Thursday, 30 September 2010

September


Nice to see them back on form.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Books I read in September

I said I'd been busy! Hence the rather short list

Andrew Rawnsley The End of the Party
I haven't quite finished this actually, but it's been my evening sofa read for the best part of the month - a hefty hardback too big for the train. Meticulously researched and entertainingly written account of the latter years of the Labour government. Bit of a swizz - the paperback's just out with two new chapters!

Sophie Hannah A Room Swept White
Usual addictive preposterousness

Ruth Rendell The Monster in the Box
I used to really like Ruth Rendell. Back in the days when she'd only written forty or so books, I had all of them. But lately she's been coasting on her reputation and this must be the worst yet: repetitive, didactic and clunking; no atmosphere, no suspense, no subtlety.

Michael Sandel Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?
This was for work (I get to do some political theory teaching this term! Huzzah!), but I'd heartily recommend it regardless. A really thought provoking book with excellent, albeit American, examples to illustrate the points and dilemmas, and the best exposition of Kant for beginners I've ever read. The only disappointment is Sandel's argument of his own position towards the end, which still fails to convince.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Three quarters of the way

I started out in January with the intention of posting on the blog every day - and so far, allowing for a (very) few postdated posts, I've achieved that. OK, there may have been a cost in terms of the mind numbing triviality of some of the stuff I filled the space with, but you could come and look and find something new every day. Obsessed as I am with my chart position, this had to be a good thing, I thought.

The trouble is, I'm not sure I can keep it up for another three months, especially now that things have gone a bit quiet on the Chertsey front, what with winter nearly upon us and all (though we are going up this weekend, not that any great excitement is planned), and masses of stuff to do at work (as in so many cases, essential savings are being made by cutting part time and temporary staff and transferring the workload to the permanent ones, of whom I'm lucky enough to be one).

Then, at the end of the year, I had it in mind that I would stop blogging. Leave 'em wanting more, go out on a high note, and recover a bit more of a private existence and a lot more time not glued to the computer screen.

That too has its downside though - there is still important (and photogenic!) stuff to do to Chertsey, most notably the gunnels, other woodwork, cloths and painting - all very visual - and none of it is likely to happen before the end of 2010. Also, people I have mentioned this idea to have been kind enough to beg and plead with me (OK, I exaggerate a bit) not to leave the blogosphere, which is very nice, and I don't want to be hard hearted.

Finally, from when I first started blogging Warrior (in the spring of 2006!), an important function of the blog was to act as a record for myself of work done and places been. Looking back over those old posts, there's so much there that would have been forgotten if I hadn't had this motivation to write it down.

So... I have decided (I think) on a sort of compromise with myself. After the end of September, I will try to resist the compulsion to post every day, and will only post when there is something Chertsey related to report, or something that otherwise leaps out at me. And I won't stop at the end of the year, but will carry on posting intermittently as and when there is something to post. And if I hit they 'publish' button now, I'm committed, arent I. And sod the chart position. I'll go and count rivets instead.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Lazy day

Actually the trouble is I'm too busy to think of anything original and scintillating to post but I have just spent five minutes over a cup of tea enjoying Diamond Geezer's Flickr tour of the Regents Canal, so this is my contribution to waterways happiness today.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Retail therapy

I may have mentioned before the irresistible lure that charity shops exert upon me, especially when I'm in a strange town with unfamiliar stock. I've had many a treasure over the years, including most of my wardrobe. The strangest find must surely have been the Measham teapot that turned up in Newhaven, of all places. So when Ali came down, after we'd exhausted what Newhaven had to offer (PDSA, Sense and Searchlight) we set off to Lewes, where I think we found and explored seven outlets. On the whole they seemed very expensive, and we didn't buy much. But their prices were as nothing compared to the one (Barnados) we popped into in passing in Brighton, which was unbelieveably dear (£12.99 for a pair of very obviously not new boots? I think not). Presumably they know their market and are selling stuff and bringing money in at these prices, but I can't imagine who's paying them.

All of this was by the way of introducing a link to Charity Shop Tourism, a blog with great promise, but, like the shops themselves, often something of a disappointment.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Brighton breezy

I woke up this morning at about half past two, and realised that I'd omitted to do something. I had completely forgotten to do a blog post. This was of course entirely due to the excitement of my sister visiting, and nothing whatever to do with the amount of red wine I had consumed.

