Thursday, January 06, 2022

Coming of Age

Some people have a bucket list. I never have written one down although of course there have been things I always wanted to do.  This weekend I shall attain the terrifying age of 75.  Yes, I know, who'd a thought it?  Somehow it seems a more significant milestone than 40 or 50 or 70. I don't think I can any longer claim to be middle aged.  I'm probably technically elderly. Hah! Time to review that non existent bucket list I suppose.

Travel the world?  Total failure on that one.  Switzerland is as far as I ever got - in an ailing old dormobile with a gang of fellow students.  We were aiming for Split in Yugoslavia but the van kept overheating so we turned round at Lake Zurich. We were so scruffy and the van so beaten up that we routinely got pulled over and searched for drugs at border posts.  One guard got very excited at finding a pouch of something in my holdall, until he discovered it was a tea bag.

Having a motor bike?  Many a middle aged man's fancy.  Well I had a little 50cc Honda when I was a student but I don't think that counts. Top speed 50mph downhill. I fell off it several times.

Playing guitar in a band? Many a young or middle aged man's fantasy. Yep done that, although not exactly sex, drugs and rock 'n roll - we played for barn dances. Still we weren't too bad and it was terrific fun and we often got free fish and chips.  One year we did 22 gigs. I think I made about 15 quid a time which just about covered expenses. In the 1990s Kath and I and a friend Alison formed a folk band called Man Sandwich - we were alarmingly good and huge fun until poor Alison died suddenly.  In recent years I have gone electric so I look really cool in our spare room when no one is watching. I'm not Jimi Hendrix but I can play a bit. I even have a Stratocaster copy - bought off Maffi, permanently on the boat.

Having an exotic car?  Well we did have a Citroen Dyane (a sort of 2CV estate) when we were first married.  Exotic enough in my book. 602cc of throbbing power, requiring dropping in to first gear to get up some hills. We loved it to bits.  Not exactly a Ferrari though. Actually I never wanted a fast car or a Rolls Royce. I prefer miles per gallon over miles per hour and our Skoda has a bigger boot than a Ferrari.

Writing a book?  Twice ticked! Not exactly a commercial success but I'm not ashamed of either.

Seeing one's idols at live gigs? Lots there. In my twenties I went to lots.  First ever performance of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac.  Jeff Beck with Rod Stewart, John Mayall (many times), Pink Floyd, The Who (who were dreadful), Cream in a tiny club when they had just formed, James Taylor, Rev Gary Davis (very niche but a real catch) and so many more.  Plus many folky greats like Nic Jones and Martin Carthy lots of times. Sadly I never saw Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell though. 

Owning a boat.  Biggest tick of all.  Lots of people dream about having a boat.  You can see gongoozlers doing just that.  It's great.  Waterways, countryside, city moorings, BBQ's on the bank, industrial heritage, waterside pubs.  What's not to like?  There were doubters when we first decided to buy a boat - "You'll never use it enough" etc.  Well they were wrong. It's one of the best things we ever did and we're still doing it.

I've just set out on my latest bucket list item.  Now that I'm about to be 75 I've started learning piano, well a midi keyboard in truth.  I'm doing it properly, scales and arpeggios and all that stuff.  I don't suppose I've got the time to become the next Liberace, Rick Wakeman or Vladimir Ashkenazy, but I know I'll enjoy trying.

Come back when I'm 80 and see how far I get.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

New Years Honours

Happy New Year everyone.  Statistically, I'm guessing that the probability of it being better than last year is reasonably high, so let's look forward to it.

Apologies for the late completion of the Herbie Awards - I have to admit that the 2021 Awards have been pretty limited, as has been our boating.  Anyhow I still have to give the Special Award for 2021.  Maybe, being so late it should be called the Herbie New Years Honours.

Looking back, I'm amazed to find that the Herbie Awards goall the way back to 2007! In the very first of them I wrote

With the nights drawing in, I spend more of the evenings idly planning future cruises and contemplating the highlights and low points of this year so far. So I reckon it'll soon be time for the Herbie annual awards. When I say annual, I don't imply I ever gave awards before, but I might do again next year.

Well here we are all these years later.

