Wednesday, 14 November 2018

A Parliamentary Train Ride

12th and 13th November

Monday 12th.
Pip headed off back to Chipping Norton on the 08:55 bus. Oleanna was getting short of water. The nearest water point is at the residential moorings next to Isis Lock. From a visiting boater’s point of view this is easiest to get to from the lock landing on the Sheepwash Channel below the lock. Officially this is EA water as it is a part of the Thames but I didn’t think anyone would mind me being there. So I untied the ropes and reversed back to upper lock landing, tied up, filled the lock, reversed in to the lock then emptied the lock and reversed out onto the pontoon lock landing. The washing machine had been on and after I had started the hose going it was just finishing a cycle. So I started another load whilst filling the tank. An hour or so later the tank was full and the washing machine was into it’s second rinse so I headed back into the lock and went back up onto the CRT waters of the Oxford Canal. The mooring spot I had left a couple of hours earlier was still vacant (there’s not much traffic around at the moment)  so I tied back up there. It’ll do for another few days.


Tuesday 13th
I’ve been on another day trip to London. I was born and brought up in Ealing in West London (not far from the Hanwell Flight of locks) but left the area 28 years ago. So with a bit of time on my hands I thought I’d have a little trip down memory lane. But to get there I went on a bit of a roundabout route.
If you are a train operating company and want to close a bit of railway line or a station you have to go through a long, complicated and expensive procedure involving parliamentary approval. So often a train company won’t actually close the line but instead run an infrequent service, sometimes once a week in one direction only, sometimes once a day. For example don’t moor at Polesworth on the Coventry Canal expecting to be able to catch a train from the nearby railway station. The only train of the day there departs at 07:23 and there is no return service. There are quite a few of these services dotted around the country and they are known as “Parliamentary” services (because running the service is required by the original Act of Parliament when the railway was built). One of these services is in London: the once daily Chiltern Railways train from South Ruislip to London Paddington. Most services from South Ruislip go to London Marylebone but this service heads off down a railway equivalent of a backwater via Northolt, Greenford, Park Royal and North Acton to join the Great Western mainline at Old Oak Common and thence onto Paddington. So I caught a Chiltern Railways train from Oxford to High Wycombe, changing there onto a train that stopped at South Ruislip. At South Ruislip the “Parley” was waiting on another platform. There was one other passenger on the train and the driver checked with us both that we really wanted to go to Paddington. It was a very interesting ride, running alongside the Central tube line for some of the way. The track is formed of old jointed rails, it’s not often these days that you hear the clickety clack noise of trains passing over un-welded joints. Trees and bushes lean over the tracks and the train passes through a narrowing leafy corridor. We go slowly, no more than 20 mph, I suspect due to the leaves on the line and the fact we are the first train of the day to head this way therefore the track might be slippery. But all too soon we are onto the Paddington Main Line and it feels like we are allowed to sneak unnoticed into platform 14 which is tucked away in a little corner on the far side of the big terminal station. All in all a very enjoyable 25 minutes of train travel. Sorry, I didn’t take any photos, I wanted to enjoy the moment. If you are interested someone else has posted a Youtube video of their trip on this line here . Incidentally if you feel excited about this and want to experience it yourself you'll have to do so before 7th December. After that day the line closes due to HS2 construction work. Presumably there is parliamentary approval for this! Or maybe HS2 is going to follow the route albeit underground so will count as a train service?

After that excitement I caught a normal train out to West Ealing. This was my old stomping ground.
Here is the house I was born and grew up in. It’s the semi on the left. I lived in this house until I was 22.
8 Chester Gardens

And here is the Back Lane entrance to the garage.

The Back Lane

Just up the road I came across this from the days when the local authority provided everything.

Most of the shops have changed completely, except this one where I spent many happy hours in the past.


It is still trading and still has a wonderful array of electrical stuff in the window. Many of the pubs have changed names or no longer exist. Most of the bus route numbers are un-recognisable, I mean who ever heard of a 427, a 483 or even an E11?  But Ealing still seems to be a busy vibrant place with lots going on.
After a couple of hours of strolling around Memory Lane it was back to Paddington to catch a train back to Oxford. This train took the more normal route via Slough, Reading and Didcot.

