Thursday, September 29, 2016

Suspicious visitors

Banbury continues to hold us in its vice like grip. We'll have to leave soon before they kick us out. Yesterday, moored oustside the social club I was preparing to put a top coat of paint onto the strip above the starboard gunnel when I was approached by a strange gentleman who seemed to know far too much about me. "Must be one of those unfortunate people who read my blog." thought I, although I had a strong suspicion who it ought to be. Shaking my hand he introcuced himself as Eeyore, well known blogger and skipper of NB Sonflower, once moored in Banbury.

"Hang on," thought I, "this man might be an impostor," for he was far too pleasant and cheerful to go by the name of a notoriously glum donkey. Well I had to take his word for it even though he was suspiciously cheery and welcoming. Anyway he had a nice wife and a pleasant son who had obviously been well brought up cos he was very tall. I look forward to meeting them again.

Then today, Herbie was boarded by a less reputable, but equally welcome rogue, pretending to be our old pal Maffi, but it couldn't have been because he had a smart haircut and his dog Molly wasn't with him. After a cup of tea and a natter I chucked him out as I was ready to do some more painting. The problem was I had forgot to tell the met office and they sent an hour's rain instead.

I was keen to try out my new toy, a palm detail sander on sale at Wickes for a miserly £12.99. Being a miser myself of course I had to get one, and I'm happy to say that it works very well. The front end of Herbie's roof was in a a poor state from when I had foolishly left a bag of coal on it last winter. After the rain stopped I sanded, cleaned and primed a three foot length of the roof, the sat back on my laurels waiting for Kath to come back from a hospital appointment with the good news that tests show that she wasn't really ill at all.

So, to celebrate a successful day we retired to the esteemed ReineDeer Inn for a venison burger and a pint of Hook Norton's extremely wonderful Summer Haze, an absolutely delicious wheat beer that we have only just discovered. Surely a candidate for a Herbie Award come Christmas. The sad news is that it's a seasonal brew and they are not doing any more this year. Trust us to find it when it's too late.

Last evening we visited the diminutive Banbury Odeon, and along with about thirty other culture vultures watched the RSC's live screening from Stratford of Bill Spokeshave's Cymbelline. This is a play I knew nothing about so I read up the plot before going. It was a good job I did, 'cos it has so many twists and turns. If I had to describe it in three words they would be Ridiculously Far Fetched. Anyhow a good time was had by all, and for a change the good people in the play all lived to tell the tale and most of the baddies got killed. Oi'll give it three and a half out of five, with a special mention for the set designer and lighting person and the brilliant comic timing of a couple of the cast. These live Spokeshave shows are fun. You ought to go. Next up is King Lear, not sure I have the stamina for that, a bit of a marathon I think. If I go I might have to take marmite sandwiches.

Toodle pip.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Venice on Cherwell

Having got back from our friend's funeral yesterday, it was getting dark along the tramway moorings here in Banbury. Dusty had just passed us on his coal boat and out of the murk, from the direction of the town centre came an odd looking boat with what looked, from a distance, like somebody punting. I stood on Herbie's counter and waited for it to approach. Well you could have knocked me down with a feather.

Can you make that out? The light was so poor that it shows up best in back and white. Yes, it was a genuine proper kosher pukka authentic Venetian Gondola. No he hadn't taken a wrong turn out of Venice. The gondolier, it turns out, was an Italian gondola enthusiast propelling the boat all the way from Stratford-upon-Avon to London, raising money for a gondola restoration project. At the speed he was going, he isn't going to reach London any time soon. I estimate he was doing about one mile an hour. I bet his shoulders are sore.

Today we took the train into Brum to visit the jewellery quarter to get Kath an engagement ring. Well we were too skint to afford a proper one forty one years ago, (I did buy her a proper wedding ring) so I thought I had better get round to it at last. It's a great place to buy a ring but a bit bewildering because there are over a hundred jewellers within a few streets. The one we picked on seemed very good anyhow, and it was nice to be able to pick an individual sparkler with all its certifications etc and have it mounted in the setting and on the band of choice, and if the bloke who sold it to us was telling the truth, about two thirds of the high street price.

We went off to his recommended pub, the Lord Clifden (a cracker!) for. a leisurely lunch and when we got back the ring was built and ready. Does that mean we're engaged now? You can all buy us a toast rack.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

This way / that way up

Why did nobody tell me? All these years I've been squinting, blind as a bat without my specs, at bottles in the shower, trying to see which was shampoo and which was conditioner. Then today, in Banbury Morrisons, Kath revealed that the shampoos all have their lids at the top and the conditioners have them at the bottom. Well blow me down, so they do! Well at least she told me before I lose all my hair I suppose.

