Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The lull between the storms


Excuse the smeary side of Herbie, I ran out of polish.  Anyhow I'm beginning to enjoy our plastic magnetic lettering.  I've taken to changing the message daily.  Above shows Sunday's message when we only got out of the marina by the skin of our teeth after backing out of our pontoon and doing a 180 and almost getting blown into a lee shore corner.  Yesterdays message was a more cheerful MAY CONTAIN NUTS.

Miraculously we managed to get two days of fair weather in between the storms.  We were planning to go out on the Saturday evening but the wind was far too strong to attempt the difficult reverse and turn out of our pontoon. We had also intended to return on Tuesday morning, but with storm Francis coming in I had visions of all manner of calamities as we attempted to get back into our marina slot, so we opted for Monday afternoon instead.

Not to worry though, in the hours we were out, the weather was fine and although I was fearful of Claire's dogs Ronnie and Rosie running amok they were as good as gold and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Grace (a glutton for punishment) had requested a run up Napton locks and back which in retrospect was perhaps not the best choice as they are getting short of water and there is restricted opening of 10 am to 5pm causing long queues, particularly up at Marston Doles top lock where we heard that people were waiting three hours.  It was just as well then that we stopped and turned at the old engine arm and moored there for the night before coming back down next day ahead of the pack.

These delays must be a nightmare for hire boat companies and their customers with delays like that, especially with days of severe wind causing boats to lie up.  Either boaters would not reach their intended goal or they would get back late and cause all sorts of problems for the boatyard.  Having said that, all the hirers we met were very cheery and having a good time.

Coming back down was a breeze, about as good as a descent of a flight of locks could be. I think we had a boat coming up at every lock so the work was easy,  and we arrived back at the Folly well before lunch.

Miraculously there was virtually no wind when we got back to Wigrams Turn, so it occurred to me that if ever there was a time to attempt the difficult turn and reverse into our pontoon, this was it.  The geometry of the place makes it really difficult with boats and pontoon posts close all round us, fore, aft and sideways, but I'm happy to say I did it.  Here we are almost back in with Grace preparing to leap to the pontoon with the rope while Ronnie and Rosie keep a close eye on my performance.  (No I wasn't holding a camera while doing that, I think Claire took the photo from her perch on the gunnel.)

Of course , in the time honoured manner, sod's law prevailed  and no one was watching, unlike when we made a pigs ear of getting out at the start of our cruise when we had a couple of horrified onlookers from the pontoon opposite..

So a short but happy cruise capped off nicely when Claire and Grace did all the hard work of loading the trolleys of stuff to taking all our gear back to the car and loading it up.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Reservoir watching and general messing about

 Blimey, I just Googled 'canal reservoir watch' and this is what came up;

I don't know about you, but if I couldn't bring myself to spend three and a half grand on a watch, in fact I get a bit annoyed that anybody does.  Surely there are better things to spend it on.  

Anyhow, I digress.  Just below was the CRT page I was looking for and I'm happy to tell you that despite my garden at home looking pretty brown and shrivelled until the last few days, the July reservoir figures look pretty healthy for this time of year.  Most of them were above 80% and have not dropped much since the previous month.  Wait a minute though, when did we get the all clear to go boating again?  Hmm, the canals are very busy right now, so maybe next month's figures wont look so good. Although on third thoughts, we've had a lot of rain just recently (and in fact as I write), so maybe they may be so good.  Oh I don't know, let's wait and see shall we?

We've had another family request for a short cruising break so on Saturday, if we're spared, were taking Claire and Grace out for a couple of days.  Grace must be bonkers because she's asked to go up and down the Napton flight again.  I reckon the lockdown  and no school has addled her brain.  I blame that education secretary who looks suspiciously like Alan Partridge.

In a bid to keep get fit, I've been out cycling most days.  Sadly I seem to have been left out of the Tour de France pick yet again so I'm having to content myself with the Tour de South Bracknell - six miles amongst a maze of cycle paths where I frequently seem to get lost.  You don't realise how hilly your area might be until you get on a bike.  Admittedly we don't have huge hills but the town profile is very rolling so it's a constant up and down.  Anyway I'm pleased to report that it is helping to bring my blood pressure down, if not my weight.

In other news, I have made my second focaccia bread, this time not from a bread mix but from the basic ingredients and  I bunged in some olives and rosemary and it was about right I thought.  

