... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Tuesday 31 August 2010



Monday 30 August 2010

Books I read in August

More than expected...

Charlotte Bingham The Chestnut Tree Attempt at WWII saga that has the air of having been written by a fourteen year old.

Vena Cork Thorn
Genuinely chilling stalker tale.

Stephen Booth Blind to the Bones Another hit, well drawn secondary characters (the protagonists I still find a little sketchy) and plenty of brooding atmosphere.

Andrew Taylor Call the Dying I've been impressed in the past by Taylor's more psychological thrillers. This is the first I've read of his 50s-set Lydmouth mysteries; workmanlike but not exactly engrossing.

Stephen Booth The Kill Call I was pleasantly surprised to find this newest Booth when browsing in Smiths, but it's disappointing; it lacks the gripping atmosphere and sense of menace of most of his other books.

Ian Rankin The Complaints While I rate Ian Rankin, unlike many I wouldn't count the Rebus novels in my top three; I find them sometimes a trifle laboured and over-complicated. This - non-Rebus - is excellent though, even if the plot does still run away a bit at the end.

Sophie Hannah The Point of Rescue Preposterous plot, but lovely detail, and actually a real page-turner.

Sunday 29 August 2010

BCN here we come...

It looks as if we will definitely be setting off next weekend, in the company of Blossom, for the Black Country Boating Festival at Windmill End. This will be our first foray onto the BCN, so we are very pleased to have a native guide...

Saturday 28 August 2010

Counting counties

I have never met Jim of narrow boat Starcross, but from his links list I think he may be some sort of kindred spirit: CAMRA, British Roads, Monty Python and... 'Real British Counties', the website of the Association of British Counties, an organisation that seeks to preserve the traditional use of county boundaries and names from the ravages of the Post Office and local government reorganisation, not to mention empire-building cities. (Birmingham is in Warwickshire! Liverpool is in Lancashire!) On their maps you will still find Rutland, and Huntingdonshire (in which Ramsey lies), and the three Ridings of Yorkshire, and a single Sussex.
And these are still perfectly genuine, and valid, and should be used and referred to. But when the Post Office decides that counties are redundant, and more fatally, since 1965, local government has first appropriated the counties as local authority areas, and then altered their boundaries at will, abolished them, and created new ones, it's easy to lose sight of the historic, stable and unchanging counties which could provide a fixed reference point on a constantly shifting map.

My interest in this goes back to when I was eight or nine, and happily (no that's a lie. I hated school) attending school in East Sussex, to be told that as from a certain date (was it January 1st 1974?) I would henceforth be educated by West Sussex. This was probably the same time that Mid Sussex District Council took over the functions of Cuckfield Urban and Lindfield Rural District Councils. Honestly, which would you rather have had. Maybe the fact that I now research and teach about local government can be traced back to this formative experience. I also, while working in Huddersfield heard a splendid story - I would love to believe it to be true - that when Kirklees Council was created, also in the 1974 reorganisation, that the first act of the new authority, based in Huddersfield, was to send council workmen to dig up the superior flagstones from outside Dewsbury Town Hall, which now came within the ambit of the new authority, to install them outside the council's headquarters at Huddersfield Town Hall (a fine building indeed, but not a patch on Wakefield's).

I also like this map (larger version here) because I'm fascinated by counties and their boundaries. It's a novelty when we're in the middle of the country, to keep crossing and recrossing county boundaries, from Derbyshire to Nottinghamshire to Leicestershire; from Warwickshire, to Staffordshire, to Shropshire and Leicestershire again. They're all just so close together in the middle! If you look at where I live, which is just on the right hand pointy bit at the bottom edge of Sussex (the large mauve county on the bottom right of the map), you can see why I find this exciting.

Friday 27 August 2010

It's got lumps in it!

Yesterday we went to Shoreham. To look at a sea boat. Yes. I know. In its defence, I will say that it didn't have sails. In fact, it was jolly sweet, an ex Hastings fishing boat, the sort that's designed to sit on the beach when the tide's out. Made of wood (Yes. I know.) The thing is, the sea is very near here, while most of the waterways aren't. If you're going to have two boats, maybe a little variety is in order... Well, early days yet (as we always say). But it's going to be great fun reliving the days of crawling over Whilton, only on the lumpy water.

Thursday 26 August 2010

Take a seat

Chertsey's seatboard, now completed by Jim. I must say I'm terrifically impressed. I particularly like the single bird which, if you look at it closely, is clearly a seagull to remind me of home on the coast!

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Rain rain

It's been tipping it down here all day. Never have I watched the weather reports for the west Midlands with such morbid interest. However, the sort-out we had over the last couple of days unearthed a Rule bilge pump - with float switch! It's not as powerful as the pump we currently have installed, but would have the inestimable advantage of us not having to go up and switch it on every time it rained... The hold offers a large catchment area for rainwater, which then all collects in the back end and once above the level of the floor - four inches, which doesn't take long - it's lapping about the bottom of the paint tins etc, making them rusty.