We've moved up to near the tramway moorings ready to catch a train home tomorrow to go to (yet another) funeral. While I'm home I can pick up some more tools to attack some of the rust spots on Herbie's roof. It's always the roof of a boat that's first to need repainting - all that exposure to the elements and then the influence of roof "furniture" like the feet of our solar panel. Speaking of which, even though it is late September, were still getting quite a few amp hours from our one panel, probably between thirty five and forty five today. However, we have signalled the start of Autumn by lighting the coal stove for the first time tonight. But I still hold that September is one of the best months to go boating. The weather is generally good and the canals are not too busy.

Last night we walked up to the Reindeer Inn, which as far as I remember was recommended to us by Oakie, who never lets us down in that respect. A fine old Inn it is too, incorporating the famous Globe Room where Ollie Cromwell is said to have planned the battle of Edgehill. We got chatting to a chap who was celebrating the arrival of his Decree Absolute with a bottle of bubbly. The start of a new life for him I suppose, and he did have a lovely new girlfriend (fiancée?) who seemed to suit him fine. Apparently his ex wife was quite happy about it all too. It's a funny old world.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Painting in Banbury

Well hello dear Reader. Long time no blog! Well we've been busy at home with this and that, and then we came out for some time on Herbie in the Land the Internet Forgot aka Cropredy. But now we're in the great metrollops of Banbury with bandwidth coming out of our ears, so can tell you what we've been up to.

Close observers of the above photo might notice my little footstool adjacent to the Good Ship. "Aha, "you say , "he's been working on his gunnels. "

Well sort of. In the six years(!) since we painted Herbie, the paintwork on the cabin sides has stood up pretty well, except for one thing. Observe closely.

Yes, at the foot of the cabin sides where they meet the gunnels the paint has peeled a bit, revealing the old dark blue paint beneath. I could speculate on reasons for this, and I have, but whatever the cause is, I have to remedy it. Rub down, mask up a one inch strip above the gunnels and repaint.

Over a few days at Cropredy I did the port side and now it looks like this.

We can only get at that side on our mooring in the marina. We have a rule that we have to have the boat bows into the bank to protect the reeds. This bit of towpath at Banbury lets me get at the starboard side at a good height so I'm making a start here. I won't get it all done here cos it's four coats of paint and I only have two days. I'll find somewhere else later in the week to finish off.

You can't see it in the photo, but the old paint has changed colour considerably over six years in all weathers, so you can see where I have applied the new paint. It'll weather in, and anyway the boat already looks miles better.

It's relatively quiet in Banbury. Loads of mooring spaces. It'll be full next weekend for the canal day. We decided not to attend this year, partly because the Theme is '"bubbles" and we couldn't think of how we would work with that. I hope people don't blow soap bubbles all over the place, they're not very good for your paintwork. Perhaps they should install one of those underwater air bubble pipes like they have at Paddington or shovel a lot of methane containing detritus in the water like at the bottom of the Hanwell flight where it bloops under your boat all night.

Sometime on this trip we're going to catch a train into Birmingham so we can visit the jewellery quarter where I have promised to buy Kath a posh ring for our recent 40th(!!!) wedding anniversary. Forty years. You don't, as they say, get that for murder.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Battling through to Slough

Jena was about an hour late arriving at her spot at the Slough festival today, but in the event I was pretty happy she got there at all.   Apparently the canal only became passable  day or two ago after CRT cleared a long fallen tree, coned off a sunken boat,


and cleared a bit of weed. 

That however, was not the worst of our worries, for Jena decided to become a steam vessel when she boiled off her engine coolant after only a couple of hundred yards, despite me having topped her up before we started.  Buzzers were sounding and red lights were flashing somewhat alarmingly, so of course we stopped. While we were sitting in a cloud of steam Nb Ketura AKA Christine’s boat, passed us on their way to the festival promising to warn those it may concern of our late, or possibly, non arrival. How ignominious would that be? After cooling her (Jena, not Christine of course) down and refilling about four litres of water I let the engine run for a bit with the pressure cap off and squeezed the hoses to try to get rid of any airlocks.  Well that seemed to work and we set off again down the arm anxiously watching the temperature gauge.  My guest crew today was our little Jacob (now six feet tall and built like a brick wassname), and he had a go at the tiller showing that he has not forgotten all I taught him when he was a little ‘un.

Word had obviously spread of our troubles, ‘cos when we got within half a mile of the festival  we met a scout sent out to look for us, asking how hot we, well Jena, was. Further on down, everyone seemed to have heard of our troubles and seemed pleased to see us. 

Jena has a big gangplank to allow the public to come safely on board so she has to moor with the starboard side to the bank, which meant that we had to plod on to the infamous (“Is this all there is?”) Slough Basin to turn round then make our way back to our designated mooring at the festival site.  On the way down, a boat, obviously in difficulties, came in to view. getting closer we could see it was Ketura with poor Christine lying face down on the deck with her head in the weed hatch.  The water sure was getting weedy with huge clouds of blanket weed and what looked like Elodea floating just below the surface.  In some trepidation we pressed on and passed another boat with it’s skipper also down the weed hatch.  It didn’t look good.

