... 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.

Thursday 31 January 2019

The 31st (post) of January

So... so far, so good, with the intention to post every day. Every day in January - achieved. I only have to get half way through February and I'll have equalled the number of posts from the whole of 2015, and by the end of February I'll have beaten last year's total. I'm quite confident, now I've got back into the swing of it.

I just hope it's not too little, too late. I haven't updated or weeded my blogroll yet, but I'll have to soon. My blogroll was set up for my benefit; a one-stop portal for the posts I wanted to read over breakfast. Time was there'd be half a dozen a day or more new posts, but no more. Some only post while they're boating, so the winter months are quieter (except for the indomitable icebreaking Herbies); some - including the fabulous read that was Valerie - have sold up and stopped blogging, while others have just petered out. None of the historic boaters on my list has posted for over four months.

I would dearly love to add some new blogs to the blogroll, but they have to be ones I'll enjoy reading - well-written, interesting - and if they're occasionally funny, that's a bonus. So please do send me your recommendations. And if there are any other old boat blogs that I'm not aware of (they don't even have to pass the interesting test) I will definitely add them.

At present it seems that the only blogger who's increasing their posting rate is Nev on Percy. Diamond Geezer is, thankfully, showing no sign of packing away his keyboard, and to be honest most days is enough on his own to get me through breakfast. It's a sad fact though that blogging - personal blogging at least - is being supplanted by faster, shorter, picture-ier media. I don't know how many of those on the blogroll are now communicating primarily through Facebook, Twitter, maybe even Instagram - but I'm certain that at least some of them are.

Who'd have thought, fifteen years ago, that we would so quickly arrive at the day when blogging was seen as old hat.

Wednesday 30 January 2019

Marie and me

Loyal reader Frank commented on Monday's post about my nascent anthropomorphised pottery emotional vegetable receptacle collection 'I may be completely off the mark here but I'm betting Marie Kondo's philosophy is not yours.'

Well, Frank, I wouldn't say you were completely off the mark, but, in many ways I am a follower of Marie Kondo. You only have to look at my drawers:

Completely and utterly Kondo'd.

I am not following her TV exploits, but I bought The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying a few years ago, and did indeed put quite a lot of it into practice, and found it very helpful. Sadly I can't refer to it now as I have lent it to Sebastian, in the hope (not yet realised) of passing on a little of that magic.

I did work through her categories, deciding what to keep and what to throw away. There are some things I will keep forever and ever and ever, but I am actually quite a ruthless chucker-awayer of the other ninety-eight percent of my stuff. Particularly with clothes, I have a lot of churn. I still like my own method for wardrobe sorting (sadly the post has lost its photos) and it's overdue being applied again. For quite a while after moving to the new house, I didn't acquire many more clothes, being at a safer distance from the charity shops of Broomhill and Crookes. But - as noted on Monday - it's becoming all to easy to slip into Hillsborough, which has at least half a dozen and - with a few exceptions - a lot more keenly priced than the ones up the hill. To complicate things, I'm now the sort of affluent professional who can occasionally justify splurging on a new dress (very rarely anything else - half an outfit never feels like such good value) in the sale, and they obviously can't be got rid of, ever.

The key element of Marie Kondo's philosophy, it strikes me, is that you should keep things (and only things) which 'spark joy' - or if that has lost a little in translation, that make you smile. And my sad onions and disappointed celery absolutely do fulfil that function, and are, therefore, it seems to me, completely in line with her philosophy. Mr Celery is in fact already earning his keep:
Yes, I do have a lot of old tat painstakingly collected historic artefacts. I am also (almost) obsessively tidy. They are curated as carefully as any museum or gallery collection, arranged and positioned to the inch (or less, if I'm honest). I wish I weren't like this. People come to my house and say 'I wish I could be as tidy as you.' But I go to their joyfully chaotic homes, where things are genuinely, spontaneously (dis)ordered rather than carefully contrived, and I wish that, just sometimes, I could be as untidy. But as I can't, perhaps buying things that are intrinsically superfluous is the next best thing.

