Sunday, 28 December 2008

Christmas on the cut

New residents at High Line - Catherine (who's boat I'm moored alongside) and Will (who has Floss as his non-residential attachee) invited me to join them this year, so I did. The weather wasn't too bad, so it seemed only reasonable to take Tortoise out, and why not go somewhere I hadn't taken her before, even if it was the end of the Slough Arm?

tech note: the batteries (of unknown history) only lasted until we turned. This was a temporary lash up of the time lapse unit and a g-clamp, but any more solid version would also allow for an external power supply. The position of the camera was at the front of the roof - the artist in me wants the horizon to sit at the upper third of the image, so camera position/angle to be played with. This was a frame taken at every 5 seconds; the resulting avi file has a 10fps rate, I've no idea what youtube does to frame rate after that... Also apologies for the few frames of me staring into it to make sure it's working - that may well be a feature of such videos until I sort out some editing software. ;-)

As we went along I thought a slight yaw motion would show up badly on the time lapse video, but what it does show is how much a little boat needs course correcting, especially when driven with a glass of champagne in my hand and a dodgy soundtrack (link only really of interest to those who know Catherine and/work the work of Lynryrd Skynryd), not to mention texting, waving at people and generally bringing canal users into disrepute (about time, if you ask me).

In amongst the visiting, drinking and mediocre telly, I did manage a walk in the woodlands opposite, and found a 10" length of rail, presumably cast aside from the nearby railway line. I often need something solid to hammer things against, so I carried all 14kg of it (that's two stone to you) home. Another reminder of the serious work that the navvies who built the railways, and the canals before that, put in.

These couple of days were typical of something that sums up a great year of faffing about on the canals; the people. Whether I'm passing the time of day at a lock, chatting to Jim & Mary (previous owners of Tortoise) in the local supermarket, meeting other boating bloggers (Pav, Neil C, Andrew Denny, Carrie, Ali & Richard and of course the Bones & Maffi posse) or waffling at people on the towpath at Iver - it's all interesting, and dare I say it, a peer group I mostly seem to fit in to. To misquote one Marx, other people may not want to be members of a club that will have me, but to quote the other one:

The human being is in the most literal sense a political animal, not merely a gregarious animal, but an animal which can individuate itself only in the midst of society.

I'm used to my own company, but, by & large, people make it worth while. Thank you, one & all.

Monday, 22 December 2008

It's here!

My lovely little Windy Smithy stove has arrived this morning, and is sitting very happily in the hearth in my front room. It's small, but in a very temporary installation (CO alarm brought home from the boat, just in case) it's giving a lovely gentle heat. The kettle sitting on top in the picture is a cheap camping one with a lip around the base (designed for a gas stove), one with a flat bottom would pick up a lot more heat. Anyway, a gorgeous little stove, small enough to be flexible, and woudl work well on a boat, of course. I had a look at a few others around - there's a lot in forums etc on the web - for the same price as a chinese one, say, I've got a hand made one from Devon. Very happy with it.

Question for boaters - recommendations for a pub to go to on a day trip from Iver morrings, in winter (so short day)? I'm guessing Uxbridge or West Drayton, I wasn't over-impressed with the pub by the marina, but it might do...

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Of Stoves & Stuff

Time to get some more work done on the boat; a tedious bus to Uxbridge, a trip to the Uxbridge Boat Centre chandlery and then a trip on the useful 58 bus back to Langley (goes from the top of Waterloo Road in Uxbridge to the strangely placed bus stop just by the top entrance to the moorings, albeit for a steep £3.90 and no they don't take 6 zone travelcards). After a certain amount with faffing with other people's boats and drinking tea, a few pieces were cut to fit the stove surround. This needs gluing & screwing in, then of course tiling, but it's a job that's been hanging around for ages, and will improve things markedly. It's anoying how flash photography makes everything look so much muckier... ;-( The hearth is to be extended forward, too, as the stove ended up further forward than I'd hoped, it's all fine really.

Still a few jobs to be done to be even vaguely ready for the BSC next summer; I've made a list, and that's a start.

Around this time of year I indulge myself and buy something that isn't entirely useful or beautiful (which is why my house doesn't look like William Morris'); this year it may just break those rules, as I've bought myself a small woodburner from Jon at Windy Smithy in Devon. Hopefully arriving Monday; to be used in the front room, but I like the idea it may end up anywhere, as may I, in the future.

Ironically I a share a pay-as-you-go electricity point with Herbie - only you pay a £5 at a time, so it's hardly easy to share. Neil - I've left a note in there with how much was left when I plugged in. I'll pay you back what I owe, possibly in beer...?

Finally I've been told, by the way, that there's heightened sun spot activity at the moment, which means that aurora borealis may be visible in the UK this weekend, a suitable natural celebration of the winter solstice if there ever was one. I'm in London and unlikely to be best placed to see anything, but watch the skies...