... 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 31 August 2013


I've just taken some really wonky pictures of Chertsey's transformed hold (well, the part I've done so far) before we put the topcloths on and it goes all dark in there.

Friday 30 August 2013

Chertsey the glamping boat

OED Online definition of 'glamping':
'a form of camping involving accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping'

That'll be us then! Since arriving back at Stretton we have been hard at work transforming Chertsey into what I now realise is Britain's first glamping narrow boat. Yesterday I took off all the cloths and Jim replaced the deckboard and hefted the mast into place, and the top planks and stands.

More photos tomorrow, as I didn't take any today. (By the way, recent photos have been taken on the proper camera and though they still come out tiny in Blogpress, will display properly if you click on them. Try it with yesterday's)

So now we have room to stand up. First purchase today was a pair of curtains from the Katherine House Hospice shop in Cannock - exactlybthe size I was looking for, fabulous quality, with a red and cream stripe and deep red linings. These have been hung with safety pins just behind the mast, separating off the forewardmost room of the hold as a bedroom for Baz 'n' Iz when they accompany us to the Black Country Museum at the end of September. It was only after the curtains were hung and I looked at them from the back end that I realised it looks for all the world like a Punch and Judy booth.

The next section ('back of the mast') will eventually house a bathroom of sorts, but is currently also home to Jim's tent. The section between the two stands will be the kitchen/living area, and today I cleared everything out of it so that Jim could paint the floor - in red oxide coloured floor paint, of course. Here we will have the kitchen table, cupboard, chairs, and a box/ bench (to house all the big spanners and other emergency equipment) which I have just agreed to purchase ex-Hampstead.

The back end will continue to be planked over, with fresh water tanks and coal storage underneath. This last section will only be clothed up when we leave the boat for any length of time. For the middle two sections we will eventually get some translucent sheets, for usen when boating for pleasure (rather than when being strictly 'historic' for display purposes), but as the last event of this year, the BCLM, requires strict historical adherence, we can leave that until next year.

Thursday 29 August 2013

The mantle of greatness

Once, as an adolescent, when we went on holiday to a rented cottage at Selsey, I packed a pair of oven gloves. It was an odd thing even to possess at the age of fourteen, let alone to take on holiday. But (I suppose being unaware at the time of the insulating prpoerties of tea towels) I thought that, if someone discovered that oven gloves were needed, it would be my moment of glory. And I wasn't even a boy scout. I can't recall whether my oven gloves were scorned or simply never called upon, but my moment finally arrived last Sunday.

Steve from Swallow approached, saying 'I've been told you're the person here who's most likely to be able to help.... ' I do hope so, I replied, what do you need? 'A mantle for a Tilley lamp... There's another illuminated parade tonight and we've taken the electric lights off...' (Steve, it turns out, is a big Tilley lamp fan).

Well, YESS!!!!!!! I have, in fact I have two, hooray. Steve goes away happy, David, the owner of Swallow is forebearing, and of course in my opinion this is easily the best illuminated boat in the parade.

Even if the woman behind me said 'Well, they could have put some fairy lights on as well'

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Who won then?

Spill the beans Alan and announce the Alvecote winners!

It sounds from Alan's comments as if I missed the best of the show yesterday - i.e. the Grand Unions en masse - but c'est la vie.

Tonight we have made it to the Fox and Anchor at Cross Green, previously known only as the pub where everyone in the beer garden is watching you cock up that tricky bend but is in fact one of these clone 'Heritage Inns' like the Mermaid at Wightwick where you can get reliably average food, so we did.

We started this morning with high hopes of getting back to Stretton by nightfall, but these were dashed when we found ourselves in a queue of seven boats at two separate locks (can't recall which, exactly; they thinned out and then bunched up again). It's all very well saying 'oooh, what's the hurry' (anyone over the age of fourteen who says 'chill' deserves a punch on the nose) and, I agree, if I were in a hurry, narrow boat would not be my chosen mode of transport. But there is a massive difference between boating (which I love, even at 2 mph), and sitting around watching idiots faffing about with unnecessary ropes (which I find somewhat frustrating). The Annoying Thing which has impressed itself on me today is people who won't even think of untying their boat and approaching the lock until the boat leaving it is safely in the next county.

