... 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.

Saturday 25 May 2013

Sun, tea and band

The BBC forecast wasn't wrong, and after two days of horrible cold wind and rain, this morning dawned bright and sunny. Just as well, as we still had to take the topcloths off, attach the rest of the stringettes, and roll down the sidecloths, clear out the hold, move the top planks, put the stands in and wrestle the mast back into place, ready to be decked with the bunting I made yesterday.

We were ready just in time to set off backwards into the lock at half past ten. Bath was already in there, facing downhill, and we breasted up. We then went down the lock and proceeded slowly past the long line of thickly moored boats towards Anchor Bridge. Bath was providing the motive power, but I was called upon to provide auxiliary steering - a sort of bowthruster I suppose - causing one wag to comment that it was the strangest tug-of-war he'd ever seen.

Once we got to Anchor Bridge, Chertsey nestled in the (very low) bridgehole while Bath winded, then we breasted up again, both now facing uphill. I attached the bunting - which happened to be exactly the right length - and the Holymoorside Brass Band bagan to arrive. Jim and Adrian helped them and their instruments into the boats, where we had chairs set out ready for them. Right on time (I think the time was 1200) we set off again, with the band playing, back past the line of moored boats, not touching a single one despite them being three deep (and despite one very agitated owner of a Shiny Boat clearly not believing us capable of such a feat), and slowly and magisterially arrived back into the lock, which was then filled very slowly, the boats and band rising triumphantly from the depths, playing, for some reason, New York New York, and not the traditional eighteenth century melodies I promised you yesterday. They played on for a while in the lock, before disembarking and taking up positions in front of the beer tent.

We left the boats in the lock a while longer, while we, with Adrian and Linda, visited the beer tent and the stalls, and then moved back to our spot alongside the dry dock, all the better to enjoy the second highlight of the day - our tea. Linda had cooked one of her spectacular meat and potato pies. Rather, because of the limited size of the Epping's oven she had cooked two smaller ones, but they wouldn't both fit in my oven, so one was sent over to be warmed through in Bath's - and in return Dave and Izzie joined me, Jim, Adrian and Linda on Chertsey's back end deck to enjoy pie, mushy peas, pickled cabbage and gravy, all seasoned of course with Henderson's relish. Fabulous - thank you so much Linda!

What a contrast to yesterday, which was cold, miserable and utterly uneventful. Today has been hot and sunny and a marvellous time has been had by all.

Friday 24 May 2013

Individual stringettes

Today it continued cold and rainy, but with added wind. Nonetheless, in preparation for the removal of all the topcloths, and the rolling up of the sidecloths, which we haven't so far done, we prepared a number (about 34; I lost count) of individual stringettes which are to be stapled to the gunnel and can then be run through the ring and ties back on themselves tonhold the rolled sidecloths neatly. I doubt if this is the traditional way of doing it, but it seems to work.

Not wishing to backsplice sixty eight ends (and not having had the time, even if I was mad enough to wish to) we took advantage of Hempex's synthetic nature and heat sealed them. Jim bought a lighter for the purpose but we discovered that it was quicker and easier doing them on tne Beatrice, as that way we could each do two ends at a time. Except even under the cloths the stove kept blowing out in the wind.

Then I used the remaining Hempex, a couple of old tablecloths, and some gaffer tape to make some not very good bunting for tomorrow. I really will get round to doing it properly one day.

Thursday 23 May 2013

Walking to Nottinghamshire

This morning was cold and horrible, so rather than work on the boat, we decided to take the opportunity to walk the half mile or so into Eastwood. I had a vague idea that this had some D.H. Lawrence connection, but hadn't really been aware that it was where he was born, and the excellent birthplace museum, run by the local authority, was a very pleasant surprise. Trying the rather forbidding door, it yielded to let us into the gift shop, where two ladies were on duty. As we we the only customers at that point, they decided to start the guided tour just for us, and it was very well done. I just love recreated historical houses anyway, and the literary connection - and Lawrence's interesting life - made it all the more rewarding.

