Sunday 31 May 2009

Top Thirty, 2009 week 23

Here is the weekly snapshot of Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site, taken at 2030. For some reason I couldn't fit the whole of the top thirty into the screen grab this time.

1 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 - Forums (=)

4 Granny Buttons (=)

5 nb Ten Bob Note (=)

6 UKCanals Network (=)

7 Retirement with No Problem (+2)

8 Jannock Website (=)

9 Canal Photos (-2)

10 Narrowboat Gypsy Rover (+4)

11 nb Epiphany (+1)

12 Derwent6 (+3)

13 Waterway Routes (=)

14 nb Lucky Duck (-4)

15 Narrowboat Bones (-4)

16 Working Boat Hadar (=)

17 CanalPlanAC (+6)

18 Seyella's Journey (-1)

19 nb Warrior (-1)

20 Water Explorer (+1)

21 Narrowboat Debdale (+4)

22 Khayamanzi (+8)

23 Narrowboat Caxton (+1)

24 UK Waterways Ranking Site (-4)

25 nb Kestrel (-3)

26 nb Piston Broke (-)

27 Tony Clayton's Canal Photographs (-1)

28 Takey Tezey Tales (-9)

29 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-2)

30 Google Earth Canal Maps (-)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous week; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry.

CanalPlanAC continues its rapid rise, up six this week (up seven last week). Tony Blews's "other" site, Google Earth Canal Maps, has made its first showing, in at number 30. And I don't think nb Piston Broke has been in the top thirty before: here it is at number 26.
Halfie is at number 41 (that's what I get for not blogging more frequently); there are 71 sites listed altogether.

Wednesday 27 May 2009

Hold-ups at Frog Island

When we left Leicester on Thursday 2nd April 2009 on our cruise to Chester my eye was caught by a couple of things. First, the name "Frog Island"; and second, next to the boarded-up North Bridge Tavern, the manufacturer of belt and braces. I'm now trying to think of an example of using belt and braces.


Got it. You can find a reference to Richard Kew and Albert Thurston here:, or you can click this link.

Albert Thurston's website doesn't mention Frog Island. There's a fine reproduction of a page of an 1870s catalogue, detailing the India Rubber Albert Brace here, and a testimonial from a few decades later:

When asked for his reaction to the outbreak of war in 1939, actor Sir Ralph Richardson replied that he had gone straight to his tailor on Savile Row and purchased half a dozen pairs of Thurston braces in case they might be in short supply.

(this post edited to add more stuff)

Sunday 24 May 2009

Top Thirty, 2009 week 22

Here is the weekly snapshot of Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site, taken at 0945 this morning.

1 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 - Forums (=)

4 Granny Buttons (=)

5 nb Ten Bob Note (=)

6 UKCanals Network (+1)

7 Canal Photos (-1)

8 Jannock Website (+1)

9 Retirement with No Problem (-1)

10 nb Lucky Duck (+6)

11 Narrowboat Bones (-1)

12 nb Epiphany (+3)

13 Waterway Routes (-1)

14 Narrowboat Gypsy Rover (-3)

15 Derwent6 (-2)

16 Working Boat Hadar (-2)

17 Seyella's Journey (+3)

18 nb Warrior (=)

19 Takey Tezey Tales (=)

20 UK Waterways Ranking Site (+1)

21 Water Explorer (-4)

22 nb Kestrel (+1)

23 CanalPlanAC (+7)

24 Narrowboat Caxton (-2)

25 Narrowboat Debdale (+1)

26 Tony Clayton's Canal Photographs (-)

27 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-)

28 NBNorthernPride (=)

29 Lazy Days (-2)

30 Khayamanzi (-5)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous week; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry.

Halfie is at number 34; there are 72 sites listed altogether.

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Kilby Bridge to Leicester

Wednesday 1st April 2009

I've got very behind with the photographic record of our recent cruise from Stockton on the Grand Union to Chester, so here's some of what we saw on our way to Leicester. The contemporaneous post is here.

about to go into Freeman's Lock, with the large weir taking the River Soar away from the cut

Just downstream of Freeman's Lock are these buildings with curious roofs - and even more curious chimneys

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

Leicester Cathedral reflected in the windows of BBC Leicester

Leicester Cathedral, where we attended Choral Evensong

edited for spelling

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Not another stolen narrowboat

When I looked at Andrew Denny's Granny Buttons blog I was interested to see that Granny was "Not found", according to the Granny locator box.

