... 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.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Not just me

I see that most of my favourite blogs aren't getting updated very often at the moment. My excuse is that I have actually had some work to do - real paid work which has taken up most of my time and nearly all of my energy. Hopefully the back of it is broken now, so maybe I can get back to writing more fun stuff. Currently back in Newhaven, sorting out house and car, seeing friends and doing heaps of washing. No. 2 Son has a concert in London on Sunday, after which we'll be returning to the boats.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Staying Inn for a Curry

After being here for seven months, we have finally got round to visiting the Curry Inn in Brewood. Many other boaters have recommended it (Armadillo went so far as to put up a laminated sign by the canal), and our takeaway was indeed very good, the prices reasonable and the service very friendly. I look forward to going back there to eat in when we next have guests.

We deserved a treat because we have had a busy day...

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Off the peg storage solutions

Something that takes a surprising amount of storage space is underwear, especially when you factor in socks. The ideal place for keeping it all is a drawer, or small chest thereof, but drawers are in short supply in a back cabin - I have just the knife/crumb drawer, and the big drawer under the bed, which isn't very accessible as I leave the bed made up when not travelling. My undies were in a box, taking up valuable cupboard space, but it occurred to me that there is a 'dead' space at the end of the bed, underneath the cupboard, where I could hang bags to keep my smalls in. 

I was thinking I would have to make the bags myself, but then came across these (rather large for their intended purpose) peg bags, at £1.65 each in Wilkinsons. Already equipped with a hanger, all they need is a single hook to be suspended from, and are an excellent size for storing all sorts of things in all sorts of places - nice cheery pattern too.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Resolutely tackling the 21 (and new bits of the BCN)

You know us, we'll always turn out to tackle the Wolverhampton locks, so when Dave Moore posted on CWF that he was looking for help, having injured his knee (though actually it was better by yesterday) I leapt in to volunteer our services.

This was not just to be a case of parking in Broad Street, doing the locks, and walking back to the car, however (just as well, as the lower end of Broad Street was sealed off following a stabbing at the nightclub in the former BW building there). No, this was to be a full day's boating, taking in parts of the BCN we'd not previously seen, notably a section of the Wyrley and Essington Canal.

We arranged to meet Dave at Sneyd (my whispered injunction to Jim prior to phoning Dave up to make arrangements was 'try and get him to say it first and then we'll know how to pronounce it'. It's Sneed, to save you similar worries) and quickly set off. The W&E - at least the bit we saw - was clean and green and not even very curly. There was some weed but not as bad as elsewhere. Most of it had a very rural appearance, until we stopped in Wednesfield to buy some provisions for lunch, where there was a biggish retail park.

Dave was very anxious that I write nice things about the BCN because in his view people tend to have an unfairly low opinion of, or are unnecessarily worried about it. He's been boating there since the sixties, and says he's never had any trouble or felt threatened. Well, he didn't need to worry about me, because I love what I've seen of the BCN and am very keen to explore more. We have had a couple of minor incidents around Wolverhampton (but then we've also had one in Stone) but I wouldn't let that put me off. The chances of something seriously bad happening are minuscule, and it's worth the occasional annoyance.

All the same, we met only one other boat on the W&E before joining the BCN Main Line at Horseley Fields Junction, although on coming to the locks there were a fair few more, in each direction. We didn't break any records but got a decent rhythm going, along with Dave's mate Keith, and did catch up with a boatload of Norwegians in front of us. After a few locks with us on their tail, they let us by, albeit with only two locks to go.

Even then the day wasn't over, as we continued to Compton, where Dave was stopping for the night, and retired to the Marston's pub there for dinner and beer and great conversation, eventually getting a taxi, courtesy of Dave (I owe you some change Dave) with a driver who was thankfully able to follow our garbled directions back to Sneyd, where we picked up the car, and, road Street still being closed, had another road tour of little-known outposts of the Black Country.

