In the situation of having delightful company for the next few days and no tree to decorate - having a dying conifer in the front room not being my idea of a celebration - the resourceful engineer turns to the next best thing, which is, of course, a hand pillar drill of unknown age.
Bought at the inevitable car boot sale a good few months back, it's a fine beast that deserves a picture uncluttered by lights & tinsel, indeed a full post. It needs a bit of sprucing up, but should tackle most jobs without fuss. The chuck is moved down by a screw thread rather than lever as on electric ones, it'll interesting getting used to it, once I've a decent workbench (with space for the large Record vice currently sitting in my hallway, too), and possibly a nice boat hold to put that in...
Anyway. It's been a year of more work than boating, but thankfully a lot of the latter has been sociable, often on other people's craft. So thank you and 'more of this kind of thing' to everyone I've hitched a lift with, cornered at a boat festival or shared a pub table with, especially one person, to borrow a phrase, without whom I'd rather not be. I toast you all, in my case with a wee glass of Weston's vintage cider...
Sometimes it's all too easy to see a city as a cold, human dominated place, taken over, paved and 'developed' (what a marvellous misuse of the word that is) to an inch of it's life, literally. But in the corners, the dark places, it's not nearly that bad.
The Eel Pie Island fox in a previous post knew the safe places, was healthy, confident in the (admittedly waning) daylight, shareing the space rather than hiding away. It's always fascinated me that a street at 1am is a completely different place than at 1pm, a different habitat, seen by different eyes and used in different ways. Cyling through strange bits of south London last night, two foxes calmly trotted along the street, in a way they wouldn't have done at ten in the morning, feeling I was in their space rather than they were in mine. Tonight, again, a peaceful meeting of eyes with another, more local fox more than made up for the other late night Saturday wildlife - the drunks in the car shouting badly thought out abuse at the cyclist (I deserve something more original that d*ckhead, surely). Watching them, slaloming up the road and not noticing a green light as they chose their next CD, they merited a voiceover from Attenborough or Oddie as much as any creature.
Admittedly, I prefer the foxes, the plants that grow up through the cracks in the concrete, the smiles and the triumphs of sharing rather than taking for oneself. Humans - surely a lowering of nature's tone, the lowest common denominator of life itself - don't have it all their own way. Even here, in a place of concrete, bricks & asphalt.
There's a BW Strategy document on the Brentford Community Council website that's worth a read discussing why there's not much through traffic, and potential improvements, such as extra moorings in the main basin above the gauging locks. I did note a day or two ago that not all the winter mooring spaces have been taken up this year, but anyway.
Whatever they think should happen, will there be any money to do anything? I can't imagine there will be.
Also on that link is the local response to the document (largely scathing), and also other documents discussing the various Thames moorings at Watermans Park. A local councillor once refused to tell me of the complaints being received, so it's nice to have access to the paperwork. I can't help feeling that a large part of it is attitude - people want twee riverside views without boats to clutter them up. I can't help comparing the situation with Eel Pie Island, of course...
On a complete whim on Sunday, we got a bus down to Twickenham & Eel Pie Island, to find that it was one of the very few weekends when the little artist's enclave opens up and they sell their wares:
There's various gallery/work spaces - some seeming more like the former than latter in various sheds, and in one case a landbound wooden boat. There was some interesting art to be seen, but of course I was more fascinated by the spaces, the shapes (although wondering why some of the more insubstantial looking places hadn't been throughly insulated with slabs of kingspan), and the sourroundings; on the edge of a working boatyard and around a dry dock, there's even a bridge section from a pretty large ship placed centrally. I'll indulge myself with a few pictures, but I should point out it's all open next weekend too, and worth a visit.
Humping wheelbarrows, especially for Carrie:
Once back on the mainland, eating chips and looking out back at the island, we spotted a largeish fox pottering about, looking a lot heathier than the usual skinny foxes to be seen on the city streets. Eeli pie island must be ideal - lots of quiet gardens, riverside life, and a quick trip over the bridge to Twickenham High Street's back alleys...
These are the two books I can find written by Harry Hanson, both in the 70s. 'The Canal Boatman 1760-1914' is a detailed, heavily referenced work published in 1975, adapted from his MA thesis at the University of Manchester. It's a sociological work, really, and an interesting read. Inevitably a lot of the written record is about misdemeanors, but it certainly challenges some of Rolt's romanticisms of life on the water.