Monday 26 August 2013

Escape from Alvecote

At eight o'clock this morning Chertsey and Renfrew both slipped quietly (well, it's all relative. We didn't open the starboard side engine room doors until we were well clear. Anyone who has heard the screech of their hinges will understand).

By leaving early we have missed the final day of fun and frolics, and the presentation of the prizes, so we will have to wait to be told who won the awards for best turned out boat, best winding, and best illuminated boat. However, I was all socialised out and it was time to get away for a little peace and recuperation. Alvecote is turning into a very good event, but it is a concentrated one, very intense. At dinner last night I was asked how I thought Alvecote and Braunston compare as gatherings. Many people say now that they prefer Alvecote. My own, strictly personal opinion, is that there are pros and cons to both. Braunston has such an important place in my heart that I hope I will never miss it; I have also now been to all three of the Alvecote events held so far (two of them by accident) so for the sake of completeness I will keep going there too.

Alvecote has many pluses where it scores over Braunston. Firstly, nowhere else offers such a magnificent showcase for the boats - around fifty of them all moored stern on, and staggered too, so every boat can be seen clearly and to good advantage. The moorings all have pontoons, making access to the boats easy, whereas at Braunston, with the boats tied up four abreast, but access and visibility are a lot harder.

At Alvecote there is an excellent pub, serving food (providing you book) and with really good beers for the weekend. There are good bands in the upstairs room, and they're not too loud, meaning you can enjoy a drink and a chat downstairs or outside, in stark contrast to Braunston's overamplified beer tent where conversation is impossible. On the other hand, in Braunston, there is a choice of four other pubs to go to, including the reliable Martsons chain pub the Boat House, and the newly splendid Nelson. You can get breakfast in the Samuel Barlow at Alvecote (again, you have to buy a ticket in advance), but I would hazard the suggestion that the boater's braekfast served by the Gongoozler's Rest at Braunston is better.

At Alvecote everything you festival wise need is on site, although if you want cash or groceries you have to go into Amington, which I imagine is quite a way without a car. This is both a pro and a con. It is very self contained, but that leads to the intensity I mentioned earlier. The are no quiet places to wander off to. It fells rather like I imagine a holiday camp does. Braunston on the other hand has the village within a short walk, with not only pubs but the now very good village shop and Post Office where you can get cash without paying the premium charged by the shop's machine.

Finally, the parades. Everyone is familiar with the Braunston parade, but the beauty of it is that it's so chaotic it's impossible not to mess it up, so cock ups (unless of dramatic proportions) tend to pass unremarked. The one bit of winding you have to do, at the Turn, is pretty easy, with plenty of space. At Alvecote you have to wind twice, once in the muddy winding hole at Amington, and once in the layby in front of the pub, lined with the trading boats, in front of an audience, with judges giving marks and a commentary by Norman Mitchell which, unlike his purely factual Braunston one, includes 'humorous' comments. I declined to subject myself to this rather cruel display - although I love the Braunston parade.

So on balance, although both gatherings are great, and I enjoy attending both, the only area in which Alvecote is, for me, clearly better, is the way the boats can be displayed (and I guess for some people, for whom it's more of a gathering than a show, this would be a disadvantage). The other real downside of Braunston for me is the ruination of the beer tent by excessively loud music; if only they would address that then they would possibly have the edge the as well.

What we mustn't forget, however, is that both events are privately organised by the respective marinas' owners, and it's entirely up to them what sort of show they put on. It's interesting that it's these two privately organised events which dominate the historic boat calendar, suggesting perhaps that it's easier for an individual than for a committee to organise a good show. Boats are voting with their rudders and supporting these events so they must be doing something right.

