... 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.

Wednesday 31 May 2017

Saltaire Station: a very late apology

I am sorry that I described Saltaire Station as 'characterless' here. I confess I didn't really look at it as closely as I might - and should - have done. I was so taken aback as so many people getting off the train and having to readjust my expectations (still unconsciously based on the freezing rain of the weekend I had originally planned to go) that I just sloped off. I intended to come back later, of course, but I should have learnt my lesson by now - do it when you first think of it.

Anyway, David very gently took me to task for my rash and dismissive description. He points out that when the station was re-opened in 1984, the original buildings being long gone, 'rather than erecting a simple bus type shelter on each platform (the norm on the other new stations in West Yorkshire), they went to he expense of having stone buildings in a vaguely similar style to the village,  plus electric lighting in period style gas lamps.'

And he sent me a photo which he took in 1959, six years before it was closed,
pointing out that by then the stone shelter had already been removed from the down platform, and been replaced with a second hand wooden hut.

David - who grew up in Shipley - also filled in some details about the Shipley Glen Tramway in the 1950s: 'at the top of the Glen Tramway there used to be a small fairground where we could play on slot machines, ride on a gondola with gondolier (really),  a miniature railway, and other amusements'.

I am more than delighted to set the record straight - and thanks again to David.

Tuesday 30 May 2017

dg does canals again

Diamond Geezer's been walking some canals in Birmingham. I do enjoy reading his take on things. Not many comments yet though from his regular readers...

Monday 29 May 2017

Four corners

Inspired by Enceladus' post here, I got a map out (well, up on the screen) to check out the furthest destination I've boated to in each direction. And they are:

North: Brighouse Basin (Calder and Hebble Navigation), on Andante, 2005 or 2006. I have no photos from this abortive trip from Huddersfield to Sowerby Bridge, which only got as far as the aforesaid basin, but here is a picture of dear little Andante.

South: Woking (Basingstoke Canal), on Chertsey, August 2016

East: Downham Market, on Warrior.

West: Ellesmere Port, on Chertsey, Easter 2011

And as a bonus, the lowest and highest points...

Lowest: Holme Fen, (9' below sea level) on Warrior, April 2009.
That's easy, because it's the lowest point on the entire inland waterways system - indeed, in the entire country. No photos of the actual place, but here's our plaque for getting there (upside down for some reason).

Highest: Standedge Tunnel, (645' above sea level) Andante, 2006
I confirmed this with a useful table from Pennine Waterways - and this is the highest point on the whole system. So I may not have visited the most northerly, southerly, easterly or westerly points (by my rough reckoning, Tewitfield, Godalming (so should have done that last year instead of sitting in Weybridge for a week!), Brandon Creek and Llangollen), but I have boated to both the highest and the lowest. Which is a start.

Sunday 28 May 2017

Floor four

Jim has achieved amazing results today with most of the new joists in place, and a lot more solid that the old ones were, in many ways. Whereas the old ones were each in two pieces, Jim has managed to get the new ones in full length.
This is possible because he hasn't gone right into the pockets in the original brickwork - an additional precaution against lurking dry rot. Instead of being supported on one row of rather wobbly brick piers, they now have two rows of concrete blocks. And unlike before, they have noggins holding them rigid as well. Finally, they're screwed rather than nailed together. A very sturdy base for the Douglas fir floorboards we went to Hull to order yesterday.

And while Jim was doing all that, my friend Lyn and I took Ricky for a walk in the Rivelin Valley.

Saturday 27 May 2017

Skippety doo dah

The first skipful, beautifully packed and ready to go, containing old laminate flooring, some carpet, rotten floorboards and joists, earth that was packed up against the rear wall of the house, and a lot of dirt and old rubbish from under the dining room floor.
The next one comes on Tuesday!

Friday 26 May 2017

More floor

I know this is very dull for you, but it's exciting for me, so please bear with me. The dining room floor has now been taken up completely and all the old rubbish, broken glass, old tiles, paper (paper!), rubble, moulds various and quite a lot of earth has been removed.
Jim has also taken out the hearth, which was a thin layer of concrete over some pretty amazing lumps of stone, which I shall take a long way away from the house and make into a rockery. Some of the plaster in the wettest corner has already been hacked off with more to go.
There is a full - and exceedingly efficiently packed - skip outside. The new joists are ordered and tomorrow morning we are off to the East Riding to look at various sorts of reclaimed timber flooring. A small but expensive parcel of poison has also arrived, ready to apply to everything within potential reach of the dry rot.

