Sunday, 31 December 2017

Vinyl day of the year

I got a turntable for Christmas.
I'm not one of those people who is a massive fan of vinyl to the exclusion of all else; I don't think it sounds superior or anything. But I am one of those people who likes my music on the shelf, in physocal form, actually owned by me. Spotify and downloads just aren't the same; too ephemeral, never really mine. Not there on the shelf to catch your eye, take your fancy (although I do like a bit of a random shuffle, sometimes).

I replaced very few LPs with CDs, as until we moved onto the boat we'd always had a turntable (or three). Over the years I've been away though, they'd stopped working, or been adopted by someone else. Having inherited some fairly high quality speakers from my mother, and invested in a new amp to go with her CD player, a turntable seemed the next logical step - but it was still a splendid surprise to unwrap one (from Jim and Sebastian) on Christmas morning.

So I have now come back from Sussexd with a small selection of my vinyl collection, including all my Paul Simon archive, starting from the Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits which I see from my carefully orange-inked note on the inner sleeve I received for Christmas 1980 and taking in a few rarities as well as both the British and US versions of Sounds of Silence and Parsley, Sage... (bonus points for knowing the difference). There are a few Bob Dylan, my Beatles Blue and Red, Lloyd Cole, Tracy Chapman - and Squeeze - all of which I haven't listened to for going on a decade now and some not for two and more (hmmm.. and where are Tanita Tikaram and Suzanne Vega?)

Whatever you enjoy, I hope you have plenty of it in 2018.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Never knowingly

Just as Holly Golightly felt about Tiffany's, I feel that nothing bad could ever happen in John Lewis. I was a late arrival to this temple of middle class consumerism, and I knew instantly that I had found my retail nirvana.

Even today, during the sale, it was quiet and civilised (certainly a lot more so than Primark on any given Saturday). I had a very successful session of present shopping, and treated myself to a lovely new dress as well.

It was only after I got home and went to hang it up in the wardrobe that I discovered it still had a security tag attached to it. (Yes, how did I get out the door?)

So I now have to go back tomorrow to get it removed. And somehow - and this is the worrying bit - convince them that I haven't just picked it up off the shop floor. Yes, I have the receipt, but that could be for another dress, couldn't it...


Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Productivity


Jim has got on so much better than me today...

Monday, 25 December 2017

Celebrations

How to tackle a box of Celebrations - especially if it's a shared one - is obviously the the question vexing the minds of the nation at this time of year. Should you pick randomly, or is it acceptable to root out the last Caramel? Or perhaps you should distribute them on an agreed basis - if such agreement can be reached.

I used to be an advocate of the random approach - it's as good a rule as any, but it wasn't necessarily maximising my Celebratory enjoyment. Then last year I hit on the audacious approach which I am still utilising - for as long as they are available I will eat all my favourite ones first, then once they are gone, my second favourite, and so on down the list, until we get to the Milky Ways, which I won't actually eat.  Other people's choices still introduce a random element - what will the top remaining choice be? In this way, the range of colours in the tub gradually diminishes and I don't have to mix my chocs.

And here is my personal order of preference:
1. Maltesers (the Celebrations 'Teaser' is much, much nicer than actual Maltesers)
2. Twix
3. Caramel
4. Bounty
5. Galaxy
6. Marathon
7. Mars
8. Milky Way

What's yours?

And talking of celebrations, I hope you're having a splendid Yuletide/Christmas, call it what you will, holiday. I posted a card through my new next door neighbour's letterbox yesterday, after some careful consideration... because she's a - apparently quite devout - Muslim. I selected a card with polar bears on - neither Christian nor Pagan imagery - and hoped to see her over the holiday and wished her a very happy 2018. Two ironies were not lost on me, however - the first that I have no problem at all sending 'Christmas' cards to the many fellow atheists of my acquaintance; and the second that my understanding is that most devout followers of other religions would have more respect for, and find more common cause with, a Christian than with an atheist.

Julian Baggini had a thoughtful piece in the Observer yesterday, and I thought this extract was particularly good:

   Atheists are not just people who don’t believe in God. Put positively, our belief is that the natural world is all that there is. Only by fully accepting this fact can we live good lives that are true to our nature. The marking of midwinter brings these truths home. It reminds us that the cycle of life and death turned for aeons before we were born and will continue its rotations for aeons after. It exemplifies the legitimate hope that darkness can be followed by light but not the false hope that we can ultimately escape the fate of all living things. In our feasting, we are asserting the value of appreciating the good things while we have them, while remembering that nothing is meant to last, for good and for bad.