'Canal People' is a popularised version, in a very typical David & Charles style, who published it in 1978. The first book has a very few photos, there's more in 'Canal People'.
Whilst I have no evidence other than circumstantial that this is the same Harry Hanson, it all seems to fit - and it's even possible that the David & Charles money paid for Lyndon to be built in the first place. A nice thought.
Incidentally, Jim Shead's site lists two other boats built by John Else - I'd better make sure on getting the license next year I add that info on, and make it a third.
I suspect we all see boats occasionally that we would love to have, whatever practical or financial circumstances - Urk is one such, first seen around Little Venice, and then on Saturday whilst hitchiking a ride on Herbie from Ware to Hertford (and having a lovely time too). Seeing a for sale note in the window caused a bit of a 'what if' moment; if anyone has forty grand and is wondering what to get me for the festive season, I wouldn't say no... I'm a fickle type, though, and in a very Mr Toad type way seeing the lovely and much loved broads cruiser 'Gaia' in Brentford today turned my head too... ;-)
Anyway, here's a vague view of the lovely rear cabin bulkhead of Urk; who could resist?
Round the corner from me, there is - or rather there was - a pub that looked like this:
It only ever had a couple of people propping up the bar of an evening, so it was sad but inevitable that it closed and was up for sale, to be bought by developers and turned into this:
This was all a month or two ago; only a few weeks ago I looked up when passing and noted the silhouette on the front, and grinned broadly:
It's a local literary reference, and worth explaining.
Writer Robert Rankin, once of this parish (I have a picture of him somewhere playing my mandolin banjo at a gig, but that's another story) wrote a selection of books known as the Brentford Trilogy. In that great tradition of trilogies, there were nine at last count.
Inevitably (for Brentford), most of the action happens in the pub - the Flying Swan. The Bricklayers Arms is one of the pubs thought to be a model for the said hostelry, although the geography doesn't always work (why would anyone go down Mafeking Avenue to get anywhere), and other pubs are available...
So despite the demise of the building as a public house and now being three small houses (and hopefully much loved homes), someone - the owner of the middle house, or the developer, or whoever - has paid their own little tribute, in their own way. As I say, it made me smile.
It's been a while... there's a couple of blog posts, proper ones with one subject and a picture coming along, but who needs convention...
Well, we haven't quite finished the studio, but even so, find ourselves in the company of two cheery northern bearded types who like motorbikes & cooking, and working more days than anyone thought possible. There's still tickets if anyone wants to sit in a studio for four hours watching other people cook; it must appeal to somebody.
One thing about being stuck at work all day; we're stuck with handcuffed installations of windows xp & IE7 on the computer, and some blogs just crash that, some don't, depending on the template, I think. I'm generally inclined to blame Bill Gates, but it does mean I don't always get to see what people are up to, sadly.
A wee bit of boating to report; we had a lovely day last week bumbling along the Aylesbury arm on Blackbird, which is thankfully a lot nicer than the mere flight of locks I imagined it to be (although sixteen locks in six miles is at least noteworthy, Adam would love it). One pound was so low we were pushing through mud, another stretch was straight out of the African Queen (the bit going through reeds, not were they forge a new prop from a bit of ore over a wood fire). We also sussed out the inevitable biker pub with pool table & decent jukebox (although every possible variant of heavy metal did dominate somewhat).
Tortoise needs the odd job doing, as ever; on a quick visit to the moorings I did manage to solve the Mystery of the Missing Logs, albeit with an explanation rather than restoration. More usefully I should note that the 1 & 1/2 13w suitcase solar panels I have topping up the domestic electrics seem to be doing a fine job; the last 1/2 sits on the ageing starter battery, similarly. Don't know if Tortoise will manage any more excursions this year, but if anyone else is passing through West London, as ever do shout, and if I'm not at work marvelling about the geordie pronunciation of 'strudel', I might come & do a lock or two. Or just come to the pub afterwards, who knows.
Whilst I was bring Tortoise back down the GU, a man delivering a boat for ABNB took a good hard look at Tortoise and asked me if I knew who built my boat - I didn't but he did. He'd recognised the boat as being built by his friend John Else, who is still working on boats in Sawley.
