Saturday, July 13, 2024

Cobwebs, WD40, lardy cake and beer. All in a day's work in Banbury

 Phew I'm cream crackered after traipsing round Banbury for a large part of the day,  It's good to be back here though as it's been a long time since our last visit and we do love the streets and alleyways and the little independent shops, even if too many of them are charity shops. Here's a partial view of one of the largest stores in town, it's the Salvation Army shop. If you can't find something to buy in here you must have no imagination.  It's about three times as big as what you see here.

And barbers, don't get me started on barbers.  If long men's hair comes back into fashion, Banbury's economy will collapse. I'm surprised anybody here has any hair left.

When we arrived yesterday there wasn't a single mooring spot anywhere above the lock, not in Spiceball park, not anywhere.  In the end we were forced to drop down the lock and tie up some way past the railway station against a very dodgy bit of canal bank.  Here's where we have to gingerly step on and off the boat.

One thing were pleased to see still in town was the Saturday market and the baker's stall where we succumbed to the temptation of a slab of lardy cake.  Mmmm, fat and sugar. A heart attack on a plate, but to die for ("Well you might", I hear our doctor saying).

As if that wasn't enough to annoy the medical profession, we also stopped in at The Three Pigeons to rest our weary legs and remind ourselves of their rather wonderful Purity Gold ale.  Sadly they weren't doing food so we were forced to drink up and move along to Ye Olde Reine Deer for another pint and some lunch.  It's a tough job but someone has to do it.

Although Herbie has behaved herself perfectly on her first cruise in many months, were perturbed, actually dismayed might be a better word,  late on Thursday night to realise that the extractor fan on the Airhead toilet wasn't working.  This little fan is essential to the functioning of the composting and drying out process.  Then minutes later we switched on the boat's inverter to find that that also wasn't working.  I was not a happy bunny.

Next morning I set out to investigate. As I suspected, the toilet fan which is only really accessible (without serious dismantling inside the cupboard under the sink) from the fan exhaust port outside the boat, was clogged up with cobwebs.  Using a long artist's paintbrush to clean out the hole and to reach the fan I was able to flick the fan blades back into action with the aid of a good squirt of WD40 to lubricate it.  One problem solved, one more to go.

The inverter appeared to be as dead as a dodo.  I think its main fuse is hidden somewhere in the bowels of the engine 'ole, not somewhere where a gentleman of my age and stiffness of joints relishes exploring.  I was somewhat distressed.  Then in the middle of the night I remembered that the inverter supply has it's own master switch above the batteries and that's easy to get to. So after breakfast I went to have a look.  Disappointingly the switch was still in the ON position but clearly corroded presumably from sitting in a damp environment all year.  "Another job for WD40", I cried, and flicking the big switch back and forth a few times and a squirt of said magical spray and the little green light on the inverter sprang back into life.

If that doesn't deserve a lardy cake, I don't know what does.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Mega Cruise and name-a-cat invitation.

 Never in all the 18 years we've had Herbie has she laid so long unused.  This year, things have conspired against us.  Every time we made a plan, something got in the way. Until now that is. Today we climbed aboard, battled with the cobwebs, started the trusty old BMC engine (fired up first go!) and set off into the wide blue yonder.  We've cruised all the way from Cropredy marina to . . . below Cropredy lock! That must be over a quarter of a mile.  Well it's a start.  We've barely a scrap of food on board and we're only part unpacked.  So Banbury tomorrow and food shopping and sorting out the boat after being laid up so long.

Anyone kind enough to have read my previous post deserves an apology.  I announced then that I was off to Herbie to commence repainting the cabin sides.  Well it turned out that that was about as true as a Boris Johnson Brexit promise.  For one thing I'd forgotten that I'd promised to take Grace and her pals to Thorpe park to celebrate completion of their GCSEs.  Then the temperature rose to 27 degrees - far too hot for painting, then it started raining -again a painting no no.  So that's on hold for the time being.

But there are other exciting developments to announce.  First, our ship's cat (kitten actually) has been selected from the short list.  He or she (we're still not sure!) is currently called Nose and is very sweet natured.  Two of her siblings have gone to Grace.