Tuesday 29 January 2019

Happy Birthday Chertsey

Today is Chertsey's birthday - her official birthday at least, the day she is recorded as having been 'delivered' from Harland and Wolff to GUCCCo.

Here she is in the first year of her life, as pictured in Alan Faulkner's The George and the Mary (and wrongly captioned in the new edition), loading strawboard at Northampton.
And here are a few more snapshots from different points in her life.

At Stratford, in 1964:
Photo: Max Sinclair
And back again fifty years later:

Here's Chertsey in 1970 on the River Wey, en route to the National at Guildford:
Photo: Richard Pearson
And here she is in 2016, on the Wey again for probably the first time since, this time on the way (pun unavoidable) to the HNBC rally:
Happy 82nd birthday old girl.

Monday 28 January 2019

Emotional vegetables

No, not a new term of abuse (well, not that I know of), but my latest collection (when you move from having two of something that you don't even need one of, to three, that's the start of a collection).

It started with a sad onion (the small one). I can't even remember where he came from. But when I was in a charity shop in Eastbourne with Sebastian last year, we heard the staff talking... 'What happened to the sad onion?' 'I haven't put it out yet.'  I pricked up my ears. 'Sad onion? Please can I see the sad onion?' Because obviously, when you have a sad onion, you need another sad onion.

The second sad onion is in fact a classic SylvaC sad onion.

Then on Saturday I was on the phone to Sebastian, and he asked me if I collected sad onions. Well, I said (mistakenly, as it turned out) I don't think there are that many different sorts of sad onions out there. So I would willingly widen my collection to embrace anthropomorphised pottery vegetables of any variety, displaying any emotion.

And in a truly uncanny coincidence, on Sunday afternoon my task tombola (don't ask; I'll tell you soon enough) sent me charity shopping. I'll be going up to Broomhill next weekend, so I strolled (briskly, it was bloody cold) down to Hillsborough, and in the first shop I visited (which I would have missed out entirely if I hadn't snuck into Morrisons to use the loo) blow me if I didn't find a smiley/sullen celery:
A slightly creepy smile, but a smile nonetheless. Turn him round though...
and he looks very grumpy. Or possibly disappointed. I mean, I would, if I were celery.

None of these things is any use as a receptacle. The sad onions are too small to hold anything other than a very small quantity of very small (or finely chopped) onions, and the celery pot (vase?) leaks copiously if you fill it with water (although I admit that might not be a deliberate design feature). It doesn't look much like any celery I've ever seen either. Lucky it's got 'CELERY' written on it - on both sides - or I would have taken it for a pointy cabbage pot.

But none of that is the point. It is a collection, perfect in its pointlessness.

You have to wonder how these things came to be designed ('Hey guys, I've had this great idea!'), manufactured, marketed, sold, bought, given (because I doubt anyone ever bought one for themselves), received... 'Oh, thank you mother-in-law, now I will never have to serve your son limp celery again.' 'Why, thank you darling, now Reg won't be able to eat too many pickled onions at the buffet, after what happened last time... How clever of you.'

Sunday 27 January 2019

Saturday 26 January 2019

Happiness is...

... shelves to put my Waterways World collection on.
Not to mention Practical Householder 1958-63

Friday 25 January 2019


My little sister would have been fifty today...

Alison Ina Hale
25.01.1969 - 07.01.2012

Thursday 24 January 2019

And lampshades

I do like a 1930s glass lampshade, and in the past few months I've collected three of them in my charity shop round.

Firstly this one - which I actually paid TEN POUNDS for in the Broomhill Oxfam
and which graces the downstairs loo, followed a few weeks ago by this one - also from Oxfam in Broomhill, but only £3.99
which lights the lobby by the back door.

Then a couple of weeks ago, the St Lukes Vintage shop - again in Broomhill - yielded this beauty for just £1.99
to prettify the light at the top of the attic stairs.

Then from the collection I have this in my study
I seem to recall that we paid quite a lot for that one in the Newhaven Flea Market (before that formet chapel beuilding went on to become flats).