The house, in Victoria Street, was where the family lived until Lawrence was two - they occupied a further three houses in the town, each bigger and in a better area than the last, culminating in a five bedroomed house at the top of the hill. For a miner's cottage, the house seemed spacious - two up, two down with an attic, a shared wash house and toilet - but the rooms were large and reasonably high ceilinged. While Lawrence's father, Arthur, was a miner, his mother Lydia was educated and had worked as a schoolteacher. She was determined to pass the gift of education on to her five children, of whom David Herbert Richards (known to the family as Bert, but to everyone in his adult life, including his wife, simply as Lawrence) was the fourth (from memory they were Emily, George, Ernest, David and Ada). Bert was consided a bit of a mummy's boy, and didn't start school until he was eight - by which time he already knew more than most boys leaving school at fourteen, including French which Lydia taught him.

So I learnt something today, as well as sheltering from some vicious sleet and hailstorms which continued throughout the afternoon.

Preparations for the brass band have been postponed in the faint hope of better weather. Bath has had staging built in the hold so that at least the upper part of the band members will be visible; we have our extended deck over the back end, but beyond that it looks like our contingent will be seated at floor level, as there is no more material available to make staging. I have visions of them all being deafened as the sound bounces around in the hold.

We have come up into the basin forwards; the winding hole is a little way down the canal, at Anchor Bridge, which is where we will be loading the band. So the idea is that Bath, which is facing downhill, will tow Chertsey backwards down to Anchor Bridge. Bath will then wind, and we will breast up, the band will get on, and will play as we return to the basin, including ascending the lock, emerging from the depths playing the same music as was played at the opening of the canal in 1779 years ago, as has been done every five years since the first rally held in 1973.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

The delights of Langley Mill

You have to have a positive attitude, admittedly, but they can be found. One charity shop - Barnardos - where Jim got a fantastic leather jacket; a richly deserved reward for working all those heavy locks yesterday. There is an Asda - without which the Duck-Willows may not have survived, which has appeared since our last visit and seems to have taken over almost the whole town. This is not, in itself, a good thing. There is also still a Lidl, which is special for being the first Lidl I ever visited, where we were amazed at the eclectic range of goods on offer and bought a shower hose for £2.99 which has outlasted more expensive ones by miles. An there is the Great Northern pub, which was due to close this week for refurbishment, but was persuaded that it might be an idea to stay open for the duration of the rally. Only two beers on, but one was Navigation stout, which Jim and Dave found very acceptable, and a decent carvery put on for us at an excellent price. I hear tonight that the rally beer tent will feature twenty one different beers, plus two ciders, and even some lager, so as not to discriminate against those poor unfortunates with no taste. Tomorrow, if we're not too busy building staging in the hold, we may walk up the road and sample the delights of Eastwood.

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Back at t'Mill

Day four, Shardlow - Langley Mill
Ten and a quarter hours, 15 miles, 18 locks (according to Canalplan)

So here we are, back in the Great Northern Basin again, after yet another uneventful day, making this, I think, our first disaster free trip. Hooray!

One thing we never really noticed with Warrior, when we came up the last time (in 2009) is the very low bridges. We knew in theory, hence we took down the deckboard and cratch before leaving; in fact we call running like this 'Erewash mode'. In practice however, it meant a lot of quick engine pipe removal, and in the end, once Jim was on the bike and I was steering alone, leaving it off entirely - with me muffled like a bandit with a hippy tie-dye scarf in the hope of fending off a few of the diesel particles. We really do need to get a titch pipe.

I remembered the Erewash as far more interesting than it actually seemed to be this time. There are some lovely old buildings at the bottom end, but most of it is semi rural looking (but with scary potential never too far away, if people are to be believed). The locks are still bloody heavy, although some of the more outlandish anti-vandal locks have been modified. A lot of the paddle gear doesn't work, meaning that sometimes you have to start with the rather effective gate paddles. That's my idea of fun, but might not suit the faint hearted.

I reckon that having Jim go ahead on the bike saved at least five minutes a lock (however long it took to empty it and get the vandal locks off) and so potentially well over an hour in total, even though we caught up with Cassiopaeia and Marquis as a result. This meant that we arrived in the basin just before it started to rain - the first rain of the trip - hooray again!

