... 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.

Sunday 15 September 2019

Tenth anniversary

The counter is clearly not going to tick it off before the day's out, but today is the tenth anniversary of my purchase of Chertsey. On one hand it seems extraordinary that ten years could have passed so quickly (but that's what happend when you get old); on the other, so much has happened within that time. For just one example - when I signed the papers for Chertsey I had never set foot in the city that is now my home.
So here's a photo of Chertsey back in 2009, nine days after the purchase was finalised, when we moved her for the first time.

And here's my post from this day ten years ago.

Sunday 1 September 2019

Where did it go?

I was walking down the road earlier today, and it felt chilly. I went out to water my geraniums, and noticed how long the shadows were. And I thought: it's September.
But how can it be? Where was the summer? And I don't just mean that the weather wasn't very nice - I know there were a couple of weeks when it was cool and wet, but I think there were plenty of hot sunny days too. But it still didn't feel like I'd had a summer; a defineable period, the season I so look forward to every year.

And I think I know why that is. It's because I haven't done anything to define the summer. With hardly any boating, no big trips or projects, one day was much like another, and one summer's day much like one at any other time of year (except with better weather). And if you don't do something distinctive, you don't make memories, and if you don't make memories, you don't remember, and if you don't remember, it effectively didn't happen.

A day might seem to drag when you have nothing to do, but it's the action-packed ones that seem longest when you look back on them. There's a lesson there, and I shall try to learn it well and make the most of next summer, and all the summers after.

I did get my dissertation finished though.

Sunday 25 August 2019

Tuesday 20 August 2019

The age of the train

I unexpectedly had an exciting little travel adventure on Sunday. When I'd arrived on Thursday evening, I'd been intrigued to see this train at Brighton station, and when I left Newhaven on Sunday, it was the 1438, so I got to ride on it.
This is the oldest train in regular service on the British mainland network. It's a class 313, which is the oldest class of train still in regular service, and it's 313201, the first of that class to have been built. It was built in 1976 making it forty-three years old.
What first caught my eye of course is that's painted in facsimile BR livery. This was done a couple of years ago in honour of its status as the first 313, and when it finally is retired, it's off to the National Railway Museum at York. Southern bought up a number of these trains in 2010 to run on the lines along the coast east and west of Brighton, freeing up their newer rolling stock for longer-distance routes. I recall it being quite controversial at the time, as the 313s were seen as old and tatty, and (shock horror) have no toilets. I've probably ridden on 313201 many times when I lived in Newhaven, but never previously knowingly.

Once I got to Brighton, I changed onto the Thameslink. Now Thameslink used to have really scungy trains, but now they have shiny new and very swish class 700 Siemens Desiro City trains, which they introduced between 2015 and 2018, so I reckon they must be among the newest on the network. And I'm pretty sure Brighton is the only place they'd intersect.

I was a bit disappointed to find that my train to Sheffield from St Pancras wasn't one of the slam door and sea toilet HSTs that often seem(ed) to run on a Sunday. They have such comfy (if somewhat saggy) seats. Also, it's amusing watching the young people not knowing how to get out.

I am horribly afraid that I have started down the road track that leads to being a trainspotter. I have nothing against trainspotters; indeed, I am in awe of them. But it must be so time-consuming. And I haven't even spotted all the Grand Union large motor boats yet.

Sunday 18 August 2019

Old and new

This afternoon I travelled on the oldest train in regular service on the British mainland rail network, and then on one of the newest. Where did I change?

(And no, you can't answer if I've already told you!)
Blogging every day week in 2019 - see what nonsense I've written lately here

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Eyes down

Sorry I've gone seriously quiet. I'm writing up my MEd dissertation - strange as it may seem, the biggest bit of empirical research I've ever done. I hope to surface in time for the Alvecote weekend, when I shall be celebrating my first ten years with Chertsey. See you then!

Thursday 1 August 2019

Books I read in July

Normally I write this post as the month progresses, but I haven't this time. Instead, I have a pile of books I've read, with the Kindle squashed between them half way down. So although this is a long list (too long to go into detail about every one) it may yet not be complete. And the reason it's longer than usual - I had some holiday in July, plus I was laid up with a nasty cold for a few days, which piled them on, and finally, many of them are fairly lightweight, easy, comforting reads. Not all though. So - not in chronological order - here are (some of) the books I read in July.

