Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Bonkers letter writers

Lisa has arrived and she came with canal related goodies in the form of the canal boat magazines. These are not much use for up to date information and some of the boat reviews and articles are appalling but some of the historical articles I enjoy. However the best part of these rags is most definitely the letters pages. Some of the correspondents are truly bonkers. Narrowboatworld on the interweb is the same on the letters and email pages and always worth a good read. I realise that some of these letters must be spoof and written by people like myself (I would love to lay claim to have written some of them).

In Waterways World a letter appears by one Richard Miles who having hired a narrowboat on the K&A insists that, 'there were barely any stretches of the canal that were free of moored boats. This made our progress rather slow and tedious...' That's the whole point Richard. The relaxing speed and if you found the journey tedious you chose the wrong mode of transport. He goes on to say that pubs stop serving food at 2 o'clock, that taxi drivers don't know everywhere on the canal and that Devizes is unimpressive. Welcome to the world Richard. He obviously didn't like getting told to slow down even though he was speeding (presumably since it was 'slow and tedious'). The best bit was when 'without any warning a Dutch barge suddenly pulled out in front of our boat...'. I've never seen a Dutch barge suddenly do anything. Poor Richard. He must have had a wretched time.

And poor Alec McHale who in his letter titled 'Towpath Squatters' in the same rag has an insane rant about all things liveaboards. He only travelled 20 miles and saw (around) 30 boats with people living on them. Best of all is the response from the BW spokesperson. At no time does the writer mention licences (or lack of) but the BW response only addresses the issue of licensing and none of Alec's barking points. 'These people have no respect for the canals', barks Alec, 'If BW does not tackle this problem firmly...more and more people will buy a boat and squat at locations with access to a road'. God forbid, Alec. God forbid.

The email on Narrowboatworld from Yvonne Umpleby cannot have been written by a real person. Surely it was written by Tom Crossley (aka Victor Swift) himself although I think this is the most likely letter to be a spoof (although I can't make a suitable anagram from the name). Although if Tom Crossley is not Victor Swift he should at least be told that on his recent trip to Chester, Victor stole Tom's boat, wife and dog. Possibly in exchange for Victor's moped. Yvonne complains, 'why do these 'continuous cruisers' have to be so scruffy (lack of paint, wheelbarrow, logs, their worldly goods and not forgetting the blue tarpaulin)'. I think the title of the piece tells it's own story, 'Stoned at Wallingford'. Yes Yvonne. I think you probably were.

There are many other examples but read them for yourselves. Priceless.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Liberation, or not

Tomorrow, it is the 14th July and is Bastille/Liberation Day in France, a national holiday. The liberation of the Bastille was in 1789 when the Parisian crowds gathered outside of the cities prison (and arms store) and stormed the gates (after the gates were opened for them by the defenders). They released all of seven prisoners, several of whom had been placed there by their families for their own protection and one of whom was a mad Englishman. He is the one with the long beard seen in all the etchings of the time being carried around the streets above the heads of the masses. The next day they realized that he was mad and placed him under lock and key again. Mention this the a French person and the don't seem to be aware of it.

Just like the English when it comes to invasions. We haven't been invaded since 1066 comes the cry (from those who also talk enthusiastically about the 1966 World Cup and the Second World War) but this again is not quite correct. There have been several invasions since but mention these to your average English person and they have no idea what you are talking about. Liberation day in France is now celebrated by the French making lots of noise, eating loads of food and drinking to much wine and a local firework display. Fortunately they don't tend to carry English people around the streets any more even though they think we're all mad. But enough of revisionist history.

I have volunteered my services as a 'Friend' of the Shackerstone Family Festival on the 6th and 7th September in a vague attempt to get some free tickets. Its the only festival I get to go to in England during the summer as I am away for most of it. It's also our local festival on the Ashby canal and it happens just after I get back from France. A good selection of ex-working boats attend every year and the usual festival activities take place but there's no folk music that I'm aware of although there's a beer tent and that'll do for me. As a 'Friend' I suppose that I'm expected to take part in the preparation for the festival and with a bit of luck I'll get to wear one of those luminous waistcoats that make you look so important at these things. We'll probably arrive in good time, probably Saturday 30th, and moor up somewhere beside the festival field if the boat still works and Lisa hasn't done any lasting damage to it.

My holiday is over. It is no more. Today I am collecting Lisa from the airport.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Drunk, Scarlet Pimpernel & DIY

Eleven days. That's right. Eleven days. That's how long it took for my mail that Lisa has forwarded to me to arrive here. I'm about three hundred kilometres from Paris, thirty kilometres from Dijon. It's not Azerbaijan (where I have sent an English longbow in the past and it arrived in three days). This is the 21st century. Correct me if I'm wrong. The bloody Scarlet Pimpernel could have made two trips to Paris to get more of the aristocracy out from under the noses of the revolutionaries in that time. A horse and cart could have made most of the way in that time. A lazy drunken touring cyclist could have easily rode that distance and more in that time. What the 'ell's going on. To add insult to injury Lisa paid extra for air mail. An 'orse and cart it is next time. Ken used to be a postie so I think I'll take it out on him.

The old folks came back roaring drunk the other night. Roaring. They went out on an 'old fogies' day out with our friends from Dijon, Michel and Nichol, and as usual with the French, they visited every man and his dog and had something to eat and drink at every stopover. 'We're only going to visit Nichol's sister'. Of course you are. This is France. They left at two o'clock and arrived back at eleven, roaring. Much red wine had been taken and much food had been eaten. Some of us have a camp site to run you know. I got them up extra early to clean the toilets the next morning though. Got to look after the old folk.

We really don't know how lucky we are living in England especially as far as DIY is concerned. I have just replace a light switch in one of the toilet blocks and it has taken two hours. In England it would have been ten minutes. All electrical and Plumbing supplies are a nightmare. For example, the water pipes start at 8mm and go up in 2 mm increments to 28mm then add the imperial stuff that is installed in old homes and and one shelf is taken up with different sized piping. In the UK we have 10mm, 15mm and 28mm as normal supply. That's it. I wired up a double plug the other day. It took eighteen different connections and four different screwdrivers just to wire up the plug. In the UK there are three wires to wire up, live, neutral and earth and it takes about five minutes. I cannot really complain as it has been my experience here that has made the wiring and plumbing on the boat so much easier (what do you mean I haven't finished it). Hey, I'm playing into the anti-European lobbies hands here. Not really. I get my good quality red wine for fifty pence a litre. Swings and roundabouts.

This blog's getting less and less boaty. I'll make up for it in August.