This morning (after proper waking up time) we set off to Brighton to visit Dean (a colleague and friend of mine). Partly business, because Jim is going to paint their house, but also partly social. And what a lovely day it turned out to be, as we set off for a little walk to make the most of the late summer sun, and found ourselves strolling along Brighton seafront, first having an impromptu lunch of hot kipper rolls (or in my case, whitebait) from the Brighton Smokehouse, before proceeding along to buy dessert, in the form of an ice cream cornet, from Sebastian at his part time workplace. Then on we ambled to the Palace Pier (to call it by its real name) where we sat in deckchairs looking at the sea and ate doughnuts, before nipping into the amusement arcade where I lost the princely sum of 12p (and Ali gambled away £1.16) on the 2 and 10p machines. Then back we went to Dean's, for tea, collecting crumpets on the way - a brief visit turned into a lovely day's outing, and all the better for being completely unplanned and unexpected. Oh, and we saw some boats too.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Ooops!

That is the first time this year, and probably ever, that I have actually completely forgotten to post. Sorry.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Lewes Castle


My sister's visiting, so we all went over to Lewes to have dinner in the Snowdrop. Still surreal....
.... But they have beer from Dark Star now, as well as Harveys. The American Pale Ale was lovely.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Sign of past times


One last Wolverhampton photo. Signs and fascias from the 50s and 60s are becoming rare now, and worth recording. I really liked this one. The shop was still there too, plying its trade.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Wolverhampton wonders

As I keep saying, I was very pleasantly surprised by Wolverhampton town (well, it's not a proper city is it, no more than Brighton 'n' Hove) centre. I thought it offered a rewarding range of architectural marvels, of which here are a few.


Monday, 20 September 2010

We wuz robbed ('ere)


Yes, this is where the evil deed occurred. It does look a bot of a lonely and forsaken spot, doesn't it. But I will say that we - and the boat - were fine there for two days apart from that little incident.

You will have guessed that I am going to indulge in a little backdated photo-posting. Happier ones tomorrow.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Good plain cook


First of all, here is the gingerbread recipe which I promised Blossom:

4 oz butter
5 level tablespoons black treacle
4 level tablespoons golden syrup
3 oz demerara sugar
5 tablespoons milk
1 heaped desertspoon marmalade
4 oz self raising flour
4 oz fine oatmeal
2 heaped teaspoons ground ginger
1 heaped teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs

Put everything down to and including the marmalade into a saucepan and stir over a low heat until it's all melted/dissolved. Allow to cool then beat in the eggs, then beat in all the dry ingredients. Pour into a greased and lined large loaf tin, and bake at mark 3 for 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 hours.

It comes from what is probably my favourite cookery book, the Stork Cookery Service's Art of Home Cooking, published in 1963. Apart from the fact that it introduces margarine into absolutely every recipe (I substitute butter in most of them) it is, it is the perfect basic guide to plain cooking, including such forgotten delights as brown stew, jam roly poly, and a 'curry of cooked meat' featuring 1 large onion, 1 1/2 oz Stork Table Margarine, 1 rounded tablespoon curry powder, 3/4 pint stock or water, 2 oz sultanas (optional), 1 large cooking apple, 1 rounded tablespoon chutney, 2 teaspoons black treacle (optional), 2 teaspoons lemon juice, salt and pepper, and 3/4 lb cooked meat. Exotic or what?

Secondly, this coincides with two pieces in the paper today which have set me off. One is a long article detailing how exercise is not an effective way of tackling obesity (you mean someone actually thought it was? I always knew that was a flim flam put about by the food industry), and a news piece about how Jamie Oliver's 'Ministry of Food' cookery school may have to close owing to funding cuts. Now I don't particularly love Jamie Oliver (although nor do I hate him) but with or without his branding, the idea of teaching people basic cooking skills so that they're less reliant on takeaways and ready meals, has to be a good thing for their health and their finances.