Alexander McCall Smith:
The Sunday Philosophy Club
The Forgotten Affairs of Youth
The Charming Quirks of Others
The Lost Art of Gratitude
The Comfort of Saturdays
Friends, Lovers, Chocolate
A half dozen Isabel Dalhousie novels - comfort reading at its finest, and you learn about a very different Edinburgh from Ian Rankin's. I am counting this as acclimatisation for my new External Examining job there.

Graham Masterton Ghost Music
Tiresome and repetitive ghost story, which I picked up because I thought it was by someone else entirely. It's American, but enlivened by a scene in a London pub in which there is waitress service. Research, Graham.

Ann Grainger A Particular Eye for Villainy
The first of the Ben and Lizzie Ross Victorian detective series. Again, undemanding, comforting stuff.

All the above were from the local library. Then while I was in Lewes at the beginning of the month, I picked up three in the Oxfam shop:

Tessa Hadley The Past
Quite pleased that I picked up the - presumably deliberate - reference to The Go-Between - because this is very much a novel about how the past is another country. One of those books about family relationships and secrets - the biggest of which we are left to work out for ourselves - with engaging characters.

Michele Hanson What the Grown Ups Were Doing
Memoir of growing up in a comfortably off, non-observant Jewish family in Ruislip. I found it rather dull, and thought it skirted round the big or interesting issues, but Jim is currently finding it hilariuous, so there you are. 

Charles Loft Last Trains: Dr Beeching and the Death of Rural England
Rather a sensational title for a sober, but very readable, account of government policy on the railways from the end of the second world war to privatisation, which is to a degree an exculpation of the maligned doctor. What leapt out at me was the fact that when lines like the Bluebell were closed, many of those campaigning for and working on their subsequent preservation were teenagers - just as they were on the canals. Somehow that seems a very important thing to bear in mind.

And then there were the emergency and/or impulse Kindle purchases:
Laura James Odd Girl Out
Memoir of growing up autistic and female. After the shock of recognition it's almost strangely dull, because it was 90% like reading about myself. It's good to be reminded though that I'm not alone, and it's not all my fault.

Lisa Jewell
The Truth About Melody Browne
I Found You
The Third Wife
The Girls
Jewell is quite good at suspense and weirdish chick-thrillers (which I think may be her later work); less enjoyable on the family stuff which tends towards the mawkish. The Girls was particularly good.

D.S. Butler Bring Them Home
Police thing about missing children. I haven't bothered reading any more by them.

Damian Boyd Dead Lock
Only bought it because it had a picture of a lock. Not very good. 

Joanne Harris Different Class
Fabulous, sinister, funny and very sad book with some marvellous characters.

Tuesday 30 July 2019

So, this is what I do in the day job

I teach these people. I support them. I design the modules and courses that get them onto and through degree programmes. I do research into how best to do this effectively, and the impacts it has on people. I campaign against threats to this sort of provision.

I am very proud of what I do.

It takes up an awful lot of my time.

Sunday 28 July 2019

An English Sunday afternoon

There's a full brass band playing in the bandstand, and the audience isn't going to be deterred by a bit of rain.

Thursday 25 July 2019

Roll on

Well, that was a long gap, sorry. I brought a stinking cold back with me from the Foundation Year Network conference and have been nurturing that rather than blogging.

I have however tweaked the blogroll a bit, to reflect my wider reading. I like these non-boat-related blogs; there's no reason for me to think that you will, but you might. They'll give me something to read over breakfast, anyway.

I've added an autism blog - and I hope there will be more to follow. I think I have to accept that Rivetcounter as a separate entity is never going to take off (such a waste of an excellent name) so these will find their link here. I do find it useful to be reminded that a. yes, there are other people out there who experience the world like I do, but b. they are not the majority of people I have to deal with ecery day. This helps me remember that, actually, it probably isn't my fault as much as I think it is.

And I have just added Wonkhe. A niche interest, certainly, but an excellent source of thoughts on higher education policy. It even has a post written by my boss.

The 'boating blogroll' is somewhat of a misnomer, as two of them are currently motorhoming rather than boating (and in one case it's a permanent switch).

