... 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 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

Thursday 13 June 2019

Heady heights

I came back from the pub last night to find the Chertsey was at number 9 in the UK Waterways Sites rankings, and (thus) at number 2 in the blog rankings!
I think that's as much as I can hope for in the medium term.

But ten or so years ago, I wouldn't have dreamed it possible. It's not, however, because I've got better or more popular. It's because there are fewer blogs and bloggers, and they post less frequently, which is a sad thing. I suspect that my recent meteoric rise is in part at least owing to my multiple daily posts in the preceding week (although I had previously managed third place without that). My fairly consistent presence in the top five blogs, though, is just attrition.

I have never joined Facebook. I rarely use Twitter (now I can post by email). I feel no need to Instagram or Snapchat. I began as a blogger and a blogger I shall remain.

Wednesday 12 June 2019

A stroll around the island

If only we had made it to Sheffield on Warrior in 2009 - and found our way to the pub that was our intended destination - I might have even older memories and photos to compare to the present day. Ten years doesn't sound a lot, but it's seen the transformation of Kelham Island (a small part of Sheffield) from industrial dereliction (mmmm....) to hipster paradise and the Academy of Urbanism's Best UK Neighbourhood 2019. I hadnt heard of the Academy of Urbanism, I confess, but their 'assessment summary' of the case for Kelham Island seems very thorough and, I confess, made me feel warmer towards the regeneration/gentrification than I had previously. And you have to love any reference to 'the partly revegetated goit'.

Anyway, when the rain finally paused on Monday, after a day stuck in front of the computer, I took a brisk stroll around the area, and found that there was still much to please me.

 And lest you think this is too devastated and depressing, I believe that these were the former works of this outfit,
who would appear still to be thriving.

Tuesday 11 June 2019

The (less) stylish and convenient way to make toast

 Because it was a wet and windy afternoon, and we were hunkered down in the hold, I took the opportunity to test out a recent charity shop purchase. I had one of these things many years ago when for a couple of misguided years I used to go camping, and it worked well on a gas flame. How would it do on the spirit stove?
The answer is, it did OK; a bit slower, I think, but it sort of turned into toast at the end, after curling up and needing to be turned round a few times. Some tongs would have been useful, but I made do with a couple of forks.

The title is for Jim (and any other connoisseurs of the 1990s Viking office supplies catalogue).

Monday 10 June 2019

One good turn

No photos, no video, and only three people outside the Greyhound, but it was a good one. Not perfect; not round in one, but definitely my best yet, because I got completely clear of the bridgehole before I even needed to think about reversing. In fact, it almost came round - I was willing it to, and a little bit more power probably would have done it. But even though it was pretty much at the last second I flung it into reverse, there was no head-on impact, but more of a glancing sideswipe - it was that nearly round. The briefest of reverses, then round she came into the stoplock. I know now that it is possible, and one day I will do it.

Sunday 9 June 2019

Why everyone with an unconverted historic camping boat and two unruly dogs needs Waterway Routes

Especially when it rains.

If non-steerer is inside (as is sensible when it's pissing down), then the dogs have to be inside too, and the door shut. On a modern boat, we'd be able to look out of the windows, but the translucents are just that - they let light in, but you can't see anything but a blur through them.

So how to know where you are? And, importantly, when you need to prepare yourself for some locks, or tying up?

Why, by following your progress on Waterway Routes, of course.

There's something hypnotic about watching that little red circle flashing its way along the blue line of the canal. I found the timings Paul gave strangely accurate, given our agonisingly slow progress on Thursday. It was certainly very useful to be able to estimate how long it would take to get to the locks, or whatever, and thuis whether there's time for another cup of tea.

Now, the reason the battery ran out - and indeed how I know it lasted thirteen hours before doing so - is that I asked Jim to buy an extra long lead, so it could be plugged in while going along, from a place local to him that makes them up to order. I gave him the exact make and model, but they obviously didn't know that Samsung have introduced their own charging plug now instead of a micro USB one, and gave him the latter, hence no charging lead. But thirteen hours - that's pretty damn good.

Saturday 8 June 2019

It's that sort of day

That's Ricky on the right.

Friday 7 June 2019

A shorter day, but a wet one

Obviously, rain was forecast today, but we decided to go ahead anyway as it's meant to be even windier tomorrow. We were up early and set off at 6:15, so managed to get three hours under our belts before the rain started. We agreed we'd take turns steering today, and the other person would stay in the hold with the dogs. As long as they had someone with them, they were quite happy with that. Poor Jim, he got the heaviest rain on two of his shifts - although on the second one, he had just insisted on taking over. It was quite heavy going as there was a fair amount of wind even today. No one did shout at me for going too fast past their moored boat, but if they had, I had my reply ready, which was that they'd have liked it even less if I couldn't steer. It's very picturesque mooring opposite open fields, but you do tend to get big Woolwiches blowing into you. I thought of another good rule of thumb today as well, on encountering yet another boat tied up just out of sight on a bend - you can't slow down once you've started turning...

