... 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.

Friday 24 October 2014

Favourite book

With my mind turning to travel plans for next year, I've dug out one of my very favourite books. Arteries of Commerce is a facsimile, published by Belmont, of a 1930s promotional book for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company. It contains contemporary diagrams and decsriptions of the company's waterways, extensive puffs for canal carrying in general and the Grand Union in particular, and a host of 1930s adverts. The waterways diagrams poignantly state which companies could be found at each wharf and arm.

If you are anything like me, you will love it. Best of all, it's a 120 page, A4-ish size, hardback book, full of treasure, and it's only £5.99.

... I wrote that a week or so ago, and I was browsing Amazon to see whether It was available there (and it's actually much the easiest and cheapest to but it from the Club shop), when I came across  what purported to be an original, 1930s, copy. I emailed the seller to make sure that it didn't have the (subtle) facsimile imprint on page 121 and took the plunge and bought it - sixteen quid in this case. Mad, I know, but I am pleased to have it. And I can report that, if this is an original, then the facsimile is a very accurate one.

Still haven't make much progress planning the trip though.


Sunday 12 October 2014

Long Rocky road

 Still on last weekend, on the Sunday we took Rocky for a walk, This was with some trepidation, as we had no idea what sort of levels of stamina he had. When I go on 10+ mile walks with the Ramblers, we are often accompanied by a dog or two, and they all seem to love it. One spaniel in particular runs back and forth and must cover twice as many miles as her owner, who is himself a keen long distance walker and runner. Another one is a little terrier, with very short legs, and never seems to tire either.

But I'd heard that greyhounds are most definitely built for speed rather than distance. Gallop like a mad thing for two minutes, then sleep for twenty two hours. This would have been a bit of a downer, as Jim has just joined the Ramblers too and started walking with the Beachy Head group in Sussex.

I think all will be fine though. We set off from Ladybower reservoir and, making it up as we went along, with the help of a map, walked pretty much all the way around one of its two arms. The e-trex sat nav thingy told us that the total distance covered was seven miles, and that included a couple of decent climbs. Rocky kept going steadily (on the lead all the time of course) showing an interest right the way through and not appearing to flag. So that's a relief.

He was obviously a bit tired when we got back...

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Cutting edge technology

Jim and Rocky visited this weekend and on Saturday we met up with Adrian to visit the Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet. This is a small open air museum site on the outskirts of Sheffield, which is, basically, a water-powered steelworks founded in 1785. It houses the only remaining crucible steel furnace in the world, apparently. The site was donated to the city council in (if I recall correctly from a long and very interesting chat with one of the curators) in the 1960s or 70s. It had been operated as a museum since then but has recently received lottery and other funding which has enabled further development - largely in the form of a shiny new 'education centre' on the periphery of the site.  The old buildings themselves are wonderfully, marvellously, under-restored. It looks as if the workers just downed tools one day and walked away. The whole site was powered by damming a river - I think it was the Sheaf - and using water wheels to turn a giant and many smaller shafts, to power a range of tools including these mighty hammers, one of which struck 126 times a minute

as well as the bellows that kept the forge hot.

Then, in a workshop that looked as if it hadn't changed in a hundred years, we met a man who was making swords for the Household Cavalry. He had just completed the blade for a ceremonial sword for the coronation of the King of Tonga.  He was working for a company based in Shoreham, where the finished blades go on to be made into complete swords, including, for his Tongan majesty, gold embellishment. It turns out that the Shoreham firm, Robert Pooley, took over the designs and machinery only in 2005, when the previous manufacturers pulled out of the sword-making business. And the previous makers were... Wilkinson Sword. Nowadays known largely, if not exclusively, as the manufacturers of disposable razors, I was amazed to learn that a history of sword making stretching back to 1772 had ended less than ten years ago. Having taken over part of the business, Robert Pooley originally had the sword blades forged in India, but recently brought this process back to the UK, to Sheffield. I'm sure the city's name can only be good for the weapons' reputation.