Thursday, 21 June 2018

1000! 21st June

Dickens Heath to Sheepcote Street Bridge, Birmingham Main Line

P1340881smI’ve just checked today and realised that Oleanna yesterday came through her 1000th lock. Water Explorer, a program we use to track our trips, occasionally counts locks twice, very annoying. It also counts flood locks, but we tend to only count locks that alter our height. So it is hard for me to pinpoint exactly which lock was her 1000th, but we have decided that Narnia Lock was most probably the one.

P1340912smToday was flat going all the way into Birmingham. We’ve done this journey now a few times, so I decided to spend the day sketching out ideas for panto, leaving Mick at the helm. I was available for crewing duties, but whilst we cruised I was to be below.

Working again is going to change our boating way of life for a while. If I was back in the house I’d spend five days out of seven working, unless I was waiting for a director to get back to me. Sometimes I had more than one project on the go, so days off became few until work ran out. Certainly during rehearsals for a show I was more than likely to be working a 10 to 12 hour day, often an hours drive away from home. Our lives have changed since then, we are boaters and I don’t want to be that busy again. So a balance between boating and work needs to be struck, so both can be enjoyed. Yesterday I decided that whilst there is work to be done, I will work three days and then we’ll have a boating day. Weather may affect this along with deadlines. Designing doesn’t just stop when you put a sketch pad and pencil down, yesterday I came up with some ideas whilst walking between locks, today those have been put on paper. I’m hoping that tomorrow there will be more ideas to commit to paper too.

P1340917smThe hatch slid open as we approached Shirley Draw Bridge. Mick slowed Oleanna as we approached, we’d not caught up with a boat that had passed us just before we set off this morning, but there was a boat at the bridge. A hire boat was just coming through towards us, but as the approach is narrow, only one boats width, we couldn’t pass them and take advantage of their key of power in the control pedestal. Cars were waiting anyway, so they did the right thing by dropping the bridge and letting the cars cross again. We swapped positions with them and I hopped off, key of power in hand. It took a while for the constant stream of cars to clear and a lady with a dog to cross before I could turn the key and press the ‘close’ button to set the barriers in motion, but all went as it should.

P1340920smDown below the occasional look up brought with it familiar sights, so I knew when we were passing the house that has been done up through the years by the water point. It has a very original name, Canal Cottage!

P1340930smThen as the canal narrowed I realised we were at Lock 1 the Guillotine Lock, an old stop lock before the Stratford Canal joins the Worcester and Birmingham. With a handy stretch of mooring bollards I checked with the helm if it was lunchtime, it was.

P1340935smP1340942smAt the junction we turned right to Birmingham. Passing the Bournville offside visitors moorings, I’m glad we didn’t want to stop, the whole length has been taken over by C&RT for dredging purposes. Skip boats and dredgers were dotted up the canal, making our progress slow. One of the skips hadn’t been tied up, so was pulled across the canal after we passed only for the bucket of the dredger to pull it back across.

When we came through Edgbaston Tunnel earlier in the year work was on going to increase the width of the towpath. Today it is all finished and with lights in the tunnel I didn’t even notice we’d passed through. Good job there were lights, as for some reason our tunnel light isn’t working.

P1340947smI noticed the boat turning and realised we were by the Mailbox, time to pause what I was doing until we’d moored. There were some places up to Gas Street basin, but we carried on hoping for a space at Cambrian Wharf.  But when we got there there was only one obvious space. Both of us knew it was too short for us, but we tried anyway. A lady came from one boat and said she could lift her stern fender if that would help, a chap came from in front. There was space behind him, but nowhere to tie to. The gap was about two foot too short for us, so we backed out and winded, a boat in the top lock of the Farmers Bridge flight kindly letting us go ahead of them.

P1340980smP1340981smNext we tried round Oozells Street Loop. The first section is visitors moorings, but was full. I could see there were gaps towards Sheepcote Street Bridge, so we hoped one would still be empty for us when we returned. Another space came into view, NB Waterways Routes’ mooring. Paul has recently set off to reach the opening of a new stretch of the Pocklington canal in Yorkshire.

Where Oozells Street Loop joins back onto the Birmingham Main Line it is too acute for most boats to turn right, so we had to carry on towards Monument Road Bridge where you can wind at an old side arm. The gusting wind helped with the start of our wind, but meant using the bow thruster to assist finishing our turn. We headed back towards Sheepcote Bridge. Just a couple of spaces free on the two day moorings, we pulled into the first one as another boat pulled into the other.

P1340954smWhat is this outside! They say I won’t like it, how do they know? They won’t even let me try it to see. There are plenty of people who stop to say hello to me, well that’s when I’m in a window rather than shouting at the back door. Tilly and I may fall out if she keeps up with her shouting. We may have to let her out when the towpath is very busy, she’ll soon understand and go to sleep!