I was able to track him down by phone and had a quick chat - I then sent him a few photos and got this response back, which has filled in the details of Tortoise's first twenty years of existance, before Jim & Mary, the previous owners, bought her at Alvechurch in around 2000:
I confirm that a hull only was built around 1978/9 for a Mr Harry Hanson who lived in Lyndon Road, Solihull. The boat went down to the Black Bouy Pub & Club near my boatyard at Knowle (now Goldsborough Boats). Harry then put a wooden cabin on - which was fairly normal for the time - and boat club members fitted a 4 cyl petrol engine for him.
Harry owned the boat for 10 years and a steel top was fitted by Black Bouy Club members before he sold it, and I fitted at 1.5 BMC diesel engine about 1989. I then built a 30' NB shell with a BMC 2.2 diesel at Knowle around 1988 - Harry died round 1999? Many happy hours were spent on Lyndon with wife & two daughters.
I am delighted that the boat is still going and overplayed etc - the original hull was only 3/16" or 4mm to keep cost down etc.
Also on the phone John had confirmed is was a hull designed for river use as much as canals - I've been told the fact that the prop shaft slants down (rather than being horizontal) is a typical sign of this previously. I'd always suspected the BMC wasn't the original engine, too.
John said he'd just moved, but if he finds any original paperwork or photos he'll pass them on - it would be fascinating to see the original wooden top version, too.
I don't know what I expected to find when I looked up Harry Hanson online, but he - or someone of that name - has written a couple of (possibly quite academic) books about life working on canals. I've found one to buy s/h on the net and await it's arrival.
It's also important I think to know the original name of the boat - Lyndon. I'd known this was the name of the boat when boat by Jim & Mary, but had assumed that was from the previous owners names - Lyn & Don - don't know where I got that from now. Being named after the area that Harry lived in seems fine & respectful, and had I known I might have restored that name.
It's all a bit strange, a bit like finding a long-lost relative. But lovely.
While on our trip on the Leighton Buzzard Light railway, I spotted a map showing the original scope of the line:
Looking closer, yes, there's the short section of rail on a wharf by the canal that's long made me curious:
It looks like this little bit of line was separate to the currently running stretch, could well have been a separate company, even. The remains of industry fascinate me, especially when largely forgotten; it would be great to try to search out other remains of this second line, but for the mean time I can only look at maps online:
The route of the standard gauge brach is clearly visible; by it's very nature, 'light' railway was pretty much emphemeral and made less of an impact on the land.
Edited to add - Carrie's sent me a picture of the wharf itself, looking pretty much ready for a few trucks to be rolled in:
I've a few posts yet to make, when I have time; one is actually quite exciting, at least to me. But this time I want to write about a pub - I see Carrie's beaten me to it, but my picture is ever so slightly different (but only just) ;-)
Back in my wayward musician days we played in Leighton Buzzard a few times, and I've been up from London to see friends play at least once. We approached the Wheatsheaf with trepidation (well, I did) - had they decorated? become a gastropub? Worse still, repaired - or even tuned - the piano?
Thankfully not - they even still have the same old 'Dynamix' PA speakers on the wall (we used them once, after they told us they had their own PA - we used mine next time). The piano is as random as ever (and I didn't get thrown out for attempting 'Dingle Regatta' on it), the jukebox as good as ever (although Freebird seemed ever so short), and the company was perfect. We tend to approach pool as a game of chance rather than skill, which at least means we get out money's worth.
It's a kind of bikery local, really, still with lots of live music. It's more of a walk from the canal than some might prefer (top of high st, turn left into North St), but for a lazy wet Saturday afternoon, I doubt you'll find better.
Spotted on the way out of Milton Keynes - I like the conservatory section especially. Here's the second one close up - not fussed about the tug deck setup, but the spare bits of steel on the cloths made my day. ;-)
I'm writing this back on the home moorings on the Slough arm, after a run down from Kings Langley, and a day from Cowroast to Kings Langley last week.
