Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Nature notes - inc spiders on boats

 As Roy Rogers nearly sang: 

An eight legged friend

An eight legged friend

He'll never let you down

Yes folks, autumn seems to be spider time, and I realise that I've come to enjoy and even welcome them.  The one I like best is the little one that hides overnight in the hole where the tiller pin goes through the swan neck on Herbie.  Perhaps I should call him Trigger after the Roy Rogers song. He's always there in the morning and I'm careful to let him escape before I drop the tiller pin in.  I still haven't worked out how he spins a single thread from the side of the boat across three feet of thin air to get there, but it's impressive.

Kath, although a nature lover is not quite so keen on spiders inside the boat, especially the bedroom.  Nevertheless we never remove them, preferring instead to just discourage them. She adopts the old custom of putting some conkers on the shelf in the belief that they give off some odour that deters spiders. I admit that it seems to work, although whether it's causation or correlation I'm not sure.

Although it's autumn there are still loads of bees about, and the best place to see them now is on ivy which is flowering at the moment. We noticed loads of them by the side of Claydon top lock last week.  Not just the so called ivy bees which are like smaller versions of honey bees, but honey bees themselves, bumble bees and even wasps.  If you have some ivy near you, take a look this week and you'll be amazed how many of the little critters are buzzing round it.  I think this first picture might be a honey bee.

This morning we took a stroll around the lovely old graveyard behind our house.  Half of it is left as a conservation area and it's a great place for wild flowers, grasses, butterflies and other insects.  And of course the birds come there to dine on them. Here's Kath looking at this year's abundant crop of holly berries.

People will tell you that lots of berries means we'll have a hard winter.  Personally I'm not persuaded that plants can tell the future, and it's more the result of the previous summer's weather. You might think otherwise.

We have quite a few varigeated holly trees over there, and one which has  some white leaves.

Soon the council workers will show up with their strimmers and cut the long grass back.  It's probably a good thing but I rather like it long. It makes the gravestones look more dramatic.  

That's our house you can see in the background.

The long grass also lets us see where the foxes have been. There are nearly always foxes over there. They frequently make their dens in the old graves.  This photo tries to show one of their paths but I'm not sure if you can make it out. I can see it, but then I know where it is, straight up the middle of the picture. 

We used to have foxes regularly visiting our garden but sadly because I've had to put chicken wire in the hedge to keep our daughter's little dogs in, it also keeps the foxes out. Instead we have to put up with squirrels trying to rob our bird feeders.  Bah!

There are still a few wild flowers out amongst the graves, most notably the not-all-that-common Devils Bit Scabious which is supposed to be good at relieving some skin ailments including of course scabies. I like it because it flowers late on and I love the colour.

Don't tell anyone but we harvested a bit of its seed today to see if we can introduce it into our garden.

Lastly a more winter flowering plant is poking through the grass

The good old cyclamen.  Is it a wild flower?  Probably not technically, but it grows wild.

The nights might be drawing in, but we still plan to go boating over the next few weeks and months.  Anyhow we have to take Herbie to Banbury in November to get her blacked at Tooleys.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Cool Running - The Herbie has Landed


Here we are on our new berth at Cropredy, only 4 boats along from where we moored four years ago.   The staff here are exceptionally friendly and welcoming and all the admin was easy.  Not a great deal has changed since we left despite the marina being acquired by Aquavista.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it seems to be their mantra.  The free wifi is beefed up a bit,  but still not as good as you'd like.  Of course there is the new basin up the other end, but that's well out of sight from where we are.

Speaking of moorings, I really like some of the offside ones you see above and below Claydon.  I wonder how you get one and what they cost.  Do people buy the plot or rent it?

How nice is that? You own little canalside garden with your boat right there alongside. 

It's interesting how many of them have shepherds huts like this one

One just above Broadmoor lock even has a gypsy caravan, but my photographer of the day  (Kath) was too busy with the lock gates to take a picture. Who said women were good at multi tasking?

