... 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 27 March 2015

... and keeping Rocky on board

He might have qualms about descending four and a half feet, but with a bit of a run up he'd have no trouble in the opposite direction, so the first task of the weekend was to Rocky-proof the hold, creating a safe enclosed space, particularly so that he can't escape at night.

And here it is. With the exception of a batten screwed to the underside of the cross plank, none of the structure impinges on the historic fabric of the boat. I'm lucky to still have old, if not original (I have no idea how old but pretty certainly, pre-1970) cross planks but reckoned this counted as part of the natural evolution of the boat's history. The ply section at the top is just wedged in at the moment, but we have the wood to make a couple of additional uprights (those misnamed 45-degree supports for the top planks) to sandwich the ply against the stand. This means it is easily removable when we need to take down the deckboard and lower the cloths again (not in the next couple of years, I hope.) The ply, incidentally, was repurposed (how did we ever do without that word?) from the former toilet partition. Where the toilet goes in the new set up is still a matter of some debate and design consultation. The sides will be filled in more neatly when Jim has his jigsaw to hand. Eventually it will be painted.

Thursday 26 March 2015

Getting Rocky on board

Greyhounds aren't very good with stepladders, so we had to improvise...

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Summer clothing

As soon as I arrived at Chertsey, a good few hours before Jim and Rocky, I started to strip off the cloths. They were still in 'low down' mode, following last year's trip to the Stratford. I've long been seeking a way to get more light into the hold - glamping in the dark just isn't so much fun. The historic Union Canal Carriers window cloths that I bought at the Droitwich tat auction did a good job of letting light in, and keeping rain out, but because they were only a yard wide, using them necessitated shifting the other cloths about, and because they were deep, they were hard to use with the top planks in the lower position.

So last week I finally got around to buying a roll of translucent scaffold sheeting, having finally given up on salvaging any from a building site. It's two metres wide, making it pretty much perfect topcloth size, and reasonably heavy, at 170gsm. We simply unrolled it alongside the boat to get the right length and cut it off in a single section. It's held in place with the standard arrangement of strings, but if this proves insufficient, it has eyelet holes for bungee cord. The idea is to leave it like this for the summer, and then put the black cloths over the top in the winter or if we leave the boat for a while - or whenever we need to look properly historic.

The shaped cloth stays on at the front, and this dark area will be the bedroom.

Now we can clearly see what a lot of work there still is to do inside the hold!

Tuesday 24 March 2015

The moon (and sun) under water

The Moon Under Water is, of course, George Orwell's ideal London pub, drawn lovingly in an Evening Standard article in 1946. Many of its qualities would still be considered desirable today - good beer, decent basic food, friendly barmaids, open fires and above all, the background quiet to hold a conversation. Some of the attributes he sought are far more common today - particularly a women and children-friendly atmosphere. Others are so long gone that I hadn't even heard of them - beer in china mugs, for example.

We have now become a class of second class citizen, banned from many a lounge bar and restaurant, and entered the new world of the dog-friendly pub. Until now, this hasn't been too much of a culture shock. We have been taken by Rocky and his previous family to the Red Lion at Litton in the Peak District, where log fires, good beer and excellent beer are found to be perfectly compatible with canine companionship. The only thing we have to remember is to bring his blanket, for those authentic flagstone floors. Back in Newhaven, the Hope offers well kept Harveys, decent food, log fires and again, a warm welcome to Rocky - as long as we let the landlady know before we come in so that Pip the resident Pyrenean mountain dog (and mountainous she most certainly is) can be shooed behind the bar. But oh dear, down on the boat it was another matter. I hope to hear differently, but between Brewood and Wheaton Aston, only the public bar of the Bridge was reputed to tolerate dogs - and as a result was full of them, along with a great many children (in the public bar? Call me old-fashioned...) and worst, a very large, very loud, TV. For various reasons, largely mouse-related, eating on the boat wasn't an easy option for the first couple of days, and anyway, we'd been working hard and deserved a treat.

But this wasn't meant to be about pubs. It was about this sun and moon together under the water...

I'm not quite sure how the effect has come about - the actual eclipsed sun is lost in the glare, but a secondary reflection appears next to it. It's the same in most of the photos I took.

Here are some other people looking at the eclipse...