The other thing I'd forgotten is how much Trent there is on this route. Last time we came up here we came off the Soar (the way we are leaving this time) from where it's straight across into Trent Lock and the start of the Erewash. Coming from the T&M there's a bit of river to do and then a hairpin bend into the lock.

Monday 20 May 2013

Fat and ugly

Barton-under-Needwood to Shardlow
20 miles (approx), 9 locks, 9 hours 50 minutes

Not all wide beam boats are ugly, but all the ones I've seen today are. And, just because you can just about squeeze it through the bridgeholes, doesn't mean it's a good idea.

Another pretty uneventful day. We had a brief hiatus when a joint came loose on a fuel pipe, but Jim diagnosed it almost immediately and fixed it within minutes. We then had to contend with the starter motor's reluctance to engage when the engine's hot, but even with that we were only delayed about ten minutes.

We met Colin and Annie on Eli at Horninglow. They are also on their eay to Langley Mill, along with many oher members of the Les Allen Register, who are having a gathering there. This will be rather exciting for us, as Chertsey as a little bit a Les Allen boat - he put the steel skin on Richard Barnett's oak cabin.

We got to Shardlow at about six, got a splendid mooring, and are now between supper and dessert in the New Inn, which is just as good as we remembered from four years ago, and where we managed to start a vigorous discussion among the regulars by requesting out beer without the 'sparkler' (i.e. flattener).

Tomorrow.... the entIre Erewash. We shall see.

Sunday 19 May 2013

High road, low road; fast road, slow road

Baswich Bridge (100, S&W) - near Barton-under-Needwood
11 hours, 22 miles, 13 locks

Another really successful day brought us nearly to Barton Turns Marina (but not quite!), tied up adjacent to the A38, which is one of my favourite roads. It's part of my journey from Sheffield to Stretton, and the best part - twenty plus miles with no roundabouts. That twenty miles takes about twenty minutes (if I'm trying to drive economically); today's twenty odd miles took eleven hours... And I reckon that if I had a car here, I could be back at Stretton (which we left yesterday morning) in about an hour and a half.

Although I knew that the A38 tpuched on the Trent and Mersey, I hadn't realised it ran parallel for such a distance.

Once again today, Nothing Bad Has Happened, and the sun has shone. There have been queues at some locks, and some annoying people, but Jim only shouted at one of them - a man in front of us who wanted to stop in the lock and fish for windlasses. We even had an ice cream at Fradley. Long may this run of good fortune continue!

Saturday 18 May 2013

A good start

Day 1 - Stretton Wharf to beyond Baswich Bridge
10 hours, 23 miles and 12 locks

A very good start to the day, in fact, because we winded at Stretton in about five minutes, which smashes the previous record. And a good start to the trip, because we haven't got stuck on the bottom once, and have got a lot further than we have on any previous Day One.

The hold has been cleared out ready for the brass band, and we are taking advantage of the extra space by establishing a camp in here, with table, chairs and Beatrice stove. This all started because I had the idea of bringing the Beatrice stove in here to make tea as we go along. I wouldn't fancy lighting the Primus on a moving boat, but the Beatrice is so stable that the worst that could happen is the water falling off the top and going into the bilges. And it hasn't happened yet. The tea has been pretty horrid, which I don't know whether to attribute to the ancient water in the tanks, the previous uses of the teapot we boiled it in, or the fact that the Beatrice doesn't quite get the water hot enough.

Friday 17 May 2013

Ready for the off

At long last (can it really be the first time since August), we are going boating again, and I am writing this in Chertsey's back cabin, all cleaned and polished and stocked with provisions.

Tomorrow will begin with the traditional ordeal of winding, in a winding hole that is only just wide enough and only just deep enough, but, on the plus side, is right next to the mooring. Even if we return from, say, Stourport or Wheaton Aston, we can't tie up facing towards Autherley, as the mooring is only deep enough for the deepest bit of the boat at one end.

As I am sure I have mentioned, we are off to Langley Mill, for the first phase of our now somewhat more epic and somewhat less round trip, as we are now going to take in the IWA National at Cassiobury Park instead of Cropredy (Baz 'n' Iz are still going to the Cropredy festivay, but have inexplicably elected to camp rather than boat). This outing should take ten days in total, and then we'll be leaving Chertsey at Langley Mill until it's time to proceed to Braunston.

