Wednesday, 31 August 2011

What a bore!


Although I missed the aegir (or aegre) last night, a bigger one was promised for this morning. We nearly missed it as it was earlier tan expected by about twelve minutes, and was already approaching by the time we got to the lock. it was a strange, smooth swell of water - caused by the incoming high spring tide meeting the flow of the river. Although it was moving fast, there was something stately and inexorable about it. and then it was round the corner and gone.

Cordial greetings

Today I made some elderberry cordial to Carrie's recipe. I would put a link but don't seem to be ablt to in Blogpress. I started by picking a pint of elderberries. Rather than using a fork, I just rubbed them off with my hands. There are still plenty left for the birds!


I then spread them out in the washing up bowl to check for spiders etc as a couple had a lucky escape while I was picking. I added half a pint of water and simmered them (the berries, not the spiders) for a bit over the twenty minutes recommendeed by Carrie. At this stage they smelt pretty foul.


Straining them might have been easier if I had had a sieve, but such a small quantity didn't take all that long using a tea strainer! I measured how much juice I got and it was 400ml. Easy, just add 200g of sugar. But of course I don't have any scales, just my handy, and resolutely imperial Tala measure. Never mind, half a pound is near enough and errs on the side of generosity. Chuck in a cinnamon stick, stir until the sugar's dissloved (I used demerara as the Misterton Co-op doesn't offer anthing as exotic as muscovado; ditto cloves which should also have been added at this stage) and then throw in a sliced lemon. I simmered it for another twenty minutes and then decanted it into my carefully cleaned and preheated wine bottle. I can impart the helpful information that starting with a pint of berries ends up, neatly, with a pint of cordial.


Later on I tried some with hot water, and it was quite nice; interesting and not unpleasant, although with a hint of bitterness. Cloves would definitely have improved it. I also though it might be quite nice undiluted with gin or brandy in....


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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Thank you, Magnetman!




As promised, we spent a quiet day at West Stockwith today. We took a pleasant walk up the towpath into Misterton - about a mile - and went to the Co-op. There is a profusion of elderberries here and as I have realised that there is half a bottle of red wine in the cupboard that wasn't much good to start with and is surely vinegar by now, and can be thrown away, vacating a screw top bottle, I was determined to make some of Carrie's elderberry cordial. The Co-op however has cinnamon sticks, but, for some reason, no cloves. I am a big fan of cloves and am wondering whether it is worth making the cordial without them. I think I shall try. I can always make another batch later if I do find some.. and another bottle.

I also did another lot of washing today, and disaster almost struck. I'd briefly left my shopping bag/washing basket on the back end boards with the Typhoo tea tin in which I keep the pegs insi it. A little gust of wind and I turned just in time to see the tin floating in the canal. By the time I'd got hold of the keb, it had disappeared. The bag floated into the bank where it was retrieved by Jim, but my lovely tin had sunk out of site. Without holding out much hope, I got the magnet that I'd bought from Magnetman (as a present for Jim) and started fishing. Trouble was, I had no idea how far the tin had drifted before sinking, as I'd been trying to fetch the keb instead of watching it. But I struck lucky! After only a dozen or so casts, I hauled it up, still with the lid on and the pegs inside.

Stop press.. Jim's just come back from the shower and tells me I just missed seeing the aegir. Damn. Apparently there was quite a crowd. Still, I did see a loaded graveller coming down this afternoon and that was a magnificent sight.


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Monday, 29 August 2011

A long day and a longer lunch


I was up bright and early this morning cleaning the brass to look our best for Adrian and Linda who had threatened to meet us at West Stockwith and judge our performance getting into the lock. I have no recollection of doing it in Warrior, which suggests it went quite well then, but of course it might just have been put in the shade by our later encounter with Keadby.

We went back down the lock at Torksey at quarter to ten, bade farewell to Eric, the marvellously hospitable lockkeeper, and set off down the Trent. It was windy again, but sunny too, and I worked on my arm muscles for a couple of hours before letting Jim take over for the hard bit. Our entry into the lock in the end was not graceful, nor particularly efficient, but neither was it violent, which is something to be thankful for. Adrian and Linda were there to welcome us, and show us to a lovely mooring they'd found us. I noticed later that Adrian had tied Chertsey up exceptionally beautifully.