It seems that there is now a whole generation or more who have never learnt enen the simplest cooking techniques, even as we gorge on Nigel (Slater) and Nigella on the screen and on the page. I learnt to cook at school. From the age of eleven, we had weekly lessons in which a recipe was demonstrated, and then we got to do it. This wasn't every term, as the Sex Discrimination Act had just come into force, so I had to do wookwork and metalwork too, but it whetted my apppetite sufficiently that I opted to take Food and Nutrition at 'O' Level, much to my mother's horror at using one one of my precious options on something so apparently trivial. But no prizes for guessing which of my ten 'O' Levels has been most useful to me since I left school. We covered nutrition, food hygiene, purchasing and menu planning, and time planning, and we learnt all the basic skills like making a white sauce, pastry, victoria sponge and so on.

It's all a million miles from what my kids did at school under the name of 'Food Technology' - this seemed to consist largely of designing packaging, and, I recall, making a batch of biscuits every week, testing them on us, and refining the recipe. It was about the food industry, rather than home cooking. And that's where we've gone so wrong. And all the time the government is so in thrall to the food industry that they dare not even come out and say 'eating processed crap makes you fat', we're never going to get it right.

Anyway, enjoy the gingerbread.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Boater's friends

Unlike Diamond Geezer, my blog isn't read by sufficient numbers of people to justify publicists trying to get me to namecheck their products. What follows, therefore, is a genuine and personal view of four products that are a real boon to the boater. I have Mike of Zulu Warrior to thank for introducing me to two of them!

1. Bounty Roll (now called 'Plenty', but that's just silly, isn't it). Cloths, even 'disposable' ones, aren't much iuse in the absence of running water. Ordinary kitchen paper disintegrates as soon as you get it wet and actually try to wipe anything with it. Bounty roll is effectively a genuine single use cloth. Just don't let it anywhere near a macerator (not a problem for me, natch).

2. Ecover washing up liquid Use it to wash your dishes, your socks, your body and your hair. Gentle, nicely fragranced and nearly guilt free - and saves storage with one bottle instead of four.

3. Filtered milk (e.g. Cravendale, though Tesco at least now also sell it under their own name). I thought this was a gimmick until Mike bought us a pint, but it isn't; it really keeps miles better than ordinary fresh milk, even once opened, and tastes no different. Bought some in Wolverhampton on Thursday and it was still fine on Monday - without a fridge.

4. Antibacterial surface wipes (Parazone etc; a.k.a. toilet wipes). Primarily for use off the boat (although a useful and reassuring emergency handwipe) for prior preparation when you need to use a pub/shop/BW toilet. Some might think this a little neurotic, but I find it reassuring. At least I no longer carry rubber gloves too.

So that's my four top products for enhancing the basic boating experience. Any others would care to add?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Ma Pardoe's


Those photos that I couldn't upload before, of this extraordinary pub in Netherton.

And its amazing ceiling. It even gets a mention on the website of the Institute of Vitreous Enamellers, which says that finishing pub ceilings like this was common in the nineteenth century. In which case, why don't more of them survive?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Famous Blue Raincoat


Not every day I get to give a post the title of one of my favourite songs. Anyway, the plan to cover the hold entirely in blue polythene was put, ahem, on hold. Jim did fix the batten all along the sides; the idea was to take out the mast and stands, put the planks down the middle, spread the sheeting across this, and fix it with another batten on top. The scheme foundered on the fact that it was windy and rainy and we were fed up, and also the realisation that once done there would be no way of getting from one end of the boat to the other, as although the planks would still be there, the polythene would be too slippery to walk on. So we decided instead to put our faith in the new float-switch pump, along with my cunningly designed device (not pictured, unfortunately) to prevent the downpipe depositing the entire rainfall landing on the adjacent roof directly into the hold. This consists of a strip of polythene sheeting (it's heavy duty damp proof course stuff) cable tied to the downpipe and extending down below the outlet between the hull side and the wall - hopefully sufficient to divert the flow straight into the canal.

The engine room does sport a raincoat however, attached to battens extended back from the gunnel timber over the steel gunnels. This is mainly to stop rain getting in above the hatches, which are vulnerable on both sides, having no drip (which I am assured is the proper term) above them to prevent this. This is something we are going to have to add. Most other boats seem to have them, either in wood or steel.

