Thursday, July 26, 2018


I'm beginning to wonder if there will be enough water in the canals for our customary September cruise. CRT reservoir watch figures for the last month show quite big drops in levels.- a 19% drop over the month in the case of the Oxford. It's still at a higher level than the very bad 2011 season, but I reckon this heatwave might soon catch us up with that year.

Time was when we could make it rain by just setting of on a cruise but we seem to have lost the knack. I think we ought to invite our old friend Rainman out for a week or two.

Hey ho, not a lot we can do.

We did a short cruise earlier this week and arrived back absolutely knackered. Even the ducks were hiding under the lock beams for shade.

I tried to tell it that it was on the wrong side of the cill but to no avail. I don't think ducks can read.

Talking of reading, my new novel is selling like warmish cakes. More interesting for me is that a third of them have been the paperback version, so I'm pleased I went to the trouble of preparing that one. No reviews have appeared yet, but people need time to read it and think up suitable words of lavish praise so I'm trying to be patient.

I expect some people might be waiting until the film comes out, but that might be a rather long time, so get yours now and be the envy of your friends.

Friday, July 20, 2018

A Shameless Commercial

Did you see on the news this week that less people are buying ebooks and more people are buying paperbacks? Well it’s a good job my new book A Good Hiding  is coming out in both formats then.  Yes, it’s out today!! Hurry to get yours while the (infinite) stocks last.


The paperback thing is an eye opener.  It takes a lot more work to get it print ready; everything has to be the right size and shape and all that, then Amazon convert it to a pdf which they can print on demand.  They still come post free  next day if you are a Prime member. The actual cost of printing is £3.26 they tell me, then there’s postage and Amazon’s profit margin, then my royalty.  Had I priced the book at £5.49 which is what I first tried, my royalty would have been £0.03.  Yes three measly pence!  Now I’m not aiming to get rich, but that did seem derisory, so I’ve upped the price to £5.99 of which I get 33 pence.  The Kindle version is £1.99 right now.

Anyhow, here’s the blurb.

Mild mannered Careers Officer Eric has a magnetic personality. Unfortunately for him, his magnet is the kind that attracts trouble. He’s in hiding so that he doesn’t get one – a hiding that is. He narrowly escaped a beating just before Christmas by fleeing his adversaries, falling down stairs and injuring himself instead. Eric is unlucky that way. Now, without so much as a phrase book, he’s been packed off up to Sunderland, ostensibly to find out how to do careers advice in a place where there are no jobs, but really to keep him safe from the murderous Hatton. Hatton is the last uncaptured member of the criminal gang accidentally discovered by poor Eric, and as the main witness for the prosecution, Eric is the man Hatton needs to silence.

Of course the police are on the case, but as they are led by the muttonheaded Chief Superintendent Cosgrove, that only makes matters worse.

Stranded in Sunderland without his beloved guitar to keep him sane, Eric remembers the advice his girlfriend gave him before he set off to the frozen North.

“Keep away from amorous older women and heavyweight wrestlers and find yourself a cheap car.”

Well one out of three wasn’t too bad. The car was a proper bargain. He used it to flee back south where it‘s warmer. Unfortunately for Eric, that’s when it all got much much too hot. Was he on a hiding to nothing?

As you can tell, it’s another intellectual psychodrama in the style of Tolstoy or Enid Blyton like the last book.  I think it’s fair to say that the women in it are superior to the men, so ladies might appreciate it.  Bits of it make me laugh anyway and my test readers have been kind enough to say it was a fun read.  For canal enthusiasts there’s a hidden  bonus theme which I will leave you to discover for yourselves. Should you be bold enough to give it a go, please think about leaving a review on Amazon especially if you liked it.

“How do I get one?”, I hear you ask.  Just follow this link.  or Google for Amazon Herbie Neil A Good Hiding.  I haven’t even got one myself yet, so you could be the first.

End of commercial break.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Moving options

We need to be thinking about where we want to moor next year.  Our berth at Cropredy is lovely, the marina is great and not too dear, the Oxford canal is one of the prettiest, and we can get to and from home easily.  But you can have too much of a good thing and the idea of a change in surroundings is tempting.  The problem is where to go if we moved?  Here are our limitations.

We don’t want to retrace our steps and go back to the lower Grand Union or to Crick.  Been there, done that.

We don’t want a long car journey from home (near Reading).

We’d like a good centre with a choice of new routes, but with some good local short cruises to a place worth visiting (like we have Banbury now)

We’d like access to public transport for one of us to get home sometimes.

We’d like a friendly, safe, and not too expensive (e.g.not BWML prices) marina, or maybe a good private on line mooring.

Ideas so far have included:

On the Nene (hoping for no floods)

Fazeley Mill marina (a bit of a drive but do-able)

Somewhere on the K&A – handy for home and transport

One of the marinas up the Ashby

I got quite keen on the K&A for the practical benefits, but I have yet to meet many boaters prepared to extol its virtues.  It all looks like quite hard work and offers little choice of routes except back and forth.

