Sunday, December 30, 2012

Kath’s Christmas present for you and me

I know you’re all dying to know what I got for Christmas ( besides a cold and one or two hangovers). One of the presents you can share with me, but first I’ll describe a couple of others.

For twenty odd years I have strummed on guitars
Five thousand lost flat picks, four fingertip scars
I must have broken a million g strings
Banging and tunin', and playing these things
Picking and strumming, and playing these things.

So wrote Loudon Wainwright. In my case make that forty odd years and ten thousand lost flat picks. I don’t know where they go, they’re like ball point pens, you put them down for a minute and they disappear. The trouble is, you can get half a dozen or more pens for a quid these days, but plectrums have gone up to 45p each. So Kath bought me a plectrum making machine which can stamp out plectrums from old credit cards or bits of plastic bottle. I made about ten quid’s worth in about ten minutes.

Then I was bought a copy of Shane Spall’s book The Voyages of the Princess Matilda.

The Voyages of the Princess Matilda

You may have watched the TV series about Shane and her actor husband Timothy Spall circumnavigating Great Britain in their barge (built by Peter Nichols at Braunston). If you haven’t, try to. It brilliantly shows the terrors and delights of travelling on a boat. So far I‘ve read about their time on the Thames and Medway and now they are in Ramsgate. The book is far less compressed than the TV programmes and for anyone who does boating it rings a lot of bells. A good read. I’ll let you know how good the rest is after I have read it. Don’t hold your breath, I’m a steady reader.

Now we come to the present I can share with you. Kath bought Father Christmas brought me Photoshop Elements 11, so now I can find my photos more easily and turn my less successful photos into something more presentable for the blog. I am also learning to do tricksy stuff like this
Just imagine the hours I can waste on this instead of doing proper jobs around the house. Lovely.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Herbie's 2012 Video Christmas Card

(you'll need to click the button to see the show)

Many many thanks to all the Herbie Blog readers this year,  I hope you have enjoyed some of it. And special thanks to  those who have sent in comments. Your feedback keeps me going.

It has been lovely this year to meet up with so many friends on the cut.  Do give us a shout if you see us and drop by if we are moored up.

Have a  very Merry Christmas and a great 2013.  Let's hope we get better weather!

Neil & Kath

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Maffi’s acceptance speech in full

For those of you who don’t bother to read the comments at the bottom of blog posts, or who don’t read Maffi’s blog, here is his (very typical) acceptance speech on receiving our Special Award.

Well now there is a surprise lil ol’ me winning a Herbie.

I would like to thank every body who was too f*****g lazy to put their rubbish in the right place. Without those morons this would not have been possible.

I would also like to thank all those conscientious boaters out there who are going to make a point of picking up as much rubbish as possible in the next 12 months.

I have not been out 2 months yet this winter and I have collected 64 bags + plus a number of tyres and a 110ah battery. Lets all make a big effort. Thank you!

Well, if you don’t know Maffi, that sums him up perfectly.  A well deserved and popular win.

Shame about Cap’n Ahab, he promised to show up in Jessica Ennis’s red dress.  To be honest Andy, she did look rather better in it than you would.  We’d still like a photo though.

Now we can all take off our tuxedos /ball gowns for another year and relax.  Unless that is, anyone is planning a blog series of Strictly Come Boating.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

And the 2012 Herbie Special Award goes to . .

Someone who :

  • rarely, if ever, reads this blog (I think) – someone had better tip him off
  • will probably dismiss this Award as irrelevant, although he deserves it
  • I have had cause to tell to calm down or he’ll bust a blood vessel
  • has strong opinions that I don’t always share
  • will give you an earful if you do something antisocial in his presence
  • from time to time writes angry blogs with intemperate language

Have you got it yet?


Well he (for it is a he) is:

  • not half so terrifying in person as he is in print (in fact he’s very nice)
  • kind to children and dogs
  • something of a pillar of the community at his long term moorings
  • always helping out someone
  • sets us an example by not just whingeing about stuff but takes action to remedy it

In particular he is someone who doesn’t just complain about rubbish along the towpath but gets out there and clears it up.  Loads of it.  And that is what inspired us to give

The 2012 Herbie Special Award for Caring Enough to Do Something 

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to  . . . .  (well if you haven’t guessed it now you never will)


Monday, December 17, 2012

Its the eve of the big night– an intro to The Herbie Special Award for 2012

We’ve been dishing out our coveted awards since 2007, and the over the years the prestige of this glittering occasion has grown from humble beginnings to the premier event it is today.    Each year, we have offered our recognition to deserving persons  by granting them our Herbie Award (value £0.0).  Many a tearful speech has been delivered from the virtual podium, thanking the recipients Mum and Dad and their producer /coach /team mates etc. 