Then we had to go off to the pub; not the one on the Basin itself which was awful when we were here two years ago and apparently, despite having changed hands, is no better now, but a stroll into the village to the White Hart, which has its own River Idle micro brewery. Adrian and Jim sampled its wares quite extensively and even I managed three pints over the course of a very long lunch that lasted well into teatime. We had some very nice food there too.

Then it was back to the boat for a well earned rest (my shoulders are just starting to ache), and sitting reading on the grassy offside path until it got too dark and chilly. We'll probably stay he a day or two before going on up to the Retford and Worksop Boat Club at Clayworth where a weekend of fun and frolics (and, oh dear, more drinking) is promised. Thanks are already due to Adrian and Linda for their hospitality and for taking such good care of us. A quiet day recovering tomorrow I hope!

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Sunday, 28 August 2011

Wind on the river




Last night finished with a visit to Just Beer, a self styled micropub serving nothing but real ales. We'd heard that it was a bit cliquey so approached with a little trepidation, but once again found it to be somewhere we could thoroughly recommend, very friendly, and they did also serve individual bottles of wine and cans of Pepsi. It was a single room, which soon filled up. Bar snacks included Porters pork pies, pork scratchings and pickled eggs. I actually saw a woman eat a pickled egg, something I think I could quite happily go my entire life without experiencing myself.


At about eight this morning Dove and Trout headed back up the Trent, and an hour later we set off down again. It was a bright morning but the pleasure was marred somewhat by a cold wind. It took us roughly three hours to get to Torksey. The pontoon moorings in the lock approach, where we'd intended to stay tonight, were occupied.. well, sort of.. Three or four twenty foor cruisers, each moored two boat lengths apart. No one offered to move to make space and wary of getting into a row we stopped on the lock landing and radioed the lockkeeper in the hope that he might persuade them to move. Instead he invited us to come up the lock and moor on the (long and commodious) one hour facilities mooring - far more handy for the facilities and more pleasant too. So we have made a brief and short foray onto the Fossdyke. Next time we do a Trent thrash and get our next fix of Newark, we really must explore these waterways.

Amyway, it seems we were wise to avoid a confrontation as later in the afternoon there were four police cars in the car park, attending a fight on the pontoon below the lock, in which a weapon (most likely a knife) was involved.

I finally cooked the carrots and green spiral cauli (romanesco, Adam informs me, but I prefer Madcat's Martian cauliflower) using a technique culled from my ancient Stork cookery book, whereby it's cooked in butter in a heavy pan with a tight lid on the stove top. The carrots came out as if roasted, and the cauli, which I added later, was delicious and done perfectly.



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Location:Torksey Ferry Rd,,United Kingdom

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Up the tower and down the pub

Our last day in Newark and I'm writing this while sitting in the Prince Rupert, using their wireless network (the first time I've done that!). They've got a mini beer festival on, featuring Dark Star beers - we come all this way to drink beer from Sussex! But that's what gave us the incentive/excuse to stay on until today. We leave tomorrow morning for Cromwell Lock, onto the tidal section, but this time, unlike in 2009, we are going to stop overnight at Torksey and make the rest of the trip to West Stockwith, entrance to the Chesterfield Canal, on Monday morning's tide.



Today started with us going up the tower of Newark's rather impressive church, the Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene. This is only open occasionally, in aid of the spire fund, so on Izzy's recommendation we took advantage of the opportunity to trek up the 198 steps of the spiral staircase, stopping half way in the bell ringing room (Bones will know the proper name for it), before emerging onto the parapet with a wonderful view of the town below and panorama of the counties beyond. The church was built in the 12th century, and the spire added in the 14th.


At lunchtime we strolled over to the Prince Rupert to sample the Dark Star, and one of their excellent pizzas, when I got a text from the people we met last week to say that they had just been passed at Hazelford by Dove and Trout. So we trotted along to the lock to meet them, before repairing back to the Prince Rupert (or the Rupe, as I've already taken to calling it).


After Andrew, Andrea et al went back to their boats for some food, we splashed out on one last Newark meal and were shown to an upstairs room. Well, it is amaxing. This place was in the process of being gutted when we were here last year; it was built in 1452 as a merchant's house, and then became a pub called the woolpack, before being closed for a long while. The restoration is stunning; I'd be impressed to be looking at a building this old, so well restored, as a museum piece, and here I am eating dinner in it - a room to ourselves too.


