Sunday, 12 February 2017

Braunston booked

We may not be going very far afield this year, or for very long, but I'm not missing Braunston. The booking form is filled in and ready to be posted tomorrow. I've been at the Braunston show every year since 2006 - and have taken Chertsey 2010-2015 inclusive.

I wasn't able to get the boat there last year - and indeed, it's going to be tough this year but at least we're nearer now - because it's very inconveniently timed to coincide with the busiest time of the year for an Exams Officer, which is one of the many hats I have at work. Summer exams take place between May 22nd and June 10th, then everything has to be marked and double marked, and all the marks collated, and extenuating circumstances considered, and an exam board organised and held, and all the finalised marks uploaded to 'the system' by the first week of July.

So I shall be very glad of a break, no matter how brief.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Not going out

Well, I had planned my grand day out to Saltaire for tomorrow, but even if the snow stops, the weather is forecast to be cold and windy - not the beat weather for the outdoor activities I had planned. So I have decided to defer the trip for a month... Why a month? Because there's one other activity that won't be available again for that long. Fingers crossed for better weather in March.

Also I am having rather a busy weekend, and Jim is here in Sheffield helping me with it. Hopefully I should have some exciting news soon...

Thursday, 2 February 2017

The secret of happiness

I would love to give credit where it's due, but I'm afraid I can't actually remember where I read this. Sorry, dear reader, and even more sorry to the author.

Everyone wants to know how to be happy, and there is no shortage of books and websites promising you the secret, from meditation, relaxation, sleep, diet, religion, friendship, exercise, volunteering, finding your life's purpose and any number of other quite difficult and time consuming commitments.

So this piece of advice stood out: of all the things you already do, work out which makes you happiest, and do more of it.

It didn't take me long to realise that I am happiest when I'm boating. I already put the advice into practice a bit last year, boating on into December - and now I'm itching to start 2017's; already envious of the Herbies and the others who are already out on the water.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Books I read in January

It's time to resurrect the never-popular 'Books I Read In...' feature. January started with four books in as many days - nearly four in three days, in fact - such is the nature of a rainy New Year's Day.

Ian Rankin Rather Be The Devil
Reliably good latest Rebus novel. Can't say too much about it - it was my Christmas present to Jim and he hasn't read it yet!

Cathi Unsworth Without The Moon
Police procedural set in WW2. Didn't live up to the gushing cover quotes; rather dull.

Tim Footman Leonard Cohen: Hallejulah
2009 biography I suspect hastily reprinted. Much thinner in every sense than Sylvie Simmons exhaustive 2013 tome; more of an annotated discography. Occasionally slightly amusing, but you can't really respect someone who dismisses 'Sing Another Song Boys' and 'Closing Time' and instead raves about the insipid 'Bird on the Wire' and someone else's version of 'Hallejulah'.

Sabine Durrant Lie With Me
I finished the Cohen biography on the Thameslink, so I had to quickly find something at St Pancras for the rest of the journey, so grabbed this in Smiths. Pretty good psychological thriller; if I saw the ending coming a mile off it's probably only because I read far too much of this sort of stuff.

B A Paris Behind Closed Doors
Another psychological thriller. Good plot idea, but could have been handled so much better to create real credibility and suspense.

Trevor Yorke  Britain's Railway Architecture and Heritage
I saw this on the second-hand shelf in Sebastian's shop and demanded it for Christmas. He forgot, but I got it for new year. Lovely photos, very helpful drawings, and plenty of material for wistful longing - it taught me more about engineering and architecture in a few pages than many much longer books have ever managed. 

Liz Nugent Lying in Wait
Now this is much more like it on the psychological thriller front. Using multiple viewpoints to really good effect, complex, engaging characters, and a genuinely enexpected, but still credible ending. Excellent stuff.  

Scarlet Thomas The Seed Collectors
Cleverly written, occasionally funny but ultimately tediously weird family saga.

Ann Cleeves Too Good to be True
Essentially a short story (a 'quick read') which suffers from the same as all short detective stories - no time to do more than skim the surface of character and crime before wrapping it all up neatly.

Kerry Wilkinson Down Among the Dead Men
Competent, un-gripping Manchester gangland tale - no sympathy for, hence no involvement with any of the characters. The second book I've read this month that makes it seem implausibly easy to incapacitate a Very Dangerous Person by persuading them to drink whisky laced with ground up pills.