0.14 miles in reverse, 0.14 miles forwards, 2 locks (or the same lock twice). 1 full water tank, 2 loads of washing. 3 standard trains, 1 Parliamentary train. 1 excited cat, 1 cat bored again.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Panto Postcard 3.

73 hours
Another hard week in Chipping Norton.
43985334_571804373252647_5229978262691706604_nI was on an earlyish bus back after a mile or so walk to the best bus stop, right outside Scottish and Southern Electric where a small compact thatched cottage sits beneath the pylons. I managed to get the front seat on the top deck and got good views through Woodstock and past the gates of Blenheim Palace. One of my design projects when I was at college used the Marlborough Tapestries, so a visit to the palace to see them is a must whilst we are in the area.
Chris the carpenter/dep production manager joined us again on Monday morning. There was a log list of jobs for him to work through, problem solving and hanging various things in the flies above the actors heads that needed to be done by someone competent.
44419995_281543992488676_746453623147304176_nMy printed cloth was hung by the time I arrived and it certainly was worth the money. The blues glow wonderfully when back lit for scene changes and it’s fluid movement across stage is wonderful. I wish we’d now had the money to do the same with the backdrop. The painting on this is okay, but in my mind too much paint was applied making it a bit crusty, so when it was folded (should have been rolled!) the paint cracked leaving lines. These would be excellent if you wanted the effect of a folded paper map!
The reaction to my painted floor was wonderful. The Pippins (local kids) were amazed and one lead actor went out of his way to thank me for painting them such a lovely floor, not often this happens.
IMG_20181110_105936275smMark (Lighting Designer) and Jon (Sound Designer) joined us this week, so as jobs on the set were being done, they focused and plotted their black things that have plugs on them and took up residence in the stalls with lighting boards and sound desks. Chris and I managed to get to various bits and bobs whilst scenes were set to be lit. Scene change rehearsals took place, each attempt getting quicker. I spent quite some time this week sticking felt onto the bottom of pieces of set so that they could be slid along the floor rather than carried, saving peoples backs and hopefully some time, but making me a touch high on fumes in the process.
IMG_20181110_123425820_HDRsmThe curtains I’d made from a previous panto went up surprisingly well. I did think that this would be the moment when I’d prove to myself that I really should never use a sewing machine, but by fluke they hung rather well, just in need of a good steam to help the creases drop.
On Wednesday my phone decided it didn’t want to turn on fully. It would try but then give up and shut down. A message was sent to Mick via another phone to his email, telling him I’d see him on Saturday. My next concern was not being able to tell the time, or have an alarm clock. A hunt round Chippy ensued, at Gills (they have everything) hardware shop I got a small travel alarm clock which would see me through. The world of the internet could wait. However Mick dug out an old phone, got it set up for me to use and brought it to Chippy that day arriving perfectly timed with the actors vacating the stage. A quick hand over was done and I had to leave Mick to enjoy a pint in the Fullers pub next door as I got on with work.
IMG_20181109_105803388smIMG_20181109_141220966smIMG_20181109_150722904smTechnical rehearsals took over. This is when all the elements of the show are put together, tried, retried until it all works well. If things weren’t fully finished it didn’t matter just so long as there was something in it’s place to use. Virtually all the set and props were ready, but there were a few gaps on the costume front as alterations were being made. A few frayed nerves from the crew as set changes were worked. The gaps when I could get onto stage to do jobs got fewer as the week continued. Sitting in a seat taking notes meant that my knees started to cease up a touch, so the steps on and off stage I’m now doing sideways as this is easier.
P1430105smDuring the daytime we’d tech in the main acting company, getting as far into the show as we could. Then at 4pm the stage would be reset to go over the sections that the Pippins were in. As there are three teams of kids this meant having to go through the sections at least three times, each team cheering when it became their turn.
With the show worked through in detail the first Dress Rehearsal was upon us on Saturday morning. Gemma the Production Manager was back with us, a few things sorted out before we started. The house lights dimmed and the show began. The dress went well, a few blips, like several of the Dames quick changes were late (an S.E.P.), a few cues for the crew missed and one set change not quite finished in time.
IMG_20181110_174237163smTechnical notes were given out and most people then headed off their separate ways, leaving Gemma and myself with the set to get bits finished. During Tech week there may be breaks, but few are long enough for paint to fully dry before floaty costumes come back onto stage. So with a big list and everything accessible we worked for several hours. Some jobs took a matter of a minute, others an hour. But the majority of jobs were completed, the set left everywhere to dry and I was out of the building in time to catch the 6pm bus back to the boat.
Meanwhile back on NB Oleanna.
On Monday Mick had decided to carry on into Oxford on his own. At Drinkwater Bridge a local boater helped him, at the next really awkward bridge a passing cyclist paused to hold the bridge open and then the last bridge he had to manage on his own, but this one would rather stay open for boat traffic anyway. He made his way down to Jericho. He passed one boat on the 7 days mooring, nobody at the quiet mooring (this is 2 days only all year) and then found everyone. They were all near College Cruisers. One gap showed itself before the lock, so he went down onto the river turned and headed back to the gap. The very end of the arm was also full.
For a few nights he endured the trains passing, but when spaces emptied towards the quieter end of the moorings he backed up and settled down.
Trees! But far far too many people. At least this Oxford has a good playground for me, far better than Chester. Tom seems to like to keep the back doors closed now, maybe there is no need for extra crew at the moment.
IMG_20181106_135251869smMick had a day trip into London to see what was happening in the various places he’d worked last century. He also visited the Tate Modern to see some of Christian Marclay’s The Clock. A 24 hour long installation of a montage of thousands of film and tv images of clocks which have been edited together to show the real time. He’d like to go back and watch for longer.
He has also been working on our laptop. This had become very sluggish. Each week I have received various parcels in Chippy which have been bits to help sort out the laptop. So this week he has replaced the hard drive with a SSD Drive. This took quite a bit of doing, having to clone the old disc and all sorts of computer stuff. So far, as I type this, it has done the job. The laptop is quick and no longer sits scratching it’s head pondering on what it has just been asked to do. My typing skills also seem to have improved.
P1430115sm5 locks, 1 of them twice, 4.38 miles, 3 lift bridges, 2 assisted with, 1 full water tank, S3 bus four times, 5 tech sessions, 1st dress, 1 short day, 36 hrs hopefully at home, 1 high tailed cat.