Nose is just a temporary name while we think up a proper one.  Maybe you can help out here with some ideas.  Suggestions so far include Parker (after Nosey parker), Schrodinger, Bilbo, Barnsley  that's a long story but it's a family joke), Milton (after our favourite Brewery), Guinness, Saka , Tuffers,  Rumpole, Banksy, etc.  Rejected ones include Jacob Rees Moggie.  Any ideas gratefully received. We take possession in about three weeks.

Our other bit of excitement is that we have kitted ourselves out with a pair of Brompton folding bikes to allow us to explore further from the canal when we tie up somewhere.  Bromptons are ferociously expensive new, but you can easily find really good used ones for half the retail price which is what we did.  Herbie is not a big boat, but we've managed to stow away the pair without too much bother.  Our maiden outing might be in a few days time when we can moor up near Twyford wharf and attempt an assault on Kings Sutton and /or cycle from The Pig Place to Adderbury.  We can also make good use of the Bromptons when we visit our Peter in Cambridge which unlike our own home is blissfully bereft of hills for the most part.  I'll be able to have more than one drink at the pub. Woohoo!

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Biting the bullet

Hi everyone. Long time no post!  I'm back out to Herbie on Monday to start a big scary job.  A bit at a time I'm going to repaint Herbie's cabin sides.  Same colours as before.  The old paint, now 14 years old, has gone flat and matt and is looking very drab.  When we did the big repaint in 2010 it took a gang of us to do it and we had a nice indoor dock to do it in.  It was hard graft I can tell you. This time I'm doing it outdoors and solo so it'll take some months to get it all done.  Here's a reminder of how it looked when we finished last time.

Blimey, we were so chuffed at the time.  Realistically, I can't imagine getting it so good this time but I'm hopeful it'll look a lot better than it does now.  I'm tackling it one panel at a time starting with the dark grey, port side front.  That panel is currently unblemished apart from a wee bit round the window frame so it's a good place to start. 

So I've amassed a pile of abrasives and paint and wotnot, bought a posh new cordless random orbit sander, and with some trepidation I'm biting the bullet. Wish me luck.  I'll try and remember to do a 'before' photo.  I always seem to forget to do that when doing a job.

In other news, I have a potential new solution to getting out rainwater from the engine 'ole.  As I've said before, the bilge pump does get down to the last inch or so.  After all the rain we've had there'll be plenty to dispose of despite the back deck having a drain channel.

Quite a long time ago I bought from Aldi a water pump that fits onto a power drill.  When I tried it I couldn't get it to work, possibly because my old drill didn't run fast enough.  Anyhow I dug out the pump again and got some hose and had another go at home with my newer drill and to my surprise it works a treat.  See here (click the little box in the right hand corner to get it full screen):


It's portable, lightweight, easy to use, self priming and seems to get a really good flow, so I'm hopeful it'll make the task about as simple as it could be.

Meanwhile for those interested in the Herbie ship's kitten selection  process, here's the latest photo of the candidates, now 5 weeks old. We don't have a particular front runner at this stage.  They're all really cute and all on the short list.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Herbie Apprentice Selection

Rishi Sunak reckons we ought to have more apprenticeships and for once I agree with him. In fact we already agreed with him before he said it.  Of course Rishi is unlikely to have the opportunity to put his idea into practice after July 4 so we'll have to go ahead on our own.

So for our Herbie crew apprenticeship we have identified a short list of four young candidates.  Each has been given a temporary code name (or in one case, three alternative ones). Let me introduce you to them.

First is Nose (on account of his -or her white nose)

Next we have Smokey aka Grey

Then we have Collar on account of his/ her white collar (I hesitate to use the term Dog Collar for what I hope are obvious reasons)

and last but not least Chalky, Snowy or Snowdrop on account of being all black

Like all good interview candidates they are fighting for attention and showing some competitive spirit.

You can also see that we are doing our bit to help the poor and disadvantaged in that all four are currently living in a cardboard box in our Peter's flat in Cambridge. And like so many youngsters these days they are still living with their mother.