We are now facing the other way on the mooring. This is partly because we couldn't be bothered to wind in the marina entrance and then reverse back to the mooring, partly for a change, partly because we might want to go the other way next time, and partly for more privacy, as the other way round, Chertsey backs onto the back end of the next boat along; this way we back onto the front end of Minnow. The downside is that you have to walk along the planks to get from the bank to the cabin, and we couldn't get the back right in because it's shallow there. We might have to do a bit of dredging.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Back again

Well, we got off to a relatively early start (7.45, ahem) with the kettle and the porridge on the stove (I think we finally got breakfast about half past ten) and set off into the dazzling golden dawn. Sailing round the turn out of Great Haywood (beautifully, I may say) as luck would have it I saw a boat turning in... so I put it in reverse, stop, back off - didn't even touch the bank... the other guy stops too, and waits while I slowly but gracefully bring Chertsey round... I haven't touched the bank, I haven't touched him, he hasn't touched me, he hasn't touched any of the moored boats... I'm congratulating myself on a nicely executed manouevre and thank him for waiting as I pass... To be greeted with a volley of abuse! The funny thing is, when I do screw things up, eight times out of ten people are very nice about it, and even when they're not, I shrug and put it down to experience. But when someone has a go at me and I know I haven't done anything wrong - that's when it hurts! It seemed so unfair. So I'm afraid I told him he didn't know what he was talking about and probably clocked up another point for arrogant working boat owners.

That was about the most exciting thing to happen today. We've made our way back to Kings Bromley, stopping at Rugeley to restock the stores and left Morrisons with poor Jim laden with tinned stuff and beer. He then went off to get some more tile battten for a grand scheme of sheeting over the hold with polythene for the winter. Just as we arrived back at Kings Bromley though the wind got up to such an extent that the actual job was left until tomorrow. I had a grand clean up of the cabin, and Jim did the engine room. So I guess that's the end of another trip :-(

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

New old friends

As luck would have it, just when I desperately need to correct yesterday's post (thank you Blossom and Dove!! I was lying awake worrying after I wrote that; I knew I'd got it wrong, I was dead on my feet and not thinking straight) and for the first time in ages the signal's so feeble I can't even leave a witty comment on my own blog! Rest assured I will put it right and cover my shame as soon as I possibly can.

Day 11, Penkridge to Great Haywood

Now, what can I get wrong today? Hopefully nothing much as it was rather uneventful. There seems to be a lot more water than when we came up, more too than yesterday, when we did have trouble getting out of Rodbaston lock. I went off on my bike again, which was good fun and I suppose good exercise too. We had thought about trying to get all the way back to Kings Bromley today - another day pretty much like yesterday, and you've seen what that did to me, so I thought better of it this morning and we decided to go for a later start and spread the final leg over two days. As it turned out, that meant a 10.30 start and as a result of that and the bike, me helping a lot of people through the locks. I never mind that though, always a pleasure with my trusty Duntan windlass. And one of the people we met, Paul, I really hope to meet up with again. He came up to Jim and said 'That's Chertsey, isn't it?' - bearing in mind the boat still bears no identifying marks. Paul told us that his father and uncle both worked at Les Allen's, and did Chertsey's rebottoming in the eighties. He was a fund of information about the time Chertsey spent at Oldbury - which goes back even before Richard Barnett's ownership and includes the 'missing years'. I've given him my contact details so I do hope he'll get in touch - he even said his uncle might too.

Now I just have to hope that this will post...

Monday, 13 September 2010

New tricks


Day 10, Black Country Museum to Penkridge.

Knackered.

I've got some nice photos of industrial dereliction, but I'll save them for a quiet moment. We didn't set off until nine, and started down the 21 at 11.30, taking it nice and leisurely, until about a third of the way up a familiar figure appeared - Henry and Phyllis, retired professional boatman and woman, were following us down. We'd met them at the rally, and they're lovely people - and they insisted that we weren't holding them up, but it certainly put the pressure on. Even though they had to refill every lock behind us, they still kept right with us. And found time to teach us a trick or two as well!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Pubs to visit before you die...