Now this would not be complete without saying a bit about Resolute, Dave's fabulous and justly well known boat - but of course I didn't take a camera, did I, so will have to describe it in words. It's a 60' tug, built by Graham Edgeson at Norton Canes, and a stunning looking boat, especially when it's coming towards you with its low swoopy fore end. What particularly impressed us were the handrails - beautifully designed to overlap the cabin sides slightly, and made, though you would never guess from looking, of wood, treated with resin before being painted - a lesson we are hoping to put into practice on Bakewell's back cabin. The paintwork and signwriting are of course gorgeous, and everything clean and gleaming... oh, and it's got a 1942 Kelvin J3.

So although Dave thanked us for our help, I'd like to say a big thank you to Dave for a great day's boating. And it didn't even rain until we were safely ensconced in the pub.

Sunday 8 July 2012

Mr Kipling's...

Couldn't resist.

But talking of food (which we weren't, really), Di Murrell has just won a food history writers' prize for this fabulous article about how working boaters ate.

Saturday 7 July 2012

One for Michelle

Instead of emailing Michelle to tell her about this, I thought I would blog it for the world instead!

Earlier in the 'summer' when we did actually have a few sunny days and Baz'n'Iz came up for the Big Butty Outing, we caught up with Bill and Michelle a few times. Not the least of these was the final day of our return from the Anchor when we had been caught in a very heavy shower and all got soaked at Wheaton Aston lock. We pressed on and arrived back at Stretton fairly late, Shilling following, and while we got dried and heaved a sigh of relief at completing our first successful butty outing, Michelle cooked us all supper, which was then brought over to be eaten on Bakewell. And what Michelle introduced us to was quesadillas. Very welcome, filling and comforting.

Now, Michelle and Bill have just left for home in North Carolina, and donated us the contents of their fridge before departing, meaning that there was a heap of flour tortillas sitting on the worktop, a jar of salsa, and a big hunk of mild cheddar. So I thought I would try to recreate this dish, and it was very successful.  So here is what I did (apologies to Michelle if I've taken too many liberties but they did turn out really well!):

Fried some chopped chilli and garlic in olive oil, then added a tin each of drained mixed beans and kidney beans. Stirred to mix then mashed roughly with a potato masher. Mixed in some leftover hummous that was hanging around (optional!)

Mashed an avocado similarly.

Grated the cheese.

Spread a tortilla with bean mixture to a depth of about 3/8", topped with salsa, avocado and a good sprinkling of cheese, then sandwiched with another tortilla.

Heated up a dry frying pan, put it in and pressed it down, cooked for a few minutes and turned over (easiest using a spatula underneath and my hand on top) until golden both sides and all the cheese melted.

Lovely messy eating!

Friday 6 July 2012

Eagle towing

Chris Mann, who took that fantastic photo of Willoughby mid-leap, has sent me a picture of Eagle towing its builder and his brother-in-law (whom I met; sadly I didn't get to meet Rob himself) in an inflatable canoe. They did this at Braunston too.

The most nerve wracking part of the parade was coming back into the arm with Eagle sitting on the outside of the bend. Miles away really and something would have had to have gone spectacularly wrong for Chertsey to end up anywhere near it, but still the thought made my blood run cold.

Thursday 5 July 2012

Where Eagles dare

When I posted rather plaintively on CWF a while ago on the subject of 'is anyone going to Braunston this year?', the reply that made me smile in anticipation was from robkg, saying: 'I am planning to take ... "Eagle" again this year.  She now has a Bolinder fitted plus the steerer actually steers.'

Eagle is the boat that makes the rest of us feel sane.

Seeing Eagle makes me happy. It is so fabulously good; so gloriously pointless, done, as everything should be but so little is, entirely for its own sake, raised to the highest degree.