The selection process will take a few weeks, during which we will assess their physical health, their intelligence and personality and of course willingness to learn.  After all once trained and qualified the lucky winner will officially become Ships Cat - a responsible position.

Now observant readers will recall that we were supposed to have been cruising last weekend.  Well a tiny weeny thing stopped us.  Microscopic in fact. I'm not sure what it was but a good guess might be ecoli or something similar. Kath and I were laid low with,  - well I'll spare you the gory details.  Suffice it to say that we weren't up to running around locks and standing out for hours in the rain.  Having now recovered we hope to snatch a few days aboard in the coming days, before returning to Cambridge for a further check up on the apprentice candidates.

I hear the Crick show was somewhat muddy by the end.  We actually won two free tickets in an Aquavista moorers draw, but not being able to attend, we passed them back to be reallocated to some other lucky couple.  I hope they didn't get too wet.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Ship's cat in the offing??

 Next weekend, (not the coming one) if all goes to plan we'll actually take Herbie out on the canal.  In all the 18 years we've had the boat this is the longest time we've not cruised (except perhaps during the first Covid year).  This time our main excuse has been rain, floods and mud although I suspect inertia has something to do with it.  The other day with fingers crossed I thought I'd better check that the engine still starts.  Based on previous experience of starting up after months of standing unused, I remembered to manually work the fuel lift pump a couple of dozen times before turning the key, and the old BMC burst into life at the first attempt.

Next week we'll have Rosie and Ronnie, our Claire's dogs, as crew.

Being now well approaching middle age they're as good as gold and no trouble.  However, we might be getting a ship's mascot  of our own before too long.  It's a long story, but our son Peter adopted Grace's cat Belle as companion to his other cat Charlie and unexpectedly it turns out Belle was pregnant, so when he came home last Thursday night, instead of having two cats he found he now had six!!

Right there on the carpet! Belle hadn't even been nesting although she had been ravenously hungry for some days.  Kath had got very fond of Belle and Charlie so she's thinking of having one of the kittens.  Apparently everyone wants the grey one.  Peter has read that ideally cats should go in pairs.  Oh dear!  Mother and kittens are doing well and the youngsters have already almost doubled in weight.

Meanwhile we've just spent a few days around waterways where most of the boats are plastic.

Yes it's the good old Norfolk broads and a weekend with old friends.  Kath and I didn't join the others sailing this time but chose instead to seek the wildlife.  Hickling Broad Nature Reserve is I think the best inland reserve we've visited.  We saw common cranes, marsh harriers, and a purple heron as well as lots of more normal waterfowl and we heard, but sadly didn't see, numerous bitternes booming.  Just before we arrived people saw a white tailed eagle there.  Brilliant place and highly recommended. 

Back at the Cropredy, we've been getting used once again to the lovely sunsets we get there.

and at last I got round to fitting the new button fender although I've now bought some new chain to better secure it next week. I need to reach those side eyelets to give in some lateral stability.

Tune in next week for more kitten updates and hopefully some actual boating.

Saturday, May 04, 2024

Interior boat decor a la Kath

Kath is a clever old stick.  Time was when she would complain that she couldn't draw or paint or indeed have any artistic talent. Well over the years she's proved herself wrong and the evidence can be seen aboard Herbie.

Take these storage boxes for example - I use them to store small hand tools, screws and wotnot.  Kath covers old fairy washing powder boxes and the like with a collage of bits of paper she has painted on then seals the surface with a hard wearing acrylic wax.

In the galley we have tea towels printed with her canal based artwork

and of course her patchwork curtains in the saloon and lately a matching backing for my chair.

But the most recent idea is a decorative panel to cover up a water stain below the side hatch.  The hatch no longer leaks since we made a canvas cover on its outside, cunningly attached by magnets for easy removal, but previous leaks had done this to the woodwork 

So when I saw Kath painting a long wildflower watercolour panel I suggested we use it to cover up the stain.  Eventually I'll get round to putting a new bit of wood panel in but in the meantime here's our arty solution.

Here's a closer look at the painting itself, or some of it.