 Herbie Special Awards are generally given to those who have given exceptional service to Herbie , other boaters, or to Canals in general.  Past winners have included: (in no particular order)

Maffi -for Caring Enough in collecting towpath rubbish

Sue (No Problem) - for leading by example the survival of liveaboards in the harshest of winters

Oakie and Kathryn - for Indefatigability in keeping on keeping on despite infirmity

Sue and Richard (Indigio Dream ) for Hospitality, giving us so many very special (but sometimes scary) day trips

Jaq (Nb Valerie) for Fortitude  in her dedication to her dear Les fighting illness while living on board.

Best friends Rick, Marilyn and David (Rainman)  for crewing, DiY and general moral support services to Herbie

The 2010 Herbie Paintfest Crew  who put in such extraordinary effort and support in the great Herbie repaint.

Sarah and Jim (Chertsey) for Sufferance and Munificence in generously allowing Kath and me to participate in events on "real" canal boats.

Val Poore (aka Vally P) for Generosity of Spirit in continuously giving moral support to boat bloggers.  I'm delighted to say she has been a supporter right from the start and she is till with us.

Frank Jordan the ever cheerful Abingdon Lockie for Brightening Boaters' Days

Ronnie the dog for Best Boating Beginner at less than a year old!

I may well have forgotten someone, but rest assured if you are that person, you deserved the Award.  Award Holders, a number of whom proudly display their logos on their blog sites, only have to look through the list above to realise that they are esteemed company. 

For 2021 I could offer the Award to our so Peter who valiantly worked every lock on our holiday cruise to protect me from over strain following my pacemaker fitment. But that could be construed as nepotism.  Instead for delighting us with their helpfulness, friendliness, efficiency and a caring welcome we're more than happy to give 

The Herbie Special Award


Karen (manager) and Chris (harbourmaster) at Ventnor Marina

I suppose I should let them know, although I doubt they'll be putting the badge on the marina signage.









Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas Picture Quiz

Well we made it to Christmas Eve, so dear readers I wish you all an enjoyable and safe Christmas.

While we take a break before the envelope containing the name of the Herbie Special Award 2021 winner envelope is opened, how about having a go at this picture quiz.

The pictures are all of mooring spots in cities or towns.  Can you identify them?

1. It doesn't look like a city centre, but it is

2. A less than salubrious spot which you have to share with pigeons

3. Just a couple of minutes after leaving a city centre canal basin

4.  100 yards from a nice old county town centre

5.  Pontoon moorings in a cathedral city

6. A crazy footbridge very near an old town centre

7.  A normally busy spot but strangely quiet when I snapped this

8. Another town basin

9. A town centre basin due for a much needed update

10 Finally a splendid mooring at the heart of a city

I think they're all easy, mainly I suppose because I took the photos. Anyone getting 7 or more must be quite well travelled.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Herbie Awards day 3 - Best Pub

What? Only five waterside pubs visited this whole year?   Actually that doesn't seem too bad going given how little cruising we've done. And I should add that this year only once did we go "just for a pint" - the rest were always for food too.

The poor old pubs have been having a hard time so they all deserve an award for keeping going, but this is the Herbie Awards so  we have to find the very best.  With only five contenders, we can afford to put them all on the short list. Let's try it alphabetically.

1. The Admiral Nelson - Braunston.  We walked up there to meet Rick and Marilyn for lunch and sat lockside.  I can't remember what I ate (fish and chips?), but it must have been fine because I would remember if it wasn't.  I do recall that the beer was very nice. A very good pub as most boaters know and a great place to watch the lock traffic.

2. The Blue Lias - Long Itchington.  This was the one where we only drank -as a refresher after working down the Stockton locks on a hot day. What a nice garden to moor up on.

 This pub seems to get mixed reviews, but for our purposes it was fine and the beer was very acceptable. We only stopped for an hour, but it was a pleasant one and I would certainly go back.

3. The Cuttle at Long Itchington - also deserving a mention because they have a mooring (albeit treacherously shallow at one end) at the end of their big garden. Here we ate and drank on their terrace and it was 'OK' and the staff were friendly..  

4. The Folly at Napton. What can I say?  The Folly has won more Herbie Awards than you can shake a windlass at. This year Mark and Caroline(?) have really put in the extra mile with their beautiful garden plants, the smart marquees and the building of their huge wooden Potting Shed - which is as big as many a pub in it's own right.  I haven't been in the shed since it opened but it looks gorgeous.   All this despite struggling with staff shortages and new kitchen staff to train up.  Beer good as always.  In the circumstances we have to let them off for the limited menu and the polystyrene food containers.

