I didn't say the boat was interesting, did I? The they have slipped up a bit here, and got an interesting building in the background by mistake. It's the former FMC warehouse in Nottingham, which I recognised from our trip last year, and will hopefully be seeing again soon.
... and at the end of June, which I didn't manage to fit into last month's post.
Tom Foxon Number One Tom Foxon Following the Trade Bought both of these from the HNBOC stand at Braunston and proceeded to devour them immediately. Readable, informative, but definitely a specialist interest.
Stephen Booth The Dead Place Booth is a new favourite of mine. Atmospheric settings, possibly slightly overdone characters, but whodunnit plots that actually get you puzzling.
Gerald Box Clinging On: The Moira Cut, Coal, and the Last Days of Carrying Read for Chertsey research purposes. Slightly mad, but another piece of the jigsaw. Shame the Ashby Canal Association don't seem to have kept their own records...
Frances Fyfield The Art of Drowning The difference good writing makes! Scary, menacing tale of misplaced love and loyalty.
Stephen Booth Dancing With the Virgins As above. Subtle villains; no one's black and white.
Lance Price Where Power Lies: Prime Ministers v. The Media Almost work, this one (if the 'Propaganda and Persuasion' module ever signs up any students) but a rattling good read full of fascinating facts about how PMs from Asquith to Brown have dealt with - and been dealt with by - the media. I learnt lots of incidental history too. That's where I got the snippet about Baldwin's famous phrase having been written by Kipling.
Alex Callinicos Against the Third Way Yes, this is work, but I did read it from cover to cover, so I'm counting it. Readable and interesting (up to a point) and could certainly reignite an interest in Marxist theory that is rather jaded after so many years spent at Sussex.
Stephen Booth Black Dog Can't believe this is the third Booth I've read this month - just chanced across it in the charity shop on Wednesday, and was up until two this morning finishing it. It's the first in the series, and quite possibly the best of those I've read so far, which is to say, it's very good. Only a couple more I've not read now.
It was, famously, Stanley Baldwin who said that certain press proprietors sought 'power without responsibility - the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages'. What is less well known is that the killer line was written for him by his cousin, who just happened to be Rudyard Kipling. Why he sought to single out harlots also is a bit of a mystery, other than that it made good copy... anyway, I'm getting a tantalising little taste of what it is to be a former of public opinion, a maker of stars (or indeed, Stars). When I posted last Saturday about how super Star's blog is, it sat at no. 59 in the UK waterways hit parade. It has since rocketed up to number 30, and for all I know will continue to climb and even overtake Chertsey. Well, it thoroughly deserves to, and I hope that everyone who looked at Star as a result of my post enjoyed it as much as I do. No pressure there then Kevin.
It was my birthday yesterday, and I'd been dropping hints (which I'd forgotten about!) that I'd like one of those padded tartan work shirts. And woo, look what I got - not just one padded tartan work shirt (a Dickies one to boot), but a fluffy tartan hoodie too. How cosy I shall be while boating. I like these because I particularly don't like fleeces. I know they're wonderfully practical and light and warm, but somehow they're a bit too modern, and anyway, they remind me too much of a certain kind of bossy woman. I bet PE teachers all wear fleeces nowadays.
There are quite a few blogs I read regularly, because I know the person who writes them, or because I like their quirkiness, or because they're a good source of news. But there aren't many I'd recommend on a sort of 'if you like this then you might like this' basis (I think Blossom's was the last). There aren't many that combine regular posts with really interesting content, nice photos and top quality writing, partly because, I guess, there aren't that many written by professional journalists. So may I commend to you Star, who has all that and a really nice boat and a cute dog to boot.
I particularly liked this post - not the cheap put down you might first think, but a really well observed, funny, and ultimately hopeful piece.
So, not news I know, but naturally I have to share my tale of licensing woe. Although actually it's not a tale of woe, because although there have been cock-ups and chaos, everyone I have spoken to at BW has been ever so nice and helpful, and this time, they promise, they really will sort it out...