It was 88 degrees Farenheit in my office today.

Tuesday 16 July 2019

In which I get to be sniffy about the accuracy or otherwise of a model

I first came across the term 'rivetcounter' at Newhaven Model Railway Club in the 1990s. I have no idea what I was doing at Newhaven Model Railway Club in the 1990s. It might have been something to do with regeneration. But I have always had a fondness for model railways, so I would not have been a reluctant visitor. 'Rivetcounter' seemed to be an epithet that veered between insult and respect, which side it fell being very subjective. A rivetcounter was someone who slavishly pursued accuracy in their modelling, and was quick to point out its lack in others'.

I have no chance of spotting any inaccuracies in model trains. But it is striking that those same people who wouldn't put a rivet wrong on their loco are remarkably casual about their boats. It is, of course, gratifying that one of the layouts at the Eastbourne Miniature Steam Railway featured a canal
complete with tunnel, bridge, and a modern and a historic boat. And, excitingly, an accident waiting to happen as the historic boat - if indeed that be its fore end - makes a spectacular hash of exiting the tunnel (one worthy of me circa 2007, perhaps).

Now, joshers are not my forte, but this - unless it has stolen a set of cloths - purports to be one.
But it doesn't look much like one I've ever seen. When I first saw the model, I thought it was the stern end of a horseboat (and not a josher one at that). Rather like my icebreaker (thanks, anonymous commenter!), it appears to be sitting on top of the water.  It has no strings (how could they forego the joy of making strings out of sewing thread?) Likewise, ropes. It has no sidecloths, come to that. What is that protuberence, too big, too far back, and the wrong shape to be a mast? Was this, I wonder, based on a real boat at all; even a photo of one?

Not that this spoiled my enjoyment at all, as you can no doubt tell.

Monday 15 July 2019

In miniature

Blame Sebastian for the beetroot latte. Baz the long-haired hippy lockboy has morphed into Sebastian the nearly-solicitor, the sort of person who goes to the sort of places where they serve beetroot lattes. It didn't taste of beetroot (which is just as well as I don't like beetroot); it tasted of aniseed, and dust.

I have had a wild few days (well, by my standards) which have been quite logistically challenging as my eleven days away from Sheffield comprised three days boating, three days conferencing, four days in Sussex charity shopping, dog walking, sunbathing and family partying and outinging, and a day driving back to Sheffield. I found it quite taxing packing for all these different activities.

The holiday finished on Sunday with a visit to the Eastbourne Miniature Steam Railway, which I had never heard of, with Sebastian, Izzi and little Rory who is now one. Baz thought that there wouldn't be much there to keep us occupied for long, so we arrived about three.

Well, it was lovely. There were miniature steam locos pulling trains you could ride on - and unlike the ones from my childhood (which I am delighted to see are still running), they also had miniature carriages that you sat on top of.
We went for two train rides, and Rory had her first ice lolly.

There were lots of layouts - some 00 and N gauge in glass cases, and Thomas and Percy outside, which sprang into action on the insertion of 20p.
There were playgrounds for larger and smaller children
 And actually, before we knew it, it was quarter to five and the last train had left.

I have unilaterally decided that a visit to the Eastbourne Miniature Steam Railway is to become an annual birthday tradition.

Wednesday 10 July 2019

Icebreaker exercise

I'm at the Foundation Year Network Annual Conference and we had an icebreaker exercise, so I drew an icebreaker. And then during the AGM I drew another one.

Sunday 7 July 2019

Such hard work,

Ricky and Geoffrey both seem to enjoy boating, but they certainly don't see it as an opportunity to relax. They spend the entire time on the lookout, dodging from one side to the other, sniffing the air, never off duty for a moment. And then at locks of course Ricky has to do his barking to make sure they don't get left behind. So by the time we got back to Alvecote for an excellent lunch at the Barlow, the poor things were ready for a well earned rest.

Saturday 6 July 2019

Ricky rearranges his bed (again)

Oh dear.

