tried to get a winter mooring to save moving around during those months. It seems that you cannot ask for a particular place even if it has been used in the past for winter moorings but have to submit and they allocate the mooring. Well that's a thousand or so quid that won't be going into BW's pocket. If I'm paying for a mooring I'm sure as hell not going to let them choose where it is going to be. They couldn't get away with that kind of thing with any other group of boater. It could have paid for a couple of pointless bollards. A little short sighted if you ask me.

Who actually represents continuous cruisers? I'm sure that all the relevant groups will say that it's them but from what I've read, it seems to be no-one. If there are so many of us, maybe we should start our own pressure group.I propose a working title, Society of Continuous cruising Users Movement. Well it works for me.

I've been unwell for the past couple of days (no, I'm not looking for your sympathy) and if you are going to be unwell, this is the one that is well worth being unwell with, albeit only once, to experience the effects. I know it's no fun listening to someone else's ailments but this 'un's a good 'un.

It's called labyrinthitis (now there's a spoof complaint if ever I've heard one). It affects your inner ear and therefore your balance and has the affect of making you feel and seem drunk without the expense or inconvenience of having to buy alcohol. If it wasn't for the fact that I was laying on the bed for the first day with my head hanging into a bucket (it is a little disorientating) I'd recommend it for everyone. The first day it was like I'd drunk three bottles of wine, the second two and today was just the one. I'll probably have a hell of a hangover tomorrow.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Cults and Tooters

I am officially a cult or a sect or somesuch and have a 'follower'. My 'follower' is in fact Jo and Keith on nb Hadar. I think this is all a little spooky and not a little disturbing but Blogger, my blogging medium, has developed this thing that I can see no point of at all. I am allowed followers. These are apparently people who read my blog from Blogger but I've no idea what the point of it is. I'm also not sure what the advantages are over using Google reader and subscribing to the blogs that you want to read there. Presumably to allow the blogger to identify who their followers are. Always useful.

Lisa is very easy to please. Many women would be happy with nothing less than a new kitchen. Lisa, on the other hand, is perfectly content with some Fablon with pictures of pebbles on it to use as a worktop surface. Saves an absolute fortune.

This canside sign left me a little baffled. Narrowboats are two a penny these days. Just turn up at a broker, view the boats, choose the one you want and offer about a third of the asking price and it's yours. Why you'd want to put a sign up indication that you want one seems a little pointless.

Why do tooters think they have priority over the rest of us non-tooters? I am not a tooter, have never been a tooter, will never be a tooter nor do I even have a device enabled for tooting. Tooting is not something I find at all comforting nor have I the necessary inclination to toot. I am also unlikely to hear the tooter's toot as I am standing on top of 42bhp of throbbing moving parts that have not been completely covered.

Tooters seem to think that if they toot prior to arrival at a blind corner, bridge 'ole, etc that we non-tooters will think, 'Hang on. There's a tooter 'round the bend here. I'd best hang back and give them priority and the ability to charge through the blind bit without looking'. For two hundred years the unwritten rule has been, 'they who arrive at the blind bit first have priority'. It has never been, 'they who toot first have priority'. As a fully trained clinical psychologist I believe that tooters are insecure, unconfident people who need tooting as a way of screaming at the world, 'I'm here, I'm important, take notice of me.'

On the other hand I may be totally wrong.

A motorized kayak. I somehow doubt they toot either. Seems like a good piece of kit though.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Quiet Shackerstone and more bonkers writers

Well Shackerstone has reverted back to it's normal very quiet ways and all of the interloping boats and boaters have gone their separate ways (well not really. They all went the same way; back to the Coventry Canal). We are still here and are now moored around the corner where the historic boats were. We've used this week to clean the mud from the boat and will move on this weekend.

When we were on our way to Snarestone to wind we met Hadar on their way back down the Ashby. It was brilliant to put a name to a face and a person to a boat in meeting Jo and Keith at the non-festival. And fellow bloggers to boot. The boat's not too bad either.

I've finished one side of the above gunwale lining. Next week the other side. I'll be glad to be rid of all those 4x8 sheets as they take up so much room.

Without wishing to repeat myself, there is a superb email communication that should be brought to others attention on Narrowboatworld. Narrowboatworld is now anti-narrowboat judging by this entry. The email page has a (spoof?) mail from one Tim Atkinson, a Thames boater with a 'classic' motor boat. He rants about narrowboaters, liveaboards and generators and is obviously anti-narrowboat himself. He has even implied that he has put sugar into a generator owned by a narrowboater. I think that Tom Crossley has missed the criminal element of this but saw the anti-liveaboard angle and published it anyway. Tim even got in the word 'scum' to describe narrowboaters. This email has very similar sentiments to the spoof letter I blogged here several blogs ago.

Mr Atkinson, I doff my hat to you sir. For sure, you are a comic genius.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Tall people & miscommunication

There seems to be a preponderance of tall people in Shakerstone. These are locals and not visiting boaters. I'm used to looking down on people (especially people I live with) and think it's disconcerting to have to look at people on the same level or even higher. There must be something in the water 'round here. There's certainly something in the beer as we went up to the Raising Sun yesterday afternoon and with every intention in the world of returning in the evening to watch the live band, we were flat out in bed by eight o'clock. Gone are the days when Lisa and I could drink twelve pints and sing a merry song. Oh no! Back to bed after a couple of pints for our cocoa. The impromptu folk at the pub was good anyway with the occupants of some the ex-working boats and of nb Talisman talking the 'elm.