 Ooh one other thing, I have found the optimum price to charge for my two block buster novels.  Last week I got rid of 132 copies which is brilliant.  The downside is that the optimum price I set was £0,00.  I wonder if anyone who downloads free books ever reads them.    I worked out that at the rate Amazon pays me if they sold for £1 a copy, I'd have to sell 1090 copies a week to earn the National Minimum Wage for a 35 hour week.

Next time I write, we'll probably be up to our neck in buffaloes.  Those familiar with Napton locks will know what I mean.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Endeavour keeps up canal tradition.

 We enjoyed spotting the traditional misplacement of canal locks in the episode of Endeavour we watched last night.  Following the habitual use (set by several episodes of Lewis) of the Southern Grand Union to show a supposed spot in Oxford, we see Endeavour and Thursday at a murder scene here:

According to the script, it was by "Port Meadow bridge" although what a double gated Grand Union Lock was doing on the Thames, I'll leave you to imagine.

Anyhow, people familiar with the GU would have no problem in identifying Stockers Lock (Rickmansworth, home of Rainman) as the real spot.  Stockers is often used by film crews.  The adjacent farm must make money from it. Their main claim to fame is as the location for filming Black Beauty - although that's a long time ago now. Once when we were moored there some film guys came along the towpath offering people 50 quid to take their boats away for a week so they could shoot some horror film scenes.  Sadly we told them we were moving on before we learned about the money. Doh.  I suppose CRT gets some money from it.

Stockers is not that far from some film studios so I suppose that's the reason they use it, although in the same episode they shot scenes in Venice, the real one.  Why didn't they use Birmingham after all that has more . .  . .you know the rest.

Friday, August 07, 2020

Dog Sitting


Herbie now rests safely nestled among the other inhabitants of Wigrams Turn Marina.  The diamond pattern roof box gives her away.  Not exactly social distancing is it?  She's more used to a smart bankside pitch with car access for loading.  I hope she's not too upset.  Soon we have to decide whether to stay on at Wigrams or resume our pre lockdown plan to move to Kings Bromley.  I think she might like it there.  A crystal ball re Covid would be handy.

I must say I enjoyed our trip up the N Oxford even though the last day was blowing a hooley across the Braunston to Napton stretch.  That bit seems particularly prone to winds.  Ain't that right Rick? (His face will whiten as he reads this.)

I see they've had trouble at Buckby with a busted lock cill. I think the stoppage has been several days already.  That's bit like closing the M1 for a week.  It must give the poor hire boat operators a headache.  I suppose they have to rescue some hirers at the end of the week and then get the boat back themselves.  Then what about next week's hirers?  From what we've seen, the boats are all out, so they'll have none to spare.

Coming down to Braunston turn we passed an abandoned Indigo Dream looking like the Mary Celeste.  A pity, we'd have liked a chat with Sue and Richard.  I expect they're off somewhere rescuing more greyhounds.  S&R will be grateful when I report that Indigo Dream was nicely afloat and un vandalised anyhow. 

Now we're back home baby sitting two naughty youngsters for a week. Rosie and Ronnie.  Heaven help us.  Getting them to sit still for ten seconds to get this photo was a non trivial exercise in itself.  There is a large pile of blurred photos on the cutting room floor.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Not the luckiest of years, I admit.

I hesitate to admit this but I seem to have done it again.  Not content with falling off a wall and breaking ribs in April and drilling a hole through my finger in May, last night I tripped over a hole in the towpath and I think I may have broken another rib - a front one this time, which is considerably more bearable.  If you ever decide to break a rib or two, choose the front ones, the back ones are ten times worse.

It would be reasonable of you to question my balance or the brittleness of my bones, but I think I just got unlucky.  Anybody not seeing that hole in the grass and catching a foot in it would have gone a cropper, and as for breaking bones, any 200lb gent (yes, sadly that is my current weight) falling prostate on his chest with a bang would I fear suffer the same fate.

Anyhow I can still function pretty well this time although I won't be pushing, pulling or lifting much for a couple of weeks.  Kath and Peter did the lock wheeling up the Hillmorton flight. I did however steer us for three or four hours cruising today without any trouble.

Not to worry.  Undaunted, I baked us some scones after we moored up for the evening and we had a very naughty cream tea with proper clotted cream.  

Buttermilk scones made by my own fair hand.