It all started in 2007 when we gave Rick ,(the one with the beard),


an award for Best Guest Crew Member and who gave a truly emotional acceptance speech worthy of the Oscars.

followed in 2008 by his other half Marilyn , (the one without the beard above), who got our first proper citation -  “For Forebearance” in recognition of how hard it must be putting up with us. 

In 2009 the Award went to David “Rainman” Allum (ooh look another beard.  Is a pattern developing here?)

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who crewed for us in what seemed like perpetual rain but kept smiling.

Then in 2010 we moved into new Award territory.  We gave a Premier Award to the bunch of wonderful people who we termed the “Paintfest Crew”.  This gang of unlikely looking characters gave up swathes of their valuable time and effort in the mammoth drive to preps and repaint Herbie in 2 weeks.


It only cost us about £500 in cake, and the results of their labours are still visible today in Herbie’s excellent livery.  Keen spotters may notice that the Paintfest Crew contains three previous Award winners, plus another beard belonging to Simon.

But not only that.  2010 saw the launch of The Herbie Special Award.  This was a new category launched to celebrate our admiration for boaters who were ding something special, a tradition which is reflected in the Award this year.  That first year it went to all those long suffering souls who braved the artic conditions for weeks on end.  frozen into their liveaboard homes. Often with nowhere to empty the loo and no fresh water supplies, they stuck it out.  We chose as their representatives, the admirable Sue and Vic on No Problem

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and the Award still emblazons their (and others’) blogs to this day. That year, the award bore the citation “For Fortitude”

2011 saw us grant the Award to the wonderful Richard and Sue  on Indigo Dream (seem here with Kath)

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for their extraordinary generosity, not only to us, but also to others who enjoyed amazing trips on the tidal Thames.  We gave it “For Hospitality”

So this years winner has a distinguished and worthy set of predecessors.  The citation is for Social Conscience or something like that.  Someone who does good on behalf of the wider canal community.  Can anyone think of a better short phrase to express it?  You’d better hurry because the 2012 Herbie Special Award winner will be declared in my very next post.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The scariest moment, my favourite canal quote, and Herbie’s blacking

Well going through Braunston tunnel without lights was not my idea of fun, but I wasn’t that scared, although if you ask Rick, he was very scared of doing (more) damage to Herbie as he was at the tiller.  No, my scariest moment was the other Braunston tunnel trip.  I was already scared that we would have a breakdown, but in the tunnel, with a current flowing, it doesn’t bear thinking about.  I had visions of a fire in the engine compartment and us being trapped.  So that gets the 2012 prize for scariest moment.

While I was composing yesterday’s blog I was listening to BBC radio iplayer and catching up with Mark Steel’s in Town.  If you haven’t heard it, try to ‘cos it’s great.  This time Mark was in Handsworth Birmingham and of course Brum’s canals had to have a mention. 

“ People always tell you that there are more miles of canals in Birmingham than in Venice. Which I have to say I think misses the point slightly, as with canals it’s quality rather than quantity.

You might as well boast that there’s more paint in a warehouse in Luton than on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.”  .

Tee Hee.  A fair point.  It might be lovely around Gas Street but some other bits are less salubrious.

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We do love Brum though.  We can’t wait to go back. 

While have been busy entertaining you with Awards this week (a few more to come)  Noel at Crick marina has been busy blacking Herbie’s hull.  He started early last weekend to beat the cold weather, but then it froze hard so I think the final coats might only just be finishing.  At Crick you get a pressure wash, then a coat of rust treatment, then three, yes three, coats of blacking.  Good eh?  And I didn’t even have to go to deliver the boat. They just picked it up from our pontoon and took her over to the dry dock themselves.  Noel did promise me he wouldn’t take the boat back across the marina while there was ice on the water.  It would be upsetting to put it mildly to have the brand new blacking scratched off.

Noel rang on Monday after the washing and first coats, to report on the hull and stern gear.  Just to say it was all sound.  What really pleased me though was that he commented (unprompted) on how smooth Herbie’s engine was.  Imagine my delight after all that work we had done on her this year to find that someone impartial agrees that it was all worth it.

