Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Worse Than Tina Turner! 19th June

Chipping Norton and Crick, by car

IMAG0498smIMAG0502smThe real reason for keeping the car longer was to make a trip to Chipping Norton a lot easier. The unfortunate thing with Chipping Norton is it’s lack of train station, so using public transport involves a bus ride. An hours drive or three hours by train and bus from Lapworth. So for an extra £20 for two more days it made a lot of sense to keep the car.

P1340779sm (2)We were last in Chippy in December to see Panto, it was a bit chilly then to be eating sandwiches sat on a bench, today we opted to sit in the car instead even though it was a lot warmer. Will (Treasure, not Shakespeare) the producer met me and gave me a guided tour around the theatre. The stage is more spacious than I’d imagined, but then there is no Panto set in the way at the moment. I’ll still need a shoe horn to fit everything in, but there will be space for actors to breath backstage, so that was a relief.

I came away with plenty of drawings and a model box of the theatre stage and wings. This is a scale (1:25) model of the building to which I will add a scale model of the set. This will be used by the set builders, director, actors, lighting designers, everyone as reference . They had a very handy box to keep the model safe, but this was several inches bigger than it’s contents so I elected to leave it with them. I can find room on the boat for the model, but not it’s box and Tilly would more than likely want to take up residency in it anyway, chewing the odd corner too!

P1340756smWhilst I’d been shown round Mick had been to Corbetts Electrical in West Street (handily mentioned in my panto script) to buy some longer cables to connect the new Venus GX in the electrics cupboard. The ones he’d bought at Springwood Haven were fine to connect everything together, but making the cupboard neat and tidy they needed to be longer. Corbetts came up trumps.

P1340797smBack at Oleanna my first and very important job was to find cupboard space for the modelbox. The cupboard I had in mind was emptied, just the right size, except for a big electrical box at the back of it, which meant I’d have had to reduce already small wing space of the theatre by 2ft 6”! So half my clothes cupboard was emptied, shelf moved up, a perfect fit and with some space for bits and bobs alongside. I was happy now I knew there was a safe place to tuck work away, just one small task of finding somewhere else for half my clothes! It all worked out in the end and we now have two throws covering the sofa as we used to on Lillian, they had been taking up a whole cupboard, so selfish.

P1340801smWith the car for one last evening we first headed over to Hillmorton to pick up some food from the Chippy there and then carried on to Crick. Our friend Lizzie, NB Panda, has bought herself a cottage in the village. We had a quick look round and caught up on each others news. NB Panda is at Cropredy awaiting a trip out onto the Thames up to Lechlade this summer. All too quick we jumped back in the car to drive to the other end of the village. There was just enough space for us on the lane leading to The Moorings where Mikron were performing this evening. Lizzie had planned to join us, but her hay fever was bad and she didn’t want to aggravate her asthma.

P1340815smNB Tyseley was moored up alongside the restaurant and crowds had already gathered taking up much of the outside seating area. No spare chairs to be seen. I did manage to spot Neil Stittle who was moving chairs around and commandeered two of the last seats.

P1340809smRevolting Women is all about the Suffragette movement, a subject a touch more serious than a normal Mikron show. Full of songs the show took us through Edwardian history and the events that led to some women getting the vote after WW1. The four actors took on the roles of various women and their families in London and politicians voting in the House of Commons. Lots of hats, voices and faces pulled and that was before a note had come from the trombone! It’s the third Mikron show we’ve seen, an enjoyable evening at a venue with a bit more space than there was at The Rising Sun in Berko last year. If you’ve been to see a Mikron show you will be aware that you don’t pay to get in, but you pay to get out!

Once we’d paid our exit fee and said hello to Marianne we were back in the car. We thought we’d been quick to leave, but others had beaten us to their cars, so we joined the long line. Whenever we sit in traffic like this Mick recounts the night he went to see Tina Turner and how long it took to just leave the car park! At least back then he didn’t take a wrong turning in Warwick (due to lack of road signs), then struggle with Google maps and a road atlas, resorting to a good old fashioned OS map too finally get us back on track.

