... 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 31 October 2012

Toilet talk

An occasional series on a subject close to all our hearts

I have noticed an interesting trend in the design and layout of public toilets lately. Examples have been spotted in public loos in Lewes (pronounced Lewis, in case anyone thought that was a lucky pun), and on two different trains.

The phenomenon to which I am referring is a toilet paper dispenser, set into the wall, either behind (Lewes) or adjacent to (trains, where there is a very narrow space) the toilet, almost at floor level meaning that you have to practically stick your head down the loo in order to help yourself to the kindly provided sheets of flimsy tissue (the lot I pulled out in the last train was all damp...).

Now you might say, well, surely it is positioned for easy access whilst sitting on the toilet, rather than advance supply.

To which I would reply, anyone that applied to would have to be a contortionist with extremely low standards of hygiene.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

A winter's day with Singapore

Apparently all last week while I was enjoying bright blue skies and crisp autumn sunshine highlighting the golden leaves in Sheffield, Jim, down in Newhaven, was being battered by heavy rain for the entire week. Friday morning, however, was noticeably colder, as I made my way south.

We'd decided that it would be nice to visit Singapore, Jim's Dunkirk Little Ship currently undergoing repairs at Walton on the Naze, and see how she's coming along. It was sunny when we left, but as we drove north and then east we encountered black skies and heavy rain. Jim was beginning to doubt the wisdom of proceeding, but as we reached Walton, we passed through the clouds and once again it was sunny and clear. And cold; god how perishingly, suddenly, cold. (Captain Ahab's post for today gives an idea of what the east coast was like at the weekend.)

Well, it was certainly bracing. At least Singapore is in a shed, out of the wind. At first glance, Singapore does not look very different from how she did eighteen months ago, but closer examination reveals that a lot of the wood is new

including new oak ribs

a new laminated breasthook, but it was too dark up in the forepeak to take a photo with the iPad, and of course I'd left the camera in Sheffield.

and ongoing caulking.

Funny looking grindings!

Monday 29 October 2012

Songs from the Shipyards

On Friday night, thanks to a wonderfully generous gesture from a friend, Sebastian and I saw the Unthanks perform 'Songs from the Shipyards' at the South Bank Centre. The show comprised a film, put together by Richard Fenwick from archive and newsreel footage from the 1940s through to the 80s, covering the boom and subsequent decline of shipbuilding on the Tyne, accompanied by the band singing their arrangements of mainly contemporaneous songs. And that's it, basically - and at little more than an hour, it was so brief that they were able to put on two performances each evening.

But it was one of the most moving and stirring sixty minutes entertainment I have ever had. Almost impossible to put into words, the power of the old film - men rivetting, welding, climbing gantries... warships being launched... ships in battle; ships being sunk... cruise ships being launched; massive oil tankers on the drawing board; being built, and dwarfing the terraced streets as they are launched... Thatcher (to boos and hisses from the audience); foreign competition, decline, closure and demolition of the yards' buildings and cranes. And this combined expertly with songs written by local people at the time, and later classics like Elvis Costello's 'Shipbuilding', along with arrangements of Rudyard Kipling's poem 'Big Steamers', which looks trite on the page but was given a heartrending air of naivete by Niopha Keegan's singing (better known as the Unthanks' violinist, she has a great voice which complements both Rachel and Becky Unthank's very different voices). The whole thing was fabulous. I was surprised that they didn't get a standing ovation for it (being in the front row, I was far too shy to start one!). Immediately afterwards, Sebastian booked tickets for him and Izzi to see it at Bexhill, one of the last remaining shows not to be sold out.

I am just hoping now that they will release the film with a recorded soundtrack, for cinemas, maybe even on DVD. If you get the chance, see it. If not, you can buy the CD of the songs, but beautiful as they are, the combination of music and image is so much greater than the sum of its parts.

Monday 22 October 2012

From steel box to steel city...

Thank you for bearing with me while I've been getting my feet under the table in the new job and making the transition to living in a city - for the first time in my life, I realise.

I'm going to try and get back into the swing of blogging now with a few musings on life in Sheffield... a place I already like a lot... Then when the novelty has faded, it will hopefully be back to the old mixture of boat-related ramblings and rants.

Friday 5 October 2012

Room for greater realism?

Last night I thought I would investigate BBC iPlayer (I'm not exactly what you would call an early adopter). I don't normally enjoy watching television - we haven't had one for about a decade now - but I was sure I would find something to look at on the iPad. I decided on Room at the Top - the much praised BBC 4 dramatisation of John Braine's angry young northern grittiness. Surprisingly, perhaps, I've not read the book, so didn't really know what to expect, other than the strong language and sex that the BBC kindly warned me about beforehand.

It wasn't that that shocked me however. Rather the scene that had me peturbed was the one in which a woman, in the 1950s, in Yorkshire, goes up to the bar of an old fashioned pub and orders a pint for herself as well as her male companion, and is served it without demur. In a London glass, what's more.

Someone who can remember, please tell me whether this would really have happened.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Numbers game

A chance moan in a text from a friend this morning led me to ten minutes of life-enhancing Wikipedia reading pleasure.  I had mentioned that I would like to ban the word 'unacceptable' as used by government spokespeople and their ilk; he countered with 24/7 and 0207, and I suggested 1-2-1 (as in students requesting an individual tutorial; they do, I'm afraid). I wasn't sure what he meant by 0207 so I Googled it and found this: UK telephone code misconceptions.

I suspect Starcross Jim will enjoy it.

I have one of those peculiar 011x numbers now.

It's 0114 for anyone who's interested and hadn't yet guessed.