Of course, it now says Granny's in Streethay, where it's been for a few days.

What are the 403 other errors, and why don't we ever hear of them?

Monday 18 May 2009

I imagine it's not always like this

This is where the River Trent joins the Trent and Mersey Canal at Alrewas. It was a lovely day when we cruised past last month, and the river was placid. I understand it's not always like this!

I've been putting some more photos onto the original blog post for this day, 5th April 2009, and you can find them here. I've been wondering what the best thing to do is: when I made the original posts, from on board during the cruise, I found it was taking too long to post the photos at the same time (lack of familiarity with the ways of the PC). I want the photos to go with the original text, so do I just add them to the original posts (as I have done for 5th April 2009), or do I repeat the text and make fresh posts out of it all? Or, indeed, do I do both?

Sunday 17 May 2009

Top Thirty, 2009 week 21

Today's snapshot of Tony Blews's UK Waterways Site Ranking chart shows no change at the top; little change elsewhere; and NBNorthernPride making its first appearance, entering the top thirty at number 28.

1 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 - Forums (=)

4 Granny Buttons (=)

5 nb Ten Bob Note (=)

6 Canal Photos (+1)

7 UKCanals Network (-1)

8 Retirement with No Problem (=)

9 Jannock Website (=)

10 Narrowboat Bones (+4)

11 Narrowboat Gypsy Rover (+1)

12 Waterway Routes (+3)

13 Derwent6 (=)

14 Working Boat Hadar (-4)

15 nb Epiphany (-4)

16 nb Lucky Duck (=)

17 Water Explorer (+1)

18 nb Warrior (+5)

19 Takey Tezey Tales (+1)

20 Seyella's Journey (-1)

21 UK Waterways Ranking Site (+1)

22 Narrowboat Caxton (+4)

23 nb Kestrel (-2)

24 Narrowboat Mr. David (+4)

25 Khayamanzi (=)

26 Narrowboat Debdale (+1)

27 Lazy Days (-)

28 NBNorthernPride (-)

29 Zulu Warrior (-)

30 CanalPlanAC (-13)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous week; (-) denotes new entry or re-entry.

My humble offering to the blogosphere is at number 35; there are 71 sites listed altogether.

Saturday 16 May 2009

Overheating on the T & M

Glancing down at the temperature gauge one day last month, just after we'd ascended Tatenhill Lock on the Trent and Mersey, I saw this. Ah. That needle should have been approximately vertical, not hitting the endstop. (This is an edited version of my contemporaneous post, from 5th April 2009, but with pictures this time.)

We stopped and I lifted the deckboards covering the engine. There was some water vapour down there, but not nearly so much as when I gingerly opened the coolant filler cap a fraction. For some reason the engine had decided to get hot, and there wasn't enough coolant doing the rounds to do its job. So little, in fact, that there wasn't enough to pass through the calorifier, evidenced by the coolness of what should have been the (domestic) hot water. After a while I opened the filler cap some more, releasing more clouds of water vapour, and then removed it.

There was coolant down there, but the level was rather low. I boiled up some water and slowly added it from the kettle, and sounds of bubbling came from within. The engine was clearly very hot indeed. Another kettleful. And another. Now the level looked where it should be, so I replaced the filler cap and started the engine. All seemed well, so we continued. But why did the engine lose coolant? Was it a perished hose or rusted Jubilee clip? A blown gasket? When looking around when hot, I noticed that there was some bubbling around the thermostat housing. Perhaps the gasket there needs replacing. I'm not convinced that's the primary cause of the loss of coolant, as it looked more like a result of high pressure caused by overheating.

I hope the boatyard - Tattenhall Marina, where we were taking the boat (still some 75 miles and 72 locks distant) - has checked it over and rectified any fault. For the rest of the trip I topped up the coolant every day to a higher level than usual, and encountered no more overheating.