The winner of this year’s Herbie Special Award is blissfully unaware of his or her impending good fortune.  Stay tuned in the coming days to find out who it is.

Herbie Awards - Best Canal Event Winner and choices for Most Scary Moment


Ohh decisions decisions.  Sometimes it’s so hard to choose.    It’s between Braunston Rally and Banbury Canal Day.  Hmmm.

Aaah did you see the Masterchef final?  They have set me a precedent.  When you can’t choose between two quite different things, both in their own way as good as the other , you can declare the result a  A DRAW!  Two very enjoyable events with one key similarity – a chance to meet other boaters and more importantly, boat bloggers who you might otherwise only know from their works.  Wee at each one and if we miss them another year, we’ll be sad.

Now before we get on to the run up to the BIG PRIZE, The Herbie 2012 Special Award to someone who has done something admirable (maybe we should call it Herbie Personality of the Year like BBC sports), we have a couple of minor but entertaining categories.  First

The Scariest Moment of the Year 2012

Was it:

a) The Braunston tunnel headlamp failure.  Yes, 50 yards into the tunnel and our headlamp bulb died.  2000 more yards to do in the pitch dark, not to mention the S bend towards the southern end.  Kath’s little LED torch did its best but in truth it wasn’t much good.  Amazingly we managed to get through relatively unscathed,. Nothing that a touch up of paint couldn’t fix, but I never want to do it again.

b) Herbie’s engine dangling on a swinging wire

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I suppose the guys at Calcutt knew what they were doing, but my heart was in my mouth!

c) the Lapworth Tornado

I kid you not.  At the time we took this photo, a primary school less than a mile away was having its windows blown clean out by the wind.

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I have never, ever, seen rain like it.  You would be soaked to the skin in 5 seconds, whatever you were wearing. We were sheltering under a motorway bridge, but the wind was blowing the rain thirty feet into the shelter.  We could see great swirls of precipitation racing with incredible speeds across the adjacent fields.  Half an hour later it was calm and sunny, but the towpaths were, shall we say, interesting.

d) Braunston tunnel (again) – creeping through with the faulty alternator making enough volts to boil the batteries and cause a hydrogen explosion.

Our duff alternator was making 16 volts or more.  I was taking Herbie to have a new drive plate because the old one was rattling. Would the drive plate fail in the tunnel? Would we have a hydrogen explosion from the battery gases?  The canal was in flood and there was a considerable current against us in the tunnel.  To keep the volts down we crept through at tickover.   It seemed to take forever but we were fine in the end. Like the other Braunston tunnel incident we had Rick at the helm. Could his middle name be Jonah?

Well I suppose it’s all nothing compared to what those on the Thames or the Nene had to endure this year.  How they kept their blood pressure down I have no idea.  Respect.

Results tomorrow.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Posh nosh winners and nominations for Best Canal Event.

An anonymous contributor called Rick rang me up to complain we’d gone all gastro with our best meal nominees and we’re losing our street cred as boaters.  He’s probably right, I’ve been watching too much Masterchef.  Nevertheless our nominees are who they are, and their food was every bit as good as a meat pie and chips.   Mmmm meat pie and chips. I’m salivating.

We can only have one winner, so the 2012 best canalside meal goes to  . .

The Boot at Lapworth

Never mind the Porsches and the Audis ( and according to Crusty the helicopters!!!), the staff are friendly, the beer is good and the meal we had was brill – well pork actually. And we got second helpings of bread and roast new spuds.  I’ll go there again.

Vipen at Quisine does deserve a very special mention though, but he’s not a pub and not canal side, although a few boat bloggers seem to have found their way there.

Only a few awards now remain to be dished out.  The next is for Best Canal Event.

This year we got to three. In chronological order

1. The Cavalcade at Little Venice.

As nutty as ever, – I’ve just noticed the ravens on this boatSmile

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and as colourful as ever

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and a chance for a drink with Simon and Carrie in their usual ringside seat on Tortoise in Brownings Pool.

2. Braunston Historic Boat Rally

Another good gathering of the clans, with rather more boating and entertainment than Little Venice.  The bloggers we met are just too numerous to mention, but it’s all very sociable,and once again we got the chance to do the slow motion Braunston Grand Prix aboard Chertsey.  Thanks Sarah and Jim.  I suppose I shouldn’t really show this pic of Sarah getting it wrong swinging into the marina, but she did do a lovely three point turn up at the junction.

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You can once again play spot the duck in this photo.