5. The Two Boats - Long Itchington (again)

This where we settled for the night after leaving the Blue Lias.  Here we see it from our mooring some days later at the previously mentioned Cuttle across the canal. I do like a proper old canalside pub.

Here we ate home made pies. I'll forgive them for the fact that it was a pastry top on a dish of filling (I don't call that a proper pie) because the filling was really very good indeed.  The moorings right outside the pub door are a bonus too, and the landlady was very friendly.  I'd certainly go back even though the beer was no better than OK.

So that's the lot for 2021 pubs.  As for the winner? Well there could only be one.  For sheer hard work and dedication to the job in the face of huge obstacles, expanding while others contract, and always striving to create a great environment for customers,  yet again 

The Herbie Award for Best Pub 

goes to

The Folly at Napton

They're going to need a bigger trophy cabinet.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Herbie Award for favourite locks 2021

Locks -you either love 'em or hate 'em.  some are a right pain whilst others are so good you can't wait to do them again. By my reckoning we've only done 70 odd locks this year. What a load of slackers we are!  Actually because all our journeys are out and back the number of different locks we have passed through is only 34.

It was with mixed feelings this year when after some years down the Oxford we once again found ourselves amongst the big Grand Union Locks.  We had to keep reminding ourselves what hard work some of the Oxford locks were, Bourton Lock springs to mind with it's ridiculously stiff paddles, or even worse come to think of it, the top paddles at Somerton deep lock where I bent a windlass.  Also too many locks on the S Oxford are in a poor state.  So, the better maintained GU locks didn't seem so bad after all.

So which were our favourites this year? I can think of three flights I enjoyed..  

Hillmorton flight, which is of course still on the Oxford, supposedly the busiest locks on the system but generally a pleasure because of they are in parallel pairs and the setting is pleasant.  They have slightly unusual paddle gear too, which is always a nice change.

Stockton flight - big locks coming at you thick and fast but strangely enjoyable as you can send someone ahead to get the next one ready and there's a good chance you can find a friendly boat, as we did, to share with.  Being less than half the number of locks in the Hatton flight , it's not too daunting. Added to that, the setting is attractive and which ever way you go, there is a pub at the end. Three at the bottom actually!

Unlike the identically constructed lock at Calcutt, you don't get blown all over the place or lee shored against a concrete wall while waiting either.

Lastly the Staircase locks at Bascote - a bit daunting to the beginner but great fun if you can organise a shuffle as bioats cross over in the middle.  We hit it with novice crews top and bottom and it took some persuading from yours truly to get them to attempt the boats in both locks thing.  "Are you sure this is allowed? It says don't go in the bottom if boats are in the top." "Yes. fine, I've done it hundreds of times" I lied.  Well I have done it four or five times.

But it all worked fine and the novices were all dead chuffed. I think it was their surprise and delight that made it such fun. Kath particularly enjoyed chatting to the ex navy guy on the boat next to us, swapping stories.  Kath was in the Navy (the Wrens) in her youth, when ships presumably had sails and cannons.

So which is this year's favourite?  It surprises me that I enjoyed Stockton so much. After not going down there for some years I wasn't looking forward to it but now I like it.  But the cigar I think has to go to the locks which were such good fun so

The Herbie Award for Favourite Locks in 2021 

goes to 

Bascote Staircase

It wouldn''t be the Herbie Awards without a pub so next time we'll look at them.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Herbie Awards - The show must go on

It's half way through December and no Herbie Awards yet! It's a special Herbie year too because as of October, Herbie is now 20 years old - and still going strong. We can't let that slip by can we? 

Certainly not!  So despite all the tribulations and restrictions I cordially invite you all to this years glittering award ceremony. Fortunately the attendance is unlikely to cross the threshold of large gatherings for me to insist on seeing your covid passports so you can come whether you are triple jabbed or not, although I hope you are. So make sure you are well ventilated, don't sit to close to strangers and off we go.

In this strangest of years  it'll be too hard to make awards in all of the categories we've used in past times (I see I've only posted 34 times this year. Compare that with 2009 when I posted 184 times!) and we've done relatively little boating, but there are a few things deserving of recognition so let's recognise them.

Let's start with an old favourite, of mine at any rate. 

  The Herbie Award for Best Gubbins or Gadget.