I was talking at the work Christmas party last week to a relatively new member of staff who is a Christian (some of my colleagues were quite shocked that I just came out and asked him). Someone asked if I was a 'militant' atheist (I guess Dawkins has a lot to answer for). Where once I might have been, I decided that no, I'm not. Inasmuch as I'll fight for anything politically, in the public sphere, it's secularism - and my Christian colleague was happy to agree with that. However I might once have felt, now I see my atheism as a private belief. I don't need or even want everyone to believe the same as me. But what is, surely, vital is that we preserve that space where everyone's beliefs can flourish without threatening anyone else's.

Last Thursday I made a point of wishing everyone a happy Yule - I don't believe in Pagan gods any more than the Christian one - but I do think the Pagans have the best calendar.

Anyway, whatever you believe and whatever you are celebrating, I hope you are having an amazing time.



Sunday, 24 December 2017

Today I have been...

...mainly procrastinating getting on with my first assessment for the new qualification - an MEd in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education - for which I need to write 6,000 words on my chosen specialist subject: the changing nature of mature students following changes in HE funding policy, and the implications for those of us who teach them...
And I have, effectively, four days (including tomorrow) to do it, because it's due in on the 3rd and I'm back at work on the 2nd and down in Sussex from the 29th to the 1st. All that advice I give students about starting in plenty of time...

Meanwhile, Jim is tiling the dining room chimney breast with the absolutely gorgeous 'teapot brown' tiles I eventually tracked down from the V&A collection. It's going to be breathtaking.
I have also spent some quality procrastination time in slightly rejigging the blog - new title photo! New self-deprecating words! - all part of a declaration of intent to blog if not better, then more frequently.

I spent a few hours last night setting up a new Twitter account, wondering if I really wanted to do that, then deciding that I didn't, but it's given me the idea of being a bit more Twitteresque on the blog. More fluff and folderol, on the basis that there's always something to write about.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Yes! I am here!

In answer to Enceladus Sarah's post - yes, I'm here. I'm not going to make it to 200 posts this year though (and to think I once had hopes of reaching 300).

A look at the posting record tells the story:
March 26 posts
April 30 posts
May 31 posts
June 29 posts
July 21 posts
August 20 posts

Then...
September 7 posts
October 2 posts
November 1 post
December - up to now - no posts

The thing that happened goes by the name of 'Semester One', which starts with Intro Week in the middle of September, and ended last Friday. Semester 1 is always hard work - new students, in ever increasing numbers every year; my heaviest teaching load and of course the shortening days, the cold and the dark. This year I've had bigger responsibilities too, a once-in-a-career (or at least I hope so) management issue to deal with, plus I've taken on studying for a new qualification, and all the time while trying to come to terms with the implications of my autism at work which has challenged my very sense of who I am and what I do (and how well I do it). So this has been a particularly tough Semester 1, and I've been in the office from eight until six nearly every day just trying to keep on top of it. When I left at three yesterday, it felt quite momentous.

I have done no Christmas shopping - although I did manage to get some cards done. I'm planning to go down south on the 29th, so hoping I can pick up some presents in the post-Xmas sales. We might just get some food planned and shopped today. Most shocking of all, my 50 year old advent calendar is still in its envelope, for the first Christmas ever. I forgot that I gave my little artificial tree to Oxfam last year, and now it's far too late to get a real one, so here are my Christmas decorations for this year:
I hope to get a few more posts in before 2018.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

A few lines on the tram



Typical. She doesn't post anything for over a month, then comes back with some witterings about the tram. Well, sorry about that, but if that's waht it's taken to finally tug me out of the doldrums, then perhaps it's better than nothing. I say doldrums, but in many ways it's been the precise opposite that has kept me from my blogging keyboard: a maelstrom; a perfect storm of work related-stuff that has led, for the first time in my life, to there really not being enough hours in the week to deal with it, and to the requisite emotional, intellectual and physical resilience hanging on by its very fingernails. Or that's how it felt, anyway. Obviously, things are feeling a little more manageable now, and here I am.
And there I was this afternoon, on the tram. Not for the first time - I think it was actually the fifth, or eighth if you count return journeys - but you know how sometimes it gradually dawns on you that you're developing an interest in something... It was when the thought came to me that a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon would be to get a £4 Dayrider ticket and ride the length of each of Sheffield's three Supertram lines that I knew I'd been hooked in some way.

The only tram I'd ever been on before I came to Sheffield was in Moscow, in 1982. It cost 4 kopeks, and although I remember the Moscow Metro quite well (the chandeliers!), the only thing I recall about the tram was a sad-eyed man in a cheap leather jacket, and the smell of cigarette smoke.