Thursday 14 May 2009

A tight squeeze

These Trent and Mersey lock tails can seem like a tight squeeze for narrowboats, but the lorry on the bridge was experiencing its own navigational problems. There are major differences, of course: a slight nudging of the brickwork by a boat, although best avoided, will cause little or no damage; whereas a small misjudgment on the part of the trucker, who was reversing, could have resulted in serious damage to the bridge. Perhaps the vehicle was returning from a delivery to the King's Lock Chandlers; perhaps it's not the first time it's done it. I doubt that the bridge was intended to bear such a heavy load, though.

It seems an age since the daffodils were out: in fact it was just last month that we passed through Middlewich on our way to Chester. Andrew Denny dislikes floral roadside memorials; I suspect he'd find the ones here similarly not to his taste.

One more thing caught my eye as I selected this photograph: the artwork on the side of the lorry perfectly mimics the hump of the bridge.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Open heart surgery on my computer

This morning Carl rode up on his motorbike - a knight in leather* armour - and set to work on my malfunctioning Mac. It didn't take him long to open up the case...

... and remove the power supply. This is it, in situ.

And here's another, wider, view of the inside of my Mac. The power supply is at the top left.

There was nothing obviously wrong with it, not to my eyes, anyway: no bulging or exploded capacitors which I'd been half expecting.

The moment of truth approached: with the new power supply connected, and with the innards exposed, would the machine fire up? Carl plugged in the mains lead ... pressed the button ... and ... YES!!! The fan started and the white light glowed. Diagnosis correct, and replacement part a good 'un. Two relieved people and one happy computer. I immediately resolved to give Carl a little extra something.

It only remained for Carl to put the case back together ...

... and finish his (now cold, surely?) coffee.

A slightly scary moment came when Carl powered it up again, this time in a special mode which made the fan run at full blast: a puff of what looked like smoke issued from around the screen. Quite normal, said Carl. It's just blowing the dust out. We talked about a few aspects of Mac operation which I hadn't fully grasped; and Carl downloaded for me "Camino", an alternative web browser to the default Safari. I'll try this for a bit as it's supposed to be faster (but the layout for composing blog posts doesn't seem as good).

Carl had been able to get the new power supply at a good price, so he charged me slightly less than what he'd quoted over the phone, which was especially good of him considering he'd had a two hour journey to get here. He did say that next time he'd have to charge a bigger callout fee, but I'm rather hoping that there won't have to be a "next time".

So, would I recommend Carl to those of you with Macs? You bet! (No surprise there.) Carl got back on his motorbike with his "little extra": a painted windlass for the boat he hasn't got yet.

Back to Peterborough for him, and back to blogging - with photos - for me. Excellent!

*not necessarily actually leather, but you know what I mean.

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Not long to go...

... until the moment of truth. Will my Mac computer be found to be repairable? I'm rather hoping that it will (obviously), and that this will be the last post for a while on this PC laptop. I'm looking forward to being able to put more pictures on, and continuing the story of our Easter cruise.

Monday 11 May 2009

Top Thirty, 2009 Week 20

Here are the top thirty UK waterways websites as ranked by Tony Blews on his UK Waterways Ranking Site. The snapshot was taken on Sunday 10th May 2009 at 09:50. My usual computer is still out of action, so there isn't a screen grab this time. There were 71 websites listed.

1 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 - Forums (=)

4 Granny Buttons (=)

5 nb Ten Bob Note (=)

6 UKCanals Network (+1)

7 Canal Photos (-1)

8 Retirement with No Problem (=)

9 Jannock Website (+1)

10 Working Boat Hadar (+6)

11 nb Epiphany (+2)

12 Narrowboat Gypsy Rover (=)

13 Derwent6 (+1)

14 Narrowboat Bones (-3)

15 Waterway Routes (-6)

16 nb Lucky Duck (-1)

17 CanalPlanAC (+10)

18 Water Explorer (+7)

19 Seyella's Journey (-2)

20 Takey Tezey Tales (-1)

21 nb Kestrel (-1)

22 UK Waterways Ranking Site (=)

23 nb Warrior (-5)

24 Tony Clayton's Canal Photographs (+4)

25 Khayamanzi (+1)

26 Narrowboat Caxton (-3)

27 Narrowboat Debdale (re-entry)

28 Narrowboat Mr. David (new entry)

29 Contented Souls (-8)

30 NB Bendigedig (=)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous week.

Thursday 7 May 2009

Computer update

I've asked Carl, of Maclogics, to come and fix my broken Mac. The day booked is this Wednesday, when I don't have to go to work, so I'll be able to watch and learn. And supply tea.