Braunston really is a fun event and there are masses of lovely boats to see and they have Day Star Theatre on the Thursday night who are always good.  I wonder if Herbie will ever be historic?  According to canal world forums her BMC engine is in the Vintage category so we must be half way there!

3. Banbury Canal Day

We only attended this because I had to catch a train to Pershore that day and we needed to be moored in Banbury!  We didn’t know what to expect, but it was quite a surprise.  Not as many boats attended as for the other two above, but it was still full up.  The onshore events though easily eclipsed the other two because of the huge food and craft market, the live music and  nutters like this strolling about:-

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What’s more, the locals turned out in their thousands and were reminded they had a nice canal and friendly boaters.  That does no harm.

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I think though that the thing we enjoyed most was being moored in the centre and having other blogging friends round for tea.  I’d certainly like to go back next year.

Three rather different events – a bit like comparing apples and pears, but someone deserves to win. Find out who tomorrow. 

Indecision splits award + best meal nominations

Aaargh! How can I decide between a pint of Black Rat Cider and a pint of Inclined Plane Beer?  I asked Kath her view.  What would she reach for if I put a pint of each in front to her.  Same as me.  Frozen still like a rabbit in the headlights.

So it’s a draw!! The Herbie Best Pint Award for 2012 goes to Black Rat Cider and Inclined Plane Ale.  Quite fitting really being one of each.  Should you ever see either one, try them.  Even if you think you don’t like cider or beer I reckon you’d love them.  They are top of the class.

After the drink, the food.  I’ve been hooked on masterchef on telly lately so I’m in the mood for thinking about lovely grub. I did receive one comment back in October that the blog was turning into a gastro blog because I had reported on a couple of nice dinners.  We don’t eat out all that much, but I suppose a rather more when we are put cruising than when we are at home.

This year I can recall very good canal side meals at the Folly in Napton, The Great Western at Aynho, The Brazenose at Cropredy, The Victoria in Oxford Jericho, The Greyhound at Hawkesbury, The Boot at Lapworth and The Admiral Nelson at Braunston.  Oh and for value, The Boathouse at Braunston (Two meals for the price of One and not bad at all).   On top of that, we had a very good chef’s taster meal in Banbury, not Canal side but only 5 mins walk away at Quisine.  Blimey that seems a lot, but we were out cruising for 80 or 90 days this year.

So a short list.

1. The Brazenose at Cropredy.

Just a fairly ordinary pub, if you call Jimi Hendrix  and John Martyn over the PA fairly normal.  We were cold, wet and starving and not fussy so we ordered some fairly ordinary burgers which turned out to be fairly extraordinary.  Looking quite cheffy on the plate we got blue cheese (proper, not a bottled sauce) and bacon atop the big thick home made burgers, a lovely dressed salad, chutney and pukka chips.  Quite gastro pub like but without the posh surroundings and the high prices. The bread was specially good too.  I’d definitely go there again.  Always nice when a place takes you by surprise.

2. The Boot at Lapworth

A very short walk from the bottom of the straight row of closely packed locks. Not my sort of pub at all.  I got put off by all the Porsches and Audis in the car park, and even more by the yuppies (or whatever they are called these days) with wine in buckets of ice at the bar.  But we were hungry and they gave us a table in the upstairs restaurant.  That’s a fairly strange room, the chairs covered in faux (I hope) animal fur.  We were served by young yuppie like lads and lasses who turned out to be very friendly and amenable when we asked for extra bread / spuds etc. I daresay you could pay a lot for a meal there but we took up their special offer and the three of us (Me Kath and our Peter) each had a three course meal and two or perhaps three rounds of drinks (Ubu Ale) for just over £70 for the lot I think.  The food was really excellent.  After we all shared a starter of baked camembert with loads of lovely bread, Kath and I had pork belly confit which was a melt in the mouth job and Peter being a veggie had a what he claimed were delicious vegetable gnocchi.  I can’t remember pud too clearly, it might have been a lemon tart.

3. Quisine at Banbury

Alright, not canal side but petty close if you know the back way.  You have to book to get in because the place is tiny.  When you book the chef Vipen, who is a lovely guy, asks you what you do and don’t like before he goes out shopping for ingredients.  When you arrive he comes and sits at the table and describes what he is going to cook, then wanders off into his tiny kitchen and does the biz.  What you get is a series of taster courses, some only a mouthful or two, but all full of flavour and texture.  The main course though was quite substantial and at Vipen’s suggestion we took home what we couldn’t finish at the table.  Quisine could never be called smart, in fact it’s quite humble, but the food is extraordinarily good.  It’ll cost perhaps twice what you would pay for a very good pub meal, but it will be twice as good.  Save up and give Vipen a ring.