More than buses or trains, what the tram most reminds me of is the Tube. It's frequent, so you don't plan your journey, but just turn up and wait for one to arrive. It has different lines - Yellow, Blue and Purple - serving different directions, and indicator boards that count down the minutes until the next one is due (and they seem to be pretty accurate). Inside, the seating layout is (slightly) reminiscent of a Metropolitan Line train, and there are grab rails and hanging straps. 
When it moves, it sounds and feels like the tube. It's electric, for a start, which the trains round here aren't (I'd been here years before that dawned on me, suddenly doing a double-take whilst waiting at the station).

But in some ways it couldn't be more different. The tram has a concuctor; a real live person who really says 'any more fares please', and while they issue tickets and read cards with a bleeping wireless handset, they give change from a heavy leather bag hanging from their belt.
There are 48 stops on the Sheffield tram, compared to 270 on the Tube, but I think that it’s got some far more fabulous names. My nearest stop is called Primrose View. Needless to say, it’s on a busy main road with nary a small spring flower in sight. On my journey today, I took in, amongst other stops called Infirmary Road, Manor Top, Gleadless Townend, Hackenthorpe, Donetsk Way (named for a twinned steel producing town in Ukraine), and, quite possibly the most over-promising station name ever, anywhere, Crystal Peaks, which turns out to be a small shopping centre. This was the Blue line, whose final destination, unimprovably, is Halfway. It takes a real visionary of a transport planner not only to retain that name for a tram stop, but to make it the terminus.
So this could be the beginning of, if not quite a love affair, then certainly an exploratory dalliance, with the tram.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Never too late

It's time to break out the thirty-year-old t-shirt that's been carefully preserved at the back of the wardrobe:
Souvenir of the 100 Club and the Mean Fiddler, and the Tom Robinson Band's tenth anniversary reunion tour...
Because it's now forty years since the release of 2-4-6-8 Motorway, and Tom is touring again to celebrate.

I don't think I could have imagined in 1987 that I'd be leaving my house in Sheffield, with my younger son - then not even thought of - to go and see a 67-year-old Tom playing the entirety of Power in the Darkness at a venue that had opened seven years previously, but that I wouldn't hear of for nearly another thirty. I could not have imagined that I would look up the venue on the internet, and, that had I needed to, a hand held satnav would guide me to it. When I think of the cumbersome cassette recorder I smuggled into those 1980s gigs (and yes, I still have the tapes, unlistened to but hopefully not ruined), and the big SLR camera (fast film purchased specially) that I sometimes took (not always, as it did get in the way...) - now both superseded by something the size of a fag packet, which also serves as phone, computer, telex machine and TV - it's amazing how much the world has changed.

And yet...  

Freedom... we're talking bout your freedom
Freedom to choose what you do with your body
Freedom to believe what you like
Freedom for brothers to love one another
Freedom for black and white
Freedom from harassment, intimidation
Freedom for the mother and wife
Freedom from Big Brother's interrogation
Freedom to live your own life... I'm talking 'bout

Power in the darkness
Frightening lies from the other side
Power in the darkness
Stand up and fight for your rights

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Ashby aborted again

It's starting to look as if we might never see the Ashby canal despite Marston Junction being a short day's cruise away. Two attempts earlier in the year were postponed because of work on the house, but I set aside a week and went to some lengths to get the time of work especially to make the trip this time. The long term weather forecast was mild and even better, dry; the kids would be back at school and hirers hopefully thinner on the ground - there was only one thing that could spoil things. As we neared the weekend, the forecasts started to mention the tail ends of various hurricanes, but undaunted, we grasped at the straw that these would pass through over the weekend. We set off on Sunday, packed up the boat, and prepared to sit it out. Sunday night was windy and if anything it strengthened as Monday progressed. Furthermore, the forecasts now seemed to suggest that winds of up to 20 mph would continue throughout the week.

Now, I have learnt my lesson when it comes to wind. I will boat in rain, snow and ice, in heatwave and in hailstorm, but not in wind unless I absolutely have to. With winds at anything above about 7 mph and Chertsey's speed anything below roughly 2 mph (i.e. 90% of the time), the fore end becomes completely uncontrollable. Picture Chertsey - or look at the photo at the top of the page. At the back, where the cabin is, there's about 3' of boat under the water. Nice and heavy, solid and stable. At the front, there's nearer 3" under the water - and what, going on for 6' of floaty hollowness above it. Get a cross wind and there's nothing you can do but apologise to the moored boat you hit sideways on or spend ages stuck to the bank (quite possibly in the mud as well) swearing, poling, and ultimately weeping until the wind drops for a minute, at which point you might just get off in time to repeat it all again around the next corner. So strangely enough, the idea of tackling a shallow, winding, unfamiliar canal in those conditions did not seem to offer the sort of relaxing holiday experience I had assured my boss I needed.

