A boat we came across on our recent walking holiday in Sussex reminded me about balconies.
I've always liked balconies. There's something about sitting high up and looking out over a drop. At university it was possible to get onto the roof of Davy Hall and sunbathe or drink beer (or both). Now the Halls have been demolished, and summers don't seem quite so sunny now that there are no more exams to revise for.
A boat with a balcony would be fun, but tricky to get under bridges and through tunnels. Perhaps the railings could collapse?
I don't know if the boat in the photo is being worked on or lived on. Or both. Or neither.
The Boaters' Christian Fellowship annual general meeting last Saturday was as enjoyable as ever. It must be the best attended AGM of any society: out of 700 members something like 150 turned out. Apart from the usual business matters - chairman's report, treasurer's report, election of officers etc. - there was a time of entertainment.
First up was a rendition of a Joyce Grenfell song, "Stately as a Galleon". Sorry, I don't know the name of our singer.
Then James and Hazel Bell of nb Gabriel played and sang about the BCN. Can you see the prop (-erty, not -eller!) held aloft?*
Edwin Fasham of nb Ferrous talked amusingly about the various types of engine boats have, from the Bolinder whose flywheel can eject you from the engine room, to the Japanese model where the owner simply turns the key to start it and takes it to the boatyard for servicing at the end of the season. Funnily enough, he was not at all scathing about the Gardner 3LW! (Guess what powers Ferrous?)
Then, perhaps the highlight of the session, came Peter Atwill of nb Gospel Belle. He spoke about the three keys that the apostle Peter is often depicted holding. To illustrate this he held up a windlass or "lock key" ...
... and an anti-vandal key ...
... and a BW key (or should that be CRT key now?)
The three St. Peter's keys, Peter Atwill told us, represent the unlocking of the door to the Kingdom of Heaven for the Jews, the "semi-Jews" or Samaritans, and the Gentiles (i.e. everybody else.) (No, I hadn't heard of "semi-Jews" before, either.)
*It's a "Bargee Bill" prop cleaner (about as useful as a rubber windlass, in my experience). Not that I've tried a rubber windlass...
Ally and Ben reported that the immersion heater no longer seemed to be doing its job. They'd been having it come on for an hour every morning. In the past this provided sufficient hot water for showers and washing up etc. Recently, though, the water hasn't been getting hot. The element makes the usual sizzling noise, as when you switch on an electric kettle, so why was it not heating the water?
Sticking out of the top of the calorifier is a pressure gauge, a red knob you turn, and a hose leading to the outside.
I think this is how it works: if the pressure of water in the calorifier exceeds a fixed limit (3 bar?) then the device allows hot water to be expelled through the hose to relieve the pressure. Is this correct?
I think you're supposed to turn the knob to "reseat" the thing, so I did, making it click a few times. Did I do the right thing? Hot water must have flowed, as the hose then felt warm.
The pressure reading was about 0.6 bar. Is this what it should be? And why is there a red needle pointing to 3 bar?
I don't seem to be any nearer finding out why the immersion heater doesn't work as it used to, unless it's something to do with the pressure. Could it be just that it's furred up? Or is it the cold weather sucking more heat out of the system?
After finishing work I drove home - yes, I drove today for a quicker getaway - and had a quick tea while packing the car ready for the drive to Milton Keynes. We had an uneventful journey, apart from a diversion from the A428 before Eltisley.
Arriving at the marina we got out of the car and crunched across the frosty grass. The pontoon was slippery, but it was very nice and warm on the boat.
Job to do this weekend: find out why the immersion heater apparently doesn't work.
Tomorrow (Sat), though, it's the AGM of the Boaters' Christian Fellowship in Kidlington.
I've got myself involved with the business of trying to get a website for our church. I'm part of a small committee looking into what's available and how much it would cost, etc. We had our first meeting yesterday where we talked about what should be on the website and who might design one for us.
Saturday's Times contained a four-page pull-out on programming in HTML so I thought I'd give it a go.
My previous experience of programming was in Basic on a BBC Microcomputer (and on s Sinclair ZX Spectrum before that!), but this was the first time I'd attempted HTML.
Somehow I don't think I'll be creating the church's website myself!