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Location:Newark,United Kingdom

Friday, 26 August 2011

Vegging out




It's been raining all day today. So an opportunity to light the stove and sit cosily in the cabin looking out at it. No work could really be done, so I've been putting my feet up with a good book (Sophie Hannah's _Lasting Damage_ ... Maybe a bit far fetched, but I can't say for sure as I haven't finished it yet).

We did pop out this morning though, to transfer the money for Singapore, send cheques to the surveyor and for insurance, and to get in some more groceries. Delicious pork pie for lunch from Porters, and from the market some wonderful vegetables... Runner beans, little carrots with the leaves still on and the most extraordinary green cauliflower, the like of which I have never seen before. The florets are't just green, but spiral; it looks like some geometric work of art. What it tastes like we shall find out tomorrow, as tonight we are having dinner at Izzy and Dave's, so we also popped back to the Real Ale Store to pick up a selection we hope they'll like.

Goodness, I do believe the rain has almost stopped.


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Location:Friary Rd,Newark,United Kingdom

Thursday, 25 August 2011

High tech; low tech... And a new boat

It's a strange mixture of the two, as I sit writing this on the iPad, by the light of the Tilley lamp. Low tech washing; high tech communications.

Today I set off in search of a replacement 12volt charger for Jim's phone (because he left it at home!), and when we eventually found one (it was a harder task than I expected) I got round to organising the little bit of the clothes cupboard where the 12 volt socket lives.


Then we went back to Porters for some of their smoked pork and bacon sausages (Simon and Carrie, look away now... sorry). The man in the shop said that the best way to cook them was in a casserole. I didn't have the stove lit so I did the next best thing and made a stew on the Beatrice. It is really fantastic for slow cooking, and simmered away happily for an hour, after I softened some onions, added the sausages, and after they'd fried for a bit, a tin of chopped tomatoes and a tin of butterbeans.


It was marvellous, and we washed it down with a couple of bottles from the Real Ale Store. Sorry to be banging on sickeningly about how marvellous everything is, but that's just the effect Newark has. Today's market was antiques, and I'm afraid we picked up a bit of wholly excessive bling for the boat. I forgot to take a photo so I'll tell you more about that tomorrow.

Jim spent the afternoon touching up bits of paintwork that had been missed or damaged, and gave the back end bulkhead a coat of Danboline. I'm glad I stuck to my guns against elephant's toenails though - it's a livery of straight and simple lines, on the whole.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot to mention... Jim's revised offer for Singapore II was accepted this afternoon... We a a two boat family again. So that'll be exciting.

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Location:Friary Rd,Newark,United Kingdom

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Washday

After checking the weather forecast this morning, I decided that today, at last, was to be washday - the first chance to use both the posser and wringer for real.


First I boiled up a kettle full of water on the primus - I swapped it for the Beatrice last night after the Beatrice ran out of paraffin again; it seems to be getting through half a gallon every couple of days, which is far more than the primus uses. You can see the soot it's left behind on the kettle though.


A kettleful of boiling water goes a long way in making warm water and soon the first lot of not-very-dirty washing was soaking. Then we got stuck in with the posser, which is very effective at forcing water through the clothes. Although we have a good supply of water, waste not want not, so this soapy water was saved for the next, dirtier lot of clothes. Three rinses, each using a couple of gallons of clean water, and the clothes were ready for wringing.


Jim set the wringer up on the bank, clamping it to a trestle as a temporary measure. It was a bit wobbly, but works fantastically, and unlike wringing by hand leaves clothes flat, rather than crumpled. It's a terrible photo as it was straight into the sun (all these blog photos a taken on the iPad itself as I have no was at present of transferring photos from the camera). The wringer has a big adjusting screw on the top so it can be set to squeeze really tightly for small thin things, and loosened off to get bulky items through.


Then I did one of my favourite jobs, hanging the washing on the line, before we went off to town again. This time we went to the market and got a few bits and pieces, to Porters for some triple smoked bacon, and the Real Ale Store for something to wash it down with. We also discovered the more downmarket end of town, and a Sports Direct, whe Jim stocked up on t-shirts.

