Friday, 31 October 2008


One good thing about living on the boat is that greedy little kids in their flimsy, ill fitting, ill advised, non-frightening costumes don't knock on your door all night screaming, "Trick or treat" in a high pitched voice, with their spindly legs and their teeth bigger then their face. They then stick their greedy little hands into the jar of sweets that you had to specifically drive out to the Co-Op to buy earlier in the day just to placate the little buggers.

There's little chance of them walking down a dark, scary, muddy tow path (or at least it's unlikely their inevitably accompanying brow beaten parents would be bothered). Thank goodness for small mercy's.

Today I needed fuel and coincidentally it was the last day before the introduction of the new taxes. I dipped the tank and found two centimetres at the bottom. Oh dear!!! I've got to get up the Trent from Trent Lock to Sawley Marina against the current for about an hour. Will I make it. It was next to the bank all the way in the hope that, if it suddenly comes to an ignominious end, the wind will blow me into the bank. So with an ear to the engine all the way, listening for a change in the tone and a potential quick steer towards the bank and a bit of bow hauling to the fuel point. But fortunately it wasn't necessary and I made it without having to resort to my longest line.

Terri is arriving tomorrow and the the outlaws are visiting on Sunday and they're all expecting a traditional Sunday lunch. Stew again then.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Criminal. Whot, me?

I've always had a healthy disregard for rules, regulations, laws and those who believe that they should be obeyed without thought, consideration or analysis. Well I've just found this stuck to the side of the boat. It's official. I'm a criminal, an undesirable element and a continuous moorer. I've got to confess I've been here longer than I should and I'll throw my arms in the air and admit that I've been a very naughty boy.

I may have to move onto the river tomorrow. Or maybe not.

Chilly Deezer

Has anyone else found Deezer ( It is a constant source of tension on our boat. Deezer has a library of millions of music tracks that you can play for free and legally. There is no facility to save or record them but you can play them as often as you like. The library is vast and we have to select tracks in turn otherwise one of us would be sleeping outside and I might get a little cold. On the other hand you could go onto Limewire ( or edonkey (I've just realised they've closed that one down), OK, Kazaa then ( and download music illegally. I shan't be reporting you to the music industry one way or the other. After all, it has absolutely nothing to do with me. It's a shame others don't think the same.

We've been at Trent Lock since we left the Erewash as we quite like it here. Lisa is back at work and I am back to fitting out. We are looking forward to buying the shower at the beginning of next month as it will make up much more independent not relying on local services. We'll probably make a move down the Soar this week or perhaps this weekend. The Trent was again in flood and 'in the red' so we couldn't have moved during the first half of the week.

It's been quite chilly this week but the only form of heating we have used has been the small Boatman stove which we have found has heated most of the boat in a quite satisfactory way although Lisa does chunter a bit when she gets up in the morning (well she insists on getting up at four o'clock. I'd be chuntering a bit as well if I got up at that time). We have the paraffin heaters to use if absolutely necessary but so far they have not been required. We have no doors on the boat but three of the four bulkheads are in position. I may have to put a temporary door between the bathroom and the last part of the boat (used as a junk room/storage at present). This is the only part of the boat not warm enough to reside in. After banking up, the stove goes all night and most of the rest of the next morning. After experimentation with many fuels we have decided, like most other boaters, that Taybrite and Excel are the best, cleanest and easiest to use.

Debbie has had a fair amount of response from so I am quite pleased that I didn't put people off with my write up and that it may have worked as a bit of a gate keeper to keep out those wishing to chance their arm and not realising the challenge they would have to put up with.

Here's some piccies. We should all be honoured as Lisa normally doesn't allow photos of herself on this but I think I caught her on a good day.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

My Single Friend Dot Com

We decided to have a pint at the Great Northern pub beside the Great Northern terminus. This is not a recommended experience if you have just returned from Spain after several weeks in the sun. I assume, obviously not wishing to stereotype, that this must the local HQ of the BNP these days. My old 1995 Nicholson states that the Great Northern is "An excellent local pub serving Kimberley real ale and food..." It doesn't mention that it's full of skinheads wearing bomber jackets with swallow tattoos on their necks, has signs on the wall forbidding the selling of drugs and a list of pub rules as long as your arm including that you will be searched before entry. When browsing Google we came across this gem about Langley Mill. Not necessarily true though.

