... 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 30 December 2016

Hints for Historic Boaters no. 453*

Choose a face flannel in a dark colour, preferably grey or black. A white one will only make you feel worried.
Even after washing it in Persil.

*not an actual number,

Thursday 29 December 2016

Off to the seaside

This morning we are setting off for Sussex to do the family Christmas stuff. I am of course taking the melodeon with me, to seek advice and guidance from some actual musicians. I can now play the melody of 'Hard Working Boater' all the way through, so I hope they will be suitably impressed.

I will not be taking my crochet, because I shall be coming back on the train, and, excitingly, the crochet is now at the stage of being joined together in ever larger squares. In fact, I have half a bedspread hung ober the back of the sofa already! I finished the seventy-second and last individual square on Christmas Day. But no photos now until it's finished!

Wednesday 28 December 2016

A new rivet for the collection

Well, I don't actually have a collection, but I could start one. In fact, I think this is my second (oh, apart from all the ones in Chertsey), so perhaps that does count as a collection now.
Damn, forgot the scale. The head is about 40mm diameter

Anyway, this one isn't from a boat. I found it whilst on a Boxing Day walk, and if, as I am pretty certain is the case, it fell directly from above onto the towpath, it is from the Wicker Viaduct (span 41), properly called the Sheffield Victoria Viaduct, and better known for the bulk of its construction, the Wicker Arches.

Constructed in 1848, the viaduct last carried passenger traffic in 1996 (and last carried mainline traffic, to the now defunct Victoria Station, in 1970) but still carries local freight. (info. source here)

Do you think I should report that rivets are dropping out of it?

Tuesday 27 December 2016

Hot dog

When we moved Chertsey at the beginning of December, we were worried about Ricky getting cold (in the summer we worry about him getting hot; he has neither fur not fat for insulation). Because he won't let us out of his sight, he can't just stay inside in the warm like a sensible dog.

So one of us has to sit on the back end with him and make sure he keeps his blanket on:

In the summer, it's a wet tea towel.

But after we got back to Alvecote last time, we met a very similar dog wearing a rather natty fleece jumper. I immediately enquired where he got it. The answer was Equafleece (the website is well worth a look, for all the canine garments you could possibly want to buy, and many you wouldn't.) I decided to get Ricky one for Christmas. As anything and everything is a surprise to Ricky, it needed to be a surprise to Jim as well. So I sent Sebastian a link to the detailed instructions on the website, and asked him to secretly measure the dog. Not too hard a task, you might think... It was only as I started to input the figures into the site's calculator that I noticed that according to him, Ricky's neck was bigger than his chest...

Eventually we must have got the right measurements, because here is Ricky in his new jumper:

He has been quite glad of it in the recent chilly wind.  Unlike a coat, he can lie down in it comfortably, so will be able to wear it night and day if we do more winter boating - and can even have a coat on top if it's really cold.

Monday 26 December 2016

Boxing Day

Hope everybody's having a splendid Christmas break. I think Jim and Ricky might be hoping for a bit of a break from my squeezing and squeaking...
Thank you for all your melodeon-related comments, questions and suggestions. In order...

Halfie... Can I play it? Well, it depends on what you mean by play. I have pleasantly surprised myself, not least by rediscovering that I can read music. Not necessarily quickly or fluently, but sufficiently to work things out, in conjunction with a button layout diagram from, and a tuner app to find the low B I didn't know I had. Last Tuesday, when I took delivery of it, I worked my way through the melody of 'Poor Old Horse' (which is only a couple of lines, and doesn't have a low B, at least in the version I was using). On Friday, just before Jim arrived, I found the B and then started work on 'Hard Working Boater'. I am currently three quarters of the way through the melody; I hope to have it all fairly solid by Friday when we are going to see Sebastian and Izzi, so that they can advise me about adding chords and/or basses. I did try to find a teacher, but the only local one I could get contact details for didn't answer my email. For now I think I'm fairly happy just familiarising myself with it and working out my own fingerings, although I will no doubt form some terrible habits.

