Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It never rains but it pours–Crick show aftermath

To quote my hero and role model: ” Doh!”

After a somewhat muddy and moist weekend at the Crick show it would have been nice to go off and enjoy my two day RYA course arranged by CRT for volunteer  boat movers, but alas it was not to be – course postponed because of “trainer issues” whatever they are.  Now I have to wait until July. However, the day was not wasted because we got a call from our Peter in Cambridge saying he had fallen over walking through the Science Park and sprained his wrist and ankle and fractured his elbow.  We decided he was best brought home to endure our tender care as he was unable to do much for himself domestically in that condition.  How inconsiderate of him to do it on Tuesday. Had he done it a day earlier, we could have collected him on our way home from Crick. Instead we had a 180 mile round trip to collect him.

Crick show was good in parts. We picked up several bargains on essentials such as mooring rope, boat polish, stern tube grease etc. at good discounts, and avoided spending £140k on a new boat. Instead we spent it on beer and cider (alright, not quite £140k) from the rather splendid selection on offer.  Adam and Adrian came for tea and cake, as did the Halfies and Sunday was fine and warm.  The rain over previous days had done serious harm to the grass car parks and when Kath had to drive out to collect Grace from her mum, our nice clean car (it had its annual wash only days earlier) changed from green to brown in seconds.  On the main site, the aluminium track walkways did a good job of keeping people out of the mud and the stalls and down on the quay side the show boats were doing a strong trade. 

crick show pano

Monday was a very different story.  The rain was persistent and the visitor numbers were, I imagine, well down except on stalls selling wellies.

Never mind, I went in to the seminar with Richard Parry, chief exec of CRT, more of which in my next post.  While I was in there Adam and Adrian were doing a sterling job taking Grace on funfair rides.  Adam had the easy bit – the dodgems, but Adrian drew the short straw and foolishly agreed to take Grace on the waltzer.  It was a pity I wasn’t there to see it as I’m told his face looked pretty green when they finished.  Rather him than me. I feel ill just looking at a waltzer ride.

Toyah Wilcox turned out to be far more of a draw than I had imagined.  The entertainment marquee was absolutely packed when she made her appearance.  Not really my kind of music but she did it well and the band was very tight.  As to the Wilburys tribute band the next night, they were a bit like the whole show weekend – good in parts.  The guy taking the part of Roy Orbison nearly brought it off from time to time although I think it was asking the impossible to sing like the big O.  They were a pretty good band and went down well, but not like the real thing.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Volunteer perks

Wahooo!, I seem to have landed a good volunteering job on top of my existing CRT towpath ranger activities.  CRT in London are looking for a few people to move boats around the area in support of volunteering activities and they first approached existing volunteers including us towpath rangers.  After giving details of my boating experience it seems I have been accepted and next week I go on the first of several training exercises, leading eventually to a 5 year CRT Helmsman’s certificate.  Well I suppose I’ve already done the first bit at home, which was to watch a whole clutch of on-line safety videos.  Anyway next Tuesday and Wednesday I’m enrolled on an RYA Inland helmsman's course in Southall.  I’ve often fancied doing one but was a bit put off by the cost and the fact that by now I should know most of it.  So now I get one for free and I’m sure there is always something to learn.  Later on I have to do other courses and trials to make sure I’m capable and safe to move a range of boats around the system including CRT workboats and wide beamers like their boat Jena which normally resides at Paddington.  It might be that a boat is needed in support of volunteer towpath tidy days or maybe promotional events.  It could be anywhere between Bishops Stortford and Rickmansworth.  Suits me sir.

Tomorrow we’re off to Crick for the weekend.  No doubt we’ll be spending money on presents for Herbie.  The first thing I need is a bottle of Craftmaster polish. Our bottle is empty and poor old Herbie is looking a bit flat after the winter.  Quite a lot of stuff at the show is discounted so it’s a good place to stock up.  I might also toddle a long to see Richard Parry’s talk (he is CEO of CRT) to get a feel of where CRT thinks it is going.  Then on Sunday night I’m hoping that the Roy Orbison/ Traveling Wilburys tribute band are up to scratch. If they are, then I’ll be well happy. 

Hope to see some of you there.  To those who have already responded to our tea and cake invitation – looking forward to it. Let’s hope the weather is kind.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An invitation from the Herbies

Coming to the Crick show this weekend?  If you are, and you fancy a cuppa and a bit of cake on board Herbie, we’d love to see you.  We’ll be there all weekend ‘cos as Crick moorers we get free passes.  Of course Herbie and the other regular moorers won’t be accessible to the general show visitors so we’ll have to escort you through to the “private” bit.  Just give us a call and we’ll arrange to meet up.

phone number

That’s Kath’s phone which is always on.  Mine often isn’t.  Please eat the bit of paper when you have read it, or we’ll have to shoot youSmile

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Unsailing in Norfolk

Well our annual Norfolk broads sailing weekend was er, fun although we didn’t do much sailing, and what bit we did do was pretty scary to say the least.  On Sunday, for the first time I can recall in eight years of these trips, we didn’t sail at all because of the wind and weather.  Our boats lay forlorn in Thurne dyke as we walked back to the pub after our inspection of the conditions.

walking back

Out on the river, the waves didn’t look much but we knew from the experience of the previous day, and the lowering skies that hoisting sails and venturing out was not a good idea.

dark sky over thurne mouth

Saturday morning was when we picked up the boats, and it was not too bad as we ventured up towards Hickling Broad, turning back just before we hit the wide part, or rather just before it hit us.  The wind was picking up fast.  Once down through Potter Heigham bridge where you have to lower the mast and paddle the boats to get through, and then of course re erect the mast and sails,  it became dangerously squally as we zigzagged through the narrow channel between all the plastic boats moored on either side of this narrow stretch.  Quite how we managed not to impale any of them on our bowsprit I don’t know.  Each tack was only about a couple of boat lengths long. We did on more than one occasion run into the banks of the gardens of the wooden chalets.  The squalls were so fierce and sudden that  we came close a few times  to turning the boats over.  The wind snatched brutally hard on the sails making my hands and arms ache from the effort of hanging on to the jib sheets. When at last we got to our resting place at Thurne we were all completely knackered.

