Thursday, March 24, 2016

Making a mess tidying up.

Well whaddya know? I just discovered that it’s precisely ten years ago today that we first arrived with Herbie at High Line Yachting on the Slough Arm.  Our first permanent mooring, where we stayed for five years before going up to Crick. As this photo of a slyph like Kath shows, the shelves and cupboards were bare at that time.


That was before we started filling her up with miscellaneous stuff.  Over the years, we keep bringing more books, CDs, tools and all manner of junk on board.  Whatever the opposite of Feng Shui is, that’s where we are now. Time for a de-clutter.

So yesterday we seized the day and removed a car boot full of books, CDs, surplus rainwear and all sorts of other stuff from the boat. It seemed to weigh a ton when we wheelbarrowed it away.  I almost expected to see Herbie sitting out of the water by a couple of inches. The annoying thing is that Herbie still looks cluttered.  Never mind, it’ll look better when we tidy up the rest of the stuff into all the storage places we’ve emptied. 

The problem now is our house, ‘cos that’s where all the stuff came back to, so I’ve had to spend more time clearing out unwanted books and things from shelves at home to accommodate the items from the boat that we want to keep.  It never ends does it?  The good thing I suppose is that our local charity shops are going to be amply restocked by us over the next day or two.

Another good thing is the calories we’ve burned off.  Every time we push a wheelbarrow of things to or from the boat, it’s 800 steps each way according to Kath’s pedometer.  I’m quite looking forward to when we get to Cropredy and we can get the car close to the boat for loading and unloading.  That should be early May.  It might have been sooner, but we’ve delayed our planned start by 11 days because of commitments near home.  Luckily John at High Line Yachting has allowed us to stay the extra time without charge.  Bless.

Did you, like me, think that CRT usually completed al their planned canal stoppages by Easter?  Well, not this year.  We’re going to have to get past Dudswell and Cowroast locks by April 19 or face delays.   I hope they might be doing something about the leaky lock walls.   We can get past in time, but it means we’ll have to burn off a few more calories each day ‘cos there are 45 locks to do before we get past.  With any luck we’ll lose a bit of weight.  Maybe we’ll get back to the weight we were when we bought Herbie ten years ago.

Monday, March 21, 2016


In yesterday’s blog post I included a picture of our old friend Pete Higson without realising that it is just three years ago today that he was taken from us.  Thanks to his wife, our equally good friend Val, for pointing it out.

Pete was very keen to come boating with us whenever he could, and he was the ideal companion, not only on the boat but in the pub in the evening when he would spend his beer vouchers(bank notes) with great relish.  We have known Pete for something like forty years and over the last good many years before he died we would play music together every Tuesday night.  So in his memory I have put together a little slide show accompanied by a recording of me and Pete playing and singing a song on one of our Tuesday nights.  Both the photos and the recording are a bit rough and ready, but its the memories that count.

I tried to embed the resulting video into this blog post but due to some technical problems I don’t understand, it didn’t work, so should you wish to see more of Pete and hear me and him murdering one of Bob Dylan’s more poignant songs, then follow this link.

Halt, who goes there.

We towpath rangers in the London Way Out West team, lately known as the WOWboys, have worked out a way to make cyclists stop and get a friendly word of advice regarding their speed.  As you may remember, we run these Share the Space events where we set up on a busy bit of towpath and hand out little folding maps which also include advice about the Towpath Code.  The trouble has been that the very people we most want to influence are the cyclists who plough through the midst of us without stopping.  So at Cowley lock on Friday we got a bit more assertive and created a barrier with a little gap and then stood in front of the gap.  Speeding cyclists may be inconsiderate, but most are not homicidal so they tended to stop.  I then spoke to them in friendly terms such as “Here’s a little free towpath map for you as a reward for being a considerate cyclist, so do read what it says and take care.”  One or two looked a bit shamefaced at my friendly approach and cycled off more gently.  Well it’s a start.

This was different from our normal STS events where we have been targeting mainly commuters.  This time it was more for people out and about for leisure, and a lot more people stopped to chat and look at the maps.  It was a two way conversation.  I learned more about the sale of  the Toll Cottage by the lock, (CRT is reported to have sold it while the current occupants still have two years of a lease left to run.) and the concerns of the very nice lady who operates the trip boat Albert, which takes parties of mainly elderly people up to Denham and beyond for cream tea cruises.  She is concerned because it seems that because of HS2, there are plans to re route the pylons which cross the canal above Denham, and in so doing remove most of the trees on the offside as you approach Widewater lock.  This would indeed be a tragedy as it is a particularly attractive stretch as illustrated by the photo featuring our dear departed friend Pete as we cruised that particular stretch.