So, Cath... Playgroup sounds good, and I look to be free that weekend - are you going?

Alan... It's a German made D/G Pokerwork. I bought it without seeing it in the flesh, let alone trying it (because what would have been the point when I have no experience and no idea what feels good to me; I just knew I wanted something reasonable quality that I wouldn't be ashamed to be seen with, and the sort of music I like to listen to), sort of on impulse, albeit an impulse that had been brewing for some time, and really fermenting since the summer. So far I like it a lot; can't resist keep picking it up for another little practice.

The final impusle came about because of Bluebird breaking down... Before setting off, I'd put together a collection of randomly selected CDs for the journey, but had only just got into the second one when Bluebird refused to start. The change car that I came back in (Uxbridge) doesn't have a CD player, but rather than put the CDs away when I came back, I left them out to work my way through the selection. Thus two weekends ago, coincidentally just before the Herbies posted this, I found myself rediscovering this track, which is my inspiration and my aspiration. (It's from the 2011 June Tabor album Ashore but is actually just Andy Cutting with Tim Harries on double bass).  At least should I ever get to the stage of attempting it, I have my double bass player already lined up.

Sunday 25 December 2016

Saturday 24 December 2016

Christmas Box

I bought myself a Christmas present...

One that may be of particular interest to the Finchers and the Herbies...

Friday 23 December 2016

Elfin safety (and that of other Christmas workers)

I'm afraid that this is a repeat, from Warrior in 2009, but I just reread it and it still made me laugh, so whether or not you have seen it before, I hope you enjoy it. Thanks as before to John Sheridan.

The Rocking Song
Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir;
We will lend a coat of fur,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you:

Fur is no longer appropriate wear for small infants, both due to risk of allergy to animal fur, and for ethical reasons. Therefore faux fur, a nice cellular blanket or perhaps micro-fleece material should be considered a suitable alternative.

Please note, only persons who have been subject to a Criminal Records Bureau check and have enhanced clearance will be permitted to rock baby Jesus. Persons must carry their CRB disclosure with them at all times and be prepared to provide three forms of identification before rocking commences.

Jingle Bells

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way

A risk assessment must be submitted before an open sleigh is considered safe for members of the public to travel on. The risk assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly if passengers are of larger proportions. Please note, permission must be gained from landowners before entering their fields. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.

While Shepherds Watched

While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around

The union of Shepherd's has complained that it breaches health and safety regulations to insist that shepherds watch their flocks without appropriate seating arrangements being provided, therefore benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available. Shepherds have also requested that due to the inclement weather conditions at this time of year that they should watch their flocks via cctv cameras from centrally heated shepherd observation huts.
Please note, the angel of the lord is reminded that before shining his / her glory all around she / he must ascertain that all shepherds have been issued with glasses capable of filtering out the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and Glory.

Little Donkey

Little donkey, little donkey on the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load

The RSPCA have issued strict guidelines with regard to how heavy a load that a donkey of small stature is permitted to carry, also included in the guidelines is guidance regarding how often to feed the donkey and how many rest breaks are required over a four hour plodding period. Please note that due to the increased risk of pollution from the dusty road, Mary and Joseph are required to wear face masks to prevent inhalation of any airborne particles. The donkey has expressed his discomfort at being labelled 'little' and would prefer just to be simply referred to as Mr. Donkey. To comment upon his height or lack thereof may be considered an infringement of his equine* rights.

*I have pointed out to the relevant authorities that in fact Mr. Donkey is not eligible, as a donkey, to file a complaint under the equine rights policy, but should instead couch his claim in terms of asinine rights, which are clearly far more appropriate to his case.

We Three Kings

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Whilst the gift of gold is still considered acceptable - as it may be redeemed at a later date through such organisations as 'cash for gold' etc, gifts of frankincense and myrrh are not appropriate due to the potential risk of oils and fragrances causing allergic reactions. A suggested gift alternative would be to make a donation to a worthy cause in the recipients name or perhaps give a gift voucher.
We would not advise that the traversing kings rely on navigation by stars in order to reach their destinations and suggest the use of AA routefinder or satellite navigation, which will provide the quickest route and advice regarding fuel consumption. Please note as per the guidelines from the RSPCA for Mr Donkey, the camels carrying the three kings of Orient will require regular food and rest breaks. Facemasks for the three kings are also advisable due to the likelihood of dust from the camels hooves.

