Friday, March 24, 2017

A gongoozler's point of view

Working through Banbury lock today, I had a pleasant chat with a young lady with a Geordie accent. "There's still time to come across the top gate." I said, "I wont be opening it until the water is level". She looked incredulously into the lock as the water poured through and said, "You've got to wait until the water is level?? That'll take hours." It was only after she had gone off into the shops, that I realised that she probably thought that the paddles had to be open until the water in the pound above the lock would fall to the level of that in the lock. Well she would have been right then wouldn't she? That would take hours! I like conversations like that.

Another thing she said, looking above the lock to where Kath was holdng Herbie mid canal was "How did you get off the boat when it was in the middle of the water?" I resisted the temptation to say I jumped or swam. I just said that I had stepped off. She looked impressed.

Last night we had another go at the quiz in the Reindeer and this time we failed to win the booby prize bag of sweets for coming last, in fact we were doing really well until the inevitable music round. Perhaps I should mug upon the works of ACDC and Ed Sheeran and some other bands I can't now recall the name of.

Our short excursion this time has been lovely now that the weather has improved. The hedgerows up here are still in springtime arrears compared with down home below the M4, but lots of celandines and violets are out.

I've been noting our times between bridges and going through locks in an effort to calibrate my canalometers better, and the early results look interesting in so far as they have surprised me. How long do you think it takes to pass through a narrow lock, from stepping off the boat to getting back on? Obviously it all depends on whether the lock is set in your favour or against, and whether there are other boats about. We had a mixture of all that, but in all cases I was surprised. I'll posts some results when I've had a better look through my scribbled notes.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Herbie Neil leads post Brexit export drive

The UK economy has swollen by an additional 1.25 US Dollars in export earnings this month. Philip Hammond must be relieved and its all down to me. Yes, someone in the United States has been reading my book! I didn't know it had been translated into American. It's all very exciting.*

In these days of streaming and all that, people can "borrow" a book from the Kindle library and it counts how many pages they read and I get paid accordingly. I get to see a monthly graph, so I see that on March 10th someone in the US read all 344 "Kindle normalized pages". I don't think it was Donald Trump, because he or she got to the end and I used quite a few long words. Someone else appears to have read it all over three days in February. Add that to my actual book sales over the period (zero) and that's two people who have actually finished the book this year. I'm thrilled. That's exceeded my expectations by two.

Actually it is quite gratifying that people who start the book generally finish it, so I must have done something right, especially as they read it so quickly. The book must be a page turner obviously.

Those eagerly awaiting the sequel probably ought to find another book to read in the meantime. I'm still struggling with the plot.

Any ideas what I could spend a dollar twenty five on?

*PS This is definitely not fake news!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Stranded but enjoying it.

Well, we're here on Herbie but we ain't going nowhere, or to be grammatically correct, we are going nowhere. The idea was to tootle down to Banbury, but when I climbed out of the boat this morning the wind nearly knocked me over. Had we set off for Banbury, the wind would have been hard on our starboard beam nearly all the way, straight across the open fields. Not wishing to get pinned against some unfortunate liveaboard, we decided to stay put. That's fine, it's cosy and comfy here and still a break from home.

Now here's a tip for you. I found out that the lovely people at Midland Chandlers(MC) will give you a fiver each (25%) off fire extinguishers if you hand over your old ones. We drove over to Braunston on Sunday to do just that. I've been meaning to replace them for ages as they are 15 years old and if you shake them, the powder doesn't move. I had assumed that MC sent them back for refilling  or something, hence the discount, but apparently not. They actually have to pay a small charge for their disposal, so the fiver off is just a discount to encourage you to have them safely got rid off. Ain't that nice? So if you want to set fire to Herbie, now would be a good time, 'cos the extinguishers ought to work.

As we were in Braunston we thought it would be rude not to patronise the Gongoozlers Rest cafe boat, so Sunday lunch was a whopping gert bacon and egg doorstep with scallop potatoes. Lovely.

Our stay on Herbie is not wasted. Kath cleared out all the long out of date jars and tins of this and that from the galley cupboards and I replaced the water filter element and, um, not a lot else. I also note that we have a bottle of Jim Beam that needs finishing up, so that's on my to do list.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Musings

Setting my music player the other day to a random shuffle of old stuff, I found myself listening to Simon and Garfunkels “Old Friends”, containing the lines ”Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly.  How terribly strange to be seventy”.  Hah! That doesn’t seem to be how it turned out for me.  This week I’ve been taking garden prunings to the tip, sweeping chimneys, sawing logs, going to the cinema, writing a computer program, improvising minor pentatonic blues solos at a ukulele session and playing bagpipes with a couple of lady friends who play concertinas. I’m looking forward to the park bench if and when I reach eighty.

It looks like the weather might  turn wet and windy over the weekend, so of course we’ll be out on Herbie for a bit. We should have gone earlier, yesterday was sublime.  I was on the boat however, up to my neck in soot and ashes clearing out the stove and sweeping the chimney, which requires the removal of the fire bricks and the inner roof plate of the stove. Funny how I can never remember how it goes back in.  I hope I’ve done it right.  I was pleased to see that the hand made bracket that Rick made to secure the blanking plate at the back of the stove was in fine fettle, unlike the original one which cracked.  Cheers Rick.