What a difference a day makes in British weather.  Wednesday was all heavy wind and lashing rain, and next morning, all sunshine and blue skies.  We were somewhat trepidatious when we left Fenny in the morning after the engine problems we had earlier but everything went fine and the engine temperature gauge stayed exactly where it should be. Phew!

It's all getting a bit autumnal although some youngsters still think it's OK for a quick dip even if the canal is a bit shallow.  I guess the water is still warmish, but I don't think I'll be trying it.

On the subject of autumn pusuits, two of my uncles, Bert and George, used to make a barrel of cider every year from windfall apples from the many orchards around our village.  (You'd be right in assuming that I come from rustic stock).  Everything went in, bruised apples, partly rotten ones, any old variety, probably quite a few wasps and various grubs and as you'd expect, the cider they produced was strong but quite frankly, bloody awful.  Why do I mention this?  Well it was seeing these apples, mostly crab apples, on the towpath that reminded me.

You probably could produce some sort of cider from them but I'm pretty sure it would taste as bad as Bert and George's.  A pity, because this year's hedgerow crop really is a bumper one.


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Fixed! Thanks RCR.

After yesterday's breakdown (see previous post)  the RCR man arrived promptly at 9.30 this morning and by 10.30 he was gone and we were fixed.  The poor bloke opted to investigate and effect a repair in the rain and wind, but he remained cheerful throughout.  All it was, was one of the pipes that feed the calorifier heater coil had come adrift, so all it needed was a new jubilee clip and a good tighten up and a cooling system refill.  He did take a lot of trouble (more than I would have done I think) to get any air out of the system.  The engine has been running now for an hour and a half and all is good.  Phew!

We get a free basic membership of RCR along with our GJW boat insurance.  We just have to pay £65 for a callout which includes 2 hours labour on site.  I reckon that's a bargain.  Our man had to drive an hour and a half to get to us.

The weather forecast for the rest of the day is not conducive to boating if you don't have to, and we're in no hurry so we'll stay put.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Broken down!!

First things first.  Grace is now out of hospital (see yesterdays post) and doing fine.

Second things second.  More stress.  We've just called River Canal Rescue and you know what that means.  We need a repair.  Luckily we're at the Wharf at Fenny Compton so at least we're very accessible by road.  It was blowing a hooley up by the radio mast this morning, so we stayed put until after lunch.  Come to think of it you could hardly pick a more windswept spot.  Once we did get going we got into the trees and the high hedges and it was much calmer thank goodness.  About a mile before Fenny, I noticed the engine temperature gauge climbing rapidly.  We pulled into the bank just as it hit max :120 degrees C. Lifting the engine cover, a good amount of smoke/steam clouded out.  

It was a difficult spot to moor up in the wind but we managed it with a struggle and after half an hour letting the engine cool I looked in to investigate.  Peering in the coolant filler cap it was clear we had lost virtually all the coolant (I had only topped it up 2 days earlier), looking in the bilges, there was the coolant - a couple of gallons of it at a guess. Clearly we had a leak somewhere, probably a hose loose or split.  Only a mile to Fenny, so I refilled the coolant tank, topped up the engine oil, and we set off again at tickover speed.

It was ok for about 5 mins, then the temperature rose again.  We just made it to Fenny bridge when it hit max again.  This was our destination today anyway so it could be worse.  I just got a call from RCR and they'll be out to us in the morning.  That's fine. I just hope they bring spare hoses.  If my diagnosis is right then it's not that big a problem.  If I'm wrong . . . 

Monday, September 18, 2023

A nail biting afternoon.

 They say that moving home is often a very stressful time.  Well, we're on the move to Herbie's new berth in Cropredy and we are quite stressed but not for the reasons you might think.  As I write, our lovely granddaughter Grace is undergoing emergency surgery  to deal with a very painful abscess near the base of her spine. They have been giving her morphine, so you know that's proper pain. She's been complaining of back pain for a few days and it got so painful that paramedics were called and she was admitted to hospital  last night.  Poor Grace, she's in hospital and were in the middle of nowhere half way across the Oxford canal summit. It was her birthday a few days ago and she was not feeling well then, although she did enjoy opening her presents

and now she's 16 she's just started a part time after school job in Fenwicks store.  The timing could hardly be worse.  Hopefully once they remove the abscess she should feel better quite quickly.

