... 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.

Monday 31 December 2018

Relaunching (but not, after all,) rebranding!

The Chertsey blog is looking rather tired and old-fashioned (I tried updating the template, a couple of years ago, but couldn't do so without some kind of almighty disruption). It looked pretty old fashioned back when I started it - and I have no idea what possessed me to choose that shade of green.

My posting has been derisory this year - this will be the 54th post of 2018 - worsted only by 2015's measly 44. I'm not alone in this - nearly all the blogs on my blogroll are down, if not on recent years, then certainly on their heyday, and the old boat bloggers seem to have given up entirely.

Yup, we have been hearing about the death of the blog for some years now, superseded, we're told, first by Facebook, then Twitter, and now Instagram and whatever that latest thing is that I haven't even heard of. But as far as I can see, a blog can offer what those can (if not as easily at this end) - a quick picture and a caption, when required - but also the longer pieces, the musings, the commentaries, the (sorry) apologias.

I have been blogging for nearly fourteen years (since April 1st 2006). Weeks may have gone by without a post, but very, very rarely a month. On Warrior and Chertsey combined, I've notched up 1,880 posts over those thirteen years and nine months. That's an average of 11.4 a month, or the equivalent of a post every three days, even taking into account the lean years.

So no way am I giving up. I am, though, going to branch out a bit. I will still blog about boating, on the increasingly rare occasions I get to do any, but will also adumbrate upon autism, shout about Sheffield, and muse upon anything that takes my fancy. I thought this morning about transferring operations over to my Rivetcounter branch, where a lovely new template awaits. But actually, it's not all that easy to read... and I'm not sure what it would mean for recognition on dg's annual blogroll roundup (though actually I can't find any evidence of that having happened for the past couple of years) and... well, I just don't like change, do I.

But - whisper it - I am actually going to try for a post a day in 2019, even if that's just a quick pic and a caption. And I suppose I'd better have a bit of a spring clean of the blogroll and the sidebar. I don't want to expunge you ... but if you haven't posted for six months or more, it might have to be goodbye... But I'd also welcome recommendations for blogs I might add - the criterion for inclusion is simple - it has to be something that I want to read every post of over breakfast.

Let's hope that there won't be even fewer this time next year - but Chertsey won't be disappearing just yet!

Sunday 18 November 2018

Hardcore historic boater in S3?

Of course there could be any number of far more sensible explanations, but you have to wonder ... There's not many who'd choose to fork out eighty-five quid for a large bucket when you can get an actual Porta-Potti with, you know, seals, for considerably less.

It's a mystery.

Thursday 8 November 2018

Just the ticket!

Well, well, well.

It appears that without any argument, any appeal, or any footstamping, East Midlands Trains are going to refund me half the cost of my return ticket for the thirty-five minute delay I suffered en route to Brighton the other week.

Dear Dr Hale
Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding East Midlands Trains
services, including Delay Repay claims.
I am pleased to let you know that your compensation claim has been
processed to the value of £52.60. 

If you encountered a delay when you travelled with us on the 12 October
2018, between SHEFFIELD and LONDON ST PANCRAS INT at 17:29 we are really
sorry that we let you down on this occasion.
Unfortunately, there are times when things go wrong, which means that we
can’t always run the train service we want to and I am really sorry that we
let you down on this occasion. 

This actually seems quite generous to me, as only my outward journey was delayed, and by less than an hour. They've even thrown in an apology - two, in fact! So well done East Midland Trains. My faith in you is restored.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Monday 22 October 2018


Right, let's see if I can remember how to work this blog thing.  What happened, you may well ask. To which I reply, what usyually happens around this time of year, viz. Semester 1.

However, I can keep silent no longer, for I have been inspired by Starcross Jim to write about my latest rail compensation claim. This gives me the opportunity to compare various train companies' web-based processes. You may recall that I successfully (albeit grudgingly) received a refund for my severely delayed journey from Rugby from some shady fly-by-night outfit called 'Northwestern Trains' who appear to have nicked a load of London Midland rolling stock and stuck some cheap stickers on it. I mean to say, Rugby is nowhere near the North West! That delay was weather-related (overheating rails - I was coming back from Braunston at the end of June), as was my latest, not-so-significant, delay.