It’s all a far cry from the pork pies and sandwiches you might be lucky to get in a pub when I were a lad.  Not that there’s anything wrong with a pork pie.

But there is is, our shortlist of places you might go to for a treat.  I don’t know who will win because they are all so different.  I’ll have to log on tomorrow and see.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Picture Quiz answers and some more Award nominations

Well no-one posted a correct full answer to Question 7 although a few thought they knew it.  The car in the tree was a Reliant as most people knew, and it wouldn’t rust because it has a fibreglass body (and a galvanised steel chassis). But as Roy thought, all the newspaper articles got it wrong.  It is not a Reliant Robin.  The front is too square for that.  Nor is it a Reliant Kitten which was a four wheeler.  I didn’t know what it was, but a couple of minutes on the web sorted it.

A number of the press reports showed a photo like this (although this is one of mine)

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From which you can see the number plate of the car.  A quick visit to one of the many car spares suppliers sites on the web, type in the number, and you get a 1987 Reliant Rialto 0.8.  Easy enough, but probably rather more than you might be expected to bother with, so fair enough if you just got Reliant.

Question 8. The statue was indeed Hamlet and poor Yorick.  At Stratford of course. So well done on that one.

Lastly Question 9 showed a picture of us crossing the Edstone Aqueduct on the Stratford canal. Identified by its unusual towpath which runs level with the bottom of the trough.

I ran down the bank to get this photo from below of us crossing.

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And so, tea break over and let’s resume the Herbie Awards with a traditional and much agonised over category.  The Best Pint we drank this year.  Oooh there have been so many, and as usual I have forgotten quite a few.  A good pint should not only be a good brew in itself, but also needs to be served and kept well.  “What’s all this fuss about a pint of beer?” you may ask.  “It’s not as if it’s fine wine. “ Well that’s true. It’s much better.

Three of these come to mind this year.

1. Langton Brewery Inclined Plane served at the Bridge 61 pub at Foxton locks. (where else with a name like that!)

The brewery, based near Market Harborough describes this beer thus: Inclined Plane at 4.2% is a straw coloured bitter with a citrus nose and long hoppy finish, lovely to drink in the summer. First brewed for the Leicester beer festival it proved to be so popular it is now a regular brew.  All I can add is that it is right up my street.  Gorgeous.

2. Purity Brewing Co Mad Goose served at a number of canal pubs in Warwickshire and Birmingham including if memory serves me right, the Best Pub nominated Prince of Wales in Brum.

Purity describe their brew thus:

Mad Goose is a 4.2% Light Copper Pale Ale. Brewed with Maris Otter Malt, Caragold and Wheat Malt with Hallertau bittering hops and Cascade and Willamette aroma hops. Light copper in colour with a great zesty hop character with citrus overtone. 

Aah, cascade hops again.  They really do it for me.  I suppose it’s ideally a summer beer but I would be happy to quaff one now if I had one to hand. Purity’s UBU ale was last years Herbie Award winner.  Haven’t they done well?

3. Black Rat Cider served at the Bluebell Cider House near Hockley Heath on the north Stratford Canal

Well nobody said it had to be Beer. Fear not.  This will not rip the skin off the roof of your mouth.  Nor is it a clear fizzy alcopop.  The colour of orange squash and tasting wonderfully of apples this is a beaut.

Black rat is apparently made on the quiet by well know cider makers Thatchers for the Moles Brewery who describe it as:

A strong* dry premium blend cider full of flavour with a clean apple bite. Produced traditionally in a family Somerset cider farmhouse using a
blend of locally grown apples.

*actually as ciders go it is not especially strong.

The Bluebell is the only place we have seen this cider, but it’s worth scaling the heights of the Lapworth flight to get a taste.  We had to wade through a flooded muddy towpath to get to it.

I have probably forgotten one or two others, but believe you me this is a worthy shortlist.  Classy stuff.

Results tomorrow plus a shortlist for Best Pub Meal.  See yah.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Picture Quiz – more answers and round 3

Nice to know some of you have been having a go.  With mixed success by the sound of it.

Answers refer to the pictures in yesterday’s post.