As Cowley lock is only a short cruise from Herbie’s current moorings, we chose to go there by boat.  It was a good thing that we did, for we came upon the mighty Still Rockin’ as we came through Packet Boat Lane bridge, so giving us the opportunity for an evening with Carol and George on Saturday and very pleasant it was.  that’s a nice thing about boating, you never know what friends you might meet round the next corner.


I’m out on the towpath again later this week at Hanwell or Brentford, seeing if we can make cyclists stop and listen to our advice.

BTW we just got a message that one of the walls of Norwood top lock (above the Hanwell flight) has been damaged and is now only 13ft 7in wide until further notice.  I can testify to the fact that it hasn’t been the full fourteen feet for some years as I was once on a big boat that got stuck in it.  Anyhow best not to go through there two at a time up for the time being.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Poison and good news

Blimey, it doesn’t do to read the health warnings on some products.  Having just used some stuff called Creocote to weatherproof a new stern button fender that Rick mysteriously acquired for me (Fell off the back of a boat? No, from some nick nack sale), I’m probably going to lose all my skin, get cancer, and poison all aquatic life on earth for a thousand years.  Interestingly one of the main ingredients of this brew is diesel.  When I first started brushing it on, the stuff just seemed to disappear, but after a few coats you can at least see where I’ve been.  Let’s hope it works.

Having returned to the house to wash this deadly potion off my hands, I noticed one of my fingernails has a longitudinal groove in it, so I looked that up on Google.  Apparently I might either have a deficiency of iron, or I might have too much iron.  Well, that’s helpful then.  I suppose I could lie north south and get someone to hit me with a hammer and see if I turn into a magnet or not.  Or I might have just hit my finger sometime.

Good news today.  After waiting all winter for Cropredy marina to confirm they have a berth for us from May for 12 months, I got an email to say its OK.  It’ll be nice to have a different base for a while, and we haven’t done a lot of cruising on the South Oxford.  What I’m hoping is that we get a dry spell and we can at last finish off the Thames.  We haven’t yet cruised anything above Eynsham lock, although I love the upper Thames.  We used to take the kids camping at Eaton Hastings and at Radcot when they were little.  We’ve also camped at Lechlade and at Newbridge , so we know the area quite well from the river bank.

Note for bloggers – in case it helps

For a long time I used Windows Live Writer(WLW) to write these post, or something called Blogsy on the iPad  Then WLW stopped working so I had to resort to the native Blogger editor, which I don’t like much.  Anyhow, today I searched for a solution and discovered Open Live Writer, which is like WLW but is supposed to work and I’m using it right now. Setting it up was very easy.  If you are reading this, then it worked.  Here goes . .

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Imagine Donald Trump


Here's a picture of the Canal Cafe theatre above the Bridge House Pub in Little Venice. Not very big is it? Photos are not allowed during the performance so you'll have to imagine the stage. Last night's News Review was as funny as usual, the highlight for me being the Donald Trump sketches, one with him singing Imagine -”imagine there's no Muslims" etc another where he is confronted by Jesus over his lack of Christianity only to say he was taking no lessons from a Jew with a Mexican name. You had to be there I guess, but it was very funny.

We did the touristy thing yesterday afternoon and took a bus to Portobello road market. The only thing we bought was a cake! If you are ever there, seek our Garniers bakers shop and go in for a cake or a savoury and a cuppa. Their stuff is to die for, and as for bread, I think they had nearly twenty different types, all of course fresh baked.

Still hardly any boats moving in Paddington. I strongly suspect there are a number of overstayers. I feel another letter to CRT coming on. Perhaps we ought to get up a petition of boaters who are put off visiting London by the situation. The London boaters themselves have a strong voice collectively, but us visitors currently don't.


Friday, March 04, 2016

Sell-by date exceeded in Bloomsbury

I'm not much of a one for sell-by dates and use-by dates and all that. If food looks fresh and smells fresh then I'll have a go at it. I would draw the line at some bread we saw yesterday though because it was four thousand years old! To be fair, it didn't look all that appetising, a bit dry I thought, but there it was in a display case at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archeology.

