Thursday 31 December 2009

Christmas present stirring it up

For Christmas I received* an Ecofan. It has been in almost continuous use since then, wafting the woodburner's hot air around the sitting room. It has made an amazing difference: the room has been hotter than I've known it in winter.

Of course, it could be just that we've had the stove alight more often than usual, but I don't think the effect is merely psychological.

I thought pictures of the thing in action better than seeing it stationary, but you can't see how many blades it has. So I'll tell you. Two. You can't see the cooling fins directly very well, but their shadow is visible in the top photo.

While searching for the link for the Ecofan I was pleased to discover that spare parts are available: replacement motor and replacement blades.

*I actually ordered this myself. I found the most convenient source to be canalshoponline at Whilton Chandlery.

Happy New Year to all.

(edited to remove typo)

Tuesday 29 December 2009

Car update, train frustration and a brother on a boat

First a Volvo update. Over three weeks ago the 240 conked out while Jan was driving, leaving her stranded on a dual carriageway with no hard shoulder. The fault was quickly diagnosed as a lack of HT, and we eventually got the car recovered to our driveway. Then work, poor weather and Christmas intervened.

Today, at last, I isolated the fault to the coil. I was able to replace this with a spare which I'd picked up from Amazonia just before Christmas. I replaced the plugs while my hands were dirty, attempted to seal up a split vacuum hose, and started it up. Now the car seems to be running smoothly again. Now it just needs an MOT ...


David and Fergus have gone up to Tattenhall to spend a few days on Shadow. There wasn't too much ice in the marina, so they managed to get onto the cut. But they've been pootling not too far so that they could quickly return if ice threatened.

Virgin Trains train at Pitstone (I think) on the Grand Union (16th March 2009)

Last night I had a text message from David asking me to book them a train so they could return a day early. (All sorts of complications here: David had an almost flat phone and no charger. Neither did he have his BlackBerry.) I researched the options: the cheapest journey was first class (I know, it's crazy). I paid for the tickets and selected "collect from Fasticket machine". Ah. Problem. David needs my card to be able to collect the tickets from the machine. But he's in Chester and I'm in Norwich. I phoned Virgin Trains when I realised, and they just said, sorry, but that's how it is. Great. That's £70 down the drain. Or is it? David said he'd sort it out with the station staff. And, if necessary, get on the train without the tickets (but with the booking reference number) and argue his case on board. We'll see how he gets on.

The year in photos: Leicester in April

Shadow tied up to the floating pontoon at Castle Gardens in the middle of Leicester

This year has been one of the best for boating. 2009 started with us at Newbold on Avon on our way back from an icy cruise to Coventry; in March I moved a boat for a friend down the Grand Union; at Easter we took Shadow from Stockton Top Marina via Leicester to Tattenhall Marina; and in October we cruised down the Montgomery Canal to the limit of navigation. New territory (aquitory?) for us was the Market Harborough arm; the Leicester Section north of Foxton; the Soar Navigation; the Trent to Shardlow; the Trent and Mersey from Shardlow to Fradley; and the Montgomery (northern section).

Sunday 27 December 2009

Top Thirty, 2009 week 53

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 2230 on Sunday 27th December 2009. This is taken from the UK Waterways Ranking Site.

Headline: Granny Buttons moves up a place to number 3; - Forums stays at the top, keeping Jim Shead's Waterways Information at bay for a second week.

1 - Forums (=)

2 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

3 Granny Buttons (+1)

4 Pennine Waterways (-1)

5 (+1)

6 Retirement with No Problem (-1)

7 CanalPlanAC (+3)

8 Jannock Website (-1)

9 Narrowboat Gypsy Rover (-1)

10 UKCanals Network (+4)

11 nb Epiphany (+1)

12 Canal Photos (-3)

13 Towpath Treks (+7)

14 Narrowboat Bones (+1)

15 Waterway Routes (+4)

16 Narrowboat Caxton (+6)

17 nb Lucky Duck (=)

18 Water Explorer (-7)

19 nb Warrior (+6)

20 WB Takey Tezey (+1)

21 Derwent6 (-5)

22 Google Earth Canal Maps (+4)

23 TowpathTownie (=)

24 Narrowboat Debdale (-)

25 nb Anonymous Two (+3)

26 Working Boat Hadar (+1)

27 boats and cruising (+3)

28 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-)

29 Khayamanzi (=)

30 Tony Clayton's Canal Photographs (-12)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry; (=) denotes no change.

Halfie is at number 34.