So you can guess what happened next.


So good of Jacob to “volunteer” to clear Jena’s prop.  You can see a small percentage of the spoils on the right of the picture.

Having done that we managed, just, to keep going to the basin, turned and headed back towards the weed bank, probably now worth calling the Slough Sargasso Section, where Ketura was tying up to the other boat which would attempt to tow her backwards to the festival.  We had to press on because Sam Thomas of CRT was anxiously awaiting our arrival so we squeezed past cheekily asking what all the fuss was about.  I’m not sure that Christine was amused.

Well we made it.  Better late than never I suppose. Richard Parry was also there enjoying the rain and showed some interest in our woes, although in fairness I think it ought to be below his worry line.  Having tied up we set off in search of the famous Slough Festival samosas which were as good as ever, had a peek at the stationary engines and the birds of prey and then headed off home to calm down.

I didn’t count the number of visiting boats but it was a fair old few.  If and when the rain stops the festival should be very jolly as usual, before we go back to rescue Jena on Monday to take her back to Adelaide dock where I hope they will try to further investigate her coolant problems.  It’s never dull being a volunteer!

Friday, September 09, 2016

Squeezing into Slough

This weekend is the moderately , OK partially, OK not very famous, Slough Canal Festival. It’s quite possibly the smallest of all our canal festivals but none the worse for that.  Even as I write, people are planning midnight break-ins into ferret farms to nobble the favourites in the ferret racing, and the good people of the local residents association are preparing the ingredients of their truly scrummy samosas.  Cheery old buffers in boiler suits are oiling and polishing their stationary steam engines and the Dulux dog is having a shampoo and a comb. 

For my part, it looks like I’ll be steering CRT’s mega boat Jena down the arm on Saturday morning ready to welcome the steady flow of curious visitors and their inevitable questions about boating and canal life.  I hope they get her innards tidied up a bit before the public come on board. With all that space, people do tend to just dump stuff.


Taking Jena down the Slough arm is no small feat as space is tight here and there, not least at the entrance to the arm itself.  fellow volunteer Richard did that immaculately.


At the moment Jena lies snugly tied up in the off side brambles just outside Packet Boat marina.  Getting back on board might be the challenge of the day.  There are good opportunities for falling in in the process. Yesterday we moved her there from Paddington in warm sunshine.  I fear that Saturday's weather might not be so kind. Sunday looks better.  if you’re in the area, come on down, It’s a cute little festival and has a good atmosphere.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

YouTube DiY beats telly for fame

If Andy Warhol is right, I’ve still fourteen minutes and fifty six seconds of fame to come after my starring role in yesterday’s One Show.  Ooh hang on a minute, I’ve already used up twenty six seconds on my famous youtube video of me scabbling Herbie’s well deck floor.  That has had an amazing 3,354 views.  It just goes to show, if you want to be famous, do a bit of DiY.  The other benefit of the youtube one is that you cant see my ugly mug or hear my voiceSmile

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Fame at last – I get vox popped by Esther

Yesterday a group of us volunteers took CRT widebeam Jena from Adelaide dock up to Camden where she will be used this weekend as publicity support to the public open days at one of the pair of Kentish town locks next to the market.  The lock is undergoing a refurb.


Here you can see the lock on the right all ready to receive visitors.  This is quite possibly the most gongoozled pair of locks in the land and at a similar event last year, visitor numbers were huge. One of my colleagues had the pleasure(?) of escorting Jonathan Ross as he descended into the lock chamber to have a butchers at what was going on, so we accept allsorts.

Anyhow, having locked up Jena for the night next to the Dead Dogs basin entrance, I was off to the bus stop with my volunteer colleague Mike, when someone stuck a microphone under our noses, and who should it be but dear old Esther Rantzen recording a vox pop piece for Friday’s(?) One Show.  Quite why she selected two old farts like me and Mike I don’t know. Maybe she is one of those ladies who go for men in uniform  for we were clad in CRT volunteer livery.  Or maybe she is getting short sighted ‘cos the topic in question was whether we thought men had some sort of body clock telling them to have kids before they got too old.  Personally I can’t remember that far back.  Mike  has no kids and I have growing grandchildren, so quite what our opinions were worth I can’t imagine.  For that reason I strongly suspect that our responses are probably lying on the One Show cutting room floor as I write.  However I shall now have to watch to see if I am now famous or not.  I’m looking forward to being stopped for autographs on the street.   I hope Loudon Wainwright will forgive me (I am after all his greatest fan) for quoting from his fabulous song Harry’s Wall (look it up on YouTube, it’s wonderful) which sums up the situation

On the street the people stare
and I can hear them whisper,
"There he goes there's whats-his-name,
we saw him on TV"

Frustratingly I missed the chance to slip in a plug for my novel, which I am happy to say earned me another 33 pence in royalties last month.  Thank you, dear purchaser whoever you are. I may put the money towards a packet of crisps.