It is starting to look as if it might finally rain - the long awaited hailstorm is now due at one o'clock tomorrow morning, but it's been an excellent drying day and most of the laundry is folded and put away already.


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Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Newark news




There isn't much really. We moved downriver this morning to a new and hopefully quieter mooring.the afternoon was accompanied by the purr of petrol generators from the cruisers in front of and across the river from us. I don't really mind it (although the smell of the fumes was noticeable), but it makes me glad that we don't need electricity on that scale.

Last night we went to the Prince Rupert. This is a very old pub, formerly called the Woolpack, which had been closed for many years and was in the process of being gutted when we we he last year. We were delighted to see that it had re-opened as a pub, and ironically will be hosting a beer festival next weekend featuring six beers from Dark Star, a brewery which started in Brighton and whose founder Jim knew. Apparently they always have one or two Thornbridge beers on, and although they didn't had Jaipur last night, they had on offer Raven, a 'black IPA'. Strange concept, but one for Jim (at 6.6%!)

This afternoon we strolled into town and came across a shop dedicated to selling real ale in bottles, with a focus on very small and local breweries. We promised to come back after we'd done the rest of the shopping, but were so laden with purchases that it will have to wait until tomorrow, when we will also make the long-awaited visit to Porters the provisions merchants, for magnificent bacon, sausages and black pudding.



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Location:Newark,United Kingdom

Monday, 22 August 2011

Back in Shangri-La




Newark, where the cars stop with a smile before you even set a toe on the zebra crossing, whe traffic wardens smile and say hello, and eveyone in the shops calls you love.

I make an exception for the Trent from my general loathing of river Navigations, and I think this morning the nicest stretch (reach?) was between Gunthorpe and Hazelford in the hazy sunshine. The rain has still held off so far although a downpour is promised for tomorrow and hailstorms for Wednesday.

As soon as we got tied up below the lock we got into conversation with a couple who, amazingky, turned out to be the new owners of Le Fortune, that wonderful but slightly on the large side boat we looked at in Thorne. Either it is a very small world or I attract boat-related coincidences.

Anyway, we are off in a minute to meet Izzy and Dave (Bath); tomorrow we might hide from the weather by visiting the local museum. First off though we will be miving to a new mooring spot as there is a fairground setting up on the park immediately adjacent to us. Ah well, even Newark isn't perfect.


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Location:Kelham Rd,Newark,United Kingdom

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sorry...

To the lady this morning that I shouted at when actually she was trying to be helpful but I misunderstood... and to anyone else whom the same fate befalls...

Other than that (which I really do feel badly about) it's been a good day -
Day 4, Swarkestone to Holme Lock
- as it's seen us get onto our favourite river, with our favourite town in sight tomorrow.



We didn't get a very early start as we spent a while fixing the anchor, then quickly got stuck on the bottom for the first of three times (although we did manage to avoid the notorious rocks this time). Usually now when we end up on the bottom it's in the course of passing an oncoming boat - in one case today a plug ugly widebeam, on the Trent and Mersey. Just because you can get your boat into the locks, doesn't mean it's suitable for the waterway! There was no avoiding that one, though I wonder whether sometimes I'm still being too generous in showing willingness to move aside. I try to adjust my speed so as to meet oncoming boats in a wide and unobstructed bit of water, but this rarely works because the other boat invariably slows right down, when if they'd kept up a reasonable speed they could be past the narrows/fallen tree/shallow bit before I get there. Then when we do meet in the worst place and they end up in the hedge or I end up on the bottom, why do I still feel like they must be thinking it's my fault?

Oh dear, this is what happens when I start writing without a clear plan in mind, rambling all over the place. So it's been a day of contrasts, big river, Beeston Cut through Nottingham, then out onto the big river again. Lots of cruisers and a gorgeous wooden steam launch at Cranfleet Lock. Tonight we have stopped above Holme Lock, the first manned lock of the Trent, and hope to make it to Newark by tomorrow evening.

This evening we got talking to someone who not only knew, and worked for, Richard Barnett, but also worked for Blue Line. We had a fascinating conversation, shivering in a brisk breeze - if only we were nearer a pub where we could have continued the conversation. It's wonderful - and sometimes a bit over-awing to meet people like that. A bit awkward too sometimes when we start out talking to them without realising just how much they know - and how much more than us.



