Saturday, 17 December 2011

spotted in a bookshop

Not just any bookshop, but Barnard's bookshop in Uxbridge, as mentioned in Pearson's guide.

An intriguing looking children's book based on the canals, ostensibly about someone who runs away from the circus, let's just hope it's not based on John Major's early years.

From the publisher's website:

Peggy, a jolly woman of the waterway, is astonished to find a grubby 11-year-old Zed hiding in a cupboard on the narrowboat she is taking to Boswell’s Yard for repair. What do to with him? Peggy calls her friend Trip Boat Tim and his collie Barney to help. Unwilling to return a tearful Zed to his cruel uncle, they enlist the help of the local schoolteacher and policeman to contact Zed’s family and find out where he belongs.

Author Mike Simmons is reputed (as in I'm sure I read it five minutes ago but can't find it now) to live on a boat near London, and also finds inspiration in the works of Michael Morpurgo; sounds good to me.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

unlikely poster boy

Tony of NB Universe was handed this on the towpath, recognised me and emailed it over. Apparently she wants more pictures of me, but I won't be playing ball - I'm barely a boater, but obviously I look like someone's image of one, and anyway, that hat is sadly now lost (actually a theatrical prop left behind by Cbeebies on one of their many studio moves).

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here

I only made it to Slough Canal Festival by bike this year, only having one day off that weekend. A few days later, however, I took Tortoise down to the road bridge to collect (a much delayed, but anyway) wood delivery. Having heard rumours of logs further down, I headed west. Access as far as the festival site a couple of bridges further down wasn't too bad, having had a few boats up and down (the trip boat did a sterling job of picking up rubbish on it's prop), but from there onwards, it was a nightmare. The rather unclear picture above is the view down the weedhatch; there's prop in there somewhere, but I'm not sure where. There's just so many platic bags, basically, and it's not going to get any better; more boats would at least pick them up out of the way for the rest of us, but there's nothing to go to on that stretch anyway, and the canal's full of plastic bags...

I gave up on finding any stashes of logs, but settled on a couple of flytipped pallets and the odd log or two which seems to have been fished out of the canal and dumped. It's a start.

Monday, 12 September 2011

man swims, press grounded

A late start at work allowed me to wander down to the Thames to see David Walliams swim past on the ebbing tide:

To be honest there wasn't much to see - a dot surrounded by support boats; it's the human endeavour that is the spectacle rather than a momentary glimpse. A few people were following him down the Kew side towpath, and on the Brentford side a smattering of pot banging, whistle blowing and flag waving marked his passing.

As Mr Walliams moved on, though; the following boat, containing the gentlemen & ladies of the press, er, didn't, just sat there revving it's outboard. There's a bank of gravel where the Brent joins the Thames, and they found it. At first the fourth estate took the opportunity for a photocall:

but, as the Walliams entourage disappeared around the corner to Kew Bridge, it was clear they weren't going anywhwere this side of the tide. Eventually the PLA launch 'Chelsea' came to the rescue and took off the journos:

The launch & crew just had to sit there; they were still there at midday as I left for work, and had another few hours to wait for the water:

Meanwhile, the tiny dinghy originally following the whole lot, protesting the levels of human effluent put into the water (but alas only so there's more fish for them to torture, being an angling organisation):

got into trouble itself, running down the outside of the press boat and beaching themselves on the island, before eventually heading off again:

Many thanks, by the way, to Mike Mason of dutch barge 'Serendipity' moored at the mouth of the Brent, who emailed me the press boat photos, which all happened after my camera battery had died. I've published them small deliberately; if any press types want to use any of them, I'll happily put you in touch with Mike but you can't nick them from here...

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Oh, and...

Nice to see some of your have been using the little tickboxes below the posts, and possibly not without irony, either.

The were originally added to gently satirise another blog's self-aggrandisement options; but, like Lehrer giving up satire when Kissinger got the Nobel Peace Prize, that very blog I realise has either finally tipped into insanity or must be satire itself, it's the only explanation. So, bye bye tickboxes. Few noticed or cared.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

testing, testing

after nearly a week of [mostly] traditional music, morris dancers, mud and cider, it seemed only appropriate to dig out something I did many, many years ago, albeit largely as a test for fun yet to come.

With apologies in advance to Kath & Neil...

test (mp3)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Books: priceless

The image above was being pointed to on the internet here and there, and I approve wholeheartedly.

Books are a comfort, a reassurance that there's always more to discover. With a paperback in my pocket, I'm prepared for the most tedious of journeys, even being stuck for an extra two hours sitting just outside Crewe. I have more books than I have time to read, but that's OK, as I can see myself having a phobia of the opposite condition. I'm OK about weeding out the chaff, occasionally, stuff I'll never read, or more likely never read again. There's plenty more, and more will come in, from car boot sales, charity shops and the like.

