... 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.

Friday 23 September 2022

Cheat's oatcakes

A freshly made Staffordshire oatcake, with bacon and cheese, the morning after a night in the Star at Stone, is a wonderful thing.

When I was looking for recipes, I found a number of comments wondering why, when we can buy flatbreads from all over the world, we can't buy oatcakes in the supermarket outside of Staffordshire.

I think the residents of that county, and lovers of the delicacy, are very sensible not to export them more widely. Because they do not travel. If the only oatcake you had ever known was one out of a supermarket packet - as was the case for me for many years - then you would dismiss them (as I did) as having all the appeal of wet cardboard. Fresh, they are a delight; packaged, they are not something anyone would want to be associated with.

I was looking for a recipe because I fancied one, in part as a change from the white-flour pancakes I'd got into the habit of eating as a Sunday treat. When I found the recipe, I discovered that a true Staffordshire oatcake uses a yeast-based batter, which sadly I didn't have the patience to make (and it's hard to make in small quantities).

So I invented a substitute version: it's shamelessly inauthentic, somewhere between a pancake and a pikelet, an oatcake and an omelette, but not having had the real think for years I thought it worked quite well.

Veggies look away now.

For a couple of moderately hungry people, or one very hungry one, you'll need:

  • Two and a half ounces of fine oatmeal (I whizz up oats in the liquidiser)
  • Pinch of salt
  • A half teaspoon of baking powder
  • Scant quarter pint of milk
  • An egg

Which you whizz up into a batter, and leave to rest for a while, while you fry your favoured quantity of bacon and grate a pile of strong cheddar.

Whn the bacon's (nearly) done, take it out and keep it warm. In the pan which is now well greased with bacon fat and melted lard, pour enough batter to make a thickness of about 3mm.

The egg helps hold it together but it won't work much thinner, hence the pikelet comparison. When it's set on top, loosen the edges and flip it over with a big spatula.

Put the cheese on one half, then the bacon, and when the bottom's golden, flip it in half and serve (top photo).

Tuesday 20 September 2022

Thwarted walk

And nary even a picture to show for it (I've got so out of the blogging habit it didn't occur to me to take one).

Whilst we were chugging along on Otley last week, Pete asked after Naburn, and I had to admit I hadn't been near nor by since covid (the inaugural and final AGM of the Friends of Naburn was held in March 2020 - we struggled on for a while, until both the Chair and Treasurer resigned).

So yesterday I thought I would take a stroll down to see what I could see. From my house to the Basin is 1.8 miles, and from there it's another two and a half to Tinsley so I thought I'd walk there and get the tram back.

Unfortunately, I got as far as Greenland Road Bridge, where the towpath changes sides - and which is nearly at Tinsley - to find the towpath closed. A sign said that it was due to re-open in April. April 2022, that is. Going up onto the bridge, the path down was barricaded with temporary fencing panels, and looking down at the towpath, that appeared to have been fenced off in a much more substantial and permanent-looking way (and still no photos; what was I thinking!)

I can't get any sense out of the CRT stoppages website, but local press accounts suggest this was for railway works.

So I had no choice but to turn round and walk all the way back home, making a brisk stroll of nearly eight miles in all, and none the wiser about Naburn. Next time I'll get the tram there. And back.

Still, on the bright side, my Garmin watch told me I'd set a new personal best for 10 km. I will never, ever, beat my record for 5 km, because I actually ran three miles once, and that will never happen again. But walking fast for six and a quarter miles - there has to be room for improvement there.

Saturday 17 September 2022

1195 days later

Obviously, if I had known what was going to happen, I would have done more boating in 2019; in the event, the only trip we made that year was to Braunston and back. And that was the last time I was out on Chertsey.

Until last week.

Now, we need a bit of backstory here, but I'll keep it brief. Earlier in the summer we had gone to Alvecote and among other things, tried unsuccessfully to start the engine.  Last Tuesday, Steve and Nick came over from Brinklow to have a look at it, and discovered that water has got into the cylinders. I know not how, as the cap was not only on the exhaust, but took a lot of removing when we were last there. Anyway, we are where we are, and by a substantial stroke of luck it transpired that Pete Harrison was at Alvecote that day, due to leave with Otley to collect a boat from Brinklow that same week - and I had the week off work. 

So before I could talk myself out of it, I'd accepted Pete's very kind offer of a tow and set myself up for a day and a half's boating instead of tussling with the University of Sheffield's arcane promotion process.

We left Alvecote just after midday on Wednesday and got half way up Atherstone (with help from Rod and Sarah) before the locks were closed; we were (of course) butted up to the gates when they reopened at eight o'clock on Thursday morning. The weather was pretty perfect and we got to Brinklow at about half past four,
with a perfect turn (by Pete; I was on the bank taking photos and getting the lock ready) at Hawkesbury along the way.

Coincidentally, Thursday was the thirteenth anniversary of my buying Chertsey.

After three years of neglect, she looks a bit sorry for herself, but engine aside it should (touch wood, but not the rotten bits) be largely cosmetic; the paintwork and parts of the woodwork are in a bad state, but inside the cabin and the hold has stayed dry. 

What the day and a half of boating has told me is that I love it and I've missed it; I'd lost sight of how much it means to me and how I've missed expressing that part of myself. 

