... 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 27 November 2012

Easing the squeeze

The Chesterfield Canal was never built for motor boats, or iron or steel boats, let alone Grand Union steel motor boats. (In fact, the Chesterfield Canal Trust are currently building a replica of an original Chesterfield Canal boat if you would like to see what one looked like - wooden, shallow drafted, and horsedrawn.) So perhaps it is a little greedy of us at HNBC to want to be able to take our monsters all the way up to the head of navigation at Kiveton Park.

On the other hand, when the canal was restored in the 1970s, the locks were meant to be rebuilt to the standard dimensions for modern leisure craft. There was no earthly reason why Stret Lock should have been rebuilt to a width of 6'10" rather than the standard 7' plus, causing problems for modern boats as well as historic ones (mostly in the case of modern boats, because of protruding baseplates).

It was to highlight this issue that HNBC organised a massed (well, there were about seven of us) attempt on Stret Lock in the summer of last year, to see who could and who couldn't get through. Chertsey couldn't even get through the one before (Morse), but there are very few of us who can get through Stret (Bath and Petrel being the only two that come to mind). I think we were all pleasantly surprised when BW (as was) agreed firstly to investigate, and then to take action to remedy this.

The action has consisted of removing an entire layer of bricks from one of the lock's side walls, anchoring the wall into the ground, and then rebuilding the inner wall, using the existing stone blocks (for reasons of both heritage and cost - nice when the two coincide!). This widens the lock by at least two inches, to a depth well below the bottom of any boat, even when the lock is empty.

On Sunday, CRT held an open day at Stret, to show off the work they'd done - and presumably, from the number of CRT chuggers in attendance, to attract people to come and visit the canal. I couldn't resist the chance to get right down inside the bottom of a dewatered lock, as well as seeing the work - which looked to be being done to an excellent standard. We were able to talk to the people who were doing it, and once again were struck by the commitment of the CRT workers on the ground (and in this case, below it).

Monday 26 November 2012


Goodness, why has it taken me so long to add Nick's Eileen blog to the old boat blogroll? Nick won the great 'how many candidates will stand for the boaters' places on the CRT Council' sweepstake back in January; I've met him, and heard about his ongoing project of a 1903 day boat, BCN no. 18686, aka Eileen; I knew he had a blog; I've even looked at it. You should too - it has some stunning photos.

Tomorrow: I travel seventy miles to look at a hole in the ground.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Biscuit review

At Sheffield station this morning, I had pressed upon me not one, but three, free samples of the much advertised Belvita 'breakfast biscuits', designed for people who don't have time to stuff a bit of toast in their mouth before leaving the house but prefer to cover themselves in crumbs on the train instead. Unwrapping a 59p packet of two took me back to my childhood - they were like nothing so much as the 'Limmits' meal substitute biscuits on which my mother vainly tried to lose weight in the 1970s. A sweet, digestive-y type biscuit sandwiching a 'creamy live yogurt filling' (yeah, right. 'yogurt powder 3%') with oooh, added minerals and stuff so it sounds like proper food and not just a biscuit.

According to the packet 'Belvita Breakfast Yogurt Crunch are truly exciting'. I'll just repeat that. A digestive biscuit with a sugary filling containing powdered yogurt is TRULY EXCITING.

What are they thinking when they write this stuff? Do they think people will buy it in the hope of a thrill? Are their lives really so dull and bounded by biscuits that they actually believe it? Is it the result of hyperbole inflation? What is left, other than ironic English understatement, to describe things that really might arouse a flicker of interest in a jaded populace?

Or maybe it is the idea of being someone so busy and important that they are above eating breakfast like ordinary mortals, but must instead snack on a 1970s diet biscuit (which apparently can be part of a balanced breakfast when accompanied by a latte and a banana... Just eat the sodding banana!) because they are so modern and zetgeist-surfing.

Anyway, as I got given a freebie, I thought I would review the 'truly exciting' Brevita Breakfast Yogurt Crunch Biscuit.

It was horrible.

Monday 12 November 2012

Boss eyed in the blogosphere

I have added Angry People in Local Newspapers to the blogroll, as I still find it quite amusing (even if some of the captions pall after a while). Finding absurdities, over-the-topperies, and sheer acts of people taking themselves too seriously in the local press has long been a source of entertainment for me on the long winter evenings. Few things will better the sub-editor in the Brighton Argus who saw fit to headline the story of a clearly mentally ill man self-harming to the extent that he got gangrene 'Man Kills Himself with Giant Novelty Pencil'. However, APILN, and its sister website Lib Dems Who Point* (and I have been one of those in my time) does collect together a treasure trove of pictures of people trying to look cross. Sometimes the story is worthy or serious comment (and the anger justified); more often however it's concocted almost entirely for two minutes of local fame (or infamy) before becoming chip wrapping.

