... 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 29 July 2013

Rallying round

The IWA National Festival was, as many have noted, a relatively quiet and poorly attended affair, disappointing for many of the traders who took stalls there. Notwithstanding that, we found ourselves having a most enjoyable time, and helping some of the stands towards breaking even. Notable were the Cotswold Canals boat jumble, where we must have spent over Forty quid in total, but with a big box of tools, fittings, undercoat and a historically interesting but contemporarily useless windlass to show for it, and the brass and knick-knacks stall where we returned time and time again, finding something new every time. There was also of course the hippy clothes, frozen yogurt, Indian food, and beer.

And the Chesterfield Canal Trust, where yet again the 50p box yielded treasures. Amongst all the old Waterways World guides and Nicholsons - interesting enough in themselves - there were a few - I think only three - programmes from previous IWA Nationals. And two of these were events which Chertsey attended.

The 1970 rally at Guildford, for which I have the plaque,

plus a photo of Chertsey en route, and the 1964 'Festival of Boats and Arts' at Stratford upon Avon.

I don't have a plaque for this one, but there are photos of Chertsey there, both posted by Max Sinclair on Canalworld, and featured in an issue of Waterways World. This is from the period of Chertsey's life (1962-69) about which we know least, when it was registered as a houseboat, although there is certainly no conversion in the 1964 photos, just some rather tatty cloths. It was at this time that there was apparently an organ in the hold, which was played at the Stratford gathering.

Despite enjoying Cassiobury in the end, I was still pretty certain I wouldn't need to be attending another National any time soon. Until the announced the venue for 2014: Stratford upon Avon, fifty years after Chertsey's first appearance there. How can we not go? We just need to get hold of an organ....

Saturday 27 July 2013

We stop for now..

Return to Stretton
Day 6
Hawkesbury - Alvecote

Another eight hour day, again in hot sun. The weather has been fabulous for this trip, and in that regard at least it must rank as the best boating holiday ever.

We didn't go and see anywhere new ( though the lower GU was pretty unknown to me, and unexpectedly pleasant), but have had a very enjoyable time.

Tomorrow Jim returns to Penkridge by train, and I to Sheffield. We are still undecided whether to move Chertsey back to Stretton the weekend after next, or stay here and attend the Alvecote historic boat gathering in four weeks' time. After last year I thought it wasn't really my cup of tea, as itball got a bit rowdy, but there were plenty of good things too, not only the company, and a load of fantastically turned out boats, but the beer and the breakfasts to name but a few. So while I would't have travelled here just for the gathering, the possibility of attending on the way home is quite tempting.

Friday 26 July 2013

Better late than never

Return to Stretton (stopping at Alvecote)
Day 4, Gayton to Braunston
Day 5, Braunston to ...

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Best laid plans

Return to Stretton day 3
Fenny Stratford to Gayton Junction

Not much to show for a day's boating, you might think, and you'd be right. Just as I texted Clair to say we were on schedule and hoping To be enjoying a birthday mixed grill in the Greyhound, than the engine started to slow down of its own accord. About a mile south of Stoke Bruerne, we pulled into a lovely (if nettly) overgrown bit of towpath for Jim to investigate.

Having first suspected a fault in the fuel lift pump, the problem was eventually traced to a loose banjo joint, allowing air into the system. Tightening that up seems to have done the trick, but as the starter motor won't engage when the engine's hot, it took us a while to check it out. In all we were stopped for about four and a half hours. I'm not complaining; it was a lovely spot and the sunshine was just perfect.

We set off again about five o'clock, up the Stoke Bruerne locks, once again pairing, fortuitously, with the Wyvern hireboat Bluebell, and then through the tunnel, stopping not very far the other side as dinner was ready. I have discovered that the Beatrice stove is excellent for this all purpose recipe - cut up whatever vegetables you have to hand, add a tin of chickpeas or beans of some kind, and a jar/tin of Pataks curry sauce or some Italian tomato stuff, and put over a low flame until the vegetables are cooked. It barely needs stirring and all the veg, including onions, is done to a turn, even without prior frying. Tonight was fresh broad beans and cabbage, an onion, a tin of butter beans, and bolognese sauce, topped with cheese. the vegetables might not sound inspiring but it was lovely and very substantial.

I have started remembering to make the lunchtime sandwiches before we leave, which is also useful.

Anyway, clearly our tight schedule is now all gone to pot, so in a way the pressure is off. We have arranged to leave Chertsey at Alvecote this weekend, and have booked birthday dinner at the Nelson insterdof the Greyhound. I shall miss visiting the latter pub, butbthe food at the Nelson when we visited last month was outstanding, so that will be something to lok forward to.