Monday, 5 November 2018

2 Minds! 4th November

Thrupp to Kidlington Green Lock

I’m in two minds.

P1430088sm1 mind

It’s really rather great to have her back. It means that I get someone nice and comfy to sleep against in the middle of the night, instead of Tom who isn’t appreciative of my extra warmth. I get to hear my name being called out along the towpaths of England and Wales (I like the sound of my name). And I get extra Dreamies and the odd head nudge too, Tom doesn’t do these.

2 my other mind

I won’t get to stay out for quite as long as I like! She closes the door so I can’t go back out before it’s even dark (Tom sometimes does this too). She’s not so easy to get passed with friends when I bring them home.

But for the moment I think I like it better when she’s home in the same outside as us. Not the chippy one she keeps going on about.

P1430092smToday they have swapped outsides in the rain, tying one up which has a very muddy field alongside. I’ve had great fun digging it up for the farmer.

This week Tom has been moving the outside by himself again. I keep offering to lend a paw but he keeps refusing. I even brought home a new member of crew to help out but he didn’t seem too pleased at the idea and spent ages finding it to just leave in the outside!

IMG_20181101_095310382_HDRsmApparently the other day, when the outside was the big meadow with all the cows that walk for miles that way and then miles the other way only to change their minds and walk back again, Oleanna completed her 2000th mile. She is sad that she missed this milestone. I missed it too as I mustn’t have been looking out of the window at the time, I wonder if it was very big?!

I quite like this outside, but Tom thinks he might try to move us closer to Oxford on his own next week. She was a bit too pooped to move much outside today and didn’t want to be messing with those heavy bridges. Now if he’d kept that new crew member I’d brought home there would have been two of us to help with them. Instead he’ll just have to struggle whilst I watch from inside.

