Thursday 31 January 2013

A day in London - seven trains used

Just a quick one: I've spent the day in London for a work-related course. As I indicated to Ray of No Direction it's to do with my imminent departure from my employer of the last 33 years, the BBC. I will say more about this in a later post, but, for now, I'll detail the trains I have travelled on today.

First was a Jubilee Line train from North Greenwich to Bond Street. (I stayed at David's house last night.)

Then I took a Central Line train from Bond Street to White City where the course took place.

Now the journey home: Central Line to Liverpool Street;

Liverpool Street to Shenfield on a Greater Anglia train to call in at my parents (thanks for the meal).

After that I took the train to Chelmsford ...

... where I had to change trains for one to take me to Norwich.

But that wasn't the end of the journey - I needed a train to Wymondham. And that was the last one.

Then I cycled the remaining few miles home.

I do like trains!

Wednesday 30 January 2013

River Wensum by night

I'm off to London for another course. The last time I went I had half-an-hour to kill in Norwich waiting for the connecting train, so I went down to the river.

This is the River Wensum here, a little further downstream it becomes the Yare, flowing out to sea at Great Yarmouth.

I don't expect this trip to be quite as exciting as the last time, when I went boating as a guest on Indigo Dream.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Icknield Port Loop for development

The January issue of Canal Boat magazine carried news that the Icknield Port Loop of the BCN is to be developed. (No doubt other waterways publications also had this.) According to CB 1115 houses, some with rooftop gardens, have been given the go-ahead, along with a pub, hotel, supermarket and community centre.

There's no doubt that many people will welcome the demolition of these old buildings, but I quite like the feel of the past just left to decay gently. Places like this are getting harder to find.

The good news for boaters is that the loop will gain a towpath.


Ben the Snowman update ...

Day three: quite 'armless now. The photo was taken at about 0830, and it's been a mild day. It's been 13˚C outside this evening, so I don't suppose there'll be so much as a patch of white in the morning.

Monday 28 January 2013

The wood that wouldn't burn

Ally and Ben report that the fallen tree I slaved over, sawing by hand into stove-sized logs, doesn't burn.

Can anyone identify this wood?

This is the tree before I attacked it with a bow saw, not that this leafless tangle of branches can help much with identification.

A+B tell me that the logs are very reluctant to catch light, even when positioned on a bed of burning coal.

I cut the logs a month ago, and they have been protected from rain and snow. I know they are not "seasoned", but I would have expected them to at least repay me a little for all the hours I spent in the rain cutting them up.


Ben the Snowman update:

Two days after birth ... and he's lost his head.

Sunday 27 January 2013

The rise and fall of Ben the Snowman

Yesterday, on a flying visit, Ally expressed great surprise that we hadn't even walked on the pristine snow covering our garden, let alone built a snowman.

So she set to ...

... and made (with a little help from me) Ben the Snowman.

He grew a couple of buttons ... and helped celebrate Jan's birthday.

Then Ally took Ben's hat away, and Ben the Snowman started to feel sad.

And then the rains came, the sun shone, and the temperature rose. 24 hours after his own birthday Ben the Snowman is looking distinctly unwell.

Oh well, it's our (very) small part in minimising the risk of flooding!

Now Ben the Snowman is still there, looking emaciated, and nearly all the surrounding snow has gone.

Top Thirty, 2013 week 4

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 1230 on Sunday 27th January 2013. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 CanalPlanAC (=)

4 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

5 Retirement with No Problem (=)

6 nb Epiphany (+1)

7 Waterway Routes (-1)

8 UKCanals Network (=)

9 Water Explorer (=)

10 Granny Buttons (=)

11 nb Waiouru (=)

12 Jannock Website (+2)

13 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+2)

14 Towpath Treks (-1)

15 boatshare (-3)

16 Contented Souls (+1)

17 Canal Shop Company (+1)

18 nb Lucky Duck (+1)

19 Baddie the Pirate (+5)

20 Narrowboat Bones (+3)

21 Rock n Roll (+9)

22 Chertsey (-)

23 ExOwnerships (-)

24 One Thing After Another (-3)

25 Derwent6 (-5)

26 Boats and Canals Forum (+5)

27 Narrowboat dreaming ... Parisien Star (-11)

28 Narrowboat Briar Rose (+4)

29 Boatshed Grand Union (=)

30 Halfie (-4)

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 180 entries, up from 178 last week.

Saturday 26 January 2013

A walk in the snow round a frozen UEA Broad, and a magical light

The local walking group revisited the University of East Anglia Broad today for the shortest walk the group has done: just 1.6 miles.

The broad was completely iced over, with last night's snow lying on top in places.

Just out of reach from a fishing jetty was a broken plastic sledge.

The usual suspects came on the walk, with the addition of Ally who had paid us a surprise visit in honour of Jan's birthday today.