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Saturday, 20 August 2011

My mate First Mate

Well, I guess today is day 3, and we have travelled from Burton to just beyond Swarkestone, bridge 12 to be precise. It wasn't very late but it looked like a good place to stop. It's been a lovely mild evening and we've been sitting out on the wide towpath (plenty of room for the cyclists to whizz past) since teatime until it got too dark to read, and then a bit longer. We didn't leave Burton until gone twelve, as we wanted to go shopping and this involved quite a trek to find Sainsbury's.

That we were able to find it at all, or even dared try, was thanks to the First Mate guide. These books are available from the IWA online shop (and Shobnall Marina Chandlery, if you're passing this way) and are a really useful adjunct to those other essential publications, Nicholsons and the Good Beer Guide. The Firts Mate guides show where shops, banks, launderettes etc. are in relation to the canal, with simple maps and useful info. I had three in my collection, and addded three more this morning, and now have all of them except the North West, which we are of course unlikely to visit now.

Along the way we met nb Forever Young, and a blog reader! I'm always surprised and delighted to come across people I've never met or even been in virtual contact with, who turn out to read this. I've noticed too that the old chart position has started rocketing up again since we set off on our travels, which would seem to challenge the commonly held bloggists' view that travelog blogs are boring and no one wants to read them. It seems you much prefer reading about our uneventful travels than all the exciting restoration news or indeed my scintillating thoughts on matters of the day.

Brief Singapore update: We finally got the survey report this morning, it having refused to travel by email to Jim. The rot in the breasthook is the big unexpected issue and replacing the breasthook as required will be a major job. We've not written anything off yet, but have gone back to the broker to see if the vendor will consider a lower offer to take account of the additional costs. We still really like the boat, but are trying to be sensible for once (well, relatively... I heard those hollow laughs).

Tomorrow... The river!


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Friday, 19 August 2011

Gone for a... well, you get the gist




Blogpress and the iPad make it so easy, and as there's a good signal here...
So here's another post. Just back from the Coopers Tavern, formerly the Bass brewery tap, now a Joules/free house. Straight into the top ten best pubs I've known. Beer straight from the barrel - no bar as such, more like an old fashioned serving counter. A wide variety. I started with a pint of Bass of course.. and was shocked by how sweet I found it. My tastes have obviously changed since I used to drink it. The Thornbridge Jaipur IPA however was amazing. Jim also found a mild that was very much to his liking. The clientele was varied with new people constantly coming through the door, and there was no TV, music or machines of any description. Super pork scratchings too.

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Location:Burton upon Trent,United Kingdom

Battle of the stoves




You may call that I have something of a love/hate relationship with the Primus stove; when it works, it's great, when it doesn't, it can be exceedingly frustrating.

So when an an alternative was suggested in the form of the Beatrice boiling stove, I was keen to give it a try. Following a slight ebay mix up, we actually now have two, a single and a double burner. I brought the double burner one up to Chertsey this time to try it out and see how it compares to the primus. The primus, of course, is the newer and more advanced technology, but as we all know, advanced technology means more to go wrong. The Beatrice is crude but simple, having two great big wicks whereas the primus works on a combination of pre-heating and pressurisation to vapourise the paraffin.

Clearly, this would seem to make the primus more efficient; the fuel burns hotter and more cleanly. This makes it ideal for boiling a kettle, which it does as quickly as a gas stove. It isn't so good though for anything that requires a lower heat, such as simmering or gently warming. It is in theory adjustable by increasing or releasing the pressure, but this is limited and requires quite a lot of skill. It seems that the Beatrice scores here, as it is very adjustable and will happily provide a low heat. In fact, it's when you want a hotter flame that it's not so good, as turning the wick up results in a lot of greasy soot over the bottom of the pan which doesn't endear it to the washer upper. This might partly be cured by a good clean as I'm sure it could burn better, and bluer.

Which brings us on to the next point; my instincts tell me that the Beatrice needs a lot of ventilation, both to burn properly and because of the fumes I'm sure it produces. The primus likewise needs its oxygen, but I suspect burns cleaner and more completely.