When an upholsterer was fulfilling an order for cushions for the Alvechurch hire fleet some time back in the 1990s (or thereabouts). I wonder if they gave any thought to how their handiwork would end its life - and the various roles it would fulfil before that. One set of cushions ended up in a 70' boat called Tawny Owl. After its career as a hire boat, Tawny Owl was bought by Richard and Sue (and was to become a stalwart, nay champion, of the BCN Challenge). After a while, in 2011, Richard and Sue decided to change the upholstery (and possibly the amount of beds) and asked on CanalWorld if anyone wanted four six-foot long foam cushions covered in pale green Dralon.

Yes please, said the recent purchaser of Bakewell (that's me, for anyone who hasn't been keeping up), because I had no mattress for the butty's crossbed. The four six-foot cushions became eight three-foot ones, some still covered in Dralon, some not. Three of them stayed on Bakewell... maybe they are still there two more owners later. They were certainly very good and firm. One piece of Dralon-less foam is on the bench on which I am now sitting. Three pieces were the spare spare bed, and lived in the cratch awaiting being made up into a bunk (but I think now may be at home in the attic, for the same purpose) The final, completely Dralon-encased piece was a luxury dog bed for Little Ricky. Well, it's not quite dead yet - in fact Geoffrey is sleeping on it as I write - but it has rather suffered Ricky's attentions last night.

I wonder what has happened to all the other upholstery from that particular order, and how much of it is still in use. It certainly was very well made and long lasting - until it encountered Ricky's claws.

Friday 5 July 2019

A narrows squeak

What a lovely half day's boating.  Jim and I met up at Alvecote from our separate directions in time for lunch, and set off at half past one. We've tied up somewhere short of Brinklow at about half past seven. The plank is deployed because I ignored the gospel of Kevin One Tooth, which is 'the first profit's the best profit' and decided against tying up to some very nice piling because if was on the outside of a slight bend.

The most exciting bit of today came about because I played chicken with a small boat from Yorkshire over some narrows, and we got stuck. My fore end was there first, I swear it! We got free without too much trouble, once I managed to convince him to try reversing at the same time as me.

Having seen two wide beams so far on the North Oxford, my suggestion is that if you can't get a breasted pair through the narrows, might as well make 'em eight foot wide as thirteen foot ten.

Ricky and Geoffrey have been very well behaved today, but constantly on the alert, which is obviously very tiring.

Sent from my iPad

Thursday 4 July 2019

And another thing!

An occasional (but indefinite) series featuring things that perplex or annoy me.

Cotton or linen clothes with synthetic trim or labels that melt when you can't help but catch them with an iron that's the correct temperature for the substantive fabric.

Also, while I'm on the subject of clothes...

Why don't people cut out those loops of ribbon whose sole purpose is to keep the cardigan (or whatever) looking nice on the hanger in the shop?

And... the number of jackets I've bought from charity shops whose pockets are still stitched up. Don't people notice? Do they think, 'well, I didn't really need pockets anyway... the maunfacturers must have had a reason for putting in perfectly good pockets and then - very loosely - sewing them up. Better not interfere'?

Wednesday 3 July 2019

Bought at Braunston 2: a bit of brass

When I posted the photo of my new chimney on Friday night, I had just added a new brass to the chain - a lovely old and well-worn sun face which I think I got last year. Having discovered that it was quite easy to fix a normal flat horse brass to the chain with the join hidden behind one of the rosettes, I started to look for another one to fit below the other rosette (yes, as I heard someone discovering on Sunday, they are just held on with wire). I had quite a nice rose, but I don't know if you can tell without colour (orientation?) whether it's York or Lancaster, and I didn't want to get that wrong.

So off I went to the Friends of Raymond stall, mainly to tell them that Willow (or Willoughby, as they knew him), who had featured on one of their best selling cards, had died. 'We heard', was the rather surprising response - clearly his fame goes before him even beyond the grave. Then I started looking through their beautifully polished and arranged brasses, mentioning that I was looking for something to fill a gap in my chain, and the man (sorry, I really should know his name by now - he certainly knows mine) said he had just the one for me, and I snapped it up.
It's some kind of GU commemorative thing, but so badly cast it's impossible to read the dates and therefore to know what anniversary or event it's commemorating. The first date is 1934 - the year the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company was formed. The final digit of the second date appears to be a 9, and the one before it could be a 7 or a 9, but they would be funny anniversaries to celebrate (45 or 65 years). And anyway, it actually looks more like a 4 - so could it be 1949, and simply commemorate the life of the company? It's an odd brass, and I've no idea when it would have been produced as if that's what the dates are, they don't really give much of a clue. The relief writing, including the date, looks as if it was scribed into the mould by hand (if such a thing is possible). But it's a GU souvenir, and best of all, it has the company motto 'silent and sure', which I love.

