Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Ashby at last

We are now on the Ashby Canal. I took the boat down on Tuesday morning when Lisa was at work and we are currently at the Lime Kilns near Hinckley. I had forgotten how much detritus there is in this canal. This is not so much jetsam but rather flotsam. It is all natural ingredients.
I notice that BW have cut back the trees at Marston Junction. Last year, when I left the Ashby and wanted to head towards Sutton Stop, the front of the boat would be in the trees before the back of the boat left the Ashby. Entering was never a problem but leaving with a full sized boat always posed me a problem. It looks like I can now leave my own rooftop detritus in place in the future.
Charity Dock gets more and more bazaar every time I pass. It's now less like a boat yard and more like a scrap yard or badly arranged ex army stores. And long may it be so. You could probably make a couple of boats from all the bows, counters and superstructures lying about.
I notice that since we left in the autumn last year, many of the liveaboards are no longer where we left them. I had heard that there was a crackdown by BW around these parts and although it is nice to find a spot at the 48 hour mooring we have never been able to get to before, that it seems to have left the canal a little soulless and with a little less character. It is, after all, these characters and their boats that make the canal system the colourful, delightful experience that it is and they keep the canals alive in the winter when the marina dwellers fear to tread. And I know many of them.

I think we'll head up to Shakerstone this weekend. I'll be meeting up with my little van again parked further up the canal. If it's still there of course. Might even have a pint in the Rising Sun.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Beer festival new a breed of boater

There seems to be new breed of boater out there with the so called credit crunch (don't you just hate Americanisms) in full flow. There seems to be a lot of boats moored and unoccupied along the canals. Continuous cruising implies that the boats are occupied. Boats owned by these seem to be moored by their owners who appear every two weeks and move them on to another mooring thereby adhering to the terms of their licence. There have always been these boat owners but it seems to me that there are now more of them.

Did these boat owners have a marina mooring in the past and have had to reduce cost and are now bought continuous cruising licences (I know there's not such thing but in essence that is what they are)? Is there something morally wrong with this activity and should they really be in the same category as boats occupied by people who constantly cruise? I don't know. I'm asking you. We need to think of a new name for these boaters so we can hate them.

We have inadvertently stumbled upon the The Greyhound bi-annual beer festival. I promise it was totally unplanned and we were proposing to move to Hawksbury Junction this weekend anyway. We were here last year as well. Oh well all we could do was to partake in some beer.

There were several smaller groups in the beer festival. One such group found our fancy. It was either the linux user group, the local autistic society, social science PhD students or the local CAMRA. But those of us in the know always spot the difference and this was definitely the local Linux user group. They were probably celebrating their successful download of the latest release of Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope . Strangely I have downloaded the latest version as well.

There was a distinct lack of a bearded presence and CAMERA were not in much evidence. It was more like a hen party than a beer festival. We were entertained by a pianist. He was actually a very good entertainer and kept a relatively drunk crowd very happy. But he did say that it was a very weird night. I think he does weddings mostly these days and the afternoons and not evenings. I managed to drink nearly all the beers present just missing out on two. Most of them were very good...I think.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Bad backs and washing

Lisa has a bad back at the minute. This is unheard of. This is my domain and I think she's trying to take over my role as the boat hypochondriac. She reckons that it was the final set of locks at Stockton last week that 'done 'er in' as she felt a twinge around that area. She has my sympathy up to a point but when she says that it must be something more serious that my sympathy and attention go elsewhere. I've had many a bad back in my time (too much jumping out of perfectly serviceable aeroplanes I suppose) and tend to make less fuss about it all.

I saw another blogger the other day but I can't remember who and I cannot remember where or when nor did I introduce myself. There's hundreds of them out there and anyway, life's just too short.

