Monday, 31 March 2008

Pubs, food and gangplanks

Last night's pub was a big disappointment. OK, my Nicholson is the 1995 version and I refuse to buy another until this one falls apart but the Castle and Rose ended up being one of those pubs that has now concentrated on the food rather than the beer and congenial atmosphere. It had become a restaurant in all but name. All very well but not conducive with a pleasant time. I am no lover of restaurants as I believe many serve overpriced, mediocre food in appalling surroundings with minimal atmosphere. Pub food may also be mediocre but it is usually cheap and, in many cases, an abundance of atmosphere. Take our meal today at the Barley Mow at Newbold-on-Avon, itself not a particularly atmospheric pub but the clientele were the personification of a traditional English pub. The food was cheap, hearty and unpretentious with a good pint to boot. Lisa and I rarely leave anything on our plates and it has be be particularly appalling for food to remain uneaten.

We met Les from nb Valerie on route and Andy from nb Khayamanzi in Newbold Tunnel. I say met but that is not really the case unless you include shouted hellos as this was all we could manage. We do not have the name on the side of the boat and I catch them unawares.

I also had a great catch from the cut today (there must be a name for useful stuff we find in the canal but I have no idea what it is). I noticed something attached to the bow and climbed over the roof to get rid of the offending article with the boat hook. I released the item and when it floated to the surface found it was a perfect piece of timber suitable for use as a gangplank. A lovely piece of oak 8 foot long, 12 inches wide and 2.5 inches thick. It will need a couple of weeks to dry but when it does I'll give it a pass or two through the thicknesser and it should come out looking brand new. I'll then give it a coat of varnish so it fits in with the boat pole and hook. Nothing like getting something for nothing.

Lisa seems to have found a place inside the rear hatch when we are on the move. I had always considered that this was my place and that she should be inside or in the cratch, I'll have to think of a method of dissuading this practise.

Tonight we are moored in the middle of nowhere somewhere north of Braunston. No need to turn the generator off at eight. Very pleasant.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

On our hollies

We have left the Ashby, joined the rest of the network and are heading for the pie pub. Tonight we made it to Ansty between Stretten Stop and Hawksbury Junction and very pleasant it is too. Lisa says it's just like being on holiday. The gennie is humming away (as silently as a unsilenced 3Kw generator can be humming) and the stew is on the boil. The local pub, the Castle and Rose, looks inviting and waiting for our visit later.

Hawksbury was full of gongoozelers just waiting for me to make a mistake doing the 180 wind outside the Greyhound pub (it was as if they had all turned out specifically for my appearance). Well I fooled them all and was, in the end, very little entertainment value at all. They might as well have all stayed at home and had a well cooked Sunday lunch.

The weather was fabulous but the towpaths on the way here were in a dreadful state and other than a couple of gravelly bits, it was quagmire all the way. But I don't care. I'm not walking them. I'm on a boat amusing myself at the towpath walkers expense. They don't pay anything to BW and have no grounds to complain. Even the mountain bikers were walking their bikes through the swamp, much to my amusement. "That doesn't look like much fun", was returned with a scowling glare that could have sunk ships. Let's hope it's not going to be mine. Just in case I'll keep my big gob shut in future and adapt a concerned look that sympathises with their predicament. There again...

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Terri has left the building (boat)

Terri's disappeared back to London. In the end she stayed with friends most of the time for some strange reason. This leaves us clear to move around a little and to that end we intend to pop down to the pie pub on at the bottom of the Napton flight We're probably going to leave tomorrow and make it a Sunday to Sunday trip. The original plan was to do the Warwickshire ring but that was assuming that we had a little longer. It will be good to get out and about for a while and find another muddy towpath for a change.

Before we leave we intend visiting Ikea to have a look to see some chairs and see if anything is suitable for us. Picnic chairs are good for a picnic but living with them on a long term basis is not recommended, We are also investigating cheap wood burners and to that end visited some local emporiums but nothing was found that was suitable. They were either far too big or weird shapes. The Boatman stove advertised at the bag of the waterways mags looks good and I think we'll investigate that. I know many go for Squirrels and Bunnys but they are double the price of the Boatman. We reckon that it would save us a considerable amount on paraffin every month and paraffin is getting harder to obtain as the garden centres are stopping stocking it.

Lisa is out with the girlies tonight and was last seem trudging down the muddy towpath in the rain hugging her bedding in a plastic bag (she's staying over) in one hand and her going out clothes in the other. What me help. I'm not about to get wet.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Trip out

We have taken a trip out to Hawksbury Junction or Sutton Stop and the Greyhound pub. This is renowned as one of many people's favourite pubs on the system. Terri took a turn at steering, something her mother has valiantly avoided since we have moved aboard. In fact Terri did very well and was avoiding bridgeholes and the bank at bends like the best of them. On the other hand I had to throw it into reverse quickly at a particular bridge when I realized that I was approaching far too fast. Much to Terri's amusement I narrowly avoided the brickwork but ended up in the bushes. Terri shook her head in disgust and I had to relinquish control to her with my head hanging in shame.

We had a meal in the pub and very good it was too. But after several pints the fresh air had us back to the boat for another early night. Terri must think that we are boring as hell. And we are. It is the beauty of reaching middle age that we can relish in the fact that we are boring and like the comfort of boringness and repetition. I'm obviously speaking for us both and everyone else as well. It feels good to be a spokesperson for a generation.

We passed several other bloggers on our short trip. Stonehenge from nb Sploosh fresh from their Warwickshire Ring and nb Matilda Rose on the way back to the Coventry Canal (I've just realised that Sploosh is missing from my links and that Matilda Rose is under the link Contented Souls) Obviously no one recognised our boat as it is just another grey primered hulk. Ours even looks looks worse in the fact that it more resembles a submarine than a narrowboat with its all porthole configuration.

Terri seemed to enjoy the day which started badly for her when the exhaust fell off her car and we had to get it to the garage for replacement. It's better that it happens here as opposed to her other home in London as she just has to ring me and I can get it all sorted in no time. In London she has to get her friends involved and find out what they should do next then try to work out how to do it. It's all happened to us before and we know what to do. It actually makes you feel useful in their world where it is all to often that we feel not much use at all.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

An actress arrives

Terri arrived back from uni and very impressed with her sleeping arrangement she wasn't. She has opted to sleep at a friends house tonight. Cannot imagine why. She tried to convince us she was enjoying her stay but as good an actress as she is, we were not convinced. More practice required there I think. Maybe we just know her too well.

It was cold last night and the main paraffin heater was playing up. Lisa wanted everything to be perfect for Terri's return but inevitably it never could be here. We snuggled down for the evening and in the end we all saw the funny side of things and had a good laugh about it all. Our living conditions can only get better from here.

Woke up early this morning to this. By the time Terri emerged it had all disappeared and was just cold again. Another set of friends arrived today to inspect and I suspect giggle at our home. They were mightily impressed with the food if not the interior of the boat. Kev and Deb did what Terri had done and said all the right things but again we could see right through it. I think we should give up having people over until we are a little better sorted.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Verbally abused

I've been verbal abused today. No not by Lisa, although I'm sure she'd like to. No, by a complete stranger. And a boater no less. I took the boat down to Marston junction at the end of the Ashby to wind it and on the way back I was joined by another boat called 'Josh' who tagged along several hundred yards to my rear. I had passed it on the way down and again on the way back and it had tagged on after I had set off again after lunch. It slowly caught up with me by the time I had reached Hinckley but made no effort to come up close and I never considered it ever wanted to pass.

Well I pulled into my mooring and proceeded to get the ropes sorted and I heard a lot of shouted effing and blinding. I poked my head up and it was the man on the tiller of 'Josh' yelling at me. The conversation, if that indeed was what it was, went something like this.

"You f*****g b*****d. F*****g T**t. I know what you're up to you f*****g a*****e."

"I'm sorry."

"You f*****g b*****d. I've been boating for thirty five years and I know what you're up to you f*****g b*****d."

By this time I had realised that this tirade was directed against me but had no idea what crime I had committed.

"You t**t. You f*****g b*****d. I know what our like. I know what you're up to. I know all the tricks."

He was in his sixties and by now I had assumed that he was the Ashby Canal nutter so just waved and said that he should have a pleasant day.

He continued past still cursing my existence turning around and shouting as he went by.

I still have absolutely no idea what that was all about or what my offence was supposed to have been. He never came lose enough for me to pull over to let him pass so it cannot have been that. How bazaar. I dare say that we will be rubbing shoulders again as the Ashby is a dead end and he has to come past me again. One of the local boaters knows him and thinks he's all right and that he has been living on the Ashby for thirty years. Life really is full of surprises.

Anyway here are some piccies. No particular reason for them except that I now have the camera working with a new data card, it's my blog and I can put on it what I want.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Peasants afloat

Well we're settling into our peasant lifestyle. We are now planning a trip at Easter; probably the Warwickshire ring or something like it. I have a tendency to do 10 hour days at the tiller and am quite happy with that (in the good weather) but Lisa wants to take it a bit easier stopping at relevant places. STOPPING. It's a trip. The whole point is the journey not the stopping.

Terri is coming back at the weekend from uni and we are going to hang around here until see gets fed up with the old fogies and makes an excuse to leave for her metropolitan life and posh, artistic and gregarious friends. We are enjoying our pathetic little lives on our half finished (if it's that) boat. Lisa is currently on the blow up mattress reading and has just said that she's changed her mind and that she now want to live in a small flat in Hinckley. Tough. This is how it is and how it is to be for the foreseeable.

Yesterday the outlaws and Katia, our strange French friend, came over for a drink and something to eat. We can only imagine what the conversation was on the way back to Newark in the outlaws car. "Have you seen what state he's got her in". "I can't belive he's got her living like that". Katia, on the other hand, claimed she was getting motion sickness/sea sickness. Something about her ears apparently. I did say she was strange.

It is much harder working on the boat when all our stuff is loaded in boxes stored along the sides of the boat but I am getting on with it slowly. Today I have been rigging up the electrical cupboard ready for the fuse box, inverter and battery charger. The space is very narrow (well it would ne wouldn't it) at that end of the boat as the lining timber boards are stored on one side and my tools on the other. As soon as I lift something heavy to bring it down the other end of the boat and turn around Sam is there standing in the way with nowhere to go. She then has to back out the scurry away before I shout at her. If I hear myself shouting, "Get out of the bloody way Sam" or "Move dog" (depending on my mood) I'll send myself mad. I have to take her for a long lunchtime walk to tire her out so she's in the basket in the afternoon.

We are getting into a routine and shuffle up and down the canal (we are bridge hoppers after all and proud of it) but I cannot wait to get off and put some miles under the base plate at Easter and have some adventures. But it's much easier for me as I can scruff around all day and don't have to look neat and tidy for my day job. It really is much easier for me than it is for Lisa. Still we may have 12 volt electricity and running water within the week. Then again...

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Take a look at our luxurious surroundings

I know the quality is appalling but it gives you an idea.

Monday, 10 March 2008

What a dreadful day

My little van broke down today and the electrics seem to be a little mad. When I go near it with the key, the speedometer, fuel gauge and odometer move erratically. I think it ma be a flat battery but I'll have to test it tomorrow.

I went looking for paraffin today and found that the garden centres are stopping stocking it for the summer as it is only used for heating glass houses in winter. Oh dear. Not good. I'll have to find another source.

I didn't get an thing done on the boat as it was raining most of the day and I really need to be working outside for cutting the ply as the inside of the boat has been made into a home by Lisa meaning that I have very limited space to work. Our living area has gradually moved towards the rear of the boat and invading my workshop space. I may have to plan an invasion to regain my space back.

On the up side, Derek and Dot from nb Gypsy Rover called and said they were throwing stuff away and if I wanted it I was welcome. Not one to look a kiwi gift horse in the mouth, I drove down to Atherstone locks to pick up the bits and pieces which included a twin set of Desmo legs, foam and some wood. All good stuff and very much appreciated. Only a shame that I lived up to the reputation as tight ass that I've built for myself as I only had a tenner in my wallet to offer in recompense. Next time your in the area I make up for it.

The trip up the Ashby went very well but I am still not used to turning all seventy foot of the beast and on some of the tight bends I have a tendency to get stuck in the mud. At one point on the journey, in the hail, Lisa's bike got caught on some overhanging branches and was pulled off the roof. Rather adeptly (I thought) I cut the engine as we passed and dragged it out with one hand keeping the other on the tiller, stuck it back on the roof and continued the journey. Skilled narrowboater me.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Our new life

We've been living aboard for a week now and we are really taking to it. Lisa woke up this morning and clapped her hands together like a seal, giggling like a little schoolgirl saying, "I love it". The generator is humming away outside, the sun is out and I am writing the first blog in a week on our first expedition up the Ashby just about to go through the Snarestone tunnel with our Mickey Mouse tunnel light rigged up.

The facilities haven't improved much since we started but I have filled the water tank and it has improved the handling considerably but the water is still not available at the taps (the fact that we don't actually have taps yet doesn't really help). As yet it hasn't filled the bilges and slopped around our ankles so it looks like my attempts at plumbing are holding out so far. I'll continue testing the system one part at a time.

Rechargeable batteries, wet wipes and paraffin figure highly in our lives at the moment. The paraffin I have mentioned before and the wet wipes are self explanatory and Lisa is recharging the batteries at school during the day and we use them at night. Lisa is also using her friends for washing clothes and has even hoodwinked the school caretaker into tasks for her comfort. Lisa also has a guilty secret in her cupboard in her classroom. Behind the door is her ironing board and in several boxes on the upper shelves are her clean school clothes. She goes in early and irons them in her room. She is also getting comments from the kids about being a water gypsy etc. "Yes I have indeed" she replies to the inevitable question, "Have you really moved onto a boat Miss".

We have finally handed over the house to the agents. They said that the grass should have been cut but that was about all. We are hoping to get the majority of our deposit back so I can spend it in the local chandlery.

Next week I will hopefully be starting the lining at the front of the boat and as I complete a rooms worth of wiring I will line it out. I'm also hoping to pick up the battery charger and inverter and get it in next week.

I cannot post photos at the moment as I am using the wrong computer with the wrong software on it for my camera. But we'll get there.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Homeless or liveaboards?

I'm writing this entry wearing a head torch as the electricity is not working (nor is anything else). No surprise there as the thirty day fit out didn't exactly go as planned.

Derek and Dot from nb Gypsy Rover saw us on our first night on-board and I think really felt sorry for us. They were kind enough to realise our predicament and neglected to mention our state on their blog.

I will try to get some photos on here over the next couple of days as it is not as bad as some may be imagining (on the other hand it may be). I also didn't realize how important electricity is in life. Battery power is brilliant as far at it goes but it doesn't seem to be far enough.

Lisa is actually enjoying the boating side of things but it is the outside influences and the forward planning that she finds difficult. One example is hygiene as there is no running water yet and her job dictates that she could be found out as being unclean. Kids can be cruel.

I'd best get off this before the battery goes but things are going great and we are very happy (at least that's what I'm told).