I haven't really thought too much about what I'll do if it's not economically repairable: I'll cross that bridge when - no, if - I get to it. Heather of Takey Tezey is exhorting me to ditch the Mac and return to the PC world; there will be others, Mac zealots, who will tell me that would be madness. I've tasted the Apple, I know how sweet it is. I'm sitting on the fence. We have both varieties of computer in our household: each has advantages over the other.

Perhaps the biggest argument in favour of the Mac is that it runs Final Cut, a powerful video editing package. The equivalent for PCs is Avid, which I've tried, but I prefer Final Cut. Not that it's without its problems: for some unfathomable reason it keeps crashing when I try to capture my rushes. Hmm ... perhaps Carl might have an idea about that too.

Another nice thing about the Mac is the way it handles photographs. It's very easy to upload them, tweak them, resize them and export them, which I've found invaluable for my blog. On our recent cruise I blogged via Jan's PC laptop, and had great difficulty resizing photos. OK, I could get better at it, but it is much more complicated.

Er ... and pros of the PC? Cheaper. Possibly easier to fix if it goes wrong. More "experts" around.

Wednesday 6 May 2009

Singing with the angels

On Saturday I took part in the first performance of There Was a Child by Jonathan Dove. I wrote about my feelings before the concert here. So how did it go? Well, don't ask me, read the review in yesterday's Times. Or click here for the online version.

But that's how it was for the reviewer, Geoff Brown. How was it for me? Exciting, thrilling, enjoyable. Nervewracking. I'd been worried about not being able to follow the conductor's beat, having had only one and a half rehearsals with him. We had a dress rehearsal on the afternoon of the performance - with the orchestra and soloists - and, yes, it was difficult. The orchestra was obviously well used to David Parry's style, and he didn't hang around. We'd been led to believe that the orchestra might slow things up a little, compared with the piano we'd had accompanying our rehearsals, but that was not the case. It wasn't really the speed which gave us problems, though: it was more the fiendishly complicated rhythms. The time signature was constantly changing: in one movement a big chunk had a different one for each bar! I mustn't hide behind excuses, though. I felt just a teeny bit under-rehearsed, and I think the same went for others in the choir. It was amazing to be singing with a top-class orchestra (the City of Birmingham Symphony).

Afterwards was somewhat anticlimactic: as I knew hardly any of the other singers there was no meeting up in the pub or going for a curry. Perhaps everyone else did! My parents and Jan had come to listen, so that was good.

I felt we'd "got away with it", but reading the review I'm not so sure now.

Here's an extract from the review:

... throbbing minimalist ostinatos; syncopated, ricocheting rhythms; catchy harmonic shifts; singable lines, much repeated. You think of Britten at times, plus early John Adams; but the fusion is authentic Dove, and it’s very familiar.

Had the work been shorter and less compartmentalised, the Dove manner might have generated bigger sparks. The premiere performance with the conductor David Parry and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra would certainly have benefited from punchier voices. Toby Spence and Mary Plazas hit the bull’s-eye with their solo stints — eloquent expressions of boyish abandon, the wonder of birth and a mother’s grief. But the Broadland Youth Choir and Hewett School Choir needed larger decibels, greater numbers, while the spirited folks of the Festival Chorus hadn’t the orchestra’s mastery of Dove’s galloping rhythms.

Even so, the piece’s big heart was always appealing. And where it mattered most, in the emotional climax, the Dove magic still worked. Spence’s tenor rose in ecstasy for the aviator-poet Magee’s sonnet High Flight, only for the chorus to tumble down, one sad monosyllable after another, in the elegy of the executed Tichborne. Well-chosen words; pointed notes; fervent performers. Impossible not to be moved.

Well, it moved me. I think it's great music, and it was fun to sing. There are still little bits of it buzzing around in my head.

