Thursday, June 25, 2020

What price freedom? plus the birds and the bees and spooky songs

So CRT confirms that from July 4 we can stay overnight on our boats.  Hooray .  Will we be dashing out to Herbie and setting off into the wide blue yonder?  Not yet we won't.  We'd rather watch and listen to what goes on and how daft / sensible people appear to be. Looking at some pictures today of the crowds on beaches, I'm not all that optimistic.  Having said that, most boaters are more sensible than that, and many of being older, have the need to be more careful.  I'd be interested to know what your plans are if you're a boater.

In other news:

The birds and the bees

Strangely, the number of birds visiting our feeders this week  has diminished drastically.  Well the robin and the pigeons are always around but the tits of various types have largely gone AWOL.  The only reason I can think of is that they have better things to eat since there seems to have been an explosion in insect life.  Our garden is quite literally buzzing with them. A lot of it is due to our huge lime tree which is smothered in its flowers right now.  It looks and smells lovely  but there is a downside - not long now before we're covered in sticky goo. Already we are having yellow snowstorms of bits of the flowers.  The garden needs a good hoovering.

With fewer birds to watch, we've been watching bees instead and until now we never realised how many different sorts we get.  We've had Early Bumblebees, Carder Bees, Leaf Cutter Bees, Red Tailed Bumblebees and of course Honey Bees.  Who'da thought it?  Don't think we're experts - we just looked 'em up when we saw 'em.

In future I think we'll take more notice of hedgerow bees when we're on the towpath and impress other boaters with our new found erudition.

Kath's got some respectable pictures just with her ageing iphone.  We think this cute one is a Common Carder Bee, but if anyone knows different we'd be happy to be told. Nice furry little thing ain't it?

The last couple of days sunshine has brought out the butterflies too, but strangely not on our buddleia.  Obviously the insects haven't read that is is supposed to be the Butterfly Bush.  For some reason they seem to be attracted instead to our conservatory (that sounds posher than it is.  For conservatory read ramshackle old lean to). Kath has spent many a happy hour thrashing around in there with a fishing net trying to rescue them for release outside.  It's only a matter of time before something gets broken. Getting photos of butterflies is hard because they won't stay still for long enough but I shall persevere.

Spooky songs 

Finally, in my search for songs for my mythical money spinner Canal Lockdown -the musical, I was thumbing though some old songbooks noticing how many 60's hits could be brought up to date by just changing the odd word.  Anyone remember Thunderclap Newman?  How about this - I've only substituted the underlined words:

Call out the contact tracers
'Cos there's something in the air
We're gonna get it sooner or later
'Cos the Covid 19's here and you know that it's right

We have got to stay in together
We have got to stay in together now

Lock up the streets and houses 
'Cos there's something in the air
We're gonna get it sooner or later
'Cos the Covid 19's here and you know that it's right



or how about minor changes to a Boxtops hit to describe the start of lockdown?

Give me no ticket for an aeroplane
Ain't advised to take a fast train
Social days are gone, I'm a stayin' home
'Cos Boris just wrote me a letter.

The search continues.

Well it keeps me off the street.

Bye for now.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Lockdown by the Canal - the musical

"Maybe I should be using my lockdown time more productively"  I thought to myself.  Instead of sanding down the garden table and slapping on a coat of Sadolin, I could have been becoming famous and getting rich like Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Sadly my songwriting credentials haven't exactly cut the mustard in the past.  My first attempt was a little ditty going something like:

It's raining wet water from out of the sky 
If I don't get wet then I shall be dry 

 Unaccountably, that was not a commercial, or any other kind, of success

Then as a young Engineer  (note the capital E) in the late 1960s  in Bedford I wrote my biggest hit so far, The Ballad of Charles Wells and Greene King  (being the two rival brewers having a stranglehold on Bedford pubs in those days) which I dare not print for fear of litigation but suffice to say  the phrase "tastes as though it was filtered through his socks" might have been included.

After the last year of taking my guitar theory and technique more seriously than in the previous fifty years and steeping myself in scales, modes and arpeggios, I've now returned to basics digging out some actual songs.  Things I used to play have faded somewhat in memory and I can't always recall the lyrics, so I though I might as well make them up in the hope that no-one else can remember the originals anyway.

One of the first songs everybody learned to play way back then was House of the Rising Sun ( which actually requires knowledge of 5 chords - I had previously thought there were only three). So I thought I'd adapt it as the first song of a Canal Musical.  How's this for starters (It is admittedly helpful to have a knowledge of the canal through Berkhamsted)?

There is a pub in Berkhamsted
They call the Rising Sun
And it's been the ruin of many an old fart
And God I know I'm one

My mother steered the butty
All she cooked was beans
My father was a number one
Down in Milton Keynes

Now the only things a boater needs
Are a windlass and some rope
A bottle of beer, a lump of cheese
A bucket, a mop, and some soap

Another thing a boater needs
Is a hammer and a stake
A bag of coal, an engine 'ole
And now and then some cake

Dad put one foot on the gunnel
The other foot and the bank
He gave a shout, the boat moved out
And he fell in the water and sank

Oh mothers tell your children
When you need a loaf of bread
Don't stop your boat at the Rising Sun
Press on to Waitrose instead

Feedback is welcome-please choose one of the following

a) Needs improving
b) Needs scrapping
c) Needs certifying

Friday, June 19, 2020

Lockdown briefing canal style

Good afternoon and welcome to today's canal lockdown briefing.  I'd like to start by looking at today's graphs based on data by the Canal and River Trust.  Can I have slide one please?