Along the Oxford Canal some of the bridges have the letters "OCC" on them. In the past I assumed these stood for "Oxfordshire County Council", mainly because I was - or thought I was - in Oxfordshire at the time.
But this bridge is in Warwickshire.
So what could it be?
And then it came to me.
Of course - "Oxford Canal Company". This makes sense as the date on the bridge, 1941, is seven years before the waterways were nationalised.
This afternoon we recced half a local walk we'll be leading next month for the Humbleyard Hoofers walking group.
When we set out the temperature outside our house was 6˚C, so I was surprised to see a patch of ground covered in frost. I suppose it had been in shadow all day, and there can have been little movement of air.
We'll actually be leading the whole walk, but we took a short cut home half way as the light was failing. I'll go back and finish off some time this week, I expect.
If, like me, you've sometimes taken photos in less than adequate light, you might have ended up with something like this:
Not much good to anyone.
However, the digital camera is actually quite good at capturing detail in the dark bits, it's just that you can't normally see it. But you can force the issue in a photo manipulation program. I use iPhoto as that's what came with my Mac. (I understand there's a program called Photoshop which people use with PC-type computers, but I haven't seen it in action.)
This is what I can see once the above photo has been tweaked:
It won't win any prizes(!) and it's horribly grainy, but I've turned night into day. What might look at first glance like the canal is, in fact, the top of Shadow (on the Ashby Canal earlier this year).
OK, it was more than one Penguin, and it was in my local Tesco Express (but it was after dark).
A few days ago I wrote about how I appeared to have been undercharged for some packs of Penguin chocolate biscuits. I queried this with Tesco. To recap briefly: under a "buy one get two free" offer I expected to pay £3.64, whereas I was charged only £3.50.
Today I received a reply from Louis Boston, a Tesco customer service manager, who writes:
With regards to this, it does seem as though the maths are out on this occasion and unfortunately I have no explanation for it. I am confident however that if you bring it to the attention of the staff in the store on your next visit, they may be able to find out how this happened. Further to this, I would like to think that you haven't been overcharged but I cannot say you haven't as there is nothing to go on. Hopefully you haven't been but please be assured that if you are ever overcharged, our stores will refund a double the difference.
Hmm. Worrying. Tesco admits it might be overcharging customers.
Or does it?
Mr Boston's e-mail contains the rider
"The views expressed in this email are those of the sender and not Tesco".
You can't have it both ways, Tesco. Mr Boston is writing as a Tesco employee, from a Tesco e-mail address and with a Tesco logo at the foot of the message. The views are those of Tesco.
When we visited Ally and Ben a couple of weeks ago I thought it would be a good idea to start the engine as it hadn't run for a few weeks.
It was a mild sunny day and, after the usual checks, I disengaged the gearbox, opened the throttle, moved the key to the glowplugs position, counted to five and turned the engine over. And over, and over. After twenty seconds I released the starter key to give the battery a rest, and tried again. Another twenty seconds or so - and perhaps another - and, eventually, the Isuzu burst into life (to my great relief).
In the past it's fired from cold after no more than two seconds. Why did it take so long this time? Had the diesel drained back into the tank such that it needed to "self prime"? Could water in the fuel have been the problem? I know there was plenty of fuel in the tank as the engine had barely been used since filling up, and the Webasto had hardly been used either.
Once running I left it recharging the batteries for an hour and a half, then completely forgot how to switch it off!
I turn the key to the off position. Engine carries on. How do I stop it? I remember Tony Brooks advising that you should see what moves when switching off - if the engine has a solenoid-operated stop. Of course, I hadn't done that, so I didn't know what to move manually. Aargh!
And then... I remembered. It really had been too long since the last trip. There is a push button on the control panel coloured red and marked STOP.
A couple of days ago Ally and Ben took the boat out for a short cruise - the engine behaved itself. Note to self: Do not leave it too long between runs.
Something else I saw from the train last week was a field given over to harvesting sunshine.
Yes, you say, isn't that what all crops do? Indeed, but here, between Ely and Cambridge, is a vast array of photovoltaic panels, angled to catch the maximum amount of sunlight and generating electricity. Except at night.
I'm uncomfortable about fertile fen farmland being turned over to this non-food product. Couldn't the panels have been erected on a brownfield site, say, or on top of a former landfill site?