The Beatrice has a real flame which you can watch through a little window, just like a big stove, and it throws out a lot of heat. Good if you need to warm up a space quickly, and lovely and comforting to look at, but not a very efficient use of fuel unless you want a heater.

Apart from its lack of adjustability, the primus has two main drawbacks which the Beatrice doesn't. The first is fairly minor - the primus is noisy, whereas the Beatrice is silent. But the biggest thing is, the Beatrice is easy to light, put a match to the wick and you're away. On a good day, the primus has to be preheated with meths then pumped violently, upon which it will roar into life. On a bad day, it will be preheated and pumped and fail to roar into life, hence the frustration. This may be accompanied (if you leave the pumping too late and the meths has gone out before the vapour arrives) by a fine mist of unlit paraffin, which I'm sure isn't too good for the lungs, or (if you start pumping too soon, before it's hot enough) a big yellow flame, which is scary. This also happens if there's the slighest draft, which diverts the meths flame and stops it preheating properly.

Having said that, since the Beatrice has been on board, the primus has been on its best behaviour and I have had no cause for complaint. I'm going to make a cup of tea in a minute and will probably use the primus, as it's quicker and cleaner. But if it messes me about, I do now have an alternative.

So in short, the primus is quick, clean and efficient, but noisy, hard to light, and lacking in adjustment. The Beatrice is easy to light, adjustable and cosy, but dirty and less efficient. I'm glad that I've got both.

By the way, I forgot the boring bits.
Thursday, we left Alvecote at four twenty and got as far as Hopwas, where we met Ange and Dave from CWF, and Lone Wolf too, for the first time.
Friday, Hopwas to Burton, and once we've spruced up a bit we shall be off to sample some of the town's most famous product.


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Thursday, 18 August 2011

Oh my, I have a shiny boat

Chertsey's livery and stunning paint work is finally revealed in all its glory.
Yes, I am very, very pleased. Martin O'Callaghan (Kestrel) has done a wonderful job, with real commitment and dedication, including lots of little things that weren't in the original spec. Dave Moore's signwriting is spot on as always. In short, I really couldn't be more pleased.



So a word of explanation about the (strangely) unusual livery. Normally with this colour scheme you would expect to see GUCCCo's wartime 'austerity' writing - a design introduced to be more in keeping with sober times, and replacing the brighter celebratory red, white and blue 'Coronation' colours used from 1937. Conversely, when you see British Waterways written on a boat, you expect the background to be the corporate blue and yellow (pr less often, the earlier yellow and blue).

However, there is compelling photographic evidence (see page 96 of 'A Canal People' for a good example) that in the very early days following the nationalisation of the GU fleet, prior to BW's acquisition of the FMC boats, and to the development of their own distinctive colour scheme, boats were repainted using existing stocks of GU paint, but proudly signwritten 'British Waterways'. When this was brought to my attention (eternal thanks, Paul) I loved the idea for a number of reasons. The austerity colours are my favourite scheme, and I liked the idea of being a bit different. And, this seemed a very appropriate time to be celebrating, and from next year, remembering, British Waterways.


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Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Singapore survey

I'm afraid you're still only getting one post per day so Chartsey's paintwork will have to wait until tomorrow... Suffice to say that I am very happy with bith Martin's painting and Dave's signwriting. But to post a photo I will actually have to take it with the iPad so that will have to wait until the morning.

In the meantime... this afternoon seems so long ago, but the survey on Singapore... It was generally very good; especially the engine and the hull below the waterline. There is a bit more planking than we thought that will need replacing, and also a fairly major part known as the breast hook is rotten and likewise will want replacing. Not deal breakers, I don't think, but food for thought for Jim.



Then with the help of the free satnav app on the iPad we foound our way to Alvecote. Chertsey was still at Grendon Dock so we had a pint or two while we waited for Martin to bring it back, and we were joined by Dave Moore, the signwriter, and his wife Gail. The first we knew of Chertsey's arrival was seeing a hireboat travelling in the opposite direction steer into the hedge... A now familiar (but honestly, totally unnecessary) reaction to the approach of a big Woolwich.

A few more pints and dinner with Martin, and now it's just so good to be back on the boat at last. Oil change and gearbox adjustment in the morning, and then off we will set. Hopefully I will manage to post most evenings using the iPad.