Last Monday I went to a conference, which was held in Brighton, so naturally I took advantage of this to spend a weekend in Newhaven, and took advantage of the Newhaven pad to not pay (or not get work to pay) for a hotel. Simon-at-work had booked me a super off-peak return to Brighton and I had a reservation on the 1729, so I dashed away straight from work on Friday night after a busy week, to get to the station knackered and with a headache, to see that the 1729 had been cancelled, owing to having hit a tree on the track at Long Eaton (it was very windy, if you recall - well, it was up here, anyway). This sounded to me as if it might be a longwinded (forgive the pun) thing, and as I was already due to arrive in Newhaven at 2212, I was half tempted to go home and try again in the morning. So I went to the ticket office (because the information desk was closed) and asked if I would be able to use the ticket the next day. Absolutely not, he said. If I wanted - or even had to - to travel the next day because of the delay, I would have to buy a new ticket and then apply for a refund on the old one. What, I asked him, if I didn't have the wherewithal to buy two tickets at £105.20 each? He neither knew nor cared, which is a shame, because generally speaking, I quite like East Midlands Trains. Anyway, as it happened, the 1800 was running normally. Sussing that it was likely to be rather crowded, and finding it in the platform but not yet with the doors open, I edged my way into a position by the doors (while everyone else stood docilely behind the yellow line), ready to  grab one of the unreserved seats at the end of the carriage. Success! Because the cancelled train was the 1729, and the next one the 1800, I reckoned that my journey had been delayed by more than that crucial 30 minutes. In fact it was 35, because I should have got the 2000 Thameslink, but ended up getting the 2035

So when I got back, I went to the East Midlands Trains website to fill in a claim. It was very simple, and I didn't need my ticket (which was just as well, as it was consumed by the gate at Brighton) but only my booking reference. The form was perhaps rather too simple though, and I ended up only putting my Sheffield - St Pancras journey, so I'm not sure what they'll make of that. I've just checked and they haven't emailed me. I'll keep you posted as to what if anything ensues. As I didn't pay for the ticket in the first place any refund will be a bonus (although it was me that put up with the delay, so I guess any compensation is rightfully mine. And I did, naturally, have to purchase a packet of pains au chocolat to cheer myself up.)

Interestingly, my return journey was routed via Bedford - apparently the only direct Bedford - Sheffield train, certainly of the evening, at 1943. I thought this was a clever ruse to avoid leaving St Pancras outside the super off-peak period (i.e. before 1900), but in fact this train got to St Pancras at 1851, perfect (barring wrong turnings) for the 1901, although I suspect that would be too fast a turnaround to be a suggested route. Given that the only restriction on my ticket was that I go via City Thameslink (I'm guessing that's a proxy for Thameslink) I decided that if there was a cock-up, I'd rather be stuck at St Pancras, with direct trains every half hour, than in Bedford, where I have never been, and there were no other direct trains - so I decided to give Bedford a miss I'm afraid, and got home ahead of schedule.

Back in the days when I used to go to Huddersfield, Thameslink trains were the most horrible, manky trains you ever encountered. Now they have fabulously new swish modern things that are open all the way through, and whenever I travel on them, nearly empty.

A stirring return to form, I'm sure you'll agree.

Sunday 2 September 2018

Geoffrey update

When Jim got Geoffrey, we had no idea how he would feel about the boat. Jim was very concerned that he'd be freaked out by Alvecote's narrow pontoons. The Alvecote weekend was a good opportunity to see how he managed the boat - but with the added concern of how would he manage all the people.
Well, he did absolutely brilliantly, on both counts. The only problem was keeping him on the boat and not constantly running along the pontoon to see people. He turned out to be a worse tart for attention than even Ricky (and with the advantage of being a more convenient height for head rubbing without needing to bend down). And everybody loved Geoffrey - but I kept giving Ricky special loves so he wouldn't feel left out. Geoffrey was more confident on the pontoon than Ricky - who is actually quite reluctant on the long pontoon, when there's not a boat either side. Geoffrey is certainly a quick learner, as the breed is reputed to be.

Since he has been back in Newhaven we have learnt another thing about Geoffrey which is both reassuring and worrying - he loves the water and is a strong swimmer. Reassuring that he can swim, if he were to fall in - but worrying in that fear of the water is the only thing that keeps Ricky on the boat when we're going along. It looks horribly as though Geoffrey may need to be physically restrained.

The one thing we didn't try last weekend was starting the engine while Geoffrey was on the boat. Plenty of other people's were running though and he was completely unfazed.

Saturday 1 September 2018

Who taught it that?

I use the Google Maps app for satnav these days, and there's something quite interesting about the way it directs you to Alvecote. It doesn't get everything right - No Man's Heath becomes 'No Man's Health' which is marginally amusing.

When directing you down Alvecote Lane, it pronounces it as it's spelt. But when it says Alvecote Marina, it pronounces it the old boatman's way: 'Awcutt'. Someone must have taught it this. How does that work?

Friday 31 August 2018

I clearly never learn

One of the beauties of having had a blog for over twelve years (since April 2006, new readers!) is that every now and then it reminds me that a feeling, or opinion or experience that I thought was new was in fact just me repeating myself. One such example is my feelings about the Alvecote gathering which I wrote about a couple of days ago. Randomly clicking through old entries, like you do, I came across this from 2013 - in which I express pretty much exactly the same views. Yet until I reread it, I had pretty much forgotton having even felt it, let alone said it.