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

You are advised that under the Equal Opportunities for All policy, it is inappropriate for persons to make comment with regard to the ruddiness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr R Reindeer from the Reindeer Games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence. A full investigation will be implemented and sanctions - including suspension on full pay - will be considered whilst this investigation takes place.

Thursday 22 December 2016

A Sheffield scene

The fact that I went without posting for a while means that there are some nice photos sitting on my phone that I took with the intention of sharing, and then didn't get round to. This is partly exacerbated by the fact that the easiest way to get them from iPhone to computer seems to be to email them to myself, but every time I try to send an email from the phone, it sits in the outbox until I go into settings and turn the mail account off and then on again.

Anyway, here is a rather strikling photo of a bit of an old building on the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal, back on October 8th.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Hours of daylight

Not many, today, of course - seven hours and twenty-nine minutes here in Sheffield. Amazingly, a full twenty-eight minutes more down on the Sussex coast. What I've given up to come here!

I know this because of this rather nifty site which not only tells you the times of sunrise and sunset, and the hours of daylight on any given day in any place you care to mention, but represents it in lovely graphic form as well. It even accommodates the clocks changing. You may just need to scroll up to the top to reset it from Ghent to your home town or place of interest.

What it tells me, scrolling down, is that in the run up to Braunston, there will be a daily sixteen and three quarter hours of daylight (and that's not counting the dawn and twilight). Enough time to get from Alvecote to Braunston. Non-stop. I want to.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

100 up?

Time once again for me to obsess about my blogging record. With just one post in November and two in October the blog was starting to look a bit moribund again - it was being mentioned by Diamond Geezer that spurred me on to make more of an effort. Even so, with only two posts last January, one in each of February and March, and none at all in May, it looked as if 2016 would turn out to be a lean year.  However, a flurry of posts about our fantastic summer trip in July and August, and then some more in August and September looking back, with photos, have unexpectedly brought the total up to ninety (counting this one) for the year so far. That's already ahead of both 2015 - which was truly pathetic, at forty four - and 2014 (79). It's not beyond the realms of possibility that I might just squeak into treble figures for the first time since 2013. Even if I don't find quite enough to say for that, at least we're on an upward trajectory again. Hooray - long may it last!

Monday 19 December 2016

On a small southern river

Newhaven is a sad, downtrodden little town, with many sad, downtrodden people (although not so many, nor so downtrodden, as Walsall).

But whenever I visit, I am reminded that it also has the beach, the cliffs, and the river, and these are things of beauty, in their small unassuming way. Last time I was down, I took some photos of the river in the early morning sun.
 The Grade II listed former marine workshops, long empty, are now a University Technical College. The building has won awards, but sadly the construction photo gallery no longer seems to be available. However, there are these on the photographer's website.

 In the middle of the photo above, you can just see the semi-famous cormorant sculpture. Originally I think this was made of recycled tyres, but a new, metal, one was installed in 2012. There's a video about it here. As I may have mentioned previously, when I was on the Town Council, we had the task of naming a new block of flats built on the quayside. Someone suggested Cormorant Quays, in honour of the large seabirds that could sometimes be seen there. Murmurs of approval, then the local naturalist spoke up: 'Those aren't actually cormorants; they're black shags.' So I suggested we name the new block Black Shag Buildings.  They are now called Christchurch Court. I don't know why.
And here, looking upriver, you can see the swing bridge. This one was built in 1974, and extensively refurbished in 2015. However, from what I hear from No. 1 Son it still seems to be having problems. The 1974 bridge replaced an earlier one which also carried the gas main to the East Side of the river - this had to be disconnected whenever the bridge was opened. There are some fabulous old pictures here of the bridge and the harbour.