There are 91 entries altogether.

Friday 25 December 2009

The year in photos: March sunshine

In March my father and I moved a boat for a friend down the Grand Union from Buckby to Northolt. We had excellent weather for the time of year: hardly any rain, and sunshine on most of the five days of the trip.

The photo shows Willow, the boat we moved, and my father collecting kindling at Stoke Bruerne. It got pretty cold at night!

The cruise was notable for meeting two more bloggers: Andrew Denny on Granny Buttons; and Alan and Frances on Lazy Days.

A Happy Christmas to all reading this!

Wednesday 23 December 2009

The year in photos: February's icebreaker cruise

In February we cruised from Stockton Top to Market Harborough and back. Much of the Leicester Section was iced over, but a couple of boats went ahead of us conveniently breaking the ice. An excellent trip, during which we bought coal from Jo on Hadar and shared coffee and walnut cake and tea with Del and Al of Derwent6. We liked the town of Market Harborough and mused about retiring there. (Still many years off.)

Del and Al standing proudly by their boat

the Old Grammar School, Market Harborough

Tuesday 22 December 2009


Well, that's what I'll call it. One more snap from Saturday's stroll in the snow.

Succinct enough, Andrew?

Monday 21 December 2009

Footprints in the snow

On Saturday's snowy walk we came across some perfect footprints. These have been made by, presumably, birds. Pheasant? Parent and child going in opposite directions? (But have they gone in the direction of the arrows?)

A little further along the path they seem to have stopped for a conference.

Here's my glove for scale.

Sunday 20 December 2009

December walk

Yesterday was the last of this year's Norfolk walks. We went to Elsing, a village between Swanton Morley and Lyng, and had a marvellous walk in the snow. We started by looking round St. Mary's church. It was built in the fourteenth century, with one of the widest naves of any parish church and with possibly the oldest font canopy in existence.

Out of the church and into the snow. It was excellent walking weather: below freezing point but windless, so it didn't feel too cold. The snow under foot was up to four inches deep.

Not far into the walk deer were spotted.

They are those tiny specks approximately in the middle of the picture. OK, I'll zoom in a bit.

Sandra leads the way ...

... past the snowball plant ...

... and along the edge of several fields.

I liked this snow-covered plough with the sun behind it ...

... and the low sunlight catching the signpost.

Well, that's quite enough for now.

Top Thirty, 2009 week 52

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 1300 on Sunday 20th December 2009. This is taken from the UK Waterways Ranking Site.

Headline: - Forums has ousted Jim Shead's Waterways Information from the number one position it's held since January this year.

1 - Forums (+1)

2 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (-1)

3 Pennine Waterways (=)

4 Granny Buttons (=)

5 Retirement with No Problem (=)

6 (=)

7 Jannock Website (+2)

8 Narrowboat Gypsy Rover (-1)

9 Canal Photos (+3)

10 CanalPlanAC (-2)

11 Water Explorer (+10)

12 nb Epiphany (+4)

13 Canal and Narrowboat (-)

14 UKCanals Network (-4)

15 Narrowboat Bones (-4)

16 Derwent6 (+1)

17 nb Lucky Duck (+2)

18 Tony Clayton's Canal Photographs (-)

19 Waterway Routes (-5)

20 Towpath Treks (-5)

21 WB Takey Tezey (-3)

22 Narrowboat Caxton (-9)

23 TowpathTownie (+7)

24 NBNorthernPride (-1)

25 nb Warrior (=)

26 Google Earth Canal Maps (-4)

27 Working Boat Hadar (-3)

28 nb Anonymous Two (-8)

29 Khayamanzi (-)

30 boats and cruising (-)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry; (=) denotes no change.

Halfie is at number 32.

There are 89 entries altogether.

Saturday 19 December 2009

The year in photos: January cold

Regular readers of this blog will know that every month or so we join in with a group from our Norfolk village on a Saturday morning walk. In January we went to Poringland for a five mile walk through a winter wonderland of hoar frost and hard ground.