To start with last night. We went to the beer tent, but the music was indeed too loud, a right couple of belters and it was generally agreed not at all the sort of thing for this audience (I was later told that Friday night's duo were meant to top the bill on Saturday but were double booked). But things certainly turned out for the best, as we were taken to a pub, the Old Swan in Netherton, otherwise known as Ma Pardoe's, and my god, what a pub. The brewery tap for the Old Swan brewery, and the beer started at £1.80 a pint. But that wasn't the best bit. Nor was the fantastic layout, the organ, the enormous range, the amazing landlord, or the man who does the brewery tours and came and told us all about it. No, the best bit as far as I was concerned, the bit I couldn't take my eyes off, was the ceiling in the public bar. It was made of panels of vitreous enamel, patterned and featuring a central panel with the pub's name and picture of a swan, and looking as clean and new as when they were installed in the 1860s (I think). Absolutely marvellous. If I were a hisrorian I think I wouold write a paper on the innovative use of vitreous enamel in the Black Country. If you haven't been there, you just must. (I took some photos on my phone but the attempt to transfer them to the computer was unsuccessful, sorry)

The beer must have been very wholesome (although to be honest I didn'y have a great deal) as I slept the sleep of the righteous and awoke refreshed at nine, to a sunny morning aand lots of interested - and interesting - passers by. The day flew by and it was soon three o'clock and people were starting to leave, so we followed Dove and Minnow through the tunnel and back up factory locks, but decided to give Wolverhampton a miss, and our nerves (and heads and stomachs) a bit of a rest and have instead stopped for tonight at the Black Country Museum. A long day tomorrow should get us safely past Autherly and ready for a final push back to Kings Bromley on Tuesday.

It was a really enjoyable weekend, and we've met some more new people and had a wonderful time. Oh, and I've hung up my plate... Well, it was getting in the way.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Fending for myself


Well, not really, but you must know by now that I can't resist a terrible pun... Anyway, fender news later.

Back to last night in the beer tent... What with the dogshit and the fair and the multitudinous yoof, I didn't start out with high hopes of this festival. But the beer tent was excellent. There were over a dozen beers, from memory, and some ciders, all served without froth on the top much to the consternation of the locals. There was great music from a couple of blokes, one with guitar and voice, the other with woolly hat, extravagant moustache and electric violin. Their country-y/folky/familiar standards set a super atmosphere and we were in there from about seven until after midnight. I would say however that the number of beers on offer significantly outnumbered the number of available toilets, which seemed a bit of an oversight. Oh god, that dogshit...?

There was the obligatory raffle, and I'm afraid I won a prize. As always, my luck is just sufficient that my number is drawn after the bottles of scotch, the bottles of wine, and the bumper sized boxes of chocolates have already been picked off, leaving behind the unwanted gifts and the items that are worn about the corners from having been passed from raffle to raffle. My trophy was one of those collectible (why?) Wedgewood plates, this one featuring a whimsical scene of horse drawn boats (carthorse drawn, to my untrained eye), attended by bonnetted and neckerchiefed people while a red steam locomotive (the future!) thunders across the viaduct behind them. Even if I liked hanging-up plates, which I don't, it is twee beyond belief. But given the alternatives (two men's handkerchief sets, one spotted, one with those brown borders which had obviously been doing the rounds since the seventies); a satin (satin! And as near to black as makes no difference) duvet set, or another plate, this one featuring illustrations of knots. In German) you will see why I came away with this particular souvenir of the evening.

For some unfathomable reason (I hadn't eaten off my new plate: 'Decorative art object. Not for food use. Unusual colour pigments may contaminate food') I was feeling rather delicate this morning, not to say bilious, and have been carrying myself around carefully and feeding myself small morsels all day trying to build up my strength for tonight's onslaught on the beer tent. I fear the music will be louder tonight.

There are a number of small stalls here, and I have got myself a rather good mirror to put on the table flap, round, and thick glass with a bevelled edge. I asked the woman how much, she said a fiver. I hesitated, and she said, 'It's old!'. My quizzical look acknowledged the undeniable truth of this, as it was mounted with rusty clips on a piece of plywood embellished with chipped plaster flowers. No, she said, I mean really old, antiquey old, it's at least fifty years old... I asked her if she'd take three and settled on four.

