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.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Folly events and flying ants

 So we decided next to pay the dear old Folly a visit.  Having surmounted Calcutt locks, pausing to buy an ice cream as we did so, we swung round Wigrams turn, narrowly missing another boat like you sometimes do (it's a blind junction) and pressed on towards Napton, noticing how much more boat traffic there is on the Oxford than on the GU.

Electric car owners reportedly suffer from range anxiety, where as we boater suffer from mooring anxiety.  Would there be room at the Folly moorings?  We arrived to find them full. Bah!  Nothing for it but to turn round and head for the next spot a long way back. So we had to turn the boat in the winding hole, and as we started back another boat pulled away and left a gap for us. It wasn't the best gap for two reasons; one being that our bow was protruding over the fenced off bit where CRT have restored the bank with coir sausages with deep soft mud behind.  Very pretty though, and not too hard to climb on and off the bow.

Loosestrife planted in the sausage.

The other reason it wasn't the best spot was that right by our aft end was an ants nest which was in the process of swarming - flying ant day. In half an hour Herbie's aft deck was covered in the little winged buggers and the canal water behind us was teeming with drowning ants.  I'm afraid I had little sympathy for them.

So evening came and we graced the Folly potting shed with our presence, supping pints of Shagweaver and noshing on, in my case, faggots chips and gravy, and in Kath's, battered halloumi and chips. Well you eat healthily all the time.  Landlord Mark came over for a chat and was very enthusiastic about their upcoming music quiz a week next Thursday.  Apparently when they did it last time it was a brilliant evening. I love a good quiz, especially on music as long as it isn't 21st century. Mark assured us that we baby boomers would be able to tackle the majority of it.  We'll try to return for it.

More  immediately, we discovered that Mikron Theatre would be here the next night, so we've changed our plans and stayed put today so we can enjoy the fun.  We did the obligatory hike up the hill to the village store this moning and bought some reassuringly expensive culinary delicacies for lunch and an early dinner. Well we deserve it.

Lots of boats have come through today and quite a number have not been able to find a mooring and have had to move on or turn back.  It's a popular spot alright.

Mikron show report tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

A short nature walk and two pubs shut

Lets start with the pubs shall we?  Last night after I'd been working most of the day, we decided to treat ourselves to a pint and something to eat at the Folly, only a short drive from the marina.  When we arrived there it was painfully obvious that our plans were thwarted.  The car park was empty because . . .they don't open on a Monday/ Bah!

So today as it was going to be too wet to do any painting we took Herbie out of the marina, turning left in the general direction of Leamington and slowly tootled along to the entrance to Nelson wharf which used to be the home of Willow Wren training until, as we've just discovered, it closed last May. It looks as though the building may now be unoccupied.

Anyhow we turned our boat (beautifully as it happens) and backed up another 150 yards (again remarkably well - of course no one was watching) and moored up for the night.  It's not far from here to the Boat pub, so our plan was to have a pre dinner drink there, but would you believe it they are closed on a Tuesday.  Bah!  What have we done to deserve this?

After the rain I thought I'd take a stroll and see how the hedgerow was faring, and bingo - there are ripe blackberries after all.  Not the sort of pint I was planning on but welcome nonetheless.

What else was around.? Well some nice sycamore seeds just next to Herbie

not to be confused with ash keys a few paces away

some good old burdock excellent for throwing at people and also for Dandelion and Burdock pop, except I don't know how that's made

and lastly some wild clematis or old man's beard (but the beard hasn't grown yet)

and through the hedge and across the lane, this lovely field of rather damp barley

The seeds look ready to harvest, but with all this showery weather they'll have too much moisture.  I hope it dries out soon before they get mouldy.  We don't want mouldy beer do we?

We'll make a third attempt at finding an open pub tomorrow.

PS I had another email from my MP - a response to my response to his response.  I had suggested he offers support to Michael Fabricant  re finding a solution to CRT funding (see previous posts) and he said it was an excellent suggestion and that he will do just that. We have to take him at his word.  I think he will.