Friday 18 December 2009

British Waterways wants to become a charity...

... and says it will look for an army of volunteers to help it run things.

It says charitable status will be a way of creating a new "income stream". I doubt if the pun was intended.

Today, on Today on BBC Radio 4, there was a three minute interview with Robin Evans, the head of British Waterways.

Listen again here (from 1:21:55; available until Christmas Day).

I have transcribed the interview below. Andrew Denny brought the press release to our attention yesterday, but he didn't explain what "third sector" means. Thankfully, that phrase didn't occur in today's (or Today's) interview, which was conducted by business presenter Adam Shaw.

Others will make more informed comments than I can, but do we really want BW to become a charity? I don't think so. If funding from central Government isn't forthcoming, I think asking for increased funding from local authorities through whose areas the waterways run might be the way to go. After all, the waterways bring many economic benefits to the regions they serve. Of course, that could mean some areas suffering because of unenlightened local authorities, leading to possible breaks in waterways rings and an atrophying of the system. And there's a danger that newly elected local authority leaders will reverse previous waterways-friendly policies. I don't know what the answer is.

Justin Webb: Twenty-two minutes past seven, here's an interesting approach to hard times: British Waterways, the organisation that protects more than 2,000 miles of canals and rivers, wants to turn itself into a charitable organisation in an attempt to sidestep any fire sale of Government assets. Here with that news is Adam again, morning, Adam.

Adam Shaw: Good morning to you, many thanks. Yes, British Waterways has been in the public sector actually since 1947. Earlier this year, of course, the Government announced plans to raise three billion pounds from the sale of various state-owned businesses, some of that would have come from property disposals at organisations like British Waterways which own some very valuable riverside real estate, but now it's looking to convert to charitable status in an effort to protect those assets and raise more money. Well earlier I spoke to the chief executive of British Waterways, Robin Evans, and I began by asking him why he wanted to become a charity.

Robin Evans: I think for two reasons. We want to give the public a greater sense of ownership of the waterways. They feel disenfranchised at the moment. Um, if more people felt a sense of ownership, they'd come to that with a sense of responsibility and then they would participate more and give more.

AS: It's very ironic you say that there isn't a sense of ownership when, when it's in public ownership we do actually own it, you're suggesting you take it out of public ownership and suddenly everyone feels they own it even when they don't, I mean, it's the complete opposite of what is the case?

RE: It, it, it's very interesting but I think that's absolutely how it is. People do feel that things which are in public ownership are kind of remote. Their governance is remote. People are appointed to a board in a rather strange and remote way, whereas if they're a charity, people do see that those charities are for the people and owned by the people.

AS: Sceptics might suggest you'd be making this move at this moment because the Government's after cash and you're sitting there and you could be sold off by the Government and this is a, a way of sidestepping privatisation. How do you, how do you plead to such a charge?

RE: Well I think everyone in the public sector has a duty to try and reduce the burden on the public purse, and there must be innovative ways to do that, and this is one. This is a way in which we hope we can reduce the burden on the public purse, but at the same time, you know, create a new income stream, and create a massive new army of volunteers to come and help us run the waterways.

AS: You see, talking to you, it makes it sound to me as if this is not a philosophical move on your behalf at all, it is a funding issue, this is a way of protecting your future, which is a completely laudable thing to do, but it is not suddenly because you had a, a change of heart and you want to work in the charity sector?

RE: Let's be quite clear, um, two years ago we produced a report that said we need 30 million pounds more per annum to maintain the waterways in their current condition, in other words, we're not spending enough money on the maintenance. So this is a long term plan for the future. We need to build a new income stream from charitable donations, charitable funds, and volunteer help.

AS: Of course, the waterways were, were built for industrial purposes, er, do they still serve any significant industrial rôle?

RE: We still carry quite a lot of freight, primarily in the north, and we built a new lock recently at the Olympic site, and we're taking a vast amount of construction traffic in and out of the Olympics, but essentially throughout the 2,200 miles it's a leisure resource. You know, there are more leisure boats now on the inl, on the waterways than there were industrial boats in the time of the Industrial Revolution. Eleven million people come onto our towpaths each year, three hundred million visits, so, really it's about recreation and leisure these days, but in the north and in certain waterways, freight still has a part to play.