We are currently at Ansty near Coventry (again). We like it here as there is good parking and good communications signals on all devices. That's about all we need really. There's also a water point but we never mind moving for that. Lisa hobbled off to work on Monday and I ran the boat up here from Braunston. We are up to Sutton Stop at the weekend and then onto our beloved Ashby Canal next week. I note that there are several bloggers there already. Well they better get off as there's only room for one blogger on the Ashby at any one time and that's me. It's in the rules. I've got a copy somewhere.

We have been doing a marathon washing thingy over the last two days and the generator has been red hot (it only has to be going for two minutes for it to be red hot). Every article of clothing on the boat has been washed, folded, piled and sorted then unsorted, unpiled and placed in a large heap. We were hoping to put away our winter wardrobe (well, box) and dig out the summer stuff but have chickened out and are keeping them available for the inevitable 'unseasonably bad weather'.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Arms, Capes and licences (or not)

My locking crew were locking through the Hatton flight when we came across another boat coming up (as you do). Lisa was chatting away when the other lady said that at the bottom of the flight was the Saltisford Arm and Lisa said, “Good job as I fancy a pint”. The woman looked at her a little baffled. Lisa recounted the conversation to me and I understood the other ladies bafflement. “I think you'll find that it's the Saltisford Arm, as in offshoot to the canal and not the Saltisford Arms as in a pub. Oh, how we laughed.

We never own windlasses do we. These are the metal things we could not do without but they're never really ours. We loose them, find them, retrieve them, buy them, mislay them and recover them but we never really own them.

We had an excellent meal in the Cape of Good Hope by Warwick Top Lock. The perfectly cooked steak.

I've been sporting a well out of date licence for the past couple of months and nobody has said anything. What is happening to this country. Does nobody care. What has happened to the 'rules is rules' brigade. We've had no sneers, snarles, odd or knowing looks, double takes or any comments whatsoever. What is going on out there. Are you all asleep. There's absolutely no point is trying to wind people up if nobody is prepared to be wound up. Do I have to spell it out or you . I AM NOT DISPLAYING A VALID LICENCE. Some people.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

At Kingswood Junction, I met the geezer at who had bought the very last Liverpool Boat. It, like Pickles No 2, is a 70' trad stern with an all porthole configuration. The only main difference between his boat and Pickles is that he has a 8 foot well deck, very unusual for a Liverpool. An extended well deck is probably the only thing would have changed on Pickles if we were to order it again. Liverpool Boats are much maligned but all of the owners I have met are very happy with their boats.

We are on our way back to Sutton Stop at present and are stopping in about the same places on the way back as we did on the way here. 50% of the locking crew have returned to London and the remainder were extremely wet over the last two days. Still, it could be raining (oh, it was).

Kingwood Junction tonight and the Hatton flight tomorrow. The locking crew need to get a bit of enthusiasm for that one.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

RSC under wraps (night)

RSC under wraps

We took a trip up the Avon today as we are now moored on the river after having forked out £10.00 for the day licence. We also had our friends Steve, Jill, Cloe and Macauley visit. We went to what was called the Limit of Navigation in my Nicholsons but I reckon we could have gone further but with visitors aboard and me on my best behaviour I decided not to progress any further and risk getting stuck or a thick ear from Lisa.

It was much quieter today and the throngs of Easter Monday tourists had reduced to Easter Tuesday levels and a good thing too.

I took a wander down to Colin P. Witter Lock to have a look as we will not be going through any of the Avon locks. They really are utilitarian with their beam bracing and girder type construction. Pretty damn ugly if you ask me. Still they serve a purpose and look in good order, unlike some of the BW locks although they are a little older. Just a tad.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Stratford upon Avon

Sam (dog) got a close shave yesterday when she fell into the engine backwards and got shaved by the alternator belt. It actually shaved a small banana shaped and sized area from her rear end. It could have been a lot worst than it was. I must get the engine more closed up than it is as this has the possibility of happening again if we're not careful.