Both my regular readers will know I'm a sucker for a good gubbins - some device that makes life easier or just more fun.  Sadly for these awards I have to restrict myself to things generally useful to boaters, otherwise the no brainer choice for me this year would be my Medtronic heart pacemaker - a true model of genius and a life saver to boot.  

Or I could have mentioned the little ABC music player I made in March this year, (Here's a link to it.) but that's a bit niche. Actually for anybody a little bit geeky the little £3.80 Raspberry Pi Pico , a true wonder gadget that sits at the heart of it could enable a lot of things on a boat because its very good at monitoring sensors - temperature, fuel or water or pump out tank level readily spring to mind. However, enough geekery, let me recommend something for normal people.

As well as liking gadgets I also love listening to (and playing) music. 

A good gadget for anyone mad like me (and Maffi) who keeps an electric guitar on board is a little headphone guitar amp like the Vox amplug so you can play without annoying your other half.  Hmm, I suppose that's a bit niche too, but they are brilliant and sound great.  

Back to normal people.When we're moored up at night we often like to listen to music, or perhaps an audiobook (more of which in another award post).  The radio speakers on our boat aren't up to much and we wanted something with bluetooth so we could stream stuff from our phones or tablets.  It needed to be portable, have good battery life, and be rugged enough to use outdoors when necessary. Most of all it had to sound a lot better than our mediocre built in radio speakers.  I must admit I'm pretty fussy about good sound.

So  a year or so ago I did my usual copious research, studying reviews and all that and decided  on a particular speaker.  I knew what I wanted, my mind was made up.. So we popped over to our nearest Richer Sounds, who are always helpful and pleasant to deal with.  Yes they had the speaker I wanted, but the man said he thought another was better at a similar price.  "Hmmph, well let's hear it," we said, getting out my phone to connect up and play a bit of music we know.  So a cup of coffee was provided and the speaker was hooked up in their listening room and I can honestly say that within 10 seconds of it playing Kath and I both said "Wow, it's a deal".  I've heard a good few small portable bluetooth speakers but this one takes the biscuit in terms of sound quality and build. What a good little gubbins this is. After having this speaker for over a year I can honestly say it has transformed the enjoyment of our evenings on the boat.  

Should you wish to use it to listen to the cricket (or football if you must) or whatever as you cruise along, it's solid and powerful enough to sit safely on the hatch. Or take it home with you to use in the garden. Having a metal carcass, it is reassuringly heavy and extremely rugged, the rechargeable battery lasts for ages and the sound is amazing for something of it's size.  

Here's a picture of the latest model (improved even since ours which looks identical).

To give you some idea of the size, it has a footprint about the size of a paperback book and is about four or five inches tall. 

So the Herbie Award for Best Gadget goes to 

The Audio Pro T3 Bluetooth speaker

The bluetooth connection is simple and very reliable. We've used our lots and lots and can't fault it.  It'll set you back £119 at the moment, so it's not cheap although more expensive models in the range are available.  

Oh dear, I'm beginning to sound like an 'influencer'.  Sorry about that, but it is a great gadget and I have nothing to gain for saying so. If you don't believe me, just read the reviews.

In the next post we'll look at a proper specifically canal based award.

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Slightly unsettling news

 Just as we are settled in nicely at Ventnor marina, we get slightly unsettling news. An email to all moorers this week informs us that Castle Marinas has gone into partnership with Aquavista marinas.

Looking at the Aquavista web site they describe it as though they have acquired Castle. Anyhow they say nothing will change for moorers except they will get together and explore ways to make any improvements needed.

I learn that Aquavista is the company formed after BWML was floated off from CRT. They already run 18 marinas, so adding the 11 in the Castle group will make it 29.

Possible downsides:

Aquavista seems to encourage liveaboard boaters whereas Ventnor is non residential only and consequently a lot quieter.

BWML mooring charges used to be very high in comparison to others.  Will we be seeing higher costs?


Like Castle, Aquavista have a reciprocal mooring policy meaning we can stay for a period at any of the other marinas in the group at no extra cost.

Time will tell whether this a good thing for us are not. We had similar qualms when Castle took over Cropredy, but I must say that joining Castle had good benefits for us. Not least ease of transfer which has got us to Ventnor.