It started when I went to Fradley to fill in - and pay for - a licence application form. Apparently, in the commodious setting of the visitor centre/ice cream emporium I wrote my bank card number down wrong. Six weeks later, I got a phone call to tell me this, and to take the number down again. That's fine, said the nice young man, the post's just about to go, I'll print off your licence and pop it in the post right now.
A couple of days ago, a long, heavy envelope arrived from BW. Uh-oh, I thought. That feels like new plates... Just what I didn't want. Chertsey already has an index number - 70453 - one of the first to be issued when they were first introduced in the early eighties. 519333 might be a perfectly nice number, but I don't want it, thank you very much. The trouble is, Chertsey was last licensed in 1983, so there's no record of it on BW's computer - although I've talked to other people in similar situations, and they have been successful in getting their old number reissued, so I was hopeful. This isn't the cock-up, by the way; no, this is all quite understandable, if disappointing.
It was when I looked at the licence 'discs' they had sent that I realised something wasn't quite right - they had no craft name on them, no index number, and stated 'no permanent mooring'. If they hadn't been just about as dear as a licence could be, I might have made a tidy profit with them. So I got on the phone straight away (fortunately I had a direct number for the nice young man who'd phoned me up previously) and although he wasn't there, his nice young colleague has promised to sort everything out, and to arrange to reissue the old index number as well. So... watch this space.
As I come to the end of another day without having written an article, book, etc, I thought I would have a look and add up what I actually have written. For today, a fairly random choice, it looks like this:
Emails (all to do with work) - 588 words Letter to DVLA (don't ask) - 772 words Letter to BW licencing (tell you later) - 196 words CWF posts - 178 words This blog post - 95 words Comment on yesterday's blog - 25 words
Total: 1854 words
That's a quarter of an article! If only it were that easy.
Now I'm getting round to retrospectively organising my Chertsey photos, starting with last month's. June was a very busy and productive month, starting with collecting the new engine, and ending at Braunston. That bit's already been covered; the rest of the story is here.
And to go with the tea, some toast, made on the Chertsey patent grill. I've done this a couple of times now, and it works a treat. Just take the lid off the stove (see left) once it's going, and place the grill over the top. If the toast is done a bit quick - i.e still a bit soft in the middle and you prefer it crisper - just move it away from the hole to dry out a bit more.
If you look at Mike's photos of Chertsey's trip to Braunston, you will note that there are a great many of me pouring tea from my big brown enamel teapot. This £4.50 antique shop (the same place we got Warrior's old can) buy has proven the unexpected hit of the whole enterprise. Purchased primarily for decoration, as it matched the kettle, it has actually proven to be incredibly useful, and very popular.
Before we left I had become increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of the cups of tea I was making at home, using the (now standard) method of putting a teabag in a mug and pouring boiling water over it, stirring it about a bit, leaving it a bit, adding some milk, stirring it some more and finally squeezing it out. I concluded that the quality of teabags must be diminishing, like that of so many other things. The tea they put in teabags isn't the same as the stuff you buy loose anyway; apparently it wouldn't work if it were (but as it doesn't work anyway...); it's much finer. Two grades of tea are apparently named 'fannings' and 'dust'. Isn't that lovely. They may even be the same thing, and are what is used in teabags. Anyway, I decided to buy some proper tea - which for me means Assam - and make it in a proper pot. This requires a bit of forethought, a bit of trouble, and hence a bit more attention. It's no longer an instant, throwaway drink, but a bit of an occasion. And when you think of the importance of tea ceremonies in various cultures over the millennia, that's the way it should be.
On the boat I was still using bags (though I have bought a new strainer, so once the bags have run out...), but the pot came into its own for another reason. Lighting the Primus is a bit of a palaver, and boiling the kettle takes a long time, so it doesn't seem worth it for two quick mugs of tea, and you can't just flick the switch again when you want another one ten minutes later. So it made sense to make a pot, and have a couple of mugs each out of it. I found six teabags for four cups to give the required strength! And when there were guests to entertain, we could easily get six or eight cups out of it, especially with the five pint kettle. Nothing says sociability like a big teapot on the cabin slide.