Then I looked at the previous post, in which Nick on Aldgate and Mick on Cassiopeia had visited to take down details of the nifty little device that Chertsey's PD2 has to throw the decompression lever at the right moment when you're in the process of hand starting the engine.
Apparently only Chertsey has this, but other PD2 owners envy it.  Five years ago the asked about it, and I said yes, of course they could draw/photograph/borrow it...  and last week they were still asking about it...

Thursday 30 August 2018

A £100 ball of string

Ah, but not just any old ball of string. Two hundred and twenty metres of 10mm synthetic cotton rope. The long winter evenings will just fly by.

I set out to look for 10mm Hempex, which Chertsey's current top strings are made of. After nearly seven years, they're still going strong, and we've just reclothed the boat with them again. The fact that they're green and grimy is my fault, for never having attempted to wash them. The hooks, however, have shed their galvanising, and all gone rusty. Of course I could remove the hooks, wash the strings in a pillowcase, and attach new hooks - but then what would I do for a winter project?

Also, Chertsey needs sidecloth strings. The 'temporary' blue polypropylene which has been in use since 2012 is finally giving up the ghost, shedding blue fibres everywhere. I'd hoped originally to splice these direct onto the sidecloths, but I fear that would be impractical, especially at the speed I splice.

Anyway, I found Hempex eventually, but then I found this, and I thought that - at least when it's new - it would look even better. Especially if I give the cloths a proper scrub too.

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Why do I do it?

I found myself wondering, on Monday afternoon, why I go to Alvecote year after year. Now, there's nothing wrong with the Alvecote do, if you like that sort of thing. What it does, it does really well. But I don't like that sort of thing. I never have.

OK, I like catching up with people. I like showing off the boat. I like sitting around in the sun. I can do all that at Braunston.

I don't like crowds. I don't like raucousness. And above all I DO NOT LIKE SIXTIES HITS* BLASTING OUT OF LOUDSPEAKERS ACROSS THE SITE ALL AFTERNOON. OK, it's not quite Guantanamo or North Korea (but enough to bring both of those to mind), but it's certainly close to my worst Butlins nightmare. The music may be too loud at Braunston, but at least you can get away from it. Alvecote is so intense, co concentrated; so confined. Braunston is spread out along the towpath, plus there's a bigger site to wander around.

By Monday afternoon, I had definitely had enough, and was mightily relieved when it finally stopped. But it was a good weekend on the whole. It's good to be able to chat over breakfast with different people every day, if less good trying to chat over the music in the evening. The gin bar, which I'd been looking forward to, was disappointing this year - there seemed a lot less enthusiasm and panache behind it. In fact there was no one behind it when I tried to get served and I was driven out by the volume of the music to seek beer downstairs. There was a decent variety of beer still, so that was ok.

There were lots of people and boats there this year who hadn't been before, including many of what I think of as the 'old guard' - or perhaps less rudely, pioneers, including Swan, Bath and Aquarius (which won the award for best turned out boat, which was good, to see it go to a Grand Union). Most people certainly did seem to enjoy themselves, but I suppose the proof will be in how many of them come again next year. It's a bit different for us, as we're there already - although on Monday afternoon I was seriously considering staying away next year, I'm sure I'll have forgotten by then.

We did not participate in the parade - the ever-popular amusing commentary is another thing that repels me somewhat - but did our best to provide entertainment by clothing the boat up on Monday. It was good to be able to do it without time pressure (other than that presented by the weather forecast). Chertsey is now de-Erewashed, with deckboard, mast and stands up. We'd toyed with running with them down long term, as there's still quite a lot of headroom inside, but it is harder to keep the cloths weatherproof that way. Getting the heavy black cloths on again was lent added urgency by the fact that the lightweight translucents had not only blown up in places, but have developed a lot of holes, mainly from rubbing on the top planks. We put them on in rather a hurry in the srping, you might recall, and forgot (or neglected) the tippet - that narrow strip that goes along the top plank and protects the cloths from wearing under the strings.

This is us on Sunday, when it rained all day.
I was glad then of the natural light afforded by the translucents at any rate. It is now of course very dark inside (we have one small area of window tpwards the back), but hopefully watertight.

*And I do, on the whole, quite like sixties hits.

Monday 20 August 2018

A lost village and a rediscovered town

It's said that distance lends enchantment, and it's certainly true that since leaving Newhaven as a resident, and returning as a visitor, I see and appreciate aspects of the town I never did before. Having a dog (or two) certainly helps as well.

When I lived in Newhaven, my day to day focus was on the run down town centre (now in fact so run down that it's gradually being converted to residential, while the shopping is largely out of town - although following the demise of the one supermarket left in the town centre, two new convenience stores have sprung up); the dirty ring road and the general air of neglect.