On Friday I had been working on the plywood boards which will eventually be the lining of Pickles no 2 and cutting one of the porthole cut-outs that I had marked up. I looked at the man hanging out of the rear door of the boat in front and he was obviously trying to tell me something by drawing his hand across his throat. I thought 'cheeky bugger telling me to keep the noise down. I'm allowed to use my electric saw during the day'. I looked again and he was doing the same thing. Well he's either telling me he's going to cut my throat or to stop using my saw. I went stomping around the boat all indignant chuntering to myself.

Later I found out that they had cancelled the festival and realised that he neither wanted to cut my throat nor to keep the noise down but that the event was no more. I spoke to him later and he confirmed this as he was neither carrying a knife nor wearing ear defenders. This miscommunication could have turned ugly if I had confronted him instead of sulking around the boat. I don't know what the moral of this story is but there must be one.

I've included some pictures here of some of the ex-working boats that attended the non-festival. As usual the boaters seemed to make the best of it and even last night in the pouring rain, the ex-working boaters were holding a BBQ on the muddy towpath under a tarpaulin.

Friday, 5 September 2008

A soggy end

It's all over here. The Shakerstone Festival has been cancelled due to the ground conditions and general weather. It has been raining all week and the place is a quagmire. In the end they couldn't get the stuff onto the site by vehicle. The only thing open is the been tent this evening with the musicians intact. They put some hey at the entrances at the start of the day and I was dubious as to their worth. There are about twenty or so ex-working boats here but other than the pub and beer tent it's all a bit of wasted effort. Well it's never really a waste if beer is involved.

This week I watched a certain ex-working boat (which will remain nameless) attempting to moor. A fellow boater took the lines and was helping pull the boat in but was shouted at by the owner of the boat to, “leave my lines alone and don't pull me in”. I thought this was a little mean spirited and harsh as he was only trying to help. This attitude just emphasises what many narrowboat owners already think about historic boat owners.

Well most owners of non-historic boats would also believe that others who own ex-working boats would know what they are doing and how to handle their boat but this is seemingly not the case. This chap had ample room to moor albeit it was a little shallow at the edges and to find a decent spot he had to move about a bit but just couldn't manage it. He manoeuvred back and forth jumping on and off his boat with his three lines, hauling on them then hopping back on his boat to try another manoeuvre. He tried every move in the book but couldn't get it into the bank. The Ashby is very shallow here at the banks as it is saucer shaped.

To cut what ended up as a long story short after forty five minutes he finally tied his lines for the last time. No-one helped him (I wonder why) but I think that many, like me, were sniggering from the safety of our own boats. I would love to have been brave enough to bring a chair up to beside his boat with a cup of tea to watch the spectacle.

To top it all my starter battery has died as I suspected it might. I'll make do with the smaller van battery I've been using until I can get a proper decent one to fit. It's a little underpowered but beggars can't be choosers.

I've just noticed that for some inexplicable reason I have fifty members of my blog audience according to my Feedburner count. Haven't you all got better things to do?

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Shakerstone Festival site

On Sunday Jo from Hadar arrived to introduce herself but it was a bit of a flying visit as I had volunteered to help with the setting up of the festival site so had to get across there. Several others from the Ashby Canal Association were also present and during the rather wet day we set up the arena, the car park and various other roped off areas. From nothing, other than a few pegs in the ground, by the end of the day it was looking like a festival site as there were others including the marquee erectors working on site. Thursday and Friday are the next working days to finalize the site for the weekend.

Things are beginning to look a little muddy and as far as I know this weather is here to stay. We will see but you can't have a festival without mud in the UK. It wouldn't be the same. I've always wanted to do mud sliding like they were doing in 1968 at Woodstock although I think that highly unlikely at Shakerstone. 'elfin safety might take a dim view. With the average age of the visitors being a little older than the Woodstock crowd there my be a few broken hips as well.

There are more boats arriving every day and the historic boats are also starting to arrive. People are breasting up and we are expecting to have to by the weekend although I don't envy anyone breasting up to grumpy. Nor next to me either.

I have cut all the boards for the lining out today and will start screwing into the bearers tomorrow so no more visible spray foam and wiring. I'll miss that (not).

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Hadar arrives

Fellow bloggers nb Hadar passed at 4.30 this afternoon on their way to the Shakerstone Family Festival. At least Jo and Keith will be able to find a space by the festival field this time and not like the IWA where they were placed some way from all the action. It's a little more relaxed here on the Ashby and probably a little shallower as well.

There are only about six or seven boats moored at the festival grounds as of Thursday evening. We'll probably make our way up tomorrow as this weekend will see a lot more traffic arriving. We've got to get ourselves a spot near a bridge where we can park our cars after all. Scum bridge hoppers.

Flowers or weeds

I haven't posted a picture for a while so here's one. I vaguely remember something about a 'veg pledge' from BW but life's just too short to be bothered to trawl through their tiresome press releases to find what it was all about. Suffice to say that it was probably something about cutting back the vegetation along the towpath. I think that these flowers trying to get into Pickles No 2 through an open porthole look brilliant and I wouldn't want them cut down.


Anyway, boaters should carry a means of cutting back their own 'veg' if they relish mooring in out of the way places like us. I use an ancient bill hook (or is it a sickle) and a more dangerous piece of equipment it is hard to imagine. Walkers seeing me violently swinging this thing around my head have in the past grabbed the rest of their family and hurriedly returned along the tow-path the way they had come, and who could blame them.

There would be no need for BW to cut back the 'veg' if boaters did it themselves and we could leave the pretty flowers alone and just deal with the ugly weeds. In fact this would save BW a fortune. All those contractors fees could go into Robin Evens' pocket. God knows he needs the money with all that driving around the country to talk to all those user groups. I'm sure he must be out of pocket. Think of all those leisure activities he must get up to in the five days of the week that he doesn't work. Must be incredibly expensive.