It's extraordinary to think, now that Chertsey is back on the Grand Union after probably thirty-odd years, how many hundreds of times she must have been up and down it in her working life. I know it's fanciful, but it's almost as of the boat knows its way around the bends and into the locks. Not instinct maybe, but perhaps engineering. Apart from the trip down to Cassiobury (and I only did that as far as Cowroast) this os only the second time I have travelled this part of the GU (the first was on Chiswick, a long time ago) and I only now appreciate how lovely it is.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Literal web log

Return to Stretton day 2

Dudswell top lock - Fenny Stratford
11 hours
About 20 miles
26 locks

Faster progress today because fewer slow people in front of us. Perhaps we'll manage an earlier start tomorrow!

Red Lion, despite being a 2010 CAMRA local pub of the year, has only Doom Bar and Pedigree. No food so making a curry out of the veg that was only slightly mouldy. Broad beans tomorrow!

Monday 22 July 2013

Return from Cassiobury

Can we get back to Stretton in a week?

Day 1
Iron Bridge Lock, Cassiobury - Dudswell Top Lock

About 12 miles
31 locks
12 1/2 hours
32 degrees

Came as far as Berkhamsted with the London Narrow Boat Project boat Guinevere, being returned to Braunston by Mike and his crew - excellent lock sharing!

Friday 19 July 2013

So far, so...

Up bright and early this morning - as I have been every morning, in fact, since this summer finally began - and set off with my bag full of clean boating undies, and another one containing the contents of my Beanies organic vegetable box (did I mention I accidentally landed in the painfully trendy bit of Sheffield?) down the hill to the station. Even at eight in the morning it was sweltering, and I would have succumbed to the temptation of getting on the bus, only I didn't have enough change and I couldn't face the bus driver's look.

This time I was off to Watford Junction, where Iain verybkindly met me and took me to meet Chertsey at Cassiobury Park, where we are attending the IWA National Festival (or 'The National' as the cognoscenti know it). You may recall that I was not relishing a weekend of being entertained by Sheridan the Robotic Sheepdog.

I've not been to many Nationals - we went by car to Beale Park and Preston Brook, and in Warrior to St Ives, and that's it. The thing thatnpeople are noticing about this one is that there isn't actually very much emphasis on boats. Cassiobury Park is a lovely park, but the main festival site is a long way from the canal. There are only about eight historic boats here, and we're not really displayed to best advantage. I don't know how many other boats have come and are strung along the towpath, but they certainly don't feature heavily in the publicity material.

On the field there are some of the usual stands, but I don't think it's my imagination that there are fewer than in the past. No Waterways World; no boatbuilders; strangest of all, no CRT fundraisers... There are lots of food stalls and a beer tent with about half a dozen real ales.

There is no mud, which must be a disappointment to the Wergies (or is it spelt WRGies?). The whole site is very pleasant indeed, and our towpath mooring most agreeable. The temporary infrastructure that has gone into this weekend is very impressive, and there are dozens of volunteers making sure no one leaves by an incorrect exit. The are some nice little bits and bobs to buy (but the best ones have already been snapped up of course). Best of all we have met up with the Plovers and the Owls and the Warblers (Izzie on Bath has accused me of having a bird fetish and this will only bear it out).

As for the festival itself, I shall reserve judgement until tomorrow at least.

Monday 15 July 2013

Shipyard Songs sharing

You may recall me raving a few months back about the Unthanks' 'Songs from the Shipyards' CD and above all, show, in which their songs accompany a compilation of archive film charting the boom and decline of shipbuilding on the Tyne.

There really, really ougt to be a DVD release of it, but I guess they have their reasons.

What I stumbled upon today, however, looks every bit as good, if perhaps more transient. I say looks, because I'm at work and haven't had the chance to listen to it, but take a look and a listen to this website.

Sunday 14 July 2013

Travels update

For various reasons (mostly to do with eating, drinking and socialising) I didn't post regular updates of our journey back from Braunston. A grand total of no people whatsoever have expressed and concern, nay any interest, about this, but I thought perhaps I should bring you up to date before the next leg begins.

Following a brief delay in leaving Braunston, we set off in the company of the josher Owl, and the extraordinarily hospitable Jim and Sue thereof. Owl is one of the loveliest conversions I have been inside, all beautifully polished wood. Its butty, Hampton, is done out in 1930s style and is equally impressive, although it wasn't with us on this trip.