Monday, August 07, 2023

Roof paintwork repairs

It was dry, warm and sunny today, so we could have gone cruising, but such days seem so infrequent at the moment that I thought I ought to start on the backlog of painting on Herbie.  The roof in particular is not good at all.  The job had  been held up by the weeping willow fronds draped all over the boat, but good old Steve at the marina and his mate showed up on Sunday and gave the tree a haircut so I was able to go ahead.

First thing was the flashes on the side of the bow (the foretop bend I think the aficionados call it).  Stupidly I always forget to take before and after pics, so we'll have to be content with the afters.

Looking back through the blog, I see that it was just ten years ago that I painted them in this pattern! Over the ten years they'd aged a bit like I have and were in sore need of a refresher, which I often am too. They were was very scratched and faded before, but I'm happy with this side now. The one on the other side isn't so good and will require a second go later.  The worst bit of doing jobs like that is the masking up.  In the words of Neil Sedaka (almost), masking up is hard to do, especially when you have to reach at arms length across the water.

Then it was on to the roof, which has become very scabby in places. A lot of sanding was required to get rid of rusty and flaky bits and the roof is a big area, so I settled on a particularly bad patch and attacked that.  Following the advice of the revered Mr Phil Speight, boat painter extraordinaire, I adopted the practice of masking off a neat rectangle which included a number of flaky /rusty bits and after sanding , washing, sugar soaping, rinsing, drying and all that palaver, I turned to my new acquisition, a tin of Hammerite No1 Rust Beater.  They claim it primes and undercoats in one go, and you can paint it on top of rust!  I hope I got rid of all the rust first but belt and braces can do no harm.  Anyway it went on nicely in a thickish coat and brushed out well, so I'm quite pleased with it.  I'll probably put another coat on later, followed by a Craftmaster Raddle top coat or two across the whole roof when other nasty bits have been attended to.  The neat rectangle looks a lot better than the patchy splodges you see on many boats at this stage of the proceedings don't you think?

I was knackered at the end, but so was Kath as she had been inside the boat doing a spring clean.  There's loads more to do of course, but you have to start somewhere.  The rain gutters come next, they need a lot of work.  Sadly the met men forecast rain tomorrow so I wont resume until Wednesday at least.

Saturday, August 05, 2023

My MP replies regarding CRT funding cuts

 Two posts in one day! Well having just received a longish reply from my MP James Sunderland regarding my note to him complaining about cuts to CRT funding, I thought I'd tell you what he said.  According to the small print on his reply I am not allowed to copy his words, but here is the gist of his reply. I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

It was a very sympathetic reply and he thanked me for raising the issue. He does I think genuinely understand the problem and says he has himself enjoyed waterways holidays and canal fishing in the past.  He also quoted a number of the benefits waterways provide to the country and to individuals.  However he says the government has to balance the books and there are many other demands  . . etc etc.  You can imagine the rest.

He expressed the hope that normal funding might be resumed  when public finances allow ( personally I fancy he might not be in government by then)  and will do what he can to keep the issue on the government's agenda.

I shall now reply to him encouraging him to support Michael Fabricant MP chairman of the All Parliamentary Waterways Group who as I reported last week is  "exploring alternative ways of funding including a large endowment which might give the trust the financial independence both the Trust and the Government desire."

At pains to do jobs.

 Come on sun, we know you're up there somewhere.  When you do break through you're really warm.  Not today though. Stormy weather.

Being on the boat this summer I was supposed to get some roof painting done, but although there are dry periods in the day to slap on the paint, it wouldn't have time to harden off before the next shower.  Added to that, here in the marina we have the weeping willow problem.

It's all very nice mooring next to this lovely tree, but it plays havoc with the roof paintwork.  Wet leaves draping onto the roof are not a good recipe for paint survival and of course if I did try to paint that bit, the wind would blow the droopy branches back and forth and mess up my work.  I pooped into the marina office to ask the love;y Steve if he could get someone to give the tree a haircut, just a trim, not a short back and sides.  As expected he is sympathetic and they come and look at it next week.