Rick has a red face. He rang to say he didn’t know who the two blokes were in Question 4.  Well he has met them both, and one of them isn’t a bloke!  Its Simon (Tortoise) and Carrie (Blackbird), distinctly not a bloke,  who heroically rose at 4.30 to wave off the rehearsal fleet at . . . Brentford.  That silvery fishy thing is a piece of public art that overlooks the entrance to the Grand Union Canal from the Thames.

Question 5 featured a daredevil worker, here…


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I bet you all knew that.  It’s the Thames cable car at Greenwich.  You can just make out some of his colleagues standing on top of the car.  Sooner them than me.  I get vertigo putting up the Christmas decorations at home.

Question 6. The architects.  Well you could fool me by saying that the second tower block from the left was designed by Heinrich von Thistlethwaite, or anyone, because I wouldn’t be able to contradict.  The ones I do know however are Sir Christopher Wren for St Paul’s and Norman Foster for the Gherkin.

And so to our last round for the time being –

Round 3

Question 7

I took this photo at Preston Bagot (what a great name) from the boat whilst on the Stratford Canal.

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Apparently the owner of the car and the tree united the two for a bit of fun.  The newspaper articles said that he had put the xxxxxx car there after he had used the engine in another restored vehicle and didn’t want the rest of the car rusting away in his yard.  Your questions are a) what is the make of the car? and  b) what is wrong with the statement in the press report?  If you are really really keen and like a bit of web research and study the press reports, you can find the exact model of the car, which all the journalists got wrong.  Big extra points for that.

Question 8

The geezer in this statue is looking down on Herbie

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Who is he?

Question 9

Herbie in the sky.  Where is this?

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Answers tomorrow.  Will anyone have got the lot?  Very impressive if they have!

Then it’ll be back to the Awards Ceremony.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Picture Quiz – round 1 answers, round 2 questions

While we continue our Herbie Awards intermission, we go on with the picture quiz.

I have a feeling that yesterday’s questions might be only answerable by boaters and regular boating blog readers, but I guess many of you are.  So here are the answers.

1. Only boat blog readers will get this. The duck in the picture is in the white circle below.  Amy of the Lucky Ducks


2. Only boaters who have done certain staircase locks will know this one.  After winding the red paddle, Grace has to wind the white paddle.  “Red before White and you’ll be alright”

3. It’s Stratford Upon Avon.

Did anyone get all three? Or were they too hard? I’d love to know.

Let’s see if today’s three are any easier. All about London landmarks seen from the Thames.

4. Here are two blog writers, each having separate blogs featured on my links list on the right of Herbie’s blog.  Clicking the photo up big might help.

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Where are they?  And for bonus marks, Who are they?

5. I took this next photo on the Jubilee Pageant rehearsal. This very brave/mad chap is working on a new but well known structure.  Where / what is it?  The bottom right hand corner might give a clue.

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6. An easier one for non boaters

Can you name architects of two of the buildings in this picture?

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Friday, December 07, 2012

Best Pub Award and a picture quiz.

So many pubs and so little time.  Still we’re doing our best.  The winner this year of the Herbie Award for Best Pub gets the prize because we always look forward to going there, not just for the beer and the grub, but because it’s sociable and comfortable and the landlord is a fine fellow. In fact we often make it a destination in its own right and have been known to detour off our main route to go there.  It’s  . . .

The Folly at Napton

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Er, the Folly isn’t actually on this picture but if I had pointed the camera a bit to the right, it would have been.

Hooray! When we first started singing its praises some folks who had been there in the old days looked askance, but I notice that quite a few have rediscovered it now so I’m guessing it’ll be a fairly popular winner.

Now before you tire of all these awards, we’ll have a little diversion over the weekend.  It’s the Herbie Christmas Picture Quiz. Part one today with 3 questions.

1.  Geese and ducks

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It’s easy to spot the geese in this photo.  White geese of this type are often known as Embdens.  But can you spot and name the duck in this next picture?:-

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2. What next?

I’m all for a bit of child labour.  Here is Grace earning her keep.


What does she have to do next so as to be “alright”?

3. Where is this?


Keep the answers to yourselves if you know them.  I’ll accept bids in comments as to how many you think you know, and you can mark your own papers when I give answers tomorrow.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Award for Best Cruise on Someone Else’s Boat and Best Pub nominations

Well the answer is obvious isn’t it?  You might think so, but fantastic though the Queen’s Jubilee pageant was, my real favourite cruise and the winner of

Best Cruise on Someone Else’s Boat 2012

was the sublime

narrowboaters’ pageant rehearsal

the previous week on Nb Indigo Dream. 