Driving up to Cropredy it was interesting to see that more  blackthorn blossom is out at the bottom of the M40 than it is further up. I’ve heard it said that spring marches north at the speed of a walking man, so maybe more will be out on the Oxford next week,  What was out at Cropredy though, was a skylark in the field next to the marina, letting rip with it’s  twittering high up in the air.  Tryng to attract a mate no doubt.  No good twittering at me mate, I’m already spoken for.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Weedy thoughts

fishandanchor (1 of 1)

When I were a lad, for several years I spent virtually the entire summer standing in the middle of this picture. It’s the ford across the river Avon by the Fish and Anchor pub at Offenham.  Nowadays there’s a lock cut a few yards to the left of this photo, but there was no navigation in those days although as far as I recall, boats had been invented.  As you can see, the river is shallow at this point, even below the ford it’s only a couple of feet deep.  The oxygenating effect of the ford brought the fish into the foamy area and I was there trying, and mostly failing, to catch a few.  We would take off our shoes and socks and roll up our trouser legs and wade out across the ford,  slipping and sliding on the cobble stones which were covered in silk weed.  How we never fell in, I’ll never know.  The silk weed was very comforting once you got to stand still, rather like standing barefoot on a sheepskin rug.  The weed itself held an abundance of tiny larvae and wotnot which of course the fish would like to eat. We would drag our bare fish hooks through the weed to pick up a bit of it, then cast it into the foamy race below.  The current is pretty swift there and in a few seconds our fishing floats would be thirty yards downstream as we squinted our eyes to see them.  As I said, I never caught much but I didn’t care. It was a lovely place to be.  In the eddy between the ford and the tree to the left of the picture, gangs of marauding perch used to swoop on the shoals of minnows that huddled there, and once I saw a creamy white pike (albino??) about three feet long, just lazily hanging about in the shallows. It was like a ghost.

Jump forward fifty years and I think it’s the same type of weed that tries to grow on edge of the boat’s baseplate like a little whispy beard.  At Bulbourne on the GU I’ve watched the carp grazing along the side of the boats, presumably more interested in the larvae than the weed itself, and of course ducks do the same don’t they?

I used to lie in bed aboard Herbie in the early morning and hear what I thought was scampering on the roof.  For a long time i assumed this was the pitter patter of rodent feet as they scavenged for a bite to eat.  Only in the last year or so have I realised that it isn’t that at all.  It’s the ducks pecking along the water line picking off the weed, I suppose that makes it some sort of symbiosis.  They get fed and the boat gets cleaned.  Down the old Slough Arm, the boats at High Line Yachting suffer badly from the weed, they have beards worthy of ZZ Top, most of them, and thinking about it I don’t recall seeing many ducks down there.  Maybe I should suggest that they import a few.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Insurance small print - you ought to read this.

Yesterday I actually got round to thumbing through the small print in our boat insurance policy. (Euromarine Insurance Sailplan policy)  How many of us rarely do that? Well, it’s worth it because I came across a paragraph that took me by surprise.  Under General Policy Exclusions it has the usual stuff about War, Sonic bangs, Cyber attack(!!), Riots, Pestilence (OK not pestilence) etc. Then under “Non standard uses of your craft” it says:

Unless it is noted in your schedule you are not insured if you use your craft:

Hiring  . . blah blah

single handed if your craft is more than 10 metres in length unless endorsement 25 is shown in your schedule

blah blah

Blimey!  I’m not a regular single hander, but I do now and again move Herbie solo for half  a day or so. So for the last ten years I have been periodically unwittingly  uninsured!  I would have thought that there was more of a chance of an accident when single handed, so I thought I ought to do something about it.

I rang up the insurers and explained the problem and to my relief they added the appropriate endorsement to my schedule at no extra charge and with absolutely no fuss.  So the message is, do look at the small print and if you find a problem ring up your insurer. If they’re anything like EIS you’ll find them helpful. I have occasionally looked for cheaper quotes but EIS always wins.

Changing the subject. There seem to be a number of dates which can be said to be the start of spring.  Although I generally go with the equinox, it is getting a bit spring like round our way.  Lots of crocuses, snowdrops and daffs on the road verges and bird action in the hedgerows. In my scruffy garden I’ve got hellebores and primroses as well as a big clematis in full flower as it grows up the huge holly hedge that keeps us from seeing our deceased neighbours. (We back on to a churchyard).

Fountains, the firm who do the hedge and verge maintenance for CRT are forbidden to do any regular hedge work over the nesting period so they’re probably sitting in their huts drinking tea and sharpening their chainsaws for a bit. It’s odd how bird species come and go.  We never see a sparrow or a thrush now, but every morning we get woken by a red kite mewing as it patrols over our house.  Thirty years ago we would have had to go to mid Wales to see one, now we just go into the garden and look up.  One day I’m going to put out some food to tempt it to land in the garden and see if I can grab a good photo.

Toodle pip.