Several grams of cute versus 20 tons of steel. Cute always wins. We were crossing over Edestone Aquetuct when half way across we came across a couple of mallards with their newly hatched brood. In fact they were barely several hours old by the look of them. Well they couldn't get out of the way as the aqueduct was as wide as the boat and they can't fly, if they jumped over the edge they would fall and they couldn't move any faster than they were. What's a boat to do. They were going slower than tick over so I could only stop and let them get on with it. Five minutes later they reached the other side and we could move on again.

The journey here was in lovely weather and the last 17 (16) locks were completed without mishap except that one half of the locking crew didn't leave the boat and opted to watch telly all day. Well it's her holiday after all.

We visited a town centre bar last night and one would have thought that at £1.75 a pint, I would have been singing its praises but this would not be the case. Weasel Wee would be the only way to describe the beer. Pubs shouldn't be allowed to sell beer for this cheap a price anyway as it doesn't keep them open and is a short term measure at getting punters through the door. They were actually trying every trick in the book, cheap beer, live acts (soul and Reggie???) and cheap food (well the former was off and the signs around the place declaring that, 'At present we are unable to supply food. We apologise for any inconvenience.' Have the H&S people been involved here? Looking at it now, probably).

If narrowboating was cool (and we all know it's not) then my entrance into the basin was mega cool beyond belief. With the world and their dog watching, we entered the basin and Lisa stepped off the front, tied up and I pivoted the boat and lined up for a reversing maneuver to back into the berth. It worked absolutely perfectly and we were moored in no time. But the slightest breeze would have changed everything. The only spider in the ointment was that when I pulled in to let Lisa off, I accidentally hit and broke a wooden electrical junction box on the side of the basin. Ooops! I hope it wasn't a historical Shakespearian one. Silly place to build one anyway.

The basin is quite spectacular in the middle of the town in front of the main Royal Shakespeare Company, beside the River Avon and in amongst the throngs of visitors. The works on the side are a distraction from the rest. I cannot imagine why it is taking so long as they only seem to be landscaping the gardens.

We came to Stratford for a bit of culture but the theaters are closed due to it being Easter. The exploitation of this geezer called Shakespeare is appalling but the tourists seem to lap it up. Queues to visit his birth place, death place, eating place, drinking place, father's place, dog's place, friend's place, and many other places. Dreadful. I'm not buying any more of his books in protest.

Friday, 10 April 2009

17 done & 16 (17) left

17 more done today which means (if my sums are correct) leaves 16 for tomorrow although I've just checked my Nicholson's and there seems to be 17 left (so my sums are obviously not correct). But what's another lock. Well my locking crew see things quite differently and were quite literally revolting this morning. More correctly, I should say 50% of them. There was much mutterings of missed breakfasts, lack of sleep and fatigue. There was also several incidents of throwing windlasses into the long grass. I thought it may be better to stop sooner rather than later for sustenance before I was assaulted at the tiller.

One calorie intake later and the crew were once again up-and-at-'em much to the Captain's relief. Hell we'd only moved as our hierarchy of needs started of with the need to empty the Elsan at Kingswood Junction above all others. Breakfast was well down the list. I may have to rethink our hierarchy of needs list. I don't think it's the same as Maslow's.

We are now moored in the middle of nowhere after several miscalculated attempts at mooring which resulted in groundings and subsequent poleing offs. The locks are slower to fill and to empty than I had imagined although the lockgear is well used.

It rained all day today and although that in itself is not necessarily a problem, it did prevent me from getting the camera out. We also visited the Fleur de Lys in Lowsonford for a pint just as we had eleven years ago when we last did the journey.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

21 today, 33 left.

Another 21 locks today, well the Hatton flight. That means there are 33 left to do, but they're only tiddlers (at least that's what I've told the locking crew). The crew are tired but in good spirits and getting into their groove. We could do it in one go but we won't and are planning to take our time. This is supposed to be holiday after all. Terri has relaxed a little from when she screamed on the first day, “I'm so stressed. This is all so slow. I want to go back to London.”