Lisa's friend Debbie came up see us at the Great Northern Basin last night and, fortunately for Lisa, decided to stay on and help us with the locks today. Last night Debbie took up Lisa's birthday present and agreed to be submitted onto a single dating thing on the interweb This was a source of much amusement all evening. I was roped in to write the 'friends' paragraph which went down quite well. You can imagine. You don't have to. Here it is:

Debbie is the most impossible, stubborn, difficult and demanding person I know. I don’t mean this in a derogatory sense but anyone wishing to get to know her would be well advised to take note. However she is also highly intelligent, fun, attractive, vivacious, sporty, stylish and career minded.

If she met a homeless person with a dog on a bit of string, she would buy the dog a bone and shove the homeless person into the canal but she may feel guilty about it.

She likes a glass of wine but not with wet tramps. She will challenge everything you say and agree with nothing but the debate will be interesting. Afterwards, if you’re lucky, you may be forgiven for disagreeing with her.

Skiing, walking, travel and the gym are compulsory but laziness, untidiness and slovenliness are not. She’s house trained, sorry proud and enjoys the nice things in life. DIY skills would be a severe advantage to anyone she meets.

Debbie is very sociable, opinionated and independent but just cannot manage to meet the right person. I can’t imagine why.

Would you date her? If you would, and are rich (no other criteria is required), you sound perfect. Please contact Debbie.

Or maybe not. Debbie's mum and dad (who had been roped in to give her a lift (she's only 39 after all, but not according to!!!!)) paid a visit to inspect the progress of the boat. Much talk of technical matters between the men and aesthetics amongst the women prevailed and they were off again, impressed or dismayed. We shall never know which.

As much as we enjoyed our time at Langley Mill we were off early o'clock back towards Trent Lock for a couple of days. It was a very peaceful basin in amongst much deprivation and social decline. Without wishing to appear patronising (which of course I do), the local inhabitants probably don't realise that much worse is to come in the next year or so.

On the way back down the Erewash, I was just thinking that my centre line was several metres longer than absolutely necessary for normal canals. Two locks further whilst attempting to exit another lock, I dropped the rope into the water and it wrapped itself around the prop. Half an hour later and with much huffing and puffing, bread (rope cutting) knife in hand, I steered the boat from the lock with the rope several metres shorter. Another lesson learned.

The diesel leak doesn't seem to have sorted itself so I will have to take it all apart and try something else.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Leaks and the Erewash

I had to fix a diesel leak yesterday. It had been leaking for some time but I decided to fix it as it seemed to be leaking a little more lately. It was on one of the connections in the return pipe so it wasn't letting air into the system but I had to disconnect the pipe and put some PTFE tape around the screw threads. It was the plumbers stuff and I don't know how it will react to contact with fuel but it seems to have worked so far but we'll see how big the puddle of diesel is soon. It has to be sealed for the BSS in December. Unfortunately I now have to think about these things. How safe is the work I have completed so far? Haven't got a clue. We'll find out in December.

Well we got to Langley Mill today passing not a single boat coming the other way. The canal was in a much better condition than we had assumed that it would have been. Lisa was expecting a Stratford type basin but it's slightly smaller than that mostly occupied with a boatyard and permanent moorings with limited undesignated visitor moorings. The journey from Trent Lock was relatively uneventful but Sam (the dog) fell into a lock when she assumed that the green algae on the surface was grass. I'm not sure who was more shocked, Lisa or Sam. Once she was dragged out by her neck and after a shake her tail was wagging again (Sam, not Lisa). I've got to say that Lisa was on the verge of throwing her windlass into the cut at about bridge thirteen as every lock was against us and all paddles required an anti-vandal key (or what is euphemistically called a water conservation key i.e. water is conserved if vandals don't open the paddles). It is also a little used waterway and the lockgear was very stiff and some of the gates were hard to open making the locks unbearably slow (or was it the lock operator that was unbearably slow).

I've got to say that, on the whole, it was a very pleasant trip and it is highly recommended for anyone passing Trent Lock with a couple of days in hand. There's absolutely nothing more interesting then staring into the back garden and through the rear windows of other people's homes that are backing onto the canal and there are many backing onto the Erewash. I see that next year's IWA festival is to be held at Red Hill and I do hope that many boaters manage to incorporate the canal when attending that event. But it may have been very different during the half term or at weekends. The further we got up the Erewash the shorter the haircuts got, the more aggressive the dogs on leads got and the more Union and St George flags were in evidence. I'll explain all later.

Monday, 20 October 2008

What's cooking

Well we survived Pearl's cooking without ill effect. In fact it wasn't at all bad. I reckon that she got the meal from the local restaurant and served it up as her own. Well OK, lets not exaggerate.

