Saturday, June 30, 2018

Something very exciting has happened

Yes, it has, but before I get to that:

Here we are in sunny Jericho. I haven't seen any walls come tumbling down yet, but we live in hopes. Actually we're not all that sunny because we're moored under some sort of maple tree, which is stealing all our would be solar power and covering the boat in what might best be described as maple syrup. I haven't tasted it, but it sure is sticky. All week we have been busy going not very far, starting earlyish for us, and finishing by mid day to avoid the heat. I must say, it's a very pleasant way to go nowhere fast. We have dined very well, on barbecues and the odd treat such as a mid day cream tea at Annie's tea room in Thrupp. Maffi is loitering around Thrupp, so we had a natter with him. As we left on Thursday morning, we passed his boat and he rushed onto his back deck and shouted either "ice cream's empty" or "I've been tempted." I think. I wonder what that's all about.

Tonight we are dining on a street food takeaway from Gloucester Road market in Oxford, where foods of many nationalities can be had. Ours is Indian and I think its gonna be a hot one. It's in the oven as I write. I said to Kath that we should be washing it down with champagne because . . .

I have reached the end of my second novel !!!! Well, when I say reached the end, the story is done and dusted, but I still have tidying up to do, the odd scene trimming and a couple of bits to add in the middle, then a thousand and one typos and punctuation errors to correct, but the story is told. It's all these lazy afternoons that have done it, I've been going like a train, my fingers a blur over the keyboard of my little tablet, hence all the typos. A week ago I didn't know the story would end and how all the threads would come together, but they just did, and if I may say so, I think it might be fun to read. Of course it has all the gravitas, romance and sensuality of my first novel i.e. none, but I think I'm happier with it that I expected when half way through. A proper re read now will be the test and then I'll have to let someone else read it. That's the scary bit. I wouldn't start queuing outside Waterstones just yet.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


I think we ought to move Herbie to the South of France where it's not so flippin' hot.

It all got pretty noisy this morning as lots of boats set off early to beat the heat. Now in mid afternoon they're all moored up in shady spots like us. Here we are just north of Heyford lift bridge.

We had a long chat with a CRT canal inspector checking out the section between Aynho and Heyford. He showed us his list of things that needed attention, and it was huge! Fat chance of getting that lot done, I suppose they'll have some way of prioritising.

Always interesting talking to these guys and as ever you discover that things are never as simple as they seem, for instance, stop planks. Apparently they've tried a range of materials and designs, but nothing is as good as spruce. Problem is, it's a very buoyant wood and again despite all sorts of ways of holding them down in the water, a gang of chaps standing on them still works best. I bet elfin safety doesn't think much of that.

Yesterday a chap I met at Nell Bridge told me he'd accidentally trod on an adder at King's Sutton. Basking in the sun I suppose. Anyway it didn't try to bite him.

Funny the stuff you learn while doing not much on a hot day.

Monday, June 25, 2018


This can't be us on hols, it's not raining. Clearly no-one told the met office we were out cruising for a couple of weeks, because it's hot and sunny.

Currently (Monday breakfast) we're at camp 1, aka Spiceball Park in Banbury, before continuing on towards the dreaming spires of ye olde Oxenford. Saturday night at Base Camp, aka Cropredy, gave us this spectacular sunset over the marina

In an effort not to be boring, last night we thought we'd give the Three Pigeons Pub a try (the Reindeer was probably sending out search parties). Anyhow it was very good in all ways, food, beer and service. Kath had a burger that was taller than Ronnie!Recommended. They keep a lovely pint of Purity Gold.

Young Ronnie, now mostly recovered from his horrific encounter with a car ten days ago, is with us as far as Heyford, and he's well enough to get back to his crisp stealing habits.

Wor lad Peter is also on the crew this week so he can use us as cheap(free) accommodation while he is on some jolly in Oxford next weekend. That's what mums and dads are for, we are told.

We'll send our sherpas out to Morrisons on the way out of Banbury, so we have enough grub to allow us to dine in the wilds. Probable Camp 2 is Belcher's lift bridge just before Aynho, cunningly chosen because it should offer us the shade of the hedge, and we love it there anyway.

Yesterday despite the canal being busy, all the locks were in our favour. Fingers crossed that might continue.
Stay tuned.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Near disaster but all's well

You all remember our little Ronnie the Chorkie

Grace's dog I suppose you would call him, but he's a family pet anyway and a regular boat crew member. Well on Thursday last he got run over by a car. He was getting out of our car outside the house, saw a cat and gave chase across the road. The car's wheel went right over him. You can imagine our horror, but after two separate thorough vet examinations, one at the nearest vet within ten minutes of being hit, and a second examination next day by his regular vet, it looks like he got away with it!! He's been somewhat subdued for a few days and no doubt he's got bruises and an abrasion on his thigh, but yesterday he was quite perky and trotting about and wagging his tail. I'm not sure who was more traumatised, him or us.

We bumped into Maffi on Saturday. As we were baby sitting Grace over the weekend she requested a boat trip so we took Herbie down to Banbury which is where we saw Milly M and the man himself sporting an alarmingly neat haircut. He hopped on board for a trip down to the winding hole and back and was impressed by Grace's driving skills. For the first time she has this weekend been steering the boat into locks, both up and down and doing it really well. Not bad for a ten year old.