I think the favourite at the moment is Fazeley Mill, but if anyone out there has any suggestions I’m all ears.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the gruelling slog of proof reading and prepping my new book is in full swing.  Kath is finding dozens of places where I have extra spaces lurking in the text, sometimes causing the quote marks to reverse themselves (no idea why) and the odd missing or extraneous word.  My story readers have mostly reported back that the plot has no fundamental errors. (phew)  Perhaps the biggest headache is trying to format the text for the paperback version.  The Amazon KDP system is very fussy about layout.  I’ll be glad when I can push the ‘publish’ button.  If the total income from book sales amounts to more than 10p per hour of our work, I’ll be surprised.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Peace of mind

Picture the scene. There I am, half way down the M40 on the way home after a boating expedition when a nagging thought enters my mind. Did I tighten the stern gland before we left?  Did I turn off the inverter? Oh ‘eck, the boat will sink and /or the batteries will be flat.  I think we get more like that as we get older, at least I do.  Normally of course, I have done whatever it is, but I spend the next week afraid that I hadn’t.  So now we have a solution.


I printed off a stack of these and use one each time we leave.  It works! Peace of mind at last. Except there are a couple of things I mean to add to the list, but I can’t remember what they are.  Any further suggestions for the list are very welcome. Of course it’s important to take the completed list home with you, or else you’ll worry that you did actually tick this or that.

In other news:

My new novel is in the hands of three kind friends who offered to endure a reading of it.  Hopefully they will confirm that it makes some sort of sense and that the story hangs together.  It’s no good reading through it yourself because your head is full of what you think you wrote.  Kath has been using her digital graphics skills to help with the front cover, a joint effort, which will look like this.

cover at

If it passes the reader test, I’m hoping to publish in a week or so. Exciting or what?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Tales of the Unexpected

Things rarely turn out how you expect, and our trip down to Oxford and back was like that. The idea was to give our Peter a holiday break and a free bed while he attended a jolly in Oxford over the weekend, then to scuttle quickly back to Cropredy.  Bish bosh, job done.

We didn’t (or at least I didn’t) think I’d find time to rub down my starboard handrail, fill, undercoat and two top coats, but I did. (Adam, I’m still a big fan of that masking tape.)

I didn’t image for one minute that I’d find time to finish off my novel (bar the proofing etc.) but I did.

In all that hot weather, we thought we’d be overflowing with solar power, but sometimes we weren’t.

We thought we would be our own company on the return trip, but it was very sociable.

Instead of coming back in three days, we took six.

How did all that happen?  Well the weather had a lot to do with it.  Like most other people we elected for early starts to avoid the heat, so we were done and tied up by lunch time most days.  This gave us the afternoon off, which is when those jobs got done.  and like all the other boaters we headed for the shady spots to moor up, like here at Aristotle lane in Oxford.


Kath and Peter skulk in the bushes  Before long, the shade moved right over the boat, which is why the solar panels didn’t get a feed of sunlight.  They do seem to like a direct view of the sun. Also I have read that they are less efficient when they get very hot, and despite them having a good air gap underneath, they did get very hot.  Nevertheless they were a big help, even if not at their optimum.

As for sociability, our cup overflowed, the only disappointment was not being able to meet up with Bones as planned.  The diaries never seemed to fit.  Maffi was about and we had our usual natters with him of course.  Tying up early and sitting out, we got to know our neighbours each afternoon and spend many a happy hour swapping stories.  In particular, we spent three or four afternoons in the company of Ray and Lucille on Nb Lucy Lockett who we had not met before, but now know each others life stories intimately!

Another unexpected thing was to see how many of the CRT notices had already changed to the new livery.  Like most other boaters, we’re not at all sure it’s as good as the old although at least the blue does attract the eye more than the old white.  Time will tell. In principle, I’m generally against strap lines, especially ones with the first word ending in “-ing”. They always seem a bit naff to me.  I have in my career endured awaydays when such things are developed.  Like all things developed by committee, they tend to come out as bland or trite.  I shall say no more on the subject.


Here’s another thing I didn’t expect to see, especially on a pub wall:


This one was outside the Bell in Lower Heyford.  Maybe they should look at the cholesterol in their menu.

The reason we took twice as long to come back up the canal was simple.  The thing we had to get back home for was cancelled, so why hurry when we could just do two or three hours a day and spend the rest of the time sitting in the lovely countryside.

PS  My book is nearly ready. Kath is reading it through.  I think I might have thought of a good title.  Now I need to design a cover.  Once again, I’ll stick it on Amazon / Kindle.  I think these days it’s automatic that people can order a print version, so those out there who don’t like reading from a screen will have no excuse.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018


When it comes to a knowledge of Botany
I'm a person that has not Gotany
I've been searching through flowers
For hours and hours
But of rare ones I never did Spotany

Such is the standard of my poetry! Talking of such things, down here on the Oxford there are miles and miles and miles of wild flowers, currently mostly meadowsweet and rosebay willowherb, or on the shady bits, the big leaves of what I suppose are. Gunnera - giant rhubarb.

Now some boaters have said to me this week that they think the canal bank is too overgrown and there are not enough places to stop. Hmmph! That's a bit like complaining that all the paintings in the National Gallery are blocking the view of the wall. I counted the number of good mooring stops ( clear straight banks with piling and nice mown grassy bank to sit out) between Thrupp and Aynho, 10 miles, twenty good moorings, many big enough for a number of boats. That's fine isn't it?