Monday, November 08, 2021

It's curtains for Herbie

Don't panic!  It really is curtains, new ones hand made by Kath from  lots of squares of fabric which she has hand printed / dyed.  Lots of the prints and dyes come from leaves plucked from gardens, hedges or the canalside.  She was out there collecting more leaves this morning.  Sitting in the boat with the curtains drawn and the light outside, it's a bit like a stained glass window.

We've just spent the weekend aboard, two nights in the marina and one out on the canal near the Willow Wren training school close to the top of Stockton locks. All very pleasant and a chance to get used to our new stove ( I say new, it's 18 months since it was fitted but we didn't get to use in last winter).  It seems you do have to "learn" a stove and it's ways.  This one seems to need the ash cleared away more regularly so it can breathe.  Apart from that it's very good, especially considering it cost far less than the old one it replaced.

Out on the canal was a boat selling cake (Daisy's Bakin' Butty)  ) so naturally we felt obliged to support it by buying and eating some.  It's a sacrifice were were prepared to make. 

Coming back to our mooring I did a spectacularly good spin and reverse into our slot. Of course no one was looking, unlike when I bumped the side of the entrance bridge on the way out in full view of the harbour master. Sods Law prevails.

At this time of year we have to think about winterising Herbie each time we leave her.  It's mainly a matter of draining the plumbing and making sure the shower mixer is dry.  The solar panels will look after the batteries and we have the diesel tank full to the brim so as to limit water absorption from the air - a source of diesel bug which glues up your fuel lines. 

One day when we get HVO fuel we won't need to worry about diesel bug as it claims to be non hygroscopic and the fuel will keep for ten years without harm.  It seems inevitable to me that HVO fuel will become common on the canals, maybe even compulsory.  I asked about it at our marina.  They are aware of it and are considering the pros and cons.  They think it could cost up to 50p more per litre which would inevitably put a lot of people.  Their current diesel supplier doesn't have it yet but they probably will be able to offer it  in due course.  I think it would be good if they could offer it as an option.  I for one would be prepared to buy it because it would let us go boating with a cleaner conscience environment wise.  I see that it gets a mention in the latest CRT boaters update.  I forecast we'll be hearing a lot more about it in the coming year.

Now we're off the Cambridge for a few days visiting our son Peter, then back home next week for our booster jabs.  It's all go.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

More greenery - facts emerge

Many many thanks to those who commented on my previous post about greener boating. All good stuff and revealed to me that there's a bit more going on than I thought.

In particular I hadn't heard about HVO fuel.  For those who like me had never heard of it, it's a straight replacement for normal diesel fuel that offers a huge reduction in harmful emissions. There don't seem to be any problems with normal diesel engines running on it, and it doesn't suffer from diesel bug. On the face of it, it looks just what we need.  Of course we need to be wary of hidden down sides. Rather than me explain it all, have a look at these links:

HVO and greener boating - Inland Waterways Association   Why hadn't I seen this before?

HVO Trials report -IWA  "The feedback from IWA members who are trialling this new fuel has been overwhelmingly positive. HVO is indeed a viable alternative to diesel fuel. It is also a straight drop-in replacement compatible with fuel that is already in a boat’s tank."

Crown Oil HVO suppliers - lots of detail about the fuel itself and worth a read

That'll give you all you need to know about the up sides. And there are many.

The downsides?

Availability.  The only canal marina I can find selling it is  North Kilworth(thanks Pip and Mick for the tip off.) - out there towards Foxton on the Leicester Arm.  Fuel boat Barnet is selling HVO to boaters in London. There also seems to be a supplier on the Thames in London.

Cost:  Do the current rules on red diesel declarations apply?  I assume not so we might  be paying full price and HVO is a bit dearer than road diesel anyway.  Personally I'd be happy to pay up.  Does anybody know what they charge per litre at North Kilworth?  Failing that, at a rough estimate I imagine it might cost me something like £100+ a year more.  Continuous cruisers  would find a much bigger difference of course.  There is one cost reduction element - additives like Marine 16 to prevent diesel bug would be unnecessary.  I reckon that using Marine 16 works out at a cost of about 5p per litre of diesel at the correct dose so that would get me about 15 quid back.  Anybody who has had to pay for fuel polishing to get rid of a diesel bug attack would be quids in.

Real world downsides?:  Whilst the emission figures for HVO look amazingly good, you have to factor in the hidden environmental cost of growing and harvesting the biomass crops which make up a lot of the fuel, and the processing of the stuff.  You wouldn't want a lot of rainforest cut down to grow the biomass like it has been for palm oil.