Not having anything else to read last night, I spent a few hours following up some of the sites APILN links too. I was astounded to discover what goes on between the covers of Chat, Take a Break etc. and feel fully vindicated in never having handed over a penny for any of them or their ilk; I have also learnt (no, I honestly had no idea before) what extremely fat women look like with no clothes on. Or almost no clothes; modesty dictates that they wear some kind of bra for the photoshoot, but other undergarments are rendered redundant by obscuring cascades of flesh. (Although come to think of it, they probably have got something on down there, you just can't see it). Obesity, incest and clairvoyance (with a nice line in psychic animals) seem to be the staple of these housewives' favourites.

Then I looked at Speak Your Brains, basically a collection of comments on online news stories, before I realised that too much laughing at stupid people on the internet is not really good for the soul and I had to go and have a shower.

Whilst fiddling, I have also changed Sandbach to Badger, to reflect George's change of boat.

*Doesn't appear to be working at the time of writing, though it did the other day.

Sunday 11 November 2012

First frost

Well, the first I've photographed anyway.

Saturday 10 November 2012


Ever since being shown Blossom's splendid collection of pot hooks at Alvecote, Jim, unbeknownst to me, has been watching out for some on ebay. Today, after meeting a man from Wolverhampton in a pub car park, he came back with these.

They were supposed to be for Christmas but they were so marvellous he couldn't wait. There are five delicately worked ones in brass, and four chunkier copper ones. And - would you believe - he was the only bidder and got the lot for £10.50.

Now we need to find a rail to go over Bakewell's range, to make good use of all of them. Well done Jim!

Thursday 8 November 2012

Simple things...

I'm afraid I find this very amusing.
Angry People in Local Newspapers

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Diamond Geezer visits the BCN!

A non-boating blogger from London posts a piece that puts most of our efforts to shame. I have commented with a link to my post which in turn has a link to Captain Ahab's excellent articles from this time last year. Hoping that DG's having an extended stay in the West Midlands and that there's more to come!

Sunday 4 November 2012

Going the distance

Yesterday saw the bi-annual fun and frolics of an HNBC 'social' (I am not convinced that 'social' is a noun, but we will take it as an implicit abbreviation of 'social event'. Being on the committee, Both Jim (who is not Events and Awards Officer) and I were meant to be there at ten. We were a bit late however, as, for all its virtues, the free Navfree satnav app is a bit optimistic about journey times. We were also somewhat perplexed by the route it had chosen, until I investigated and discovered that it was still set to avoid motorways, and had been ever since we had the oil leak in the previous Volvo.

The afternoon's entertainment this year was provided by Tony Gregory, who had put together a really good show of photos from the 1940s and 50s, mainly of the BCN and the Wolverhampton locks. I finally learnt why lock twenty is the only one to have a single top gate - it was added twelve years after the original twenty locks were built, to save water, and the standard for the BCN had changed in the meantime. The secong half of the presentation included some compilations of cine film put together by Keith Christie. This was less successful as much of the film had not transferred very well to the digital medium, and it was largely reliant on Tony Gregory reading out Keith Christie's written commentary.

There was an excellent bonus though. Tony had brought along a number of items he had salvaged many years ago which were looking for good homes, and for a small donation to charity, they found them. The items in question are, I understood at the time (but see below), 1966 reprints* of 1886 Grand Junction distance tables. I only have a terribel iPad photo, but you can see they take the form of the tables you get in motoring atlases, whereby you can read off the distance from any one place to another. There are also smaller tables for each arm.

*Update - firstly to remove the awful iPad spelling, but more importantly to add what Tony Gregory has subsequently sent in an email: the tables were salvaged in 1966 - so could be any age. Maybe the original 1886 printing, even? Tony sent an account to be printed in the HNBC newsletter, so I am sure it will be all right to reproduce the relevant bit here:
'These had been in a wardrobe at the home of the late George & Olive Andrews since they collected them from Thomas Clayton (Oldbury) Ltd., when their canal carrying operations ceased in 1966.'