AS: And that was Robin Evans, the boss of British Waterways, talking to me a little earlier.

JW: Thank you Adam, twenty-five past seven...

Thursday 17 December 2009

The year in photos: Coventry ice

I like looking back at what I've done through the year, and photographs bring the memories back quickly. Over the next few days I'm going to try to post one (or more) photo(s) from each of the past 12 months.

Here's the first, from new year's eve. We were iced in in Coventry Basin, but not so much that we couldn't break our way out. We had to use the shaft at first, but once we could get a run-up the going was easier.

Yes, those ducks were walking on the ice.

We were ice breaking all the way to Hawkesbury Junction, and for part of the way down the North Oxford Canal. When we tied up at Newbold I found that the tiller arm had frozen onto the swan's neck, so there it stayed all night.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Borrowing a flash in Crick Tunnel

Looking through this year's photos, and wondering what I could write today, I came upon this picture of my nephew, Fergus, steering Shadow through Crick Tunnel in February. At first glance I thought, oh, a flash photo. But then I noticed the blurry legs and the zig-zag trails on the tiller pin. Calling up the metadata I see that I used a four second exposure. My brother, standing out of shot to my left, has evidently taken a flash photo during the time my shutter was open: see the shadows in the face and on the tunnel wall. My own flash was off; and the camera shake shows that I didn't use a tripod.

The more I study this, the more I see how many things came together to add to the effect. The trails from the tiller pin happen to be in the "right" direction, conveying the sense of forward motion; the combination of blurriness and relatively sharp elements aid the sense of movement; the flash being offset gives depth to the image, often difficult to achieve with a camera-mounted flash. I don't know where the red patch on the wall behind Fergus came from, though.

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Tea for timber

For the last two years we've been disturbed by the bleeping construction vehicles, chainsaws, radios, dust and "loss of visual amenity" as the house next door has been pulled down to be replaced by 18 dwellings. To make space for them a lot of trees were cleared, including a landmark line of poplars. Oh, and the telegraph pole carrying our phone line (and internet) was "accidentally" knocked over. Very convenient for the developer, very inconvenient for us.

But after all the initial planning objections delayed things a bit, we had to accept the inevitable. So when the chainsaw gang started cutting down the lovely trees I plied them with tea, and was rewarded with logs. I spent a few days chopping them up: they're now feeding our woodburner. Story and photos here and here.

Last Friday I had a day off. When I heard a chainsaw whining away at the bottom of the garden I went to investigate. After checking with the council that the tree being attacked wasn't subject to a preservation order I did the tea-for-timber trick. I asked if a few logs could be chucked over the fence when they'd done. When I went back after the tree cutters had gone I discovered a huge pile of massive bits of tree trunk my side of the fence. Far more than I'd expected - well worth three mugs of tea! (And a slightly damaged fence).

By the way, what's the difference between timber and lumber? I've gone for "timber" in the title for its alliterative effect, but, even after looking up both words in the dictionary, I'm not sure which is more appropriate.

Monday 14 December 2009

Planning permission sought for lock repair

Spotted at Hurleston Bottom Lock in October: a planning notice posted by Cheshire East Borough Council.

"Applicant: British Waterways Wales & Border Counties

Location: Lock 4, Hurleston Locks, Llangollen Canal, Chester Road, Hurleston, Nantwich, Cheshire CW5 6BU

Proposal: Refurbishment of Bottom End Mitre Lock Gates. Replacement of Timber Head and Heel Posts. Installation of Fender Signs and Replacement of Missing/Decayed Timber Fenders at the Approach to Lock"

Does BW really need planning permission to maintain its structures?

Perhaps this is the reason:

"It appears to the Council that the proposed development affects a public right of way."

I would have thought that the only "public right of way" affected by work on a lock would be if equipment was on the towpath.

Does this happen every time BW needs to do any work? What a load of bureaucracy.

Sunday 13 December 2009

Broken reflections

I'm in the situation now where I've wrapped up the cruise reports, and there's no boating in the near future. (There are one or two more posts to come from the October cruise, but I need to do a bit more research first.) So if I'm to keep up my unstated aim of a post a day (oh no, that's blown it!) I'm going to have to be a little inventive.