As for milk, well, I bought some cartons of UHT semi-skimmed, but I only had to open one once. Even in the heat that we experienced in June, I found that a pint of fresh milk bought one morning would last through to the next. The only refrigeration I used was to put in in a big jug with a little water in the bottom and a damp teatowel draped over it, trailing in the water. This made enough difference (it did go off the one time I omitted to do this). I reckon that if I managed without a fridge that week, I can manage any time.
Today Jim got his paints out again and painted this dipper. It's one of two 'feed scoops' we bought ages ago for a fiver. I think it might be destined for Chertsey as it's my birthday next week.... Nice, isn't it.
I'd love to have a go, but I know I just couldn't do it. I attempted some roses on Andante, but I couldn't even work out what direction to move the brush in. My castles weren't much better, but at least they were the right way up.
Today I finally got around to putting up my boat and boat-related pictures to brighten up a rather plain white wall. Clearly I'm not going to be invited to join any hanging committees any time soon - I was aiming for a sort of random effect but I'm still not sure whether it's too random or not random enough.
As I acquire more frames (these were all less than a pound each from local charity shops), I'll add to the collection - I can always find the pictures. So far these include a horse drawn barge on the Regents Canal, the interior of Tarporley's back cabin, Tarporley on the Regents Canal in the 70s, me steering Chiswick, Chertsey in 1937, Dipper (Bristol) and butty frozen in at Brentford, and the biggest one, a turn of the century photo of Amsterdam, one of a dozen won by my father for correctly identifying all the cities featured.
Sometimes when I'm reading other boaty blogs, I feel moved to make a comment. I click on the little button, and a message comes up saying something like: 'Comment moderation has been enabled. Your comment will appear after it has been approved by the blog administrator.' When I see this, I go away without leaving a comment. Why?
Well, the way I see it, in that case it's not me who's posted the comment, but the blogger themself. It takes all the spontanaeity out of it, and it means that the comments that appear may not be a true reflection of those that were left.
Obviously, very occasionally, I have had cause to delete a post. Usually this is when it is obviously spam (I just did delete one such from a few days ago, hence my thoughts turning to the subject); even more rarely it has been to remove a comment that might be hurtful to a third party. If someone disagrees with, criticises or even insults me, I'd sooner respond publicly than try to suppress it. After all, I've still seen it, so the damage (if damage it be) is done.
To be so afraid of comments that you need to scrutinise each and every one before it appears seems somehow to be contrary to the open spirit of blogging. It might be sadly necessary when dealing with very controversial or heated topics, where there is a wider audience reading, or where there is a risk of libel that the blog owner would be responsible for, but - even given the level of vitriol that a post about dangling fenders can cause - on a boating blog? And while unsolicited public compliments are lovely, if you've made the decision to post them yourself, having read them, doesn't it feel a bit like blowing your own trumpet?
So comment away, let everyone see what you have to say, and unless you insult one of my friends or are blatantly advertising, your comment will be there for posterity.
It's good news surely that a large Woolwich motor boat that had been on the market for some time should not only have found new owners, but has been made available for the public to experience and enjoy... Yes, Hawkesbury. When I spotted it last year it had just been bought by Birmingham & Midland and the steerer told me that they were planning to use it for training and private charters. It's a good idea; the 'skipper' can live in slendid isolation in the back cabin and so not pollute the guests with his presence, and up to four people get to live in the 'tasteful' conversion. During their day or week long trip they can do as much or as little as they like (as we say on Tarporley, meaning within reason, of course). Prices range from £1130 to £1400 for four people for a week - not cheap, but not unreasonable compared to a hotel boat or hiring.
After seeing them last year, I didn't give it much more thought until last week, when I picked up a leaflet in the Swan at Fradley. Parts of it I admit did make me shriek - for example: Unlike modern, lightweight narrowboats, Hawkesbury does not have the benefit of responsive handling.... Either that's a foul slur, or they should get the steering sorted out.