0 locks, 0 miles by canal,  1 Spring Street, 200 seater, 20 plans, 1 modelbox, 0 modelbox box, 1 tight fit, 1 wardrobe downsized, 2 slightly grotty throws back on display, 1 fish and chips, 2 chicken kebabs, 1 chips, 1 dinky immaculate cottage, 1 Lizzie, 3rd Mikron show, 2 boaters hoping to see their other show this year, 1 left, 0 straight on, 2 many white roads on a white background! 1 long route round Warwick, 1 bored cat, 1 ever so boring day again!

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

New Toy. 18th June

P1340734smStill with the car today we drove into Solihull to the big Tescos and did a top up shop, which was maybe a little bit more than just a top up!
On returning to the boat Tilly was allowed out for the rest of the day, whilst I got on with collating lists for Panto and Mick headed off in the car to Springwood Haven Marina to spend some of his birthday money.
P1340752smFor sometime he’s been wanting to add another little blue box to our electrics cupboard, a Venus GX. This is a communication-centre for our electrical installation. It allows us to talk to all components in our system and ensure they are working in harmony.
Venus GXWe can monitor live data and changing settings via a phone or computer. Now Mick can see, from bottom left working clockwise, what the state of our battery charge is, what is coming in on a shore line (nothing as we’re not hooked up), the inverter is one,  how much is being used in the boat (dishwasher heating) and what is coming in from the solar (not much today as it’s turned very grey). I’m sure it does other things too, Mick is very excited about it!
Boats have been coming past us all day, just a slight lull between 1 and 3pm, which seems to be the norm here. It surprises me how few boats send crew on ahead to help save water. The amount that must have gone down the bywash today, no wonder there is a continuous feed into this pound from elsewhere.
Once my lists were complete I gave the primer a quick sand and gave a second coat to those bits that needed it.
P1340740smThen with a boat hook, a pair of scissors, a bag and Tilly in tow I went to harvest some Elderflower. At last the early afternoon was right for a change, sunny. You should pick the flower heads when they are dry and at their most fragrant, so not too late in the day either. A lady asked me if I was making Elderflower champagne, despite it being very lovely it is highly volatile and I really wouldn’t want corks popping at will inside a boat.
P1340744smP1340748smI made my syrup, zested my lemons and juiced them adding them to the mix. Each flower head was shaken over the sink and then had the stalks trimmed off. The whole mix was given a good stir and covered with a t-towel, it’ll now be left to soak for a couple of days before I strain and bottle it.
Chefchaouen10 locks, 0 miles, 2 boxes wine, 1 bag soya mince, 2 pots fat free favourite yoghurt, 2 lists complete, 12 sheets of reference photos, 7 hours, 0.5 helping pick flowers, 20 flower heads, 1kg sugar, 1 litre water, 3 small lemons, 1 vat soaking away, 1 birthday money toy for the boy, 1 grey day, 8 W solar.

Thank you to Christine and Duncan for your messages. Duncan, your commission percentage will surely reflect the amount of work you’ve done on my behalf!

Monday, 18 June 2018

Magic Food Bowl. 16th 17th June

York, but not by boat

P1340693smTasty smelling morsels were being put into my magic food bowl Saturday morning. I like my magic food bowl, it magically opens up and produces my evening and morning Dingding without being told to do so, the dingding doesn’t happen like it does when they are here. It just seems to know when I’m hungry. How magic is that?! But then she got another thing out of the bathroom cupboard, I don’t like this bag, it means there will be outside and no feet to keep warm in the morning and it most certainly isn’t magic!

IMAG0488smThis weekend we’ve been up to York to help celebrate one of Mick’s eldest friends 60th birthday. With a hire car we drove up Saturday morning stopping off to purchase some foody things and some wine when we reached the outskirts of York. Before we crossed town we made a phone call to check that we wouldn’t be arriving at just the wrong time. Mark didn’t know there was to be a party on Saturday (he’d thought something suspicious was going to happen on Sunday) and our arrival at the wrong moment could have blown it. However we had plenty of time to get to the other side of York to Sally and John’s house where balloons greeted us on the gate and if Mark hadn’t twigged by that point, then the number of cars outside the house along with banners would kind of give it away.