This graph shows the percentage full levels of canal reservoirs in a number of popular cruising areas, and as you can see things are broadly holding up well thanks to the efforts of the British Boating Public who in these difficult times have responded magnificently by not doing any boating.  Sadly (puts on serious face) there has been a decline in the Leeds and Liverpool area due to a number of factors which our scientists are looking into.  Fortunately I believe that's somewhere up North so it doesn't really matter.

Can I have the next slide please?

This shows the number of Boaters broken down by age and sex as a result of being locked down for three months and is broadly in line with expectations.

 Can I have the last slide please?

This is a special commissioned Pie Chart showing the number of Fray Bentos Steak Pies (often referred to as Boaters Pies) consumed by the boating community.  You can see that after a sudden fall as boaters returned ashore in the early part of the epidemic, there has been a welcome recent increase as people isolated at home resorted to raiding their store cupboard for anything to eat.

Now we move on to questions from members of the public and the press, starting with Roger from London.  Roger.

"Thank you minister. With the canals full of water and the beautiful April and May weather why didn't the Government arrange for the Coronavirus to come last December when it was too wet and everything was on red boards?  We could have got all this over when boating was impossible  and been out enjoying ourselves. "

Well Roger, thank you for that incredibly important question. I totally understand as I have actually watched half an episode of Tim and Pru myself. Um, and now onto our next question which comes from Jim in Braunston.  Jim.

"Thank you your worsjhip.  If the two metre rule is moved down to one or one and a half metres, where does that leave us boaters with narrowboats that are two metres wide?  Will we have to saw them in half.?"

Well Jim thank your for that vitally important and wonderful question.  I absolutely get it, and what I can tell you is that we will at all times be guided by the science. (and Dominic Cummins).  And onto our last question which comes from Maisie from Stoke Bruerne (is that a place?) .  Maisie.

"Thank you your holiness. Is it alright if I take my boat through Blisworth tunnel to test my eyesight?"

Well Maisie thank you for your stunningly vital and significant question.  Blisworth tunnel is something we've been looking into but unfortunately it is very dark in there and we need more time to carry out investigations.  Although this particular  tunnel is a lot more than two metres wide, I'm told that many are a lot narrower and so we don't want to set a precedent.  So for the time being I'm afraid we''l have to wait until our world beating tunnel navigation app is ready.

And that concludes today's canal lockdown briefing.  Remember: Stay Ashore, Keep paying your licence and save the CRT.  Thank you. 

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

The birds and the bees and other fauna

Well lockdown hasn't been too bad so far I suppose.  Despite no boating we've been enjoying the fine weather and we're not missing Herbie too much because we've been mostly living the outdoor life anyway. I must be saturated with vitamin D because we've spent nearly all day every day in the garden - not doing much gardening of course (Alan Titchmarsh  am not), but reading, occasional Zooming, and watching the birds and bees.  (Perhaps I'm turning into Chris Packham)

We now have a number of fledglings, mostly great tits and blue tits and it's been fun to watch their parents helping them to feed on our feeders.  They do spill huge amounts of seeds but the squirrels and the pigeons clear that up nicely.  My experiment with nyger seeds has completely failed, none of our birds show the slightest interest in them which is a bit of a disaster because I bought several kilos.  Doh.  Ill hand them over to a neighbour who seems to be more successful with them.  I've decided to major on sunflower seeds and fat balls because they're clearly the favourites.  I hope I'm not wrong in this because I ordered them in bulk  on line and when the delivery came this morning I could barely lift the box over the doorstep.

Kath has suddenly got into bees.  They're all over our cranesbill (geranuim) flowers. I would show you a photo of one, but the little buggers won't sit still for more than a second.   I will get one one of these days. Here are some of the flowers anyway.

Checking on our bee identification sheet, they mostly seem to be Early Bumblebees which are quite small as bumblebees go.   Other interesting visitors have been red damselflies that find their way into our conservatory

- rather odd as we live near the top of a small hill and the nearest water course is a ditch over 200 yards away.  Nice to see them though.

I'm taking a daily turn round the churchyard behind our house and keep finding more and more VIPs and more foxholes dug into graves.  Here's a big one

There are holes at either end of this grave.  I hope the human incumbent appreciates the company.  I would.   Our current churchyard foxes have had quite a number of cubs and our next door neighbour but one has had them playing in her garden - how nice is that?  Sadly, our netting to keep our Claire's little Ronnie the Chorkie in has kept the fox cubs out of our garden.

In other news, the doctor send me for a blood test to try and find out why I am getting short of breath as I did a year ago, so I had to brave another hospital visit, thankfully to a place where they don't have covid patients.  I got all excited over the results which showed everything normal except a big jump in monocytes which indicate I am fighting some sort of infection.  At last a clue?  Well maybe not, after it occurred to me that I had only recently had a tetanus jab, so I'm guessing it might be the consequent surge of antibodies or it could have been brought about by the injury when I drilled through my finger (now healing up very well thanks.)  Discussion with the doc pending.

Must check on how the canal reservoirs are doing after all this dry weather.  They ought to be OK following the really wet winter and very few boat movements since.  I'll check and report back next time with some nice little graphs to make a change from the Covid ones we see every day.