And I really will try (signal permitting) to keep the web log up to date...

Tonight we are off to have dinner at the Bell Inn, better known as the Noted Ham 'n' Eggery. Easily the nearest pub to the mooring, within easy walking distance if you're prepared to take your life in your hands on the A5, but I had never got around to visiting it until last winter, when Mike and I walked there in the snow - and Jim didn't set foot inside until last week. The fact that we are returning so soon tells you that we were pretty impressed - particularly last week. Good food (albeit not a great place for veggies) and excellent young staff. Let's hope it's as good tonight to get the trip off to a good start.

Saturday 11 May 2013


On Friday I drove down from Sheffield to Stretton in my beloved Bluebird, who now resides there with me, then today Jim and I motored three quarters of the way back, and then beck to Stretton again, and tomorrow I shall go all the way back again. Today's journey was to a HNBC committee meeting. They can be lengthy affairs, punctuated in some cases, like today's, with a pub lunch - but things are improving! We started at eleven rather than ten, were finished by five, and - this is the best bit - make quite a few decisions.

Clearly, this doesn't sound like the most effective way of running a committee, but it is all rather enjoyable... a few hours spent discussing matters of mutual interest in the company of like minded people - what could be nicer. So there isn't really any hurry to get through the business.

Why, you may ask, did I bother coming all the way back to Stretton when I was so much nearer the meeting in Sheffield? Well, it's less than a week now until we leave for the Erewash, and a great deal of stuff has to be removed from Chertsey's hold so that the brass band can be fitted in, and that's much easier with two people. By tomorrow it should all have been transferred to Bakewell, temporarily.

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Cruising envy

Every day now I'm reading about the travels of Starcross, Herbie and Captain Ahab, not to mention continuous cruisers Valerie, and I'm getting a very itchy tiller hand. Last year, with all the time in the world to boat, we barely moved from the mooring - an example of living-next-door-to-St-Paul's syndrome perhaps; this year, busier at work than ever, every precious day of leave must be used to the maximum. Easter having been, if not a washout, then a blow- and freeze-out, the serious boating begins on - oooh - Friday week, as we set off for Langley Mill. How I entertain them in the office, saying sorry, I shall be on holiday then, but I'll be popping back half way through to teach a class and pick up the car...

And we shan't be setting off alone. Sadly Willow aka Willoughby aka The Furry Gentleman will not be accompanying us on this trip because - happily! - Dr and Mrs Duct will be, as far as Burton at any rate.

Plans are afoot for the accommodation of half a brass band on Chertsey (the other half will be on Bath, which I guess sort of rhymes whichever side of the vowel shift you're on), and I have belatedly been informed that it is customary for boaters to don 'traditional' costume. I have not thus far needed to confront the thorny issue of fancy dress and the historical authenticity or otherwise thereof (it's permanently about 1950 on Chetsey, don't forget, externally at least... 1960 in the engine room and 1970 in the cabin... So hell, why not 1890 at the tiller...) but overall I am not a fan of dressing up. I have however conceded that I will wear a long black skirt, which is what I might wear anyway if it weren't so damned impractical for boating.

I have recently, on a couple of occasions, been out and participated in vaguely cultural activities, which, if I were Diamond Geezer, I would be writing about in a witty and informative fashion. Sadly I'm not, so (or quite possibly because) I don't seem to be able to be arsed. But I have been and heard a top architecture journalist talk about his favourite band and some people with very nice singing voices in a rather interesting church.

Thursday 2 May 2013

The grand total

No only can I not update the blog, I couldn't even update the 'how much I have spent in supermarkets this month' widget.

But I have been keeping a tally, and the grand total for April was ....


That's more than I was expecting (and hoping) but I suppose it's not bad really. I don't really have much idea of what it represents as a proportion of my total spending. Quite a lot of it (at least £10) was beer (2 x 3 for £5 in Sainsbury's) and some of it is accounted for by the fact that I've been working long days and the supermarkets are the only places open when I'm on the way home.

Oh! This is my 700th Chertsey post!