... 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 24 April 2013

A sense of abandonment

Walking the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal (1)

This is the most abandoned stretch of canal I have seen that isn't actually abandoned. More so by far than the Coventry as it struggles into the city of that name; more even than the far flung outposts of the BCN, which at least has the BCN Society to love it.

I tried to find a Sheffield and Tinsley Canal Society, and failed. The South Yorkshire and Dukeries branch of the IWA apparently organised a clean-up only a couple of weeks ago, so I found myself, most unexpectedly, at the weekend, rejoining the IWA.

There were runners and cyclists and fishermen - in dribs and drabs rather than droves - but not a single moving boat until I got to the locks. And to be honest, I would think twice about negotiating this rubbish, rope and plastic bag strewn stretch even if I could.

This is a canal that feels unloved.

Sunday 21 April 2013

A walk and a ride

I went for a walk this morning. About five and a half miles in total, of which approximately half was new territory for me. This was somewhere I was supposed to visit in 2009, but never quite made it. I can't get there by that means any more (and indeed, not many people seem to be trying), but I finally got there on foot. Once I got there the sun shone for a bit, then I turned away from one attraction, and treated myself to a new means of transport to get part of the way home. I took some photos, but they're on my phone, and only Windows can get them off. I might have enough material to spin out for the best part of the week... Just from one little walk. And I've already got the next stage planned.

Thursday 11 April 2013

Need to know...

I've been asked for my personal 'Top Five Things You Need to Know About a Narrow Boat Holiday'.

I haven't really given it much thought yet, but I thought I would throw it open to you, as you're bound to come up with things I won't have thought of.

I do remember one good tip under the heading 'what should you take with you on a hire boat holiday' which was a breadknife, on the grounds that the one that comes with the boat will have been down the weedhatch so many times it'll be no good for slicing bread.

I'll start my list here and add to it as and when I think of things...

1. The weather is very unreliable. Bring a variety of clothes, waterproofs, and sunscreen.
2. Sensible shoes, with good wet grip on smooth surfaces and, ideally, waterproof.
3. The windlass goes on the spindle with the handle pointing outwards.
4. Don't bother bringing all those books you meant to read/that novel you're writing. Somehow, although nothing happens, there won't be any spare time.
5. Things will go wrong. Don't worry about it.

Monday 8 April 2013

A little light restoration

Grand Union boats like Chertsey, when they were built in the 1930s, were equipped with the latest modern conveniences, like electric light in the cabins. No dirty smokey hot oil lamps for them!

At some point in its history, Chertsey's electric lighting was removed, and for a long time we have been looking out for suitable replacements. What we - or rather, Jim - eventually found are not the same as the original fittings would have been - but as the cabin itself (being solid oak) is rather obviously not the same as the original one either, this didn't seem to matter too much. What we have got are a pair of old boat bulkhead lights (Bakewell has one the same in its back cabin) with frosted glass jelly mould shades. Jim got them at the boat jumble at Ardingly Showground last summer when he was there with the Lifeboat 'Advice on Board' (formerly Sea Safety) team. These seem to fit the bill very nicely.

One on them has an integral switch, and that one is over the bed. The other didn't have a switch, so a redundant one from A.N. Other boat (sssshhh...) has been co-opted for the light over the table cupboard.

I haven't seen these in the flesh since Jim fitted them but he has sent these photos to give me - and you - a taste of electric cabin luxury. As the glass is frosted, you can't see that they are fitted with LED bulbs - a bit of a blessing given that Chertsey still has just the one battery and a dynamo charging it.

Sunday 7 April 2013

Friday 5 April 2013

Poignant Port Pictures

Here are some more lovely pictures from Ellesmere Port, round the back.

I have no idea what most of them are, except for the (part of) one which has Formalhaut chalked on it - surely the least mellifluously named of all the 'Star Class' (unless of course you know different).

This is what A.M.Models' website has on Formalhaut:
In 1943, she was on hire to the Erewash Canal Carrying Company (ECCCo) and in use as a change boat and, during this time, she was involved in a collision whilst towing three buttys (steerer G Smith) near Ansty with A Wander’s ‘Thomas’ By the end of the year she was back with GUCCCo. and was working with the butty Ruislip for a time, still with G Smith as steerer. With the nationalisation of inland waterways in 1948, the ownership of Formalhaut passed to the British Transport Commission (Docks and Inland Waterways Executive).  She was recorded as being in fair condition but required docking – perhaps the work was not done in time as she sank in the River Lee that year.  The following year she was transferred to the Engineering Department at Gloucester for use as a canal maintenance boat and allocated the number B7. In 1964 Formalhaut was sold into private ownership and, during the next 12 years, was renamed at least four times (including the names Mattie and Gandalf).  She was owned for a while by the Tewkesbury Cruising and Sailing Club.  Over a period of 20 years she had at least seven private owners and is recorded as attending several rallies.  By December 1973 Formalhaut was reported as being sunk on the River Lee however, all was not lost, and in 1980 she had a new Lister SL2 engine installed and had reverted to her original name. Finally, in 1983, because of her poor condition, she was gifted to The Boat Museum at Ellesmere Port.  Before the new shop was built, she was displayed for a while on land outside the museum entrance.   In June 1995 she was dismantled.

I bet they just love having boats gifted to them 'because of their poor condition'!