Chertsey the boating blog is back.

Friday 29 July 2022

In praise of the Post

Sending a letter feels really expensive these days, at 95p for first class and 68p for second (it's so long since I've bought stamps that I had to look that up).  

Sending a parcel, on the other hand, feels like stunningly good value. 

I've been to and fro from Newhaven a few times this year, and am delighted to be travelling by train again rather than by car. For me, it's far less hassle and less stress (yes, things can still go wrong occasionally, but at least it's someone else's job to sort it out).  It's even considerably cheaper these days. The only downside is that I can't bring so much stuff with me.

Last time I was down, in early June, I wrnt on a charity shop rampage, and then went and bought some fabric too. No way could I carry all that back on the train, so I parcelled it up and posted it to myself - and it was there waiting for me when I got back.

This time, I had my Volvo lights - which had already each made its respective journey by post - to bring back to Sheffield.

I also had something considerably heavier.

Chertsey's entire handstart mechanism, weighing in at nearly 15 kg. For reasons I can't recall, this ended up back in Newhaven after we took it off in Shardlow in 2010 to replace the shaft and bearings for the cooling fan, and never put it back on (no one except Mike Askin could actually hand start it anyway). For reasons I might get around to explaining later, I now need to get it back to Chertsey.

We discussed whether it was worth Jim driving it up to the boat, or even bringing me back to Sheffield with it (notwithstanding my unused open off-peak return ticket), but clearly that would be a very expensive hassle. Could we possibly post it? The Royal Mail website says that a medium (not even a large!) parcel can weight up to 20 kg, and its blue plastic box certainly came in under the maximum dimensions. So I packed it all up carefully, and parcelled it up in heavy duty polythene and gaffer tape so it looked like a proper parcel ...

Then we wondered how to get it to the post office, a ten minute walk away. A wheelbarrow was considered until Jim had a lightning-bolt moment and realised we could take it by car, as the town centre car park is right by the Post Office.

I still had a sneaking feeling that surely this couldn't be possible and we'd be told to take it away again, but the young woman behind the counter (there wasn't even a queue!) couldn't have been more cheerful and helpful. I had the two parcels with the lights as well, and she said that as they were all going to the same address, they could go as 'a consignment' for £11.95 the lot.  Just leave them with her ...

And, when I got back yesterday, there they all were waiting for me. 250 miles in 48 hours for under 12 quid. I call that terrific value.

One of my less favourite activities is queuing in a Post Office, so I also think it's utterly brilliant that when I'm sending a parcel I can weigh it, pay for the postage online, and the postman will collect the parcel from my house!

I'm just off now to pack up and send Jim a curtain.

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Birthday highlights

 Well, what more could a girl ask for?

Tuesday 19 July 2022

Cool (or, new uses for a sunbed)

So this is why I needed a cellar

Tuesday 22 March 2022


Not quite in the league of Herbie quizzes, but whilst waiting for a very slow volunteer to ring up my purchases in Oxfam, I idly glanced around and alighted on this. Unfortunately it was behind a pile of sofas so the angle from which I could photograph it was rather constrained, hence the reflections.

I am terrible at identifying locations, but it looks vaguely familiar even to me. I'm not saying where I think it is though as I may be wildly and embarassingly wrong. I will write it on a slip of paper and put it in a sealed envelope, and reveal my guess only if the Herbies (for it is bound to be they) confirm it. Please feel free to tell me though if you get in before Kath and Neil.

Only four days in and a waterways-related post. I'm as surprised as you are.

Monday 21 March 2022

Spring springs

A photo - admittedly very carefully framed - of my garden, where I was sitting out in the sun on Saturday for the first time this year.

Sunday 20 March 2022

A tin hut in Philadelphia

That's the Philadelphia on the borders of Upperthorpe and Netherthorpe, of course, but none the less picturesque for that. Photographed on the way back from coffee in Kelham Island (yes, I know), where they served a perfectly nice buttermilk and chocolate chip scone, and insisted on calling it a cookie.  Kelham Island for you.

Friday 18 March 2022

It's been a while

Two years to the day, in fact.

On Friday 13th of March 2020, I was having a pint (or two) and a packet of crisps (or possible two) in a packed Blake. It was a worrying time. Earlier that evening, just as I had been about to leave work, t'Boss had called me into his office. It was quite likely, he said, that lectures might be suspended from the following week. Could I please check if any of our teaching sessions were formally timetabled as lectures.

Other than the Death in Venice-evoking posters that were appearing over campus, this was the first real sense that something significant, that might really affect us, might really be happening. Yes, of course I would. First thing Monday. Then I went off up the pub for a prearranged drink with my neighbour from round the corner. 

For some reason I took my iPad with me. While Margi was at the bar, I idly checked my emails. At twenty to eight, the VC had sent an email saying that all face to face teaching would be suspended from Monday.  

We weren't meant to go into the office on Monday; but that morning - March 16th - we had the first of what must now be thousands of online meetings, and I could see that many perople were in the office. So I walked over - basically, just to do it properly; to say goodbye knowingly. I left a note for myself on my desk, that said the date and 'au revoir'. I don't think it occurred to me that I wouldn't see it again until the October, and then only briefly.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

So last Sunday, exactly two years after my last visit, I popped back into the Blake. It felt good.