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Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Holiday home

Naturally, if you're planning to turn your life upside down and go off to live on a semi-converted 1937 riveted steel boat on the inland waterways, what you really, really need is.... a 1937 wooden motor cruiser on the east coast for holidays.
Hopefully it is not too premature to introduce Singapore II. The offer has been accepted; the engine trial went fine... there is just the survey to get through tomorrow. If that reveals serious issues we're so far not aware of, then we may have to walk away. But fingers crossed.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Paint latest

If you want to see a recent photo of Chertsey's paintwork, you can't do better than the one taken by Alan on Sickle 'n' Chalice, here.

Today - maybe even as I write - Dave Moore should be in attendance to begin the signwriting, and then all will be revealed. I shan't be there; it will be nailbiting to turn up on Wednesday not having seen Chertsey since it was in red oxide.

But first we have another rather large detour to make, of which more tomorrow...

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Blast from the past


I wonder if anyone else has been inspired to dust down their vinyl this week?

Consternation in Mayfair
Rioting in Notting Hill Gate
Fascists marching on the high street
Carving up the welfare state...

Plus ca change.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Posting a pointless photo

OK, the first thing I've learnt is that I can't edit posts in BlogPress once they've been published. So here is a pointless second post to post a pointless photo of my beloved Magimix.

Photos on the iPad have actually proved to be the first trigger for Apple rage, as it seems (and I have been spending more time on iPad forums lately than on Canalworld; hey, maybe that's progress) that you have to arrange your photos the way Apple wants you to or tough. I did get an app (Photo-Sort) with which you can compile albums, but this means you either have duplicates of everything or you have to delete them manually.

The Magimix photo - if it works - was taken with the iPad's integral camera, and is thus somewhat grainy. The iPad is brilliant for displaying hi res photos but getting them onto it, at present, involves putting them on the big computer then transferring them using dropbox, as the iPad doesn't speak Ubuntu. I believe it *might* be possible to transfers files direct


Ooh, it inserts the photo where the cursor was. Why can't Blogger do that. Shame I don't know how to move it afterwards though.

from the camera, if I purchase a further bit of no doubt expensive bit of Apple kit. As a complete newcomer to the world of Apple, I can see why people love them. And I can see why people hate them.


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Which kitchen appliance am I going to miss the most?

Well, it won't be the breadmaker, dishwasher, tumble dryer, rotisserie, electric carving knife, toaster, deep fryer, toasted sandwich maker, or electric kettle, because I haven't got one.

Doing without the washing machine, fridge and gas cooker will be a challenge, but one I'm looking forward to.

The freezer adds convenience, but we did without one for ages before; the vacuum cleaner is an appliance I don't enjoy using, but can't deny it's useful; and the iron I certainly shan't miss at all (anyway, I have a lovely flat iron should I feel the strange urge to press something).

No, what I shall be saddest to leave behind is something many might consider frivolous and unnecessary; a genuinely labour saving device that I use nearly every time I cook; a masterpiece of French engineering (strange, I know) that's worth every penny of the extra it costs over its inferior rivals (not that I got mine new, of course; in fact my first one came from a jumble sale for 50p and once I was hooked, the current one from an ad in the local free paper, brand new, from a woman who found it all a bit terrifying). Yes, everything it does I could do by hand, but it does it better and oh so very much quicker.

I shall try and add a photo later, and see how BlogPress performs at that. In the meantime, I'm sure you can work out what it is.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Time to move on...

I've been thinking about this post for a long time, but I still haven't really planned it; as I start to write it I still don't know what I'm going to say... So where to start?

There have been many times I've been asked 'Do you live on your boat', to which I usually reply, 'No, but I wish I did', or 'No, but I hope I will one day' (or even, if I want to look flash, 'no, but I did live on a boat once' - albeit part time, Monday to Thursday only).

I have a lovely job. Nice office, incredible flexibility, great colleagues, doing what I've loved ever since I first went to university as a mature student back in 1994. I liked it so much I didn't want to leave. A BA in Politics led to an MA in Social and Political Thought, which led to a PhD, which led (via a hundred applications and more) to a one year contract at Portsmouth, lecturing in Political Theory and History of Political Thought (my first love as a subject area, to which I've never managed to return). Then, serendipitously, to a job at Huddersfield (hence the part time boat living), managing a project developing problem based learning for Politics. Because the resources I was developing were being used for students studying local government management, and I got involved in developing the first higher education programme in the UK for elected councillors (having once been one myself), when a job was advertised at Birkbeck for someone to develop a range of new programmes in local government, it was perfect for me, and I got it.