But as a visitor - and dog walker - I now see places I didn't realise existed in twenty-five years of living there, like the sandy east beach revealed at low tide.
And while I had occasionally visited Tidemills. and walked the seafront between Newhaven and Bishopstone, repeated forays start to really develop the sense of place and history.

A tide mill was established here in around 1760. The course of the river Ouse had recently been altered, leaving a creek running parallel to the coastline which formed a ready made mill pond. It filled with each tide, and then the water was released in a controlled way to power the mill. Later, in the nineteenth century, an additional pond was dug, which increased the capacity of the mill and the length of time it could operate on each tide. Flour was taken to London by sea. The C19 mill owners built a village for their workers, which had a population of around seventy. The mill closed in 1893, following storm damage, and was demolished in 1910. People continued to live in the village, however, until 1940, despite the cottages having been condemned as unfit for human habitation in the thirties. In 1940 the village was evacuated and the remaining buildings demolished so that they couldn't provide cover for an invasion.

The Sussex Archaeology Society have been digging and recording the site since 2006.
The best history of the village that I have been able to find online is this one. Click through sections 1 - 6.

In the 1920s, Chailey Heritage 'craft hospital' established an outpost at Tidemills, so that their charges - disabled children - could benefit from the sun, sea and sea air. The concrete foundations of their buildings can also be seen - with the 'new' millpond in the background.
And there is an amazing landscape of maritime flora as well.

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Ricky has a new friend

For a while, we've thought it would be nice for Ricky to have another dog to run around with (and hopefully to settle down with as well...).  We're now complete, besotted, converts to sighthounds, so Jim started looking into various lurcher rescues.

And, to cut (appropriately) to the chase, here is Geoffrey.

Geoffrey is a galgo, originally rescued in Spain, and rehomed through Lozza's Lurcher Rescue in Hertfordshire.

There was a big hole in my knowledge where galgos should have been, which I have rapidly made up for - how could we not have heard of them? What I have learnt so for is this - galgos are an ancient breed of hunting dog, originally Celtic and introduced into Spain from France (hence the name, meaning that they're from Gaul). Over the centuries the British greyhound has diverged as its been bred for different purposes and kinds of racing. Looking at Geoffrey, he does have the look about him of something a Medici would have had on a lead, or an Spanish noble in a Velasquez painting.

Indeed, galgos were originally the hunting dogs of the nobility. but not so these days. Like many animals in Spain, they are not treated well, to say the least. They are used for hunting and competitive coursing, bred in vast numbers and all but the best racers abandoned - and even those chosen for competetion kept hungry, cruelly punished if they don't perform well, and abandoned or killed when their coursing career is over at two or three years old. This article from the National Geographic gives a  relatively unsensationalised and unsentimental account.

Geoffrey was very nervous at first but is already settling down. He's very gentle and placid, even a little timid, and Ricky is certainly top dog. Geoffrey isn't even interested in getting on the sofa (yet) and you can see from the state of his elbows that he's been used to lying on a concrete floor. But he does seem to feel able to relax...
He likes going for walks and walks well on the lead. He's very friendly to other dogs, and to most people; just a bit wary of men, and he doesn't like sudden noises. We're hoping that Ricky's example will help Geoffrey to become more chilled.

Galgos differ from greygounds in a number of ways (this is a bit like the Woolwich/Northwich thing). They have much greater stamina for a start, and this is reflected in a different kind and distribution of their muscles. They're a bit stockier, and their hips are higher than their shoulders, and their heads proportionately a bit smaller looking than a greyhound's, giving them that old fashioned painting look. And they have very long thin tails.

Ricky is, at our best estimate, a 'racing whippet' - half whippet, half greyhound. Geoffrey is considerably bigger than him, although still not as big, I don't think, as a big greyhound. We'll have to wait until he meets Buzz to check that out.

Early days yet, but Geoffrey is already starting to feel like part of the family - let's hope he feels that way too.

Friday 10 August 2018

Harland and Wolff

Apologies for the lack of a witty title. Diamond Geezer set me off this morning. He's visiting points across London, travelling from east to west, along the line of latitude 51.5 degrees north. This is the line of latitude that Greenwich is on, and he doesn't see why its line of longitude (albeit that that's zero) should get all the attention.

Now, I've always had trouble pinning down just where the Woolwich shipyard was, but I reckoned it must be somewhere roughly near that line. And it was while searching online for its co-ordinates (unsuccessfully) I came across a website I hadn't previously seen, dedicated to Harland and Wolff.

It's a bit thin on the Woolwich operation, which does in the scheme of things seem to have been rather small beer - from what I can tell, although they did refurbishments, no massive ships were built here, but largely barges, lighters and of course narrow boats.  The yard was in operation from 1924 - 1972. One interesting suggestion that the site makes is that there are now probably more Harland and Wolff built boats on the English canal system than anywhere else.