Of course, the ideal situation is to minimise the collection of water by diverting it over the sides with some cloths, but I need to regroup the finances a bit first; the gunnels are going to set us back a round thousand pounds, and pretty much the same again for the cloths. So for this winter, I reckon it'll be a case of keep pumping.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Mystery location

I received two canal-themed cards for my birthday last month. One was a charming painting of Cropredy (which I would not have recognised if it hadn't been written on the back, to be honest, but that might just be me), and the other one was presented simply as a generic boaty scene. But where is it? It certainly looks as if it could be Little Venice, but I am intrigued by the fact that there are loads of small boats gathered there, as if for a rally or festival. But on the other hand they don't look exactly trailable so that rules out an unconnected waterway. Answers on the proverbial postcard....

Monday 23 August 2010

Fill her up, sir?

Been having a bit of a clearout today. The number of things that we really don't need, but still feel we ought to hang on to, is diminishing. For example, I have finally decided to throw out two jigsaw puzzles that I have been carefully husbanding since about 1967. One of then depicts a headscarfed Mrs Rabbit, surrounded by little rabbit-lets, outside her home in a hollow tree, selecting fabrics from the hamper of a travelling tinker who, from his ears, is clearly an elf. This is simply not the sort of thing one sees any more, and I fear we are the poorer for it. If we find the missing two pieces, I shall keep it. The other features Noddy on a wooden train, with Big Ears as the guard, and has nothing to recommend it, really.

But one thing I do still feel obliged to keep, an ancient jumble sale find, is a pristine, never used, set of two-tone green overalls bearing the badge of the Regent Petrol Company. They are jolly smart, and very nearly fit me, being just a trifle over long in the extremities. I spent ten seconds in extensive research and uncovered, from this website that the Regent Petrol Co.:

was founded in 1947 following a merger between Texaco Petroleum Products and Trinidad Leaseholds. Prior to the war the Regent brand name had been used by a small distributor of motor spirit who had been taken over by Trinidad Leaseholds in 1931 and it was this name that the newly merged company used. 1953 saw the end of pooled petrol regulations and Regent began to broaden its operations by selling branded petrol in the UK. The company also had a tanker fleet and this expanded through its Texaco connections. Texaco had various North Sea interests including refineries etc. Texaco took full control of Regent in 1967 by buying out Trinidad Leaseholds and began to phase out the Regent brand in favour of the Texaco brand. Texaco also had other small brand names and in 2004 relaunched them all under the Regent brand where the familiar red white and blue branding can still be seen today.

I am sure I will find the right occasion to don my petrol pump attendant's overalls and wear them with pride... even if their advertising was a bit dodgy. Ahem.

Sunday 22 August 2010

Drilled and pinned

Finally finished attending to the tiller too. Jim has ground the swans neck down sufficiently that the long tiller bar goes right on. He's got the gang of steering it like this now, which is good, because I like it (and need all the leverage I can get). He's drilled it to take the tiller pin, which is the pair of the one Warrior has. It's not actually a sawn down poker, though it looks like one; its a built up handle from something, three separate bits held onto a threaded rod with a nut (which you can just about see in the photo). It probably doesn't need a pin at all to hold the tiller bar in place, but when you have one as nice as that just looking for a role...

Saturday 21 August 2010

Got it covered

We'd been trying to invent some means of making a cover for the air cooling vent so that when the rain was horizontal (or bouncing off the cabin top) it wouldn't run down inside the trunking. And to no avail - although I have since seen a boat with a specially made wooden box that goes over the top. Then Jim came back from a Lifeboat event with two reflective rucksack covers, intended to make cyclists more visible (hence they are emblazened 'East Sussex Fire and Rescue'). Right size, strong elastic, and even a securing strap to go underneath. Perfect. Now all we need to do is find and seal the leak where the water seeps under the flange.

Friday 20 August 2010

Just keep coming

Dove's recent experiences struck a chord with me. I never really noticed it in Warrior; I suspect it didn't happen. But when steering Chertsey, this is one of the banes of my life. Chugging along, pretty slowly (I still only do pretty slowly, really. 3 mph would be considered rather racy) on a narrowish but not too narrow by a long way bit of canal. A green boat approaches in the distance. I keep going, trying to adjust my speed so that we'll meet in a wider or less tree obscured section, or before the bend of bridgehole he's just emerged from (yes, it is always a he). He sees me - or rather Chertsey's imposing fore end (but it can't just be that, if it happens to Dove as well) and rather than keep coming (let alone adjusting his speed, that would be asking too much) he tries to stop dead. Which of course because he's got a light modern boat with a tiny prop, he can't. He throws his morse into reverse, and the boat slews across the cut, right into my path. Great. So if I keep going I'll hit him and it'll be my fault. If we're still far enough apart, I can stop too. Then what? Well, sometimes he'll get the boat into the bank and get off, trying to hold it with a rope. I kid you not; this has already happened to me at least twice, and that's not counting the times they rather sheepishly say they were stopping anyway, 'for a coffee'. If there isn't space for me to stop, I now have to try to steer around a much wider obstacle (up to 50' rather than 7'), and hope that I'll do no more than nudge him, and won't go aground in the process. Then he'll look at me as if it's all my fault, especially if he's ended up on the bottom or in the trees.