Sunday 18 December 2016

None shall pass

I paid Chertsey's licence yesterday. It's been due in December ever since we bought Bakewell, and someone at CRT did some very clever calculations to bring the licensing dates of the two boats into alignment. January 1st is a handy time to have a new licence start should I ever feel the need to buy a Gold licence, which always run from January 1st. Although having - fabulously - done (ok, some of)  the Thames last year, that won't be for a while yet. The downside, of course, is laying one's hands on nine hundred quid in the run up to the festive season, when there are so many competing demands on one's bank account (of which more, perhaps, later).

That's not what I'm writing to complain about though. (Of course I'm complaining about something!). No, I had to set up my online account with CRT in order to be able to pay on a Saturday (i.e. before I forgot, with the associated risk of losing the prompt payment discount). This looked like a simple and user-friendly process, but this was an illusion that took me round in ever decreasing circles for a while, before I finally got to the point of setting a password. CRT demands that your password contain upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers and at least one 'special character'. Therefore none of my existing ones would do, meaning that I now have another (long, complicated) one to remember - or, of course, write down. An impressive level of security just to stop anyone else paying my licence for me.

The fun didn't end there. I needed to complete a new licensing form because of having changed moorings. It asked for my date of birth. This wasn't marked with the red 'mandatory field' asterisk, but the form still wouldn't let me proceed until I'd completed it. I lied, of course (I'm not being that free with my identifying information on the internet). Which means there's yet another thing to remember. Why do they want to know anyway?

Friday 16 December 2016

The fleet

For the last couple of weeks I've had a 'change car' as poor old Bluebird conked out en route to Sussex suffering from - we think - ignition module trouble. It was only after I Googled 'what does a ballast resistor do?' that I realised it had been showing the symptoms of being on the way out for weeks, had I but recognised them. As I not only had to get back to Sheffield, but the following week needed to do the car shuffle for getting Chertsey back to Alvecote, I came back in our newest acquisition. And I like it very much indeed.

On the way I set to recalling all the Volvos we've had since I fell in love with the first one on a local forecourt in 1999, and I came up with a total of eleven. They have always had names, which may seem daft, but of the current four, three are the same colour and two of those are the same model, so it does help.
The current fleet - from the foreground: Botterham, Sheffield, Bluebird, Uxbridge

I am a bit hazy on some of the technical details and specs, but Jim will no doubt be along to fill in the gaps. So here is the fleet list:

1. Trusty Volvo
Red, 240 saloon, 2.3 auto, C reg. £450 I think. 1999-c.2004. Scrapped; rotten underneath.

2. Rusty Volvo
Blue, 240 saloon, 2.3 manual. D-ish? Given to Jim by now long lost friends, one of whom drove it like a lunatic. 2000 ish; scrapped.

3. Thrusty Volvo
Silver, 960 estate. Turbo. Jersey registered, no idea what year. Also given by same people, who also drove it like a lunatic, with no water in it, for months. Eventually it succumbed.

Then there was also Crusty Volvo, which wasn't actually a Volvo at all, but a courtesy title for the 1974 Bedford CF Dormobile.

4. Snowball
White, 740 estate, H reg. One of the few we sold on. A bit too technically advanced for our liking.

5. Silver (aka The Flying Brick)
Silver, 240 estate, 2.3 manual. F reg, perhaps? Quite tatty looking but didn't half go. Sprung a water leak on the way to Stretton one time and ended up in Keith's scrap skip.

6. Bluebird
Blue, 240 saloon, 2.0 auto. F reg. 2005-present. Cost me £200. I miss the .3 though.

7. Fang
Dark grey, 240 estate. F reg. Ran this one for quite a while. Also ended up in Keith's skip I think; crankcase oil seal.

8. Tufty
Dark (non metallic) blue, 240 estate. A fairly basic model which we actually bought for its new headlights. Ran it for a bit but scrapped it when the heater stopped working.