I have posted ripple photos before, and here are a couple more. I like the way that, even in an otherwise not very interesting photo, there's often something worth seeing if you zoom in enough.

These ripples are frozen in an instant of time. In the next instant the pattern would be different, but still reflecting the same scene. Averaged out you'd see an undistorted reflection. Probably.

The above picture has a reflection of a chimney. If I were really dedicated I'd go back to Chester and photograph the same scene when the water was still so I could prove it, but I don't need to do that. In the original photo, below, you can just make out the reflection of the chimney a quarter of the way in from the left.

And here's the original of the top photo: Easter chicks, again at Chester.

Top Thirty, 2009 week 51

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 0920 on Sunday 13th December 2009. This is taken from the UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

2 - Forums (=)

3 Pennine Waterways (=)

4 Granny Buttons (=)

5 Retirement with No Problem (=)

6 (=)

7 Narrowboat Gypsy Rover (+2)

8 CanalPlanAC (-1)

9 Jannock Website (-1)

10 UKCanals Network (=)

11 Narrowboat Bones (+1)

12 Canal Photos (+1)

13 Narrowboat Caxton (+1)

14 Waterway Routes (+2)

15 Towpath Treks (=)

16 nb Epiphany (-5)

17 Derwent6 (+1)

18 WB Takey Tezey (+1)

19 nb Lucky Duck (+2)

20 nb Anonymous Two (+4)

21 Water Explorer (-4)

22 Google Earth Canal Maps (+1)

23 NBNorthernPride (-)

24 Working Boat Hadar (-)

25 nb Warrior (+5)

26 Lazy Days (+3)

27 Narrowboat Debdale (-5)

28 Halfie (-2)

29 nb Piston Broke (-1)

30 TowpathTownie (-)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry; (=) denotes no change.

There are 89 entries altogether.

Saturday 12 December 2009

Old boats at Easter

At Easter this year we cruised to Chester as part of our moving of Shadow from Stockton Top Marina to Tattenhall Marina (we had some time in hand, so we overshot Tattenhall). We had tied up below the city wall, and went to the service in the cathedral on Easter Sunday. We met John and Fiona from nb Epiphany walking along the wall on their way to the service.

Before the service began I had time to walk along to Northgate Locks to see a couple of boats emerging. They were returning from Ellesmere. Now, I'm no good at identifying historic boats (I need lessons from Sarah). Can you tell me anything about them? One is Kangaroo; the other, in the distance in the second photo, is Lamprey.

Friday 11 December 2009

Waterways films

Thanks to Granny Buttons I - and, no doubt, you - have discovered an amazing archive of films made on the canals.


These films from the British Pathé archive are fascinating glimpses of the early days of pleasure boating, and sometimes show working boats. In the film linked to above, towards the end of the clip, are a couple of shots of a pair of laden narrowboats, apparently of no great interest to the filmmaker or the archivist: "Various shots of narrow boats sailing past each other." The boats are a British Waterways motor and butty, but I can't make out the names. The steerer of the butty makes a sharp hand signal. Does anyone know what this means?

And look at this one!


Made 50 years ago this two minute documentary is beautifully shot. Even the music isn't too intrusive, and there's some natural sound, even though it's under the music. No interviews or actuality, though. It's these which bring a film to life, which really draw the viewer in.

I have a thing about music in documentaries, whether they're one minute news reports or 50 minute full length docos. Most of the time it gets in the way. Only where there are no words or natural sound might it be acceptable, say in a timelapse sequence or a series of still photographs within a longer film. You might have noticed that my timelapse films are mute. Music? No point.

Anyway, as Andrew Denny says, the British Pathé newsreel archive is worth exploring.

Thursday 10 December 2009

Broad minded about winter safety?

By the time you read this I will have interviewed Steve Birtles from the Broads Authority about a new leaflet it's produced. It's headed "Winter Boating" and consists of safety advice most of us would call common sense. Some might call it daft. One of the things you are advised to take with you on the Broads in winter is a VHF radio. And I don't think it's talking about something to entertain you while you await rescue after your hot drink has run out. I assume it means a ship-to-shore transceiver, the sort of device people need training in their proper use.