We're aboard Herbie for the weekend, doing odd jobs.  One I'm not looking forward to is fitting our new stern button fender, which will require me bending or lying down struggling with rusty old  shackles to get the old button off whilst hoping my glasses don't fall off into the water.  At least the sun is shining today, a rare occurrence lately.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Work and play at Cropredy

 I'm glad to report that Herbie is still afloat - well you never know these days with all the weather we're having; there's a 40-odd mph wind outside as I write.  Anyhow we spend a jolly couple of days on Herbie at the weekend and actually got some jobs done.  We didn't go anywhere of course, but we didn't need to because lots of things were happening at Cropredy marina, it being their (our?) Open Day.  There was Hook Norton beer from the Village Butty and pizzas and a few traders too as well of course lots of other moorers to chat to and make friends with.  

We splashed out on a new button fender for Herbie's rear end - I haven't fitted it yet, first I've got to deal with the rusted upon shackles holding the old fender on, then I've got to lie flat on the rear deck to reach down to the welded chain fixings and peer over the stern hoping my specs don't fall off.  The fender itself is ever so heavy, I hope I don't drop it in the drink before I get the chains secure 'cos it sure won't float.

Jobs I did manage to get done were a) polishing the one side of the boat I can get at from our pontoon and b) fitting a new radio aerial.  Actually the aerial itself we fitted last time out, but this time it was routing the cable through the roof lining and down a covered wooden channel to the radio.  I found myself unscrewing all sorts of bits of boat, then deciding I didn't need to and screwing them all back again, then cutting the cable to length whilst worrying I might have cut it too short, then finally tucking it all away out of sight.  A proper DiYer would scoff at how easy a job it is, but for a dyspraxic old git like me who gets giddy looking overhead through my varifocals it becomes a non trivial exercise.  

One job I won't be handling myself is the fixing of Herbie's MORCO gas water heater which has decided not to keep the pilot light going.  Luckily I know a man who knows all about Morcos and he was at the Open Day - the redoubtable Clive Mantt who for years was the go to mechanic and Mr Fixit at Cropredy.  Now he has officially retired but he still will do the odd bit of gas work.  Other stuff like crawling around in engine 'oles and suchlike he now leaves to the younger generation.  I know how he feels.  Anyhow he's going to fix our Morco on Thursday - good old Clive.

When Aquavista swallowed up Castle Marinas, we moorers were naturally nervous about what it might mean, but so far the changes have all been good.  Cropredy has got posh new showers and toilets, better wifi, a new moorer's gazebo 

and a marked increase in social activities, so it'll be good to come for weekends or short breaks at the marina even if time or the weather precludes opportunities to go out cruising.  But when we do go cruising there's another benefit brought by Aquavista.  Last year they allowed their paid up moorers to visit any of their 29 marinas free of charge for up to 34 days a year.  Now they've put that up to 100 days!  That opens up some good opportunities for taking on a long cruise in bits and pieces, breaking off here and there to get back home for a while before continuing.
How about a trip to Nottingham? Aquavista have 4 marinas en route ( actually one on a short detour) from Cropredy and one in Nottingham itself.  I'm tempted. We could spread the return trip over two or three months.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Drought memories as Oxford is cut off by high waters

I think we're in the longest wet weather spell I can remember.  The table at the end of this post illustrates it well.  But first, the longest dry spell I can remember was 48 years ago and I have good reason to remember.

Kath and I got married in the September of 1976 after months of the longest drought in living memory.  Down in Devon and Cornwall water was being rationed and there were standpipes in the streets in some towns.  

We were pretty skint at the time, we organised our wedding reception with the help of friends - we made all the food and  made our own wine using free ingredients kindly donated by local home brew shop, a friend made a barrel of beer, our musical friends made up the band for the ceilidh.  A neighbour got us free hire of  The Old Gospel Hall in town which by then was occupied by the local drama group so it had a stage and theatrical props draped around the walls.  Kennet Morris dancers (of which I was one at the time) processed us from the registry office to the reception.  Someone remarked that it was all like something out of Thomas Hardy.  