In a fit of optimism earlier in the year, I thought I'd have time for a gentle meander up to the midlands and back over the summer in the odd long weekend. Work had other ideas, and even I have limited energy... hence the quick run back. A boat should be a gentle pleasure, not a contractual obligation to be moved every two weeks, and I look forward to when I have more time, for the boat, as well as hopefully more iminently, myself and those I hold close. Plenty of pictures & stuff to come, but an interchange from yesterday:
(annoying woman with windlass from boat waiting to go up) 'Are you on your own?' (me, pulling boat out of lock by the centre rope) silence, and a meaningful look (annoying woman with windlass from boat waiting to go up) 'Are you on your own?' (me, pulling boat out of lock by the centre rope) 'how's that relevant now?' (annoying woman with windlass from boat waiting to go up) 'because if you had someone else on the boat they could drive it out for you' (me, pulling boat out of lock by the centre rope) silence, and a meaningful look
Although I'd cite this as just how bloody stupid some people are, it can be more charitably used to illustrate what a unique science single handed boating is, only really known to those who have tried it. It's like so many things - it's rare for people to see things from the other side, see the other person's point of view. We can but aspire.
It's on as I type, but it's worth saying that Radio 4 are currently repeating Cabin Pressure, a classic, perfectly formed four-hander sitcom. I hope the rumours of a third series are true - Roger Allam as the disgraced ex-captain who actually sounds like a captain, and Benedict Cumberbatch ('Sherlock' to you) as the actual captain, Stephanie Cole as the boss as John Finnemore writing & playing the brilliantly dim cabin boy.
I don't think I've ever been that good at names and details, which may be a good thing, as I may not be getting worse with age, and may have always been this bad.
Anyway, in July 2008 I bought a brazier made from a gas bottle from a guy who was turning a wee 26' boat into a floating workshop; at that poiont very much a work in progress. Just above the Globe I passed him again; no-one was around, but he's done up the boat nicely, and has lots of nice things to buy (most of which probably not much use on a boat, but there you go). The tiny boat - I think that was called Jasper - is now simply 'Smithy', and despite racking my brain I can't remember his name at all. There's no contact info on the side of the boat, either, so I just left him a note. Anyway, mobile welding, custom jobs, all that; see the nice man on Smithy (and accompanying longer liveaboard).
There's an old saying that goes along the lines of it you want to give god a laugh, tell him your plans... personally I think if she did exist she'd be too busy swigging gin with her girlfriend to care. Anyway... the main features of July & August this year will be work, rather than boating, although I'm hoping that I do actually get a bit of a trip, slow as it goes.
Plans for occasional gentle wanders up the GU have turned into grabbing time away from work when I can. We managed a couple of lovely days Cowroast-Leighton with Neil, Kath & Peter on Herbie blogged here so I don't have to... any references to jetskis are due to using doing locks on one gate, and the smaller boat doing all the acrobatics that generally involves. All made all the more exciting by the string pull to the left I get from the prop in reverse; that's the best excuse I've come up with so far, anyway. Also made my first trip up the Wendover Arm, which was very sweet, a back lane to the GU's A road mood.
We also managed a quick visit to Braunston; very pleasant (and doable by public transport as a day trip, thankfully). It may be heresy (ignore the deity stuff, this is the real deal) - but old working boats are all very nice, but I don't find myself quite as excited about them as some. But I'm happy that their owners love them. ;-)
Then today, a quick contractual obligation run from Leighton up to Fenny Stratford. I did try to do this yesterday but there was a conspiracy against me on Sunday to not run any trains from anywhere in west London, which I wasn't overjoyed about.
I do have a picture & a story to go with it, but that will have to wait until I'm not struggling with a poor internet connection in a fading hotel in Worcestershire...
I must have written before - but I don't recall doing so - about cycling canals before having a boat. Here and there in the nineties if I had a few days off and nothing better to do, I'd stick a tent & sleeping bag on the back of my bike, and cycle a canal [towpath]. The first one was Brentford to Birmingham, of course, a neat three days; subsequently I did Wolverhampton to Llangollen, and Reading to Bath, and possibly more. They were lovely trips - I remember friendly boaters (and less than friendly fishermen), and a self-imposed rule of stopping at the next pub if it started raining. Some of the towpaths were barely impassable, due to edge corrosion or just good old plain mud, and I relaise now I wasn't really helping the situation by cycling on them in that stte. I'd generally find a bit of waste ground to camp on, once on a bit of waste ground on the off side fo a lock, that kind of thing.