So, the moral of this, and a plea, is just keep coming. I may look as if I'm heading straight for you, but I will swerve at the last minute, honest. And as I'm passing, still keep going; I need you predictably out of the way so that I can swing back in before the next bend/bridge/moored boat. Just keep coming, and keep steering, and we'll be fine. Oh, and I'm not radioactive either, so no need to keep a ten foot exclusion zone between your boat and mine.

Thursday 19 August 2010

No crumbs in my crumb drawer

Ah, the crumb drawer, the concept of a special drawer just for catching crumbs surely the result of some old boatman having a good wind-up at Tom Rolt's expense. Never be caught calling it that, I've been told; death to credibility. And of course, the idea is daft when you think about it.

Nonetheless I do find myself calling the knife drawer the crumb drawer, for one very simple reason: the bloody crumbs get in there regardless. All over the knives (or in my case useful odds and ends). Always I forget to sweep off the table after making sandwiches, tip it up, if only to get past, and ooops, another load of crumbs in the drawer.

But no longer. I have installed my lovely Formica tray, government stamped 1963, which I rescued from being thrown out by the university just before I left Huddersfield. (Long term readers may recall the adventures of the yucca plant that was rehomed at the same time, and travelled on Andante's fore end from Huddersfield to Stretton). This tray not only looks the part, it is big enough to capture all the detritus of sandwich preparation and, indeed, most other culinary activities. The useful things drawer is now much cleaner as a result.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Look what I've got NOW!

This is proving to be a very lucky week for acquisitions.

On returning from Kings Bromley on Saturday, Jim found on Freecycle a lightweight folding camping table - exactly what we were looking for for Chertsey - and was lucky enough to get it.

But this just about beats everything. Look what he just brought back from the local tip:

A real, proper, old tin bath. My heart's desire. And it doesn't leak either. I even reckon it should just about fit in the cabin. I have been after one of these for so long, and never thought I'd find one. And what did it cost? Only 50p more than a pint of Harveys in the Warwick Castle.*


Tuesday 17 August 2010

Rugged rug

Having successfully handwashed it (albeit with a fair bit of effort, and not escaping without getting wet), I decided to chance the first ever rag rug that I made in the washing machine. This is a rather super new machine that we have recently bought, which has different programmes that I actually use, which is a first. I thought that if the rug could survive the vissicitudes of being bundled about in a big bucket of water and lifted out sodden, then a Woolmark wool wash and 600 spin would be a doddle. And so it has proved; the rug is unscathed. On the downside, so is most of the dirt.

Monday 16 August 2010

Flawless floors

We brought the floors from Chertsey's cabin home on Saturday, to clean them up. I'm going to paint the side bits with red oxide, but the removable central sections are such nice wood - solid oak again - that they will look better unpainted. The paint would soon wear off anyway, and while I quite like that look, I like old wood better.

The floor comes out in three sections. There's a single plank that lifts out first, and gives access to the greaser for the plummer block that supports the propshaft, a short section of four planks at the back, which comes out when I want to see how much water's in the stern tube drip tin (very little lately) and the rest a larger section forward. There is a slight hitch in that I seem to have left the single plank section behind, on the bank, in the excitement of removing the larger sections. It should be sitting there waiting next time we go back... I hope.

Jim has sanded the floors to remove spots of paint, old varnish and dirt, and oiled them. They still look lovely and dark and old. Also, he's got his router out and cut a rebate in the underside of the floor where it sits above the propshaft coupling, as it has been rubbing slightly. Had we had it here, he'd also have made a recess in the plank for the plummer block greaser, as when it's full the floor pivots on it.

Sunday 15 August 2010

Under water

Does this look like a submarine to you? Does it really? Beautiful as it is, it must be maddening to be the owners of Sharpness, a 1908 (Blisworth?) tunnel tug. We were tied up behind it for less than a week, and I lost count of the number of people asking, mainly facetiously but some in all seriousness, 'is that a submarine?' (my mind wandering now, I'm thinking it's not an underwater boat, but an underground boat, but not a tube boat which is something else entirely...)

Thursday afternoon it was under a fair bit of water though. There can be few better places from which to watch a downpour than from a narrow boat's cabin (provided the wind's blowing the other way of course). Though I did feel a bit sheepish on Friday, once we were underway again, and everyone we met at locks was saying, wasn't the rain dreadful yesterday, and I had to admit we hadn't actually left until after it had stopped.

Saturday 14 August 2010

So uneventful, I forgot to give it a title

The Great Trent Thrash (interrupted): The last little bit
Fradley to Kings Bromley Wharf

Just a few more hours boating, then, brought us, faster and more confident, back to Kings Bromley where we were met by Blossom; his help in tying up was also much appreciated, as the facilities for tying to are somewhat ad hoc, but at least we now have some plans for improving on one better utilising what's there.