Chatting to a homeless guy in Shepherd's Bush - about the book he was reading - he pointed out the free bookshop that was running in an empty unit in the shopping centre - Books for free*. You could debate whether money could be made for a charity for those books, but the concept that stuff can just be passed on is vital; whilst we have freecycle, and local arrangements such as leaving stuff out on the pavement, free shops should be much more widespread. Too much is thrown away as being no use to one person, when it's perfect for another.

And yet - at the other end of the spectrum - those books need to be made, and paid for. We found ourselves almost duty bound to support the little independent bookshop in Uxbridge, struggloing just off the High St. I love being able to go online to Amazon or Abebooks to find exactly what I want there and then, and I know I'm just as much as part of the problem as anyone, not to mention having a book as a few hundred kilobytes of data on our gadget of choice. We saw a lovely traditional bookshop in Deal in it's closing down death throes. Much as I love words, and the books that hold them, I don't pay enough for them. It's just like food; we should pay more for good food from local suppliers, and we don't, we buy crap from the supermarket.

To avoid finishing on a complete downer, here's how much I waste words; a colleague redacted a recent email, leaving the bits he considered relevant. Although I like to paint the bigger picture, he was largely right:

* more waffle - the book I found in here, like in a lot of places, something I would have never been looking for - is a book by Fred Basnett, a social romp based on his experiences as a young worker at Sellafield. I grew up in the area a few years later, but it's a serendipitous find, and a book I'll probably hang on to.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Another canal that isn't

This time, the Royal Military Canal

These two pictures are from Hythe, near the eastern end; it continues around what was the old coast, kind of, skirting the expanse of Romney Marsh & Dungeness. It wasn't really built for transportation, and last did any in 1909, I think, but now you can at least get an electric boat from town to the steam railway terminus. It has regular kinks to allow soldiers to shoot straight down it in the event of a Naploeonic invasion.

Back at Dungeness, taking dramatic pictures is akin to shooting fish in a barrel, although I know which activity I'd prefer. Here's a shot I suspect everyone takes*, taken around ten or more years ago, and a few days ago. It's a pretty timeless place anyway, only the missing mast shows the passage of time.

* even the mats on the bar in the pub where we waited for the bus had a variation on this view

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Pallet Furniture

by the East London Furniture Pallet Project, seen at Camden Green fair last weekend. It's not just firewood...

Monday, 6 June 2011

If anyone had boating plans for the weekend...

I really hope this is Metcheck's weather model throwing a wobbly, and not the end times. I doubt the rapture will be coming for me, mind...

Friday, 20 May 2011

Glow Plugs

Jobs you haven't done before, especially when the internet is full of forebodings of woe, seem a bit daunting. When it all goes well and may even appear to have been some use, I wonder what all the fuss was about.

Starting isn't one of Tortoise's BMC's fortes at the best of times. One thing I wanted to check was the glow plugs, so I hoiked them out one at a time and had a look. They all glow nicely when powered up (albeit taking a while to get to red hot), so there doesn't seem to be any rush to buy new ones quite yet.

Three out of four, though did seem to be pretty much bunged up with carbon - I cleaned out the holes with a 4mm, then 4.2mm drill bit, which seemed to do the trick. Tony Brooks et al suggest 11/64", approx 4.35mm, so I should be OK. I did worry about losing the drill bit inside the engine block, though.

Afterwards the engine started OK, but it often does, so at least I hadn't made it worse. The electrics leave something to be desired though - the voltage at the starter battery (itself an old domestic one of unknown history) when the glow plugs are running is less than 12v, and there's a 0.7v volt drop to the glow plugs. A new starter battery (anyone used a smaller 40Ah car battery as a starter - any reason why not?), and/or thicker wires for the glow plugs (or even better a local relay connected to the starter volts into the solenoid) would improve things no end.

No pictures, although I really should have taken some.

In other news, it's Towel Day on Wednesday, and just in case you were wondering, wikipedia have a lengthy article on the meaning of life, so we need wonder no more.

I'll have a wander around Rickmansworth festival on Saturday; it beats working.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Open racism on Narrowmind World

'Telling it like it is?' Thankfully some of us aren't a bit like you lot.

Monday, 25 April 2011

new lights

Here, if only for my benefit, are my finally installed LED lights, replacing the 8w flourescents (the boat's original fittings, I'd forgotten, were two tubes, so 16W). These, by contrast, are around 1W each, but give a soft, warm, even light. Not as bright as their predecessors, but, the swivel LED MR16 light (now over the kitchen) can usefully be pointed into most corners of the boat for a bit of spot illumination.

Anyway, as mentioned previously the wood has been routed out to take the switch & voltage regulator (LM2940) - mounting screws are hidden under the LED disc thingy. It's taken me ages to get around to sorting these, but I'm please with the result. One of the problems with the MR16 LED lights is the depth required to mount them; these get around that completely, and also are nowhere near as concentrated.

