Friday 30 November 2012

Mystery photo

Another in an irregular series of photographic posers for you.

What is it?

Thursday 29 November 2012

What a photographer does when he runs out of hands

We drove to Braintree today for the wedding of our nephew Stephen to Amy.

This was the first non-church wedding we'd been to, but I'm pleased to say it was done with due gravitas.

An ornamental bridge over an ornamental lake made an obvious location for some photos, especially as the sun was setting.

What do you call that bunch of flowers the bride has to carry?

Whatever it is, I think Amy did it better!

I feel a caption competition coming on. Any suggestions?

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Newhaven boat with balcony

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.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

£10 well spent

One small job I did while on board Jubilee the other day was to screw the clock to the wall.

I'd visited a vast second hand emporium in Norwich on several occasions looking for a suitable brass timepiece, and was very pleased to find this for a tenner. It keeps good time, too.

Monday 26 November 2012

The boater's three keys

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...

Sunday 25 November 2012

Pressure gauge on top of calorifier - what should it read?

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?

Top Thirty, 2012 week 47

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 2100 on Sunday 25th November 2012. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

4 CanalPlanAC (=)

5 UKCanals Network (=)

6 Waterway Routes (=)

7 Retirement with No Problem (=)

8 nb Epiphany (=)

9 Granny Buttons (+1)

10 Water Explorer (-1)

11 nb Waiouru (=)

12 Jannock Website (=)

13 Canal Shop Company (+2)

14 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+5)

15 boatshare (-2)

16 nb Lucky Duck (+5)

17 Towpath Treks (=)

18 ExOwnerships (-4)

19 Seyella's Journey (+8)

20 Narrowboat dreaming ... Parisien Star (-2)

21 Boats and Canals Forum (-5)

22 Derwent6 (-2)

23 Narrowboat Briar Rose (+5)

24 Nb. Yarwood (-)

25 Baddie the Pirate (-1)

26 Narrowboat Bones (-1)

27 boats and cruising (-4)

28 NB The Manly Ferry (-)

29 Boatshed Grand Union (-3)

30 Halfie (-1)

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

There are 167 entries, down from 169 last week.

Friday 23 November 2012

Back on Jubilee

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.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Newhaven's last loos

The more I look at the photo I took of public lavatories in Newhaven the more I laugh.

In the style of a roadside service station touting for custom by offering the "last chance to fill up before ..." the Newhaven conveniences claim to be the "Last public toilets before France".

Quick! Spend a penny now, before it's too late! After all, on the long ferry crossing to Dieppe there'll be nowhere to go!

What's that? The ferry has loos? Well, who'd have known!

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Trying to make a website

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.

Once I'd worked out how to get the right ending on the file name - extension, yes, that's what you call it - I managed to get something to work when I opened it in the Safari browser. That was very satisfying, even though all I'd really done was copy out the program from the newspaper! What I couldn't get to work, though, were the CSS and JavaScript elements to work. I tried it on the (PC) laptop too, but with even less success.

Somehow I don't think I'll be creating the church's website myself!

Monday 19 November 2012

What does "OCC" stand for?

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.

Am I right?

Sunday 18 November 2012

Frosty leaves

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.

Top Thirty, 2012 week 46

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 1330 on Sunday 18th November 2012. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

4 CanalPlanAC (=)

5 UKCanals Network (=)

6 Waterway Routes (=)

7 Retirement with No Problem (+2)

8 nb Epiphany (=)

9 Water Explorer (-2)

10 Granny Buttons (=)

11 nb Waiouru (=)

12 Jannock Website (+1)

13 boatshare (+1)

14 ExOwnerships (+1)

15 Canal Shop Company (-3)

16 Boats and Canals Forum (-)

17 Towpath Treks (=)

18 Narrowboat dreaming ... Parisien Star (=)

19 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-3)

20 Derwent6 (+6)

21 nb Lucky Duck (=)

22 Contented Souls (-3)

23 boats and cruising (-3)

24 Baddie the Pirate (+1)

25 Narrowboat Bones (+5)

26 Boatshed Grand Union (-)

27 Seyella's Journey (-4)

28 Narrowboat Briar Rose (-4)

29 Halfie (=)

30 Herbie (-)

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

There are 169 entries, down from 170 last week.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Dark photo forced to reveal details

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).

Thursday 15 November 2012

The curious incident of the penguin in the night-time

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.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Wooden top bridge?