Anyway, on that first trip, somewhere near Leighton Buzzard, I spotted a boat in Fullers Brewery colours called 'The Griffin', and took a picture. That subsequently got enlarged, framed and given to my local pub, the Griffin. I may have said enough about this particular brewery, but give me a small pub that stocks bottles of Fullers beer (at room temperature, not chilled to tastelessness) and I'm unlikely to complain. Anyway, that picture's still there (just to the right before you get to the loos, if you're passing), and a little better composed than the ones below...
Tortoise is at Cowroast, moored just a little down from Griffin's home mooring, and indeed Griffin is in residence. I realise I rarely name other boats I mention (for good or bad reasons), but not much point in hiding this one:
I've no idea what connection, if at all, the boat has with the brewery - some, I guess, as it's mentioned as being at the opening of the Paper Mill in Apsley in a report on the net. For me it's a reminder of my early canal trips, as much as the namesake of the pub at the end of the road...
i think you'd have to be really, really uninterested in the world around you to not know what happened last weekend. The Rachel Corrie, sailing from Ireland a few days later was similarly hijacked in international waters; the first thing the Israelis do is block mobile and satellite transmissions, we're still waiting for news of those on that ship.
Boater Sharyn Lock, whilst not on the convoy this time has been able to blog on, and is well worth a read, her most recent post includes links to recent press articles. I'll add to those links (all recommended) Swedish author Henning Mankell's moving account of his experiences - like all people involved, all personal possessions (including any way of recording what happened) were removed and not returned - stolen by any other name.
Time and again Israel openly commit atrocities, flouts international law, suppresses media coverage (and gives us their smug spokesman instead) - and the rest of the world at best tut, and continue to support, fund, trade with and side with, Israel. It's about time this changed.
This post was going to be about canals, and escapism. Escaping from the events of the mediterranean, west Cumbria (where I grew up - good article on how so much more dignified the locals have been than the media here) and the forthcoming world cup (and associated nationalism). It's a priviledge to have that, to be able to watch young birds learning to feed and forget the world, but it's still out there. I wonder if fewer of us ignored it permanently, it might be in a better state.
Whilst the Dunkirk renactment is in the news, what is barely mentioned is a real life rescue mission, here and now. Eight (at last count) ships of various types are crossing the mediterrean in an attempt to bring much needed supplies into Gaza, another underreported ongoing disaster. These include MV Rachel Corrie from Ireland, named after the activist killed by Israeli police some years ago.
More gentle bumbling - Friday the main priority was filling the water tank and emptying another one, so I moved up a couple of locks to the facilities point and did what needed doing. The moorings there were full, so I carried on a little and found myself a lovely offside mooring just above bridge 152, by a small public park entirely serving the local dogwalkers (and apparently children disposing of maths worksheets):
Today proved to be largely wet, but I did manage to explore Hemel Hempstead. The 'old town' is so well hidden I had to go back to the boat and use the internet to ascertain it even existed, and when I did find it - well, a bit of a backwater of estate agents and curry houses - sadly people seem to prefer the monstrosity that is the shopping centre. I did find some MR16 eyeball mounts in the 99p shops though, which may well come into use with LED lights - I'll see. The second exiting thing about the town is the the roundabout where the traffic goes around both ways at once, a less than welcome surprise to a boater on a custom shopper bike.
I was just thinking about moving when another boat came past - only the second I'd seen moving all day - so we got to share a few locks (and the electric swing bridge, thankfully) up to Winkwell - where we may well have a half or two in the pub later.
Understandably it's only 48hr moorings here (I do wish it would occur to Nicholsons that such information would be useful to boaters) so I'll probably carry on to Berkhamstead in the morning...
My 2008 trip was marvellous, but more boating than seeing - I passed through many places rather than being in them. A potentially busy summer at work and a desire to take things in means that this year I want to make slow, gentle progress when I can, rather than measuring days in numbers of Nicholson pages covered. It'll of course also be in hops of a few days rather than a big block of time.
(I must say of course there's nothing wrong with long days and hard work, and I'm sure there'll be plenty for me too. If you want to read how it's really done try Dove, , who did the run down to Rickmansworth in record time and now are on their way back up...)