We started out bright but not too early, collecting provisions from the shop next to the Swan, where I finally met Viv Scragg properly, which was nice, and she sold me some muesli and I was the customer this week for the one copy of the Guardian. If we are planning to come by in the future though, I am to give them a ring and they will get one in specially. Then we moved on up to the Facilities, for the final Emptying of the Elsan ceremony. We weren't sure whether we would be able to hold our heads up at Shardlow, when John kindly made his manhole available, having a Porta-Potti rather than a bucket, but fortunately we weren't alone. Anyway, our Porta-Potti was a very welcome gift from an anonymous donor, and I can now categorically state, having tried both, that the Thetford original is vastly superior to the upstart Elsan Visa-Potti (who was paid to come up with that name, I wonder). And that's enough toilets for now, although it is a subject on which I could find more to say at a future date.

And thus we made our uneventful way back to Kings Bromley, drove back to Shardlow, collected the other car and drove back again, packed up and drove home, through one of the heaviest downpours I have ever experienced; visibility was absolutely zero, but fortunately it was very brief. And soon, once again, I shall run out of things to write about and the blog will be filled with shameless padding again.

Friday 13 August 2010

Old walrus and the Mucky Duck

The Great Trent Thrash (interrupted) Day 8
Stenson to Fradley

It was colder today, and wet, so I lit the stove. Oh what joy. Regular cups of tea, soup for lunch and a Frey Bentos pie and tinned potatoes for dinner! And throughout the afternoon as the kettle came to the boil, I emptied it into my little 1-gallon water can, and wrapped in up in my fleecy shirt and my crocheted
blanket, and there was lashings of hot water for washing up. Just as well, as I hadn't done any for three days. There even would have been some over for washing ourselves (ditto) but it wasn't needed, because we made it to Fradley, and showers!

All clean again, and full of hot food, we decided to stroll down to the Swan for a post prandial pint. This could be such a brilliant pub, with a great atmosphere - and it's certainly popular. But once again the quality of the beer let it down, and while there are many things that should be hot and wet, beer glasses are not among them. Only slightly daunted, we stayed for a while making mutually incomprehensible conversation with a couple from the Black Country over the sound of the evening's entertainment, a man whose guitar playing was better than his singing, and whose jokes were far worse than either.

Finally, here is a cautionary tale, which I shall tell because it vindicates a position I hold very strongly (that position being standing on the step inside the hatches). Approaching Alrewas lock from below, there's quite a strong current, and to try to get into position, I was reversing, when quite unexpectedly, the rudder hit something. The tiller was forced right round with such force that I had to let go of it. If I had been standing on the counter to the side of the tiller, as so many people do (or sitting on a 'safety' rail, or one of those ridiculous tractor seats), I would without a doubt have been knocked into the water and disappeared underneath the reversing boat. But because I was standing safely out of the way I suffered no ill effects other than a moment's worry that the rudder might have been damaged (it wasn't).

For a long time I have been much exercised by how correctly to pronounce Alrewas. Today we finally settled on Old Walrus.

Thursday 12 August 2010

On the move again

The Great Trent Thrash (interrupted) Day 7
Shardlow to Stenson

Huzzah! It all seems to have worked. After another morning's work putting it all together the engine was up and running again by mid afternoon, so we set off, leaving a note for John, who has been extraordinarily helpful as well as hospitable beyond the call of duty. We didn't plan to try and get too far, but I had promised Jim a pint, so we were aiming for the Ragley Boat Stop which Nicholsons promised had real ale, food and moorings. When we got there, however, the moorings were full and the place looked dead, although we were assured it was open. We realised though that if we moored on the towpath it would be a long walk back to the bridge, so we pushed on and ended up at Stenson. We were a bit dubious about the Bubble, a modern pub in a converted warehouse at Stenson Marina, but it was excellent. There was really nice beer from the Falstaff Brewery, at great prices (two pints for a fiver!) and the food was top quality, with a nice menu of locally sourced food cooked on site. I don't reckon we'll make it back to King's Bromley tomorrow unless we start really really early, but we're on our way again and that's what matters.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Fan mail

It looks like a very big hurrah for Trent Valley Bearings in Long Eaton. We went there initially to get new... you've guessed it... bearings for the engine's cooling fan. We knew we needed a new shaft too, as it was worn from where the bearings had been rattling, greaseless, and the threads were badly worn, and were wondering where to go for that, when I notices on the counter a flyer etting out all the services they provided, one of which was machining. So we left the old shaft with them, and within hours had a quote of £80 to make a new one. We took advantage of the fact that it was all in house to get them to put the whole assembly back together too, and fit it into the casting that houses the fan. This process was begun on Monday morning, and this afternoon we collected the complete unit. How's that for service, and a total cost of £150. Then it was next door to Arkwell Fastenings for two nuts and we were away.