So, disappointed, but resigned, we repacked the car on Monday afternoon and returned to Sheffield. Once the wind does finally drop, we'll have to go back and cloth Chertsey up for the winter - particularly as the translucent cloths are starting to disintegrate - they've done three years, so I'm quite happy with that, and the roll I bought for about £70 will make another two sets, so that's well under a tenner a year.

I wonder whether we'll get to Swarkestone next year...

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Deck the walls

The house continues to take shape, and another finishing touch was put in place this morning:
Chertsey's old deckboard, adorning the living room wall. This is the deckboard that came with (although not on) Chertsey - it's definitely hers, and almost certainly pre-1962, as it's stamped with her fleet number, 130, on the back. The painting however must be post-1962, as it certainly isn't very BWB. The circular hole, which was for a headlight (I have old photos showing a light mounted behind it), has been cut out with a series of drill holes - again, not part of the original design!

Some of the wood has rotted in places, but it's not bad considering it's at least 55 years old, and was probably in use until the mid 1970s - and not that well cared for either. We even boated with it for a while:
It still has the heads of the bolts that attached the mounting irons to it showing at the front. Jim cut the bolts off and the irons are now in use on the new deckboard.

I'm really pleased to have such an interesting artefact and little bit of history to display on my wall - that fact that it fits so perfectly with the colour scheme is a complete bonus!

Friday, 15 September 2017

Holiday plans - and a tenth of a long life

My Daisypath ticker tells me that as of today,  I've owned Chertsey for eight years. That may not seem like long, but it's a tenth of her life!

I've also booked the first holiday of next year - back up the Erewash. Can't believe it'll have been five years since the last time.

Perhaps we'll leave off redoing the cloths until after then...

Monday, 11 September 2017

Normal service is resumed

But I've given up on the goal of getting 300 posts in by the end of the year - I'm not going to cheat by doing more than one a day. I could have carried on doing it on my phone, but... pah.

Anyway, today after two cancellations from EE, a BT man came round and did something and I now have landline broadband, at last - only six weeks after moving.

I think it must have been my iPad that was the data-eating culprit, and I still haven't got to the bottom of it. You will recall that something went through 8GB of mifi data in a fortnight - now, there were five devices connected to that: my phone, Jim's phone, my iPad, Jim's iPad, and my PC. My PC was switched off most of the time. Neither of our phones used more data than expected. Jim's iPad has an EE monthly contract SIM, and usage on that was perfectly normal as far as I can tell. Whereas when we went to the boat the weekend before last, I put a new 3 3GB SIM in my iPad. I use these a lot and they have always run out of time (three months) before they run out of data. This one ran out of data within two weeks despite refusing to connect to any websites in that time. It always showed a decent signal, but timed out every time. I've checked the usage by apps, and none of that comes anywhere near accounting for it.

Extra Energy by the way have surpassed themselves. I have now sent them three lots of meter readings in the hope of getting an accurate bill. When an envelope from them dropped onto the doormat today I thought it might be the bill at last. But on opening it I found.... a new 'welcome new customer' letter.  But at least they've stopped calling me Mrs.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Old flame

The crew of Princess Lucy snapped this on their way through Wheaton Aston and asked whether it was my ex.
Well yes, and I have very fond memories, but also very happy that it's got a new life and is, I am sure, very loved.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Data woes

How can we have used 8GB on the mifi in a fortnight (no games, no video)?
Why won't my iPad connect when its 3 sim is showing a three blob signal?
How am I supposed to blog when the landline broadband which I have been waiting for since the beginning of August isn't going to be transferred until September 11th?
I thought privatisation and competition was supposed to improve the service. We might as well be dealing with the GPO.



Saturday, 2 September 2017

A few Alvecote scenes

Remember last summer? Last weekend...



A lazy post tonight, but I can't afford to miss a single day now if I'm to hit the 300 target for the year!

Friday, 1 September 2017

Books I read in August

Graham Masterton Living Death (local library)
I'm on a bit of a Masterton/Katie McGuire run at the moment. The characters and the dialogue are great. The plots tend towards the outlandish, and also the somewhat grisly. This one, unforgiveably, relied on two coincidences. I will accept one coincidence per book, but not more than that.

Simon Kernick The Bone Field (Tescos)
Traditional thriller, not bad, already forgotten.