The other major purchase of the day was a front fender, finally. Not quite traditional as it's black polyprop, but it is wrapped in a section of tyre to stop it snagging and getting worn out, so that hardly notices. Until we can get some staples to attach it to the cants, it's tied with blue string to the hinges of the deck lid, but it doesn't look bad and hopefully should stay in place and absorb a proportion of the impact of the inevitable blows on lock gates.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Well here we are at last


Day 6: Wolverhampton to Netherton

Or, I guess, Windmill End. Determined not to be caught napping this time we were up at five, having spent a peaceful night on the offside mooring. We had time for a cup of tea though and left at about six. This was possibly the best time for my first sight of this section of BCN industrial dereliction, ghostly in the misty dawn light. We chugged along quite happily (a few tricky turns, but more water than there might have been, and - so far - nothing on the prop) until we caught up with Minnow, who were having trouble with their water pump. We went on ahead for a couple of hours, waiting for them at the bottom of Factory Locks. After a while along they came, having effected a temporary repair on the guilty spring. But when we got to the mouth of Netherton Tunnel they stopped again; this time it was broken beyond repair - so out came the cross straps, and Minnow was hitched to Chertsey, and Blossom steered them both through the tunnel. It's not a very interesting tunnel, but on the plus side it's nice and wide and straight. Interest (e.g. bendy bits, narrow bits, low bits and sharp bits) as a feature of tunnels is somewhat overrated, I think.

Once out of the tunnel, there we were here, and practically on our alloted mooring spot. So we banged in the pins and tied up. First impressions - the dog shittiest towpath in England... second; it's going to be noisy, with music one side and a funfair the other. And lots of kids... But we've also caught up with Dove and admired their new cloths; I think I shall almost certainly get mine done by the same person, Sam, who's based at Braunston. They're Regentex, which I much prefer to the shiny vinyl which looks too much to me like lorry curtains, and which I gather with careful maintenance can last a good long time.

Stop press! Blossom has acquired a new spring! And I must prepare some tea beforre we repair to the beer tent, as it looks as if the food outlets won't be set up in time.

So - we made it. Now I wonder what the weekend will bring.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Sheep's clothing

Day 5, Wolverhampton

Well, it seems I spoke a little too soon, as we had a slight kerfuffle at 4.30 this morning, some passersby deciding to hop on and nick some of our coal. They didn't half get a surprise though when Jim popped up from under his bivouac in the hold growling 'Fuck off!'... One of them ventured back a few minutes later by which time Jim was fully dressed and wielding the keb, and that was the last we heard of them. I hid under the bedclothes of course while all this was going on. Tonight though we have drifted Chertsey over to the offside ever-so-secure-because-utterly-inacccessible mooring, and apparently we are leaving tomorrow at half past five. So I shall endeavour to be ready by quarter past...

Today we went back into the town centre looking for a food shop (we eventually found a small Tesco hidden in a corner of one of the two shopping arcades) and hoping to investigate the covered market, only to learn that it's closed on Thursdays. If it hadn't been for the early start we certainly would have investigated the Great Western pub, but sadly now that will have to wait for another visit. We did however drop into a proper old fashioned caff ('Charlies') for Jim to have a proper old fashioned breakfast ('12 item' breakfast £3.90) and two excellent mugs of tea at 50p apiece.


And then we came back and continued with the painting and decorating - the cabin and the rear hatches, which are nearly done now, and putting some new paint on the outside of the cabin to clean it up, getting all the brass done etc. so that we won't be too much of a disgrace at the festival. I'm pleased with the general way the back cabin is looking now, although it doesn't bear too close inspection.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Wanderers in Wolverhampton


Day 4: Wolverhampton

Well, that was too good to last; we got thrown out of the basin this morning when the supervisor arrived (don't worry Blossom, Minnow's still safe in there. We said we couldn't possibly move it.) Andway, we've spent the day on the towpath just beyond the basin and so far nothing dire has occurred. There are 'secure' visitor moorings on the other side of the canal; however, they are so secure that you can't actually go anywhere from them on foot, so that wasn't much good for as as we wanted to explore.

First though I got on with my painting and decorating inside the back cabin. I was doing the green moulding and it proved quite difficult and frustrating. I'm not at all happy with the result and there's still work to be done but you can at last get some idea of how it's meant to look. Then it was off into the town centre.