P1340703smP1340709smThree generations of the Harford family had gathered, all of Mark’s siblings, his four kids and their children, the youngest being 6 weeks old. Other old friends from Scarborough and York were there too.

Mick had spent some of Friday making some Yorkshire Cruncheon (almost flapjack, but with more crunch) to take with us, Harry (Mark’s youngest) had also made some, so a lot of time was spent comparing the two batches.

P1340701 (2)smMark hadn’t twigged and thought that he was going to The Pipe and Glass near Beverley with some friends for a meal. Instead those friends were absent, but all his family had gathered for a good afternoon and evening of celebrating.

Once the surprise was over we got back in the car and went to check in with a nice Italian couple at our AirB&B, our first time. After removing our shoes we were shown up the stairs to our floor, a bedroom, bathroom and living room all to ourselves for £65, half the price of any B&B or hotel in York this weekend. They started to give us directions of how to get into the city centre and advice on the best route to walk to the Minster. I explained that we both know York very well, me having been born and breed, Mick having worked in the city for many years. We asked if they had any questions about York, they did and we did our best to answer them.

P1340710 (2)smP1340711smThe afternoon back at the party soon turned into the evening and night followed on. Food was consumed (too much by one dog!), wine and stronger drinks drunk, conversation had. A lovely catch up with them all and chance to meet the two youngest members of the family.

P1340716smI was relieved to pull the amputee card when the drunken party games started. My grip would no way allow me to walk across a rug balancing with my hands on two beer bottles. Young and old tried their best, Jacob aged 6 did quite well, but then he was allowed to cheat. By the time we left everyone was looking tired and a bit merry, including the three dogs.

P1340720smOur walk back to our accommodation was thankfully dry after some thunder earlier in the evening and we managed to tiptoe up the stairs in stocking feet without disturbing our hosts.

P1340727smSunday morning we made full use of the bathroom being connected to mains water and checked out squeaky clean to walk back to retrieve the car.

IMAG0493smEveryone was awake so we manage to say goodbye to them all again before heading to find some breakfast in a supermarket cafe. Next port of call was Hobbycraft and WH Smith so that I could stock up on materials to be able to make my panto set model, a new sketch book and have some files to fill with reference pictures. It was then time to leave and wave goodbye to York and head back to the boat.

IMAG0496smOleanna sat where we’d left her a large gap behind her now that boats had moved off. Tilly was so pleased to see us that she immediately went out to explore before I could suggest when she should come home. There was a lot of shouting going on on the towpath from her, maybe that had something to do with us leaving a wrapper from some mackerel in the bin, the boat did whiff a touch!

P1340729sm0 locks, 0 miles, 1 hire car, 2 flipping food bowls, 60th, 1 surprise, 18 blood family, 6 weeks to 66 years, 2 lots of cruncheon, 3 dogs, 1 ravenous (Bliss), 1 elegant (Scout), 1 ponderous and obedient (Archie), 2nd floor to ourselves, 2 pairs of shoes on the ground floor, 1 crescent moon, 1.36 miles walk Pip’s way, 1.32 miles walk Mick’s way, 2nd round of goodbyes, 50p more for scrambled eggs, 2 sheets mount, 1 card, A2 foamcor, A4 sketchbook, 1 ringbinder, 3 wallets, 1 pleased to see us cat, 4 hours to cram in, 4 leg nudges, 1 absent cat, 1 stinky boat, 2 hatches open, 2 sets of doors too!

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Ten Whole Hours! 15th June


When we all got up this morning I thought I’d try my charms to see if I could get to spend the morning outside. It’s always worth a try, but this morning there seemed to be no need, one head nudge and I was told Ten Hours Tilly’. I wasn’t sure I’d heard correctly so came back from the opening door, ‘Ten Hours, no bringing friends home dead or alive or putting them on the roof for later, no going on other peoples boats, no jump…….’ yada yada yada. TEN HOURS!!!! That’s all that mattered, I was off into the friendly cover. See you later!