9. Botterham
Blue, 740 Facelift estate, manual. H reg? 2012 - present

10. Sheffield
Red, 240 estate, 2.3 (I put manual but actually I think it's auto? Can't remember). K reg. 2014  - present

11. Uxbridge
Blue, 740 Facelift estate, auto. H reg. 2016 - present. And I might not give it back.

You'll see that we started with a series of rhyming names, then moved on to colour based ones. Tufty and Fang's names were derived from their registration numbers, and since the fortuitous find at Botterham, we've just called them after wherever they came from.

I hope I haven't made too many errors - there are bound to be some. I'm sure Jim and Halfie won't hesitate to correct them and fill in the gaps.

Wednesday 14 December 2016

With relish

More than a year before I moved to Sheffield, Adrian and Linda, via the medium of Linda's splendid meat and potato pie and mushy peas, introduced me to Henderson's Relish. Sadly Blogpress has eaten my accompanying photos, so the moment is no longer pictorially commemorated. Later, when I moved to Sheffield, they gave me a bottle as a welcome gift. It was a 2012 commemorative Jessica Ennis gold label bottle, and I haven't finished it yet - I'm an appreciative, rather than a prolific, user. I have however bought numerous bottles over the years and there are few people who know me who haven't had the spicy fluid pressed upon them at some time.

Until 2013, Henderson's Relish was still produced in a little factory in the centre of Sheffield - pretty much opposite my office. A little, rather run down looking factory; an old industrial building clinging on in the midst of the University's ever-expanding, ever-larger, estate and for years, refusing to sell to the University even as it surrounded them.

This changed after the death of the long-time managing director in 2013, and production was finally moved out to a modern plant, still in Sheffield, but no longer in the heart of the city. And, inevitably, the University acquired the site, with a commitment to keep and restore the building. For a while, we thought they might convert it to offices - I would so have loved to have that address! But no, it seems that they plan to make it into a pub.
borrowed from WhatPub, I thought they wouldn't mind
The University - perhaps unusually - already owns a pub, the originally titled University Arms. This is a bit ersatz inside, but serves a good selection of beer, and some rather workaday food, in a nice Victorian (at a guess; it might be later) red brick building. This now probably will be knocked down, which is a bit sad. Anyway, as the 'campus master plan' proceeds apace, I thought it would be wise to grab a couple of pictures of the Henderson's works, before they get all glitzed up into a drinking shop that I bet you money will be called 'Hendo's'

Monday 12 December 2016

Crocheting in the pub

An evening in the pub takes on a whole new purpose when you're historic boating in December - it's not for socialising, nor for getting drunk, but for for spanning the hours between dusk and bedtime with heat and light, and, if you're lucky, a comfy chair. The Greyhound thus established as my temporary living room, it seemed perfectly appropriate to to get out my crochet. This had the added advantage for me, if not for the landlord, of giving me something to do with my hands and thus drink less over the course of the evening than if I had just been chatting. I got two more squares finished in the Greyhound on Friday night, and a further two in the Barlow on the Saturday. We did also eat in both establishments. The Greyhound is usually good, but I can't recommend the gammon steak with melted brie and sweet chilli sauce - it was about as good as, in retrospect, it sounds, and left me feeling decidedly delicate the next day (and no, it wasn't the beer). The Cumberland pie in the Barlow, on the other hand, was divine. I had it on Saturday night, and Jim then had one for Sunday dinner, while I had the equally good roast beef, to set us up for our respective journeys home.

I have now completed fifty eight of the requisite seventy two squares, and soon will have to address the thorny question of how they are to be joined together.

Sunday 11 December 2016

Nice with no ice

The canal was frozen when I arrived at Braunston on Thursday morning; it froze again on Saturday night as we sat on the towpath at Alvecote. But inbetween, although chilly, there was no more ice. Even better, there was no wind, and no rain - so, for the time of year, pretty ideal boating conditions once again. This time I had Jim with me, as it didn't feel quite the right time to try tackling downhill locks single handed for the first time, and with Jim, of course, comes Ricky.