And the title of this post? I was right at the very back of the choir, on a steeply raked platform, looking down on the orchestra, conductor and audience.

Tuesday 5 May 2009

Capacity for disruption

It's still dead. My computer. For three or four years it has obeyed many of my commands, and certainly never failed to turn on or off. Yes, it's been frustrating at times. It took me a very long time to discover that to perform a "right click" you have to press CTRL at the same time as clicking on the Mac's mouse. Until yesterday I was often frustrated by its inability to show me, before clicking, where a link might take me (on a PC, of course, you just hover over the link and the address is displayed at the bottom left of the screen). Until yesterday, that is, because today it's irrelevant. The Mac is an ex-Mac. The Apple has rotted.

I've searched discussion forums for clues: apparently Apple used a batch of dodgy capacitors in the power supplies of the G5 iMac. These capacitors leak or explode, quite possibly both, and incapacitate the power supply. No power, no computer.

OK, I thought, I'll dismantle the thing and see if I can find the fault. I could almost hear the breath being sucked past the teeth as I found discussions of fault finding on the G5-with-iSight (my model). The Apple website shows you how to get the back off G5s - great! - but the G5 iSight is excluded. It is non-DIY. Of course, people HAVE managed to get the thing apart, and have put instructions up. But it looks like a nightmare. So much so that the first place I phoned this morning, a highly recommended Apple specialist in Norwich, told me he wasn't interested in taking the job on because of the difficulty in dismantling.

In commenting on my previous post Carl of Maclogics in Peterborough has given me hope. First, by describing a possible easy cure, to do with holding down the "on" button while plugging it in (already tried) and second by telling me not to panic. My data should be recoverable. I suppose in extremis the hard drive could be removed without regard for the rest of the computer, put in an "enclosure", and wired up to another Mac. I've left a message for him to contact me.

Meanwhile there'll be few photos, and none of our recent canal trips.

Monday 4 May 2009

Aargh! Dead computer!

Oh no! When I tried to switch on my Mac this morning nothing happened. Absolutely nothing, as if a fuse had blown. I checked the power lead, and to be doubly sure, substituted another one. Leads fine, computer dead. Then I searched for help (using Jan's PC laptop, which I'm using now), and found that my particular Mac - third generation iMac G5 with iSight - is much more difficult to open up than previous generations. So I'm stuck. A friend once told me about a place in Norwich which fixes Macs, so I'll have to try there. Now I'm thinking about the data that's on it: photos mainly. I did back some of these up about a couple of years ago, but that still leaves too many vulnerable.

When I bought the Mac four years ago I found it frustrating to use, probably because I'd used only PCs until then. But gradually I got used to it, and even preferred it for many things, especially the ease of handling photos. Now I'm back to feeling very annoyed with the stupid machine!

Sunday 3 May 2009

Top Twenty, 2009 week 19

1 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 - Forums (=)

4 Granny Buttons (=)

5 nb Ten Bob Note (=)

6 UKCanals Network (+1)

7 Canal Photos (-1)

8 Retirement with No Problem (=)

9 Waterway Routes (+7)

10 Jannock Website (=)

11 Narrowboat Bones (+4)

12 Narrowboat Gypsy Rover (-1)

13 nb Epiphany (-4)

14 Derwent6 (-1)

15 nb Lucky Duck (-3)

16 Working Boat Hadar (-2)

17 Seyella's Journey (+4)

18 nb Warrior (+9)

19 Takey Tezey Tales (=)

20 nb Kestrel (-3)

21 Contented Souls (+8)

22 UK Waterways Ranking Site (+2)

23 Narrowboat Caxton (+2)

24 Narrowboat Debdale (-2)

25 Water Explorer (-5)

26 Khayamanzi (re-entry)

27 CanalPlanAC (-1)

28 Tony Clayton's Canal Photographs (-10)

29 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+1)

30 NB Bendigedig (new entry)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous week.

The biggest riser this week, not counting new entries or re-entries, is NB Warrior, up nine places to number 18. Contented Souls managed a leap of eight to number 21. Halfie is at 39, steering well clear of the top dogs. There were 72 entries in the chart when this snapshot was taken at 0915.