I'm in the group photo too, as I set the camera on self-timer.

As we climbed back up to the car park the light through the trees was magical.

I like the back-lit people and their strong shadows - and the jogger who came past seems to be floating in the air!

Friday 25 January 2013

Regents Canal sign wrought in iron

On my recent cycle ride along part of the Regent's Canal (Regent's or Regents? The apostrophe came automatically) I came across a wonderful wrought iron sign.

It shows some of the things associated with the canal, either from the past or in the present.

I particularly like ... well, I invite you to guess which are my favourite two designs in the sign.

Thursday 24 January 2013

Silver Queen in Docklands

A boat we saw in Royal Victoria Dock a couple of weeks ago was Silver Queen.

This vessel was one of the Little Ships which took part in the evacuation of Dunkirk. There's some information on the National Register of Historic Vessels and on the boat's own website.

According to the NRHV the boat was built in 1926 as a harbour launch, and was requisitioned in 1940 by the Admiralty, being towed across the Channel to help in the evacuation. The 2' draught was well suited for ferrying troops from the beach to larger ships lying in deeper waters.

Silver Queen is operated commercially as a trip boat and for private charters from its base here in the dock. She looks stunning.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Solar panels and snow

I can't see these photovoltaic solar panels working too well under their blanket of snow.

It looks like it's all about to slide off in one go, though.

On a boat I imagine it's rather easier to clear snow from solar panels. They are supposed to be more efficient the colder they are - I don't know whether that's solely because of the reduced resistance of the cabling, or something to do with how the semiconductor material performs.

Speaking of resistance ... I can't resist one more icicle photo.

The icicle furthest from the camera appears to be three feet long. And look at that tree with its snow blossom!

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Brilliant bargain boots!

Possibly the best ten quid I've spent in a charity shop was on a pair of Trojan safety boots. It was last "summer" in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. I spotted the boots and tried them on. They fitted well ... I thought about it ... and then I bought them. My old (Armond) walking boots cost £100 in 1989 and should have been very good indeed. From the beginning they were uncomfortable, but I convinced myself that they only needed breaking in. I've been breaking them in ever since. Now I don't have to.

The "new" boots are simply superb. Ultra comfortable; completely waterproof; warm; grippy (easily the grippiest footwear I've had); fantastic in snow; and smart enough for work in this snowy weather.

I started this post thinking I'd merely comment on how good snow is for cleaning the underneath of boots etc., but I seem to have got carried away somewhat!

I have worn these Trojans on muddy walks and dusty treks. I've boated, cycled and driven in them. They looked new when I bought them. After five minutes with some dubbin (and a week of snow) they still look new. (And, freshly dubbined, the snow doesn't stick.)

The bargain of 2012. (The new price is about £76 - I'd say they were worth it for that amount too.)

Monday 21 January 2013

Why the racks on the paddle gear on the Curdworth flight are red-topped

Last year, in a post titled "An interesting thing about the Curdworth Locks", I asked about the red paint on some of the paddle gear on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.

In May 2012 I posted:

The tops of the paddle gear racks are painted red. Usual practice elsewhere on the system is to paint them white.

So why are the Birmingham and Fazeley's Curdworth (and Minworth) locks' racks red-tipped?

Dave of nb Sir Edmund Hillary has come up with the answer. He wrote:

From the lockie responsible, now retired, this:- Hi Dave, the obvious answer ---- all over the canal system when we started boating very few locks and lock gearing WEREN'T [sic] even painted!! with the advent of BW some were painted after a fashion but not lock gearing, all that was done was to 'slap' grease all over the gearing......Hartshill, when I started had a full time 'Painter' but with the gearing he only painted (after a fashion) the 'paddle starts' white, so I got permission and started doing the painting. The racks on the gearing were all different lengths and more for my own benefit, so that I could tell at a glance, if the paddles were fully down, I painted the relevant amount of rack that should protrude above the gearing red, the white tips you are on about were just for decoration..................I could go on and on, but I don't want to bore you.......incidentally, I never got re-imbursed by BWB for the cost of the red undercoat and topcoat!!! you think it's too late to put the bill in to the new 'Trust'??.........Don.

Dave tells me that the lockkeeper was Don Clive, and he was responsible for the Curdworth Flight. The flower beds were his; and he was an award winner for a best-kept flight competition. He retired in (Dave thinks) 1995.

Thanks Dave (and Don).

Dave wondered if the flower beds were maintained. As of May last year, it doesn't look like it. This is Lock 2 of the Curdworth Flight.