Based on a. the view from the ringroad, and b. the fact that it was widely reported to have been named by Lonely Planet as the fifth worst city in the world (although apparently this was a misunderstanding), I was prepared for Wolverhampton to be grim. But guess what - at least on a sunny September afternoon, it wasn't. In fact, looking at the city centre at any rate, it was really rather good. What do I look for in a town? A good range of shops, busy streets, a decent pub or two, and lovely buildings... well, Wolverhampton has all this for sure. Some stunning buildings, no doubt preserved through the fifties, sixties and seventies by poverty rather than appreciation of their Victorian/arts and crafts/thirties finery, but by and large there nonetheless. There seemed to be a fairly thriving market, most of the shops were open for business and we just had to visit this pub, the Posada, with its Victorian tiles, snob screens, booths and mahogony, and amazing curved windows. The beer was OK (I see it has had mixed reviews on BitE) but it was the surroundings that made it. And when we got back both times the boat hadn't been stolen/untied/vandalised/robbed, so we still think Wolverhampton is quite a lot better than it's cracked up to be.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Twenty one today

Day 3: Acton Trussell to Wolverhampton

And the rest! Because of the rather abortive efforts of the last couple of days, Blossom said that we should be ready for an early start today - to leave about seven. So I set my alarm for 5.30, got up and lit the stove, did the brass which was in a disgraceful state after last night's rain, and wa sjust taking Jim a coup of tea at 6.45 when... doink, doink, doink... Minnow was started and setting off! Within ten minutes we were off to, and briefly caught up thanks to an even earlier departure (our somewhat eccentric friends on Shy Swan again) holding them up.

I did proper lockwheeling this morning, on the bike, from Shutts Hill to Gailey; nine locks and about five miles. It didn't take long for Minnow to get ahead and we were on our own. It was lovely and sunny for the best part of the morning but after we cleared Gailey it started to cloud over and by the time we got to the bottom of the 21 at 2.15, already more than seven hours after setting off, it was tipping it down. Jim had been steering all morning but I took over now, and up we went. Very soon the sun came out again, and it was really hot, so we didn't stay wet for long despite further odd showers. About two thirds of the way up we espied a familiar figure - Blossom, come back to help us. He'd made it to the top and tied up there. When we arrived, the flight had taken us three and a quarter hours. We started settling don, claening up etc. but although it was a nice enough spot there were a lot of rowdy people about (well, OK, to be technical, pissheads) and while they seemed harmless enough I could see it would annoy Jim, so how delighted we were when a BW guy came by and said that we could moor in Broad Street Basin, which is where we are now, toilets and showers on tap, and secure if not actually much quieter. Having been out for a little look round, we collected a takeaway pizza and set up the folding table and chairs, and poured a bottle of beer, and enjoyed our repast in the deserted and dimly lit BW yard. I think I'll sleep well tonight, no matter how noisy the trains, road and herberts.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Suffering from wind


Day 2: Great Haywood to Acton Trussell

No, it isn't very far, is it. The day started well, chez Chertsey at least. I finally used my bike for its intended purpose and pedalled off down to the Spar shop, where I bought the paper, and crusty rolls and croissants and jam. I'd lit the stove and put the kettle on before I left and came back in time to make the tea and warm the croissants in the oven. Southern softy boating at its best! Then while we were waiting for Minnow, Brian ex of RN came by on his tug Kyle, and stopped for a cup of tea and a chat.

Then Dawn texted to say that Minnow was up and running so off we set. Everything was OK until we got above Tixall lock, and then suddenly there was hardly any water; it was worse than on the Coventry earlier this year and that was bad enough. Even in the deepest part it was shallow enough to feel things on the botttom, and straying from the channel guaranteed getting stuck on the mud, and later, on big lumps of stuff.