Thursday 4 April 2013

Coming home

Two of the blogs I'm following at the moment are journeys home. Lucy Belle is on her way from the Soar to Bugsworth on the Peak Forest, and now Willow has left Langley Mill on the Erewash on the way home to Cambridge. Both of these are the journey home for a new boat - in Lucy Belle's case, a first ever boat, with a baptism of fire for her owners, who seem to be taking to it like the proverbial ducks to water; while the Ducks themselves of course are ducks no longer, having swapped Lucky Duck for their dream working boat, Willow. There's something very special about that first trip, bringing home a new (to you) boat; working with it for the first time, getting to know it; beginning - and I don't think it's too fanciful - to form a relationship with it. A partnership which, just like a human one, will no doubt involve a great deal of shouting and swearing, and possibly violence, but will also reward you with incomparable moments of  sublime pleasure.

Such thoughts led me to look back on Chertsey's journey home - a short one, accomplished in a day, and under tow - but oh what a day it was. When we brought Chertsey to Stretton that first time in September 2009 we didn't know that that would end up as its home, but I'm glad it has. For one thing, someone (and I'm afraid I forget who) worked out that it's the second best place on the whole system in terms of the number of different waterways you can get to within a certain period of time (and here my memory for figures lets me down again, but it was something like two days). As the top place was probably somewhere like the middle of Birmingham, that's not bad at all.

More comparable to Willow's journey, however, and the experience of steering a new (and big) boat for the first time, was when we left Stretton with Chertsey travelling under its own power for the first time in something like thirty years, heading to Braunston in June 2010. This was a rather more fraught and hair raising journey, but it too had its moments of pure joy - successful turns both into and out of the Coventry, as I recall, the latter never so far repeated.

I'm getting quite frustrated now about the lack of boating so far this year - and comparatively little last year as well. Let's hope we can make up for it soon.

I just had to go back and look at the photographs of that wonderful day - September 24th 2009 - to select a new one to illustrate this post, and lost myself in them for quite a while....

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Does B&M Bargains count?

The Great Supermarket Swerve has encountered a dilemma. Yesterday I took an afternoon constitutional to B&M bargains, mainly for cough mixture and 75mg aspirins, but while I was there I picked up two tins of Pataks curry sauce, a bottle of wine and a box of teabags. Of course, they actually sell quite a lot of (often good and unusual) tinned food in there. So do I have to count this towards my supermarket total? Obviously, it's not one of the major axis of evil supermarkets, but then neither is Spar, and I counted that.

Do I get a dispensation because it's not very convenient and gives me a good long walk (nearly four miles if I walk back too, as I did yesterday, pausing only for a sustaining half in the University Arms on the way). And what about the non food groceries like washing powder and toothpaste, which I tend to get either in B&M or Wilkinsons (also suitably distant)?

This is proving more complex than I anticipated.

However, I did also go into the greengrocer's (it's called Fruit-a-Peel, by the way, but you can't have everything) and bought not only fruit, veg and salad, but also cottage cheese, milk, yogurts and dried apricots; i.e. as much as I could and more than I could comfortably carry along with all the other stuff.

So far I have managed to stay out of the charity shops and have thus avoided clothes purchases. I did buy a cushion in Wilkos to fill a very nice cover I got in Stourbridge, but perhaps there should be some sort of de minimus rule for household goods....

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Pretty Port Pictures

Although we bottled out of boating to Ellesmere Port in last week's arctic winds, we found the nerve to go up by car on Sunday and brave the taunts of  'fair weather boaters' - although of the three people who told us that it really wasn't that bad, two of them had tugs, and the other (naming no names) was probably going too fast to be affected...
Anyway, Sunday produced some surprisingly lovely weather; it was cold but sunny, and wrapped in several woolly layers it was actually very pleasant. Attendance was somewhat thinner than in 2011, but we still managed to catch up with quite a few people, and of course, to take some rather nice pictures.

A special mention must go to the curry stall, whose output was not only delicious, but genuinely ethically committed too in their sourcing, and from what I heard from others, understanding of and committed to people's dietary requirements. By the time we were ready to eat only the vegan options remained - potato and pea for Jim, and chick pea for me, both with very tasty brown basmati rice.

Monday 1 April 2013

Spring resolution gets off to a shaky start

I had already made a resolution of sorts - April would be my own austerity month, when I would make serious inroads into January's CRT licence overdraft by foregoing the purchase of clothes, household goods and anything from Amazon.

Then yesterday I read this article, which reminded my how dreadful the big supermarkets are (I already knew of course, but one does require constant reminders) and I decided that rather than try and go vegan again, which was one thing I was tempted to do, I would instead try not to use supermarkets for a month - at least; if it's possible for a month than it must be possible for longer. In my little Sheffield village the shops include a greengrocer (open from 7 am to 6 pm) who also sells local milk, yogurt, etc.; and a butcher (so if I want to eat meat I will have to be brave and ask for it), while a mile or so away can be found Beanies wholefood co-op, agonisingly trendy purveyors of expensive vegetables and surprisingly cheap organic lentils, wholemeal pasta etc. This being studentville, you simply can't get brown rice anywhere else. They also carry bakery products, but getting my daily bread there would kipper the austerity drive.

When I moved here, but six months ago, there was one supermarket, a Euro Spar (not quite sure what the Euro adds but it's there). This is still the largest supermarket but within the past half year it has been supplemented (and may yet be supplanted) by both a Tesco Metro and a Sainsbury's Local. As supermarkets go I suspect Spar may not be in the same league of evil as members of the big four; indeed, it might need my custom to keep going and fend the others off. So if I do require anything that can't be got elsewhere, I shan't feel too guilty about patronising Spar - as indeed as I had to on my return this afternoon, needing milk and bread, and the greengrocer taking a well deserved bank holiday break. So I got a pint of milk, reduced to 29p, and a loaf of bread at 19p, and thus have spent, so far this April, 48p in a supermarket.

I will keep you posted on the progress of the supermarket avoidance challenge.