We picked up Tortoise in Rickmansworth (still many, many boats there after the festival, unless they were just there to start with), and made time to wander around more, explore the town (I mean charity & fruit/veg shops, funadmentally, and the odd pub) and the lakes more or less alongside the mooring. The following day we did a gentle hop up to Cassiobury park - more woodlands & greenery, albeit no pub.
I'd never really explored Kings Langley; I now have, it didn't take long. We were amused though, having watched The Bargee* in the previous few days to spot the star of the film moored at Kings Langley, cloths shyly reminding people of it's fame... ;-)
On to stop at Apsley, paying a small fortune for Crabbies ginger beer in the Paper Mill pub (horrible large Fullers pub with no bottled Fullers beer, I'm best off sticking to my local, I think) and a wander, including spotting Herbie's imposter, albeit having the good grace to display a '2' on the side to show it's secondary position.
There's a nice looking veggie cafe as part of the largely unatural looking development & marina - Woodys (interesting comments on the link, mind) - we had coffee, sitting in the sun, before catching a train home, and it was fine.
Probably heading further up at the weekend, distractions permitting. ;-)
* more dedicated bloggers would make that into a separate post, but it was fun to spot locations as well as actors, and well worth a watch.
Leaving Uxbridge heading north on the Saturday, it was kind of inevitable really. A strange day, following a single boat through locks for much of the day, so in the end I retaliated and waited for the boat behind me in the next one, which took all of the time required to make myself a cup of tea, so no great worry there. I was wondering if a boat would actually avoid sharing with a single hander - most of whom, in my experience, are keen to do more rather than less of their share of the work.
I vaguely planned to find a mooring way before the festival site, but the reserved moorings went as far back as Stoker's Lock. Nevertheless I found a wee slot, which apparently had been too small for the boat booked into it, so that was that - and yes, I did find someone and pay an entry fee. Later on I found a few refugees from Northolt and later still a campfire singalong that didn't mind a bit of mandolin noodling from me, so all was well.
Sunday I got to see the event itself - a pretty big local do with a couple of stages, the smaller of which was pretty close to Tortoise. I spent most of the afternoon watching the boat tug of war contest - kind of fascinating, very laddish, and not really something Tortoise would have much of a chance in. Mike of Victoria seemed to be video-ing most of it, so I'm sure they'll turn up on youtube soon.
it all got a bit wet, but I did manage to see Ed Keene (links to youtube video of what he does) on the Owls World stage. I've seen people using looping boxes on stage before, but this was great - true multi instrumentalism, I was drawn to the tent by the sound of some kind of balkan orchestra, and like many people was surprised to see one person on stage. Good music, rather than just a gimmick, I think. Reminded me of some jamming with friends years ago, that sadly never got further than my front room. ;-(
I bumbled from Kensal Green over to Uxbridge today; a pleasant enough trip, even when sitting behind a boat doing tickover - very much my problem, not theirs. I stopped to make a cup of tea, and by the time I caught up with them, they'd moored. ;-) It was strangely easy to straight past the entrance to the Slough Arm, still not signposted, although I shoudl know where it is by now. ;-) I moored just in front of a very very sweet 30' boat; didn't really see inside, but it seems to be a back cabin with loo setup and then a kind of faux-clothed front hold containing the bedroom. I also admired the extended hold on 'G's Cargo', where Glenda makes her cratch covers... ;-)
Tucked away in the verge, just by where I'm moored was this small old milestone - 'To the Thames - 10 Miles'. I can't help suspecting it used to be a lot more prominent...
