Saturday, 14 January 2017

Rare archive footage...

Apologies to those of you (you know who you are) who read eighteen page CWF threads and will already have seen this...  Courtesy of David Gunby (of Barrow) - the Fuhrer proves to be surprisingly perceptive.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Back to the Black Country

Everyone's talking about their boating plans - it must be that time of year. It doesn't look as if there will be a big trip for us this year, for two reasons - firstly, whatever we do will have to be fitted round Chertsey's docking - both for blacking and for a look at the engine; and secondly, because I can't take big chunks of time off work for the foreseeable future. I seem to have acquired a lot more responsibilities (not that I'm complaining about the money that comes with them), including being responsible now for exams, including exam boards which very inconsiderately take place in June and August (I'm not too bothered about the February ones).

Having boated late into the year last year (finishing at the beginning of December, in contrast to the previous year), I'm now itching to get started as soon as possible this year. Easter seems like a good time to start, and we were planning to go to Ellesmere Port. A habit has grown up over the past decade or so that in addition to the regular Easter gathering at the Port, in alternate years HNBC organise an alternative, more southerly, gathering for people based further south. Thus 2014 saw us at Foxton, and 2012 Droitwich - we (that is, HNBC) usually try to tie this into an anniversary event, or campaign of some kind. In 2016 it was the Basingstoke, but because of the need to travel on the Thames, and the possibility that it might be too floody at Easter, we went in the summer. So, the HNBC alternative Easter Gatherings tend to be in even-numbered years. So I assumed there wouldn't be one in 2017, and thus planned to hit the Port for only the second time with Chertsey (I think we've been three or four times in all).

But it appears there has been a bit of a mix up, which I can't guarantee I've fully got to the bottom of, but this is what I've pieced together from what was announced at the HNBC November 'social'. The Boat Museum at Ellesmere Port are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of their first gathering, or their fiftieth gathering, either this year, or next year. At some point, it was believed that this would be in 2018, so HNBC decided not to organise an even that would clash with it. They therefore organised an alternative event for 2017. It then turned out that the Boat Museum are having their celebration in 2017 as well. So we have the clash of Easter Gatherings that we set out to avoid. 

This leaves us faced with a difficult choice: should we go to the Port, as originally tentatively planned, or should we abandon them for the heady delights of Brownhills and Walsall. Well, we have decided on the latter, for a few reasons. The Port will still be there next year, and in future years (obviously, Brownhills and Walsall will be too, but the thought of company renders them a lot more attractive. We might even get to visit Walsall Art Gallery before it closes). Brownhills is nearer our Alvecote base, by quite a long way, meaning that we won't be so tight for time. Hopefully quite a few fellow-HNBCers will be going as well. We even hope to take a brief detour along the way to meet up with the Princess Lucies. And... we get to travel a new route, never previously traversed in Chertsey, not indeed by me - the dreaded (not least by Jim) Bottom Road.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The Garden Bridge

I don't know what all the fuss is about over the proposed, massively expensive, potentially doomed, Garden Bridge over the Thames.

It's already been done, at far less expense, on the Coventry Canal. Can't those metropolitan elites think of something original?

Monday, 9 January 2017

Back in time for a bit more boating

Following my celebration of a thousand Chertsey posts, I thought I's continue counting backwards in hundreds through the posts on my previous blog, Warrior.

So, at -100, we have a brief, unillustrated, record of a day I often recall, with some small degree of pride - the day I steered through Islington tunnel thirteen times. This, in July 2009, is surrounded by posts detailing the excitement of Chertsey's purchase, though none of them fell on the magical 100 mark.

2009 a top posting year, with 267 posts, so it's little wonder that they weren't all exciting. Thus at -200 we have a brief quizzical look at county councils' logos. (I am well aware that I mentioned a county council in yesterday's post.) I wouldn't even bother clicking on that one, to be honest.

So let's hurry on to post -300. This edges us back into 2008, and my brave attempt to create an advent calendar with a Christmas-themed quote for each of 24 randomly selected photos. This one in fact is worth a look - it represents one of my finest sand-sculptural hours (which actually took place in July 2007, my heavens, nearly a decade ago.)

Back to -400, and still no boating. This one sees me at a conference. Extraordinarily, it appears that Boris Johnson was there and gave a speech. And that I had been at an even where Ken Livingstone spoke the previous week. This is extraordinary because I have absolutely no memory of having seen wither of these performers live, and had you asked me, would have sworn I hadn't. It just goes to show how worthwhile it is keeping a blog.