Anyway, tonight we have got as far as Tixall Wide where we are tied up next to a wasps' nest. And we did have a fabulous time at Alvecote, and certainly now intend to go again next year.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Devices and desires

We have had people popping in and out of the engine room this morning with micrometers, with a view to reproducing a nifty little device that apparently only we have:

I don't know what it's called but what it does is to drop the decompressor when you're handstarting it, so that you don't need to take a hand off the starting handle. The spiral thread means that it only happens once the engine has had a good few turns and is hopefully ready to fire. The spring would be attached to a bracket to make it work, but it's taken off for electric starting.

Saturday 24 August 2013


Yesterday Andy on Dove brought over the gorgeous titch pipe he has made for Chertsey. We didn't previously have one and missed it.

We have now had to ask Andrew whether he'll be able to make us a new standard engine pipe as well, the previous one having taken a serious hammering on the way here (can't remember exactly where; it was case of simply getting into completely the wrong position coming through a bridgehole. Didn't just mangle the cutter this time, but actually managed to split the pipe at the bottom of its seam. Unable to get it back into shape, Jim has sawn it off to make a sort of midi length one.

Friday 23 August 2013

It is still possible to find bargains in charity shops! On our way to Alvecote this morning we stopped off in Penkridge and visited the local charity shop, where I found a set of Edward VIII dessert dishes, one large and six small ones, a really unusual mug with Edward VIII's abdication on one side and George VI's coronation on the other, and a lovely Queen Elizabeth II mug - a fiver for the dishes and two quid each for the mugs, and most of them of course dating from 1937, the same year as Chertsey.

Plus I finally put up the lovely hooks that Jim bought on eBay for some ridiculously small amount like four pounds..

Lots of photos posted courtesy of the wifi in the Samuel Barlow.


Thursday 22 August 2013

Bakewell's bottom

Bakewell is currently out of the water for blacking - and our first inspection of her bottom, which I'm pleased to report is in good nick.

The current blacking is bitumen, and very sound, so as Bakewell isn't likely to be getting much rough treatment Jim spent all day yesterday pressure washing it and is putting some more coats of the same on it.

I just turned up in time to get a rare sighting of a butty's bottom. Tomorrow we are off to reunite with Chertsey at Alvecote.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Plucky podger lives to prod another day

Just before going to bed last night I had one of those 'it won't work but there's no harm in trying' ideas... and it did work!  I have retrofitted the broken rag rug tool with an external flexible tensioning device - i.e. I have wrapped a rubber band around it, and amazingly, it works; it provides enough force to hold the fabric strip and pull it through the hessian, and leaves a long enough point to poke through. Hooray for Heath Robinson!

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Rag rug interrupted by tool tragedy

There I was, happily getting on with a new little rag rug, pulling strips of old skirt and blouse through the hessian that Jim kindly fetched up for me at the weekend with my trusty old tool (they appear to have no other name; I tend to call it a podger though I know that strictly speaking it isn't, but it has the same effect)

When suddenly its little pointy jaws refused to bite on the cloth... Its spring has broken!

This is a tragedy*. The trusty tool has been with me for many years, since being purchased at a jumble sale, and has made many rugs. I have searched the internet already for a replacement, but they seem very few and far between (It would of course help if I knew what to call it other than 'tool') and fairly expensive, although no doubt worth it, but any recommendations of where to find one would be gratefully received.

*Not really.

