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: 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 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 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."


"Yes. 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.