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It was absolutely fantastic. Two days of perfect weather all the way out to Barking then up to Brentford and back to Limehouse and the Thames has never looked better, even though on day two we had to lock out of Brentford at about half past four in the morning.

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The formation boating was a treat and the company was good. In addition to our ever attentive and generous hosts, Sue and Richard, we also shared the ride with Greygal Sarah and her other half Andy and Amy Duck.  I think it might possibly be the best two days’ boating I’ve ever done.  Thank you so much Sue and Richard.  This means Indigo Dream has won the award two years running – not strictly within the rules but there could be no other choice.  Commiserations to our wonderful runners up Sarah and Jim and to Adam.

By the way if you thing the very big boat in the top photo is Indigo Dream –it isn’t.  As far as I recall, Indigo Dream has no guns.

Now then.  Our last nominations before we have an intermission during which I will post for you a little picture quiz.

As usual our cruising this year has had a serious side.  Someone has to do an in depth survey of good pubs for narrowboaters and we have again felt obliged to step up to the mark.  This is especially so as good pubs come and go.  The buildings might stay, they might even remain as pubs, but their quality depends on how they are run as well as their setting.  A good pub should not just be somewhere to get a drink or a meal, it also needs to be a pleasant place to while away an hour or two.  Maybe you want to relax in comfort and read the papers. Maybe you want to have someone to natter to.  Or perhaps you want to play a game or listen to some good live music.  Pubs don’t generally do all of these, but good pubs do some of it.

This year our short list contains two pubs that have had chequered histories as far as quality goes, but in their present incarnations they are in their prime.  They join  three others we hadn’t visited before but really enjoyed. Once again we’ll do it in alphabetical order.

Nominations for Best Pub

1. Admiral Nelson – Braunston

Although in the perfect canalside spot, this pub has in recent years been something of a let down.  However the present owners who moved in early this year have wrought a real change and we now like it very much.  I urge you to give them your custom ‘cos they deserve it.  They have invested a lot in making it comfortable and attractive.  The pub is now on the smart side I suppose, but welcoming, with sofas and easy chairs in the bar and an attractive separate dining area.   Nevertheless the old traditional skittle table is till there and last time we were in there was a match on.  The beer is well kept . They seem to have T. Taylors Landlord and Black Sheep as regulars and their recent guest ale Caledonian American style IPA was lovely.  We ate their big rump stakes which were perfectly cooked with attractive trimmings for a tenner. and the food is very good and reasonably priced.  The staff are friendly and attentive too.

2. Bridge 61 – Foxton Locks

Bridge 61 in Foxton

This little pub at the foot of the locks is a gem. A real contender for the prize. Plain and old fashioned, it has a proper old local atmosphere.  Drinks are served from a little hatch counter.  There are two smallish rooms to sit in.  The one with the hatch seems to be the ones the regulars use, but they make you welcome if you sit there.  Quite a few of them seem to play regular chess games!  We drank an ale called Inclined Plane which was gorgeous, and then fell prey to a pint of Old Rosie Cider – lovely but very strong. If you’re hungry you might get fed, but don’t bank on it, and it’ll only be simple fare.  The big pub opposite does quite good meals.

3. The Folly at Napton

Another pub that has turned around.  We love it.  The beer is good (Hook Norton), the food is home cooked and tasty and the decor is fascinating with lots of old photos and all sorts of implements and paraphernalia to gaze at.  All the rooms are comfortable and attractive. Most people go to the right hand side to eat, but you can eat the other side which is where the drinkers congregate.  We tend to go that side because it is very sociable and you will almost certainly have a conversation to join in.  Mark the landlord is a good host and often joins in the discussions.  Start him off on 60’s pop music and you’ll have a long and entertaining natter with some good anecdotes.

I notice they now have an amusing web site and it does give a very good sense of the place and includes a splendid photo of Mark in one of his trademark hats. Click Here

4. The Prince of Wales – Cambridge Street Birmingham


We found this pub from a web recommendation.  It’s a good pub with a good atmosphere and an exceptional range of ales – and it’s 100 yards from the canal. Just up the road from the bridge by the NIAl. When we went they had just reopened after redecoration and it was done very stylishly.  Coloured bowler hats for lamp shades!  In the main though the decor is victorian and nicely pubby.  The amazing bit though was the mens’ loo.

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Say no more! 