P1340661smWe’ve not being cruising long days by any means, but a day staying put was on the cards. After breakfast the Fertan was washed off where it had been left to do it’s job overnight. I applied some filler to where we used to have some press studs for the cratch. Very early on we lost one either side when entering locks as they were positioned just where the bow catches the most, so these we’ve not bothered to replace, so they were sanded back and filler applied to stop the area from rusting. More recently we’d lost a couple more, not sure how, but these are less likely to be knocked off. Mick got our new rivet gun out and replaced them. Once the filler had gone off this was sanded back and primer applied, with a second coat going on the grab rail.

P1340682smThere are going to be more days of not cruising in the next few months as I have some work to do. My Theatre Designers hat has been dug out from behind the freezer and is being dusted off so that I can design this years Panto, Aladdin, for Chipping Norton Theatre. Today I’ve read the first draft of the script. He’s behind you! Oh no he isn’t! Oh yes he is! It doesn’t quite seem right in mid June!

Mick took the opportunity to have a walk up the Lapworth flight. When he reached Lock 11 or there abouts, there’s twenty in the flight after the junction, he spotted a familiar boat, NB Tilly Mint. We’d crossed bows with him the Caldon Canal late last year. The chap on board is a single hander and Micks offer of help was a welcome one. Time to give him a breather so a windlass was handed over. He’d originally planned on pulling up after the top four, but had seen a C&RT chap who said that there would be volunteers on today, so he’d carried on waiting to bump into one, which didn’t happen.

P1340669smA little after midday I’d just started on Act 2 (Aladdin with the lamp, rich now and got the girl) when there was a knock on the roof. Debby from NB Chuffed had stopped to introduce herself whilst a boat came down the lock above and Dave brought the boat from the one below. We had chance for a short chat before Debby’s windlass services were required. Later on in the afternoon, when Tilly bothered to come home, we walked round the corner to find them and introduce ourselves properly. It was nice to finally meet them, after the last couple of months with us just being ahead or falling behind them on the Severn, G&S and the Avon. Hopefully our paths will cross again later in the year.

P1340670smSo she lied this morning! Ten hours my ….! But I did get to make a new friend popping out of the sideways trees at the right time to meet Debby. She smelt of woofer, but I won’t hold that against her. When they came back from their explore I was allowed out again for another hour. I suppose nine hours isn’t that bad. Yawn! Think I’ll have a lie down now…night…..zzzzz

P1340675sm0 locks, 4 assisted with, 0 miles, 1 outside, 10 9 hours, 2 new press studs, 2 old ones filled, 1st and 2nd coat primer, 1 cratch board to be done another day, 62 pages, 1 lamp, 2 boats, 1 submarine, 2 new boaters met, 47 throws of a ball, 5 friends, 3 trees, 2 other boats (even though she’s not allowed on them!), 1 thug Tilly, 1 bloody paw, 21 poppies.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

We’ve Got Ourselves A Convoy. 14th June

Lock 29 to Lapworth Lock 22

P1100483sm10426876_895065773841103_103981300286197454_nOur good friends Bridget and Storm have decided to put their narrowboat Blackbird up for sale. They have been spending less and less time aboard and it’s time for them to have new adventures, even so a hard decision. Blackbird was built for continuous cruising in 2010 and has covered much of the system. We’ll miss cruising with Blackbird and The Wasp is now a thing of the past, but I’m sure they’ll come and visit us for a boat fix every now and then.

Here’s a link to Blackbird’s details.

P1340637smWe got moving at the same time as others today. One boat came past just as we were about to push off and when we got to the next lock NB Hekla was ready to go too. They had found some rings and slightly deeper water just before the lock so had elected to stop there last night. So we were third in line for the first lock of the day. We helped Hekla up, then the next chap who was on his own, incidentally he’d also had problems with the previous lock. Soon there was another boat behind us.

The chap behind was a bit exacerbated, every single lock on this trip out had been against them. I offered to lift a paddle on locks as we left them if nobody was coming and checked where he planned to get to today, in case he was stopping short of us.