The site isn't fantastically written, and its coverage of narrow boats is quite superficial, but the few pictures make it well worth a look. There is a list of boats (although it doesn't distinguish between motors and butties) but the dates on it (assuming they are delivery dates) don't tie up with those provided by Faulkner - for example, it shows Chertsey's birthday as 25th February 1937, whereas I've previously had it as 29th January.

Now, if I could just find those co-ordinates, I could finally track the place down and make a pilgrimage...

Monday 6 August 2018

And then off to the seaside

This is a bit of a post for Starcross Jim. It has rail routes, refunds, and Herefordshire.

A few weeks ago I agreed to go to Swansea to act an an 'external expert' for the validation of a new Foundation Year. Then as the time got nearer, and I contemplated the five hour train journey and hotel stay, I wished I hadn't.

But then last week I went, and I was glad I did.

I spent most of the journey there immersed in the validation paperwork, coming up with what turned out to be sensible questions about it, and realised that I really am, well, a bit of an expert on the programme design and quality assurance side of Foundation Years (and learning more all the time).

And I discovered something - and discovered something about the National Rail website in the process. I discovered that I didn't have to go via Brimingham and/or Bristol. I discovered that I could go via Stockport. Not only does this avoid New Street station (a boon if ever there was one) but it's cheaper. When I was up and down to my mother's place in Newport, the National Rail website never told me that this route existed, even though the train stops at Newport. It only offered the trains that terminated at Cardiff (where my via Stockport train also stopped).
I've just checked, and it still doesn't show the Milford Haven train that I caught. OK, it takes a bit longer, meandering through Shropshire and Herefordshire, but as I say it's cheaper, and you don't have to worry about whether the races are on at Cheltenham (I've somehow managed to go that way on Gold Cup day twice. Horrendous).

So I had a pleasant journey there and discovered that the University had booked me into a hotel in Mumbles. I used to hate staying in hotels - the strangeness of it - but a very strange thing completely changed my feelings about it. It was Bill Bryson, in one of his travel books, writing that whenever he arrived in a hotel, the first thing he did was run a bath and empty all the individual bottles/sachets etc into it, on the basis that they're all the same. And although I didn't do that (there wasn't a bath, for a start, but I brought the little bottles home), that thought has completely changed the way I view staying in a hotel.

Anyway it was a nice room (although the shower was very feeble - say what you like about south west (or more west now) Sheffield, but, excellent water pressure - and before dinner I went for a brisk stroll along the prom one way, and after dinner I went the other. In between I had an excellent meal and even a glass of wine, which I have yet to learn whether Swansea will pay for.

The next day, after an excellent breakfast (I have also solved the problem of what to do with a hotel buffet breakfast - I make myself a toast bacon sandwich) I was whisked away by taxi to the University - to a building that was surprisingly run down compared to the majority of places I've been to lately in England which are seemingly always in the throes of building and refurbishment. Anyway, I quite liked the grubby paint and worn lino. I then met a splendid young chap called Phil, who is 'passionate about curriculum and assessment design' so we were bound to get on. We bonded over the unsung virtues of QA processes. Then I got to ask my intelligent questions, we had a coffee and a chat about the class politics of Foundation Years, and then it was another cab to the station and a smooth journey back, marred only by the fact that I didn't have a book and my iPad battery had run out.

And talking of trains - as we were - I received a full refund last week from North Western Trains (or whatever the shoddily rebadged London Midland fleet are now called. What happened? I loved London Midland) for my 65 minute delayed train from Rugby to Sheffield via Tamworth. However, they couldn't do it entirely gracefully - I got a shirty email saying that they would grudgingly pay out this time despite the fact that I hadn't defaced my ticket in the photo of it that I sent them. What do they think I'm going to do with a ticket that's only valid on the day of issue anyway? But maybe I shouldn't moan too much as I've just noticed that they've refunded the cost of the entire return ticket even though I made the return journey without a hitch. Or at least they say they have - I haven't checked the bank statement yet.

Friday 3 August 2018

Both ends but not the middle

There are plenty of canals where I've been to one end but not the other. There are some I haven't been to at all. There are a lot where I've been to both ends and all points between. There may even be one where I've been in the middle but not to either end (although I can't think of one off hand).

But I don't think there's another one where I've seen both ends but not the middle. To be fair, in this case the middle doesn't exist.

Having been moored on one end of the Cromford Canal, at Langley Mill, at the end of May, last week I visited the other end at - surprise! - Cromford, this being just a twenty minute stroll away from our awayday destination of Matlock Bath.

I can report that it is indeed a canal.
And a pretty one to boot.
Sadly I didn't get to see much of it as we had to rish back for our lunch dinner, having spent rather too long at Cromford's other major attraction.
This was Cromford Mill, immortalised in O Level history as the home of Richard Arkwright's water frame - in the late eighteenth century a significant advance in spinning technology which ushered in the age of the large scale factory... but now the home of a range of artisan and antiques shops which captured my attention now just as Hargreaves, Arkwright and Kay did in my schooldays.