Thursday 25 May 2017

Floored again

Back in the house, the dining room floor has now been almost completely taken up - just the bits around the gas and central heating pipes to negotiate. Depending on the cost, we may well replace all the joists too, rather than just the obviously rotten ones. This would make it easier to shovel all the crap out from underneath, they could be better supported (at the moment the joins are sitting on wobbly piles of bricks); we wouldn't have to worry about all the old nails when laying the new floor, and it would be easier and more effective to buy pre-treated timber than to treat the old ones.

I think I will then go for reclaimed pitch pine boards (like on Warrior!) direct onto the joists, rather than laying new boards and then flooring on top. This should enable it to breathe better, and the height should be roughly the same as the sound boards in the front room, which I am probably going to have sanded and oiled as they are mostly aesthetically OK as well.

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Chertsey in the dry dock

We drove down to Grendon at lunchtime today to see Chertsey in the dry dock. We didn't actually get to go down and poke about - there were a good few inches of water still to go - but from where we were looking, things looked fine.
The blacking certainly seems to have held up well over the last seven years - but as it was three coats of Coflex brushed onto shotblasted bare steel, I'm not entirely surprised. To have had Coflex again this time would have been prohibitively expensive so I'm having the Jotul stuff as recommended by Laurence.
What we did notice this time, that had either slipped our minds or escaped our notive previously, was how far the 'new' (1980s) baseplate extends - it could be that this is where we have mysteriously and invisibly stuck on a couple of occasions. As well as blacking, I'm also having the tunnel bands repainted - in proper scarlet and white this time. Martin meant well doing them in the same crimson and cream as Chertsey's livery, but I never liked it.
Finally, they're going to repack the stern gear, which has been semi-botched ever since I got her.
Chertsey will be in the dock for a week, and then Laurence is very kindly going to take her back to Alvecote.

Tuesday 23 May 2017

The Worthing Wurlitzer

I didn't even know there was a Wurlitzer in Worthing until we went to see Sebastian and Izzi playing in a concert with the Worthing Philharmonic Orchestra at the Assembly Hall, when I saw a poster about it - and a list of forthcoming concerts, including one by historic narrow boating's very own David Lowe. So I got Baz to snap up some tickets for last Sunday and we got a little party together.

The snapping up wasn't strictly necessary, as it turned out, as West Sussex did not turn out in great numbers. I felt quite ashamed on behalf of The South - the audience was much bigger in Saltaire.
The console, from the Troxy, Stepney

The Worthing Wurlitzer is a massive beast - an amalgam of at least three different organs with odd bits from many more, and apparently the largest in Europe. Its specification may be found here (read it; it's poetry) and its history here.
The audience's view of the cinema organist

We had a lovely welcome from David - and he dedicated a medley of water-related songs to the historic narrow boating contingent. There was tea and very nice lemon cake in the interval.
After the concert we all repaired to a local Wetherspoons for dinner (sorry David, tea) and lively conversation. It was a splendid afternoon and evening - and the first time at a cinema organ concert for Jim, Sebastian and Izzi. 'Astonishing', 'entertaining' and 'brilliant' were some of their verdicts.

Monday 22 May 2017

Farewell, Angry People in Local Newspapers

I loved Angry People in Local Newspapers, ever since I first discovered it nearly five years ago. But it is no more - at least not in a form I can relate to. It no longer functions as a blog, so I have removed it from the blogroll. If you want to look at its Facebook page, or search for angry people stories on a website full of adverts, then you're even more devoted to it than I was. It probably has a Twitter feed too. But none of that is for me, I'm afraid.

Sunday 21 May 2017

Dashing about

I am writing this sitting in a Wetherspoons pub in Worthing, having just had dinner (tea) with Baz and Izzi, my friend Dean from Brighton, and David Lowe, following a concert by David on the renowned Wurlitzer in the Worthing Assembly Hall... Yesterday we took Chertsey from Alvecote to be docked at Grendon, and they day before that, Jim was up in Sheffield taking up my dining room floor. Tomorrow we leave first thing to return to Sheffield so that I can attend a work meeting in the afternoon, and then on Tuesday it's back to Grendon to have a look at Chertsey's hull. After that things might settle down a bit, at least until we have to go and fetch her back.A fabulous afternoon and concert today though.

Saturday 20 May 2017

When I've got a floor to put it on...