Meanwhile I have not been idle (well not all the time anyway).  I used the morning to give myself backache.  I have this muscle in my lower back which doesn't like me bending and straining, which is the very thing I have to do when messing about in Herbie's engine 'ole.  First an engine oil change, the brass lift pump that you pump up and down to extract the old oil is not that hard, but the awkward position I have to adopt in order to do it is just what my back doesn't like.  What's more it takes a while.  I suppose each lift delivers  on average about a tablespoon or two  of oil into the can I am holding with the other hand,.  I looked up how many tablespoons in a litre (you know me) and it's 56.3.   So to pump out 4.5 litres of oil at a generous average of 2 tablespoons per pump takes, um 4.5 x 56.3 /2 = just over 140 plunges, each requiring a reasonably strong pull. Lets just say I had to stop and rest a couple of times to stop my little muscle from giving me gyp.  I'm getting old.

Having refilled with nice clean oil and fitted a new filter, I turned next to a job deeper down.  Herbie's engine does weep a bit of diesel from somewhere (I can't see where) when it's running, so over time a pool of it collects in the engine oil drip tray.  In the old days we've bailed it out with baked bean tins or whatever, but some years back I bought a natty 12v pump which does it nicely.  I've featured it here before, but here it is

You can still get one from Amazon or ebay for about £13 (including the pvc tubing you need) and it works really well.  It is self priming, so you stick one tube in the sump or whatever, and the other in an old bottle, clip on the battery clips to one of your boat /car batteries, press the on off switch and off it goes.  The only problem I have is that the stuff I am sucking out is only half an inch deep so I have to bend down with my head somewhere near my knees to hold the bendy suck tube into the corners of the tray for ten minutes while the pump does its job.  I got a couple of litres out this way. I may need another quick go later to mop up the remaining fluid after it slowly oozes back from the other end of the engine where I can't reach.

Next, I tried the pump on the gearbox oil, but it didn't do so well, perhaps because the oil was not so runny.  I got about half of it out, and replaced that with fresh although the old oil still looked clean and felt nice and oily.

By now my back was really grumbling so I retired to a deck chair and had a first read of what turned out to be the first  Colin Dexter Inspector Morse story "Last Bus to Woodstock" which I picked up in the marina swap library.  I'm sorry to say I wasn't very impressed.  Maybe Dexter improved with subsequent efforts.  I also note that the way he writes about women would be far from acceptable these days. I see it was written 48 years ago so times have changed for the better in that regard.

So that was Friday.  No outside jobs today.  We might take the boat out tomorrow and we might not.

Thursday, August 03, 2023

A botanical tour of Herbie's home


What's this? Kath sitting in our garden?  No, she's sitting next to Herbie at our berth in the marina.  Here's a closer view

Lovely innit?  No wonder we haven't taken the boat out since we arrived yesterday; we're just taking the chance to relax.  Well we did drive out to Tescos today to lay in food stores, but that's it for today.  Maybe we'll cruise out tomorrow , weather permitting.

I took a stroll round our end of the marina looking for blackberries, but sadly there were barely any ripe ones.  Back at home we're getting a few lovely ones in the local hedgerows. It's all about latitude perhaps, or maybe it's just the Thames Valley climate at home that helps.

Now if we wanted crab apples, we have them in abundance at the marina although you'd want them riper to make crab apple jelly.

The waterside flowers though, are doing well.  Only fifty yards from Herbie we get all the following:

Purple loosestrife of course - very common along canals

along with the even commoner Willowherb

and the ubiquitous bindweed

You all know them, but do you know what this is?

here's a close up

it has a few names, orange balsam, orange jewelweed, or spotted touch-me-not.  The latter name being to do with how the seed pods explode like its relative Himalayan Balsam. Apparently it has been used to treat skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.

Then how about this? I think it is Bristly Oxtongue.  You might need some if you have parasitic intestinal worms (terms and conditions apply)

This next one is probably Angelica, used candied in desserts or to flavour drinks and is apparently good for fighting off witchcraft and the plague amongst other things (worth bearing in mind then)

Then in the hedge, Guelder rose, not really a wild plant, but there's a lot of it here

and lastly, dogwood berries, some types of which are edible while others are poisonous.  I don't think I'll bother to test them.

All these within 10 yards of each other and less than a minute's walk from Herbie's pontoon.  Now perhaps you see why we're not in a rush to move out onto the canal today.