If old bread doesn't turn you on, how about the oldest surviving garment in thee world. Five thousand years old and made from a very fine linen thread.  That's older than some of my odd socks I keep hanging on to in case the other half shows up.

If you can find this place, it's worth a visit. There are no great sarcophagi or statues, but loads and loads of smaller artefacts, some of them exquisite. It's the sheer antiquity of this stuff that impresses me - that people four and a half thousand years ago were obviously quite sophisticated. This stuff is three thousand years older than the Angl Saxon stuff we get excited about here and a lot of it is much more refined. Some of the stone carving and pottery and glassware is very very fine.
Here's some jewellery Kath liked. Tiny intricate ceramic shapes on a necklace.

As the museum is within the UCL there are students hanging about to explain things to you, and when we went there was a student seminar going on and I listened to one giving a very interesting talk about the religious significance of amulets.
The museum is free. Go take a look when you're in London.
Not a lot of changeover in Paddington basin. It's full as I write I think.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Beaten on penalties

A very jolly evening yesterday at the Warwick Castle in Little Venice. We teamed up with Carol and George (Still Rockin') and Diane and Ray (NB Ferndale) to enter the pub quiz. Carol obviously gets up earlier than me and has already posted a photo of us on the Still Rockin' blog.

George proved he is Still Rockin' by getting more of the music questions than the rest of us, and between us we managed to answer a fair few of the rest of the topics, although as usual we didn't do too well on pictures of "famous" people. Not famous in our house most of them. Anyhow, come the finale, we were equal first with two other teams so there was a tie breaker. Do you know the population of Topeka, Kansas? (Answer at the bottom) Well we were way out, so we missed out on the big prizes.

It's been alarmingly windy at times in this notoriously windy spot. In the middle of the night I could hear something large and metallic crashing about further down the was. Maybe a bin or a length of the fencing they have put up to mark of the demolition work.

Yesterday I went to Mecca. Well my version of it, which is Denmark Street where every shop is a guitar shop. I wasn't out to buy a guitar, I already have quite a few, but I fancied a tiny amp to go with my old "Maffi" stratocaster which lives on Herbie. Here's what I bought, with a coffe cup for scale.


Cute huh? Very retro and somewhat geared towards a sixties sound. It's especially good if you plug headphones in.

I'm doing a bit more on my book while I'm here, and I suppose I must be getting close to half way at 34,500 words. I'd better start thinking about untangling the plot, I haven't got a clue what will happen.

Talking of big numbers, Topeka (according to our quiz master) has a population of 120,000.


Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Tea at the Palace

I am awash with tea. Kath went off ancestor chasing this morning while I prepared to attend a meeting at the CRT Little Venice office. They are teaming up with the national Walking for Health charity to set up towpath walks for (mainly) older people who need to up their fitness or people who might be otherwise isolated and need company.

Anyway at the meeting I had a cup of tea. When the meeting finished, Mike,one of my Ranger friends came back to have his first look at Herbie and of course we had a cup of tea. Then another ranger friend dropped by and on went the kettle again while we chatted about this and that. Quite a jolly sociable afternoon. Anyway they eventually departed and I sat down to read the paper when there came a knock on the side of then boat. It was Veronica, another CRT volunteer who lives on a boat on Blomfield Road. "Cup of tea Veronica?" "Yes please." We had a long chat over our tea about all sorts of stuff including what it is like to live in what are to many minds the most attractive moorings in London. Not all roses it seems.

We had just finished our tea when Kath returned. Veronica went off home and Kath and I walked down to Rembrandt Gardens where we had an invitation to visit Carol and George on their big boat Still Rockin'.

Of course the first thing they said was "Cup of tea?". Well it would have been rude to refuse tea at the palace!

Still Rockin' is a lovely boat, it feels more like a comfortable apartment inside. Being boaters, we of course discussed toilets at some length, especially as they too have an Airhead composting toilet. I was glad to hear that we were not alone in having to overcome fitting issues with the "exhaust" system, although we all agreed that the Airhead was a good thing to have now that we have got the installation right.

Now we are back on Herbie having a bite to eat. I declined Kath's offer of tea.

How nice to come away from home, moor up in the city and spend the whole day chatting to friends. That's boating for ya.