... 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.

Monday 24 June 2013

This little piggy stayed at home

In stead of going to Market Harborough. Jim's various meetings today seem to have been successful, but sadly meant that we couldn't make the time for a round trip to this significant town. It will have to be another time. I fancy a trip one day taking in the whole of the Grand Union and every branch and arm.

We have however finished our pub researches with a very decent meal at the Black Horse, after spending an excellent hour back in the Bridge 61, where we were made very welcome by proprietor and regulars alike.

We have moved Chertsey back out of the arm and are all set to be the first up the locks tomorrow, as long as no one gets out of bed before us.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Leicestershire or Leicester Square?

Today we spent a lazy day at Foxton, recovering and continuing our researches. Last night we spent a pleasant evening in the Bridge 61, chatting with the crew of Buffalo, who we met at the Retford and Worksop boat club the year before last. The beer from the local Langton Brewery, Bridge 61 and Inclined Plane, we good, but we thought rather expensive at £3.30 a pint. Well, we clearly thought wrong, because in the interests of research, tonight we are in the Foxton Locks Inn, where a pint of Rutland Beast is £3.70! My Castle Rock Sherriffs Tipple, at only 3.4% was £2.60. While only four nights ago, in the Great Northern, we were paying £2.80 for beer that was every bit as good. This has now superseded my previous most expensive pub pint ever, a record that has stood for at least three years and was set in the Warwick Castle in Little Venice. I imagine that the four pound pint has already been reached in London.

Tomorrow night we investigate the black Horse, and the other pub in the village whose name eludes me for the moment. Jim is meeting with the local CRT bod at half past eight (yes! I know!!) tomorrow morning, and the village hall representative at four o'clock. In between we intend to go to Market Harborough, unless I'm still too knackered.

Meanwhile, I'm not sure how long we're supposed to stay here... Any idea what this means?

Saturday 22 June 2013

The research begins

Kings Lock to Foxton
15 miles, 20 locks, 9 hours (nearly)

Well, we have made it to Foxton, and this is a brief post as we are about to begin our researches into the suitability of the area for next year's HNBC Easter gathering, starting with the pubs of course. On Monday Jim has meetings with various people, and tomorrow we were meant to be cleaning the brass, but I have persuaded Jim that we can fit in a trip to Market Harborough and still be able to leave for Braunston on Tuesday. We are actually moored on the Market Harborough Arm, so it would be harder not to...

Friday 21 June 2013

The same river twice

Kegworth Deep Lock to Kings Lock
24 1/2 miles, 18 locks, 11 3/4 hours

Bit of an epic day today, mainly occasioned by the necessity of Not Stopping in Leicester, which, I can confirm, has the highest concentration of pissheads per mile of towpath of any city in England (I wouldn't like to speak for Scotland).

The old proverb has it that you can't step in the same river twice... And this river is very different fromthe Soar we boated on Warrior in 2009. Then we were going downstream and it was nearly - and ultimately, actually - in flood, making for a hair raising journeynthat has led me ever since to say that the Soar is the scariest river I have travelled.

Today however all was calm, green and sunshine and dragonflies and the delicious smell of weirs; riparian loveliness at its, well, most riparian loveliest.

Leicester is a funny place. Miles of town centre moorings that no one dares use, not even a hippy commune; masses of people who are mad, drunk, both or otherwise scary - and yet it could be great.

Random photo of Freemans Meadow lock by the football ground.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Six hours

Langley Mill to Kegworth Deep Lock
15 miles, 17 locks, 8 hours

When I got to Langley Mill yesterday I got chatting to Val, HNBC neweletter editor, very long time boater, and former owner of Saltaire, who has moored therebfor a very long time; quite possibly forever, in fact. I said we were aiming to leave reasonably early this morning. Leave at six, she said; be at Trent Lock by twelve. Mmm, I thought, given that it had taken us ten hours to get up the Erewash, even allowing for the factbthatbwe started from Shardlow. Well, I said, we will have Jim on the bike. Oh, replied Val, a bike. It'll only take five hours then.