Next day we set off on honeymoon in our beloved Citroen Diane.  Having little money we took our small tent and headed for Dartmoor stopping off at Cheddar on the way for cheese and cider.  I recall it was the weekend before the government introduced the alcohol tax on cider so we got it really cheap from a farm shop.  5 gallons of it!  Wizened old locals sat on a bench at the farm drinking free tasting samples.  One old fella got up to go for a pee and Kath asked "Have you been drinking free samples all day?" "Yas misssus," he replied, "I shall be glad when I've 'ad enough!"

Dartmoor was lovely. Kath fed the campsite chickens from the door of our little tent and we lived mostly on cheese and cider.

Then on the Wednesday, four days into our honeymoon, the months of drought broke with a vengeance and it poured and thundered and poured and poured.  We headed home to complain to our friends who worked at the Met Office.  People were rejoicing at the return of the rain, but another few days of drought would have been better for two honeymooners!

My next drought memories are of the extraordinary dry winter of 2011/12 when the canal reservoirs were drying up.  Here's a picture I took then of the Welford reservoir  that feeds the Leicester arm of the Grand Union canal.  I suspect you may have been able to wade across the middle and keep your shoulders dry.

Over at Marsworth reservoirs which feed the GU main line it was the same story.

So here we are in 2024 and it couldn't be more different. Reservoirs are full.  I suppose we're lucky on the canals because they don't flood anything like as much as rivers do. But down on the Oxford we have the problem of the Cherwell river which in two places joins the canal.  Like a lot of boaters we get the updates from CRT telling us when these places are not safe to navigate.  This week I noticed that these emails contain not only the latest information but also all those events since it was last safe.  So for fun I made the following table.  It reminds us strongly of how long this wet spell has continued.

It shows conditions at Nell Bridge, where the canal joins the river for the short stretch to Aynho lock and at Bakers lock where the canal drops down to the Cherwell just south of Enslow.  If these bits are unsafe, then you can't boat down to Oxford where the canal ends.  Nor can Oxford be accessed by the Thames at these times because the great river is always in flood if the Cherwell is.  

Anyway here's the table Red means not safe to navigate.  Orange means stream increasing  so be very careful and Yellow means stream decreasing from red but still requires great care.

So it looks like it has now been more than 5 months since the All Clear at Bakers lock.  As I write this, it's raining heavily outside so we can't see an end to it yet. Oxford cut off from the known world!

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Kennet and Avon running fast

 We've boated on all the navigable waters south of Chester I think except the Kennet & Avon.  Strange really as it's the closest to our home. Actually, I tell a lie, we have done the bit of the K&A from the junction with the Thames to the other side of Reading town centre.  About a mile I suppose.   People tell us the K&A at this end is a lot of hard work and that the other end beyond Devizes has too many moored boats. So we've not really been tempted to give it a go.

This is Greenham lock in Newbury.  At this point the K&A canal above the lock drops down onto the river below. 

Can you see that red boat moored up in the distance?  That's where Tesco (and Lidl) is.

 Here's a close up of the yellow sign on the lock gate beam

Anyhow, the bit through Newbury is unfamiliar to us and it seems a maze of bits of river and canal and islands.  We were in Newbury on Sunday afternoon and popped into Tesco and noticed a narrowboat just through the car park hedge so of course we had to go and take a look.  At that point it is the river below the lock and it was running very fast, much too fast to navigate unless of course you want to take up water skiing.  The mooring lines on the boats were stretched really tight as the current pushed the boats back. 

Some of the river comes from under that bridge, but most of it comes hareing round the corner on the left of the lock.  It all looks pretty scary to me.   Have you boated on the K&A?  How did you find it?

Monday, March 11, 2024

Back On Board -panic on arrival.

Poor Herbie has been left alone for nearly 4 months in gales, floods and the cold, but now we're back, albeit only for a few days to warm her through. "First thing when we get there", I said to Kath on the way to Cropredy, "is plug into the mains electric and get the fan heater on.  That'll warm the boat up fastest."

Well the best laid plans . . .