Last Wednesday I travelled to Cambridge by train for work, and looked out, as usual, for boats. This time I saw some moored up on what I think must be the Little Ouse in the Lakenheath area.
Can't see them? Here they are! (click on photo to enlarge)
Still not very visible, I know. Shortly after this the train was held up at a level crossing at Shippea Hill. We were told that there was a problem with the barriers. We were stopped, and so was the road traffic.
The guard was in the middle of his third apology for the delay when we suddenly lurched forward under way again. The guard said, "Oh!", and everyone in the carriage laughed.
I wonder if the problem was anything to do with a resignalling project in progress on the line.
I was in our local Tesco Express a short time ago, buying some Penguin bars. They were on offer: Buy One, Get Two Free. (Yes, really.) Now, I'm partial to a Penguin and a Rocky Bar with a cup of tea in the afternoon at work - yes, one of each, thanks very much. I was fresh out of Penguins, so this evening's offer was too good to resist.
I p-p-picked up six packs, nine bars in each pack. The shelf price for a pack: £1.82. This makes each Penguin a fraction over 20p, about twice what I'm prepared to pay - hey, I'll be a (middle-age) pensioner next year! - but 27 Penguins for that amount makes each one less than 7p. Bargain.
At the self-service checkout I scanned the six packs. £1.82 came up with each beep. Clubcard scanned. Beep. Subtotal £10.92. So far, so expected. Six times £1.82 is £10.92, and I know that the discounts are applied when I press "Finish and pay".
I press. Total to pay: £3.50. Three pounds fifty? I mentally calculate how much it should be. Twice £1.82 is £3.64, so Tesco is undercharging me 14p! I can't see any catch, so I insert my tenner, collect the £6.50 change, and study the receipt.
There are six entries of £1.82, with a subtotal of £10.92. Fine so far. Then the Multibuy Savings section.
MCVITIES B1G2F .... -£7.42
Hang on, four times £1.82 is £7.28. This is where things seem to have gone wrong in the Tesco computer. How can a machine which makes thousands of calculations a day get a simple repeated addition wrong?
This time the error is in my favour, but how often does it work against the customer?
I think I'll visit tescocomments.com as invited to on the receipt and tell them. I don't suppose they'll ask me for the 14p back.
There are many reminders of the past on our canal system. Of course, the entire network is a product of a former age, but there are lots of small pointers to how things used to be.
This bridge over what is now the Grand Union Canal in Milton Keynes* has a tie plate marked G J C Co - telling us that this was part of the Grand Junction Canal Company - and dated 1912. The canal itself was built long before this, as was, probably, the bridge. The tie rod and plates were presumably added as a preventative measure later.
At Charity Dock on the Coventry Canal at the back end of the summer was this day boat, so called as it lacks night-time accommodation.
At least, I assume that is the origin of the name. Day boats were used for short-haul traffic; the workers lived in houses. In Birmingham day boats were sometimes referred to as Joeys - anyone know why?
I was on the phone, looking out of the sitting room window, when I saw a squirrel run along a branch of an apple tree and return with an apple in its mouth. It then stopped, still in the tree, and proceeded to gnaw at the apple as if it were a nut. Because I was on the phone I couldn't immediately take a photo, but I managed to get one as the squirrel set off over the lawn with the apple in its mouth.
I wonder how often it does this! Perhaps this is the real reason for the poor apple harvest this year: the squirrels are pinching them all!
On the north Oxford Canal two months ago this collection of water birds - possibly not "ducks" at all - was swimming along, keeping together in a group.
My handy animal and plant identification book isn't to hand - perhaps I'll have a go at identifying them tomorrow. There seem to be several different species here, unless it's male and female of the same one...
While visiting Ally and Ben on Jubilee recently I noticed the local heron calmly walking along the jetty, as casually as if it were just checking up on the boats moored there. While I was fiddling with my camera, creeping outside and getting a mediocre shot, Ally grabbed her iPhone and snapped this much better one through the window.
Moments later the heron stopped at the edge and peered intently into the water. (My photo now.)
In a flash its neck unfolded and its head jabbed into the water, its body stretching behind it. But it got caught in the blue mains cable you can see looping between the pillar and the boat. There was a moment of struggle, a thrashing of water, and then - phew - the bird was free. And it had got its fish, which slipped down its long neck in two or three gulps.