That was five years ago. I developed some wonderful programmes, foundation degrees for people already working in local government, and who needed a degree to progress up the career ladder (or who wanted to move into the field from other areas of the public sector); another programme for councillors (which also became a subject for research), and latterly a new foundation degree in housing - the first in the country to be aimed at tenants rather than existing housing professionals. Useful, innovative programmes which I was proud of, and loved teaching on. Programmes that had real effects on the lives and careers of the people who took them. Programmes which were almost entirely dependent on funding from the public sector.

Two students from my very first cohort will be graduating this year with a BSc Honours in Public Sector and Local Government Management. One of them left school at sixteen and went straight into a job with a London borough council. I remember interviewing him, an incredibly nervous youth with a clammy handshake. He is now a confident manager with a 2:2 honours degree from the University of London. There will be no new students starting the programme this autumn. Likewise for the housing programme, even though it was only launched last year. The elected members programme has already been axed.

I decided that my job security was looking decidely shaky, and when a generous severance package was offered, I decided to apply for it. My application was approved and I leave in September. I don't have another job to go to. I've applied for a couple, and been shortlisted both times (hence the Durham trip) but so far to no avail. That was never the plan anyway; these were jobs that just leapt out at me as ones I had to apply for. The plan was to pay off most of the mortgage, let the house, and go boating for a year or two. Before I get too old, and before the system runs dry.

We are now in the midst of preparing for this. I feel I must apologise publicly to Jim for thrusting this on him (rather like the purchase of Chertsey) with very litle consultation, and thank him for the stoicism with which he has, by and large, borne it. To me it's a great adventure, a marvellous journey into the unknown; for him perhaps more of a terrible uprooting and a snatching away of precious security. So sorry Jim, and thank you for coming along for the ride.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Apple of my i

I've had the iPad a couple of weeks now and this is my first attempt at blogging with it, using the Blogpress app.

So, what do I think of my new toy? Well, I use it a lot more than I thought I would. It's great for catching up on blogs and websites as you can leave aload of windows open and they're there waiting to update as soon as you open Safari again. It's handy for emailing although the touch screen keyboard is driving me a bit mad. Why oh why isn't the apostrophe on the main ABC keyboard? Surely it's used more often than an exclamation mark!
Another thing that others have remarked on is that you can't delete forwards nor place the cursor in the middle of a word, so the odd typo (or omitted space, all too easily done, see below) can require a bit of retyping. I could use auto correct of course but that seems also to entail auto complete which drove me madder still.

But enough carping. This truly is a lovely little toy. If I had the money to spend, I would probably have beensensible and bought a laptop instead, but as a present it's perfect: something frivolous that you wouldn't buy for yourself.

The screen is beautiful of course and photos look great, so I must get round to organising them. Another slight drawback for me is that it won't talk to my computer (Ubuntu) or my Nokia phone.

I have a 3 data card which worked straight out of the box, so I should have fairly easy email and internet on the move - although of course I will now be back to standing outside the boat to use it, one advantage of a wooden cabin that Harland and Wolff never thought of.

It's quite good for readingbooks, especially in the dark, which will be useful when boating. I'm sure I shall thinkof more to say as I use it more, but I had better stop now in case this doesn't work and all my efforts are for naught.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 1 August 2011

Another mystery river

Yes, I was in Durham last week, taking pretty pictures of the River Wear. I didn't achieve what I went there for, but I did get a very nice jacket and a Monsoon skirt in the Age UK charity shop. On the other hand, I also managed to lose a cardigan which I rather liked. That was a fairly distinctive view, I guess, to anyone who's been there, so how about another puzzle. This is the river I was sitting by yesterday... I can't think of any clever pun on its name this time, but I will say it also has four letters.

Further kudos for naming the pub whose garden the photos were taken from :-)

PS. I've finally got round to changing the masthead photo... Many thanks to Cath on Sickle for taking this and other super action photos at Braunston.