Only one or two more to go.

We chased a hire boat up the flight today but they weren't stopping. We actually
had to catch them up seven locks up and be in the same pound as them before they let us join them. Weird. No sharing tomorrow.

So what is the etiquette when there are two boats emerging from the upper double lock and two from the lower into pound no longer than a full length boat. We tried several methods, sitting in the lock for the others to decide what to do, coming out into the pound and hoping they will come through us and trying to be pro active and making the decisions. Nothing seems to work. We may even have to resort to communication in the future. I'm sure the boatmen of old would have had a procedure.

We have had the best meal we have had for a long time this evening at the 'Tom o' the Wood' near Kingswood Junction in Turners Green. Everything was absolutely stunningly cooked and with good pub prices, there was nothing to complain about. Highly recommended if you're passing.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

21 down 54 left

Terri winding

Cape of Good Hope

21 locks done today and only 54 to go. My locking crew are revolting (the old ones are always the best). Hatton flight tomorrow morning. Lets hope we get a decent crew to share with. We are currently outside the Cape of Good Hope pub at Cape Locks in Warwick. We had a couple of pints there this evening and I can say with some conviction that the beer is in good nick. A good pub all round.

Terri on Roof

There are many more hire boats about but that very much to be expected with the Easter school holidays. We and a good crew with us today for Stockton Locks and made it in no time. Terri was very useful but her dress sense leaves much to be desired. I think it's the the acting student in her or the act that she just doesn't care. Anyone who wears pyjamas bottoms with wellys and a sweat top whilst locking should be avoided at all costs, especially when swinging a “turney thing.”

Wood on roof

We found a good selection of timber that we (I) will turn into firewood when we (I) get round to it.

'fraid it's all Terri today. I find that the viewings go up when she's on the photos. I wonder why?

I'm really getting sick of blogger now. Anyone know a free alternative?

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

3 gone, 75 to go.

We set off late today as we had to do the car shuffle, shopping (we're off to Stratford, not the moon) and the usual time wasting. I say time wasting but we also had a couple of pints at the newly opened Admiral Nelson in Braunston. The beer was average and we didn't taste the food but as they are renovating and newly opened I would most definitely give them another chance. It is a superb location if a little difficult to find by car. They need some more advertising in the village to attract passing car trade. I knew it was there but took several wrong turns in order to find it.

Well we eventually got off mid afternoon and are now at Stockton Top Lock with Terri and Lisa having done the three locks at Calcutt. Only 75 to go. Terri is so out of practice she was seen wandering the lock side waving a windlass about saying, “What should I do with this?” By the end of tomorrow I think I know where she'll want to stick it, so I'd best keep a low profile around tea time.

When we were leaving Terri's car at Stratford we passed the Bancroft Basin but it was difficult to recognize as it had changed so much in the intervening ten or so years since our last visit. There was some work taking place around the area but not as much as I had been led to believe. We'll get a better look in a couple of days.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Stratford, 'ere we come.

Several bloggers were spotted en route. Nb Rock n Roll seen near Brinklow on Sunday, nb Piston Broke seen at Rugby on Monday and I spoke to Del and Al on nb Derwent 6 when we arrived at Braunston.

Lisa working. Very unusual.

Paul from Piston Broke was spotted wearing what can only be described as a nautical cap. He obviously thinks he's Captain Canal. Well I've got news for you Paul, I'm Captain Canal and there will be no imposters.

Just what we like to see. A boat leaving just as we arrive.

As I have already said, we are at Branston after a night at Newbold. I seem to have been proved wrong about the water point at Newbold so far(I predicted that it would be kicked over and that the area would be saturated with wat er as there is no drain) but I'll be keeping an eye on it with a future hope of being able to say, 'I told you so'. We are waiting for Terri to arrive so as to start our trip in the morning. I hear that Bancroft Basin in Stratford is a building site at present but that there is winding available in the basin. Tomorrow morning we have to do the car shuffle as Terri will be leaving us when we get to Stratford.