Graham Masterton Taken for Dead  (local library)
Another one which I'd already read - in fact, I'm pretty sure this is the first one I read. I enjoyed re-reading it though.

Graham Masterton Red Light (local library)
The last of the Katie McGuires for me to read. It's a shame I've read them out of sequence, especially as they all seem to finish with a bit of a cliffhanger. As a series, the good points are the characters and the dialogue; the less good ones plots that sometimes rely a little too much on coincidence, or stretch credulity in other ways, and a tendency - to be expected, I suppose, in an erstwhile horror author - to dwell a little too lovingly on the gory details. Overall though, pretty good.

Pete Brown Hops and Glory (local library)
I enjoy reading Pete Brown's blog, and this combination of travelogue and history of IPA is the first of his books I've tried.  It was pretty good - though sometimes he seems to be trying too hard to live up to the blurb of being beer's answer to Bill Bryson.

Simon Danczuk and Matthew Baker Smile for the Camera: The Double Life of Cyril Smith (Tesco's book swap)
The amateurish, breathless quality of the writing put me off at first, but even that couldn't mask a gripping story. The child abuse actually came as less of a shock than Smiths sustained lobbying for the asbestos industry. Not an unbiased account - Danczuk being a Labour MP - but it tries to be fair, and Smith's dreadfulness speaks for itself anyway.

Catherine O'Flynn The News Where You Are (local library)
Since loving her What Was Lost so much, it's taken me a while to get round to reading O'Flynn's other novels. This has many similarities with her debut, with its elegaic air and themes of loss and absence, conveyed with perceptive humour and featuring a precocious little girl. It's not as breathtakingly brilliant as What Was Lost, but as that's now one of my top ten books of all time that would be a tall order. It's a quiet sort of book, a story of the everyday desperation hidden beneath normal, even successful, lives, which somehow makes the most dramatic events mundane, as they so often actually are.

Catherine O'Flynn Mr Lynch's Holiday (local library)
Whilst still not as good as What Was Lost, I liked this better than The News Where You Are. It's a lovely, touching, beautifully sketched little story.

Christopher Fowler Wild Chamber (local library)
The latest Bryant and May. They're getting less outright weird, but still pretty convoluted. A delight more for its little asides ('the sort of people who eat crisps at home' being one that springs to mind) than for following the plot, but neatly if incredibly wrapped up in the end.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

PD2 gallery

And now for something for those of us with... specialised... interests.
In the late 50s and early 60s around 70 boats were fitted with Petter PD2s. Just over 10% of those retain them (while a handful of others have subsequently had one fitted). And of these, a full four were at Alvecote. So I took the opportunity to photograph these (to be honest not very magnificent) beasts in their different habitats.

Cassopeia's is what I have always thought of as 'authentic' grey:
I was reassured during the parade that Chertsey's engine isn't actually all that smokey after all
Both Aldgate
and Darley
go for a more traditional dark green, with red embellishments - but only Darley has brass.

And finally, Chertsey, in its unusual 'muscat' green. The one we took out was grey; this one is, as far as I know, from Rufford, and restored by Steve Priest.
I wonder what other differences can be spotted.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Gin

This was my first and favourite - Cotswold gin with Indian tonic. I think it was greatly improved by the fresh orange zest, and the big lump of cinnamon must have pushed the cost up (still well within the fiver charged though I'm sure). Such refinements were lost as the bar got busier. Others were less flavoursome - damson was quite nice. The worst one tasted like toilet cleaner, but that was probably the lemon tonic. All in all though I thoroughly enjoyed gin-sampling, and didn't get a hangover at all.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Book buying

At Alvecote I always make a beeline first for the Chesterfield Canal Trust's stall. Apparently they had their most successful weekend ever there, and I'm pleased to say I made a contribution. As well as the long throw ally windlass and the (also ally) tiller bar for the PLs, I bought a few books - some good finds this time I think. First, a couple of classics which can be quite hard to find:
 This is the one I am most likely to read - in fact, I have already started. It must be admitted, however, that knowledgeable as Alan Faulkner is, his style could fairly be described as soporific. Or perhaps that is the sunject matter. Somehow all the drama of the planning and building of the canal is rendered in a very flat prose style.
This I thought was the rarer volume, although it cost me less (£3 to the Faulkner's £10). I'm not really the one who's interested in Rickies, other than the GU connection, but there are some fabulous photos in it.

Then I picked this one up for another £3
and have started to read it. So far it seems readable enough, though I might tire of the breathless reworking of various blue plaques and tourist information leaflets.

