Sunday 29 January 2017

Panto run over for another year

One of the reasons we return home from boating when we do, around the beginning of October, is so I can go to rehearsals for the village pantomime. This annual event was started in 1970 by a man called Duncan who devised it as an evening's entertainment for his mother. The entertainment was enjoyed so much that Duncan decided to repeat the exercise the next year. It quickly grew into the lavish production that we have today. This year's run was sold out for the first time. Nine performances to 180 people at a time in the village hall makes all the rehearsals worth all the effort.

As I mentioned before I had the role of Narrator in Sleeping Beauty.

This was the biggest part I have had. I'm pleased to report that it went well. Now I shall miss the pantomime "family" ... until October.

A few years ago Duncan retired from active involvement with the pantomime group, becoming President and passing the writing baton to Lloyd who does an excellent job. There will be a big celebration in a couple of years' time, no doubt, when the panto reaches its 50th production. Duncan will then be 93.

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Woodburner blanking plate broken

Our home woodburner had been letting out a bit more smoke into the room than usual, and probably dangerous fumes as well. When I looked round the back of the stove I discovered this. The stove is on the left, can you see the crack?

From inside, after removing the baffle, you can see that a piece has fallen off the blanking plate which covers the unused flue exit.

From the front nothing looks amiss. This is a Cottager 01 stove, which we had fitted 18 years ago.

The blanking plate is normally hidden by the baffle - or throat plate - which itself was a bit cracked and distorted but I don't think that matters so much.

We are having someone to come and sort it out next month. This would have to be the coldest time of the year.

This is our view of the sun breaking through the fog this morning.

Sunday 22 January 2017

Treading the boards

It's that time of year again - oh yes it is! - when I take to the stage in the village pantomime. This year I have the role of Narrator in "Sleeping Beauty".

Here I am being made up. I don't know who took the photo, sorry.

We have now completed three performances with six more to go, finishing this Saturday. If my head looks rather large in the photo it's because this year is the first time I've taken a solo bow at the curtain call ...

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Inner tube retired

I did a spot of bicycle maintenance today. My folding bike had a flat tyre. When I removed the inner tube to locate the puncture I decided that it was time to retire it. Excuse the pun.

There were already 13 patches on this tube! And the latest thorn had pierced one of those patches.

The bike is now up and running again with a brand new inner tube in the rear wheel. Must buy a new spare now.

I cycled to pick up the Volvo 240 which had had a bit of work done to get it through the MOT. It cost more this time than probably all the previous 20 times put together. Still cheaper than a new car, though. And I'm hoping that it will last a while longer, although I'm now looking out for a 940 unless a good 240 comes along.

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Ranworth Church weathervane

We spent a very pleasant few hours by the Norfolk Broads today, mainly at Ranworth. I went up the tower of St. Helen's Church where I enjoyed the views and found this wonderful boaty-themed weather vane.

Back at ground level boats lay peacefully on their moorings ...

... and birds walked around on the ice.

We walked the boardwalk to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust floating building at Ranworth Broad. The low sun was lighting up the reeds.

I'll post some more photos later.

Sunday 15 January 2017

1970s British Waterways film well worth watching

Thanks to Sarah I discovered this fascinating half-hour film made for BW in the 1970s. "Waterways our Heritage" is refreshingly slow-paced and features a family hiring Water Topaz from the boatyard at Hillmorton.

Brindley's canals are compared with those of Telford. Railway competition, boat families and working boats get a mention - with a brief nod to freight operation - and restoration (of the Kennet and Avon) is looked at. Use of towpaths by walkers and anglers - but not cyclists - is acknowledged.

The date is supposed to be 1972, but comments make it clear that it is more likely to be 1978 or 1979.

There's some great aerial footage, including a swoop up Hatton. There's an old boat in what looks like an isolated dry dock off to the right of the locks by the Hatton yard. Next time I'm there I'll have to try to identify the location.

Do you know the best thing about the film? It's not plastered with music. You can actually hear the natural sounds, even if the birdsong is laid on a bit thickly in places!

Thursday 12 January 2017

Picture poser: does this help?

This strange "creature" I posted a few days ago has been perplexing one or two of you.

Here is a wider view. Does this help?

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Thinking about where to go this year

For the last few years we have included the Crick Boat Show as part of our itinerary, but this year we shall be further south. The Boaters' Christian Fellowship has an event in Newbury in June, so we plan to do the Kennet and Avon. The only part of this navigation we have done so far is between Devizes and Bath, and that was on Shadow when it was based in Devizes one year. This time we'll be able to cover the whole length of the K&A from Reading to Bristol. We won't venture beyond Bristol as I don't want a mutiny.

Other canals I'd like to travel include a couple of arms of the Grand Union, the Aylesbury and the Slough Arms, neither of which we have explored before. As we'll be on the Thames anyway to access the K&A it would be good to do the Wey and the Basingstoke as well.

Today's photo is of the Thames in London nearing sunset.