Susan Hill The Small Hand
Ghostly novella. Nice writing, but the plot did nothing for me.

Rose Tremain The American Lover and other stories
I used not to like short stories, until I took a course on them and tried to write a couple. Now I really appreciate the skill and the artistry required to create a perfect small sketch rather than a great sprawling canvas of a novel. And these are wonderful examples of the craft.

David Brookfield The Skillful Teacher
You may surmise - and you would be correct - that this was one book I wasn't reading for fun. Nonetheless, as far as the genre goes (and it goes pretty low) this was good - lots of useful practical ideas and hardly any pseudo-theory.  

Andrew Marr Children of the Master
Enjoyable political romp, runs out of steam a bit towards the end. 

M.J. Arlidge The Doll's House
Workaday, unthrilling thriller. 

Books I didn't read in January
Tom Bowyer Broken Vows: The Tragedy of Power
I was looking forward to this; no fan of Tony Blair, I was anticipated a well evidenced, forensic dissection of New Labour policy from this biographer with a reputation for mercilessly skewering his subjects. But it read like the worst kind of Daily Mail journalism, and I couldn't stand it.  

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Eighty today

Today is Chertsey's eightieth birthday.

At least, January 29th, 1937 was the date recorded for her delivery to the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company, so she was probably finished a bit before then. The real date to celebrate would be the day she first got her bottom wet, but there's no way of ever knowing when that was.

I really liked the idea of holding a party to celebrate at Chertsey's new local, but the chances of getting enough people to trek out there on a freezing day in January seemed pretty minimal. So instead we - Chertsey and I - will hopefully have a joint bash six months hence, when I won't be eighty, but will be having a birthday of some sort, give or take a day or two.

Anyway, Chertsey will be getting lots of birthday treats over the course of the year - blacking, engine tweaking, and a trip to Walsall to name but a few. And, hopefully, a trip up the Ashby around late July.

It's a bit sad that she's spending her big day alone though. If anyone at Alvecote is reading this, nip round the back of the Barlow and give her a pat from me.

Friday, 27 January 2017

The joys of planning and the delights of anticipation

I am the sort of person who does like to plan things. Sometimes unexpected nice things happen, and when they do, that's great. But nice things happen far more often if you plan them and set about making them happen. I also like to plan because I'm not a massive fan of dealing with the unexpected. If it's bad, I like to be able to prepare for it, and if it's good, I like to be able to look forward to it.

Of course, a certain amount of planning goes into a boat trip - but that's mainly around deciding the route and making sure there's enough time available. Occasionally we'll co-ordinate meeting up with someone, but we tend not to have an itinerary of things to do and places to see en route because there isn't the spare time available (much as I like the idea in principle). And we generally tend to be travelling to an event which has already been planned and organised for us. Nonetheless, I have in the past been quite remiss in not making the most of opportunities to see and do interesting things, having been entirely concerned with getting there in one piece. Hopefully I can remedy that a bit on our putative summer trip up the Ashby, and also maybe at Easter, to an extent.

So I am very much enjoying planning my trip to Saltaire. It's easier, because there's only my time to consider (and my interests too!)  I have a date in mind not too far off, and am pulling a few ideas together of things to do when I get there...

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Yes, it's destination number 167

I don't suppose that anyone who's interested needs this final clue.

My first Random Town visit will be - as Halfie correctly, but cryptically, surmised - to Saltaire, a Yorkshire mill town with a difference, on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. I visited last July, on our works outing. Most of our time then was spent in the massive Salts Mill development, exploring its shops, galleries and cafes. I went for a little wander around the village (is it a town, or a model village?), which was quite an odd experience - I recall it as a small island of well ordered picture-box pretty stone houses (a three bedroom one will set you back a quarter of a million) surrounded by a sea of untidy, unruly deprivation - into which one had to venture to get anything as mundane as a bottle of coke and a bar of chocolate.

I believe - please correct me if I'm wrong - that the boat Saltaire is the only one of the large motor boats to exist in two halves - i.e. that there are two Saltaires. This is more common with the 'small' boats, and particularly of course with butties, where the stern end becomes the fore end of a new boat (although I can't off the top of my head think of any large GU butties this has happened to).

I shan't visit this weekend, as I need a bit of time to plan and think about it, and anyway, I have a stinking cold. But I shall go soon. I'm very much looking forward to it.