So this has filled the gap in the chimney chain, which like the rest of the boat continues to grow and evolve according to the law of whatever feels right at the time.

Tuesday 2 July 2019

Bought at Braunston 1: Mrs Barnett's teapot

Funny stuff, Measham ware. Objectively it's not very attractive but there's something sore of loveable about it; its very imperfection and all the goodwill it embodies. I have a kettle-style teapot and two jugs at home, a set which was a present from Jim, plus the small but classically-shaped teapot that I bought for £2.99 in a charity shop in Newhaven, broken and very badly mended, that Jim then repaired. Jim has some rather larger ones at home on top of the piano, but can never resist a bargain.
And so he came back from the marquee with this, which I hadn't even seen. He drove a hard bargain because it has some damage - some chips and a repair around the top. But I really really like it (and I hope I have persuaded him not to restore it to perfection). I like this unassuming, useable, shape and style. The embossed bits are nice and crisp. It's from Rugby, which makes it a suitable souvenir of Braunston. But the best thing about it, as a Chertsey teapot - which Jim hadn't even clocked before buying it - is that it was the property of someone by the name of Barnett - just as Chertsey was for forty years.

Monday 1 July 2019

Books I read in June

Harry Bingham The Deepest Grave (local library)
The sixth, and for now, last Fiona Griffiths book (and the fifth that I've read - I'm still waiting for everyone else in Sheffield to finish the first in the series). And yes, it's still good. Bingham's plots do tend towards the preposterous - and he owns as much in the afterword to this one - but the writing is so good, and the handling of them so deft, that they actually read a lot more credibly than many other authors' work with greater pretensions to realism. I particularly like the way that the answers aren't all saved up for some big reveal at the end - there's realism simply in seeing the case unfold. Sure, sometimes Fiona gets a bit mysterious about what she's thinking, but it all comes clear soon enough, and never in a clunking exposition either. The police characters are nicely nuanced, even at the same time as they have elements of caricature, and there are some delightful supporting characters - a particularly good vicar in this one. Can't wait for more.

Harry Bingham Talking to the Dead (Abe Books)
I couldn't wait. And such is my new found love for Fiona, I have bought myself copies of the whole series. So the first to be written, the last I read - and every bit as good, and not spoilt  - probably the reverse in fact - by knowing the big surprise that's coming at the end.

Tom Bower Dangerous Hero: Corbyn's ruthless plot for power (local library)
Like the last Bower book I attempted (his Blair biog), I couldn't finish this. I'm not a massive fan of Corbyn, and I certainly wasn't of Blair, so it's not the fact that it's a hatchet job. It's the fact that it's a lazy hatchet job, full of non-sequiturs, unsubstantiated assertions, and snide insinuations which diminish the credibility of the book and any respect one might have for the author. I'll gladly read hatchet jobs on Blair and Corbyn, but better efforts than this, please.

Ann Grainger  A Better Quality of Murder (local library)
Neatly plotted Victorian police procedural. I'm toying with classifying detective stories into ones that are primarily puzzles, and ones that are dramas. This is a puzzle, and a most enjoyable one.

Ann Grainger The Testimony of a hanged man (local library)
See above

Ann Grainger Rack, Ruin and Murder (local library)
Contemporary detective puzzle, decently crafted but not as enjoyable as the Victorian ones.

Philippa Gregory The Constant Princess (local library)
Fictionalised life of Katherine of Aragon. Strangely unputdownable though I can't really work out why.