Post -500 features the Bill Fen pumpout. Hooray, a popular boating theme at last. And in the comments Nev introduces us to the concept of 'poking the pyramid'. You may of course rather wish he hadn't. Of course we haven't got a pumpout any more, dumpthrough or otherwise, and neither has Warrior. And I have still never emptied a toilet. I was gearing up to, recently, but the boat was tied up in such a position that I couldn't have got it off and across the other four boats between me and the bank.

Hooray! Post -600 finally sees Warrior on its travels - we are in March, in August 2007, en route to the IWA National at St Ives. I heard the other year that the weeping willow we planted at Floods Ferry before we left in 2005 is no longer there. The cat who attached himself to us at about the same time is still around though.

A return to dullness with -700 - discussions of Warrior's paint, and the painting of the engine - but with no pictures. But I do remember how exciting it was - and how cold - painting Warrior's engine as it sat on a trailer inside a shipping container at Stretton. Warrior has been through a couple of different paint schemes since then, but I don't think the engine has. Ironically, of course, Chertsey's engine is the same colour, Quite possibly the only two engines that colour (muscat) on the entire waterways system, and we've had both of them.

Finally, post -800 (you will recall that there was a total of 859 posts on the Warrior blog). And it's... the start of the original rag rug that still sits on Chertsey's back cabin floor. Others have come and gone, but this first one, the heaviest and densest of them all, endures. I can't believe that it is now over ten years old. It's still doing a brilliant job.

And there we have it. More interesting posts are to be found either side of most of the featured ones, but if you set yourself arbitary parameters you just have to take what you're given.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Wetton muddy walk

I went for a walk with my Ramblers group today for the first time in ages - looking at my records, it appears not sinec June 19th! So a more gentle start might have been called for than twelve miles with lots of hills.

The description of the walk said: 'From Hartington, to Wolfscote Hill, cross the Dove, over Narrowdale Hill to Wetton. Walk north between Wetton Hills to Ecton Hill then back over fields to Hartington.' Which I guess is what we did. The interesting thing about this walk was that it was taking advantage of access land rather than sticking to footpaths. So we covered areas that many of even the most seasoned members hadn't previously walked, and for those who like to collect them (and there are such people of course, two of whom were on the walk), there were not one, but two trig points.  From my perspective, the focus on access land meant there were a lot of muddy fields. Oh, and did I mention the hills?

At the top of Wolfscote Hill, we were told that there were stunning views... on the day in September when the leader had recced the walk.
Down in the dale, things were prettier


This being the White Peak, there was lots of limestone (my direction of causality may be a bit awry there).
Lots of people like it, but I prefer the nearer, grittier, bleaker, and - significantly - less slippery Dark Peak.

The start point of the walk was a twenty five mile drive from Sheffield, but it was still slightly disconcerting as always to find ourselves on paths (we didn't avoid all of them) maintained by Staffordshire County Council.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Squared off

My first crochet project is finished! Seventy-two squares, begun in September and the last one finished on Christmas day, now all joined together, finished off round the edge, and heaven knows how many ends tucked in and knotted off.
And I must say I am pleased. It's not perfect by any means, but one thing I have discovered is that crochet (at least on this scale) is quite forgiving. It's certainly satisfying to have made something so large. I don't know what the next project will be. The ultimate aim is lace, but I don't think I'm ready for that yet. I need to find whatever is the next stage of working towards that. Whilst practising the melodeon too of course.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Hundreds and Thousands

Well, it's taken just over seven years to get here, but this is Chertsey's 1000th post!  Hooray! Throw the streamers and release the balloons!

I thought I would celebrate by looking back at every hundredth post since this blog started on January 1st 2010. And in order to maintain some semblance of suspense, I shall do so in reverse order, starting with post number 900, which, in some way appropriately, marked the tenth anniversary of starting my first blog, nbWarrior. This was posted on April 1st last year, and was post number 1,759. In it I hinted at exciting new developments to come, trailing what was to become my new Rivetcounter blog. If you want to know the simple reason why Rivetcounter never took off, it's this: I couldn't deal with the template. I could never get it to look or behave how I wanted it to, especially on iPads. So I stuck with the tried and tested, and very dated, ten year old Blogger template that I've been using ever since I started that Warrior blog. Rivetcounter has now become a repository for hostiong photos that I want to hotlink to Canalworld. Sad, in a way, especially as it's such a brilliant title and I couldn't believe it wasn't already taken. I believe Sebastian has snapped up the Wordpress equivalent too, just in case I should ever want to have another go. I am of course still trying, and still failing, to emulate the great Diamond Geezer.