Otherwise our trip is going according to plan.  We did a cunning car move on Saturday  when I delivered the car to Cropredy then got two buses back to the Boat inn at Stockton top lock near to where Kath had taken Herbie to pick me up.  Getting the bus from Cropredy is no simple feat, they only have one on a Saturday and one on a Thursday and the bus stops have no signs so you have to guess where the bus will pull in.  I asked three village people and each one said they didn't know where it stopped and that the service was rubbish so they don't use it.  Actually it did arrive on schedule although I had to flag it down because I was standing in the wrong spot.

Speaking of the Boat Inn, we ate there on Saturday night and I have to say it was really excellent.  In previous years we've avoided it because it was said it was very expensive for what you got.  Well they seem to have  opted for a less 'cheffy' menu now and it's a bit cheaper but the food and the service was top notch.  I had one of the best pizzas I've ever eaten, very generously topped with four cheeses, various bits of  charcuterie and olives.  It was juicy and delicious and too big to eat in one go, so I got a doggie bag to take back to the boat to finish later.  The beer was nice too. Still not cheap but worth it.

We're in no rush to get to Cropredy, so tomorrow it's a short cruise to the Wharf at Fenny Compton.  I see there's a yellow storm warning for  Tuesday and Wednesday, so we might hunker down.

BTW I said I would report on my new Pixel phone as regards how well it meets its reputation for photography.  I haven't taken many photos yet but here's one I took in Bracknell town centre when we were on the way to Grace's birthday meal.  I'm pretty impressed. Actually the compression to blog size doesn't do it any favours.  It looks a lot crisper in 'real life'

Saturday, September 09, 2023

Herbie moves home and a minor disaster

We're moving Herbie back to Cropredy.  Much as we love our berth at Ventnor Marina we've been considering a move for a while now so that we can cruise areas we enjoy more, and our recent trip down to Banbury reminded us how much we like the South Oxford, and it's nearer to home too.  

It was in 2020 that we left Cropredy, intending to move to Kings Bromley marina, but covid lockdowns came into effect while we were en route so we abandoned that and went instead into Wigrams Turn which we never really liked.  Then we popped into Ventnor, only a mile away and saw how much nicer it was so moved there.  These transfers are easy when the marinas all belong to the same group.  Our Ventnor berth is in a perfect spot and the staff and facilities there are top notch, but the big GU locks around there are not our favourites and there's only so many times we can tootle up to Braunston without getting a bit tired of it.

Down on the Oxford, the locks are easier and there are so many good mooring spots including some our all time favourites, and we always enjoy the opportunity for a few days in Banbury (also we can get a train home from there), so they are the main reasons we're doing this.

We dropped into Cropredy on the way home last week and met the team there (all changed since we were last there, but very friendly and helpful) and they showed us a good spot near to where we moored when we were last there.  We can get the car right to the boat for loading and unloading and we can sit out  on the grass alongside the canal and watch the passing boats.  

So we've asked to transfer from Oct 1st.  Administratively it's easy because it's all the same company.  We just fill out a change of details form and that's it.

On a less cheerful note, when we were leaving for home from Ventnor the other day I dropped my phone over the side of the boat.  The ever helpful marina guys came along with a net and spent some time fishing for it to no avail.  So I'm getting a new phone, which might be good news for this blog because I'm getting a Google Pixel 7 which is supposed to take superior looking photos.  We'll see.  Maybe I'll post one or two in a couple of days to try it out.  Apparently this phone will also tell me how many hours a night I've been snoring! You can have too much information.

If you are on my contacts list I may have lost your details so when my new phone is up and running I may ask one or two of you to text me (I think I'll have the same number) so I can reinstate you.