After buying these I leafed through the £1 box and couldn't resist this
in the light of Chertsey's connection with the restoration. It's a 1974 guide, complete with lovely dated adverts (including the ever-popular '"Gay" Cruisers' (their quotes)). I am fascinated and mystified by these spongey pads on the inside of the back cover:
No one on the stall knew what they were for. My best guess is that they were meant to provide some sort of non-slip quality for when you had the book open on the slide or cabin top. I've seen the material before somewhere but I can't place it.
It's synthetic, more fibrous than spongey really (although with a springy quality) and about 3mm thick. Any guesses - or knowledge - as to their purpose?


Monday, 28 August 2017

Happy campers

It occurred to me about half way through the weekend that in going to Alvecote I subject myself to a simulacrum of an experience I had always thought I would avoid like the proverbial. The August Bank Holiday Long Weekend ay Alvecote is remarkably similar to how I have always imagined a holiday at Butlins. It is completely self contained; we do not set foot outside the bounds of the resort for the duration. Full English breakfast is served daily in the cavernous bar by very cheerful people. We sit around in the sun by the water, until it's time for the entertaining competitions with 'amusing' commentaries. Loud music is broadcast across the site through the day, and in the evening crooners sing loudly to backing tracks. There are also dances. You can eat three meals a day in the Barlow should you so wish. And so on. Truth to tell, it does all get a bit much after a while and after a couple of days I'm glad to get home. But next year I'll be ready to do it all over again - I'm fully converted to the delights of the gin bar and am looking forward to making that an annual tradition.

Seriously though, massive praise should go to Malcolm, Matt, Caz, Alison and all the rest of the crew who work non stop in the Barlow over the weekend and were still smiling this morning.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Sunning ourselves by the pool

It has been a splendidly hot bank holiday weekend so far - so much so that we are planning to leave early tomorrow so as not to be driving in the middle of the day. Unfortunately I have to be at work on Tuesday so we will have to miss out on Monday's events. Having said that though the weekend has been quite exhausting on the noise and socialising front so I'll be glad to get home for a rest.

Today has largely been spent sitting on the back end, soaking up the sun, and listening to rather than watching the parade. More boats took part today and apparently it got quite chaotic. I was pleased to hear that the commentary had fewer attempts at 'humour' than yesterday, particularly at the expense of innocent holidaying boats passing through, which I had thought was the sort of thing that gets historic boaters a bad name.

We had an unexpected dinner in the Barlow, as the Moomins surprised us having booked a table, but are now back packing up and preparing to leave in the morning... before setting off for a few more gins - ah yes, I forgot to mention the gin bar was a great success. I sampled four different ones, with a variety of tonics, and they were all discernible different. I hope to fit in a couple more tonight.



Saturday, 26 August 2017

Watching the boats go by

Saturday, nine pm.

Day three at Alvecote began with a little light polishing, then breakfast in the Barlow. In previous years the boaters' breakfast was extremely set, with no exceptions and no substitutions, so we have got in the habit of taking a dish by which to transfer our eggs to Ricky. Both Jim and I are of the view that the only acceptable way of eating eggs is in a cake. This morning Ricky got some sausage too, as I was feeling generous. It was ten thirty by the time breakfast was over, and the sun was already warm. We had Ricky's shelter set up yesterday but at two metres wide it's a bit of a liability and so detrimental to the aesthetics of the boat that I feared we might be banished to the end of the marina with the cabin conversions. So this morning I improvised a more compact, Ricky sized, shelter using the fabric of the tent and the folding table. This was a great success and I shall share photos of it in due course. We took the opportunity to forage the Chesterfield Canal Trust's stall and came away with four books, a Walsh long throw windlass, and a new tiller for the Princess Lucys. (Lucies?)

After a light lunch (a mint magnum) we went over to visit the Moomins on Melaleuca. This was because they are moored on the towpath opposite the Barlow, in prime position for viewing the winding part of the boat parade. I wasn't going to parade for two reasons - one, I can't abide the 'amusing' commentary, and two, I couldn't face the thought of getting back onto the pontoon after. So we sat it out on Melaleuca's fore end and I tried out my new birthday 17-85mm lens. I can't tell you what the results were like until I get back and get the photos onto the big screen but I am sure there will be some to post.

After two and a half hours of parade we went back to the boat for some dinner containing actual vegetables, keeping the scurvy at bay for another day or two, and then found ourselves irresistibly drawn back to the bar, where I have been inveigled by mein host Malcolm into a boutique gin or three. I am currently sitting, slightly chilled (Ricky now has his blanket on) outside the Barlow eagerly anticipating the illuminated boat parade. And another gin.



