... 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.

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.