Needless to say I was highly sceptical. We didn't manage even to get up very early, following an excellent evening in the newly refurbished Great Northern. Since being taken over by a small local pubco,they now have five, mostly local, real ales, and two ciders, all constantly changing. They also do food, but stopped serving at eight. So we decided to have a takeway from the excellent local Indian, Merhan, and asked the new landlord if we could bring it in, as we were enjoying his beer so much. No problem, and when Jim went to fetch it the landlord brought over plates and cutlery. So we had a fabulous repast, washed down with Kelhan Island Riders on the Storm.

Thus is was that it was gone ten by the time we were ready to leave. Jim divined that another boat was about to leave, and we decided to ask them if they wanted to share locks with us - always a bit of a gamble as you can never tell what sort of boaters people are going to be, but the crew of Ella were great. By which I mean they weren't prissy about getting their blacking scratched, roping up in locks, or opening gate paddles. With Jim on the bike setting the locks ahead we worked like a well oiled machine, and between us were indeed at Trent Lock in six hours. Ella turned off towards the T&M while we headed across to the Soar. Having made such good progress we decided to keep going for a bit longer. The weather had been very good up until then, cool and dry in the morning and warmer and even a bit sunny later.

But by the time we got onto the Soar it was clouding over agian, then it began to spit, and by the time we got to Kegworth, was raining in earnest; that very fine rain that you can't hear but which makes you very wet. So having got soaked, we stopped and had a bottle of beer, and a butter bean curry cooked on the Beatrice.

Hopefully we really will get an early start tomorrow. We need to be at Foxton on Monday, which should, barring disasters, be a piece of cake, and have just decided to take a quick detour to Market Harborough.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Bad timing

I remember well the summer of 2006 ... Hot and dry; the sun beating down as I blacked Warrior for the first time.

A report from the recent Met Office conference has just confirmed that, because of temperature cycles in the Atlantic, 2006 was the last time we had a properly warm, dry summer.

It was in 2007, of course, that we started taking long summer boat trips.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

The great pot shift

Re-reading my post about an interesting discovery in the washing up bowl (what do you mean, 'a life'?) I was reminded of a sign I saw in a teaching room last semester - 'Please do not leave dirty pots in the room' - which caused a bit of a double take, a pot being, to my mind, either a large vessel in which you cook something, or a (similarly sized) one in which a toddler pees (etc).

And this in turn led me to ruminate upon the question, similar to that of how far north I can pronounce 'bath' without being pointed and laughed at (around Northampton, I'm led to believe), of where washing the dishes becomes washing the pots, or vice versa.

Friday 14 June 2013


As many of you will know, Tony Blews has moved his fabulous waterways website rankings to a new server (or something) meaning that the old code ceased working. Most bloggers have dutifully inserted the new code* into their widget and continued to be ranked against each other and compiled by Halfie every Sunday teatime. I've just deleted mine. From the perspective the common interest, I'm sure I shouldn't have. After all, the rankings will only have any validity if a critical mass of websites participate. But from a personal point of view - I'm always in danger of getting obsessed with it. People like me just shouldn't get involved with that sort of thing. So with one less thing to obsess over, I'll have more energy to devote to Grand Union fleet numbers.

*Lucky I proofread that - I had you all inserting a cod into your widget which doesn't sound at all pleasant.

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Festival fun. Er.

Well, I'm just getting some forms filled in and ready to send of for this summer of festival fun and frolics.

The first is for Braunston. It costs nothing to enter, we get to meet up with congenial old-boat owners (important hyphen, there). There's a beer tent, there's music (admittedly too loud); bean burgers and parades. There are masses of gorgeous boats to look at. Entry to the public is the price of a day's parking so it's a great time and place to meet up with non-historic-boat-owning friends. What's more, the sun always shines.

Then there is the IWA National at Cassiobury Park. It costs £65 for a boat and two people. It will be largely packed with modern boats, including I dare say, quite a few shiny ones. It is in a field a long way from the canal. It will rain and the field will be exceedingly muddy (but not, of course 'as bad as Wakefield'). This is the entertainment timetable. I have already entered a deep depression at the prospect of  'Sheridan the Robotic Sheepdog ... touring the site on his electric tricycle welcoming children and grownups alike.'