Sunday 30 June 2019

Blazing brilliant Braunston

This morning, about 6:30
This was my 14th Braunston, of just seventeen that have been held in total. I've been by car in 2006, 2007, 2008 and (for reasons I can't remember), 2016; on Warrior in the fateful year of 2009, and with Chertsey in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

It's changed over the years, and I've changed too, so each year is different. This year seemed quiet again, like last year, in terms of the number of boats there and the public footfall. The marquee had a very different feel to it without the HNBC bookshop and the brass bits stalls, now mainly being occipied by commercial trade stands. We spent most of the time on the boat (partly because of the dogs), popping over to the beer tent just briefly on Friday and Saturday evening for a quick pint (and the traditional beanburger) before the music got under way.
Friday evening

But this year was brilliant because of the weather and the people. If you're going to have a really, really hot day, what better day to have it than the one day of the year when you don't have to do anything but sit on a boat all day. We had a fantastic spot by Butchers Bridge again, with plenty of shade for Jim and the dogs (who were, in the end, remarkably sensible about laying down in the hold in the back end rather than on the deck) but a constant spot of sun for me, and so many people came by for so many brilliant conversations, including the Moomins, the Ducks and Duckling, Bones (with Boots), Pete Harrison, Jane on Clypeus and Richard, Victor Vectis (to pick one of his many aliases), Jim and Sue Owl Hampton, and today Ron Withey and Ronnie Dell, plus our lovely neighbours on Renfrew and Stanton.

The classic view from the stern end, 6.30 am, with a very smart Cepheus behind
I went straight from work on Thursday afternoon to get the train to Rugby, where Jim picked me up. We spent Friday tidying, cleaning and polishing the boat and then went to the Nelson for tea with Cap'n Pete (Renfrew) and his friend Mike, where we were joined by Jane and her little dog Marcel. On Saturday we did very little indeed, but finished the day with a pint, a beanburger and cheesy chips outside the beer tent. Today was cooler but we still didn't do much - both days we watched the parade whilst clinging jealously to our bankside berth.

So many people now seem to be saying that they prefere Alvecote to Braunston, but I just don't get it. Alvecote is great, but it's so full-on. At Braunston there's trees and shade and (usually) some peace and quiet. At Alvecote there's one pub; at Braunston a choice of four, and at Braunston there's the village and the bottom lock shop should you need provisions. Even though it invariably clashes with exam boards and creates all sorts of logistical difficulties, Braunston will always be the 'can't miss' event of my boating year - as it has been since 2006.

Friday 28 June 2019

Look at my new chimney

Greetings from the Braunston beer tent where for once we're sitting outside. A splendidly sociable Friday of which more anon. But in the meantime here is a picture of my new and fabulous Andrew Hoyle chimney and newly embellished chain.

Tuesday 25 June 2019

A dignified retreat

Oh, the irony. Second only to that of the year we lived on a boat being the one when we did the (second) least boating; the year I vowed to post every day turns out to be the one with the least of all. One hundred and seventy six days of this year have passed, and I have been boating for ... two of them. In a couple of weeks there will be another two. It is shameful, disappointing, and sad. I am reading the blogs of Halfie and Captain Ahab with envy.

How we came to this pretty pass, of course, was by planning to go to Hebden Bridge; planning everything around that, booking the leave, abandoning all other plane - and then not going.

I can't say I regret not going - in the circumstances, and as things turned out, it was clearly the right decision. But I do regret that things turned out that way.

And I wonder at myself. Time was I'd have pushed and pushed before giving up. I would have insisted on going to Hebden Bridge, rather than being relieved by having a reason not to. It might well have ended in disaster, but my passion for boating and my fear of missing out would have taken us to the brink and beyond. Have I become less daring, less driven, less passionate? A coward, and a lazy one at that?

Maybe, inexorably, other aspects of life have crept up on me. Family responsibilities have increased a bit - particularly for Jim, but with knock-on effects. Work has become all-consuming; it's hard enough to find the time to take off, let alone to stop thinking about it. Ricky and Geoffrey are fabulous, but they don't make boating any easier.

But I miss it. I miss the tiller in my hand and the resistance in my arm. I miss moments like nearly getting round Suttons in one and the feeling of knowing that I dared keep the power on and the boat in forward until the last moment, willing her to come round but knowing I could cope if she didn't. That's what I miss: not the wildlife, not the calm, not the scenery, not the sunshine. It's me and seventy one foot six of Big Woolwich working as one; the rare moments when it all comes together (and the not so rare ones when we're just chugging along nicely together); it's the feeling - more and more after nearly ten years together - of knowing the boat, trusting it to keep me out of trouble. The canals are interesting, being out in the open air is nice, sunshine is great, meeting people is good... but it's the boat, the boat that I love.