On Friday we also - with the help of Andy Halfie and his van - collected from Oxfam a rather splendid Arts and Crafts oak sideboard which will grace the dining room, once it has a floor.

Friday 19 May 2017


I fear I may subject you to a few house-related posts over the next few months.

I got the keys to the house on Saturday, and popped in a couple of times to get the feel of it. All in all I am very pleased indeed - I know it will be a fantastic home when it is finished (and there are just under three months to achieve that as I have already given notice on the flat). However, there are a few jobs to do first. Jim arrived late last night and this morning we couldn't wait to get over there for a good look.

The first thing I wanted to investigate was the dining room floow, which sloped suspiciously. The front room floor - over the cellar - has recently been replaced, and we could see from underneath that it was sound. But the back room was another story entirely.

Before we'd even had a cup of tea Jim had taken up a fair portion of the cheap laminate flooring and almost immediately I put my foot through the floorboards underneath, closely followed by Jim in a different place a few minutes later. Fortunately, I wasn't carrying a cup of tea at the time. The floor was in every bit as bad a state as I had expected - wet rot, dry rot and many other varieties of sinister and mysterious fungus lurked beneath floorboards that were in one corner actually sodden.
 Jim wasted no time in taking up the floorboards
And then removing the rotten joists - they were incredibly light; just cellulose shells
About a foot below was the dirt floor
And some interesting inhabitants.
Dry rot I can recognise, but what is this revolting film of fungoid accretions?
Here's some of the timber we removed - with the laminate flooring in the background.
The problem is at least in part due to the ground having been concreted and tarmacked nearly up to floor level, and the airbrick being completely clogged up, combined with a leaking gutter above (incredibly, the house has wooden gutters!)
So with the worst bits removed and the air brick cleared it is getting a chance to dry out. All the floorboards will be coming up and out and possibly more of the joists depending on how far the dry rot has got, and Jim is also going to break up the concrete and clear an airspace outside. The plaster will be coming off in the worst corner too.  We'll replace the joists with tannalised wood and slosh about vast quantities of noxious chemicals. Very similar to what we did in the Newhaven house twenty years ago, but on a bigger scale. One of the good things about knowing Jim has been learning how a house is put together, meaning that this wasn't as terrifying (dry rot!!) as it might have been.

I took the opportunity to look under the carpets upstairs and was delighted to find the boards there looking very sound, not even a hint of worm. Not bad for a house built in 1893.

Thursday 18 May 2017

Introducing... The Shellac Massive!

It will be a shame if I don't have my/Chertsey's birthday party at Alvecote after all, because I was looking forward to giving a gig to two radical new DJs who have just hit the scene.

Who would have thought when Jim invited Andy over to Chertsey while Sarah and I went to the quiz that a shared passion would be kindled over the HMV 130 table top gramophone (one of the last, and apparently best, wind up gramophones produced).

But it was, and Jim and Andy have both been adding to (and cataloguing) their collection of 78s ever since. Not only that, they have tracked down sources of new needles - a choice of steel, fibre (quieter) or THORN (amazing).

It is the perfect historic boaters' entertainment, requiring no electricity, just a good winding action, and of course the musical repertoire can be contemporaneously matched to the boat (unless your boat is very old indeed).

I believe they may be taking bookings! 

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Plans (for the abandoning of)

At the Brownhills quiz, our esteemed Chairman mused that there had been some thought - no clear plans, mind, and half the Committee didn't even know about it yet - but just a thought, that next year, around Whitsun time, we (i.e. HNBC) might take ourselves off to Hebden Bridge.

Well, before the quiz had even begun Nick on Aldgate had already recruited his crew, and the rest of us were pretty certain we wanted to go. So - with or without the HNBC imprimatur - it looks likely that at least some of us, flushed with BCN success, will be tackling the Rochdale (and others of us, with shorter boats, might be taking an easier route). So that is the Big Project for next year, and there is every chance that we'll do it (or be bravely defeated in the attempt).

This year's less passionately driven plans might, however, fall by the wayside. Yet again, the Ashby might have to manage without us for another year. I confess I am finding it hard to get excited about a canal that's shallow, twisty, and has no locks (I'm not a total lock monster, like a certain Mr Fincher, but they do break up the monotony a bit. And of course, get rid of the twists). And the competing attraction is My New House. I have given notice on the flat for early August, so the two weeks' leave I've booked in late July might find themselves otherwise occupied as in best reality show style we struggle to finish the work against the clock. Thus it might be that the joint my-birthday-and-Chertsey's (eighty and a halfth) birthday party could be replaced by a joint my-birthday-and-housewarming party.