I hardly need to write anything about Little Venice this year, it's been nicely documented already by Neil & Kath, Sarah & Jim and James & Amy , part of the consistantly fine company I had all weekend. I did consider some kind of charity swear box for every time James said 'B*linder' on Monday, mind. ;-) I've also highly amused by the picture taken of me that makes me appear to fit in more than I've possibly fitted in anywhere, at least visually. ;-)
One thing I would like to praise though was the Puppet Theatre, resident in Brownings Pool (albeit going on tour on the Thames in the summer - it would be great to see them on the move). We saw a lovely show of performing monkey marionettes - not something I'd want to see with real animals, but a charming, innocent yet knowing half an hour. They're doing 'The Hare and the Tortoise' in the summer, which I think has to be seen. ;-)
I do like the gentle camaraderie of boating blogs, and the little circles, peer groups we make that often overlap, but I wonder if there were similar meetings of other bloggers, there or elsewhere, like a series of walled venn diagrams, or a kind of maze where you sometimes peer over the hedges and read a few other blogs too. Anyway, I'm honoured to be part of it, with my peculiar little ways and just as peculiar little boat. ;-)
Speaking of which, summer plans are largely being made for me, framed by work projects and PA gigs, but I hope to able to wander slowly up the Grand Union with Tortoise, making gentle rather than rapid progress, being in a place rather than just passing through it. I'm looking forward to it.
On the train route from Euston to the north west of England, if you sit on the west side of the train, there's lots of canal watching - firstly the Grand Union (from Stonebridge Park aqueduct, then in fits & starts up to Wolverton, then bits of the Trent & Mersey (and possible N Oxford/Coventry too), sometimes parallel to the railway. No surprise, of course, the two modes of transport were built for similar reasons not too far apart in time. The slow London Midland trains stop list sounds more like a canal itinery - Rugby, Atherstone, Poleworth, Rugeley, Stone...
If, however, you walk into Euston station and follow the sign saying 'tickets', the machines there will charge you £49 for a return to Rugeley - for they are Virgin ticket machines. If you ask a member of staff, they may grudgingly point you at a little booth by the platforms, where a cheerful soul will sell you the same ticket for £17. Yep, it's a slower train and you can't change onto a fast Virgin service for most of the journey, but that's more reading - or canal watching time.
Then of course there's the audacity - if not temerity - of Cross Country who wanted to - and indeed did - charge me £4.80 for an 11 minute journey a few days later, Burton to Tamworth, only to be surrounded by hooray henry students in medieval battledress loudly celebrating the 'spoils of war'. I suspect the reality of 'spoils of war' would come as a bit of a shock to them.
While I'm digressing - that thing on next week - please don't vote for a racist. There's plenty about - three such candidates in my local constituency, all of whom would refuse to acknowledge the title, but who deserve it. Mind you, the other choices will invariably include a war criminal or destroyer of society (those of us who survived the eighties know exactly who to blame for 'broken britain', matey), but just please don't vote racist.
Whilst being slightly nosy in a Stone boatyard, we spotted a hull being heavily worked on; in fact it had a new bottom and lower sides, new swim, had been stretched by 10', and the previous cabin had been cut off. So mostly a new boat, really. ;-) The curved pieces in the picture below are actually the old chine sections with quite a curve, the friendly guy we talked to reckoned Spitfire must have been built as an icebreaker, I think.
It proved to be Spitfire, a 'BCN Tug' from 1940. Jim Shead's site lists it as 46', so that would make sense from the stretched length we saw. This is where the internet bit comes in - there's loads of info out there about it, say here (ironically on Roger Fuller's site, Roger having the next boatyard along), here, and here, who ask for up to date information. I mention this as I'd love to have more history for Tortoise, although of course more modern leisure boats tend to be less well recorded. There's twenty years of history lost; 1980 is only a guess of manufacture; Jim & Mary found her for sale as 'Lyndon' (owned by Lyn, and Don) in around 2000 and renamed her Salad Days. In some ways it doesn't matter, but it would be nice...
I think it was last time I rounded Cowley junction (still, incidentally, only signosted 'marina' - the Slough Arm may as well not exist) I spotted my horn wasn't working. I'd get nowhere on Indian roads, but fine on a winter's day in the Uk canal system. Anyway, I finally had a look, and the horn mechanism has well and truly had it. A while ago the spiral acoustic horn assembly had been knocked off the unit, so the subsequent ingress of damp had caused severe corrosion, not even I'm going to try to fix this one. Thankfully the horn was originally bought as half of a pair anyway, so I have a handy replacement.
I'm struggling to find this signifcantly exciting myself, but the horn mechanism proves to be a glorified buzzer, driving a metal diaphragm; 'klaxon' style horns actually used an electric motor to drive a ridged cam against the diapgragm. Yawn...