Because Jim wanted to go back to Newhaven before the National (I had to go back to work), and wasn't 100% confident of the security of leaving Chertsey at Cassiobury that far in advance of the festival, we had a change of plan, arriving last Thursday at Cowroast, where Owl moors, and leaving Chertsey there. We had hoped there would be a spare space on their offside moorings, but when we got there, who should be on it but Bath! No problem, there was space on the 14 day moorings by the marina entrance, and there we left Chertsey.

Jim has gone back today to fond her safe and sound, albeit covered in tree sticky, duck poo, and, apparently, even goose crap, so he has spent the afternoon scrubbing it all off. I can't get off work until the end of next week, so local lad Alan Fincher (of Sickle fame) is going to accompany Jim on the final leg. When I initially texted to ask if he could, Alan replied that with 33 GU locks it would be a hard day's boating, but that he was up for it. I quickly assured him that we'd been planning to take two days over it!

So, I believe they leave tomorrow, and all being well I shall join Chertsey at Cassiobury on Friday.

Enormous thanks to Jim and Sue for their great company, amazing hospitality, and lifts to and from the station.

Thursday 11 July 2013

To do list

I have come back from the latest bout of boating with a new list of little tasks, Chertsey for the further improvement of.

They include:
Stern tube floor sect.
Sump and pump stern tube
Lace plates
Cabin painting
Window cloths
Mini rugs
Cabin cushion
Boarding under counter
Information board
Tiller pin hooks
Engine pipe spline

Some explanatory notes may be required.

1. The step needs its corner rounded off, for easier egress from the cabin - i.e. to get your foot past the stove. This is especially pertinent since buying the boiler, which I keep kicking. When this is done we can replace the current brass edging with a shorter but more rounded piece, which will look nice and be less vicious.

2. Two of the screws have come out of the bed cupboard hinge, meaning that I dare not shut it in case it all bursts out at the bottom. So they need replacing with larger ones.

3. The Monitor stove which I bought unused (but fifty years old) is now getting regular use in the hold. So I thought it would be good to clean up one of the real old Primuses I bought a couple of years ago for display in the cabin, especially if we go to the Black Country Museum gathering in September.

4. At present, you have to take up half the cabin floor to check how much the stern gland has been leaking and empty the basin. (And, of late, mop out the bilge.) A two-plank removable section would make this task a lot easier.

5. But what I would really like to do is make a sump bigger than the existing basin, with a tube in it connected to an attractive manual pump, and this obviate the need for taking the floor up at all.

6. Despite heretofore having a violent revulsion towards them, I have now decided that a hanging up plate or two would be just the thing to brighten up the corner by the stove (you can't buck tradition; these things didn't evolve without a reason). I was doing my round of the charity shops last weekend and I thought, if I see a hanging up plate, I shall buy it. I turned around, and there was this:

7. I need to finish painting the interior of the cabin.

8. The ex-UCC window cloths I bought at the legendary Droitwich tat auction were a real boon, but they are only 3' wide, but come down to the gunnel and protrude below the top cloths. So I would like to get a couple of translucent top cloths, a couple of inches shorter than the black ones. They cpuld then stay permanently in place, and the black ones folded back to let light in, or replaced to look proper.

9. Rather than make a big rug - say 3' by 2' - I thought it might be more useful to make a number of smaller ones. A new one would come out only at night, for bare feet; the next oldest would go on the cabin floor beneath the step, and the oldest would be relegated to the step itself. I'm picturing something about 2' x 18"

10. I need something to sit on on the sidebed, whilst reading under the porthole.

11. A smooth floor under the counter, flying over the structural bits of steel, would make it a lot easier to get stuff in and out of this capacious but awkward space.

12. No, not really.

13. At the moment I have an A4 sheet of paper with information about Chertsey's history on it. I would like to develop this into an illustrated information board, with photos etc. I thought I might start with a cheap plastic clip frame from Wilko's.

14. A couple of hooks in the side of the ticket drawer cabinet thingy would make a good place to hang the tiller pin(s). They keep falling out ot the soap hole.

15. We need to tap a bolt into the exhaust flange and make a notch in the pipe to sit on it so that the bloody pipe stops revolving. Whitby has a notch on the flange and a rivet in the pipe, but I'd be afraid of it coming out and falling in the engine...

Monday 1 July 2013

Braunston booty

I bought Chertsey a little present...

Mmm... Constant hot water.
Hmm... Constant polishing.