P1340642smP1340645smThe convoy up towards Lapworth worked well. I think NB Hekla was lifting a paddle for the single hander in front of us and when we arrived I was able to close the gate behind him as he left. As we rose up the second lock Mick waved back at me as there was a boat coming round the bend in front of him under the M40 bridge, so I opened up the gate again and left them to reset the lock for the chap behind.

I went ahead after the next lock to help and then reset it for us, but there was a boat coming, so I signalled back to Mick to leave the gate below. The boat then pulled over some distance away and a crew member hopped off, even though they could have stepped off in the waiting lock that they’d just been waved in to. It then took forever for them to get past one moored boat and the single hander who was waiting patiently. I closed the gate after them and went to chat with the lady. They had been up to Birmingham and had decided the next time they hire they’ll do Birmingham. She was struggling a bit with the paddle so I offered to lend a hand. ‘I only open them half way until we’re half way down’, she accepted my offer. But as I turned to check that her husband was okay I couldn’t see him, where had he gone? Inside right to the front to get something. I waited for him to return so that someone was at the helm should the boat drift backwards, he took his time.

Once down he exited the lock and was far too busy taking photos of the lock cottage to bother steering, so was on full collision course with Oleanna! Mick shouted out and the chap did his best to stop and reposition his boat to avoid us, but then just brought himself back to hit us anyway, at least he’d slowed down some by now!

HirersI’d remembered a nice mooring just below the junction, but the next pound looked inviting and there was space. We had one of those moments where I was sure it was still further ahead and Mick was dubious about my memory. At the next lock I could see up the next two pounds. One boat was moored in the middle of the next one, not leaving enough space and above looked busy too. We carried on and at the second lock there were the trees I’d remembered from December 2013, and one space which was Oleanna sized and in the sun.

P1340651smSix hours she said, six! Bloomin’ marvelous!!! The field behind the sideways trees is great and there’s a good fence to sharpen my friend finding claws on. What an afternoon. She came out too and I got told to be careful of wet paint.

P1340652smP1340659smMick undid the loose fairlead on the starboard side for us to look at, there was also a small bubble of paint under it. One of the screws had been pulled right through the grabrail, so no just tightening it up again. Under all our deck fittings Finesse has put what I call Black Tack, a substance that never goes off and should stop water from getting under the fittings. It’s a bit like chewing gum and takes a bit to clean off, but working slowly I collected it to be reused and cleaned off the residue with white spirit. The paint bubble was removed, sanded down and treated with Fertan. The patch I’d treated yesterday got a coat of primer.

P1340661smThey were doing interesting things, so I came to check on them. Big mistake! She’d said six hours, I’d only had two and was being bundled up into the boat. This was only so we could walk to the shop for a loaf of bread and pick up a parcel from the post office, she was allowed to go straight back out on our return.

DSCF7121smblack paw6 locks, 1.15 miles, 4 in a convoy, 1 absent helmsman, 1 photo op not to be missed, 1 boat that should have been missed, 1 memory better than another, 4.5 hours not 6! 2nd rust patch treated, 1 screw knackered, 1 solution needed (might have to nudge it along), 1 big blob of tacky black tack, 1 loaf bread, 4 films.

Friday, 15 June 2018

How Not To Fill A Lock. 13th June

Claverdon Top Lock 33 to Rowington Middle Lock 29

P1340598smThe water point below Lowsonford Top Lock is popular but seems to cause misunderstanding whenever we’ve been here. Coming up hill you approach it and the lock past a line of permanent moorings. There are two taps just before the bridge at the bottom end of the lock, but if you don’t know this then you might think that there is a queue and hold back. The position of the bridge means that if you approach from above you have to walk down through the bridge to see if anyone is approaching from below, well that’s if you bother to do such things! But are the boats waiting for the lock or just filling with water?

Today we arrived with the washing machine going and pulled in to the two free taps to fill up, dispose of rubbish etc. We were soon followed by another boat wanting to do the same who pulled up in front of us. A few boats came past, one came down the lock and saw us at the water point and decided to leave the gates open thinking we were waiting to come up. However another boat was approaching from behind and thinking there was a queue had pulled in some distance back, a crew member walked up to the lock, saw it was in their favour and walked back to relay the information. So this ex-blue boat started to approach the lock, slowly past the permanent moorings, all as it should be.