Anyway, while pottering about on the front bulkhead I'm also sorting out the headlight, which has remained the 'temporary' installation put together in Grove a couple of years ago. I'm mounting a rectangular headlight on the front bulkhead side, along with the horn (and for completion the telly ariel socket), allowing clearance for the front doors be be fully open. This also significantly tidies the wiring - previously the headlight was on the left side of the boat roof, now it's lower on the right. It's still adjustable to favour the tunnel roof and to avoid dazzling oncoming boats, naturally.
After exploring the alleys and back ways of Brentford by the river the other day, it occured to me how much change I've seen in the fifteen years I've lived here. I can't claim to predate the flats on the the Brentford dock estate (60s, built on the site of the railway/Thames interchange yard), but the picture above is of what is now the Ferry Lane estate, once the site had been cleared. The visible building housed Peerless Pumps in the past, is now a restaurant (although I'm not sure if that's still a going concern). In the nearly-canalside Brewery Tap pub (pool table, dogs welcome, folk & blues most evenings) there's an amazing overhead photo of Brentford from around the 1920s, which rewards careful examination - and now all that's left of Brentford's heyday is a little light industry on the south side of the High Street, long since earmarked (and indeed mostly bought up) for unnecessary redevelopment. Nothing wil happen of course until the developers think they'll get the most money out of it.
Now, they're discussing Brentford Lock West, i.e. the towpath side of the basin, where the visitor moorings and last remaining transhipment shed are. It'll be interesting to see how this affects the (very well used, as in nearly always full) visitor moorings, as canal boats sometimes seem to be the last thing people who buy canalside flats want to see.
On slightly more optimistic news, The Six Bells, the pub just to the east of the high street canal bridge has reopened after being closed for a few months, it's original 40s interior replaced by a fairly generic 'traditional' pub look. Haven't been in yet so can't comment on it personally (i.e. noisiness/telly, wifi, dog friendliness), but it's a Fuller's pub, so that's a start...
A tip off from Neil in the pub on Friday night lead to a largely sunny trip down the Slough Arm on Saturday - they'd been cutting back (in some cases removing entirely) some of the trees overhanging the canal, leaving neat piles of logs awaiting passing boaters - of which of course there are very few on the arm. I loaded up with a few of the thinner bits, and carried them home proudly. Sunday's car boot sale prduced an electric reciprocating saw; but even after buying a 3tpi coarse blade, my circular saw proved more efficient at cutting it all up into short logs to go straight on the stove. It burns quite nicely, for green wood - gently and slowly, which suits me fine. I could leave it for a year, but where's the fun in that? ;-)
Meanwhile the car boot also yielded this Ikea light fitting - I wouldn't have paid £18 for it, but for one ninth of that it was worth trying; halogen bulb swapped out for an LED one and transformer cut off, it's more or less what I've been looking for; a downlight for the dinette table, but will also point almost anywhere in the boat (on the stove, or inside the kitchen cupboards I'm slowly building, even a reading light for in bed).
People tell me how difficult it is to find smaller boats, especially new. So, if only for my own amusement, a link to the Little Boat Company who specialise in tiny canal boats, the layout of which seems to be pretty similar to that of Tortoise. Small boats have more fun, as it should say somewhere...
A better picture of the stove in situ, showing clearly the adapter plate, firmly bolted to the stove top. I was initially worried that these bolts would look to be in a fairly ad-hoc pattern (there's a few ridges etc on the low side of the stove top, but I ended up with a neat oval pattern, that also didn't mar Jon's Windy Smithy logo he'd put on the corner. A lovely result. ;-)
The stove works very nicely on coal, too, as expected - lights fairly easily with a firelighter and a few pieces of kindling, and gives a nice gentle heat, with the added bonus of hot water from the kettle, and food cooking. I haven't turned on the gas since the stove's been in & working; obviously will be different in summer.
The old Carabo stove won't be neglected - it's now burning away quite happily in my front room at home. It was all wrapped up to be brought home by trolley & train when Neil mentioned he was driving into town to play bagpipes, so I cheekily hitched a lift home with the stove... ;-) Thanks Neil.
edited to add: I must admit I like the look of the stove without the brass rails around the edge of the top, but I suspect I may well install them for any cruising coming up soon (poss Lee & Stort?) - being able to keep a kettle on top without it falling off will be very, very useful. ;-)