All for now.  Toodle pip.

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

How not to burn food, a brush with HS2 and an optical illusion.

Now where was I?  Banbury.  Well just a couple more photos from there.  Here's how the Castle Quays moorings look at night.

There were a few noisy yoofs about earlier, but by the time we got back to Herbie it was all quiet.

Now you can plug your boat into electrics - there's posh!

Apparently it's all done via a smartphone app and blue tooth which switches on the power for you and bills you for what you use.  We didn't try it, but might one day I suppose.

After Banbury we tootled up to our favourite spot below Claydon locks 

where all was really quiet, except of course for the birds.  It was nice to hear a wood pecker and a tawny owl, but the B$%*&y pigeons I could do without.  You can't get away from pigeons can you?  We have them in our garden at home, in the marina, everywhere we stop . . .  I wouldn't mind except they keep saying the same thing over and over again.

Next morning we had an easy run up the 5 Claydon locks thanks to some jolly volunteer lockies and then off across the summit, stopping for the night here

Most boaters know this spot and it's very popular and ultra quiet.

I thought at this point I's do a short photo sequence of how we cooked dinner on our Cobb BBQ (which isn't really a BBQ at all).  For any unfortunate soul who doesn't have one, this is how it goes.  First light a few coals (8 or 9 will do) in the centre basket. ( Firelighter needed). Once hot they'll stay that way for a good two hours.

Then bung in some parboiled spuds or mushrooms or whatever round the coals.  Here we're using mushrooms and falafels.  Despite being close to the coals, they won't burn.

Then pop on the hotplate and cover with your other veg, sausages, chicken, chops, whatever.  Here we're going veggie.

Some halloumi went on a bit later as it cooks quicker.
Pop on the lid and have a glass of your favourite tipple.

Unlike a BBQ there is little chance of your food burning and you don't need to interfere with it except for a single turn over half way through.  After a while, hey presto, a nicely roasted /grilled result.

We had ours wrapped in tortillas with some hummus and soured cream. Yum!

No we're not veggies (well our Peter is), another night we had sausages and spuds etc.

Cobbs aren't cheap but they're amazingly well made.  Ours is about 15 years old and apart from natural scorch marks inside the bowl it's as good as new.  What's more, the outside doesn't get hot so you can even pick it up with bare hands if you have to, and of course it doesn't mark the grass it stands on.

Next morning it was off beneath the new HS2 bridge

and past the inevitable bulldozers and diggers who seem to spend their lives moving earth from one pile to another.

Further we go along the bit where I always think the canal is going down hill.

How is that not going downhill to the trees beyond?  Obviously it can't be, but it always seems like it.

And finally on down the Napton flight for a final jar at the Folly before returning to Ventnor next morning, just in time to avoid the worst of the very hot sun.

So ends another all too brief cruise.  Hopefully we'll be back out soon.

Thursday, August 31, 2023


Coming down through Cropredy lock this morning Kath and I agreed that it felt like coming home.  We really like the canal down here and I'm sure we'll transfer back to Cropredy marina before too long. We got to Banbury by lunchtime and it was our first visit since before the new canalside complex was built.  It's at once quite daunting and also strangely familiar.

The left hand side as you see it here is restaurants and a cinema and the other side is a whopping gert Premier Inn. 

Of more interest to boaters is a big Lidl at the rear of the complex. Kath went in there for supplies while Peter and I went up to the Tramway winding hole to turn the boat.

The actual town centre towpath and moorings haven't changed at all,- same bollards on both side of the canal and of course just a few yards back there are still the more peaceful moorings alongside Spiceball Park.

The rest of the town seems unchanged, which is a good thing.  Lots of independent shops and eateries and the good old Reindeer Inn, which we thought it only right and proper to check out.  Here's Kath in her element in the Reindeer.

Down the alley opposite the Reindeer we were pleased to see that Steve Betts the butcher is still there with its slogan 'Pleased to meet you, meat to please you.'