Next week we're cruising down to Oxford with our Peter, who although nearly four times Grace's age would freely admit to being less good at the tiller.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


First an apology.  I have just discovered that a number of comments that kind readers have put on my posts have not been finding their way through to me.  Blogger is supposed to be sending comments to me by email, so I know they are there, but I just discovered that in over forty cases over the last few months, the comments never got through to me in this way. So in a lot of cases I didn’t know they were there. So if you made a comment without a reply or response from me where needed, that’s the reason why.  Very sorry folks, I’ll try to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Now what might be a useful tip to someone.  Like us you might have a Cobb barbecue on your boat, or perhaps at home.  I think Oakie has one at any rate.  We like to use their Cobblestones as fuel.  At a couple of quid a time, they are not cheap, but they do give a good heat very quickly and maintain the heat steadily for up to two hours.  As I may have written before, these Cobblestones (sort of compressed coir wheels) are real pigs to light.  I used to end up using half a box of matches to get one going.  Well folks, I have found the answer to the problem.  For my birthday last January I asked Kath to buy me a chef’s blowtorch so I could fool about making creme brulees or charring peppers and the like. Last week I used it to light the Cobb and hey presto, the Cobblestone was fully lit in seconds.  It was hot enough to start cooking in barely a couple of minutes.  These little blowtorches don’t cost a lot.  They might even be good for getting charcoal briquettes or whatever to light.  If I were you I’d get one.

I don’t know if it was the late spring and then all this warm weather or what, but our garden has exploded in the last couple of weeks. I’m going to have to buy a machete if this keeps up. I hesitate to complain when things are growing too well, but we’re in danger of being overwhelmed by greenery.  Anyone else with the same problem?  Maybe I should get a goat.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

A week not wasted

I may not have written a blog post for a week or more, but I have not, dear reader, been idle. Well, not all the time anyway.  We have been on Herbie trying to get her more spick and span.  When we arrived at Herbie in the marina a week ago we were pleased to see that the flags were out for us.  That’s yellow flag irises of course.  Moon daisies, dog roses and all sorts of other stuff was out too.  The marina surroundings are looking very lush and pretty.


Down our end of the marina, away from the car park and the office etc, we get all the wildlife, song birds especially, including, I am happy to report, skylarks twittering away up in the sky. Down in the water, apart from the ducks and swans there are some proper big carp that will come up and eat your scraps of bread if the ducks don’t get there first.  And, best of all, about an hour after sundown, we got spectacular displays of bats swooping low over the water at speeds that would put swallows to shame.  I’m no bat expert but I guess they are daubenton bats since they are supposed to feed over water and seem about the right size. The light reflected over the water surface gives you a better view than you would normally get of bats in flight, but they were much too fast to photograph.  Suffice it to say there were lots of them. Just look at this picture and fill in your imaginary bats.

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Just to finish off this wildlife section, here are a couple of  the little fellows that came to see us when we sat out in our deck chairs.


There are five cygnets in all, and like all swans they have little fear of us humans.

Despite weather varying from too misty to too hot to too breezy, I did manage to get a bit of painting done.  The section of Herbie’s roof where the roof box sits now has three fresh top coats and the box is at long long last installed.


I also managed to do the other roof areas that needed repainting, although I suspect that having done it in sections at different times some bit of it will need seeing to before very long, a bit like the Forth bridge.

Our wooden handrails need regular attention as the wood expands and contracts in the weather and the ropes drag over them etc.  I feel guilty when I let them get scruffy after all the hard work Marilyn put in on them when we did the big Herbie repaint.  This time they needed more than a touch up so on the port side I sanded almost all of the rail back to bare wood and filled a lot of the cracks and screw holes before putting on a thick undercoat and three gloss coats and now it looks like this.


The first of the top coats didn’t go too well, I painted it too late in the day and  an evening mist came down and gave it a frosted finish.  That’ll learn me.  Note to self:  Don’t paint outdoors after 2pm.  I hope the finished job will pass Marilyn's inspection next time she comes to visit. Hopefully her eyesight might not be what it was. The starboard side will have to wait until we can get that against the bank or the pontoon. 

I have a tip to pass on.  Having left my best masking tape at home, I despatched Kath down to Wickes in Banbury to get “the best she could” and she came back with this stuff.


It’s made by the Duck tape people and I like it very much.  The photo is a bit misleading, it’s about 2cm wide, normal sort of masking tape width.  The outside in plastic and the sticky side seems to have some sort of fine webbing.  That’s the sticky side in the photo.  It sticks well, comes off well (no bleeds at all) and is not as stretchy as a lot of tapes.  I found it easy to apply it all along one side of the boat in one straight strip – something other tapes wouldn’t let me do as they tended to pull into a curve.  It’s not cheap, I think Kath paid about £8 but don’t quote me, but there is a lot of tape on the reel.  I shall be using it for similar jobs in future.

I suppose I should just add for the record that during the week I managed to get the aft deck cants painted as well.


The rest of the time I just loafed about tightening crews and stuff like that, but mostly watching paint dry.  Oh and I wrote another episode or two of my number two novel.  I will finish it this year.  I think. I still have no idea how it ends.