Bridge 31 on the Ashby Canal is also known as Wooden Top Bridge.

Perhaps at one time it did have a wooden top, but it looks more like steel and concrete now.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Engine reluctant to start after a few weeks - then reluctant to stop

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!

How embarrassing!

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.

Monday 12 November 2012

Farming solar energy in the Fens

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?

Sunday 11 November 2012

Narrowboats in the Fens from the train

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.

Signalling Solutions says this on its website:

Ely to Norwich is one of two pilot projects established to develop a “Modular Signalling” approach to the challenge of cost effectively signalling low density lines.

It's piloting "plug and play" cables and "lightweight" signals. (I'm no railway buff: I'm merely reporting what the company says.)

Top Thirty, 2012 week 45

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 1745 on Sunday 11th November 2012. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

4 CanalPlanAC (=)

5 UKCanals Network (+2)

6 Waterway Routes (=)

7 Water Explorer (+2)

8 nb Epiphany (+2)

9 Retirement with No Problem (-4)

10 Granny Buttons (-2)

11 nb Waiouru (=)

12 Canal Shop Company (+4)

13 Jannock Website (-1)

14 boatshare (-1)

15 ExOwnerships (+8)

16 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-2)

17 Towpath Treks (-2)

18 Narrowboat dreaming ... Parisien Star (+4)

19 Contented Souls (+1)

20 boats and cruising (-3)

21 nb Lucky Duck (+5)

22 Rock n Roll (+6)

23 Seyella's Journey (+7)

24 Narrowboat Briar Rose (-6)

25 Baddie the Pirate (-6)

26 Derwent6 (+1)

27 Chertsey (-)

28 Narrowboat Chance (-7)

29 Halfie (-4)

30 Narrowboat Bones (-6)

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

There are 170 entries, down from 175 last week.

Friday 9 November 2012

Tesco's dodgy checkout

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 as invited to on the receipt and tell them. I don't suppose they'll ask me for the 14p back.

Thursday 8 November 2012

100-year-old plate's ties with the past

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.

Happy 100th Birthday!

*between Fenny Stratford and Peartree Bridge

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Memory of the summer and hope for tomorrow

This was one of the few barbecues we had - I was going to say "last year", but it was this year, of course. It's just that summer seems such a long time ago.

I hope Canal Boat magazine will come through the letter box tomorrow. I'm in need of another fix.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Is this a Joey?

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?

Monday 5 November 2012

Bargus tied up, and Bargus moving

Here's former working boat Bargus on the north Oxford Canal in September.

According to the A. M. Models website Bargus is a "Small Woolwich" built by Harland and Wolff in 1935 for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Pink Floyd bridge in need of a little maintenance

A couple of months ago we went past the "Pink Floyd" bridge on the Oxford/Grand Union. This is what it looked like then (Sep 2012)...

... and this is it three-and-a-half years ago (Mar 2009):

Perhaps it's all stuff which will die back in the winter, but I doubt it. It's being taken over. In another three years you'll hardly be able to see the bricks in the wall.

Top Thirty, 2012 week 44

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 2100 on Sunday 4th November 2012. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (+1)

4 CanalPlanAC (-1)

5 Retirement with No Problem (=)

6 Waterway Routes (=)

7 UKCanals Network (=)

8 Granny Buttons (+1)

9 Water Explorer (-1)

10 nb Epiphany (=)

11 nb Waiouru (=)

12 Jannock Website (+1)

13 boatshare (+1)

14 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+4)

15 Towpath Treks (-3)

16 Canal Shop Company (-1)

17 boats and cruising (+8)

18 Narrowboat Briar Rose (+10)

19 Baddie the Pirate (+2)

20 Contented Souls (-1)

21 Narrowboat Chance (-1)

22 Narrowboat dreaming ... Parisien Star (=)

23 ExOwnerships (-7)

24 Narrowboat Bones (-1)

25 Halfie (+4)

26 nb Lucky Duck (-9)

27 Derwent6 (=)

28 Rock n Roll (-)

29 Boatshed Grand Union (-3)

30 Seyella's Journey (-6)

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

There are 175 entries, up from 168 last week.

Saturday 3 November 2012

Scrumping squirrel

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!

Friday 2 November 2012

Duck family

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...

Thursday 1 November 2012

Heron avoids getting trapped by shore line

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.