And here I bought my own little piece of history
in readiness for when I actually get a nice, wooden, front door, as well as a really nice worn old horse brass for the boat.

Sunday 29 July 2018

Oh I do like to be beside the... riverside

Well, our day trip destination seemed to get both my readers guessing (not Adrian, because he already knew - but I'm sure would have got it if we hadn't already discussed it) - but (ex) Stacross Jim got it in one - we were in Matlock Bath, and what a splendid place it was. Like Stourport, it's a riverside town (or possibly even village) so far from the sea that it became the next best thing for the local populace, and  has taken on some of the attributes and atmosphere of the real thing. 

It was such a gorgeous sunny day that I didn't visit the aquarium (with the town's last remaining petrifying well, 'a source of curiosity and amazement'),
or the lead mining museum (whose website doesn't appear to be working), or any of the many amusement arcades tastefully lining the main parade.

But I did have an ice cream in the 'secret garden' behind Hall's shop,
purchased for one and all in a tradition established in Cleethorpes in 2015, by the Boss, and pie and chips in a very traditional seaside style pie and fish restaurant - you could tell we weren't very far from home though, because there was Hendo's on the table, which was good, because thanks to Adrian and Linda, I do like it on my mushy peas. And after lunch five of us, including the Boss, wnet out on a rowing boat, expertly propelled by our chief administrator, who honed his skills kayaking on the Bridgewater Canal.
We rounded off an all too short day with a stroll back along the Lovers Walk.

In the morning, a colleague and I made a detour to somewhere else entirely to get a canal and tot-shopping fix.

Thursday 26 July 2018

Like Stourport, but even better

No one else understood what I meant, but that was my verdict on this year's works outing destination. Previously we've been to Cleethorpes (twice) and Saltaire, but this beat them both (although Saltaire was good).

We had ice cream in a splendidly opulent ice cream shop, a slap up fish lunch dinner, went boating on the river, walked along the canal, and took in some industrial heritage and antique purchasing (although we did have to stroll into the next town for those). There were plenty of indoor attractions that we might have taken in if the weather hadn't been so brilliant, and outdoor ones that we might have done had we not been too stingy.

A glorious, weird and wonderful place, and only an hour in the charabanc (hardly time to open a second bottle of  brown ale).

I'd go there again.
Like Stourport, only better. What do you think?

Wednesday 25 July 2018

What's in a name?

I like a bit of nominative determinism.
One of the best ever examples of the name being suited to the job was that of  Lee King, who was the BW employee responsible for the maintenance of locks on the GU.

But while we're on the subject of bins, this one's quite good.

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Fifty percent extra, free

This is another post for my Sheffield reader.

I got a leaflet through the door yesterday:

Every household in Sheffield is getting a new bin. A third one. That's a fifty percent increase in binnage across the city. Tens if not hundreds of thousands more bins in Sheffield's front gardens, alleyways, passageways and gennels, and on the pavements.

The new bin is for recycling tins, glass and plastic, as this illustration helpfully shows:

Actually, I love the illustrations. If you look at it through a jeweller's eyeglass (and why wouldn't you?) the bottles and tins are all labelled - 'milk', 'wine', 'baked beans', 'pop' and the irresistible can of 'drink'.

This is not to get us to recycle more (in fact, it might even lead to recycling less). I can't see it saving money (those bins can't be cheap). But it will make things considerably easier for the waste contractors, Veolia.

Currently we can recycle all those things (indeed, Sheffield City Council seem far less fussy than Lewes District, who would leave your whole boxful behind if it had a yogurt pot - EVEN AN EXPLICITLY RECYCLABLE POLYPROPYLENE ONE - in it. Currently we have a blue bin and a blue box. Once a fortnight we put them both out, with bottles etc in one, and paper etc in the other. Which is which is up to the householder, depending on what they create more of. I actually don't use my box at all - I just alternate what I put out, as I don't even half fill a bin in a fortnight.

Now, the boxes are a bit of a pain, it's true. Stuff blows/falls out of them, or gets soaked. They have - or had - elasticated covers, but these are all falling apart now and blowing about like something you wouldn't want to get on your prop. In case you were wondering what to do with the soon to be redundant box, the council have thoughtfully stepped in with the answer:

Overall, then, greater recycling capacity, hooray. But as a Green friend pointed out, this could actually mean less recycling. Each recycling bin will now be emptied every 28 days (with refuse collection continuing fortnightly as now, inbetween) - that's four weeks between collections of paper, and four weeks between collections of bottles and cans. Say you threw out very little paper, but lots of bottles and cans, you might have had more than half a bin of bottles and cans every fortnight; maybe even a full one. And your box of paper would have been collected every fortnight as well. So when your brown bin is full in three weeks and there's a week to go before it's collected, where are the rest of the the bottles and cans going to go? Into the black dustbin, of course. Ditto with paper and card. Not that Veolia will mind - they've an incinerator to keep going after all.