Anyway, we reached Braunston at about quarter past three, and of course there was nowhere to tie up. I found a space that was just four or so feet too short, so I asked the wide beam behind, and Jim asked the boat in front (either a converted historic boat or a very good copy, I didn't look too closely but I thought the former) if they could move a few feet - both had space to. Well the one in front refused outright, even though there was another ring between them and the marina exit - on the grounds that it was outside the boundary of the designated 48 hour mooring. The wide beam said that he would only if he still had line of sight for his satellite dish. I suppose we should be grateful that he apparently did, and we have squeezed in. Unfortunately we are facing the wrong way and it's a 48 hour mooring with the restrictions presumably not due to come in for another week. I was kind of banking on/assuming that there were some 14 day moorings here, but no. We have decide to sleep on it and suss things out tomorrow.


Not only am I pleased with the Waterway Routes maps - and they have a particular usefulness for us, which I'll tell you about later - but I am very impressed with the Samsung Galaxy Tab A which I bought to use them on. It has done over thirteen hours of mapping and sat navving on one charge.

Thursday 6 June 2019

The text that should have been with the last post

I obviously haven't quite got the hang of this email posting lark.

I tested out Paul's Waterway Routes map on the Samsung tablet purchased for the purpose. Jim was as impressed with it as I had been. As you can see, we made sure to have paper charts as well. I quickly came to rely on the Memory Map version and missed it when Jim took it away for a play. I particularly liked being able to monitor our speed. It's interesting to see how much the speed varies with no change in revs. There was much jubilation when we finally hit 3 mph for a few seconds (not least from the boat behind us, I suspect.

The main reason we were so slow was a distinct lack of water, especially from the bottom of Atherstone as far up as lock 4. I was getting stuck on the bottom part way into the lock at at least two. From lock 5 volunteers were letting water down. One possible reason they suggested is that 'they' (whoever they are in this case) stopped pumping from Mancetter quarry last week. The above photo is from before it got bad. It was about eight inches down at Alvecote and a foot at the bottom of the locks.

It has been quite windy too which never helps. Tomorrow is forecast to rain - boo - but with Saturday forecast to be really windy we're going to go for it tomorrow.

This was Geoffrey's first boat trip and he was very good, and seemed to enjoy it. Better then Ricky really, in that he just sat sat down and waited patiently at locks whereas Ricky barks, and Geoffrey also went inside and settled down while we were going along, which Ricky never does.

Ten and a half hours

To get from Alvecote to Hawkesbury. It should take seven or eight.

Wednesday 5 June 2019

Further on down the road

Firstly, thanks to Starcross Jim for his explanation in yesterday's comments for why Holmfirth and Huddersfield are indeed the palces you'd want to know the distance to.

Usually when I've been running (or walking) along this road it's been pre-dawn (yes, that's how long ago it was) and I haven't had the chance to have a good look round or take photos. On Monday I made up for that - to some small degree anyway.
At the Langsett end, I noticed that demolition of the Burgoyne Arms has begun. This pub has been derelict for a long time. I've not checked out planning applications but I'd put money on it being replaced with housing.
A number of derelict shops along here seem to be getting a new lease of life as houses - and some are just derelict, and some, it seems, are still in some kind of use (although I wasn't going to photograph the mysterious outlet, clearly a former newsagent, with half-empty shelves and no glass in the door). I should have cropped both those photos, but just think of it as bonus tram rails.

I meandered off just then to try to find out how long the Burgoyne Arms had been closed for, and came across a CAMRA list of derelict pubs in Sheffield. The list dated only from 2017, but at least two of them are now back in use (and overdue a visit from me). I then found my way to Sheffield CAMRA's website and thence to thoughts of rejoining and getting involved in the local branch. You can never have too many Men With Beards.

Back to the Langsett Road - or the Middlewood Road as I think it is by this point. Here is the former Hillsborough Park Cinema, opened in 1921, closed in 1967.

And here's a superb ghost sign, mostly preserved by having had a billboard over it for many years - you can see how the right hand edge has faded to nothing - or more likely, been cleaned off.
I also took a stroll through Hillsborough Park for the first time, and visited the Hillsborough Walled Garden, which was charming.

From tomorrow we'll be boating (albeit briefly) and I'll be posting by email - at the end of the day, not the beginning, so don't panic!

Another little job

The fore end tying up rope that was broken is now mended...