Just after we arrived there was a knock on the roof of the boat and I instantly guessed who it was.  "Oh hello Maffi you old rascal".  Yes he's still there moored up outside Tooleys boatyard. Anyone hoping for Maffi to change will forever be disappointed. Full of controversial views nearly all of which I strongly disagree with, he is still a kindly and pleasant chap.

Herbie now faces the 'other way' and tomorrow we begin our return trip, hoping for no more rain.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Down off the summit

 After yesterdays somewhat damp and gloomy traverse of the South Oxford canal summit, today has been a joy.  Fortified by a bumper meal of belly pork with lovely crunchy crackling ( and a yummy little black pudding bon bon) with colcannon and kale at the Wharf last night,

we set off this morning in unexpected sunshine.  We've boated between Fenny Compton and Cropredy a good few times before, but I had forgotten what a pretty stretch it is.   Of course there's Fenny tunnel which thankfully had no boats coming the other way, but what struck me was the number of lovely offside moorings that have been created, with little orchards and shepherd's huts.

I was surprised to see volunteer lockies  at the Claydon flight.  Never seen them there before. Suddenly after a very quiet morning there seemed to be plenty of boats on the move and opportunities for exchanging gossip at the locks.

Something else I hadn't noticed  before were these plates on (comparatively) recently replaced lock gates.

We were looking for a good bit of towpath for our Cobb BBQ tonight and settled just above Broadmoor lock just north of Cropredy.

Just across the canal was another of those lovely offside moorings, this time with a gypsy caravan.

How nice is that?

Rain is promised for tomorrow so we plan to start reasonably early to get to Banbury for lunchtime.  We haven't been there since the canal side was redeveloped so it'll be interesting to see how it looks. 

(There will now be a short interlude, as  Kath has just appeared with a glass of Pimms with half a fruiterers shop in it)


Lovely, now where was I? In other news I notice that Herbie's BMC engine has clocked up 6775 hours.  If that were a car engine I reckon that would be about 200,000 miles.  I occasionally jot down the engine hours and the date when I do oil changes.  I must look back and see if it tells us how many hours we've done in particular years.  You know me, I love a bit of data analysis. This year it feels like we've got our canal mojo back after a few quieter years and we're eager to do more.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Where have all the boats gone?

 Having arrived at the marina in mid afternoon after collecting our son Peter from Cambridge, we set off rather later than planned I was a tad pessimistic about the prospects of finding a mooring space at Napton when we arrived there at about 5 o'clock.  Imagine our surprise then, when the normally busy moorings round the corner from the Folly were more than half empty, on a Bank Holiday to boot!

This morning as we set off up Napton locks the volunteer lockie also remarked that the volume of boat traffic had been well down lately.  Napton hire boats had quite a number of un booked boats as we passed there. Over the last couple of years since covid, the hire companies seemed to be booming, and now it has fallen somewhat flat. Hmm, what might the reasons be?  The changeable summer weather?  The financial squeeze?  Hiring a canal boat is not the cheapest holiday by any means.  It's probably a lot cheaper to fly off the the Med on a package holiday.

We had a great run up the locks, with boats coming the other way at just the right intervals so we had most of the locks in our favour.  The sun shone too.  The afternoon though was not so good. I should have taken the warning from the fact that the Napton buffalo herd were all sitting down. 

I'm not much of a fan of the South Oxford summit at the best of times, but hacking across there against the wind and with cold drizzling rain is not my idea of fun.  I'd also forgotten that it is still quite a way to Fenny Compton when you reach the Wormleighton hairpin bend.  I kept thinking  that Fenny was just round the next bend and it never was.  Until of course we did arrive and tied up just before the bridge. Half way across the summit you encounter the HS2 workings which consist of several mud mountains, a new temporary(?) bridge, a few bulldozers and not a lot else although you are struck by just how much land it all takes up /spoils.  I suppose somebody somewhere thinks HS2 is a great idea but I've yet to meet them.