Meanwhile I now have to find room for a third bin that I don't need and will never fill.

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Archaeology of a road

This is what my road looked like a couple of months ago:

This is what it looked like as they prepared it for resurfacing:

This is what it looks like now:

At least they've left the pavement alone:

One of the (very many) conditions of the original lease on the house in 1899 was that the lessee, at his own expense, would 'make and complete ... a good flagged footpath ... of the width of eight feet.'

Here's an interesting regional (or is it a class) observation.

The steps to the front door:

The steps to the back door:

Friday 13 July 2018

Where's my windlass?

Introducing Aurora Rose (already known as Rory), who I just know is going to be a boater - look at that right arm.

Congratulations to Sebastian and Izzi. What else can I say?

Sunday 8 July 2018

The best thing about gender-neutral toilets

I've just spent two days at the Foundation Year Network Annual Conference - an excellent opportunity to share ideas and experiences within our misunderstood little corner of HE, and to be inspired by what some people are doing.

The conference was hosted by the University of Nottingham, whose Students' Union building has the most fantastic gender neutral - or indeed any variety of - toilets I've yet encountered. A long corridor of self-contained, private, spacious rooms each with their own toilet, washbasin and hand-dryer. One day all public toilets will be like this (I wish).

The building we were in had a similar set-up, but on a smaller scale. As I approached I saw two blokes standing about in the vague vicinity. 'Is this a queue?' I asked. 'Yes' they said. And in my head I smiled a big smile and thought 'welcome to my world.'

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Where's my widget?

Bastard Blogger...

Hi everyone,

To make room for some exciting updates coming soon to Blogger, we’re simplifying the platform to enhance the blogging experience for all of our users.

Updates include:
- Changes to features: G+ widget integrations, OpenID, and Localization & Blogspot ccTLDS.
- Retiring features: Third Party Gadgets, Next Blog, Polls Widget, and Textcube.
- Introducing new features: HTTPS for Custom Domains, Multilogin, Spanner, Google Takeout, and Video Management.

... have disappeared my 'Daisypath' 'ticker'. How will I keep track of how long I've owned Chertsey now? (Yes, I actually noticed it was gone when I went to check it for just that reason.)

But hey, it's all for a better blogging experience, so that's ok then.

PS. Eight years, nine months, one week and five days.

Tuesday 26 June 2018

Blazing Braunston

So, it's all over for another year, bar actually taking the boat away.

In some ways, this year's Braunston might have been a bit underwhelming - public attendance was certainly down considerable, following the doubling of the parking charge to £20. A couple of long-established traders have decided to call it a day - the fabulous brass stall where I got Chertsey's copper urn being one I knew about; the absence of the hippy clothes stall next to the toilets came as a surprise (fortunately I have sufficient supplies of patchwork trousers for now. Just.)

I don't know the final number of boats, but it felt very quiet and low-key on the Friday. Quite a few familiar faces weren't there - but then some new ones were - Gort, Daphne, Pintail, Seaford, being just a few I can think of off the top of my head.

But we had a fabulous time. Many aspects were excellent - David Daines's commentary on the parades was extremely knowledgeable and very professional (although we still weren't tempted to parade - the heavy handed marshalling has somewhat spoiled it - and does nothing to reduce the chaos - if anything it exacerbated it. Some people were complaining at a two and a half hour parade - should have been there in 2010, I say.). The beer tent music just might have been a bit less over-amplified (although we have long learnt our lesson and sat a long way away). The beer tent and surrounding seemed less crowded than in previous years and I thought that people might have made good on their threats to go to the pub instead. They still ran out of beer by Sunday evening though, so either they planned well for reduced numbers, or there were more people than it looked.

Our mooring by Butchers Bridge - right by the bridge, towards the marina main entrance - was lovely. It was the last available bankside space when Jim moved the boat last Tuesday - another reason for staying put. It was nice and shady, which was great for Jim and Ricky, but a bit frustrating for me, seeing the sun shining down on all the other boats but having to wait until about four o'clock before it got to me. The weather was fantastic, absolutely amazing. We had ice creams and a beanburger, Bass and cheesy chips. We had an impromptu Friday night towpath party (the very best sort) with Sarah and Andy on Enceladus (and the musical accompaniment of 78s of course), Pete of Renfrew and his old friend Mike, and Alan and Angie on Purton, with beer, G&T (thanks Angie!), nibbles and then, thanks to Jim, fish and chips from the village. When Pete Harrison stopped by for a chat, my weekend was complete - and it was only Friday night.