We are moored at Trent Lock again as Lisa went to work again today as she had some tidying up to do after the first half of the term. Although it's half term, contrary to popular belief, many teachers have to work and she has come back with a great pile of marking and planning to complete before she goes back to work next week.

Mooring at Trent Lock in bad weather is a bit like mooring on the sea because the river is wide at this point and the wavelets are quite high beating against the hull when the wind is up. The weather is really quite appalling outside but snug inside. We are hopefully up the Erewash tomorrow.

Terri got her car back this morning after a one way exchange of much money. Well it's taught both her and us a lesson although I'm sure that the authorities are much hotter in her area than they would be around the areas we tend to migrate to. But there are snoopers and window twitchers everywhere (which we believe was the way she was caught; by being turned in by her neighbours). You only have to look at the canal forums and other blogs to see who the canal snoopers are.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Snoopers and cars

Terri has just had her car towed away in London due to unpaid road tax and after telephoning the usual assortment unhelpful characters we have finally tracked the vehicle down to a car pound some distance from her home and she has paid for her tax. Students eh!

That sort of thing never happened to us when we were young. We were responsible, sensible and sober. Not like the youth of today with their irresponsible attitudes to money. Our generation looked after their money and saved for a rainy day, never borrowed more than we could afford to pay back, never overstretched ourselves. It wouldn't surprise me that in the future, today's recklessness by the young will place the countries economy in jeopardy. Kids today; you try to give them advice but the never listen. I wonder why?

We left Nottingham on Saturday after a quick trip down to the Trent. We are due at the outlaws tomorrow as we've been invited for Sunday lunch. It is always an interesting experience being faced with Pearl's cooking. We'll see.

I note that BW have started their snooper's web page where you can enter the BW number of an boat and find if they are licenced or not then you can report where you saw them and a description of the boat. I spent an hour the other night inputting loads of random 51**** numbers and when I came up with ones that came out as unlicensed I placed them as being sighted in little heard of backwaters in the hope that BW inspectors will be looking for them there instead of where the actually are. In fact BW already know all of this info and this is just a sop to those who believe that not enough is being done to collect uncollected licence fees. I won't give a link to the web page as it would only encourage them.

I'm currently sorting out Terri's room (yes, we now have rooms (or cabins)) and I think that I'll finish this room before I move on to the rest of the boat. It's all coming along nicely now as I have almost finished with all the large 4x8 boards. I am now using all the cutoffs to produce the built in furniture. I'll get some photos as soon as I am happy for the work to be of an acceptable standard. The fact that we call it Terri's room is more to do with Lisa insisting that terri still has a room here rather than the reality which is that Terri has only ever spent three night s on the boat ever. And who could blame her.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Cloud computing

After reading Stephen Fry's Technology article in The Weekend magazine of last weekend's Guardian I'm investigating what is called cloud computing. Cloud computing is working at any terminal but saving your work, not on your hard drive on your computer, but on a distant server (the cloud) through a web site and only backed up on your own hard drive. The advantages of this are that if your computer is stolen, damaged, crashes etc. you don't lose your data. It also makes sharing documents that much easier. You can also make do with a simpler, less powerful, and as a consequence, a cheaper computer. Well that is the theory anyway. The current trend towards netbooks (smaller cheaper laptops) are steered us in this direction.

I'm currently writing this on a web based office package at Zoho ( and have posted it directly from this web site to my blog. I'm also playing around with something called Dropbox ( that lets you store up to 2 GB of data for free and makes it available to you on their server. You merely drag and drop your files into the Dropbox window on your desktop and it syncs your data with what is on their server automatically as long as you are on line.

There's never been a time, since we've moved onto the boat, that we've not been able to pick up a signal albeit sometime a very weak one. It would seem that if this is the case then cloud computing could well be the future of computing. I used to teach IT and was always a little bit of a geek for this medium of communication (mobile phones passed me by) but never had the money to indulge myself of the hardware.

I can foresee several problems. With the Web 'n Walk package there is a fair useage of 3GB although we could always get a Wi-Fi signal through the laptop at a local hotspot in order to upload all my files. Also security may be an issue as the server for storing the data may be in another country.

This is my 100th blog post since I started this nonsense. I've got to say that I quite enjoy the experience and will continue whether you want me to or not. We'll see whether I'll still be using this method of computing in the future.

We are off again tomorrow since we have now been in Nottingham for a week or so. We think back to Trent Lock then up into bandit country and the Erewash Canal. It's got such a bad reputation I think the adventure might do us good. It's also half term for Lisa and lets hope that it's not the same in Nottinghamshire.