Eagle is (the bit that I elided), as most of you probably know, a model. But what a model. A model with an Action Man whose gripping hand on the tiller does indeed appear to steer. Smoke emerges from stove chimney and exhaust, and the miniature Bolinder beats perfect time with the boat's movement. Not mentioned in the preview was that Action Man (I wonder what his name is) now also has a bike, handmade in every perfect detail, casually thrown on top of his cargo (what's in those sacks, I wonder).

I cannot say what joy Eagle brings me.

I have left the picture files big so you can click on them and appreciate the fantastic detail.

I'll edit and enlarge the Blue Line post tomorrow. Or soon, anyway.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Blue Line line-up

On Sunday morning we moved Chertsey back along the arm to facilitate a photo call for the Blue Line boats that were there: Nutfield and Raymond, in Blue Line colours, alng with Stanton and Renfrew, two other boats that worked for the company.

Somewhere I have picked up a bit of the history of the company, but I can't recall where to go back and check my facts, so forgive me if this is a bit vague. Blue Line was set up by Michael Streat (known as 'Mr Streaks' to the boatmen) and operated out of Braunston. It was Blue Line boats that were on the legendary 'Jam 'Ole Run' from Atherstone/Baddesley to the Kearley and Tonge works (which I think didn't actually make jam at the time? near Bulls Bridge - famously the last regular long distance commercial traffic, which ended in November 1970 (only three months after the far longer established Ashby Canal - Dickinsons mills coal traffic which Chertsey so briefly participated in).

I'm not sure either how many boats Blue Line ran, or whether they owned or leased them, but they also included the large Woolwich butty Belmont (now in a sorry state on the bank at a 'water park') and Lucy, a wooden Nursers built boat currently being restored by Pete Boyce - now also co-owner of Renfrew - at Braunston.

Anyway, i think they got their photo - while I got some much more interesting ones of them getting lined up for it!

(I'm going to post on CWF and ask for additional info and corrections on this)

Tuesday 3 July 2012

The last banana

One of the many things Jim and I disagree on is the correct stage of ripeness at which to eat a banana. I say it is when it is ripe enough not to take the enamel off your teeth, but before it starts emitting detectable ethanol (or whatever it is that bananas emit that makes then rest of the fruit go rotten) fumes. Jim on the other hand insists that a banana is not edible until its skin is at least 50% black.

This means that any bananas that aren't eaten within a couple of days are left for Jim. This one may have been left just a little too long... Or maybe it's like hanging a brace of pheasant(s?) - when one drops off, you eat the other one.

Monday 2 July 2012

Cabintop flowers

When Sebastian and Izzi visited they brought me a lovely present - a Harveys of Lewes jug for putting flowers on the cabintop. Derided by some as a soft southern habit, this is nonetheless a tradition (or not) that I rather like. I filled it up with flowers from the yard before we left, and most mornings picked one or two new specimens from where we were moored - never too many; never enough to notice they were missing (and none, strangely, in Birmingham). I didn't pick the foxglove; it was a victim of veg pledge strimming. It was quite frustrating boating past profuse displays of gorgeous flowers, only to find none where we tied up.

The longest lasting were a blue flower, looking somewhat like a thistle or a cornflower, but with different leaves from either (if you enlarge the photo you can see one on the right hand side), that  collected from the bottom of the drive - fifteen days later I brought one of them back again. The pink hogweed (carefully picked) did well too, as did, to my surprise, the campion. The biggest failure, not even lasting half a day, was elderflower. On the whole it taught me that whilst wild flowers may not last if you pick them and bring them indoors, outdoors most seem to do very well.

Sunday 1 July 2012

The cat formerly known as Willow

... would like it to be known that he has officially changed his name to Willoughby, as befits a dignified and masculine furry gentleman of his stature.

And to prove it, here is the absolutely fantastic photo taken at Braunston by Chris Mann (aka CWF's Chieftiff). Thanks very much to Chris for taking such a brilliant shot, sending me a copy, and allowing me to post it.