Friday 9 August 2013

Picturing the impossible

Last weekend I went back to Newhaven for a belated brithday celebration with sons 1&2. On Friday night we went to the Hope down on the quay for a few pints of wonderful, distinctive and froth-free Harveys (it wasn't completely froth-free, being quite lively, but that's ok as it was naturally occurring rather than artificially induced froth). Nothing tastes quite like Harveys; or rather (see Pete Brown's beer blog's latest post), nothing has a flavour quite like Harveys; that sulphurous aroma when you first put your nose in the glass would, I'm sure, put me off if I didn't know how wonderful it tastes. Then on Saturday morning we trekked into Lewes for a bit of charity shopping (nice Monsoon black velvet evening jacket in the Red Cross shop but that was about all), and picked up some more supplies at the Harveys shop. Our birthday meal was a takeaway from The Viceroy (formerly the Last Viceroy, but known to us as Mr Ahmed's since many years ago he was a neighbour). We each chose one main and one side dish and laid them all out as a buffet, along with rice, poppadoms, naans and pickles, and amply demonstrated the fact thatbpeople eat morebif presented with a variety of stuff, by polishing the lot off, which we would never have done if we had each eaten what we had selected.

And then I got my presents! The good thing about your children getting older and richer is that you get better and better birthday presents from them.

Aaron got me a beautiful Victorian cut glass bowl

And Sebastian has got to know an artist and printmaker called Sarah Jones

One of her range of prints is of the Sussex Ouse at Lewes, with the Harveys brewery on the left. This picture is just as it appears on her website so I hope she won't mind me reproducing it rather than just linking to it:

But Baz thoughtnof a terrific refinement. He gave her some photos of Chertsey and she has superimposed Chertsey onto the river, calling the resulting print 'Chertsey visits Lewes' - an impossible journey, but what a fabulous one!

And what an amazing, beautiful and imaginative pair of presents.

Thursday 8 August 2013

Friends reunited

So we left Chertsey tied up alongside the Samuel Barlow car park at Alvecote, and went home...

Monday of last week I got a text from Izzie on Bath (which we last saw at Cowroast) saying that they were tying up next to Chertsey, and then this week, Jim got these photos from Adrian, of Warrior, now in its new colour scheme and signwritten, side by side with its old mate.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Adding to the library

On my recent return visit to Newhaven, I carted back all the canal related books that hadn't made it onto Bakewell. I don't have a massive waterways library, but it is growing steadily. Last week I added to it with these two from a collection being sold off by the BCN Society.

My sudden interest in the Grand Junction Canal (as opposed to the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company) may be explained over the coming months, but on the other hand, it may not.

Anyway, I have learnt a fascinating little fact already, which (with apologies to those of you who have known for years) is that part of what is now Braunston Marina used to be a reservoir into which the bottom lock emptied, to be pumped back to the top, thus avoiding losing the water to the Oxford Canal.

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Anger management

I do try not to get cross, I really do. Even when people slew across the canal in front of me, or try to come through a bridge that is clearly mine, thinking that if they toot their little horn enough I'll get out of the way, or when a man in mirrored sunglasses is standing on his boat, arms folded across his chest, watching my approach, just waiting.... waiting... until we pass, to ask sarcastically 'Don't you slow down for boats then?' - which I wouldn't mind so much (because sometimes it's a fair cop) if we hadn't been absolutely crawling (what else can you do on most of the North Oxford) and his boat didn't move an inch as we approached.

I try, but I don't always succeed. Any little annoyance is magnified by the circumstances of boating - you may want to try and communicate; to explain that actually, this isn't fast, to suggest to people that it's usually better to keep going and steer rather than try to stop dead - but the noise of the engine and the increasing distance means that any communication has to be conducted at shouting pitch, and that not only sounds aggressive, but also engenders aggression and even in the few seconds available things quickly escalate as each participant seeks a quick and snappy putdown to get their message across. Sometimes with hindsight I wish I'd stopped and reversed back, and had a proper conversation.

I especially don't like exchanging cross words with fellow bloggers. Despite the obvious fact that boating bloggers are as varied as boaters themselves, and of course I couldn't possibly get on with all of them, it still feels as if we should be some sort of community. And especially when it's a blog I've read and enjoyed in the past (even though I didn't recognise the boat, which I am not going to name). That man was still wrong, but I wish I'd gone back and had a chat rather than shouting.