.... So, I was off on a bit of a flight of fancy there - whether writing stories, or blogs, or research articles, I often don't know what I'm going to write until I start writing. And what I was going to write tonight was that I am going to make a dignified retreat, in the circumstances, from my commitment to post every day for the whole year. Dignified, because I shall have posted every day for half the year, but as things have turned out this was the worst possible year to try to achieve what was always going to be a difficult feat. I am so taken up with work that I have nothing to write about, and no time or energy to write it.  So I will spare you the makeweights; I shall post when I'm boating or when I have something boaty (or occasionally, otherwise interesting) to say; and I shall try to post at least once a week.... and I shall hope that next year will be a better one for boating.

Monday 24 June 2019

Sunday 23 June 2019

Racking my brains

Fellow charity shoppers, is it not extremely annoying when, rather than organising clothes by type and size, charity shop staff arrange them by colour?

Not only do I not often go out thinking, 'I need something yellow today' (rather than, say, 'I need a lightweight linen jacket'), but I do tend to need it to be in my size, and - what makes it really stupid - the colour of something is the easiest thing to see at a glance, while the size can really be quite hard to divine.

Why do they do it? Is it just easier? Does it appeal to some simplistic aesthetic sense? Is it a cunning ruse to make us look at everything ('Hmmm, I thought I wanted a size 14 linen jacket in blue or grey, but hey! Now I'm here I can't resist this size eight lime green shell suit.')

I did get a nice jacket by the way (Boden, brand new, £7.99). But it was still very annoying.

Saturday 22 June 2019

The most useless waterways map ever?

And guess who's produced it?
I am indebted to my cousin Janice who picked up a leaflet - well, a couple of leaflets actually - at a recording of Gardeners' World at the NEC.

These leaflets are meant to make you want to visit your local waterway. The bigger, earlier, version has 100 attractions on it. Then there's a later one, into which they have squeezed nineteen more - mainly, it would appear, on the K&A. The basic map is the same though, even if the later version is smaller and flimsier (and hence does not photograph so well.

And what attractions!
Lots of places (including Thrupp and Braunston) have 'quirky bridges'; others, such as Garstang, have 'quaint' bridges. At other places the big attraction is a turnover bridge. In many places you can see boats, narrowboats, or boats using locks. At Gunthorpe, the attraction is a 'huge bottom gate' (those unfamiliar with lock terminology might well boggle at that). In Oxford, apparently, there's an old boatyard... Just how up to date is this?

Now you know, and I know, that canals and locks and everything associated with them are massively attractive. But if we didn't already know that, or weren't that way inclined, would this leaflet get us setting our sat nav to those carefully provided postcodes (good luck parking!)? And might we not, in a number of cases, be rather disappointed when we got there?

But that is not the worst of it. At the bottom there is a disclaimer that says: 'This map includes waterways managed by members of the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities (AINA). There are other inland waterways that have not been included. the [sic] information on this map is for guidance only, for accurate information please visit our website.'

There is a key showing that CRT waterways are marked in blue; AINA in grey. The grey ones aren't even dignified with names. But you can find the Thames, if uou know where to look:
And the nameless Middle Level, and Broads are at least fortunate enough that their navigation authority is a member of AINA.

But look what happens if they're not:
According to this map, produced on behalf of and put into the public domain by CRT, the Chesterfield Canal is detached at both ends; the SSYN reaches a dead end at Keadby (and that's if you can follow the completely useless labelling of the waterways). The tidal Trent has been expunged. This undermines one of the main selling points of the inland waterways, which is that there's a massive, connected, network, but worse than that, it's just wrong - incorrect and misleading. And surely, at least some of the missing chunk is a CRT waterway...

So, OK, in the small print they admit that it's inaccurate ('for accurate information see our website') but what sort of guidance is it giving? And in any case, if you do go on their website, you get a map with exactly the same chunk of Trent missing.
Here it is clearer that it's the non-CRT bit (downstream of Gainsborough) that's been omitted, but why?

Friday 21 June 2019

A charming artefact

I don't think I've previously shared with you this delightful gift that Sebastian found me in a charity shop. It lives on top of my bureau and I put pieces of paper in it.