P1430097sm1 lock, 2.04 miles, 2013.25 miles in total, 1 rejected crew, 4 brown paws, 2 minds, 1 happy face.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Panto Postcard 2

65 hours
I seem to be finding energy that I must have been storing up over the last four years! Another long week in Panto land.
IMAG0690smThis week I’ve discovered treasure,
IMAG0669smIMAG0674smpainted the Eye Of Horus, carved fruit and veg, put up canopies, cut holes in things, knitted, IMAG0681smmounted Gods and the sun, held my tongue on several occasions and on others let it go.
I suspect that the camel that was around for filming on Monday would have been a better choice for the new assistant technician than the 18 year old that got the job. She has worked out her hourly rate and isn’t that impressed. For what she manages to achieve (which apparently is exhausting) she is being paid loads, especially after I worked out what my hourly rate is currently (I get a fee for the job). I’m already below minimum wage and there is still another two weeks to go!
IMAG0686smWill, the producer, has helped out quite a bit this week, bringing another brain onto stage and helping things progress. There is still a lot to do. But this coming week Chris the carpenter returns, so jobs will hopefully fly off the list. Come next Wednesday the technical rehearsals start. This is when the actors, lights, band, costumes, props and set all get put into the mix and made to work together. The advantage of the actors rehearsing on stage is that I already have a long list of things that need doing, just a shame that they tend to be in the way!
IMAG0694smYesterday there was a stagger through of the show, with breaks for the scene changes. Pages of notes were written, I just need to start crossing them off now.
One thing that has been crossed off is the floor. Last night I started to mark out for the artwork at 7pm. Touching up the days scuffs, I had all the painting done by midnight. A quick break for something to eat and then the first of two coats of glaze to protect it. Whilst waiting for that to dry I got a few moor things crossed off my list, the top coat of glaze was applied by 2am. It can now cure for a day before anyone walks on it.
IMAG0705smIMAG0709smMy next problem was trying to get to the boat. All the cab firms in Chipping Norton seemed to have closed up for the night. I tried and tried, considered ringing an Oxford firm, but in the end I headed back to my digs. My landlady thought I was going to be away until Monday, so I tried my best not to make any noise as I tip toed in fighting my way past the big curtained door. Pepper the cat certainly noticed me and was a bit put out when I ushered her out of my bedroom.
IMAG0712smA few hours sleep and I was awake to sneak out past the curtained door again and catch my own private bus to Langford Locks. Almost a mile walk and I was back in Thrupp where Oleanna sat, the stove alight and two cheery faces greeted me.
IMG_20181102_074149260_HDRsmDuring the week Mick has single handed Oleanna here to meet me. Tilly has made more friends, brought one home and now the back doors are most definitely closed when she is out. Coal Boat Dusty has delivered five bags of coal and a new gas bottle. Sadly what diesel they had was already spoken for. So yesterday Mick called in at Kingsground in Gibraltar, to top up the tank. Here he had a shock, at £1.15 a litre! No mention of a split and cash only. We just have to hope that the diesel hasn’t been sat around for too long.
IMG_20181101_095310382_HDRsmIMG_20181103_135036577smAt Shipton Weir Lock there were work boats, stop planks and fencing all awaiting the start of the closure there tomorrow. Come the morning Oleanna will be stuck south of the lock for the rest of the month.
P1430082smToday we’ll move closer to Oxford, but not into the city itself. An hours cruise will get Mick and the boat nearer civilisation for some shopping and me near to bus stops. The lift bridges can all wait for next weekend.
12 locks, 19.68 miles, 2 lift bridges, 1 held up, 2 much work, 18 year old moaner, 1 slosh test, 3 stalls, 1 eye, 0 chilled medication (even though nobody would have known!), 5 long days, 3 holes, 2 heavy, 2 cumbersome, 1 floor painted, 2 coats glaze, 0 taxis, 1 friend, 1 lovely looking boat, 1 day at home, 1 tired but caring boater/designer.