One spacer however needed machining because it had sustained some damage in being removed, and we hadn't thought to take that along. Here Trevor came to the rescue (he is the next door neighbour of the very forebearing chap at the bottom of whose garden we are tied up. The railway is their joint enterprise and Trevor is in charge of (and no doubt built) the steam loco), taking Jim off to his shed to demonstrate his lathe. Really, this absolutely could not have happened in a better place. Jim has started to reinstall everything and touch wood, if it continues to go smoothly we should be on our way again tomorrow. But I don't want to speak too soon.

Meanwhile I have been doing more interior painting. I had already decided, based on what was already here, to go for a relatively austere look with mainly cream gloss and a few bits picked out in green, with minimal graining. It was only later that I read in one of the Tom Foxon books his reference to the cabin of the boat he had just bought being still painted in Waterways' cream and green - I must follow this up, but I won't be changing my decor for a while anyway.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Castles in the air

And other little jobs.

Having bought a set of nice brushes yesterday, I finally got around to putting a first coat of Craftmaster varnish on the roses and castles on Chertsey's hatches. This was a job which was long overdue. The paintings date from at least the early 1970s, and very possibly earlier. Because Chertsey was unused for so long, and the hatches shut tight, they were protected from the elements. Now the boat if being used, they are exposed to the sun and the rain and of course this is fatal to the fragile old paint, which was already starting to crack. I haven't attempted any repairs or repainting, nor have I rubbed them down at all, I didn't dare, so the patchy patina of discoloured old varnish remains. All I did was gently clean off as much dirt and grime as I could with a weak detergent solution, followed by meths. Hopefully a few coats of varnish now will preserve them in their current state for years to come.

I've also been making progress with the interior painting; it is a very slow process in such a small spacem constantly having to move everthing around. Meanwhile Jim has been cleaning up in the engine room and has wrapped the heatproof bangade around the exhaust. So lots of little jobs are finally getting done whilst we're laid up here waiting for our part to be made.

Monday 9 August 2010

Long day's journey into Long Eaton

We are now the last remaining (albeit somewhat involuntary) guests of John and Sheila... over the this morning and yesterday the crews of Petrel, Lacerta, Sharpness and Bath have quietly slipped away, although their boats remain; only Sharpness with us out on the canal, the rest n the private arm. The gazebo has been packed away, the empty beer barrels removed, and no trace remains of last night's happenings except, of course, the railway track leading to the shed where the tram and its coaches now sleep. Did I dream it all, I wonder...

So today we had to get to grips with practical matters, and Trevor (owner of the steam locomotive) ran us into Long Eaton to show us where the bearing shop was. We never investigated Long Eaton last year when we were on teh Erewash; I think we might have stopped for a paper. It has the usual collection of shops in a soulless pedestrianised high street, but very few people using them - a glance through one of the alleys showed why - the vista opened out of a gleaming new Tesco Extra. Ho hum.

I was expecting a man in a brown coat with a pencil begind his ear, but in fact the bearings counter was staffed by a woman (Sue) in a Trent Valley Bearings t-shirt, who very quickly got to grips with what we needed and told us they would get the bearings etc in for tomorrow. Meanwhile I had noticed a leaflet on the counter saying that among other things they also did machining, sso we left the shaft with them too. Sue rang back later to say that they could remake the shaft, at what seemed a reasonable price, so we have asked them to do the lot. We even popped back later with the casting so with any luck they will assemble it aall too - and that should be done by Wednesday.

With hindsight a secondary purpose of the Great Trent Thrash was o find out any weak points, and if this is the only one - and the oily exhaust is cured - that doesn't seem to be bad going.

This evening we made our way over to the New Inn for dinner. We ate there last year and found it most acceptable; this year was no different, and the beer is good too. Whilst in town I nipped into a house clearance shop. I have never seen so many pianos. I wonder f they ever sell any, or if they have just been collecting them, since about 1953. I selected six nearly new books - four of them hardbacks - and was charged all of £1.20, so was pleased with that.

Today we have been getting on with little jobs - I have done some washing and all the exterior brass (and bronze, as I now believe the portholes to be), while Jim has wielded the scrrewdriver. Tomorrow I shall finally varnish the paintings on the back cabin hatches, and get on with the interior paintwork, with the set of rather super brushes I bought this afternoon.

A funny thing happened today too... Yesterday, a boat was tied up next to us and was tied to Chertsey's mast. When moved by a passing boat it dragged the mast out of position (it's not fixed at floor level yet), also shifting the deckboard considerably. We planned to try to put it right after visiting Long Eaton this afternoon - but when we got back, someone had already done it.... Truly, Shardlow is a place of mystery.

Sunday 8 August 2010

The Epicyclic Ferret Ferry Company

It's been a funny day. It began with a gathering of bearded (and in one case mustache'd) men around the fan assembly, collectively poring over the handbook, pooling tools, and eventually dismantling a very knackered bearing, a very warn shaft, and various other bits, that it was my job to catalogue and put in old takeaway boxes so that they can be taken as patterns to various bearing suppliers and shaft grinders. Not only do we need new bearings, it seems, but a new shaft which has had grooves worn into it where there should be none by the bearings. Where there should have been grease, was just hard lumps of antique ex-grease, so even when Jim tried to grease it, none had gone in. Just from yesterday, the eccentric rotation of the fan, after the bearing finally gave out, has worn a groove in the housing - this is what was making the Funny Noise. Fortunately, the fan itself appears to have suffered no damage.