But what really depressed me was when I looked at the website and saw it advertised thus: Bespoke Executive Solutions Ltd are expanding their narrowboating portfolio....
When I was a kid (12, 13ish) I had a bike. I loved riding it up and down the street, in a world of my own. I never cycled to school though; for one thing, it really wasn't too far to walk, and for another, you weren't allowed to unless you had your Cycling Proficiency badge. For some reason, I had - from childhood until very (i.e. boat) recently - a horror of taking instruction, particularly on anything that involved equipment. Driving lessons even in my late twenties were agony, and when once, against my better judgement, I was prevailed upon to visit a gym, I turned round and walked straight out again. So I wasn't much of a cyclist, but I enjoyed the limited amount I did.
Then, again in my late 20s, when I first knew Jim, he had a bike and for some reason it seemed like a good idea for me to get one too, but this time it just didn't work. As a grown up I wasn't allowed to ride on the pavement any more, and frankly, the road was damn scary. On top of that the bike was too big and heavy, and Jim used to get very impatient that I couldn't keep up with him. The bike ended up being passed onto no. 1 son when he got big enough, and my cycling days were over.
Or so I thought. Then last weekend, looking over to the towpath, I thought cycling along there can't be too hard, if I had a bike I was comfortable with. Wouldn't it be handy to be able to cycle along to Fradley (a couple of miles) or even Rugeley (five miles)... maybe even to the station. So much easier and cheaper than taking and parking the car. But of course I didn't want to fork out for something I might not use, so we decided to keep an eye on Freecycle and see what came up. Then this afternoon Jim spotted that they had a number of bikes at the tip for a tenner each, so I went down and made my selection - a not very old, not too big and not too heavy Raleigh, in really good nick - the brakes and gears all work and it's dead straight; it just needed new tyres. Jim has given it the once over, a clean and a little drop of paint, and then the moment of truth came... We put it in the car and went over to our local cycle route between Newhaven and Bishopstone to see how I got on. By car you can only join the route in the middle, but after a few circuits of the car park to get the feel of it I cycled to Bishopstone and back and then to Newhaven and back - a total of six miles, apparently. And it was great. So watch out Rugeley... here I come!
Well, it wasn't the sterngland after all; I checked this morning and the basin under in was still bone dry. So unless it was the leaky water tank (and that was more of an ooze than a drip, and surely too far away for me to hear) then I don't know what it was. Maybe water condensing on the lid of the kettle and dripping back in. There's another mystery too - the disappearance of Jim's wash bag. He was sure he'd left it hidden in the hold, but when it wasn't there, thought he mist have taken it home. But it's not here either. It's clearly a slow news day, but I'll keep you posted if there are any developments. The good news is that the leaky fitting on the water tank seems to have been cured. I've polished the stove and much of th cabin brass. And that's about it. Sorry.
Shades of Abingdon, 2008... Bones and Maffi will remember.... Of course, the first time in three weeks that it's rained and we have a barbecue. I have drunk two bottles of Old Empire (5.7%) so forgive me if this is even less coherent than usual (and is that dripping noise the stern gland, or is it something to do with the kettle cooling down... and if I don't check now, will I have sunk by the morning?)...
Now, the barbecue came about because in Sainsbury's yesterday I spotted some reduced price, top notch, kippers. Now kippers I can take or leave, but Jim is particularly partial. So we bought them, thinking to fry them in the big frying pan I had brought from home as a (unsuccessful) experiment, but lunchtime frying on the Primus proved rather a messy and stressful business so we decided to try and do it outside, but the Primus simply would not light outside as there was a very slight wind. So we thought, well, the instructions say grill them, so perhaps if we got a disposable barbecue we could do that. Whish is what we did and how we can to be having a barbecue, complete with beer, in a heavy drizzle this evening.
Today... Jim took up the floors in the engine room and found two inches of water, which had ingressed at vaious points including the hatches, and a bolt in the handrail (now, not entirely surprisingly, discovered to be substantially rotten). He also fixed down the electrical conduit so all looks nice and neat, and, hopefully, tightened up the fitting so that the second water tank doesn't leak.