Moored near to us were new friends we had met on Friday night at a quiz.  We had called in at the marina to drop off a lot of stuff aboard Herbie prior to driving up to Cambridge to collect Peter and decided to stay aboard that night because the marina was being visited by The Village Butty - a sort of travelling bar/ entertainment.  Friday was their quiz night and we love a good quiz.  They had question rounds on History (easy), Geography (easyish), Canals (easyish) and 1958 No 1 hits (not so easy).  1958 because that was the year that the Village Butty boat was built.  I managed to recall a lot of the old hits, but not until after we'd handed in our answer sheets.  Things like that don't come to mind quickly enough.  If you can recall hits by Perry Como, Conway Twitty, Lord Rockinghams XI and the like you'd do well.  The Village Butty folk seem a nice bunch and I hope they return next year.

Anyhow after a rather wet coldish afternoon we've abandoned our plan for a barbecue tonight and we shall instead  seek warmth and comfort in the Wharf Inn.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

New friends, an infestation and a fish and chips farce.


Now you know why our end of the marina is called Sunset Basin.  So we're back at our berth now and heading home tomorrow. On the way down Calcutt locks we made some new friends. John and Claudette (nice Norton Canes boat) shared the locks with us and it turned out they were just arriving at our marina having moved here from Cropredy. We liked them instantly so we offered to run them back to Cropredy in our car so that they could retrieve theirs. Herbie doesn't have much in common with a posh boat like theirs, but like us they do have an airhead toilet and they like it.

Speaking of which, this week was one of those very rare occasions when a composting loo causes a problem.  We had an invasion of tiny red spider mites in the loo.  I don't think they do any harm, but who wants dozens  of tiny little mites swarming all over the seat. It is a 'known thing' in these loos but this is only the second time in ten years we have had them.  They don't bite or anything.  They can be kept at bay a bit by spraying water on them, but when we got back to base today Kath rolled up her sleeves and emptied out, washed and disinfected the whole apparatus, and that'll be that we hope. It was time to empty out the poo bin anyway. The emptyings go in a bin bag which we put in a bucket with a snap on airtight lid and when we get home it'll go into a compost bin with grass cuttings etc in the far corner of the garden where I suppose the little mites might help with the composting.

This being our last night we thought we'd not cook, but go out and get fish and chips from Southam, so I was duly dispatched in the car with an insulated bag to buy them. Sounds easy enough. What can possibly go wrong? 

I wasn't sure where the chippy was, so I just drove into the free public car park and set off on foot down the main road which is downhill.  "Ah there's a sign saying pizzas and fish and chips" says I, so I walk down the hill only to find that the shop is closed for August.  Doh! Then I remember that the pub opposite the car park has a sign saying Takeaway Fish and Chips, so I walk back up the hill and go in.  "Can I get fish and chips to takeaway?"  "Yes normally you can" said the nice man, "but our chef hasn't turned up today.  Try the one just down the road"  I explained that I'd been there and it was shut.  "Oh well there's another on the opposite side of the street down the bottom end.  They'll be open." So off I go down the hill again and yes there it is, and it's open.  I step inside the door and see a big sign saying "CASH ONLY".  Doh! I've only got a card.  I step outside and see a cash machine back up the hill, so I walk back up the hill  and draw out £20, then walk back down the hill to the chippy.  I order two lots of fish and chips and the man says that'll be £20.05. ( I know!! F&C is not a cheap meal any more).  Anyway on hearing my plight the man lets me off the five p that I don't have, I wait for the fish to be cooked fresh  and off I go back up the hill and drive back to the marina with the meal still lovely and hot and to be fair, the portions were big and the fish was good so all's well that ends well and I got in a little bit of hill walking as a bonus. I also noticed that I could have parked the car right outside the chippy door.  Doh! Well I'll know next time.

Monday, August 14, 2023

A long term boater's gadget test and can you eat 30 different plants a week?

Boaters, as if you hadn't got enough to spend your money on, here's something else we've been trying out for a year or so and we think you might want one (or some). The only problem is that I don't know what it's called.  We just call it the fender adjuster thingy.  Here is one.