We last went to the National in 2007, with Warrior. It was OK (very muddy, although 'not as bad as Wakefield') but I decided then that it was something you only needed to do once. However, we have volunteered to deliver the HNBC shop. A quick run down and up the GU seemed like a good idea at the time. Jim has volunteered to help with the Festival and has been appointed a Harbourmaster on account of his scaffolding skills (which tells you something). I shall be helping with the HNBC shop, which should hopefully keep me safe from Sheridan the Robotic Sheepdog who, to be honest, sounds deeply scary.

Monday 10 June 2013

Village shops

It is often said that Sheffield is a collection of villages (it's often said about London too, and quite possibly every other city in the country too, though London must surely be a collection of small to medium sized towns). Of Sheffield though, well, parts of it at any rate, it is certainly true. And I live in a very nice village called Broomhill. It is by all accounts one of the nicest bits of Sheffield, and I ended up here completely by chance, having searched Rightmove for places within a mile of the office when I first got the job here.

It is well provided with shops, and for what Broomhill can't provide (knitting wool, mung beans), there is Crookes a mile or so up the road (with a fine selection of charity shops) and of course the city centre a couple of miles down the hill.

I have been making a conscious effort to utilise the local shops, as I have mentioned before, in particular Fruit-A-Peel, who are now experimentally stocking tinned tomatoes and chickpeas too. And on Friday I plucked up the courage to enter the record shop, Record Collector. I don't know why it should take a lot of courage as much of my adolescence was spent haunting the second hand record shops of Brighton as my mother sought to feed a burgeoning Dylan habit. I still can't see a rack of LPs without flicking through in search of a mono Blonde on Blonde.

So in I went, as if I did that sort of thing every day (it helped that the doors were open in the sunshine), and quickly located the 'folk and world music' section. Navigating it was a little trickier; it was alphabetical after a fashion but utterly random other than that, new and second hand CDs, folk and world, all jumbled together. I found a couple that were of slight interest, and next time I want a new CD I shall go to Record Collector* rather than Amazon - but I didn't see anything where interest and price converged at the right point.... until I gradually became aware that right in my line of sight was a second hand copy of June Tabor and the Oysterband's 1990 collaboration Freedom and Rain - the very record I have been looking for and what's more, only £3.

They got together again last year (or was it the year before) and produced Ragged Kingdom - my absolute favourite record of the year, albeit with two excruciating tracks which did not make it onto the pod. If you're familiar with the album I'm sure you can guess which they are. We went with Baz and Izzi to see them in Bexhill last year and it was a stunning show (not least because of Ms Tabor's entrancingly fabulous coat). What presence that tiny, sixty five year old woman has, and what a voice. I already had a lot of her solo albums, but hadn't come across Freedom and Rain, and though it was on sale at the concert, I bought a T-shirt instead. After the concert, which included a lot of material from the earlier album, was over of course I wanted to buy it, but the sales table was now overwhelmed with crowds and we needed to get away, so I thought, I'll just get it off Amazon... Well, I see you can get it for six quid now, but when I last looked there was nothing under sixteen, so I didn't. Which has turned out for the best.

Next challenge: the butchers

*I was going to put a link to their website, but it's very aggressive with its cookies, so I shan't.

Sunday 2 June 2013

Wot no potatoes

I know I'm going native because at the Langley Mill 'hog roast' I could be heard to exclaim 'Five pounds for a hot pork sandwich!?!!!! And you don't even get roast potatoes in it!'

On the other hand, I am not yet entirely comfortable with strangers enquiring in detail about the state of my health prior to getting to the point of a business phone call.

Saturday 1 June 2013

A useful discovery in the washing up bowl

In our household this is called a scritcher, and I always use one in preference to a dishrag to do the washing up. Whilst doing it on Chertsey last week though, I made a useful discovery - useful that is when you don't have a draining board or a nearby dryer-upper (or even if you do have the latter but not the former). If, after cleaning your plate, mug, spoon or whatever with the scritchy bit, you give the scritcher a quick rinse and a squeeze, all whilst still holding the plate, mug, spoon or whatever in the other hand, you can then wipe it over with the sponge bit and it will remove nearly all the water. You can then put it down on a table or sidebed or hand it to a nearby (but almost redundant) dryer-upper without making any mess, and unlike using a teatowel or wrung out dishrag it can be done one handed.