The interesting thing is that it has clearly been put together by someone who has some idea of the basic elements of a traditional narrowboat. The relative size of some elements is a bit off, but they're mostly there and in roughly the right place. There's even a nod to Erewash livery. All in all, not a bad attempt. And an excellent letter rack.

Thursday 20 June 2019

From the archive

Because it's all still a bit hectic, I've dug out a few photos from Chertsey's travels to see who can remember, recognise, or guess the location.

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Normal service will be resumed shortly

Exam board day today, so it's all been a bit hectic. Sorry.

Tuesday 18 June 2019

What I bought at the chandlers' sale

From memory...
1 litre SC Crimson Craftmaster paint
2x500ml Union Blue Craftmaster paint
1 litre Epiphanes varnish
1 cigar lighter plug (will need to get the socket somewhere else)
Some Elsan blue
Some paintbrushes
2 aerosols of Craftmaster etch primer 
3 medium sized caribiners

Jim ... was there anything else?
Blogging every day in 2019 - see what nonsense I've written today here

Monday 17 June 2019

Sunday 16 June 2019

Drip, drip, drip

It's remarkably dry in the hull under the cloths. The only ingress of water that has bothered us lately has come in through the joints in the gunnels. There were maybe half a dozen spots where we had to leave basins in the recent heavy rain. Fortunately, I selected the washing up bowl for this one. Left it on Sunday and came back on Friday to find it full to the brim - but not quite overflowing. After winding on Saturday morning Jim was able to get some Sikaflex into the joints, and a downpour on Saturday evening put them to the test - and not a drop came in the ones he'd done (the other side of the boat is still to do). Chertsey's gunnels are butt jointed rather than scarfed, which I chose for reasons both of cost and authenticity - and because scarfing felt like overkill whatever the MCA might think - and this makes me glad I did, because if they were scarfed the water would have been getting in and eventually rotting them instead of running right through.

There's still water getting into the cabin, though, on a small scale. There's a drip below the bullseye which we have always assumed was getting in through the bullseye somehow, although Jim has sealed it in every way imaginable, including taking it all apart and bedding in in silicone. And there's water running down the outside of the stovepipe. The inside is bone dry, as I discovered when I cleaned it out today. Again, the boss connecting it through the cabintop seems to be thoroughly sealed on the outside. Bearing in mind that what I have is is a wooden cabin, built of oak planks and probably skinned in Masonite or some similar board, and only later skinned in steel (because it leaked), I'm starting to think that the water could be getting in anywhere (not that there are (m)any possibilities that I can see), unrelated to where it's actually dripping out. Parts of the oak of the ceiling are a bit rotten, foreward of the bullseye, but as it's oak it's a slow process. I'd like to be able to stop it, but it doesn't feel like it justifies doing anything too drastic - and we seem to have exhausted the non-drastic options, unless anyone else has any ideas.

By the way, thanks for the beer Halfie - we were down at the chandlers!

Saturday 15 June 2019

A whole morning without rain

In which I reversed back to the marina entrance, winded, then reversed back to the perfect spot near Butcher's Bridge, where we seem to end up most years. Jim got a porthole polished, the gaps in the gunnels sealed (there's a photo related to that which will have to wait for another time) and got a coat of barn paint on the gunnels, went back to fetch the car from the Nelson, took the dogs for a little walk, and got back just in time before the most massive downpour. The sealing of the tunnel gaps was tested and found to be effective. In the meantime I moderated two dozen psychology and sociology exam scripts.

The Nelson is under new ownership again and we wondered whether it would still be as good and as dog friendly. Well, it seems so on both counts. The food was as good as ever, and seemed (though this might be my memory playing tricks) more reasonably priced. There is now an actual dog bed in the games room, dog toys, and dog ornaments and charity collection boxes all over the place. It was not, however, overrun with dogs, and if you're not a dog person, the dining room is still dog free. We've booked to go back on the Friday of the rally weekend.

I still haven't started cleaning the stove, let alone the rest of the cabin...

Friday 14 June 2019

The Boyz are Back in Braunston

And the Nelson is dog-friendlier than ever.

Island scenes

Here are a few more snapshots of picturesque decay on (in?) Kelham Island. Grab it before it's gone.

The Kutrite Works