Having recently rewired the bits & pieces of solar panel on the roof after finding that one one of the three non-boken ones was actually connected, total lighting load is now less than these panels were providing the other day, & that's into pretty much full batteries already. I keep meaning to post about my cunning combined volt/ammeter; another time.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

a little busy at the Fox

We had a lovely evening move up the the Fox in Hanwell. We thought it might be a bit full due to being an Easter weekend, a hot day as well as being late in the day, but we weren't quite expecting this:

We shrugged, moored a little further back from the crowd, and went on search on takeaway curry (local chain Montys have a place as part of a hotel just at the end of Trumper's way, the last bridge before the Fox, the flight etc). Only wandering into the pub for last orders we saw rows of real ale barrels (I worry about using the wrong word, I'm sure I'll be corrected) as this was on:

Five of these boats are from the St Pancras Homeboys Cruising Club who'd come via Limehouse; seems a long way around to me, but that's just me.

The Fox are having their craft fair thing next Sat, but we'll have shifted on by then. Another time.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

East of (s)Ealing

I've been taking the opportunity to do a few jobs on Tortoise - fitted nice warm white LED lights (with low dropout voltage regulators & custom wooden mounts c/o a new toy, a router, and not one of the computer variety, and also refit the windows.

A couple of windows have been leaking slightly, so I've been redoing them using sealant and also some 'flexiseal' stuff Channelglaze recommend. I should say recommended, I got it a long while ago, but have only finally made a start on using it. Also a couple of windows have had longstanding marks on them, so I'm swapping them out for 'spares' - yup, Salad Days had six 3' long windows, Tortoise has 3, so plenty of spare glass. ;-)

A fortuitous meeting with a guy from Isis allows me to follow up the last couple of posts - there's 'no plans' to discontinue the Brentford visitor moorings in their current position, and they 'hope' to be able to keep the art deco buildings around the back. I said I'd ask him again in a couple of years... ;-)

No pics, as I keep forgetting to take my camera anywhere. Tortoise'll be in town for the wedding cavalcade at the end of the month, so there'll be something to take a picture of, I'm sure.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

'Brentford Lock West' goes ahead

I'm not sure how yet more ugly flats will give Brentford 'the kiss of life' - I wasn't aware of it needing such a thing - but the council have given the go-ahead to the complete encircling of Brentford basin, with more blocks of flats behind what are currently the visitor moorings (as posted about here a while ago). I say currently, as whilst the artist's impression clearly shows the BWML moorings on the east side, an a couple of boats outside the existing offices housing BW and others, I can't see any boats on what are currently the visitor moorings. I can't think of other examples where new flats have retained moorings open to all comers just outside, but I'll be happy to be proved wrong.

Commercial Break - Fraser's Timber

I'd been meaning to post about this lot before, but a recent urgent need for some 1" ply cut to size forced the issue...

Fraser's Timber is a relatively recent management buyout (by Graham & Scott) of what was Albion Timber, on The Ham, Brentford. Their yard actually backs on to the canal/Brent between the gauging & Thames locks, although the high security fencing and concrete bound towpath might make direct collection interesting. If I try it, I'll let you know... close enough to walk from the Brentford basin, though.

Anyway, they've always been friendly & helpful, and happy to deal with my bits & pieces - lots of oak trim for the boat, flooring for the loft. They've moved their old cutting workshop to make way for a posh new showroom on the ground floor, too. They deserve support & success, so you know where to go...

Website here, or tel (020) 8847 1856.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Going, going...

It looks like these lovely 30s Art Deco (ish) style industrial buildings are in the 'way' of the new devlopments on the west side of the basin in Brentford - the canal lies a little behind them. I'm not convinced by the white addition on the roof of the nearest building, but surely these buildings should be proud remnants of Brentford's past, and used as flats, public spaces etc, rather than being demolished to make way for more modern boxes?

At least this one is being advertised for rent, although for how long, who can say...

note for me - broken spill rail replaced (Calcutt Boats, threaded end), oil & oil filter changed

Monday, 21 February 2011

Moving the Lea & Stort goalposts

People love to debate the nature of continous cruising, as any glancing look at a well-known canal forum will prove (and I've no interest in repeating them here). But we all know - or thought we knew - the basics - move on after fourteen days. That's the only bit that I think appears in legislation; the 7 day & 48 hour moorings are more of a BW whim, and arguably challengable in the courts.

However, that could all change. Recent proposals by BW (a scan of which is visible here), want to split the entirity of the L&S into six 'neighbourhoods' and insisting boats move between these defined 'neighbourhoods' every fourteen days, a proportion of these being limited to seven day moorings. The map within the document makes a mockery of the word 'neighbourhood', naturally.

Next battle in the war on boaters; wardens measuring the shininess or otherwise of your paintwork and fining you accordingly, and maximum permissible area of blue tarp...

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

exploring the Grantham Canal

Visiting friends in Lincolnshire, we took the oportunity to walk about a quarter of the length of the Grantham Canal, towards Nottingham. We had a lovely crisp clear day, and may well have seen the best bits. There's great documentation on the Grantham Canal Society website, but we headed out with a sense of adventure, the OS map and falafel sandwiches, only really reading up afterwards.