P1340911IMAG0504smDSCF7114sm0 locks, 2 counted on Water Explorer! 1000 since launch, 12.43 miles, 1597 miles since launch (ish), 2 rights, 2 winds, 1 straightish, 1 left, 1 lift bridge, 10 held up, 25 sheets of plans not to scale! 1 website at odds with dimensions, 12 set sketches, 1 noisy day with Tilly! 0 exploring allowed!! 1st home grown salad, 1 slightly smaller green monster in the cratch.

Narnia In Summer 20th June

Lapworth Lock 22 to Nearly Dickens Heath

P1340824smWith the car returned and enough water left in the tank to do some washing the engine was started and we watched boats come and go past us until we knew that the rinsing of our clothes was nearly complete. Lock 22 was in our favour so we quickly untied before another boat came up the lock below.

P1340825smP1340828smThe water point was slow to say the least, most probably not helped by the dishwasher having gone on as soon as we’d tied up. I made use of the time and strained the elderflower cordial and bottled it into suitable containers that I’d been keeping.

After an hour we were ready to push onwards and upwards towards Birmingham. But there was mizzle in the air, the sort that before you’ve realised it you are soaked to the skin. Normally we’d stay put until it dried up, we could go through the link towards the Grand Union, wind at the junction and then tie up on the moorings there, or we could push on through and get wet. We looked at each other, we’d been here too long already, ‘Let’s get wet!’ we said in unison.

The next lock up was full, I checked that a lady wasn’t wanting to come down, she was having some difficulty with a tap to wash her boat. I did ask if she could give the port side of Oleanna a spray as we went past as her boat looked very clean and she’d not even started, but she was having serious problems with her hose attachments.

P1340836smFrom here on the bottom gates revert to double gates. The single bottom gates are handy in that you don’t have to walk round to open or close the other side (unless you have long legs and can jump across) they are just quite heavy. Not sure which I prefer, the extra walk or the extra weight?

A boat was coming down so we paused for them to come past. This meant the next few locks would be in our favour, up to the long pound before the flight really gets going. The rain came and went, we really didn’t know whether it was best to wear a coat or remove it, which would keep us drier? After seven locks we decided to pull in on the rings and have some lunch before continuing up the next thirteen, other boats did the same including one coming downhill.

P1340840smOnce we’d fuelled ourselves we pushed off, the flight ahead was mostly empty apart from where the top gates leak. I walked up ahead to get the next one ready whilst Mick closed up behind. The rest of the flight was ours no boats ahead and no boat coming down to meet us between locks 7 and 8. This pound is shorter than most on the flight and has a bend. We’ve had to wait below lock 8 before for a 70fter to come through, but not today.

P1340842smP1340860smI chose to walk all the way, including the half mile pound to the next two locks. This is where a couple of years ago Tilly lost a collar in the sideways trees, a reflective one that didn’t reflect when a torch was shone around the area to try to find it. I didn’t bother looking for it. The last four locks were all full so my walk saved Oleanna waiting below.

P1340881smP1340887smAt around 3:30pm Oleanna was coming up Narnia Lock (Lapworth Top Lock). Our first journey through here on our shareboat was on a very snowy morning. The canal was covered in slush and the world looked magical in the snowy light. We’ve been through here now several times since, but today was by far the hottest, now the waterproofs had been abandoned and sun cream applied.

P1340890smNext through the lift bridges, the first being harder than the second. In fact the second was so easy I over wound it and it bounced back some! Through Hockley Heath with it’s strange expensive shops. The chap who gave Mick a lift back from Solihull this morning explained that the hot tub shop, Rolls Royce and McClaren show rooms are there because lots of footballers and managers live in the area.

P1340898smPassing under bridge 20 and we still didn’t stop to go to Wedges. Bakers don’t have the appeal they used to have, a nice crusty loaf just fills me with the thought of indigestion. After seeing so few boats on the flight it turned out they were all waiting for us at bridge holes! In quick succession we passed five.

P1340905smWe wanted to find a mooring to have a barbecue, even though it was a touch windy. Mick kept wanting to stop where there were boats moored on the off side, but I kept wanting to carry on to where we’d stopped on Lillian. On we went and found the mooring I’d been thinking of, just short of Dickens Heath. The towpath could have been a touch wider, but we weren’t going to smoke out other boats.

Why couldn’t they have sorted this outside sooner! Giving me two hours, my feet! Instead I came and went whilst they had their dingding, but then they left me to it. I made the most of it, climbing trees, digging holes, rolling around. The two hours became very long and I returned just before the lights dimmed. Apparently I’m not going to like tomorrows outside!

Once we’d eaten we retired indoors, the evening cooling down. But after a couple of hours the inside of Oleanna had also cooled down somewhat, so the heating was put on for an hour!

DSCF7114sm20 locks, 6.4 miles, 2 lift bridges, 1 soggy morning, 1 load washing, 1 dishwasher load, 0 rubbish left, 1 full water tank, 1 straight on, 1 boat in the flight, 5 on the flat at bridge holes!

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!