I'm thinking of canvassing others in our marina to see if we get get enough demand for them to stock it.

Moving on - A bit off boaty topic but Sarah made a comment about heat pumps and fridges.  I wonder if heat pumps could extract heat from the canal water?  No idea.  As it happens there is a row of houses with air -source heat pumps just across the road from where our Peter lives in Cambridge. It's called Marmelade Lane and has a number of fascinating lifestyle features.  This Guardian article tells you about it and is worth a read.  It looks very appealing to anyone who likes a community feel.  I stroll past them and hear the fans gently whirring inside the big brick boxes outside the front doors.  As far as I'm aware they don't get your house as warm as a gas boiler can.  

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Green boating?

Well COP26 is upon us and I'm wondering how to be more green, or more especially how to go boating in a greener fashion.  After I've typed in my thoughts (which I haven't had yet) I'd be grateful if anyone else can chip in to help.

Thought No 1: is this a serious problem?  Of course it is. On a scale of 1 to 10 I'd put it at 11.  Extremely serious - not particularly for me 'cos I won't live to see the worst of it  but my kids and grandchildren face a pretty bleak future if we don't do something now.  I have no time for climate change sceptics. If they can't see what's staring them in the face then I won't waste my time arguing with them.

Thought No 2:  I have to own up that a narrowboat like ours is off to a bad start in being green.  An older inefficient internal combustion engine  burning red diesel for hours a day is not good.  Neither is a heating stove burning fossil fuels or an Eberspacher diesel heater.  Of course if I'm not moving the boat or using the heating it's OK but that rather defeats the object of having a boat.  Also, every time I travel from home to the boat, that's another hour and three quarters car driving.

Thought No 3.  There are more positive attributes.  Boaters tend to be more frugal with water.  Our boat has a composting toilet which uses no water and no chemicals.  We have solar panels to make electricity, albeit mostly in the summer.  And if we do run the engine to move the boat, we make hot water and electricity at the same time so it makes good use of what fuel we do burn.

So what's to be done?  How can a boater reduce his /her carbon footprint?

Well of course there's all the personal stuff which applies whether you're on a boat or not.  Eat less red meat and dairy, wear extra clothes in winter, reduce use of plastics, etc.  At home we've dropped the thermostat a couple of notches, tried to cut down on packaged foods and consumables, avoided food products flown in by plane or grown in hot houses, cut down on car use, experimented with non dairy alternatives like oat milk (ok but not as nice - I hear good things about almond milk so we're trying that next).  Etc etc.

But what about the boat specific stuff?

Well I suppose the first thing is to see if we can run the engine less.  That means two things - travelling less far and minimising our use of battery electricity.  It's true that these days we don't cover the distances that we used to and are often quite happy to stay in one spot for a couple of days.  I guess we might /should do more of that.  In the winter though, we don't get a lot from the solar panels, so the engine has to run to keep the batteries up.  And if the engine is running for battery charging you might as well be moving.  Hmmm.  How about in cold weather not using the fridge?  We could keep stuff cold in a cool box in the well deck.  The fridge is the main eater of battery power so that would be a good saving I reckon.  Of course if we didn't eat meat or dairy we probably wouldn't need a fridge anyway.

In the past I've put a clip-on ammeter onto the charging lead from the alternator and it seemed to me that it showed that the charging current didn't improve much with increased engine speed, so there's a tip - if you do run the engine just for charging, run it gently -that will burn less diesel.

I always go on about making sure firewood for the stove should be properly dried, and that does make a difference to how much wood you burn for a given amount of heat.  Less wood =less CO2.

LED lights inside the boat? Got'em.  They use about a tenth of what a neon strip uses.

Now I'm running out of ideas.  Short of selling the boat or keeping an expensive boat and not using it much, I can't think of much else.  I'm sure there are ideas out there.  Let's pool them and go green together if we can.  Over to you.

PS I forgot to mention one thing.  It can be quite hard to know what to do for the best and how much difference certain actions make in reducing your carbon footprint.  One book that is really helpful in that respect is How Bad Are Bananas by Mike Berners-Lee (brother of the more famous Tim). It's packed with the facts and figures you need to know and very readable to boot.  Highly recommended.  BTW bananas are not bad. Unless you are diabetic.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Off topic ramblings

 I have nothing Herbievourous to tell you today so purists might wish not to read on.  For those who are left, here is some irrelevant news.