Never mind, the fourteen of us had a good time in our big shared house next door to the Lion Inn having a big quiz in which everyone provided ten questions each after a superb self cooked banquet.

On Sunday afternoon we had a compensatory treat because the local windpump was open and in operations so we had a guided tour.  Not far off 200 years old this wind driven drainage pump still works perfectly.

windpump 1

You can see that the vanes on the arms are almost fully open because the wind was so strong, and still the arms were turning at a fair rate. Pumps like this were installed all over broadland at one time to drain the land but the rest are all defunct, replaced now by electric pumps. On Monday morning the boats had to be sailed back to the boatyard and mercifully the wind had stopped, but luckily for me I had a tummy upset and elected to stay behind.  I say luckily because an hour or so later as the boats were wallowing completely becalmed in the middle of the river the poor crews suffered a monumental rain storm with thunder and lightning and torrential downpours.  They all arrived back at the house several hours late and completely drenched.

So not the best sailing weekend we have ever had, but one to remember, that’s for sure.

Driving home we had some fantastic skies to entertain us including this one as we neared home.

m4 sky

PS  Those of you looking at the blog on mobile devices might now find it easier to read because, prompted by Carrie, I found out how to change the colour scheme.  I hope it works.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Speed trap

L venice

Yesterday evening I helped out with a CRT Share the Space event at Little Venice.  We were handing out our little canal map booklets to walkers and cyclists in the hope that they would read the bit about being considerate to other towpath users particularly in respect of cycling speed.  Many of the walkers seemed delighted with the maps but the people we really needed to get at cycled past so fast that we couldn’t force a booklet on them.  Don’t blame the lady in the photo, she was one of the good ones.

CRT’s idea is that events like these will get the message across about towpath cycling safety through education and persuasion, but I’m not so sure it will get at the real culprits.  I would favour some sort of device that would tip them in the canal if they go too fast.  Anyway I really enjoyed the event and a couple of us are planning to have another go up at Cowley lock in the near future.  I get to wear my CRT volunteer tee shirt too.

Tomorrow were off to Norfolk for our annual sailing weekend on the broads.  The weather forecast looks wet and windy, so it may be cold as well as terrifying.  We must be mad.

I have decided not to buy a new boat with the earnings from my novel Jobs for the Boys as I don’t think the five pounds I have made so far will get me a very good one.  Maybe I shouldn’t have given two hundred away for free.  What it needs is a few more reviews to kick start it (so far I have got two reviews giving it an average of 4.5 stars), so if you have read it by now I’d be grateful for a review or a rating on the amazon / kindle site.  If by some chance you actually liked it, then tell your mates.  Who knows I might even make a tenner eventually.

Sunday, May 04, 2014


Down here in sunny Berkshire you can now cast a clout, ‘cos the may is out.  Up on the Leicester arm last week it was well in bud bud not yet ready to line the canal with a blaze of white. Instead we had to put up with yellow.

yellow field

There are some enormous fields of oil seed rape up there and the perfume, which is actually rather nice, pervades the air as you cruise along.  Over at Foxton locks of course it’s red and white all the way down, giving the chance for a good quiz question – how many red paddle posts are there. at these locks?

red paddles

Down at the bottom in the pub, we catch Kath sipping a pint of something else yellow, Old Rosie – strong stuff – whilst sitting under what we decide was the Saw of Damocles hanging from the rafter.  A chance to do the saw the lady in half trick Smile

saw damocles

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Wildlife rampant in Leicestershire plus book sales update.

Hmm, you go for ages without seeing anything unusual then several come along at once. today we have seen a Common Sandpiper on the canal bank near Market Harborough, a deer that just stared back at us as we passed him or her near to where our friends Simon and Ann (AKA the Moomins) were moored, a good view of a Great Spotted Woodpecker at the top of Foxton locks, and three rats climbing a tree to steal from a bird feeder. Typically I had no camera to hand for all except the last. Here are the rats, young 'uns by the look of them.


Our overnight visit to Market Harborough was good. Kath enjoyed herself at a session of the MH ukelele club while Peter and I had a good meal at the Golden Orchid Thai restaurant ( thanks to the Yardwooders for the tip). Kath ate less salubriously at Wetherspoons earlier.

Thanks to a cunning plan hatched between us and the met office, we are having the afternoon off sitting by the fire while it rains outside. We're at the top of Foxton locks so we can easily get back to Crick tomorrow. I suppose tonight we ought to put in a final appearance at th bridge 61 pub. It would seem rude not to.

Now I know you are all fretting about how my book is doing, so here is where we're at. The great book buying public is obviously keen on freebies because over the last three days they downloaded no less than 220 copies of Jobs for the Boys. Crikey!!! Beyond my wildest expectations of course.

However we're now back to reality and since it has returned to a sale price of a quid, the sales have completely stopped:-( I suspect that this may well be where they remain, unless you can persuade a friend to get a copy or a film producer to make me an offer I can't refuse. Nevertheless, it's been great and such a good experience. If you are one of those folk still reading it, why not do a little review and rating on Kindle /amazon when you finish. I might not get rich, but at least I'll have some feedback.

One or two people have asked if there will be a sequel. Well I think I might like to do one, if only to find out what happens to one or two of the leading characters. It keeps me out of mischief.