I also, accompanied by Izzy, walked into Shardlow proper to get a paper and provisions from the village's only shop. This was quite a long way - about twenty minutes - as Shardlow started out as this village quite a way from the canal, with a second Shardlow growing up on the banks after the canal was built. Then I suggested that rather than rely on the lifts people very kindly offered us to various places in the search for parts tomorrow, it would be a good idea to just have one lift, and go and get the car from Kings Bromley. So after successfully reducing the fan assembly to its component parts, Jim and Dave set off to do this, while everyone else disappeared and I spent a quiet afternoon on my own.

Girding my loins for the evening's entertainments - a big Indian takeaway around a collection of tables in the gazebo housing the beer, which it was our solemn and bounden duty to drink all up. The conversation became ever more surreal, a highlight being the plans hatched at our end of the table for a new river ferry crossing powered by domestic pets on a treadmill. Overweight dogs were the first choice (we could also charge the owners for slimming them down), but one of those present kept ferrets, hence the proposed company's name. We didn't sell many shares though. Having also heard about a rock cake that is about to celebrate its forty-first birthday, we decided to bring the evening to a close, and the table was lifted up, the miniature electric tram backed underneath it (did I mention that the tracks ran through the gazebo, just in front of the beer barrels?), it was lowered onto the carriage, the chairs were loaded into the next one, and off it went to take them back to next door. And the beer had just run out.

Saturday 7 August 2010

Good news... And bad news

Well, here I am, sitting in Chertsey tied up at the bottom of someone's garden. A garden which is equipped with a miniature railway, on which I have ridden twice this evening, pulled by a miniature electric tram. There is a steam locomotive too, but I missed that one. All in all a rather surreal - but in a nice way - end to the day.

We started early(ish), leaving Gunthorpe at eight. We locked ourselves through Stoke, and got to Holme just as the lockkeeper had come on duty. We didn't thrash quite so hard today (just as well perhaps) but were soon in Nottingham, where we took advantage of the excellent new facilities at Meadow Lane once more to have a shower in readiness for tonight's festivities. Apparently there is a festival taking place in Nottingham this weekend; a couple of people warned us of it, but we saw no sigh - apart from a BW chap on every lock to help us through, which was a nice surprise. Then we were back out on the Trent again, up the Cranfleet cut and back onto the canal. It was in Derwent Mouth lock, the first on the Trent and Mersey, that we noticed a Funny Noise issuing from the enginee room. A sort of rattly, slightly grindy noise. Very slowly and gingerly, we made the final mile to Shardlow, where we inserted ourselves between Bath and the bank, with Sharpness, the lovely tunnel tug, on the outside making three.

Whilst I went to socialise (sadly, this entailed drinking beer), Jim changed back into working clothes and went to investigate the Funny Noise. As we had secretly hoped, he was soon joined by a number of men. The engine manual came out and the removal of parts of the engine commenced. The provisional diagnosis was knackered fanshaft bearings. These will have to be replaced, as this is the fan which is integral to the air-cooling system. Apparently there is a place in Derby where the assembled multitude were confident we should be able to get replacements, and a bus which should take us there, but not until Monday, obviously. In the meantime, there is a great deal more dismantling to do, to access and remove the relevant bit.

The good news, on the other hand, is that the oily exhaust does seem to be completely cured! Well, I did say so far, so good....

Friday 6 August 2010

Short and sweet

The Great Trent Thrash Day 5:
Newark to Gunthorpe

Those noisy revellers revelled until two in the morning - and that was on a Thursday night. It didn't bother me, but Jim really couldn't face another night of listening to young people enjoying themselves, so we have had a change of plan. Another contributing factor is that we have been invited to a party in Shardlow tomorrow night! So we have brought the leaving of Newark forward a day, and shall spend that day in Shardlow, on Sunday, instead.

Thus our sojourn in Newark has been short, but very sweet. Wandering around the town again this morning we couldn't help but exclaim at its wonderfulness, the architectural features, the old shop frontages - and, indeed, old businesses - the untouched-by-the-late-20th-century-ness, the market, the fact that the place was milling with people, the nice pubs and bevy of lovely looking eateries. Or as I put it somewhat crudely, if you brought people here from Lewes, they'd wet themselves. The thing is, Lewes is lovely, in an achingly trendy and rather affluent way, but it knows it, and is in danger of becoming, like Brighton, a parody theme park of itself and everything that made it great. Newark, at the moment, is still just lovely.

The trip today also was short and sweet. The wind was bracing, but the rain thankfully held off. Newark to Hazleford took about two hours; the four-ish miles from Hazleford to Gunthorpe were covered in forty five minutes. It was hard to do a timed mile as there are so few landmarks. There are however kilometre markers, and we timed one km at six minutes, meaning we were hitting the speed limit of 10 km/h, which I calculated (in my head, so feel free to correct me) as 6 1/4 mph. Not Warrior warp drive standard, but that was against the wind and the current, so we were probably faster on the way down. And it was achieved with remarkably little vibration or apparent effort on the part of boat or engine (apart from the engine pipe shaking itself down so hard that it was almost impossible to get off).