Lisa just wanted me to mention how wonderful and uncomplaining she is.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

The Slightly Disappointing Beer Festival

The Nottingham Beer Festival was quite good but there were some problems along the way. The organisers had vastly underestimated the amount of people who would turn up at the new festival site. It's quite obvious to me that when you change a venue from Victoria Swimming Baths to Nottingham Castle it's more likely that more people will hear about it and therefore, turn up. It's also likely that the tourists who are at the castle anyway will pop over to the vast white beer tent and sample a few.

It would've been nice to have some live music in the main beer tent rather than in a separate tent although I think that it encouraged a load of students who would not have otherwise attended the event. We did say that we would mention two people that we met at the music tent so hello James and friend It was lovely talking to you. They'd been there since eleven that morning and had been there for eight hours by the time we met them and had every intention of staying till the end. They give no sign, as we left them, that this would not be the case. More staying power than us.

By the time that we turned up at about five on Saturday, the souvenir beer mugs had run out as had the programs that you rely on to make your choices. We managed to find a mud spattered one to find our way but that's not really the point.

It's got to be said that the venue was stunning and kind of blew your mind a bit (what was left of it) when coming out of the

beer tent at the end of the night looking down on Nottingham. It is a constant source of bewilderment to me, and a source of annoyance to the many tourists that turn up, that Nottingham Castle is not actually a castle at all and merely a large house on a cliff top. The gate house is authentic but the rest is nonsense. Although as a Nottingham born and bred person, Lisa refutes this

When we left we wanted some chips as we were expecting faggots and mushy peas at the festival but this has now been contracted to outside caterers. We were not paying their prices nor did they have faggots and peas on their menu's (but there was a small container of olives for five pounds. When did olives and real ale ever go together?). Another tradition sadly lost to modern business practices. We were also on the 'wrong' side of Nottingham for chippys. Our one saving grace was McDonalds (God we must have been sozzelled). “I'm sorry Madam but we can't serve you since you don't have a car”. Don't ask.

Lesson learned. Friday is the time to attend. Even CAMRA members who had come from other areas were not at all happy with the organisation. These are serious people with the serious task of drinking as many types and as much beer as is responsibly possible within their lifetime and bad organisation detracts from that task.

Robin's looking quite down at heel these days. The bottom limb is missing from his bow. If it was present the bow would not be long enough to be a longbow of this era. It's also the wrong type of bow and bends mostly mid limb and does not 'come round compass', although it may be slightly recurved which again is not correct for English bowmen of the period. It will break at this point sooner rather than later on any all wood bow. 

Also I'm not sure what the purpose of the binding towards the end of the limb tip is, Possibly there may have been damage at this point or a lift on the backing he's attempting to temporarily repair. It's not a good idea as it adds weight to the tip and slows cast and therefore range. The handle binding is also not normal in medieval bows. 

The fletchs on the arrows are modern parabolic. The point is not of a recognisable type by the British Museum criteria. The arrow spine is too low for the poundage of the bow. The draw is also wrong and the anchor point is too low.

God I am a boring bugger. I hope to be starting to make longbows again in November. I'm obviously missing it.

Oh dear.

Anybody got any Asprin?

Saturday, 11 October 2008


Nottingham at last. We left Trent Lock after a car shuffle and made our way down the Trent through Beeston Lock and are now on the moorings where Homebase used to be. I say used to be as we have not been here for ten years and they have built flats where the DIY shop used to be. They didn't even have the decency to ask our permission.

We are making our way up to Nottingham Castle and the Beer Festival in half an hour so don't expect a running commentary for the next twelve hours or so. In fact don't expect any verbal communication after about nine o'clock.

Oh by the way. I had a bit of a mishap yesterday when going through Derwent Mouth Lock. I was 
coming in to land before the lock and jumped off realizing that I may be going a little fast, wrapped the centre line around the bollard but instead of wrapping it once around the bollard I did it twice. The inevitable happened and the rope snagged on itself and the boat came to a sudden halt but the momentum canted the thing over to what seemed like thirty degrees. One of our kitchen units fell over and we lost all our glasses and several other instantly replaceable items. It is a surprise what a mess it all made but it looked worst than it actually was, Fortunately I had it all cleaned up before Lisa came home from work and I could make up my own version of events.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Stunning Shardlow

It was Wednesday so it must have been Shardlow. Now this is more like it. We got away from Alrewas at lunchtime and after an overnight stop at Willington we have arrived here for a couple of days while the Trent goes back down to normal levels. No one here is over amiable with no, “Hello”s being offered but it is very canal friendly, indeed canal centred. The village is split into two distinct parts, one based around the canal the other around the road.