This morning was spent exploring Rugeley, which - of course - was much better than our first impression. The charity shops weren't outstanding, but I did get a new pair of 501s for £3.50, a nice little hammer for my useful things drawer (ex crumb/knife drawer, though there are a couple of knives in there) and some more net curtain wire (well, you never know when it will come in handy). A good hardware shop too, but sadly the fastenings shop we noted on our previous fleeting visit seems to have bettten the dust.
Had to light the stove to fend off the rain, then spent the afternoon doing marking while Jim slaved away in the engine room.
Oh god, I'm pretty sure it's the sterngland. But there's no point looking til the morning is there...
Thanks in particular to Andrew for your comment yesterday. The answer is that I have no idea, and yes, it was to fit the fitting already on the tank. Which it now turns out, leaks anyway. But more of that later. You should have seen the palaver required on the other tank (although at least that doesn't leak). Anyway, they're in, raised up on stout wooden frames so that we can get a bucket or can underneath. So we now have a 200 gallon fresh water capacity, and pretty much nothing to do with it - no toilet, no shower, no water pump, no taps. We are indeed a travelling water point, and happy to fill anyone's can for them! Listing a bit at present, as we filled the first tank before realising that the second one leaked. And as always listing to starboard so that I'll be tilting the wrong way in bed. Why is it never the other way? When the gunnels are done we will probably have boards across the back end covering the tanks - neat and hopefully convenient.
Yesterday when we arrived, Blossom was here and we had an enormously long and entertaining chat about his youthful escapades. Hence we didn't start work on the tanks until today.... Have decided to leave the sterngear be pro tem as it hasn't leaked a drop, but we will do it before we go anywhere. Especially as the next place we go might be out onto the Trent (again, so soon?) to give the engine a 'good thrashing' (technical term) in the hope that it might cure its oily exhaust.
I have long been adversely impressed, if that's a concept that makes any sense, by plumbing. Not so much working out where the pipework goes, which it goes without saying causes me great confusion, but the fact that whenever you want to join one piece of pipe to another, it is impossible to do so simply. If the EU had invented a system like this, we would all (yes, even me) be up in arms, but because it's just the way it's developed, we accept it without a murmur. Is it the inevitable outcome of an evolutionary process though? (Surely that gets rid of redundancies and inefficiencies...). Because another thing I have noticed about plumbing, is that Messrs. Marley etc seem to have discovered an ability to charge astronomical sums for small pieces of plastic unrivalled in any other field.
So, whenever you want to connect, say, a tank to a tap, the unwritten rule states that you will need a minimum of six intermediary pieces (most of which are not sold separately so you will have to buy at least four bits you don't need). I wanted to connect a tap to a tank - twice, in fact. One is already done, and involved numerous fittings and very short lengths of copper pipe because of course the one thing you cannot buy is a simple adaptor to take pipework from one size to another. Oh no. It's as if no one in the history of the world has ever wanted to do that before.
To put this in context... you may recall that I acquired two rather splendid, nearly new 100 gallon domestic water tanks for Chertsey. Seemed a bit of a waste just to use them for ballast, so I decided they could be freshwater tanks. A sort of mobile water point. Nothing sophisticated like a pump or anything, just a tap at the bottom of each tank to fill a can or bucket or kettle. And it's fitting these taps to the existing outlets that has proved to be a surreal nightmare. Today we're bringing the second tank up to Chertsey, and building a proper wooden frame to support them. So we need to fit the tap to the second tank - which either has a different fitting or the plumbers merchants have offered us a different solution, still involving numerous bits, including soldering them this time, at a cost of forty quid, not including the tap. Why is there no national campaign, nay parliamentary petition, against this Plumbing Madness?
I have decided to delay posting my photos until tomorrow because this is much more important, and the photos are much better.
While at Braunston I heard tell that Archimedes and Ara, and Victoria (because Mike wanted to see it loaded), were going to go on to load some gravel. It turns out that a total of seven boats were involved in this, the others being GU motors Themis and Callisto, and the more recently built gravel boat Arundel buttied with former Joey Joe.