You know the problem.  The height of the bank you are mooring to varies, so if you want your mooring fenders to do their job you need to adjust the length of the line they hang from.  You can do this with fancy knots or use this thingy which works really well and makes adjustment instant and easy.  The line supporting the fender is the left hand one. You pull the other side out of the grip, hoist up or down as necessary and pull it back into the grip. Easy. Does it slip afterwards ? Never in our experience. It just stays put.  You can get them from Tradline in Braunston.

And now for something completely different.

Nobody would ask me for advice on diet, needing as I do to lose three stone before I would start to look slim.  Kath and I do enjoy our food, but I don't think we eat badly in terms of what we eat.  In Braunston shop yesterday I walked straight past the Fray Bentos pies (often affectionately referred to as boaters' pies) and the cake shelf with  hardly a second glance.  

Since joining in with Prof Tim Spector's Zoe national covid reporting study during lockdowns etc. I have been following his work on diet. 

Lately his big thing is the gut microbiome, the vast numbers of bacteria that live in our lower gut and digest our food for us, providing not only nutrition but also chemicals to help with the immune system and a host of other good things.  Apparently every person's gut biome make up is different, because of all the many types of bacteria which can make it up, and this depends largely on what you eat to feed them.  Tim's findings are based on lots of large scale scientific studies involving many thousands of people and apparently he is in the top fifty scientists on the planet in terms of being cited in other people's scientific papers.  So by and large I believe what he says, and what he says simple. Avoid ultra processed foods, eat lots of different plants (not messed about with) and include some fermented foods in your diet.  You don't have to be veggie or vegan, just have lots of plants. At first his suggestions sounds impossible because he recommends eating thirty different plants every week (although that does include herbs, spices, nuts, seeds etc.)  Could I do this I wondered?   Well I just totted up what plants we have eaten in the ten days or so we have been out on Herbie and it's 29!!  To prove it, here's the list:

Lettuce, tomato, red pepper, butternut squash, potato, celery, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, grape, melon, apple, oats, wheat bran, olive (in bread and in olive oil), orange, broccoli, rye(in bread), peas, cabbage, carrot, onion, rosemary, raisin, peanut, lemon (in a G&T), black pepper, basil (in pesto) and mustard.

I was amazed we had had so many.  Some of course in very small quantity like the odd raisin in my muesli or the mustard. Most, but not all were eaten either raw or roasted or boiled /steamed but not otherwise processed. As for fermented foods we've had some different cheeses including a blue one, natural greek yoghurt, and kefir.  So we very nearly got there.  However . . 

On the naughty side we have also had pork pie, sausages, faggots (at the Folly), pork chops, bacon, and chicken  (in a Braunston butchers pie) so that's not at all good is it. So I've got absolutely zilch to brag about. No wonder we're overweight. Also there's alcohol, which I shall gloss over except to say that when we're on the boat we do tend to drink more booze.  At home I can easily go a week without.

Anyway, the upshot is that thirty plants may not be so hard as you first think. 

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Mikron at Calcutt - the other play, plus a tree tangle and a Braunston visit.

 It was a full house at Calcutt, if you can have a full house out of doors, but you know what I mean. Well over a hundred people I would think.  The marina had even set up a beer tent where you could buy Old Hooky bitter or Napton cider.  What's not to like?

The Mikron Theatre play this time was "A Force To Be Reckoned With" - a story about the history and role of women in the police force built around the experiences of one eager new recruit. Once again the performances were superb, the songs brilliantly delivered and the story well put together.  It's a tad more serious than the Twitcher comedy we saw the night before in that it had more pathos, but there were still jokes.  Both plays succeeded in being informative as well as really entertaining.  Mikron sets such a high standard, you can always go along with confidence that it'll be good. If you asked me which of the two to see if you could only see one, I really couldn't choose.  Go to see either and you'll have a good night.