Top Thirty, 2013 week 3

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty-two places) as it stood at 2100 on Monday 21st January 2013. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 CanalPlanAC (=)

4 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

5 Retirement with No Problem (=)

6 Waterway Routes (=)

7 nb Epiphany (+1)

8 UKCanals Network (-1)

9 Water Explorer (+1)

10 Granny Buttons (-1)

11 nb Waiouru (+1)

12 boatshare (+4)

13 Towpath Treks (-2)

14 Jannock Website (+1)

15 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-2)

16 Narrowboat dreaming ... Parisien Star (+2)

17 Contented Souls (+7)

18 Canal Shop Company (-1)

19 nb Lucky Duck (+4)

20 Derwent6 (=)

21 One Thing After Another (+9)

22 boats and cruising (-1)

23 Narrowboat Bones (-4)

24 Baddie the Pirate (-10)

25 Milburn Boats Ltd (+3)

26 Halfie (+6)

27 NB The Manly Ferry (+2)

28 Seyella's Journey (-3)

29 Boatshed Grand Union (-3)

30 Rock n Roll (-)

31 Boats and Canals Forum (-)

32 Narrowboat Briar Rose (-10)

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 178 entries, down from 181 last week.

Sunday 20 January 2013

Icicles galore!

I have never seen so many icicles - real ones - hanging from gutters before.

We went for a short walk this afternoon while it was trying to snow some more, and were astonished by all the icicles hanging from most roof gutters. My theory is that the heavy snow followed by a hard frost blocked the downpipes, so that when a slight thaw occurred the water couldn't drain away normally and started to dribble over the edge of the gutters. Then a tendency for the water to evaporate cooled it, and the icicles formed. I ought to look up how icicles grow and see if I'm right, I suppose.

In the front garden of one house was an unusual snowman - with spiky hair made from icicles. The neck was an icicle too.

In other news: I have almost finished editing the village pantomime which I filmed four days ago. The next job is to create a DVD from it.

Saturday 19 January 2013

A few more snowy pictures

Three days ago I took some photos of St. Remigius Parish Church in Hethersett.

This is the first I took, and I think it is the best.

The sun was making the ice crystals on a fence sparkle.

Everywhere was - and still is - covered in a blanket of snow.

I expect everyone with access to a boat has taken a picture of it in the snow. I'll have to check that Ally and Ben have photographed Jubilee.

Friday 18 January 2013

Halfie tries a £6,000 Velomobiel Quest XS tricycle for size

Six thousand pounds? A tricycle? Has Halfie lost the plot?

Well, not yet. But look at this! In the days BS (Before Snow) Adrian's friend Bill rolled up in his Dutch built Velomobiel Quest XS human powered vehicle.

It's an amazingly curvaceous machine with its smooth white carbon-fibre shell hiding three wheels: two in front and one behind.

Adrian squeezed in to model the front view. Imagine having this coming up in your rear-view mirror! Bill says he has no problem keeping up with traffic in 30 mph areas.

Yes - I got to have a go, just round the end of Adrian's cul-de-sac.

It might go fast - well over 40 mph - but it has a lousy turning circle compared with a conventional two-wheeler. My first car, an Austin 1100 with a notoriously poor turning circle, could turn in less space!

But I suppose that's not the point. The thing is, it looks fantastic and goes like the clappers. It has brake lights and indicators. It has luggage space. I want one! Not sure how I'd get it on the boat, though. Oh, and it costs a cool six grand - but it's cheaper than a Jaguar E-type.

I wonder how Bill got on in the snow.

Thursday 17 January 2013

This is Halfie behind a camera

I said yesterday that I was about to drive to Norwich to get "my" camera so I could film the local pantomime. Well, I did that after spending about half an hour clearing the snow off the car. After the previous day's heavy snowfall the local roads were compacted snow, but the main roads were mostly salty slushy icy stuff. There was plenty of grip for the Amazon's relatively skinny tyres (a set of brand new 165x15s).

Here I am ready to film the panto with a Sony HVR-Z1E, universally referred to within the BBC as a Z1. This is the camera which I sometimes get sent out with to film for Look East (but not for much longer: just ten weeks to go!)

Oh, and there is a canal connection - can you spot it?

Top Thirty, 2013 week 2

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 2350 on Sunday 13th January 2013. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 CanalPlanAC (=)

4 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

5 Retirement with No Problem (+2)

6 Waterway Routes (-1)

7 UKCanals Network (+1)

8 nb Epiphany (-2)

9 Granny Buttons (+1)

10 Water Explorer (-1)

11 Towpath Treks (=)

12 nb Waiouru (+1)

13 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+2)

14 Baddie the Pirate (+2)

15 Jannock Website (-1)

16 boatshare (-4)

17 Canal Shop Company (=)

18 Narrowboat dreaming ... Parisien Star (+7)

19 Narrowboat Bones (+4)

20 Derwent6 (-)

21 boats and cruising (+6)

22 Narrowboat Briar Rose (-2)

23 nb Lucky Duck (+1)

24 Contented Souls (-)

25 Seyella's Journey (-3)

26 Boatshed Grand Union (=)

27 ExOwnerships (-8)

28 Milburn Boats Ltd (=)

29 NB The Manly Ferry (-)

30 One Thing After Another (-)

31 boatrent (-)

32 Halfie (-11)

Yes, there are 32 shown this week. For some reason, possibly connected with the fact that I missed a couple of days of blog posts, I've slipped 11 places.