Jim could cope with the cold; I was more worried about his uninsulated companion. However, he managed fine, with a little help from whichever of us was dogsitting at the time.
He had his winter coat on underneath too

I went to Braunston first, lit the fire and (with Pete's help, sweet talking no longer working and my arms being slightly too short effectively to operate the start button and the decompressor silmultaneously; must do something about that) got the engine fired up. The plan had been to move the boat onto the towpath but we decided it would be easier to load luggage on Pete's mooring, moving across only to load man and dog. Once the fire was going and the cabin tidied, and Pete paid for his fabulous work, I drove over to Alvecote to meet Jim. It took longer than I'd expected - I don't know why, I've done it often enough - and we then had to wait a while for our lunch there. So it was later than I'd envisaged when we set off back to Braunston. Jim then got into an argument with the satnav that resulted in our travelling from Alvecote to Braunston via central Coventry, which was interesting. When we arrived, Ryan on Southern Cross was just about to tie up, and he came bearing cake, so we stopped for a cup of tea before finally departing. In one final communication breakdown, I winded the boat and got onto the Midland Chandler's mooring expecting Jim and Ricky to embark there, only to discover that they'd gone all the way round to the towpath, so a bit more reversing and wriggling was required before we finally set off with about an hour of daylight to spare.

There was still ice on the canal but it was already broken; by the morning it was almost entirely gone. On Friday we were at Hawkesbury by about three, and I made the executive decision to stop there and take advantage of the pub's light and heat for the hours between dusk and bedtime. This meant a bit more of a rush to get to Alvecote by Saturday night, but despite slow going through Atherstone we made it in time to stop on the towpath if not actually get into the marina. In fact this had always been my plan, as unloading the boat, clothing it up, and getting Ricky off would have been nigh on impossible once on the cheap and cheerful historic mooring behind the pub. As it turned out, there were four other boats there already, meaning Chertsey is once again adjacent to the slipway, but the boarding plank had by this stage metamorphosed back into a top plank, so the only way off was to climb across four joshers (Greyhound, Jaguar, Northolt and France, in case you were wondering. And not all facing the same way) Which I am getting quite good at, but Ricky isn't.

Saturday 10 December 2016

On the Turn

Before leaving Braunston, I took advantage of being on the offside bank to take a few pictures of an icy blue Braunston Turn.

I believe the scene is now subtly different...

Friday 9 December 2016

Stepping up

Last weekend (well, starting on Thursday) Jim and I met at Alvecote for lunch, and then, leaving one car there, set off in the other to Braunston to collect Chertsey from Pete Boyce's.

You may recall that my initial inspiration, as we descended the GU with Renfrew, was to ask Pete to make a new step, closely followed by the idea of refitting the table cupboard. I then thought it would be good to have a nice piece of matching wood for the lower step, and finally, when I showed Pete the cabin, he suggested  a bit of trim and a fiddle rail to finish off the space above the table cupboard, which I did want to keep open.
Well, he had done me proud, as always (i.e. as with the front cant and breastpiece, gunnels, handrails and top planks, and not forgetting the cloths which despite their not being made of wood, he designed and sourced).

Here is my new steering step in gorgeous oak:
Sadly now already betrodden with mud and smuts. Just click to enlarge it and see that lovely chamfer.

Here is the lower step:
which no longer wobbles, thanks to Pete extending the bracket on which it sits.

And here is the table cupboard's newly neatened surroundings.
One of next year's must-do jobs is to paint the back cabin properly and finally.

Many thanks to Pete - if you need any woodwork done, I can't recommend him too highly.

PS. These are all Pete's photos too; of course I forgot to take any before actually treading all over it.

Thursday 8 December 2016

Mentioned in dispatches

This blog has been mentioned on Diamond Geezer! - as, I think, the 27th most prolific source of traffic to his blog. Much of which of course might be me clicking through every day, and which might also be you clicking through to read his usually interesting and always well-written posts.

DG sets the standard - in terms of both quantity and quality - that I aspire to, and give up in despair at how far I fall short of it.

Ah well, let's have another try, eh?