According to the never-reliable Narrowboat World website (seven star class boats indeed!) the gravel was used to shore up the bank during building work in Paddington Basin, and they've painted themselves into a corner, leaving no way to remove it other than by water (hooray!). It's being taken to Atherstone.
Sadly, I have so far not been able to witness this but others have and the photos are breathtaking. See Alan Fincher's here, and here, and follow reports of their progress on the CWF thread here.
Look what I got in the post this morning. Lovely half inch stern gland packing, ordered yesterday afternoon from Uxbridge Boat Centre and posted at cost. See how glossy and sinewy it looks - a million miles away from the rather tired and dry bit of string (which I reckon probably wasn't even half inch) that we got at Braunston from a well known person who shall remain nameless. Wish we hadn't even bothered putting that in now!
I had an unprecedented number of dogs on the boat over the course of the Braunston jaunt, including Bones's Boots and Mike's Seth and Taz, and in best cabin top style, Ron Withey's little dog, whose name I sadly didn't catch, but who takes a great photo!
I am going to sort out and upload my photos tomorrow, I promise, and get all the old ones organised too.... eventually.
I managed to add a grand total of two previously unspotted 'Town Class' boats to my album at Braunston: Fenny and Stratford. I didn't find anything out about Fenny, but I gather that Stratford represents the beginnings of a new coal business, and the photo is of it being loaded from Archimedes and Ara before departing for Warwickshire. I am also kicking myself for not taking a photo of Aldgate (again); I've seen it so many times I never remember I haven't got a picture yet!
The thing is, my Braunston photos this year are a bit rubbish. Most of the time I was on Chertsey, or talking to people, and I hardly got the chance to go round snapping as is my usual wont.
Matt Parrott has uploaded some fantastic pictures to his website though, and there are a couple of videos featuring Chertsey: this one, taken by Andrew and Andrea on Dove, of me steering in the parade on Saturday, and this one (in which we all come out a bit tall and thin) shot by Halfie on the Sunday, with Keith doing the honours (well, I didn't want to push my luck). There are also some pictures in this CWF thread.
I'm very much looking forward to seeing Mike's photos, and Liam's videos... And thanks to all those other individuals who have taken and sent me photos.
For now. Chertsey's first epic journey at an end, and me back in my house two hundred-odd miles away. Notable events which have occurred in my absence: Baz has saved up enough money selling ice creams on Brighton seafront to finally buy his i-mac, and the Newhaven Conservative Club, on the corner of our road, has burnt down. This latter is particularly notable for us not having noticed it on the way home.
I'll sort out the photos and post some more wonderful memories over the next few days - though most of the best pictures of Chertsey have been taken by others, and many thanks to all of you. In particular, thanks to David Goode, who took the photo that I've used for July's masthead, and took the trouble to print a copy and bring it to me at Braunston.
Well, I've heard it called that, from back in the days when this was a dairy. So here we are, another relatively uneventful four hours has brought us to Chertsey's home mooring, from where we will do a bit of a car shuffle in the morning and then set off for home... well, for the house.
Took advantage of a quiet few hours to make Chertsey a bit more homely, putting up a brass rail and curtain for the porthole, and another rail over the bed to hang things on, plus some hooks for hanging up mugs. Jim has tracked down the oil leak that has been making a bit of a mess of the engine room... he thinks it's inside the cowling, necessitating the removal of the canvas ducting I spent much blood sweat and tears on. The dynamo (or the regulator) isn't charging the batttery, so that will need to be looked at. And we probably need to shove some more packing into the stern gland. But apart from that everything is super.
We had Atherstone pies again tonight, so lit the Epping and had plenty of hot water for washing self and dishes. This time while the cabin cooled down we vistited the Swan at Fradley junction, seemed like a very nice pub, lots of beers and well kept, but lacking in clean glasses when we visited. We have also acquainted ourselves with the facilities at Fradley, as these will be our local ones.