I dug out our shore lead, plugged it into Herbie's socket  (through our new galvanic isolator)and then realised we hadn't got our electricity meter.  Boats here, and in a lot of other marinas, are required to have an in line tamper proof meter to measure their electricity useage.  You have to buy your own, we've had ours since we moved to Crick in 2011.  But where was the flippin' thing now?  I couldn't remember where we had stowed it.  High and low we searched, in all the lockers and cupboards, in the roof box, in the coal 'ole, we couldn't find it anywhere.  Had some felon swiped it? I might have left it in the cratch which isn't secure.  In the end I went round to the marina office to report it and perhaps plead for the loan of one.

"Ah," said the lovely Theresa in the office, "I think we've got it here.  One of the lads doing the boat checks saw it plugged into the bollard but not into the boat and brought it in for safety." Panic over.  I didn't want to buy a new one because they cost somewhere around £90 or more I think.  I refrained from saying they might have let me know before I turned the boat upside down looking for it. It was after all a kind thing to take it in.

While I was in the office I asked how the big facilities refurb was going.  We're getting 8 new toilet/ shower rooms complete with hairdryers, a refurbed moorers lounge, fancy new launderette machines where you check availability and pay via your smartphone, a hot water sink in the Elsan hut (there's posh!), and a dog shower.  It's not all finished yet but progress looks good.  Here's a peek inside one of the "luxury power shower en suites"

I'm not sure if I'd call it luxury exactly, but it'll do nicely.  

Meanwhile the rest of the marina waterside roads are a mass of puddles and potholes, but again, Aquavista is on the case.  This week the car park and entrance road are being resurfaced, although how they do it through all the standing water remains to be seen.  We're also getting uprated 'high speed' wifi, CCTV security and new security entrance gate from the road outside.  Some one is bound to wonder how much the mooring rates are going to rise to pay for it all.  The optimist in me says that all they are doing is bringing the marina up to group standards so it shouldn't cost more.  They now have 350 boats here so not to have all this stuff wouldn't be sufficient.  The average fee per boat is over three grand a year now, so that's well over a million squid a year they've got to spend.  We await next year's tariff with trepidation.

So here we are for a few days.   I have some carpet tiles to put down and a radio aerial to fix and we'll see if the engine starts.  It'll probably require a few tugs on the fuel pump lever, but the batteries seem at a good level of charge.  We're not taking Herbie out this time.  It's mainly to get the boat ship shape for a cruise when the world dries out a bit.  The towpaths look pretty muddy right now and we have to be back home on Friday anyhow.

Meanwhile we're already warm and cosy, the stove fan is whirring nicely, the hot water bottles are warming the bed and all is well.

Sunday, March 03, 2024

More water

 Some boaters may know the old Duke street bridge over the Kennet & Avon in the centre of Reading.  The current is always brisk through there and you need extra revs to push upstream.  Well on Friday we were in Reading so we went to look at it. Here's a photo which doesn't really convey the force and speed of the water, but you get the idea.  A game of pooh sticks wouldn't take long.

Not a lot of headroom there. A kayaker might get through if he or she could paddle hard enough. Even then they'd have to duck.

Our friend David aka Rainman who lives not many yards from the canal in Rickmansworth tells me that the canal is over the towpath and the adjacent Aquadrome park is flooded.  CRT emails send me messages daily about floods or flood damage on the Oxford, Coventry, the Soar and the Grand Union.  Our patio floods every few days and the back garden is like a wet sponge. It's all getting serious folks.

On the upside, CRT's reservoirs are mostly full, so if it ever stops raining we might be scraping the canal bed less often this summer, unless of course it's all silted up with mud washed off the fields.  Anyone like to place a bet on when the next hosepipe ban comes in?

Our flooded hall carpet has now dried out even  though we have had no central heating for nearly three weeks.  It should have been fixed last week but there was a cock up in British Gas's booking process. Now they're coming on Wednesday - we think.  They've given us 10%  (£83) of the cost of the proposed power flush in recompense.  We've probably spend more than that running fan heaters.

We promise to get back to Herbie soon, honest. Although we may not be able to actually go anywhere unless the rains stops and the water goes down.

Hey ho. It is what it is.

My thoughts are with all those live aboard boaters coping with it all.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Water stories. Lots of good and bad news.