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 181 entries, up from 180 last week.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Snow causes traffic chaos in Norwich

Yesterday a large amount on snow fell around here. I was at work in Norwich, and, at lunch time, I walked past St. Stephen's roundabout. A bendy bus was struggling to get round owing to the compacted snow and ice; traffic on the inner ring road was at a standstill. I returned to the office, told the newsroom, and went back with my camera to film the goings on at the roundabout. Of course, by that time, the bendy bus had gone, but there were many shots of wheels spinning and cars going nowhere to be had. The roundabout is on a slight incline, and that was enough for inexperienced or ignorant drivers to get stuck on, believing that the faster you spin the wheels the more chance you have of moving - where the opposite is usually true. As I had the TV camera with me I didn't get a chance to take any stills, but my pictures were used in a report on BBC Look East.

I was very pleased I'd cycled to work. There were many tales of people taking three hours to do a journey which would normally take twenty minutes. On my cycle home at 1900 traffic was either standing still or just about crawling forwards between Norwich city centre and the junction with the road to the hospital - about three miles. In most places I was able to cycle past the queues, but my journey ended up taking an hour (normally 35 minutes). The main roads were the worst for ice. I lost grip once or twice but didn't come off (don't tell Jan!), but once on the minor roads I was able to go faster with, mostly, plenty of grip.

This was our front garden on Sunday 14th January ...

... and the same scene this morning 16th January. The car has about six inches of snow on it.

Bay tree from upstairs on 15th Jan:

This was the outside temperature this morning: -8.9˚C.

I cleared the snow off the car this morning; now I have to drive in to Norwich to get my camera. I have to film the village pantomime tonight. I hope it's still on.

Monday 14 January 2013

Entering the Royal Docks

After the excitement of the Woolwich Ferries came the entrance to the King George lock.

I think this must be the largest lock I have navigated. I estimate that you could fit 60 wide Grand Union locks in here. Those are the (Thames-side) gates closing behind us in the photo below.

Just five minutes later (according to my camera's timing) the dock-side gates were opened. That's as fast as any Grand Union lock!

After a twenty minute delay while clearance was awaited from air traffic control - London City Airport is built in the middle of the dock - the bascule bridge started to open.

We had a ten minute window in which to clear the aircraft approach area. As soon as the bridge had opened sufficiently the tall-masted plastic boats powered out of the lock ...

... leaving the narrowboats standing.

But we got the "hurry up" and charged out ourselves.

The three boats in the photo below look as though they're on a wide choppy river: they're actually still in the lock!

Immediately on exiting the lock we turned right. Right under the final approach path for aircraft. Doris Katia is powering past the lights at the end of the runway.

Above Lotus No. 10 and Doris Katia are aeroplanes on the hard standing. This is Royal Albert Dock, whose water seemed lumpier than the river we'd just left.

Dividing Royal Albert Dock from Royal Victoria Dock is the Connaught Bridge, actually a road bridge and separate foot bridge. Andrew Phasey had confidently advised the authorities on the VHF radio that narrowboats didn't need the footbridge raising. The plastic yachts had blasted on ahead and the bridge (or bridges? Presumably the road bridge is also a moveable structure) had already been lowered. There was plenty of room.

One constant feature throughout the latter stages of this docks cruise was photographer and Canal Boat magazine deputy editor Martin Ludgate. We first spotted him on the Thames-side lock gates, and now here he was on the impressive suspension bridge spanning the Royal Victoria Dock. (He's that speck in the middle!) For his high-angle photo our narrowboat convoy formed up seven-abreast.

And then it was suddenly the end of the cruise, and somehow I was still steering. I hope Richard, Paul, Andy and Sarah will forgive me for hogging the tiller. A neat U-turn, and we tied up right where Jan and I had enjoyed the view in the sun six months ago. That was just before we watched some Olympic table tennis at ExCeL on the dockside.

For my final photograph I set up the camera on its self-timer. Here I am (flat cap and blue scarf) looking very happy!

And it wasn't entirely down to Andrew's generous doling out of sloe gin and whisky, the traditional ending, as I learned, to this particular SPCC Royal Docks cruise. But it may have helped. No, actually, I would have been grinning anyway after such a splendid bit of boating.

For more photos, including excellent ones of the Woolwich Ferries I missed getting, see Richard's on his Indigo Dream blog.