Next morning we winded Herbie at the top of Calcutt locks, winded being a very appropriate term in this case as as soon as we were broadside across the canal the wind got us and was shoving us sideways towards the locks at quite a rate.  There was nothing for it but to whack up the revs at with the tiller right over, which delivered us smartly into the overhang of the weeping willow on the far bank where we just had to push through, collecting quite a mass of willow to dispose of when we emerged back into the daylight.  Fortunately Kath had the presence of mind to take a photo while we were in the midst of it, making sure that you can see it's my hand on the tiller.

Having thus extricated ourselves we journeyed back to Wigrams turn, swung left and headed for Braunston, which when we arrived had a surprising number of mooring opportunities considering it was an August weekend.  Having said that, our favourite spot just past the marina entrance was taken so we moored up just before the toll house, which was quite good because it put our solar panels in the sun.

After lunch came the obligatory trek up the hill to visit the butcher's and the village shop, which not only got us victualled up sufficient for a few days, but also got us a picking of blackberries on the way back - not masses but enough to add to our yoghurt, strawberries, grapes, apple and granola for Sunday breakfast.  Boaters will know that Braunston is a well manicured village, so it was fun to see one front garden with this sign in it.

In the evening I took a stroll into the marina to look at the boats for sale, not that I'm thinking of buying one, but it's interesting to see prices to get an idea of what Herbie might be worth.  It looks like prices might be very high still.  Here are a couple of examples. First a high spec one but at 9 years old surprisingly high asking high price

and another one 33 years old ( and could do with a repaint) but still asking just under £40k

on this basis Herbie ought to be worth not too far off what we paid for her 17 years ago.  Of course they probably won't get the asking price, or in this market will they??

Whilst wandering round the yard I came across this plaque which I had failed to notice on previous visits. It commemorates the Boaters Strike of 1923 of which I confess I had never heard.  I'll leave you to read the details.

Fourteen weeks with pay is a lot to suffer when you are already poor.  I wonder how they managed.

Now we're back at bridge 102 for Sunday night.  We'll probably be back at out marina berth tomorrow, or we might stay out a bit longer.  Who knows?

Friday, August 11, 2023

Mikron at the Folly - show report

It must be tough getting through the Mikron auditions.  You not only have to be musically and dramatically talented but be ultra fir and practical as well. You have to learn how to drive Tyseley their  big old narrowboat, play one or more musical instruments, be fit enough to lug around and erect (and disassemble) a mini stage every night, sing, act, make people laugh, sell programmes and tea towels and wotnot, and extract money from audiences after the show.  Like every other Mikron crew I have seen in the past, this current four did it all brilliantly.

As we walked under the bridge outside the pub, Tyseley was nestled below Napton bottom lock,

and the crew had set up the stage and the props and were busy selling programmes to the assembling audience.  

(Do you think that man in the CRT T-shirt looks like Rick Wakeman or is it just me?)

I counted about a hundred people by the time the show started bang on 7pm.  The show "Twitchers" was a play about the history of the RSPB and the challenges they have faced over the years, serious enough stuff but funny with it and the crowd loved it.  Lots of jokes, several songs and some interesting facts chucked in. Readers who have seen Mikron will know that each member of the cast plays several characters, with just the change of a hat or coat, and they even managed a range of regional accents.  Between the four of them, who all sang in perfect harmony, they played trumpet, accordion, guitar, saxophone, clarinet and flute.

Probably the favourite bits were the interludes when two crows talked to each other about the goings on at the bird reserve -brilliantly conceived and very funny.

I've been watching Mikron shows for over 20 years now, always excellent, and this one was well up to scratch.  Five stars from me.

After the show and the money being taken from the audience "You pay to get out rather than to get in" the team who must have been knackered set about dismantling the little stage set and carrying it back to Tyseley.  Some of the bits were surprisingly heavy, I know because Kath and I carried a couple of pieces for them on our way out.

Today they've moved to Calcutt marina to do their other show (they always alternate between two plays) and  now we're moored above the Calcutt  locks so we can go to that one too.