Are they serious? I shall ask Mr Birtles.

Here's an extract from the leaflet:

In the bleak midwinter ...
the Broads can be a lovely, wild place -
quiet, full of winter bird life, crisp, cold and
invigorating. But please remember there are
extra things to consider. It’s quiet because
there are fewer people around and winter
cold is much more enjoyable if you’re warm
and dry with food and a hot drink to hand
if needed, than if you’re wet and shivering
on a remote riverbank ...
Still keen to go? Then read on and
Go Boating Safely!

Planning ahead

• Check the weather. Keep checking
as things can change, and adapt your
plans - don’t just carry on regardless.

• Remember, in an open boat or a sailing
boat you’re even more vulnerable to
the elements and wind chill. Consider
getting an immersion (dry) suit with
built-in buoyancy.

• Exceptionally high water may cause
flooding, and high winds can be
dangerous. Rivers may be iced up or
have ice in them even if roads are clear.

• Never navigate through icy water.
There could be thicker ice hidden under
the surface which could damage your
boat or even make it sink.
Some areas ice up quickly such as
Womack Water, Barton Broad, Oulton
Broad, Hardley Dyke and Langley Dyke.

• Cold water is dangerous - your
chances of survival are extremely low if
you fall in.

• Make sure your boat engine is set up for
winter use - with anti-freeze in it.

• Do not close any ventilators. Use only
boat-based heating. Do not introduce
any additional portable heaters - they
can lead to poisoning or fires.

• Never go alone. Let people know where
you are going and when you leave. Let
them know when you return as well.

• Things to take: life-jacket, warm
clothes, a change of clothes, strong
waterproofs, footwear with good tread,
a hot drink, food, a mobile phone, a
torch and spare batteries, a VHF radio.

(There's more in the same vein. I'm being sent to get some weather pictures and an interview clip, not a self-contained package.)

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Timelapse: in Tattenhall Marina

Here's the last timelapse sequence from October. We're back in the marina, and I start recording as the sun rises. We move to the service bay for fuel and pumpout, and move back to the finger jetty. The sequence lasts only one minute.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Sunrise over the Shropshire Union Canal

23rd October 2009, the view from Crow's Nest Bridge 113, Shropshire Union Canal. I'd taken a few minutes off boat cleaning duties on this, our last day of our October cruise on Shadow. No filters, no tweaks - this is what the camera saw.

Monday 7 December 2009

Rainbows and bridges

The weather on our return to Tattenhall Marina along the Shroppie back in October was a mix of sunshine and heavy showers. Perfect conditions for perfect rainbows.

My camera, sadly, is less than perfect, and couldn't do justice to the scene. Apart from the angle of view being not wide enough to capture the whole rainbow, you can see a splodge on the right where a lump of debris sits inside the lens assembly.

It's not just an optical illusion is it? The sky really is darker outside the rainbow. But why? After looking at a couple of websites I think this is the reason: the light we see inside the rainbow is a combination of the light directly from the sky and the light (from the sun) which has been refracted and internally reflected within the raindrops. The light we see outside the rainbow is just the light from the sky, with no extra reflected light. Please tell me if this is right or wrong!

Sunday 6 December 2009

Kindness shown not just on the waterways

For most of this post I'm handing over the keyboard to Jan.

It was every lone woman driver's worst nightmare: dark night; pouring rain; fast dual carriageway; no hard shoulder; the car you are driving decides to park itself at the side of the road and refuses to move. I got out of the car, offered a prayer of gratitude for my mobile phone and reflective jacket and waited for help. Husband Halfie has already told the rest of the story. When we reflected on the events of that night we realised how well cared for we were. Four people showed us concern and kindness and we were very grateful to all of them.

First was the man near whose house the car had stopped. He offered me shelter and 'any help I needed'.

Second was the (very friendly) policeman (probably the tallest man I have ever encountered in my life!) who pushed the (very heavy) Volvo estate about 200 metres to the nearest slip road.

Third was the (very elderly) man who walked past us as we sat in the (very cold) car waiting for the breakdown van. He walked a few paces past the car then turned round and came back to talk to us. He offered us cups of tea, food and 'even a bed for the night' if we needed it.