Waiting in the attic are two more
These are the ones I've had the longest, and were jumble sale purchases - the bottom one was £2, I think, and the to one £1 - or it might have been the other way round. The big orange one was the very first. They will all be in use eventually - and if needed I can get all the necessary ceiling roses, hooks and chains from the brilliant Lampspares.

Wednesday 23 January 2019


Sebastian bought me a couple of fabulous GWR-related Christmas presents, including these lamps, which I put up using the drill that he (and Jim) gave me for my birthday.
They were sold as candle holders, but they look too complicated to just be that. Here, however, is one looking pretty with a fake candle in it
They'll look even better when I get round to cleaning them.
Why would they need ventilation holes in the side if they were just for candles? And that raised cross is hollow pipework, which opens out behind the bracket and through into the cylindrical bit. To me this suggests gas. Now that might sound absurd, but a bit of Googling shows that railway carriages were lit by gas, in America, and in Scotland (where at least one disaster ensued, as late as 1915).

I know at least two people I could ask, so - if they're not reading this, and no one else tells me in the meantime - I'll keep researching and report back. But in the meantime I just wanted to show them off.

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Eating up my veg

Every Wednesday my box of vegetables arrives from Beanies, and I arrange the contents in the vintage vegetable rack that I have been carefully curating since acquiring it at a jumble sale some time in the early 1990s.
This time of year, it features a lot of roots. Not as many, however, as last year when I somewhat masochistically ordered the 'British produce only' box. That was like being a mediaeval peasant. That, of course, is possibly the future. I'm making the most of my European courgettes and fennel and peppers while I can.

I combine them with some items from my stockpile...
... to cook up a week's (or more) worth of meals.
Curried roots with chickpeas, above, and something vaguely Mediterranean style (including olives and capers not in the photo) below...
Which I then parcel up into individual meal-sized portions
Some of these go in the fridge for the coming week, and some go into the freezer, swapped for ones frozen in previous weeks. I don't have one at every single meal, but it certainly is very handy to be able to pop one into my bag to microwave at work, and to know that I won't have to cook when I get home in the evening. The portion control in particular has helped me lose over a stone since last March, and keep it off since October.

My colleague who has a family of three has a box like mine once a fortnight; I have one every week, and I eat it all up myself.

Monday 21 January 2019

Pictures of the pier

Yes, Newhaven has a pier, otherwise known as the arm. You used to be able to walk along it, which was great. On your left as you walked out was the sandy West Beach, which you could also go on in those days; on your right a collonnade, where you could stand and listen to the waves crashing against it from the other side. On a good, windy day on a high tide, you could shelter there while the waves came right over the top, and watch the water fall in front of you. At the end, there is a lighthouse. There's some history and some interesting photos here.

I took a few photos when I was there at Christmas (I have taken many more over the years, but I can't lay my hands on them right now). These were taken from Tidemills, with the dredger approaching.

But Newhaven's pier has also drawn the attention of artists over the years.

In 1936, it was painted by both John Piper and Eric Ravilious. James Russell's blog here has a lovely account of how he followed in their footsteps - it's nice to see Newhaven and the surrounding area described so positively by an outsider. He also has an excellent photo showing the collonnade.

I'm a fan of Ravilious (1903-1942), who grew up and lived in East Sussex and painted a lot of scenes that are quite familiar to me. There's something very 30s about the way he has painted the pier:
Although I think there is a bit of artictic licence there. As you can see Ravilious died young, and in mysterious circumstances. Working as a war artist, he was on board a plane that disappeared off the coast of Iceland. Neither it - nor he or any of the crew - were ever found.

John Piper (1903-1992) was Ravilious' exact contemporary and friend. His version of the pier is viewed from the sea - or maybe, like mine, from across the bay.
Around the same time, Vanessa Bell (1879-1961) - who also lived locally - was painting a number of scenes around Newhaven harbour, and this is her pier:
Three different artists, all around the same time, but three very different piers.

Sunday 20 January 2019

Are we nearly there yet?

No, go back to sleep

Saturday 19 January 2019

Plant potty

An occasional series in which I lazily fill a post with a photo of something I've bought in a charity shop.