Mick then noticed a lot of water coming from the lock, the water was boiling (our new technical term from the C&RT chaps yesterday) but the bottom gate was open! So he walked up to the lock to see a Diamond Resorts boat with it’s bow up against the top gate and a chap with windlass in hand, having just opened up the top paddles.He was stood staring at the open bottom gate. Obviously nothing was computing in this chaps head, so instead of saying anything Mick just leant against the gate and closed it, helping to conserve the levels in the pound above. The lady on the ex-blue boat was now approaching and wondered why the gate was closing in front of her, Mick explained, she wasn’t happy.

When the Diamond Resorts boat came down the gate was closed behind them, good practice, but there was a boat waiting to come up! The chap still had no clue as to what he’d been doing wrong and neither did the lady at the helm. We wonder how long the chap would have stood there before he realised why the lock wasn’t filling? Anyway they were out of the way now and normal operation of the lock could resume. The ex-blue boat made it’s way up another came down, by which time both boats on the water point were filled, some negotiation was had as to who would go first. I stood up at the lock awaiting our turn, helping other boats up and down and passing on information about the lock cottage.


Lengthman’s Cottage is owned by the Landmark Trust dating from 1812 and can be booked to stay in. It was built by the engineers who built the bridges on the Stratford Canal, they used the same techniques that they knew so well hence the barrel roof. To mark the 50th anniversary of the Landmark Trust in 2015, Antony Gormley was commissioned to produce five sculptures, one was positioned here by the lock for a year. Sadly we missed seeing it as we last come through before it was erected and it has now long since gone. I tried looking for where it might have stood, but there were no obviously new stones or holes.

P1340609smHaving helped four boats through and being asked if I was a volunteer I elected to climb aboard Oleanna and leave the next crew to work themselves through. We didn’t feel we’d travelled far enough for the day so resisted the mooring rings in the next pound and hoped for a space a little bit further on. At the next lock there are large signs guiding you to a Farm Shop, it’s a bit further than suggested and up quite a steep hill, but is worth the effort. They have a lot of meat and the lady we’d met a couple of days ago who’d been hoping for a leg of lamb at Wootton Wawen would have been better off here.

P1340617smThe spot we’d hoped for was taken so we came through one more lock and found a length or armco that would do us for the remainder of the day. The whirligig came out and so did some sandpaper and Fertan. There has been a rust patch on our grab rail for a while so today the loose paint was scraped away, the area sanded back and a coat of Fertan added to work it’s magic overnight.

P1340620smP1340625smOleanna has also got very filthy and a layer of stickiness has appeared from somewhere, so half the roof and one cabin side had a good wash down. It does feel better when she looks how she should, even Mick had started making comments on how filthy she was, so she must have been really bad.

P1340627smLate afternoon we began to list. Mick picked up a windlass and wandered down to the lock behind. A boat had been trying to come up, but the level had stopped increasing, the bottom gate was leaking just as much as the top paddles were letting in. So only one thing for it, empty the lock, open the gate and try again hoping that whatever was stopping the bottom gate from sealing properly had moved, it worked. However the boat following them had difficulty too. Around 8pm we saw a chap with a blue t-shirt zoom past on a bike, in his hand a long pole with a biscuit tin on the end, presumably he’d come to clear the gate.

This is a good outside, they came out to play with me and there were plenty of friends to find too. I’m enjoying this Stratford Canal, just a shame there’s no yoyo flies though.

black pawDSCF7121sm4 locks, 1.18 miles, 1 full water tank, 1 empty pooh bucket, 1 deceptive queue, 1 total numpty, 0 statue, 0 joint, 1 rust patch sorted, 0.5 clean Oleanna, 1 bag coal off the roof, 1 anchor ready to go away, 1 chicken jointed, 2 good outsides, 3 friends, 1 boat with all it’s doors closed, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp.