Monday, 30 June 2008

'Village of the Damned' and knots

It's like the 'Village of the Damned' around here. We attract mainly a Dutch clientèle here and as such many have Nordic type features. It's also the start of the first round of Dutch school holidays and at present there are six families on the site and there are nine or ten little girls, all with blond hair and all seemingly looking identical, running around. It's all a bit spooky. I think they've a sinister purpose of secret world domination. I'll just have to keep thinking of brick walls.

If I haven't reported back within seven days, national security needs to be informed and an air strike called in. No nuclear weapons should be used as this may prolificate the life forms. The location is E 5.12783 N 47.01444.

I am currently learning knots, hitches, splices and the like out of curiosity, boredom, just in case the world doesn't actually end and the notion that I would like to make my own fenders when I get back to Poverty Rock. I've downloaded several knotting type documents and am learning over a hundred of the things. Most are totally useless and could and would not be used for any purpose other than to blind other uninterested parties on my prowess on knot tying. Lisa would seem the most likely uninterested party for this demonstration. We've developed a method of displaying our mutual disinterest in one another's past times by the expression, “Ooooh lovely”, Meaning, 'Sod off. I couldn't give a monkeys'. Well it keeps me off the streets.

I came across Eric Johns' website when looking for knotty things and in his gallery there was a picture of him making the Turk's head around the post at the Greyhound pub at Sutton Stop over thirty years ago. Anyone who has been there cannot have failed to be impressed with this decorative piece of complicated rope work and the photo put into some sort of chronological perspective. That's about as boaty as I'm going to get this week.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Loads of irrelevant nonsense

I took a trip to St Jean de Losne and there are three narrowboats in the marina and I found an old Springer in one of the maintenance yards looking the worst for wear. Unfortunately I couldn't spot the boat with the flybridge but I'll keep my eye out.

Pearl (outlaw) is not known for her culinary abilities but she has made a boeuf à la Bourgingnonne (beef bourgogne) and a what a surprise it was. She had missed out the seasoning, herbs, garlic, bacon or lardons, garlic and worst of all the red wine, in fact everything that makes it what it is supposed to be. I could feel Elizabeth David rolling in her grave. The fact that we have a copy of her 'French Provincial Cooking' makes the offence even greater. With a stroke of luck Pearl'll be all cooked out and the stress that this meal had put her under will prevent her from entering the kitchen for the next month or so. Just leave it to, 'le chef cuisine. C'est moi. Naturellement'. Ol' big 'ed.

It was Lisa's birthday last Sunday but I didn't mention it. I had written a blog on Word (or the Openoffice equivalent) the Saturday but it had disappeared by the Sunday and I had forgotten what I had written (ok, I may have had a little too much red wine). It is the first time in a long time that I had lost a document on a computer and it threw me out of sinc a little. Well it was her birthday and I'd be foolish to state what age she was but spring chickens are no longer mentioned. Normally Terri and I are in cahoots as Terri reminds me and I buy a card or if we have both forgotten Terri will buy the card and I will send a message to place inside. But Terri has gone and has her own life to worry about and can no longer afford the time to worry about mine. Suffice to say that Lisa had to make do with an email this year. I did forget her Christmas card one year when we were skiing and she threw a chair from the balcony of our accommodation missing a drinker on the terrace below by a fraction and my head by slightly less. Needless to say this is not normally forgotten these days. I'm not saying she's unreasonable but ...

Lisa reckons that the engine's not working on the boat. I have confirmed from her that the bilges (after explaining exactly where the bilges were) have neither water nor oil in them and have surmised that we are out of fuel. We didn't top up before I left as I had assumed that there would be enough for Lisa's use. Seemingly not. She cannot have done anything else to it surely. Well unless she wants to fill a can with diesel and use that she'll just have to do without for the next two weeks.

We have a small sit on tractor over here which, at a conservative estimate, is at least twenty five years old. It works, but only just. It breaks down all the time and we fix it all the time. The gearbox can only engage either first or fifth gears so I am cutting grass at snails pace or at breakneck speed, cutting between trees, getting myself caught on overhanging branches and generally being thrown about. It had been a bit sickly of late so myself and Chief Bodger Number One (Ken (outlaw)) had the carburettor off to blow out the jets and wash it all in petrol. It's a long time since I've done this as modern cars aren't really designed to be repaired in this way and must be returned to the garage for the whole unit to be replaced. Not like my old Triumph Bonneville. That was a real bike. That also kept breaking down but was usually easy to fix. Not quite sure what the point of this story was but there you go.

How come after hundreds of pounds worth of research and development and hundreds of years of human hours, does the door locks, heaters and windscreen washers always give up the ghost after a couple of years on Ford cars. Just a thought.

Do you ever get the impression that this blog has lost it's way somehow?

Monday, 23 June 2008

Fly bridges

Last year I saw an English narrowboat on the river Saone that that had a fly bridge added. Sounds incredible but there it was. The fly bridge was placed halfway along the roof and looked to all intents and purposes like a fly bridge from any other white plastic Mediterranean cruiser. It looked a bit daft but thinking about it would have been perfect for summers in France, the high bridges and the giant locks. I'll take a trip up to St Jean de Losne where there is the largest inland port in France and try to find it to take a photo of it although I don't know if it's moored there this year or not.

The outlaws have now arrived and have taken over toilet cleaning duties. They're much better at it than me and anyway, it keeps them busy and out of trouble. I ensure that they have an adequate supply of menial physical work to be getting on with otherwise they'd become senile. Whoever said that we Brits don't look after our old folk. They have to work for their pitch and food as there are still very few customers.

I finished 'Ramlin Rose: The boatwoman's story' by Sheila Stewart and found it a surprisingly good read and very well researched. Highly recommended. Back to Tolstoy now.

I've just read Pav's latest blog entry for nb Mamaduke. Brilliant. It's a perfect summing up of the Daily Mail's view of Britain in the 21st century in a single blog entry. Whatever your political persuasion it's well worth a read.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Music, books and plumbing

Shuffle play is a wondrous thing on digital music playing equipment until you find that someone has placed their own choices on said equipment. Listening to an eclectic (not) mix of Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, Crosby Stills and Nash (and Young sometimes), White Stripes, Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, various folkies etc. when out of the blue comes a disco hit from the eighties. Slightly disturbing. Lisa and I are totally incompatible musically except for Cambridge Folk Festival where I like the music and she likes the atmosphere (too many fiddles apparently). Surely you can't have too many fiddles.

I'm currently reading Tolstoy's 'War and Peace'. I'm not normally one for fiction but I picked it up due to its famous size and not necessarily for the content which is not too bad although, like much fiction, there are glaring omissions, coincidences, lucky breaks, exaggerated incidents etc all of which annoy me about reading this genre. However to balance this all up I am also reading Hunter S Thompson's 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' which is as about as far in the other direction as it's possible to go. It's just one big exaggerated incident. Brilliant.

A near neighbour of mine across here is Chris. He is an ex-pilot who has now retired and writes and edits books, poetry etc. He pitched up today clutching a copy of 'Ramlin Rose The Boatwoman's Story' by Sheila Stewart. I hadn't read this and it came as a bit of a surprise to find a book on the English canals in deepest France. It'll give me a break from Tolstoy at least. Chris was the one who took me in hand on my first year here and taught me all I needed to know about plumbing and how to fix it at no cost. Since this time there has never been a plumber on the site and the plumbing looks like this is most definitely the case. But it works and doesn't leak and I am eternally grateful to Chris for this.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Marinas and growths

There is also something in the water at Trinity Marina. I noticed it when we were looking at the place when we brought the boat in. I don't know if other marinas have this but all the boats moored there have some sort of algae or plant growth on the hull below the waterline. Lisa says that we now also have this growth. From what I could see, the longer your boat is stationary the longer the growth of the whateveritis. We are taking it out of the water when I get back anyway to give it a good blacking as sailaways from Liverpool boats only have the one coat and it is always advisable to get it out within the first year and do it all again for piece of mind.

Talking of bringing the boat into the marina when we did, the wind was blowing a bit briskly and as soon as I got the bow through the entrance I was blown across to the other side of the basin. It took me half and hour and some advice from another boater who thought that we should tie up the front get the stern directly into wind then release the bow rope and reverse directly into wind and into out berth. Worked perfectly and I wish I'd thought of it. Still learning and I'm not perfect but as near as damn it.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Wearing trousers and kayaks

Lisa says I should continue this blog even if I am in France and we all know who wears the trousers in this relationship. So I will have a weekly or so update on progress at the camp site. I will try to make it boat related if not to do with narrow boats. Talking of which, a kayak is a boat of rather narrow dimensions so we can include that here. We have a small flotilla of craft here some of which I build myself and others we have bought.

I was adjusting Lisa's kayak to fit me with the aim of trying it out if the rain ever stops and was in the process of adjusting the footrests which involved sitting in it with the spray deck on (very tightly as the cockpit is too large for the spray deck) when a new camper drove up to book in. He looked at me on the grass in the kayak and asked if he could do the administration. I then realised that I had tucked the handle to release the spray deck inside the boat under the overly tight elastic. After some struggling I still couldn't get out of the boat and had to admit defeat so told him to sort himself out and come back later. Goodness knows what he thought. I had visions of me hopping, whilst in the kayak using the paddle to aid forward movement, over to reception to sit behind the desk still encased in the kayak. Well I got out eventually. That's probably not the bast spray deck for capsizing with.

Lisa came over for the first week and I have been on my own for this week and will be until the outlaws get here towards the end of June. It's not busy at the moment (it's never busy) as there are only one or two enterprising Dutch at any time. Our French friends visit occasionally from Dijon to check I am still alive but mostly it's just me and the dog. Sam is here as well as it wouldn't have been fair to keep her locked up in the boat all day in the marina. Barking dogs probably don't go down too well there unlike to tow path where there is nobody to care whether your dog is barking or not. Barking partners are a different story all together.

We got here and, since the place hadn't been cut since August last year, it looked like a jungle. In fact I met Ray Mears filming whilst on the way to the toilet block. It looks much better now and I have cleared much of the grass with the last bits still to do. The toilets are cleaned and we are just waiting for campers to arrive. Fat chance.

France and those dasterdly French

Readers of this blog may be wondering what is going on and why there has been no recent entry (on the other hand they may be thinking, 'Thank god that idiot's gone. Glad to the back of him', and who could blame them). I have left the boat and am currently in France where I am running a small camp site in Burgundy. It is in fact our camp site and this is something that I do every year. “It's ok for some”, I hear several people shout (metaphorically). Well it would be if it made any money but it doesn't so it isn't. It will make some money when we sell it which we are currently trying to do (anyone want to buy a camp site). Anyway, Lisa is currently living on the boat and I am here and she will join me when the term ends.

For all my bluster about marinas, Pickles no 2 is currently residing, yes you guessed it, in Trinity Marina in Hinckley where it will remain until I return at the end of August when we can continue hopping bridges. My excuse is that Lisa cannot handle the boat by herself and needs amenities to hand. I know, it's pathetic. I am a real hypocrite. But you already knew that, didn't you. That's the way it is and that's the way it shall remain.

On the boating front, I never got it painted in the end and it has remained half finished in British Racing Green. But the bits I have done look good even though I do say so myself. Lisa has been briefed on the systems, something she has been dodging for some time reliant on me to sort it all out. With a little help she should be all right and I'll still have a home to go back to in August.

Since this is meant to be a narrowboat blog it seems right that I shall give it a rest over the summer period but if something comes up of interest (like Lisa blows up the boat) I'll report back straight away. We only have dial up over here and it is a bit of a pain in the neck but it's now up and running and I've discovered that I have 262 blog entries to read. Unfortunately most will remain unread but I won't tell you whose I'm deleting (that Granny Buttons, it's like a bloody virus).

I've just heard that Terri has just been accepted onto a three year acting BA course at uni. Congrats. She was a little worried as she was on the one year foundation course and had to audition for this one. I for one am over the moon for her. Apparently she went way over the top on the audition and it worked. I've seen a lot of overacting in my time and it's always sure to get noticed.