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


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


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.