Better still, there was NO oil on the cabintop at the end of the journey. There was, for the first time this trip, an inch of water in the sterngalnd drip basin, but as I'd forgotten to screw down the greaser before we set off at maximum revs, that doesn't seem bad going. Up until then, since putting the new packing it, it hadn't leaked at all. So still a case of so far, so good....

Thursday 5 August 2010

Newark by night

Another journey's end – or is it the half way point? We left Gunthorpe at about half past nine, and as the stretch between Gunthorpe and Hazleford is pretty straight, really went for it here. It was exhilarating stuff, and the fact that the smuts filling my eyes and hair were dry and gritty, rather than oily, I took as a good sign. From Hazleford to Newark the river is more bendy and meandering, so I took it a bit more gently – although what seems slow now would have felt unimaginably fast just a few days ago. We arrived in Newark about three hours after leaving Gunthorpe, in time for a quick lunch and cup of tea before setting off to see if the town was as nice as we remembered. In short, it was. We stocked up on a few useful items (like a proper sleeping bag at last) in Millets sale, and more bits from the list (a funnel for filling the primus, and a thermos for making tea on the move) in the splendidly eclectic Boyes, and browsed happily at the market and in a few charity shops. Then it was time for more tea and a quick polish of the brass before Dave and Izzy arrived, bearing gifts of a water can, a handstart chain in an ancient Oxo tin (tenpence ha'penny), and plums from their garden. We went and had a Chinese meal with them, and rounded off the evening in the Castle pub (must check that's its right name) which has the most superior pub toilets I can recall ever seeing. Then back to the boat, moored just below the Town lock, opposite another pub at which much revelry is taking place – albeit safely on the other side of the river – and with, once again, a wonderful, illuminated view of the castle.

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Scattered showers

The Great Trent Thrash Day 3:
Sawley to Gunthorpe

The day did not start well. Rain pounding on the cabin top, and me still with the headache which I'd had since last night, and which I'd kept waking up in the night to check was still there. Didn't even have any paracetamol on the boat, but what I really, really, needed was a cup of tea or three. So I crawled out of bed, tried to light the primus... wouldn't light. Crawled back into bed. Half an hour later, crawled out of bed again, tried to light the primus again, wouldn't light again. After another half hour, realising things weren't going to get any better without me taking some action, I crawled out of bed again, crawled into some clothes, and went and got Jim to try and light the primus while I went for a healthy walk in the fresh air to the rubbish point. When I got back, I could hear that comforting roaring sound. I knew what was wrong with it - over filled again - but I hadn't had the heart to do anything about it. Jim had tipped some out, and we were away. Three cups of tea later, I was feeling much restored, and the sun had come out, so we set off at half past ten.

Through the Cranfleet Cut, onto the Trent, and then before we could really get the throttle open, into the Beeston Cut and through Nottingham. Being wimps today we decided to stop for lunch - well, really we were stopping for shopping, but while Jim found Sainsbury's, I made some sandwiches, while it started to rain again. Then the sun came out and we set off again, and just as we got to Castle Lock (pictured, as they say) it started to tip down again, while it was out turn to be knights in shining armour and pull a boat off the weir. Thoroughly wet, we proceed on our way.

Meadow Lane lock was a building site when we were here last year, and today we saw what they had built - a brand new facilities block with toilets and showers and a brand new spanking clean elsan point (these things are of interest to us now). So I said, why not let's empty the toilet, look, look how clean it is, and I will investigate the loos. And I did, and I looked into the shower, and it looked so big and clean(ish) and hot and tempting, I said, I think I will have a shower, yes, right now in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon, and I did, and it was good, and after that Jim had one too. Then he adjusted the tickover back down as it seemed to have adjusted itself a bit higher... I thought my slowest was getting faster. Then we went through the lock, and I was moved to ponder why, with all that money to spend, they hadn't put a bit aside for attention to the paddle gear, which was diabolical.

Then we were back on the big river again, thrash, thrash, thrashing away. Was there slightly less oil on the cabin top at the end of today? We think possibly yes. Is the engine less smokey? Almost definitely yes. And despite the late start, and the stop for lunch, we have made it to Gunthorpe on schedule tonight, showing that Chertsey is capable of quite a turn of speed when given the chance. However, we will not be visiting the Unicorn Hotel, where last year we had the worst pub meal ever. Instead we will be feasting on an Indian takeaway selection that Jim picked up in Sainsbury's, reheated in the Epping with the assistance of my new oven thermometer. I got it mainly to assist in the correct cooking of delicate things like cakes, but this is its first try out. We're up to 100 degrees now and counting. And I may have to take my jumper off in a minute. There is only one bottle of drink in the cupboard, because we gave the rest away yesterday to the nice men from up the Ashby who helped us get off the rocks - they looked like the type to enjoy a bottle or two of speciality ale. And the last remaining bottle is Magners cider, which I have never tried before. Well, the power of an advertising campaign. It's got less flavour than Woodpecker!