Twice in the last week we have been visited by grandchildren who within hours of seeing us tested positive for Covid.  I mentioned Grace in my previous post.  Now it's the turn of her big brother Jacob. He came to stay the night at our house so as not to mix with Grace.  He had been routinely tested at work and got an email next morning to say he was positive, so he's gone back home with Grace.  Mercifully Kath and I seem OK so far.

Someone out there might know of Stanley Accrington ( a popular entertainer and master of puns and anagrams m'lud).  I wrote to him four years ago asking for the words of a song which included the immortal words "Why must I be a dyslexic in vole?" Another line had something about a tin leg running down his spine. This week, out of the blue, he emailed back. How's that for a quick reply?! Cunningly he invited be to buy his DVD with 180 of his songs on it, warning me not to listen to them all at once.  I succumbed.  I have thoughts of sitting through them as a sponsored marathon listen for a dyslexic charity.  Apparently Stanley had to stop singing that particular song in public due to objections that is was unkind to dyslexic folk.  Draw your own conclusions.

My friend Steve, a keen amateur naturalist saw a great white egret at a local lake last week - there are only 35 in Britain so he was chuffed.  Little egrets have become much more common of course. and occasionally visit our canals.  In France they have a lot of egrets although as you all know, Edith Piaf famously claimed so have seen none.

I can't understand what is going on with my novels.  I put them up for free on Kindle the other day, expecting a few dozen to be taken as usual. (Over the last six months actual paid sales at a quid or so have been zero.) This time, after three free days it's up to 1700 and counting! That's never happened before.  Of course how many takers actually read the books is another matter, but it's puzzling.  As Harry Worth used to say "I don't know why but there it is" . I thought maybe there were not many free ones out this week on Kindle, but I checked and there are tens of thousands of them.  Apparently my second book "A Good Hiding" is ranked number 3972 in the best free seller lists and number 51 in General Humourous Fiction.  Result!  The other one is ranked 10,044. Booker prize judges please note.

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Seizing opportunities to get knotted

 If you read my previous post you will know that I had a go at doing eye splices at the end of a bit of rope.  Rope work, as anyone who has tried it will tell you, is strangely therapeutic.  With me it all started when I was a young whippersnapper making my own fishing rods.  This required doing a lot of whipping to secure the rings that the line goes through onto the rods.

Nowadays a quick look at youtube will reveal any number of people showing you how to do knots and spices and various types of whipping.  I found that they all look helpful until you try to do it, then somehow it doesn't seem so simple in reality.  However I have found one youtuber that has the knack of clarity, probably because he is slow and long winded and tells you everything at least twice.  Now in normal circumstances such a person might be construed as a bit tedious, but in this case it's a real blessing because you get time to absorb the information properly.  Sadly I didn't find his video until after I'd done my eye splices, so I'm going to do some more now and get them right this time.

So if you fancy a go at splicing something like this:

or putting a really neat end to your ropes like this:

or doing something fancy like this:

The chap I would recommend is  youtuber Johnny Debt.  

Have a go, I bet you enjoy it.

Here are the links to the three I've shown above (there are several more)

Eye splice:

Sailmakers whipping:

Ring splice:

As I said, he is charmingly long winded which for my money is exactly what you want. If you are a complete beginner then start with the sailmakers whipping which is easy and very satisfying.

In other news:

Kath and I are awaiting results of a PCR test after having had a visit last weekend from our Grace who later that day tested positive for Covid  and is rather poorly but not dangerously so.  We have no symptoms so I suspect we're in the clear.

In yet more news, if there is anyone out there who has inexplicably failed to have read either of my blockbuster novels Jobs for the Boys and A Good Hiding, they are completely free on Kindle from 8 -12 October. I re read them myself recently as if after all this time they were written by someone else and they made me chuckle. Not a totally unbiased opinion I admit. Or for traditionalists they are still cheap (as cheap as Amazon allows) as paperbacks.  Search for on Amazon for Herbie Neil.

Or should you ever bump into us on the cut, I'll happily give you a paperback copy.  Got to get rid of them somehow:-) 

VIRUS UPDATE: Our PCR tests came back negative, so that, if you get my meaning, is a positive result :-)