Fourth was the breakdown man who rescued us. He was friendly, helpful and, best of all, he took us home!

It was good to meet these four people: the memory of a nasty experience is softened as we appreciate their care and concern.

Update: Use of a multimeter indicates that it's the Renix electronic ignition unit and not the coil itself which is faulty. A trip to a breaker's yard is called for, methinks.

Top Thirty, 2009 week 50

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking as it stood at 0915 on Sunday 6th December 2009. This is taken from the UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

2 - Forums (=)

3 Pennine Waterways (=)

4 Granny Buttons (=)

5 Retirement with No Problem (+1)

6 (-1)

7 CanalPlanAC (+4)

8 Jannock Website (=)

9 Narrowboat Gypsy Rover (=)

10 UKCanals Network (=)

11 nb Epiphany (+3)

12 Narrowboat Bones (+4)

13 Canal Photos (=)

14 Narrowboat Caxton (+4)

15 Towpath Treks (-8)

16 Waterway Routes (-4)

17 Water Explorer (-2)

18 Derwent6 (-1)

19 WB Takey Tezey (+3)

20 Canal & Narrowboat (+4)

21 nb Lucky Duck (-2)

22 Narrowboat Debdale (+1)

23 Google Earth Canal Maps (-2)

24 nb Anonymous Two (+1)

25 Khayamanzi (+5)

26 Halfie (+3)

27 Seyella's Journey (=)

28 nb Piston Broke (-)

29 Lazy Days (-3)

30 nb Warrior (-2)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry; (=) denotes no change.

There are 88 entries altogether.

Saturday 5 December 2009

All marbles accounted for

photo by Jan

At the "Frost Fair" held last night in the local Methodist Church I won the "marbles into the upturned flower pot" competition. In a variation from the usual, the task this time was to spoon all the marbles into the hole in the shortest time. Previous marbles competitions have all been won on the most marbles in a set time, usually a minute.

I have lost count of the times I've won these marbles competitions. One of these days I'll be banned.

The prize this time (for a total stake of 40p) was a Santa Selection Box of Cadbury's chocolate bars (and buttons).

But how do I link this to canals? I know, I'll search for "narrowboats marbles". This is what turned up: a link to the Black Country podcast (5.4Mb) from VisitBritain "to learn about the industrial heritage of the area, west of Birmingham in England's Midlands. Visit the intriguing trade museums and explore hidden gems including a canal boat trip through Dudley Tunnel built in 1778 and have a drink in the Crooked House, a 258 year old pub where marbles roll up hill."

Must be good beer!

Friday 4 December 2009

No sign of life. Not even a spark.

(Car, not boat!)

It's only the second major breakdown of our Volvo 240DL I can remember (the first time was in France when the clutch slave cylinder exploded). Last night Jan was driving along a dual carriageway with no hard shoulder when the car conked out. It was dark, cold and raining. She got out of the car, frightened that it would be hit by another vehicle, and phoned me. I phoned the police (the car was in a dangerous position), who eventually came and pushed the car to a slip road. I was meanwhile cycling from work to meet up. We called the breakdown service - all my tools were at home - and waited. Getting colder. After an hour and ten minutes help arrived. Our feet were freezing. The fault was quickly diagnosed as no HT, and traced to the coil or electronic ignition mounted immediately beneath the coil.

In a strange way we were both relieved that it was a "proper" fault: Jan pleased that it wasn't her being silly; and I satisfied that I couldn't have fixed it at the roadside.

There was no replacement on the van, so we were towed the three miles home.

After finishing work at 7, we eventually got home at 10pm. We had originally intended to go out for a meal - we ended up having soup and potatoes. Which was very nice.

So there's another job for me to sort.

Thursday 3 December 2009

The dog at Grindley Brook

The dog at Grindley Brook lives at the café at the bottom of the staircase. He/she likes to run up and down the locks chasing and retrieving a toy plastic spanner. The toy is put at your feet, and then you are expected to throw it for the dog to fetch. I didn't find out the dog's name.*

*(edit) Thanks to Andrew Denny I can now give the dog a bone spanner name. She's called Bee.

And, just to make it clear, Bee doesn't (necessarily) live at the bottom of the café's staircase. The café is at the bottom of the staircase locks.