As far as I recall the pub had about 6 real ales on and the ones we tried were really good.   They had live music on and whoever it was was fine, but if you prefer to be quiet don’t worry, they only have music once a week.  We didn’t eat there but the food reviews for the place are promising.  If you are mooring in Brum centre then I would definitely recommend a visit.

5. The Victoria – Jericho, Oxford

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Just a short stroll from our mooring at Jericho we went into this pub lured by the promise of its home made pies.  The pies were good and different, I can’t remember the fillings now but they were innovative and the taste was good.  This is a great pub for sitting and reading the paper (they have a good selection).  Comfy seats, big scrubbed tables. All very clean and and tidy but not at all fussy.  The decor is interesting, they have a big model airplane hanging from the ceiling surrounded by an upstairs gallery.  Low lighting with lamps and candles.  Very relaxing.  The beer was limited in scope but absolutely fine.  A very nice pub for a quiet evening.

A couple of honourable mentions – Great Western Arms at Aynho where we had good food and beer in comfort on an excellent evening in the company of Bones, and a pub in Long Itchington which we visited with Jim and Sarah- I think it might have been the Buck and Bell –anyway they had excellent beer and the landlord was fun and keen on his ales.  A bit of a walk from the canal though.

Results tomorrow and the start of the intermission picture quiz.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Herbie Awards day 3 - Best Village mooring result and nominations for a major category.

This was a tough one.  It boiled down to Braunston v Thrupp.  In the end I’m going with the majority view, taking into account that it’s the actual moorings we’re judging and not the village itself.  So the Herbie 2012 for Best Village Mooring goes to . . .


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Well done Thrupp CCC it’s down to them that this is a winner.

And so we come onto an award where I might upset someone, because they can’t all win.  Its the nominations for Best Cruise on Someone Else’s Boat.

As far as I recall we’ve only had four of these this year, so they all get nominated on the shortlist. So here we go in alphabetical order of boat name.

1. Briar Rose

We crewed for Adam from his mooring near Cosgrove up to Crick for the show and then back again afterwards.  If this category was judged on most the comfortable boat of the nominees then it would be a sure fire winner.  Briar Rose’s interior would be hard to find fault with, and now that she has been repainted, the outside looks pretty good too.  Adam is a good host too and despite indifferent weather we had a good trip.  Unaccountably I don’t have any photos of the journey.  Sorry Adam.

2. Chertsey

A bit of a cheat really because we only hitched a shortish ride from Sarah and Jim but it was special because we had our first go at steering a large Woolwich.  To those who don’t know, that’s about as big as a narrowboat gets.  Twenty feet longer than Herbie and goodness knows how many tons heavier.  Herbie and Chertsey actually cruised together from Braunston to the top of Hatton flight.  Two and a half days of banter and swapping stories, with the odd pub thrown in.  Steering Chertsey was a real treat and Kath and I and our friend Rick all had a go. 

Sarah must be very brave judging by these photos.

I’m heading for the bank and not looking where I’m going

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Rick is running Chertsey aground on a bend


Whilst Kath looks calmly in control and wonders why I am hooting at her

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  3. Indigo Dream

Indigo Dream gets two entries because we did two separate cruises.  The first was the rehearsal for the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant.  The weather was sublime and Richard and Sue took us out of Limehouse, all the way down to Barking. That’s way beyond the Thames Barrier where the water is lumpy even in fine weather.

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then all the way through the centre of London

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up to Brentford. The weather was so hot that we slept that night with the hatch open above our heads.  Next day the convoy of narrowboats cruised back to Limehouse, but this time in formation, breaking ranks only to negotiate bridge arches.

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4. Indigo Dream again

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant.  I suppose this one might take some beating.  A shorter cruise than the rehearsal, but my how the weather can change in just a week. It was very very wet and very very very cold. Here we are leaving West India Dock early in the morning.

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But what an event.  I dare say it was history’s most gongoozled cruise.  People on roof tops, office windows, everywhere.

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By the time the flotilla reached the Queen we were frozen and soaked.  But were we downhearted?  Naah.  We just kept on waving, just like Richard here -

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A couple of hours later, still out in the cold and waiting to get back into the dock, it was feeling a bit less like fun, but a day to remember nonetheless.

So there’s our shortlist.  On paper a foregone conclusion maybe, but will the weather swing it?  Tune in tomorrow and we’ll see.

I suppose it’s about time then that we get down to the serious business of voting Best Pub.