(photo taken on 26th December 2016)

Monday 9 January 2017

Scrap metal on the Thames

Seen on a Boxing Day walk three weeks ago (it seems a lot longer ago than that): this boat by a huge pile of scrap metal. It's on the north (Essex) bank near the Barking Creek flood barrier.

The boat appears to be called Pex and looks to be sitting high in the water. There is some scrap just visible in the hold, no doubt it can take a few tonnes more before heading for China, presumably. The company name on the sign is "MSK Waste Management & Recycling Ltd".

Sunday 8 January 2017


No, I haven't gone all Dutch, and this post has little to do with boating (of the narrow variety) but I suspect that Val P, blog reader and commenter extraordinaire, will know what I am talking about.

On a recent cruise my father enjoyed playing a form of table shuffleboard, called Dutch shuffleboard or Sjoelen. It is a game of skill where wooden discs are slid along a 2m board. To score points the discs have to go through four archways more than a metre from where you have to let go of the discs. My dad described the game to my brother David, and for Christmas he presented him with a board he had constructed out of reclaimed timber. The wooden discs are the only thing he had to buy - these are genuine Dutch ones, with slightly concave faces.

The rules are here. We enjoyed playing it at David's house over Christmas. Now it is at my parents' house where my dad is putting in lots of practice.

Being long and thin (the board is 2m x 0.4m) the game seems ideally suited to a narrowboat. Does any reader know of a boat thus equipped?

Saturday 7 January 2017

Evening mist and a picture poser

I went to Jubilee today while Jan helped Ally with Josiah. I lit the stove straight away which warmed the boat fairly quickly. One job I did was to trim some wood from the bottom of the front doors which had been sticking. I tried sandpaper, then a file, neither of which made any difference. Then I used a saw. This did the trick. The doors no longer foul the frame underneath, but they foul each other when closing. This happens only in cold weather as a result, I think, of the steelwork contracting and forcing the doors closer together.

As the light faded this afternoon a light mist formed on the water. Here is Thrupp Wharf Marina with the Navigation Inn in the background. The Grand Union Canal is to the left (not visible here).

And here is a poser for you: can you identify this?

It wasn't on the boat.

Thursday 5 January 2017

Compost bins? Gas lockers?

Seen on a widebeam at Cosgrove recently (28th Nov 2016): these two large black plastic bins.

What are they? The look like tall thin compost bins. Or are they gas lockers? Or, perhaps, merely general purpose storage lockers. Does anyone know?

Wednesday 4 January 2017

Crick's third prize no good to us

At the Crick Boat Show last year we entered a competition for which, if I remember correctly, the first prize was a year's mooring at Crick Marina. We had to come up with a slogan extolling the virtues of that place. Well, we won third prize: a month's free mooring at Crick Marina, to be taken before the end of May. Unfortunately we won't be able to use it. We have paid until the end of March for Thrupp Wharf Marina, after which we intend to be on our travels again.

I did wonder if we would be able to make use of the reciprocal arrangement between Crick and Cropredy Marinas as we have to be in Banbury on April 1st, so I phoned Crick to ask. The answer was no, I would have to take the mooring at Crick. Ah well, you win some, you lose some. And sometimes you even lose what you win.

Here's a photo of a pair of collared doves among the grass, apples and leaves in our garden last November.

Tuesday 3 January 2017

An hospital for decayed fishermen

We came across this building in Great Yarmouth recently. It looks like a row of alms houses around a courtyard behind an iron gate.

The plaque below the pediment ...

... reads "An Hospital for Decayed Fishermen founded by The Corporation 1702"

Monday 2 January 2017

Canal Fever

8th October 2016: We drove to Yelvertoft to support our friends James and Hazel of nb Gabriel as they took part in a folk concert in the Congregational Church. The event was called "Canal Fever" and was a fundraiser for the village skate park and play area. The church leader, Jim Lyon, is a handy musician himself.  He played and sang with others from the village who performed several boating songs (Jim is on the squeeze box in the photo below).

A boater talked about life on a working boat with plenty of visual aids brought from his boat, Draco.

James and Hazel performed from their repertoire of boating songs. Jan and I joined them (on violin and recorder) for a couple of numbers.

We stayed overnight with Terry and Christine on nb Grace (broadside on, below; Gabriel is on the left).

This is where the event took place. On the following morning we all went to the 1045 service where several Boaters' Christian Fellowship members took part.

It felt a little strange driving and not boating to a canalside place, but we were grateful to Terry and Christine for their generous hospitality.

Sunday 1 January 2017

Bagh Chal, a simple game of strategy

As one of her stocking presents Father Christmas gave Jan an interesting board game. It's from Nepal and is called Bagh Chal, or Tigers and Goats. Neither of us had heard of it before.

The four larger white pieces are the "tigers", and there are 20 "goats". The tigers can capture goats by jumping over them to a free space beyond, the goats' aim is to box the tigers in so that they can't move.

The rules are very simple and we were able to start playing straight away.

It'll be a good one for the boat - we'll have to remember to take it.