We learned that while a welder's mask was an excellent way of safely viewing the eclipse of 1999, modern polarising ones don't work - the light's either not bright or not sudden enough to trigger their darkening. Produced an interesting green effect in the photos though. A cardboard pinhole camera and a colander were also utilised. There was very little cloud in the West Midlands (as noted also by Diamond Geezer).

Monday 23 March 2015

Back to the boat

Hooray! At last I have something to write about. I have just spent a weekend with Jim and Rocky working on Chertsey, and hope to get at least a week's worth of blog posts out of that.

Here is Rocky, supervising operations.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

The window seat and me

Train observations are obviously a great space filler, so here, in best social media tradition, are my favourite kinds of seats and the reason why. The train companies should love me; I want the least popular kind of seat - an airline style aisle seat, and I don't mind if I have my back to the engine and a Virgin-style windowless stretch of cabin side to boot. But I often don't get what my heart most desires, and someone else is probably losing out as a result.

At least when booking, you can specify an aisle seat. Now obviously, in an ideal world, one wants to undertake one's entire journey next to an empty seat. No jostling for elbow room on the armrest, no awkwardly asking if you can lower the armrest to put some semblance of a barrier between you and next door's flab/smelly anorak, and above all, no sniffing, coughing and spluttering of myriad viruses into your airspace. But if you have an aisle seat, at least you are not at risk of being trapped and compressed into the corner by some corpulent malodorous germ-ridden stranger. At least there is a possibility of escape, and you don't have to ask permission to go to the toilet.

When booking, you can specify a table seat. I never do. Unfortunately, you cannot specify a non-table seat. So at least half the time I find my seat involves me facing someone else, and getting my feet tangled with theirs, and either having to complain or silently seething about the hard shell wheelie suitcase they have put under the table. But with an airline seat, I can stick my feet under the one in front (whilst selfishly denying that pleasure to the person behind me by putting my bag under my seat). I have a little table, should I need one. And best of all, I don't have someone gawping at me for two hours.

Now, I know that as long as I'm on the right train, it doesn't really matter where I sit. But if I take a non-reserved seat, I'm potentially depriving someone else of it, because they won't sit in my, apparently reserved, one. I could offer to swap, but that involves too much human interaction, sometimes. Often, anyway, the whole carriage is reserved. (Can I just mention a really petty thing that annoys me? When people come down the carriage looking for C27A, and can only find C27. The A stands for Aisle and is otherwise meaningless. Why do the train companies insist on printing it on the ticket and confusing people?)

So, I don't feel sick with my back to the engine, I don't want to make conversation, and I don't want to look out of the window. All I ask is a decent light, and I'll have my nose in a book the whole way. That's what trains are for, and that's what books are for.

Monday 2 March 2015

An observation

An observation made, admittedly, when I regularly used a commuter train rather than one where most of the seats are reserved, but it came back to me today and is no doubt still true.

Many people will sit in a window seat and deposit their bags, coats etc on the aisle seat next to them.

I prefer an aisle seat, and make a point of not depositing my worldly goods on the seat next to me.

Once each pair of seats has been filled in this way, the next person to get on the train has to find a vacant seat. Nine times out of ten, they will ask me to move so that they can get into the empty seat next to me, rather than ask someone else to move their bags.

Is this because most people have such a desperate desire for a window seat? Or is it, as I suspect, because it's somehow easier to ask someone to get up so that you can sit on an obviously empty seat, than risk appearing critical by asking someone to move their bags?

Sunday 1 March 2015

Looking for Mr Wrigglesworth again another seven years on

I was just musing on some of my former teachers and thought I'd try Googling the one with the most unusual name, Mr (Alan) Wirgglesworth. About the third or fourth result was my 2008 post on the Hay Inclined Plane, of which I had just rediscovered a photo featuring his left arm. And on the post, there was a comment, from 'Alan', saying:

Hello Sarah, Alan Wrigglesworth (of one arm in the picture fame) here. Just found this on the internet. Be nice to hear from you.
Regards. Alan W.

Somehow I missed that comment at the time and the Google profile attached to it is no longer available. How I am kicking myself. So Alan Wrigglesworth, if you're still Googling yourself (or however else one finds out that one has been mentioned on an obscure boating blog) please have another go! Likewise, Phil Frier, Chris Collard, Mark Michael Mahoney and indeed many others who may have had the dubious pleasure of teaching me at one time or another.

I turned out OK...