Now you get where the 200lb came from :-(

Tomorrow we tootle on in the general direction of Napton ready for an assault on the Folly on Thursday lunchtime then back to Wigrams before taking Peter back to Cambridge in the car.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Blackberries, oaks, and Einstein - just another day

Someone told me that summer marches north at the pace of a walking man.  Hmm, well I'm not sure how long it would take me to walk from  home in the, ahem, Royal County (Berkshire) to Rugby, but the blackberries up here are well behind. Down home I've gathered a couple of pounds of juicy ones from hedgerows near our house, but up here this is what we see.  

Nevertheless, the canal sides are very lush right now like this stretch at the seemingly inappropriately named All Oaks Wood (I went for a walk and only saw other species).

When I was walking back along looking for oaks there I took the picture below.  If that doesn't look like something from a hire boat brochure or a calendar I don't know what does.

I'm still pondering the remarkable difference between the North and South Oxford canals.

Compared to the rustic wandering South with its often delapidated locks and sometimes jungly towpath, the North end seems a good bit tidier.  It could be described as a series of tree lined avenues linked by short wiggly bits.

We didn't move much today, just up to Stretton Stop and back to near where we started.  En route, our Peter was explaining to me (like he does) how Einstein's special relativity theory helps explain why gold is that yellow colour.  I sort of understood it at the time, but a couple of hours later I cannot explain it to you, although if you Google it, you'll find that it's true!  Then I was going to polish the boat until I discovered the bottle of polish was empty.  So I had to sit and read instead. Quelle potage as Del Boy would say.


Sunday, August 02, 2020

Croc spotted on North Oxford Canal

How's that for click bait?  Apologies, but I have to get someone to read this stuff somehow.

Want to see my pudding tonight?

Well I did drink the Pimms first, then ate the fruit with some yoghurt and granola,  Waste not want not.

  As you can see, it's a tough life here on the North Oxford as Kath is demonstrating here.

Today we had to do three whole locks.  They're coming thick and fast, there's another one in 22 miles or there would be if we were going that far..  My phone says we're at some place called Cathiron tonight  I can see Kath but sadly we don't have an iron.

I did my first live supermarket shop since lockdown today.  The big Tesco at Rugby.  I have to say it was pretty quiet and I don't think I caught the lergy so you can sit close to your screen reading this.

Another nice sky tonight, they seem to specialise in them up here.

Tomorrow we turn round at Stretton Stop then head back.  Then we reap the benefit of being old because we can't remember what it was like coming up, so it'll all be fresh.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

North Oxford Canal

When the sun is in and the landscape is ordinary, there's always the sky to make a picture a bit more interesting. That's my excuse anyway.
Here we are half a mile south of Hillmorton at the end of day 1 of our 5 day  outing.  The canal is about as busy as it ever gets I should think.  Now I'm no speed merchant but when we get behind someone dribbling along at half a mile an hour I have a job controlling my patience.  I don't think I'm being unreasonable do you? Herbie doesn't like it either, her old BMC engine is a bit choppy at tickover speed. Luckily when that happened today, the guy in question got in a right tizwaz over some canoeists and pulled over in a panic, so I nipped gently past. wearing a benign smile. 

Lots of choice mooring spots were occupied by mid afternoon, but thankfully out here there are plenty to spare and amazingly I've got a strong 4G phone signal, so I'm able to delight you with my deathless prose whether you actually like it or not.

See these those black plastic hay rolls in the field beyond?  I used to tell our kids they had just been delivered for the farmer to roll out like turf for next years crop.  They'll get me back someday I dare say.  I think they still think that people in canoes are called canoodlers.

I can't remember when we last came up here.  Five years ago I think. The North Oxford has a totally different character from the South Oxford and it makes a refreshing  change. The bridges for a start are much wider and in general the canal is wider too and in some places it's alarmingly straight.  I've heard it said that the canal builders began to get short of money when they got towards the southern end so I expect that's it.  It's less cosy perhaps  than the south maybe but no less inviting. and of course it has two prisons to add a bit of spice although quite why you need two prisons next door to each other I have no idea.  

Arriving at Wigrams Turn yesterday evening, we dashed over to the Folly (by car) for a swift pinta and a bite to eat.  I'm pleased to report that the big garden was busy as usual even if we were getting scattered showers.  Folly customers are a determined lot.  

Tomorrow we continue northwards to somewhere or other.  Maybe Newbold. Maybe All Oaks Corner.  Who knows?  We don't.