This might have been copable with if it weren't for the conspiracy of the wind to push us into the side and onto the mud/lumps almost continually. Minnow was affected too (although obviously far more skilled in dealing with/avoiding it), and by half past three we decided that we'd had enough of basically taking turns to pull each other off. Hon mensh of the day goes to the patient folk on board Shy Swan who not only pulled us off, but when we finally gave up, ministered to us with tots of brandy! What an excellent idea. The wind has got worse since we stopped too, and is now very... well, windy. Heavy rain is forecast for tonight too, so maybe at least that will put a bit of water back.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

On our way to Windmill End

Day 1: Kings Bromley to Great Haywood

I'm writing this on returning from the pub (so what's new?), the pub in question being the Fox and Hounds in Great Haywood, where the new landlord very kindly produced four roast beef dinners for us and Blossom and Dawn, despite not officially doing food on Sunday nights. Not only that but they had London Pride at £2 a pint, and Bass, as well as Bombardier and some northern stuff (Tetleys).

So it was a good ending to the day which was probably rather frustrating for Blossom as Minnow's engine required stripping down. For us there was the excitement of trying to keep up with them this morning (definitely getting faster!), only getting stuck on the bottom a couple of times.

Time for bed now I think.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

In preparation

Today has been a day of preparation. We started by stocking up on provisions at Morrisons in Rugeley, then visited Rugeley's rather excellent hardware shop (I finally got a proper paraffin funnel for the Primus, and some handles for the back doors, among other delights) and hit a few of the charity shops, enabling me to acquire a splendid multi-coloured mohair cardigan, obviously unworn and a rejected gift from someone's doting auntie; well, rejected no more. This will be my chilly evening party wear for the duration.

We got some diesel from Kings Bromley Marina, and finally bought a couple of bus bulbs there too - should you be looking for a source of these 12v, 15w bulbs with a standard bayonet fitting. We filled up the water and replenished the oil, and loaded the coal, bath, bicycle etc.

Then Jim rubbed down and primed the back doors, so they will soon be rendered weatherproof. We chatted with Blossom, and Brian from Harnser, who came by. Then we went back to the Old Peculier in Armitage (or is it Handsacre) to try out their menu, and it was good, and the landlady was nice, and the beer was decent (especially for Jim, as they have draught Old Peculier, as you might imagine). So now we are all fuelled up and ready for the off tomorrow.

Friday, 3 September 2010

In passing...


Sort of on the (roundabout) way to Kings Bromley, we dropped off at Thorne to have a look at this. It really is rather nice....

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Hooked!


So far, we have been lucky enough not to get anything wrapped round Chertsey's prop. As we are about to visit the BCN for the first time, this charmed state of affairs cannot be expected to last much longer. Naturally, Chertsey is not equipped with anything as wimpish as a weedhatch. I have had a practice go at poking about under the counter with the cabin shaft, and I have also attempted this on Tarporley (before going down, sorry, sending Maryam down, the weedhatch). It is very hard. At least, it is very hard if you are small and uncoordinated and have weak arms and no idea where you're meant to be pointing the thing. So I approach this inevitable task with some trepidation.

Discussing this with Blossom, he said, what you want is to get hold of a shunter's pole, and he described this as bearing a sort of spiral hook which you can work into whatever ails you, and twist it round and round and get a really good grip on it, more effectively than with the cabin shaft. Sounds marvellous I thought, but how esoteric... how much call can there be these days for an implement for manually decoupling railway carriages... I shall keep my eyes open, and if I am lucky, I might find one within the next decade or two.

Then lo and behold if the very subject didn't turn up on CWF, and someone named a supplier - Richard Carter of Huddersfield, established in seventeen forty-something, and purveyor of every agricultural and engineering implement your heart could ever desire, and many more it probably wouldn't. Who knew there were so many different sorts of spade? So we rang them up and spoke the the very obliging Michelle, and soon a shunter's hook on a hickory shaft was winging its way to us. I have just taken a really terrible photo of it, but hopefully you get the general gist. Now I'm torn between excitement at the prospect of trying it out, and hoping (no doubt vainly) that the need won't arise.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

So farewell then boating boots


Bought for three pounds ninety nine in Help the Aged in Huddersfield
In 2006. Or it might have been 2007.
The best boots I have ever had
Unlike most Dr Martens, you had fantastic grip
And so were jolly good for boating
You had a good life
But now you are no more
A big crack in the sole letting the water in. I knew the end was coming by the way you flexed.
I have been to Eastbourne today and bought some new boots
Which are waterproof
But they'll never be as good as my boating boots.

with apologies to E.J. Thribb