Nothing will get between me and Braunston this year though (famous last words with the boat about to be docked...)

Tuesday 16 May 2017


I have just got round to putting my Walsall souvenirs in the Chertsey scrapbook. This is a lever arch file, with exhibits in plastic wallets (only the best heavyweight clear ones from Wilko's, none of those cheap flimsey textured ones), simply divided up by year.

The Easter exhibits are:
1. A photocopy of the running log that I've started keeping since last summer.
2. The event programme and mooring map
3. A mooring suspension notice (that I was very quick to go out and grab!)
4. Some leaflets about red deer
5. Notes from the quiz
6. Leaflets from the Walsall New Art Gallery

The scrapbook is quite thick now, as we have been boating on Chertsey since 2010 (there is a separate file devoted to her previous history, purchase, and restoration), so I thought I would pad out this post (hmmm... and possibly many others) with a trip down memory lane via the simple expedient of opening the scrapbook at random pages.

Which gives us
 A booklet form the Basingstoke Canal, from last year
 An invitation to the Stratford River Festival, 2014
And a map showing our 2014 round trip (albeit not very clearly). 2014 is a fat section!

Maybe 'pages from the scrapbook' will become a desperate occasional feature.

Monday 15 May 2017


I was quite intrigued - mainly on the Walsall canal - to notice a number of pipe bridges. Nothing unusual about them in themselves, except that the arms that they crossed had been filled in, and the bridges they followed had been bricked up - yet the pipe bridges themselves had apparently been renewed relatively recently.
I wondered why, rather than rebuilding the pipe bridge, with all its vulnerabilities and attendent anti-climbing paraphernalia, they hadn't just re-run the section of pipe buried in the towpath, like the rest of its length.

I can only think it's because  the way the pipe is buried under and incorporated in the the foundations and abutments of the bridge makes this prohibitively difficult.  And so the pipe bridge becomes the ghost of the former bridge itself.

Sunday 14 May 2017

Ricky's recollections

In which our canine correspondent picks out his holiday high spots.

The trouble with being a dog, is that you are dependent on humans taking photos for you, and they don't always take the ones you'd want them to. There are no pictures, for example, of all the fantastic holes I dug. There aren't enough of my new friends Rosie and Buzz. Still, there are quite a few of me looking handsome, so I guess I mustn't complain.
 Not only handsome, but constantly alert! There were not many sheep on this trip, nor cats. I did bark at some horses though.
 I really don't care for this plank thing. Still, needs must.
 I spent an uncomfortable couple of hours between the disposal of my old bed and the purchase of my new one. Still, they do their best, I suppose.
 I was a bit nervous meeting Rosie and Buzz for the first time - they seemed rather big! - but soon we were getting on like a house on fire. I let them sleep on my bed and they let me sleep on their dad.
 The new bed was most acceptable.
 I had to wear my jumper most days as there was quite a chilly breeze. It's much more comfortable than my coat for lying down in - which is very important - although the humans do have a struggle getting my legs into it sometimes.
 I can do noble...
It's hard work being handsome and gorgeous all the time.

Saturday 13 May 2017

The street where I live

Exciting times - I collected the keys to my new house today. It'll be a couple of months before I move in as there's a bit of work to be done - which will give me something to write about. Jim can't wait to get stuck in and we've talked of little else for weeks.

For the first time in my life, I'll be living in a Street. I've lived at a dozen different addresses over the last fifty two years, and not one of them was a street. There were five Roads, a Court (when I was very small - my first ever address in fact), one Lane, a Croft, a Dene, a Park and a Rise. Oh, and the last one was a boat (just realised, that's undermined what I've just claimed, because the address of the yard - had I ever used it - was Watling Street. But I didn't, so it doesn't count).

That leaves plenty of places I haven't lived. I've never had post addressed to a Terrace, Alley, Close, Heights, Mews, Grange, Place, Square (except when I worked in Tavistock Square), Gardens, Way, Walk, Drive, Avenue, Arcade, Villas, Vale, Meadows, Boulevard or Crescent.

This will however be the second time I've lived at number 15. I've also lived at 1, 4B, 5, 18A, 22, 26, 32, 38, 61 and 81. And, I suppose, 224.

These addresses represent 1 boat, 1 bedsit (very briefly), 4 flats and 6 houses. The shortest period I lived at an address was four months; the longest fifteen years.