 Guess which one's more interesting. There's a good canal based industrial heritage and whilst the main road goes through both parts of the village, the canal wanderers through the smaller part at right

 angles to the main road.

The warehouses look great whether converted or not. There are also several wharfs and associated side arms, four pubs, a boatyard, good chandlery, two marinas, two basins, boat hire operation, loads of on-line mooring all in a village of less than a hundred homes.

It's also closer to work for Lisa which is good for my health and well being as well as Lisa's. She

 had a bit of a wobble earlier in the week and was complaining (rather vocally I thought) about the length of time it took her to get to work but that was then and this isn't. I've let her back on-board again.

The floods have subsided and it's time to move on to Trent Lock today. I've been here for sixty four hours now instead of forty eight and will probably be ticked off for being a constant moorer by the 'rules is rules' brigade before long.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Eerie Alrewas

Yesterday we popped down to London to see Terri and carry out some maintenance tasks that were required by her. We visited a large Swedish furniture store that sells brilliant furniture, put it together ignoring the missing screws and extra bits of wood and binning all the extra ones, attached it all to the wall in case it all falls apart, tidied said room lifting all the clothes off the floor and put them in the wardrobe, cleaned it up and embarrassed said daughter in front of her friends (well there's little point in being a parent if you can't do that) and drove home again. All very exciting but I wouldn't want to live there.

Alrewas is a rather weird place. On the surface it is a typically quaint little English village but there is a sinister undercurrent. I am currently stuck here as the river is in flood due to the rain after arriving here at nine o'clock this morning from Fradley Junction. There is no graffiti except that which is placed there by the local council who deem it necessary to stencil, 'NO DOG FOULING. CLEAN IT UP. MAX FINE £1000' (or something like that) on all available surfaces including bins, the pavement every fifty metres, walls etc. Everyone is very polite and says, “Good morning” as if I was one of them. Well I'm not and as soon as Alrewas Lock opens I'm off again. It reminds me of The Village in the 60's series, The Prisioner. I'm not a number. I'm a free man (until Lisa comes home from work).

Everything is very ordered, conservative (and very probably Conservative) restrained, polite and regular but this is all on the surface (presumably alongside the graffiti). There is a multitude of 'Do Not...' signs with many private roads and cute buildings and in amongst all of this order is what is euphemistically called a gated community. Unfortunately anyone who wants to, or lives in, a gated community knows and cares nothing about community and very probably believes there is no such thing as society (now where have I heard that before). Why are many gated communities in areas where there is no crime.? It cannot be about security. It must be a status thing. If there is one thing that Alrewas doesn't need it's a gated community. Maybe the gates are to keep the eerie undercurrent out. 

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Towards more beer

Lisa had her lesson observation on Friday and obviously she got an 'Outstanding'. That means that her whole department got the 'Outstanding'. As Head of Department (always amazes Lisa this) she was under a certain amount of pressure to achieve the best possible outcome as every other member had already been observed with brilliant results and this is why I had not mentioned this before. Just in case.

Well, we are just short of Fradley Junction as of Saturday night. We set off for Nottingham Beer Festival yesterday and I made my way to Atherstone top lock to be met by Lisa, coincidently just as she finished work, so she could help me down the flight. It may have been coincidence and it may not. Who is to say.

We are popping down to see Terri in London tomorrow and have left the car at Fradley so have to have an early start to complete the journey tomorrow and so collect the car so have to get up at about six in the morning. It was a little windy today and I hate to admit it but I hit several boats on the way here. Well not really hit. More graze really. They say (who does) that narrowboating is a contact sport but I don't like doing it. After one contact, someone several boats ahead asked if I had hit the blue boat and I had to admit that I had. He said, “Good”. No idea why but it made me feel better.

We have brought back a large amount of wine in cartons from France with every intention of decanting it every night into half litre jugs but as we expected, this has never worked very well. Much more wine is being consumed that we had planned. Much more.

I've painted the pole and boat hook and I think they look quite good but the boarding plank may be a little too much in the red department and I may have to tone it down a little. Lisa has asked the question, 'Who put you in charge of aesthetics'? Well I did of course. I still have to paint the sides of the boat with British racing green as the primer makes the thing still look a bit ropey. I've also bought the timber to manufacture the bulkheads this week and we'll see how far we get by the end of the week. Pictures to follow when I can be bothered.