All in all it's been a lovely day, after the unpromising start, aspecially the last stretch with the low sun shining and a stiff breeze, and me sitting on the cabin top (my arms must be getting stronger because I can heft myself up there without a foothold now). And tomorrow Newark!

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Sawley thrashed

The Great Trent Thrash Day 2:
Stretton (yes, another one, near Burton this time) to Sawley

Collisions: none (good)
Groundings: 3, two in very quick succession. Thanks to Antelope, the two guys from up the Ashby, and the man on the Canaltime boat - we won't tell them, I promise!
Injuries: One very bruised little finger (mine).
Shouting matches: Many. In fact, I'm hoarse.
Nice pub meals: One, at the Navigation Inn at the bottom of the Erewash. And a consummately professional barmaid.
Sandwiches: Breakfast and lunch
Electric locks: 1
Totally unexpected electric locks: 1
Cups of tea: 2, both before 8.30 a.m. Jim has decided that Chertsey's main drawback cf. Warrior is the lack of tea-on-demand.
Caffeine withdrawal headaches: 1. Seriously considering a spoonful of instant coffee granules before bed. Do they dissolve in cold water?

PS. I have no idea what that black line is across the photo. It isn't in the original, I must have inadvertently introduced it whilst ensmallening it, but I can't be bothered now... just imagine it away.

Monday 2 August 2010

Gone for a Burton

The Great Trent Thrash Day 1
Kings Bromley Wharf to somewhere just beyond Burton on Trent

After an unpromising start it turned out to be a lovely hot day. Shame I'd committed to wearing long trousers and a black t-shirt. After completing a few little jobs (most importantly getting the engine room floors back in) we left at ten, mooched up to the marina entrance, executed a pretty damn good wind, and then I asked Jim, did you bring the VHF? Shit!!!! I left it in the car hidden under the seat. So we had to spoil out smooth passage by trying to get back Chertsey back into its space, which was not achieved very gracefully, just as a man with a nice David Harris tug came by, that he had been going to show us, but we were too busy being chaotic to stop and look.

Other than that the day has gone very well, plenty of water too for a change. I haven't added up the miles and locks but you can work that out for yourself if you're really interested. Highlights included seeing a dutch barge style narrowboat called Clara Belle which, if it was to be believed, hailed from Bridge Wharf, Lewes! Shame they weren't on board, we could have had a nice chat about the merits of Harveys. It was also nice to see fields full of lovely old fashioned golden square bales of straw, not black shrink wrapped sausages. Can feel the summer coming to an end already though; the golden hay, and the blackberries starting to ripen. Real summer is in June, I have concluded, when most years I have to work!

Hopefully we can get an early start tomorrow as we want to meet up with Dave and Izzy in Newark, and also, Dr Duct and, hmm, Mrs Duct? I think not... are going to try and catch up with us. They're available on a certain date; I just have to work out where we're likely to be then.

Sunday 1 August 2010

Safety first

Earlier in the week we made a flying visit to Warrior at Bill Fen. The reason for the flyingness was that we got a slot sooner than expected to get the BSS done, but the main reason for going was to pick up a few bits and bobs to borrow for Chertsey... an anchor, a VHF radio, and the keb (my, how I wish we'd had that at Glascote!)... and some little things for Chertsey to keep: my original miniature water can, which was a botawarming present when I first got Andante, and so in proper tradition must travel from boat to boat with me. It's a lovely thing, really nicely painted, bought from the K&A trust shop at Newbury, which is of course where Andante came from. Also, Warrior has gifted Chertsey an old, painted, Valour paraffin can. It came with Warrior, but of course we never have cause to use paraffin there; on Chertsey it can actually be used.

We didn't have too many worries about the BSS, but we did finally have to get round to putting some heatproof board behind the new stovepipe in the saloon - after four years! It's always been put off because of having it in our heads that it would be hard to get hold of, or at least to get hold of a small enough piece - but of course, we hadn't tried, it was just one of those thaings that hangs over you. In the end of course we just walked into a local builders' merchants (Ingles, this lot are called, and very good they are too) and they cut us a piece and it was about seven quid. Jim put it straight up, but it's not finished; it will have a piece of that copper that we got in Ely on top of it eventually. Anyway, it was all fine and Warrior now has a ticket through 'til September 2014!

Today, if all goes to plan, we should be setting off on the Great Trent Thrash (everything has to have a title like a cheap TV show now), the main object of which is to give the engine a really good workout in the hope that it will cure the oily exhaust - this being on the assumption that the problem might be caused by glazed bores. If it isn't, but turns out to be a damaged oil scraper ring as we first thought, then the engine will have to come apart - not a prospect to be relished. So we are going to give this a shot and have some fun in the process. And also, of course, visit that Shangri-La of the East Midlands, our favourite town ever, Newark. That is the destination we are aiming for; we'll get there, turn round and come back. Fast.