Two of the roads were named after famous people (Kitchener and William Allen - quite a contrasting pair); and one for a local worthy, while a further one might have been a person or a place (Melbourne). Three more (including Bakewell) were named after places, two (both my previous Sheffield addresses) trees, and one after a cereal crop. Finally, there is one topographical feature, and one compass point.

And I rather hope that from hereon in I won't have too many new addresses.

Friday 12 May 2017

Stick it in the album

On the Brownhills trip I collected three more photos for my Town Class Sticker Album.

One of these was Aldgate which I have seen many, many times; I have even spent a week being towed by it. But this is the first time I have actually taken a photo AND got it into the album before losing it.

The next one is Sudbury, which I probably have passed before, but never met at close quarters.

And finally, Birmingham - such a fabulous looking boat - which I met at Alvecote a couple of years back but again, didn't photograph. So it was jolly handy to come back from Brownhills and find it on the 'turn up, tie up and shut up' moorings behind the pub.

I've also taken the opportunity to stick in a new pic of Renfrew, after its recent repaint.

Thursday 11 May 2017

With profuse apologies to Tom Robinson

I have long been a fan of Tom Robinson. Hope and Glory was the first of his albums I bought, back in the mid eighties after seeing some tracks from it on TV. (I still have my TRB 1977-1987 tenth anniversary tour t-shirt too). And on Hope and Glory my favourite track was often 'Back in the Old Country' Surprisingly - and sadly - I couldn't find a video of a live version.* If you want to check out the lyrics, they're here.

Anyway, ever since we decided to go to Brownhills and Walsall for our Easter trip this year, I couldn't get the idea of 'Back in the Black Country' out of my head. Gradually, before we left, during the trip, and afterwards, a new version began to take shape.

I like to think that the timeless tale of a young innocent seduced by spurious glamour into leaving their roots, becoming disillusioned, and returning wiser, but also richer in experience, translates seamlessly from the 1980s Berlin gay scene to the world of historic narrow boating.

So, ladies and gentlemen, with the profoundest and most sincere apologies to Tom Robinson (I rather hope he wouldn't mind really; he's not averse to the odd pastiche himself), I give you...

Back in the Black Country

Had tea with a historic narrow boater
In a pub in Dudley Port
He wore a neckerchief and a big white beard
Showed me pictures of loaded joshers
And a middle Northwich tug
And all the rivet counters stood around looking weird

I met a Friend of President
In his engine hole
Had smuts all on his face, beneath his bowler
He wore pristine moleskin trews
And his collarless shirt was new
It was twenty seventeen but he looked a century older

But that was back in the Black Country, back in the Black Country*
Back in the Black Country, back in the Black Country

Two days on the Jam 'Ole
Mikey hadn't been near a bed
He was knocking back buns and tea just to keep awake
He wore a stained t-shirt
And a lot of dirt
And he looked so tired and tetchy we kept away

Headed down to London on the Bottom Road
In an unconverted Woolwich with no knees
Moored four deep on Vicky Park
But we slipped off after dark
When it was our turn to empty the Elsan and pay the fees

Wish I was back in the Black Country, back in the Black Country
Back in the Black Country, back in the Black Country

Empty pounds on a cold wet day in Brownhills
Carpet on the prop in the Walsall flight
We were stuck half way across
The cill of the second lock
When a van pulls up and the man says 'Yow'lroight?'

Yes, I'm back in the Black Country, back in the Black Country
Back in the Black Country, back in the Black Country

*The reason I wanted to do this was that I seem to recall that the live version often had a triangle part, after the first line of the chorus, which could profitably be played on a piling chain.

Wednesday 10 May 2017

Aqua Incognita 5: The Walsall Canal

A must for us slighly masochistic lovers of post-industrial tristesse...
Maybe because it was to be our last taste of the BCN for a while the Walsall seemed particularly poignantly photogenic.

To quote from the log that I wrote as we went along (another idea copied from Cap'n Pete): Left Walsall Basin 1125. Town Arm 6" down at least. Also canal low. Lovely and sunny. Lots + lots of rubbish - poss worst yet. Rats. Quite a lot of dead fish.
It was great
 The sun shone
 The sky was blue
 The cold wind had dropped
 There was nary another boat to be seen
 We were surrounded by history
 With flashes of modernity
 And the occasional timeless bucolic scene
Based on the brief experience of this trip, I can't wait to get back to the BCN.