Other visitors included Bones (with Boots); Vicky and Craig whom we haven't seen for ages, but just happened to be on a hireboat holiday that week, the Moomins, Sarah from Little Venice and probably someone really important that I've forgotten.

This is how I described the weekend to my workmates: 'Basically a lot of people bring their old boats to a village in Northamptonshire. We spend the first day polishing our brass and dressing the boats up, then we spend the following days buying more brass, comparing the brass things we've bought, counting each other's rivets and sniffing each other's engines, drinking beer and complaining that the music in the beer tent is too loud. Braver souls parade their boats round while the rest of us catch up with friends and acquaintances (and drink beer).' Does that about sum it up?
Hard work, this socialising

This was the 13th Braunston in a row that I've attended - and I discovered with surprise when I read the programme, that's thirteen out of just sixteen that have been held in total.

Tuesday 12 June 2018

Would you like a leaflet?

I've just printed another little batch of  Chertsey information sheets. These started out as my A3 display 'boards' but I thought it would be nice to have something people could take away. It's also useful for quickly giving people information or contact details - or when asking for photos. And as it's been a while since I've posted any information about Chertsey and her history, I thought it wouldn't go amiss. The original has a photo, but you can just substitute the one from the blog masthead.



Chertsey was built for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company (GUCCCo) by Harland and Wolff at their North Woolwich shipyard, and delivered in January 1937 with the fleet number 130. This was part of the last big expansion of the Grand Union fleet, eighty-six pairs of boats, built between 1936-8, at Woolwich (motors and butties), Northwich (motors) and Rickmansworth (butties), with a deeper (4'9”) hold than their predecessors, and Chertsey is therefore a Large Woolwich motor boat. All the large motor boats were built of riveted steel (although Woolwiches originally had wooden cabins) and all 86 are still extant in some form. It is likely that the names for these boats were more or less randomly selected from a railway gazetteer, and they are sometimes referred to today as 'Town Class' boats.

Chertsey would have carried a variety of loads for GUCCCo, between London and Birmingham, the East Midlands, and also to Northampton and beyond onto the River Nene.  These would include coal from the Midlands to London, and imported raw materials such as timber, metals and grain which could be loaded directly from ships in the Regents Canal Dock (now Limehouse Basin). When waterways transport was nationalised in 1948 Chertsey passed into the British Waterways South Eastern Fleet, and continued carrying into the early 1960s.

Chertsey was sold into private ownership in 1962, and for a while was registered as a houseboat, although there is no evidence that she was ever converted. During this period, she attended a number of rallies, and apparently had an organ in the hold, which was played at gatherings. We would particularly like to fill in details of what Chertsey was doing 1962-69.

In 1969, Chertsey was purchased by Richard Barnett, who owned the boat until his death in 2009. Under his ownership, Chertsey undertook some short term carrying contracts, including being one of the last boats to bring coal (from Gopsall on the Ashby Canal) to John Dickinson's paper mill at Croxley on the Grand Union, in August 1970. From the 1980s however, Chertsey was more or less abandoned at Valencia Wharf, Oldbury, although Richard Barnett was never willing to sell her.

Chertsey's engine is an air cooled Petter PD2 as fitted by British Waterways in 1960 to replace the original raw water cooled National DM2. One battery charged through a dynamo (rather than a modern alternator) powers the electric start, and lighting in the back cabin. The cabin was rebuilt in the late 1970s in solid oak (reclaimed library shelves) on the original frames, and later skinned in steel by Les Allen. The engine room is original as far as we know, and its roof shows the scars of previous exhausts and the G.U. toilet vent.

Since purchasing Chertsey in 2009, the following works have been undertaken to restore and improve the boat:

·        Steelwork repairs to the hull (particularly the knees, chine angle and counter) and overplating to the back end/engine room baseplate by Keith Ball
·        New oak gunnels, front cants, handrails, other woodwork, top planks and cloths by Pete Boyce.
·        Paintwork by Martin O’Callaghan and signwriting by Dave Moore

Chertsey's unusual livery represents the brief transitional period between British Waterways taking ownership of the Grand Union fleet, and the development of their own distinctive yellow and blue colour scheme a year or so later.

Chertsey has now retired as a working boat, and is used purely for pleasure. The hold is not converted with any permanent structure, but camping arrangements under the cloths provide plenty of flexible space for summer boating, which has evolved over time. Most recently we have built a platform in the cratch to provide additional sleeping/storage space and easy access to the fore end, and begun ballasting with concrete blocks rather than coal.


I have a number of photographs of Chertsey at various stages of her history which can’t be publicly displayed for copyright or other reasons – please ask if you would like to see the album. And if you have taken any nice or interesting photos of Chertsey – either recently or in the past – it would be greatly appreciated if you could share them by emailing to  
[my email address] – please also get in touch if you would like to know more about Chertsey in particular or historic narrow boats more generally.
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