Another welcome sight. Braunston Spire.

I think I've been a little ambitious with the layout on this blog. It's all a little prescriptive with Blogger.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Washing and sails

We've dug out the main sail and spinnaker and are preparing for our trip to Stratford. Well there'sactually no preparation going on at all but Terri's here and telly hasn't been off since she arrived.

People wanted photos and this is as exciting as the photos get. Washing out the back of Pickles No 2. But it's easier doing the domestic duties when the sun is shining and the washing is dried within hours.

Is there something happening and no one has asked my permission? There have been several ex-working boats passing over the last couple of days, some hauling butties and some not. There has also been a hotel pair come past. I'll have to get myself a butty to feel like I belong.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Celebrities and alienated readership

I passed Moore 2 Life, fellow bloggers, on Thursday afternoon just south of Sutton Stop as I was on the way back from watering up, turning around and emptying the unmentionables. I didn't stop as I was on a mission to meet Lisa several miles further on and it's more than my life's worth to miss an RV with Lisa. Granny Buttons also passed the other day, he stopped and we had a chat. Andrew is the nearest thing we have to a celebrity around these parts, apart from Timothy West, Prunella Scales and David Suchet.

I seem to have alienated most of my readership with just one post. Was it my use of one particular word? The Audience Numbers went down from 52 to 22 overnight. Well lets get rid of the rest. Bloody, bloody, bloody. There you go. On the other hand, maybe I should just post more pictures to make it more interesting.

Lisa and I went to a restaurant the other night. This is an unusual event as we much prefer pubs to dine in as restaurants tend to lack atmosphere, are over expensive and in many cases, their food is no better that pubs. But we braved the downside and ate at a local restaurant and it was, as we always assumed, absolutely appalling. Pubs for us in the future then. It was so quiet we felt that we could not talk and were like a little old couple who had been married for years and not communicating (verbally at least). As soon as we walked outside we were talking again, arguing, debating and disagreeing (or more unusually, agreeing). It must have something to do with restaurants.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

BSC and banks

"He's dead you know.”

No I'm bloody not.” I'm very much alive and well and signing autographs somewhere near Coventry.

I was parking our car the other day and a woman approached me and shouted that I was blocking disabled access.


You're blocking wheelchair access to the canal”.

Where exactly am I blocking.” Says me, confused.

You park there all the time.”

But there are no signs to say that this is disabled access and there are dozens of access points to the canal around here.”

But I use this one and my husband's in a wheelchair.” (I've never seen a wheelchair user on the towpath. Maybe it's because I have parked here a few times. But then again, Lisa also uses the car to get to work every day).

Well if it was such a problem you could have placed a note on my windscreen.” Says I, politely.

Yea, well I'm telling you now.” Says she, impolitely.

Thank you very much for the information. I'll bare it in mind.”

I don't think she likes boaters. Maybe it's something to do with the fact that we can live in her village and don't pay the same extortionate Council Tax fees that they do. I almost feel sorry for her. I'm such a liar.

I'm now the proud owner of a Boat Safety Certificate and can get my BW licence that is slightly overdue. It's all in the post, honest Govn'r.

Banks have always been dreadful places but lately they have become even worse. Since they have found that they have no money (although why an organisation whose sole purpose is to hold other people's money, has no money is beyond me) they will bend over backwards to help. I was in the other day trying to make an international money transfer and I had a bank employee wearing a blue sash (aka Miss World - but she wasn't) telling me jokes whilst in the queue for the internal ATM and they offered me a cup of tea while I was waiting for the transfer. They couldn't have been nicer. It's all a bit sinister and their competence levels haven't improved as they took out the transferred money twice but only sent one lot overseas (obviously hoping I wouldn't notice).

We are off to Stratford over the Easter school holidays with Pickles as we haven't been down that way for ten years or so. Although we may change our minds. Hey, it's up to us.