 Water water everywhere, even in our hall carpet! More of that later, but first the stuff in the waterways. Well some of it has spilled over rather, so not all actually in..  

The other day we took the guided bus from Cambridge to St Ives. The best way to describe the guided bus experience is that it can somewhat unnerving.  It hurtles along at speeds not normally associated with buses, and nervous passengers with a view of the driver can see that he isn't always holding the steering wheel.  This week however, after the usual breakneck first few miles the bus slowed right down, and looking out of the window we could soon see why.  The many gravel pits either side of the busway had spilled their banks and covered the cycle track alongside the actual bus track.  Mercifully the bus track is a tad higher so the bus had dry feet (or wheels I suppose).  Nevertheless it was a bit like crossing the Holy Island causeway with water lapping either side of the track. and extending as far as the eye could see.  

When we arrived in St Ives we went to look at the river Ouse.  The meadows upstream of the bridge were nowhere to be seen and it looked like the river was half a mile wide instead of its normal 20 or thirty yards.

Just over the bridge, the hotel car park was similarly nowhere to be seen with the hotel nervously perched atop its stilts

and on the town bank, more familiar to boaters, the river was perilously close to the  brim protecting the buildings beyond 

and the current was bowling along at quite some lick.  You wouldn't want to be out on it in a boat I can tell you. Not that you'd get under the bridge of course.

Looking at my CRT notification emails for the Oxford canal I saw that Banbury lock was over flowing and unuseable and the flood gate at Thrupp was closed and of course the bits where the Cherwell joins the canal were not navigable. The Thames I think has been on red boards for quite a while.  I haven't looked at this months reservoir holdings but I suspect that is at least one thing we don't have to worry about.

Good and bad news at home

Returning home after our sojourn in Cambridge we found that our central heating wasn't working.  The good news was that we have a British Gas contract so a phone call got them out first thing next morning.  Hurray! The bad news was that after fitting a new pump and automatic flow valve ( about £350 worth according to the gas man), it still wasn't working.  Boo! The good news is that we don't have to pay because our contract covers that.  The bad news was that the man concluded that the system was blocked with sludge and we'd have to have a powerflush (I'm not all that surprised as the heating system was put in about 35 years ago).  The worse news is that we have to pay £830 for that and the even worse news is that they can't get anyone to come and do it before Feb 27!! (I'm leaning on them to do better).  The good news is that the weather has warmed up considerably in the last couple of days and so we can manage by carting our fan heater into whatever room we are using. But the bad news is that when the gas man drained a sample radiator to check his sludge theory, he didn't fully tighten the connection before he left.  It was only some hours later that we spotted the damp patch (actually sopping wet would be a fairer description) in the hall and found the dripping joint.  My trusty adjustable spanner turned out to be of little use and I couldn't stop the weep, so we put a tray under it and phoned British Gas again.  Our man turned up next morning and, muttering apologies, fixed the leak and had a rather unsuccessful go at the carpet with his wet &  dry vacuum.  So now we have no heating for ten days and a wet hall carpet.  Hey ho. Worse things happen at sea.  I suppose we could go and stay on Herbie to keep warm, but I suspect we wouldn't be cruising because of all the excess water.

But here is good news of a different type.  Over in the graveyard behind our hedge, spring is really springing.  Look at these wild crocuses,

They're so thick in places that you can't walk along without treading on them.

Only the first daffodils are out yet but there are masses of them still to come, along with a big bed of primroses just over our hedge.  Everybody should have an old graveyard over their garden hedge.  We saw a jay over there this morning.

Finally, this is probably the last blog post I shall type on my trusty chromebook, because its now so trusty now as the battery has packed up.   I've had it for some years and it has more than earned its keep. I could buy a new battery, but instead I'll put that money towards a new Chromebook Plus which is a new breed of higher spec machines with extra AI based software features.  Chromebooks are not for everybody but they suit me well and it's nigh on impossible to accidentally lose your work. They get frequent updates  which unlike the Windows ones, are always quick and trouble free and actually worth having. So my next blog post , whenever that might be, will be shiny and more up market although you may well not notice it.