Friday, 25 August 2017

Friday at Alvecote

The post that went up this morning was actually Thursday's. Despite inserting the new 3 sim that I had left on the boat, and it showing a reasonable signal, it wouldn't actually load any websites or upload the post, so this morning I fell back on the EE midi that Jim had fortunately brought.

Today was a normal gathering day one - starting with polishing. The weather was lovely and sunny and by lunchtime was so hot we'd had to put up Ricky's shelter. The Moomins came over after lunch no we all went for a walk in the woods - I must research and write more about the Pooley Hall nature reserve - it really is excellent. Then we had an ice cream (again) on the way back and found ourselves sitting in the beer garden. So we bought a drink and thought we'd better sit there and keep a table until teatime... which we did, chatting with various people throughout the evening until it got a bit too dark and chilly.

There are four PD2s here of the (approx) eight or nine still in historic boats (out of 68-74 fitted) and tomorrow I intend to go and photograph them all - that's Chertsey, Cassopeia, Darley and Aldgate. There has been a suggestion that we should pool our knowledge and resources. Perhaps we should form a club!



Thursday, 24 August 2017

Arriving at Alvecote

I'm not used to travelling the M1 on a weekday morning, so it was a relief when we eventually arrived at Alvecote around midday. First thing was to move the boat onto a pontoon so that Ricky could get on - a bit of a breeze had got up to ensure that this wouldn't be boring. Quite a lot of people were already here so we said a few hellos. Then we indulged ourselves with lunch in the Barlow before pumping out a massive amount of rainwater from the bilges. While this was going on, I started the polishing - but there's still plenty to be done tomorrow. I forgot to bring flowers for the cabin top, which I am kicking myself for - Tesco's do a relatively cheap bunch which matches Chertsey's paintwork nicely. After pumping out the bilge, we took Ricky for a lovely long walk in the woods, followed by an ice cream (for us, and a pig's ear for him). Not long after that Melaleuca arrived and now we are just back from a lovely curry night evening in the Barlow.



Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Alvecote approaches

Tomorrow begins the final holiday of this (academic) year. It's not a cruising holiday as I had planned, and postponed, only to postpone again. But going to Alvecote for their weekend historic boat gathering cum beer festival will be a much needed break from working on the house (for Jim) and living amongst the inevitable chaos (for me). (As of tonight though I do have a fully functioning bathroom!). Being a historic narrow boater is certainly good preparation for living in a half finished house - although it's certainly more than half finished now. In fact, my bedroom, study and living room are pretty much complete; the kitchen is apart from the tiling and shelves, and now so is the bathroom apart from a bit of finishing off of paintwork and, again, shelves. The stairs are still to be painted and carpeted, but the biggest remaining job is the dining room, which as site office and workshop has been left until the very last.

Anyway, back to Alvecote. To get maximun value from the bank holiday weekend we're going up tomorrow, and tomorrow night, if their journey goes to plan, we should be enjoying a Samual Barlow curry with the Moomins. Then it'll be a case of getting Chertsey onto its weekend mooring and just chilling with a lot of brass polishing, walks in the woods and relaxing in the sun (well, it's forecast to be dry at any rate). And catching up with everyone we haven't seen since Braunston, of course - with a Barlow's breakfast every day and plenty of beer.

I shall take my big camera with its new lens that Jim bought me for my birthday, so hopefully I should come back with some nice photos.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Basin' a post on sanitaryware

Today has been a significant milstone in the progress of The House. After four weeks of brushing my teeth in the bath, I almost have a bathroom basin. But not just any old basin. Well, an old basin, to be fair. Possibly a hundred years old - I haven't been able to date the mark, although I can state with confidence that it was made by Johnson Brothers of Hanley.
I have been hoarding this basin for many years. I think Jim got it at the Newhaven tip, although it might be the one we found at the chicken farm... Never, ever pass up the opportunity to acquire an old bit of sanitaryware. Jim cleaned it up ready to bring to Sheffield...
I thought we would have to build a cabinet and fit it into some worktop, which would have been a bit of a shame, but much better than not having it at all. But then at Braunston, on one of the small society stalls, I found some brackets - two pairs, in cast iron. They had originally had more, but they'd already sold. At £2 a pair I snapped up the last ones. The delay in fitting the basin was that the brackets needed a bit of grinding, and the grinder was in Newhaven. But here it now is:

The sharp eyed amongst you will notice that I will be brushing my teeth in the bath one more nights, as it's not quite plumbed in yet. This is because the wall is not vertical so the brackets need a tiny spacer at the back. But I am just delighted to see it nearly there.