There are no charity shops to speak of in Walkley. There is one, but we don't speak of it. My colleague who used to live in Walkley tells me that it was known as the 'Dead Dog Shop' and that for many months there was a boxed set of Will and Grace DVDs in the window with a cat poo on top.

So my charity shop fix now involves a three mile round trip through Crookes and Broomhill - a fun way to spend a Saturday morning.

And this is one of my finds from the latest foray. St Lukes Vintage shop, Broomhill, £5.

Friday 18 January 2019

Heritage pub 2 (sort of): The Head of Steam

Well, it is in the book, but as being on the Sheffield Local Inventory of Historic Pub Exteriors, 'for pubs where the historic interior has been entirely destroyed'. Historic the exterior may be, but it's pushing it a bit to call it a historic pub exterior; it was a bank (The Sheffield and Hallamshire Savings Bank, until in 1977 it became part of TSB) certainly well into the 1970s and possibly into the 90s (the book is somewhat imprecise on exact dates, and Pevsner isn't any more help.) The book does note that this category does include a number of pubs that have been converted from other buildings.

Anyway, for the last few years this has been the Sheffield branch of the Head of Steam, a smallish chain of pubs owned by Camerons, the Hartlepool-based brewery possibly best known in certain circles for having an old advert on the front of the Greyhound at Hawkesbury - to be honest, until very recently, I had no idea they were still going. I used to go in the Head of Steam in Huddersfield - which didn't feel like part of a chain at the time, although it did last time I was there.

As it turned out, the Sheffield HoS on a Monday evening was the ideal place to meet up with the First Mate of Princess Lucy, because it was quiet, and served both dry rose and decent beer, vegetarian curries and classic burgers. It was cavernous, and I wouldn't want to be there when it was busy, and the pseudo-post-industrial vibe is getting a bit 2015, but hey, decent food, good beer and friendly staff, plenty of space and no music counts for a lot. We'll be back there for our next Monday meet-up.

Thursday 17 January 2019

Heritage pub 1: The Wellington

Remember that one of the ideas I had for providing blogging material was to see how many pubs I could visit that are featured in the CAMRA guide to Sheffield's Real Heritage Pubs (ed. Dave Pickersgill)? Well, here's the first (not the first I'll have visited, but the first I'll be writing about.

Jim and I (and Ricky and Geoffrey) stumbled across the Wellington at Shalesmoor when we were out for a Boxing Day walk (I'd taken him to see a demolition site and the country's last remaining cementation furnace - I must blog about that one day too). The Wellington was on the radar because it's a sister pub to my most local of locals, the Blake, owned by the Neepsend Brew Co. and serving as their brewery tap.

It's quite a good find for a first visit as the guide puts it in the third category of six (and there are only three in the first, those that are in the National Inventory - including one I visit frequently and which is possibly my favourite Sheffield pub - and very handy for the office, so we'll be hearing more about that one before long). The Wellington is listed in the Yorkshire Regional Inventory in the category of having 'some regional importance' - meaning that while it doesn't retain a significant degree of its original layout and fittings, 'specific features are of sufficient quality for the pub to be considered noteworthy'.

Built in 1839, the pub retains many features from its 1940 refit as well as some older ones, including the terazzo floors. From the 40s there is the 'ply panelled bar' which I'm afraid I neglected to notice. It was the tiles in the lobby which look to be from the same era if not a little earlier - which first drew me in.
The pub doesn't look much from the outside - a little intimidating, if anything - but inside it was very nice, and friendly. When we first arrived it was nearly empty, but it filled up quickly with what were clearly regulars. We sat in the tap room, which boasted a nice collection of old pub memorabilia and advertising, including a Craven A clock, which complemented the inter-war Tennants' leaded windows. I can't remember what I drank - it could well have been Neepsend Blonde. One interesting feature was that not only does the pub retain the three-room layout from the 1940 refit (and now I've read about it, I can see the vestiges in other pubs, including the Blake, where the rooms have been knocked through) but the rooms are numbered.

I snapped one last quick picture as we left, showing the terazzo floor in the main bar, with the tap room door just to the left. I expect it'll be a while before we pass that way again, but I wouldn't hesitate to pop in.