The 800th post is also the first post in April - two years earlier. 2014 and 2015 were the thinnest posting years, and in fact 2015 evades having a commemorative hundredth post at all (2010, 11 and 12 have two apiece). This post, about the relative merits of different stoves, demonstrates a rather annoying occurrence: all the photos posted with Blogpress over the years have disappeared, so for more than one of these commemorative posts, you will have to exercise your imagination. This is where I raved about the Origo stove. It's still going strong, and it's still great. It must have paid for itself many times over since 2014 by making cooking a meal on the boat an easy alternative to going to the pub.

Post 700, in May 2013, saw us 'ready for the off' - ready to set off for Langley Mill for the start of an epic year's boating. I seem to recall that we had a great time there, with half the Holymoorside Brass Band in the hold. As for the trip to Watford, Jim has certainly never forgotten it. It is also responsible for Alan Fincher buying Flamingo, so he probably hasn't either.

Amazingly, the 600th post occurred exactly one year earlier, in May 2012. This was while we were living on Bakewell, and I garnered  a healthy eight comments by asking the good people out there to identify the non-flowering plants growing on the mooring. I now know what not to eat.

Number 500 sees us immersed in the machinations of the CRT elections, when CRT was still a novelty, in January 2012, and I was still the press secretary for HNBOC, which was still HNBOC. Willow gets a mention, as escapologist. He is still around, poncing off the little old ladies of Newhaven, and must be at least fourteen by now. Apart from the fighting injuries which he still regularly incurs, he's looking well on it.

For post 400, we're back in 2011, and we're in Burton-on-Trent enjoying a couple of pints in the Coopers' Tavern - Bass and Jaipur in my case. Now I must be getting old, because I eschew Jaipur these days because my head can't take it. Back then, Burton was only associated in my mind with beer - we had yet to meet two of the town's finest natives who have become brilliant friends, met not through boating, but through the new job that I was over a year away from getting.

Still in 2011, in January, post 300 found us hopefully - but nervously - anticipating our escape from Great Haywood, having found ourselves iced in for six weeks en route from Kings Bromley to Stretton, as we moved to our (then) new mooring, where we were to stay for over five years. Reading the subsequent posts reassures me that we did make it, although we had to contend with lock closures and fallen trees along the way. The post is actually mostly about getting cheap train tickets. I must admit that I have reached the point of complacent prosperity where I have begun to consider just getting an open return sometimes. As a bit of an aside, I've been doing a bit more driving lately on long journeys. I still can't make up my mind which is better. Driving, when it goes well, is certainly more convenient and capable of greater spontaneity. However, I can never quite shake off the feeling that I am doing something terribly dangerous and it can be quite nerve-racking. When it goes wrong, it can be cold and expensive, and often there's no toilet. Going by train requires more planning, and simply doesn't work for some places (e.g. Braunston). But when it goes well it is comfortable and hassle-free; when it goes wrong it is frustrating, sometimes worrying (being dumped at Doncaster station on a Sunday night to be told that the last replacement bus had gone without us), and sometimes there is no toilet. Rail travel goes wrong more often, but more mildly, than driving. And at least when it goes badly wrong you get a refund. So I think rail clinches it, in the end.

Back to Your Hundred Best Blogs. At number 200 - getting into the depths of history here - we have a disquisition on one of this blog's favourite themes: tea. It is clear from the way I bemoan the quality of bag-made tea here that I have not yet discovered Yorkshire Tea teabags. Give me a good teabag any day in preference to too few leaves crammed too tightly into a fancy little pot. In fact, as soon as I finish writing this I'm off to make a cuppa. We still have the big brown pot, maybe a little more battered now. I'm pleasantly surprised to see that the link to Mike's photos still works, and I've just spent a distracted few minutes looking at them... Lovely to have the memories of our first trip to Braunston, on which Mike was such a help with boating as well as chronicling the trip.

Finally, the 100th post sees us on our travels again - but on Warrior this time - a Fens break in the midst of restoration work on Chertsey in April 2010. We have visited the splendid antiques market at Ely and made a number of purchases.  I believe we did put some of that copper behind Warrior's stovepipe; Chertsey definitely sports some. That brass chain is still Chertsey's best chimney chain. The eiderdown, sadly, I no longer have. I gave it to my sister - I'm not actually sure she even really wanted it, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. The days of going at seven miles an hour are probably behind us too now.

Prior to starting the Chertsey blog, I'd already racked up 859 posts on nbWarrior, so perhaps I'll continue counting backwards through them. But that's for another time. Right now I have to go and watch West Ham get knocked out of the FA Cup, then I can stop thinking about it for another year.