A boit of a contrast to the previous one:



Monday, 21 August 2017

Time to explore

Going on a six or eight mile walk at the weekend is all very well but I need to get back into the swing of a daily - or at least every-other-daily - fast walk (with a bit of running). I felt so much better for it when I got into the habit last year, and I was noticeably fitter when we were boating last summer. I has a nice little route mapped out from where I lived before - two  miles or so would take me out of the city, albeit still on a main road. I'd even got to the point where I could run a whole mile without stopping! And I would regularly fast walk six miles in an hour and a half, before breakfast. That's what I want to start doing again. It's hard to get started, but turns into time well spent.  I'd also bought myself a basic Garmin watch, so I could keep track of my times and distances. I lent that to Sebastian though, so as a substitute I've downloaded MapMyWalk. The downside is that I'll have to take my phone with me but as long as I'm walking and not running that won't be so bad. I've set myself a goal of twenty miles a week - which might be a bit tougher this week as I'm on leave from work, and a daily walk to work and back (by the more scenic route) adds up to twelve and a half miles a week. And we're off to Alvecote at the weekend (although I could get in some decent walking there).
Anyway, tomorrow I plan to get up early and set off to see where I get to.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Walkies again

This weekend my Ramblers group offered another suitable walk - actually on the short side, at six miles, but with some interesting terrain (and lots of mud) and lovely views over Ladybower reservoir from on high - and at lunchtime, from its shore.
The morning began surprisingly chilly, but the day warmed up, and it was mostly sunny and dry.
At lunchtime a flaw in Ricky's new harness revealed itself. All the time he's straining to get away - when passing sheep for example - it does a great job of keeping him under control. However, at lunchtime as he relaxed on the grass, I noticed just in time as his head slipped under the front of it and off it came! We accidentally hit on a good system in response to this though, with one end of the lead clipped to his collar and the other to the harness. In future the old (and cheaper!) x-shaped harness - which I think it is technically impossible to get out of without unclipping - will come out again!

Thursday, 17 August 2017

EE ba gum

The most stressful thing about moving is dealing with the utilities. I hate dealing with utilities. I hate using the phone, and I cannot stand dealing with call centres. I just can't do it.
I had EE broadband before I moved, and had been very happy with it. I went online and completed the requisite details for moving, which seemed pretty straightforward. OK, it took a fortnight, which I was a bit pissed off about - if I'd known that I'd have done it sooner. But still, confident that in two weeks my phone socket would magically come to life I sat back to wait, relying on Jim's mifi in the interim. Just before the two weeks was up, I got an email from EE. 'We would like to talk to you regarding your Broadband and Landline services', it said. 'Please call 0800 0790 283 as further information is required regarding your account with us.' Naturally I replied to the email, saying I don't use the phone, please can you ask your questions by email. That was five days ago, and naturally I have heard nothing since. Meanwhile, Jim's mifi data has run out (6 gb in a month; how?) until tomorrow so I am writing this at work.
That is as nothing however compared to my experience with Extra Energy, whose gas and electricity 'services' I inherited with the house. No, I had never heard of them either. I went online, set up an account, and sent them meter readings. I didn't get a bill, but I got a threatening letter saying I hadn't paid the bill. So I emailed them some more meter readings. The emailed back saying they couldn't deal with it as I had used a different email account from the one I had registered with them. OK, that sort of makes sense. But they said, could I phone them instead. So if someone pretending to be me had emailed from a different email account, that's something they are absolutely security conscious about; but anyone could phone pretending to be me and that would be fine. Also, as per my previous gripe about CRT, the only thing this imaginary imposter could do would be to pay my bill, so that doesn't seem such a massive security threat. I have now established some sort of email correspondence with them, albeit with massive time lags on their part, but that hasn't stopped them sending me another threatening letter yesterday. Now, I want to pay the bill (the sooner I can, the sooner I can find another supplier) - but I want to pay an actual bill, not their wild guesswork. I've given them the information - and updated it twice - but so far all I've had is one grossly over-estimated bill, in between the two threatening letters. Meanwhile the letter-sending-out machine seems to have no idea what the emailers are doing. 
Worst of all, the threatening letters only provide a phone number - no email; no postal address (just a tiny head office address hidden at the bottom). I told the email people that I don't use the phone because of a disability (!) and they fell over themselves to assure me how seriously they take this. Yeah, right.
On the other hand, a highly commended for Yorkshire Water, who have dealt with everything smoothly and by post, including a very nice, clear and friendly letter explaining why I couldn't pay quarterly like I did before (because I don't have a meter at the house! Baths all round!)